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How to choose a balance bike

Balance bikes are more popular than ever. With so many styles, sizes and materials available, how do you know which one is the best for your child?

To help you make the right choice, here is a quick guide to the main things to consider when buying a balance bike.

When it comes to balance bikes, size should be your number one consideration. When standing over the bike, your child needs to be able to put both feet flat on the ground and have at least 2 to 3 cm clearance above the seat.

Another way to measure this is by using your child’s inseam measurement. The inseam measurement is the distance from your child’s crotch to the floor.

Don’t be tempted to buy your child a bike ‘to grow into’. The right size bike will be easier to ride and will be used more often. If you want to make your child’s bike last longer, look for features such as adjustable seatposts and handlebars.

Weight

As a rule, a balance bike shouldn’t weigh any more than 30% of your child’s weight. If the bike is too heavy, your child will have trouble moving and turning it around. Besides, if you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ll be the one carrying the bike when your little one decides they don’t feel like riding – so a lighter balance bike could be a better choice for you.

Material

Balance bikes comes in three main materials: wood, metal and composite. Each material has its pros and cons, so choose the one that suits your child best.

Wood. Wooden balance bikes are light, come in a range of trendy styles and tend to be more eco-friendly. However, bikes made from wood are not as adjustable as metal or composite ones.

Metal. Made from steel or aluminium, metal balance bikes often have seats that you can adjust as your child grows. Steel balance bikes are heavier, while aluminium bikes are lighter yet less durable. Both are prone to rust if kept outdoors.

Composite. These balance bikes are typically made out of a heavy-duty composite plastic. Extremely durable, composite plastic balance bikes won’t crack, rot, or rust. They can be more expensive but it could be a wise investment if you’re planning to pass the bike down from child to child.

Brakes

Some balance bikes are fitted with brakes, some aren’t. Whether or not you choose a bike with brakes depends upon your child’s age and preference. Younger children and toddlers probably won’t use brakes. Their natural instinct will be to use their feet to stop. Having brakes may confuse or frustrate them. Plus, unless designed for toddlers, most handbrakes will be too large for little hands to use.

Cadel Evans offers one more piece of useful advice for choosing the right balance bike. “The best bike for your child is the one that is safe and enjoyable to ride,” he says. “Don’t forget that your local bike shop can help you find it. The right bike can start a love of cycling that will last for life.”

Safety is another important consideration when choosing a balance bike. Make sure the bike has rounded or recessed bolts, rather than exposed ones that could scratch little legs. Also, look for handlebar grips that have a rounded rubber knob on the end. These will protect your child’s hands during falls and will stop the handlebars scratching your walls.

Understanding all the different features of a balance bike so you can make the best choice for your child.

  1. Seat Height & Adjustability

Seat height range for balance bikes can vary greatly and it’s the number one thing to consider before purchasing a balance bike. When choosing a balance bike for your little rider it’s always important to choose the correct size. Not choosing the right size can frustrate your child and inhibited their ability to properly learn to ride a bike. It can also be dangerous. Most likely it’s their first bike and we highly recommend that you purchase a bike that fits them now, not one that they will grow into.

Getting a proper fit on a balance bike requires one simple measurement, your child’s inseam measurement. A proper seat height should have the child sitting on the seat saddle, with feet flat on the ground, with a slight bend in the knees. A good starting point is 1-inch less than the child’s inseam. For long distance riding on smooth surfaces, you can adjust the seat slightly up.  For obstacles, tricks and off-road riding, the saddle can be adjusted for slightly more bend in the knees.

One more thing to consider is the ability to quickly adjust the seat height. As a parent of two children with balance bikes, having the ability to adjust the seat height without the need for tools is extremely convenient and time saving.

Please note: Some balance bikes come with or have optional add-ons for lowering or extending the seat height beyond the base model.

Balance Bike Weight

  1. Bike Weight

When considering the overall weight of a bike there is a simple yet practical rule that can be applied, a balance bike should weigh no more than 30% of your child’s weight. At 2 years old, boys normally weigh between 23.5 to 33.5lbs, while girls weigh 22.5 to 32lbs. If a child weighs 25lbs and we calculate this by the rule of 30% then their balance bike should weigh no more than 7.5 lbs (25 x 0.3 = 7.5).

A bike weighing 10lbs would be much more difficult and possibly dangerous for a 25lb child to maneuver than a child weighing 35lbs. There is also a side benefit for parents who choose a lighter bike, the carrying factor.  A lightweight bike will make it much easier for any parent to simply grab and carry. There have been a number of times myself where I’ve had to carry my son or daughter in one arm and the bike in the other. Having a lightweight bike made it manageable.

Balance Bike Frame

  1. Bike Frame Materials

Balance bike frames are designed from an assortment of distinctive materials: various metals and alloys, wood and composite materials.

Steel Frame Balance Bike

Metal bikes built from steel can increase the overall weight of the bike but can also accommodate heavier and older children. Steel bikes are stiffer (not a bad thing) and also have a great strength reliability rate, but steel bike frames can be prone to rust, especially where paint chips and in damper climates.

