Balance Bikes are a good choice for kids, they are not only fun, but they also train fine motor skills plus good habits right from the get-go. On a regular pedal bike with training wheels, kids are prompted to pedal first and balance second. This method can make learning difficult when the training wheels are separated, and the focus becomes balance first, pedal second. When it is time to learn a pedal bike, kids familiar with a balance bike find learning to pedal pretty easy.
So, how to buy a perfect balance bike for your kid?
A simple answer would be to consider these 5 points –
- The minimum Seat Height should be 1″ shorter than the child’s inseam height, and the seat-post maximum extension of around 2″.
- The Bike Weight should be 25%-30% of the child’s weight.
- Wheel Size of 12″ works for kids 2 to 5 years 14″ will be great for 4 to 5, whereas a 16″ will be perfect for 5 to 10 years old kids.
- A general piece of advice would be to go for a bike that uses aluminum as its Material. It is light and rustproof.
- Finally, take your Budget into account while making the selection.
But wait! Let’s not rush and instead make a more thought-out decision that can land your child his perfect balance bike at a budget that makes you happy.
All the parameters discussed are in decreasing order of priority.
- Seat Height
- Wheel Size
- Tire Type
- Frame Material
Out of all the parameters out there, seat height is the most important factor one has to nail down. To do so, we need to measure the inseam height of the child and choose the bike according to it.
Inseam height is the height measured from the ground to the crotch of the child. It is honestly an easy process to measure the inseam height.
- Make your child stand straight against a wall with their shoes on.
- Gently raise a book between their legs. Make sure it is in contact with the wall behind.
- When the book makes soft contact with the child’s crotch, stop and take the measurement.
After you have your child’s inseam length, now you can easily calculate the ideal seat height for your child. The minimum seat height that you would need will be an inch less than the inseam height and, the maximum will be about 2″ more than the inseam height. Having an inch less will ensure that the child can make firm contact with the floor and push forward, on the other hand, the maximum length will account for the rapid growth of the child at their young age.
Use the custom built-in calculator to find the Bike Seat Range suitable for your child.
Up next, we need to take into account the weight of the bike. Small kids are not strong enough to handle a heavy bike. A general rule of thumb is to go for a bike that’s not more than 27% of the child’s weight. For example, a child that weighs 28lbs or 12.7kg can get a balance bike that weighs less than 7.56lbs or 3.43kg. Remember, a lighter bike doesn’t mean a better bike. If the kid gets used to riding a very light balance bike, it can become a hassle for them to cope with a normal pedal bike because of its weight.
Use the custom built-in calculator to find the Bike Weight suitable for your child.
Coming down the third factor on the list, is wheel size! The concept of one-size-fits-all doesn’t work here. To get yourself the perfect wheel size, one must take the age of the child into account. Smaller wheels are more responsive to the steering, which makes the bike more maneuverable. This responsiveness improves on tight corners and slippery surfaces. However, wider wheels have better traction due to wider rubber connecting with the floor. The 14″ – 16″ wheel size is ideal for preschoolers & high schoolers, whereas the 10″ – 12″ wheel size is perfect for younger kids.
It is necessary to consider the geometry of the various parts to have a good posture on the bike. A balance bike that promotes slouchy posture, too upright back, or uncomfortable feet placement can slow down the learning process. To avoid this, one can keep the following points in mind.
Shape and size of the Handlebar: The handlebar should be around the length of the child’s shoulder. For the shape of the handlebar, one can go for the straight or BMX styled handlebar but avoid getting too fancy like a biker handlebar which is tricky to steer.
Space between the handlebar and the seat of the bike: The cockpit, as some call it – the space between the seat and the handlebar. There should be ample space to make getting on and off the bike easy. It also provides the necessary room to rotate the arm and make turns.
The angle of the handlebar fork with the front wheel: The front fork should be a tilt towards the saddle, at about 20 to 30 degrees. An upright fork forces the rider to lean excessively towards the handlebar which can result in a poor posture. On the other hand, too much of an angle can decrease the cockpit space.
The wheelbase (distance between the front and rear wheel): The stability of a bike improves as the wheelbase gets longer. This stability happens because the weight of the child gets distributed over a longer wheelbase.
The tires commonly used on a balance bike are of two types – EVA Foam or Rubber. Both come with their advantages and disadvantages.
