What’s the Point of a Balance Bike? – Posted in: Bikes – Tags:

girl on balance bike

A balance bike is a training bicycle that helps children to balance on two-wheels. It also teaches them the basics of riding and steering. It is also a fantastic way to introduce young children to the joys of riding a bicycle on their own!

History of Balance Bikes

German inventor Karl Drais invented the very first balance bike in 1817. It was called a “dandy horse,” a two-wheeled contraption with no pedals. The dandy horse is powered by the rider’s movement of his feet on the ground. It begins to move after a few kicks or jolts from your feet. The handler then balances his body’s weight on the said machine as it glides forward. He also designed the velocipede and the Laufmaschine; both are precursors to the design of our modern-day bicycles and motorcycles.

With the invention of modern bikes, balance bikes became a thing of the past. That was until individuals, like Ryan McFarland, and companies began redesigning Drais’ blueprint to revitalize balance bikes for children’s use.

What is the Best Age to Ride Balance Bikes?

Children as young as 18 months up to five (5) years old can enjoy riding balance bikes. The ideal age to start learning to ride is between 18 months to two (2) and a half years old. Younger kids usually take several months to learn how to sit and stride confidently on their balance bikes. While kids age two (2) years and older tend to learn faster.

Children generally ride balance bikes for two (2) to three (3) years. It may vary depending on what age they started to ride. If these kids started when they’re very young, they would ride their balance bike longer. Once they started to master how to balance, steer, and glide on their balance bikes, they would be shifting to a regular bike soon.

Balance Bike vs Tricycle vs Training Wheels

Tricycles or trikes is a  human-powered machine with three (3) wheels. Its counterpart model for children is composed of a clean-cut body with no gears or brakes, and often with a basic front-drive and pedals. The pedals are directly driving the front wheels. There are some models with gears and chains that are linked to the rear wheels. The rear wheels usually have no differential so that it can spin freely. They are ridden by children ages two (2) to five (5) before switching to a regular bicycle. The trike’s body is usually made of plastic, metal, or wood. Children’s trikes don’t always sport pneumatic tires. Their wheels are usually made of hollow plastic or solid rubber. Trikes aid the learner on how to ride correctly. It helps them steer properly and supports them on how to use foot pedals while riding.

Training wheels or stabilizers are auxiliary wheels mounted to the rear wheel of a bicycle. It is affixed parallel to the rear wheel to help beginners until they develop a practical sense of balance on a bike. They are widely used by kids when they’re trying to learn how to ride, but there are versions for adults also.

Balance Bikes vs Trikes

Balance bikes are safer. It is more practical compared to trikes. How come? Trikes have three wheels; they move slowly, and they’re tough to maneuver for beginners. They easily slip on uneven or sloping surfaces.

With balance bikes, children concentrate more on balancing, rather than pedaling. With this skill acquired, children on balance bikes are more prepared for the unexpected loss of balance and are less likely to fall off from the bike. Toddlers can walk or run long distances while riding a balance bike. Some find it challenging to ride a trike, and rarely makes it around the corner. Trikes are usually unstable and have a push bar so adults can maneuver and help the learner ride longer distances.

Balance Bikes vs Training Wheels

Training wheels considerably delay the learner’s ability and desire to ride a bike. It can somehow become an obstacle when learning to ride the bike if they are installed incorrectly. If it’s too low, it holds back the learner to make use of the brakes. The best way to make use of these stabilizers is to adjust the height, raising them as the learner gets better in riding.

With balance bikes, learners train and discover how to ride while balanced. Training wheels teach them how to ride while unbalanced. With training wheels, learners acquire a false sense of balance by tilting to one side while riding. With balance bikes, learners discover proper balancing techniques from day one. It is also more fun and more comfortable to ride compared to a bike with training wheels.

Benefits of a Balance Bike

Here are some of the benefits of why balance bikes are perfect for introducing children to the joy of bike riding.

They are easy to use.

They eliminate the need for training wheels.

They are safe to use by children.

They make it fun and exciting for kids to learn independent riding before they transition into a pedal bike!

They help children and learners build strength and coordination.

They are handy for parents.

Encourage Kids to Ride a Balance Bike

mom helping son on balance bike

Sometimes it takes several months for toddlers to be consistently interested in riding their balance bike.  Some would walk along with their balance bike for two weeks, and then suddenly, they wouldn’t touch it for a long time! Some even take months before they suddenly pick it up again and start going at it one more time. If kids don’t seem interested, just keep the balance bike around. Make sure that they can see it so that they can ride the balance bike anytime they feel like riding it. Proper timing is the key! If you feel like you want to “pressure” them into riding it, please don’t do that. As they say, each kid has a will of his own; and sometimes, they just refuse to do what adults want them to do.

It would be helpful if you let them see other kids riding balance bicycles. Once they see that the other kids are having so much fun riding it, that’s going to spark their interest and let them grab that balance bike once more.

Balance bikes help learners, either children or adults, to quickly transition to a regular bicycle. As the President of the USA Cycling (USAC) Derek Bouchard-Hall mentioned in an article from a Wall Street Journal, “balance bikes have made training wheels obsolete.”