Aluminum Frame Balance Bike

Aluminum/Alloy bikes are very popular with parents looking for the ultimate lightweight bike. Aluminum bikes work especially well for smaller children or children under 3 years of age. The bikes weight capacity limit can max out around 60 – 75lbs, depending on the make and model. The good news is, a majority of children who actually reach the max weight limit have or are ready to move on to the next phase, a pedal bike.

Wood Frame Balance Bike

Wood bikes can be more environmentally friendly, but have more limits on being adjustable than conventional balance bikes. Wood bikes are best suited for urban and flat/hard terrain surfaces.  There have been some reports of wood frame bikes cracking/splintering underneath a child, which could lead to serious harm to any young rider.

 

Coomposite Frame Balance Bike

Composite bikes are relatively new to the balance bike market. These bikes are becoming increasingly popular due to their near indestructible and lightweight frame. Their frames are easy to rinse and wipe clean when dirty, prone to withstand extreme weather conditions and have a higher rider weight capacity. Composite frames have proven to be extremely strong and reliable but there have been some reports of riders noticing an increased side-to-side flex on their composite bike at faster speeds.

Balance Bike Tires

  1. Bike Tires

There are a number different types of balance bike tires with various tread patterns. When choosing a balance bike you should consider the conditions/environment in which your child will be riding. Almost any foam or air tires will work on pavement, but tires with a deeper and nobby tread will provide increased traction on dirt and other natural surfaces.

 

Balance Bike EVA Foam Tires

EVA Foam tires have a distinct advantage in that they weigh significantly less than other tires and are maintenance free. These tires work especially well for younger children (3 years and under) who need a lightweight bike. Can be ridden on most terrains and surfaces – indoors and outdoors. Foam tires may not provide the same cushion ride as a pneumatic tire and traction is limited.

 

Balance Bike Pnuematic Tires

Air (Pnuematic) tires are the standard on most balance bikes. They provide a cushion and comfortable ride. Tread pattern varies between models. Air tires are prone to flats, will require proper air pressure maintenance and will increase the overall bike weight.

 

Balance Bike Rubber Tires

Rubber tires provide a lot of traction without the risk of flats. These tires are best suited for indoor use and flat hard surfaces. Perfect for indoor gyms, daycares, school or parents that don’t want to worry about maintenance of an air tire.

 

Balance Bike Plastic Tires

Hard Plastic tires are the lowest quality tires of the group and lightest. Generally considered for use on toys and only suitable for indoor. Cheaply made and prone to cracking and provide little to no traction or cushioning for the rider.

 

Balance Bike Big Apple Tires

Big Apple (aka Fat Boy) tires are the crème de la crème of comfort. A “Big Apple” tire is a much wider tire that uses air cushion as natural suspension. Air suspension is built-in without the use of suspension technology. A large volume air cushion has a natural damping effect providing a much smoother and comfortable ride on nearly all surfaces.

 

Balance Bike Word of Mouth

  1. Word of Mouth

Take advantage and seize the power of today’s most powerful tool – “word of mouth”. You can read online reviews and testimonials but we also strongly suggest you go straight to the source, with any parent who has a child riding a balance bike, and ask for their opinion. We guarantee they will have one, especially when it comes to the happiness and wellbeing of their child.

 

  1. Brakes

Beginner riders use their feet against the ground to control speed and to stop. We want children to be safe, and so we researched various “stopping” methods as they relate to really young children. In the end, in a panic situation, the natural instinct of children is to put their feet down. Even children capable of using a brake revert to planting their feet if they have to stop quickly. With that said, and in our humble opinion we find that hand brakes are excellent for skill development and riding enjoyment, even for kids under the age of five. Children will need to learn how to use hand brakes at some point so why not introduce them from the get go.

 

Balance Bike Steering Limiters

  1. Steering Limiter

Steering limiters prevents the bike from jack-knifing. It keeps the handlebar and front wheel from completing a full 360 degree revolution. Advocates of the turning limiter claim that bikes are safer with them as it prevents sharp turns, limits injuries during a fall and prevents the brake cables from becoming twisted. Critics claim that the steering limiter keeps the handlebars from being able to fold flat to the ground in the event of a fall and that a child should be exposed to the full range of steering from the get-go. Critics also claim the steering limiters are basically “training wheels” for handlebars. While there are pros and cons to steering limiters, the overall effect they have on a riding is minor.

 

Balance Bike Hand Grips

  1. Handgrips

Handgrips should be comfortable and protect their little hands during a fall or an accidental handlebar run-in (think tree, wall, etc). You want a handgrip with a protective rubber and cushion end. One that absorbs the impact and protects the hand from being accidentally pinched during impact or a fall. Younger children can benefit from smaller radius grips. Strider has come out with an unique 12.7mm handlebar grips that are 43% smaller than standard grips (22.2mm) to allow for better comfort and control with tiny hands. More and more bike manufacturers have followed their example and the smaller grips sizes have become the standard.

 

Balance Bike Footrest

  1. Footrest

A balance bike footrest is a nice feature, if it doesn’t interfere with the rider’s ability to use their feet correctly, but not necessary. Generally utilized by children who have mastered their balance bike and are looking to take their riding skills to the next level. Most kids are not going to use a footrest unless going down hills or performing more advanced tricks on their bike.

