Balance is everything when you are figuring out how to ride, and a balance bike assists kids in mastering this fundamental expertise. Children feel a rush riding these bicycles since they feel more positive and in charge. Also, youngsters who begin learning on a balance bike frequently skip tricycles and training wheels, and jump straight on a pedal bicycle when they are sufficiently big enough!
What is a Balance Bike?
A Balance Bike is a pedal-less bike designed especially for young kids to learn balance and hand-eye coordination before transitioning to a pedal bike. Gone are those days when we used to use stabilizers or training wheels to learn the art of balancing. In fact, a balance bike could be so effective in its purpose that it takes only 5 to 10 minutes before your kid starts making rounds around the block.
History of Balance Bike
The first balance bike was invented by a German inventor named Karl Drais. He called this first balance bike “dandy horse”. Further on, another German designer Rolf Mertens developed the first commercial balance bike, “Laufrad”, called LIKEaBIKE. Now there are more than 70+ types of balance bikes on the market. Ranging from a budget-friendly $50 steel frame to a luxuriously crafted $1200 carbon fiber one!
How does a Balance Bike work?
A balance bike is essentially a pedal bike whose drive train and other functional components have been struck off. This allows the bike to be compact and have a lower center of gravity. Fewer parts also make the bike lightweight. Having such structural flexibility makes the balance bike much more convenient for young kids compared to the smallest pedal bike on the market. A balance bike adds a freedom factor to the riding experience. It gives enough space for the body to react and learn. To negotiate a turn successfully, the combined center of mass of the rider and the bike must first be leaned in the direction of the turn, and steering briefly in the opposite direction causes that lean. This is what is called counter steering. The freedom of being able to tilt the bike and maneuver without any supporting force promotes counter steering.
How good are Balance Bike compared to Stabilisers or Training Wheels?
They are definitely good! These 5 points specify exactly why balance bikes should be your first choice.
- More ergonomic than a conventional 12″ pedal bike with stabilizers.
- Less likely to trip over when on an uneven surface.
- Reduces the time it takes to transition to a pedal bike.
- Encourages natural reflexes, unlike stabilizers that restrain them.
- Lightweight helps better grip and maneuverability.
Are Balance Bikes safe?
The balance bike has no drive train. This enables the manufacturer to lower the seat and create a low centre of gravity. Having immediate reach to the ground helps the kid to stride and stop the bike safely. For comparison, an average balance bike has a lower seat height of 10″ whereas an average pedal bike has a lower seat height of 17″.
The triangular base of the pedal bike with training wheels, unfortunately, makes an unstable setup. The small plastic wheels of the training wheels are kept a bit above the ground, and this causes the child to tip from one side wheel to another. When going through a jagged path, the side wheels have a high chance of getting obstructed or even resulting in a fall. On the other hand, balance bikes have a linear base setup that makes them much more flexible. On an uneven surface, they don’t get obstructed easily and are not likely to trip over either. Not to forget that they are lightweight as well. Whether it’s about carrying the bike around or making a sharp turn, a lightweight frame makes it much more natural.
Do Balance Bike need brakes?
A short answer would be no! But under the following circumstances, it would be appropriate to buy a balance bike with brakes.
- The kid is very energetic and often gets in trouble.
- The landscape is uneven.
Other than that, if one hates worn-out shoe soles or is on a premium budget can surely opt for a balance bike with brakes. This can make your kid learn about brakes and how to use them before making a switch to a pedal bike. The reason we don’t feel brakes are necessary is that kids don’t use them that often. Kids at a young age stride at a slow pace, and using their feet is more than enough.
When to get a Balance Bike?
One can go for balance bikes as early as 18 months and as late as 7 years. But companies do make balance bike that is for kids aged between 7 to 9 years. The child should be able to walk confidently without any support. One should always consider the physical health of the child before opting for a balance bike. It often takes anywhere around 4 to 5 months for kids to get the gist of balance bikes. And then, they can be easily switched to riding a pedal bike. When on a pedal bike, all one has to learn is to pedal, which is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy once the art of balancing has been mastered.
Is Balance Bike a waste, as one has to ultimately buy a Pedal Bike?
This is among the first few questions that pop up in mind when we talk about balance bikes. And the answer is no, they are not a waste. The purpose of the balance bike is to prepare the child and make it easier for them to make the transition onto a pedal bike. On one hand, where training wheels might take a year to accomplish and that too without teaching the child how to counter-steer or tilt the bike, the balance bike does all of that within a matter of few months. After using them, a balance bike can be effortlessly passed on, donated, or sold online.
But my kid wants a Pedal Bike with Stabilisers!
Kids are naive and often imitate what other kids do. It is quite natural for a kid to see a pedal bike with training wheels and demand it. In case the child doesn’t understand the advantage of a balance bike over a pedal bike with a stabilizer- no worries. Get them what they want after all their happiness, and their self-satisfaction is what one’s parents desire.