Learning to ride a bicycle is one of the most exciting and exhilarating experiences of growing up. A bicycle can bring fun, freedom, and good health into your child's life. But what is the best way to teach your child to ride a bicycle? If you are anything like the folks here at Bike Kid Shop, there is a good chance that you learned to ride a bicycle with training wheels...and potentially a few scraped knees and tears along the way. These days, there are many options out there to choose from, what with tricycles, training wheels, and more recently, balance bikes. While there are certainly trade-offs with each method, we have recently been convinced that training wheels have become passe with the growing use of children's balance bikes. In chatting with family, friends, and customers, and trying them with our own kids, we've seen example after example of kids who go straight from riding a balance bike to a normal bike without ever needing training wheels!
A balance bike has no pedals, no gears, no brakes, and no training wheels. Kids use balance bikes by sitting in the saddle and pushing or running along the ground with their feet to propel the bike forward. As children get comfortable on a balance bike, they are able to lift their feet off the ground and coast along. A child's legs act as stabilizers when the bike starts to tip over, which has an effect similar to training wheels but without the bad habits. Meanwhile, kids learn the fundamentals of balance, control, steering, and coordination that they will need to ride a normal bicycle as they improve, taking the balance bike around corners and riding over diverse terrain from pavement to grass to dirt and even carpet...if you'll let them, of course. Balance bikes help to teach independence and instill confidence in your child. Not to mention, they are less likely to tip over than a bicycle with training wheels and generally produce fewer tears and less frustration throughout the learning process. Not only are balance bikes great for learning to ride, but they are also super fun for even very young kids. Children as young as even 2 or 3 are able to start playing around on balance bikes and develop cycling skills at a very young age.
There are a few important differences between learning to ride a bicycle using a tricycle, training wheels, or balance bike. A tricycle, which has three wheels, while very stable and great for very young children who are just learning to walk, does not require any effort to balance. Although children do develop some pedaling and steering skills on a tricycle, they must learn the fundamentals of balance another way. Training wheels, which are a set of two small wheels that are installed on each side of the rear wheel of a normal child's bike, are generally not level to the ground like a tricycle's wheels. Bicycles with training wheels tend to tip side-to-side ungracefully, which disables the natural feel of riding a bicycle and can teach bad cycling habits that can be hard to unlearn. The positive effects of learning to pedal and operate a bicycle with training wheels are likely outweighed by the negative aspect of not learning the feel of carving through turns or balancing independently. Balance bikes do not have pedals or brakes, so they do not teach your child these important aspects of riding a bicycle. However, there are many strategies for teaching your child to pedal and brake, and these actions tend to come very naturally once they have learned to balance. All-in-all, a balance bikes is the most effective, safe, and fun way for your child to learn to ride a bicycle.
Hopefully we have helped to convince you that balance bikes are a great way to teach your kid(s) to ride a bike. From here, choosing a balance bike is quite simple! The differences in frame material do not have much impact on the usability of your balance bike. However, some balance bikes, such as the Strider Balance Bike weigh very little (between 6.5 to 8.5 lbs.) and are easy for a very young child to navigate. Balance bikes also come in a range of fun colors to fit your kid(s)'s personality!