Balance bikes are a great idea. They give kids confidence on two wheels, teach them to ride before the can pedal, and should eventually mean they don’t need stabilisers. But how do they actually work?
I should state early on that we haven’t completed the balance bike cycle yet. My little boy Sonny has only just turned two years old and is still a few months away from fully mastering how to fly down the pavement with both feet off the ground but he’s already learned to stand up straight, steer and handle the bike, and propel himself along using his own two feet. When you compare that to his trike, which is more stable with three wheels but he has no idea how to pedal it, the balance bike is a clear winner.
What is a balance bike?
It’s basically a small kids’ bike with no pedals. Balance bikes come in a few different shapes and sizes and there are plenty of different options including wooden and chunky plastic bikes, but the general idea of them all is the same. Children push themselves along with their feet to start with, then once they feel confident enough they eventually lift both feet off the ground and glide over the ground using their new-found balance and momentum to stay upright.
What’s the best age to use them?
We’ve been using the Kiddimoto Super Junior which says it’s suitable for 18 months upwards. Sonny’s never been small for his age but his toes were only just scraping the floor at 18 months, even with the saddle on its lowest setting, and it’s only been these past few weeks that he’s felt strong enough and big enough to handle it properly. So I think 2 years is a great time to get your kid motoring on a balance bike.
How hard are balance bikes to use?
Honestly not very hard at all. I spent a couple of months perching Sonny on the seat, placing his hands on the handlebars, then running along behind him and pushing and steering the bike myself. At first he lifted his feet up as I jogged along, then he started placing them on the ground and running along with me as I pushed, and now he wants to do it all by himself. He hasn’t fully mastered the feet-off-the-ground gliding technique yet, but he’s getting there very quickly.
What are the benefits?
The obvious clue is in the name. They help improve your child’s balance, both on and off the bike. Without the extra stress and hassle of learning how to pedal at the same time, balance bikes help kids to grow in confidence on two wheels while also learning to handle and steer the bike at the same time. They’re such a simple concept and I’ve been amazed by how quickly Sonny’s managed to pick it up. And the key thing is that when your child eventually moves on from their balance bike, the only extra skill they need to learn is pedalling because they already have the other cycling skills they need.
What are the negatives?
I honestly can’t think of any, apart from the fact it ultimately means you’ll need to buy two kids’ bikes. With a more traditional bike and stabiliser set-up you’d simply remove the stabilisers once your child has mastered them, turning that bike into the one they’ll hopefully carry on using for another year or two.
Which balance bike should I buy?
We’ve been using the Kiddimoto Super Junior which costs around £60 and is excellent. The adjustable seat makes it suitable for kids from 2-5 years old and I’d highly recommend it. We also have a cheaper plastic Spider-man balance bike in the garden with fat tyres that Sonny got the hang of even quicker, but that feels more like a toy than a proper balance bike.