Children’s balance bikes have become a hot new item of the last couple of years and their popularity is only increasing. You could say that balance bikes are the first thing your child learns to control on their own. That’s why many parents first introduce their children to cycling through balance bikes, since that seems to be the best way to cultivate interest in this healthy sport.
What's a Balance Bike?
A balance bike is a simplified bike adjusted so that children as young as one year old can use it. It has no pedals, chain or training wheels and so the child does not have to learn how to pedal. Children will learn how to ride a balance bike completely on their own, by pushing their feet off the ground. They will be excited about riding their first “bike”. A balance bike is an ideal transition between a tricycle and a regular children’s bicycle.
What to Consider Before Purchase?
Before you decide to buy a children’s balance bike, you need to get some facts straight. The balance bike’s quality and safety features are the most important factors since your child’s safety is of outmost importance. (All children’s balance bikes you find on this e-shop are certified according to European standards.) Before you make your pick, focus on:
Safety of the balance bike
The balance bike must be safe for the child, meaning there shouldn’t be any sharp edges. Don’t choose products that don’t look sturdy or durable enough.
Quality of the balance bike
Material is a very important factor. This concerns mainly the frame, because it has to withstand children’s rough handling. There are several frame materials available, mainly metal, plastic or wood. They differ in their attributes and advantages:
|Metal balance bikes
|Plastic balance bikes
|Wooden balance bikes
|+ traditional material
|+ resistant to natural elements
|+ return to nature
|+ suitable for a wider age range
|+ suitable for indoor use
The balance bike should be as light as possible, so that even the tiniest child doesn’t have to struggle with it. Its light weight will surely be appreciated by parents as well, since they often end up carrying the bike after their offspring decides they don’t want to use it anymore.
Wheel type (inflatable / bantam / plastic)
You can choose from inflatable (combination of a tube and a tire), plastic and bantam wheels. The advantage of bantam and plastic wheels lies mainly in their durability, because they don’t need to be inflated and as such cannot be punctured. However, their riding attributes differ a bit. Plastic and bantam wheels don’t fully absorb shocks. Inflatable wheels, on the other hand, absorb shocks much better and provide more comfort for small children. The hard bantam wheels are more suitable for riding in parks, urban areas and places with hard flat surfaces. In contrast, inflatable wheels can be also used on uneven terrain. Small balance bikes with plastic wheels are to be used mainly indoors.
Seat height above the ground
The balance bike’s seat must be sufficiently low for the child to be able to reach the ground with both feet and safely manoeuvre the bike.
How to Determine the Correct Seat Height?
Seat height is one of the most important factors that should inform your final decision. It is important for your child to be able to firmly plant both feet on the ground, not just reach with their toes. Balance bikes come in different sizes and, in most cases, with adjustable seats. Generally speaking, the wider the seat height adjustment range, the longer the child will be able to use the bike.
If you don’t have the opportunity to try the balance bike in person, you can determine the ideal seat height by letting your child stand on the floor with legs slightly apart and shoes on (if you want a balance bike for indoor use as well, let them stand barefoot) and measure the distance between the ground and the child’s crotch. Compare this measurement to the product specifications on our e-shop.
Brakes – YES or NO?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. What’s important is how old your child is. Small children (between 1.5 and 3 years) don’t really need brakes, because they intuitively use their legs and their attention is focused on keeping balance. Also, using a brake is a problem for most children in this age range because they don’t yet have enough strength to squeeze the brake levers properly. On the other hand, children over 3 years of age should learn how to use a brake, since they are able to develop higher speed and have more strength in their hands. And once they transition to regular bikes, they’ll need to know how to use a brake anyway.
Brake quality and resistance is important as well. Be sure to first check that your child can reach the braking levers and that they can manage to squeeze them. Also keep in mind that children’s fingers don’t have that much strength and get tired easily. Too much resistance may result in your child not being able to brake properly.
Choose between: balance bikes with brakes, balance bikes without brakes.
- For children under 3 years old, brakes are unnecessary. Children don’t know how to use them and don’t have enough strength to squeeze them. (You can remove the brake and install it later.)
- Let your young rider try the balance bike out and consider how well they handle the brakes. (Generally, it can be said that no brake is better than wrong brake.)
- Rear brake is more suitable since front brake can accidentally stop the wheel and cause unpleasant fall over the handlebars.
- Once your child is between 3 and 5 years old, they should learn how to use a hand brake. (Once they transition to a regular children’s bicycle, they’ll already know how to use brakes.)