The rubber tires are superior in terms of the comfort and traction they offer. The tires are convenient for any terrain, from the smooth marble floor to off-road mud paths or regular pavement. The downside of opting for the rubber tires is that it makes the bike bulkier and make the bike more expensive. Since they are air tires, they need constant service of air pumping. Less air in a tire can make the bike hard to maneuver. Then comes the risk of being punctured and the hustle involved in getting it fixed.
Balance bike that is on the budget-friendly spectrum of price use foam tires instead of rubber tires. Using foam tires can be great as it keeps the cost of the product low and reduces the amount of service required. The disadvantage of foam tires is that you have to compromise the comfort and the traction that it offers on the road. The bike will be only suitable for paved surfaces and streets.
A lot of the safety boils down to the frame material used in the balance bike. Materials such as aluminum, steel, wood, composite alloy, and sometimes magnesium are used on a balance bike.
Aluminum – Aluminium can be found in most bikes because it is affordable, light, and sturdy. The frame is resistant to rust and is easy to repair. The aluminum 6061 is the best variant of aluminum that one can get.
Steel – Steel is sturdier than aluminum and can withstand any torture a young kid can deliver. On the contrary, they are expensive and prone to rust. Generally, if a manufacturer hasn’t listed the metal used in their bike, it is steel!
Wood – They are eco-friendly and result in less carbon footprint on production compared to steel and aluminum. But, when examined for other parameters such as strength and durability, wood tends to fall behind. It is prone to weather and, once damaged bike becomes hard to repair.
Composite Alloy – Provided it fits under your funds, the composite alloy can be the best one can find. On top of being weatherproof, it is very sturdy and super light.
Other materials such as magnesium are light but not sturdy enough and, carbon fiber is just an exaggerated version of the composite alloy.
To ensure the safety of the child, one can check for the following features.
- Check if the axle bolts are safe (rounded, buttoned, recessed, or flat).
- Check for any sharp corners and ends.
- Check the handgrip for good grip with big ends that prevent slippage.
Most of the bikes come pre-assembled, with the only job left is to pop the handlebar and the seat into its place. But, as the features on the bike start to increase, the construction is no longer a piece of cake. To tackle this, you can simply go to the company’s website and download or email them to get an assembly manual. You can also visit your nearest bike shop to get your balance bike in shape.
Now, it’s time to look at the wallet. The price range can be divided into three segments cheap, mid-range, and expensive.
Cheap (<$100)There are no extra features such as a handlebar limiter, brakes, or reflectors. They use EVA foam tires and often come with okayish geometry.
Mid-range ($100 to $180)They have good welds and sturdy components. Often come with extra features of a footrest, handlebar limiter, and brakes. Improved safety measures like capped or rounded axle bolts and rounded corners.
Expensive (>$180)Made with high-quality materials and jam-packed with features and aesthetic design, these bikes are at the top of their game.
No matter in which range one falls into, all the bikes get the job done, i.e., to teach children how to balance on a bike.
Subjects such as how friendly and effective the customer service is, and how easy is it to replace a defective part or get an overall replacement is possible are validated. Balance bikes use simple components and are usually easy for a bike repair shop to fix them.
Features are additional elements on the balance bike that either improves the safety or the comfort of the bike. There are numerous features one can look for and decide on based on their benefits and drawbacks.
Brakes – Brakes are great for safety and can be beneficial if kids learned how to use them before switching to a pedal bike. They also prevent damage to shoe soles as children won’t have to use their feet to stop the bike.
Bearings – The type of bearings used in a bike decides how long the wheel spins. A standard bearing won’t last as long as a sealed bearing would. Or in other words, bikes with smooth bearings tend to perform better than standard bearings.
Footrest – A well-positioned footrest can help in improving the balance and comfort of the kid. You can make out if a footrest is a good one or not. The footrest shouldn’t stick out so as to interfere with the striding of the kid. It should either be in front or just below the seat for comfortable use.
Handlebar-Limiter – Limiters are installed to restrict the kids from oversteering or making sharp turns. The downside of using a handlebar limiter is that it prevents the child from building the habit to resist oversteering. Some bikes come with a flexible limiter that can be detached when not required.
Remember that these features are not necessary but can be a genuine consideration.
Use our Balance Bike Repository to quickly compare parameters while using the Cheat Sheet.