Balance bikes separate steering and balance from the skills of pedaling and braking. Because children as young as two can learn to push off, balance and glide, they get plenty of experience by the time they’re ready for a pedal bike.
- Can make learning to ride easier
- Can be fairly inexpensive
- Models with footrests that will let children learn to coast
Features to look for:
- adjustable saddle height
- comfortable saddle and grips
- brakes (especially on models for older kids)
Over the last few years, balance bikes have had a huge impact on the way children learn to ride. Steerable toy bikes with no pedals, the design of balance bikes points back to the original boneshakers of the early 19th century.
By allowing a child to learn to balance and steer a bike without the complication of pedalling, balance bikes make a child’s first experiences with bikes simple and fun.
Balance bikes are available at a wide range of prices, from about £50 to £150. Some of the basic models don’t have brakes, however most have a rear wheel brake.
Balance bikes tend to not have very many features, but one important thing to look for is adjustable saddle height. You’ve got to be able to adjust the postion as your child grows, until he or she is ready to move on to a bike with pedals. Most balance bikes have adjustable seats, but there are a few that don’t so choose carefully. Manufacturers usually give the range of saddle height adjustment so you can get the right bike for your child.
A correctly fitted balance bike allows the child to stand with his or her feet flat on the floor, and the youngster should be able to get on and off easily. That means the saddle height should be a couple of centimetres less than the child’s inside leg measurement.
Beyond that, there’s the usual price/quality trade-off you see with adult bikes. More expensive balance bikes are lighter, with aluminium frames instead of steel, and have better bearings in the hubs and headset. While this probably won’t make much of a difference over the year or two your child will have the bike, it can help retain the resale value, and improve the longevity if you’re planning to pass it down to other siblings/generations.