 

  1. Warranty

Reputable manufactures and distributors will offer some form of a warranty. Most warranties will cover just the frame but not cover normal wear and tear. Some manufacturers will require that you register your bike within a certain time frame to be eligible. If a safety issue or recall should occur then you would be notified.

 

A balance bike is a bike without pedals, which helps the child to learn a sense of balance and to develop the skills to ride a bike. In a short period of time the child acquires a skill to keep a balance, to steer, to turn, to control the bike and to use it independently without parental assistance. Balance bike, just like kids bike with pedals, rolls well on different road surfaces. A balance bike is intended for children aged 1.5-5 years, but it is most often used by 2-3 years old children, then afterward they receive as a gift to the 4-year birthday a bicycle with pedals. With the skills acquired in driving a balance bike, it will be easier for the child to start to ride with a bigger bicycle with pedals, without using additional training wheels.

 

Why tricycle is not such a good choice?

 

Balance bikes are much safer and more practical than tricycles. Tricycles with three tires are slow, difficult to make maneuvers and easy to knock over on an uneven surface. On the balance bike, the child holds his/her focus on keeping the balance instead of pedaling. As a result, the child rarely loses balance and falls. With a balance bike the little child can ride up to several kilometers, but he/she usually quickly grows tired of sitting on a tricycle. A very big advantage for a balance bike is also the fact that older children do not need to be pushed, unlike the tricycle where the child should be constantly pushed by a special handle.

 

 

 

Why it is important for a child to acquire the skill to ride without additional training wheels when switching to the bike with pedals as soon as possible?

 

Additional training wheels significantly impede a child’s ability and desire to ride a bike. Balance bike teaches the child how to ride a bicycle while holding the balance, but the bike with additional training wheels, on the contrary, teaches to ride a bike without balancing. With the additional wheels the child usually tilts to one side, thus creating a false sense of balance. If the child one or two summers has ridden with a balance bike, you should try to teach the child to ride without the help of training wheels straight away. As soon as the child will be able “to perceive” how to the pedal, in a couple of days time you will be able to teach the child to ride independently with the new ‘big’ bike with pedals. Another thing to take into consideration is that for a child it is a lot more fun and easier to ride a balance bike than the bike with pedals fitted with additional training wheels.

 

 

 

What is the best age to ride a balance bike?

 

Balance bikes are available in various sizes. The smallest ones are intended for children from 18 months of age, but the biggest ones are designed to even for adults. Usually, balance bikes are used in a period from 18 months to 5 years of age, but most often by 2-3 years old children. Unlike pushable tricycles and quadricycles, the little child can control the balance bike and move it himself/herself without parental assistance. Children gain true joy from riding these small bikes. Let’s remember that a balance bike does not fit all children. They have different sizes, different tire sizes as well as the adjustable height of the seat and handlebar.

 

Where children put the legs when the bike rolls?

 

For a balance bike, leg support is not necessary. The child naturally raises the legs when accelerated and allows the bicycle to roll. Some models have special places at the back of the bike where to put the legs when the bike rolls, but it is not a mandatory requirement.

 

How many years a does child ride a balance bike?

 

The faster the child will start to ride the bike, the longer he/she will use it. Most frequently the balance bike is used by 2-3 years old children, who then afterward receive as a gift to the 4-year birthday a new 16” bicycle with pedals.

 

How much does a balance bike cost?

 

In our stores these bikes cost from 39.95 to 149.95 euros, depending on the material, equipment and manufacturer. Milly Mally bicycles cost from 39.95 to 69.95 euros, but Strider balance bikes – from 94.95 to 149.95 euros.

 

The price depends on the bike’s frame material and geometry, components, running gear and tires. The higher the price, the easier the bike will roll, and it will be more controllable.

 

How to choose a balance bike?

 

Balance bikes are very simple, but it is not a simple task to choose the most suitable one for your child. In order to learn cycling with the balance bike as good as possible, the size and equipment should be taken into account.

 

Size

 

Size is the most important factor to consider when choosing a balance bike. Usually, the balance bike has one size and it is said to be suitable for all children, but it is not true. There is a big difference between a bicycle with 10” tire size, which is intended for an 18-month-old child, and 16” tires, which will be suitable for a 6-year-old child.

 

The most popular balance bikes have size 10” and 12” tires. 10” tire size will be suitable for very small children (they may start to use it starting from 18 months of age), but the child will outgrow this bicycle relatively quickly. Balance bikes with 12” tire size are also suitable for children from 18 months of age, but they will be usable for a longer period.

 

The height of the seat is just as important as the size of tires because it shows how high the child will sit and whether he will be able to sit on the seat while holding feet on the ground. It is important for a child to be able to touch the ground flat when sitting on the seat, but the legs should be slightly bent at the knees. This will ensure that the child can control the bike and feels stable. The seat should be slightly below (approximately) 2-4 cm lower than the child’s inseam height. The children use balance bikes mostly for 2-3 years.

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