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What is a balance bike and how do they help kids learn to ride a bike compared to using stabilisers?

Have you ever wondered why balance bikes have become so popular and so many children use them? A lot of parents will still not have heard about balance bikes. Far from surprising when you see the vast array of children’s bikes still fitted with stabilisers.

The first difference is that a balance bike has no pedals, cranks or drivetrain.

Balance bikes teach your child the skill of balancing on two wheels. By keeping the learning process simple, they allow children to intuitively learn balance, the first skill needed to be able to ride a bike. 

With nothing to confuse, your little one grasps the bars, straddles the frame, and shuffles them along. As the bike leans to one side, the child will pull it back central without being told to as it feels natural. This is how they learn to balance. The child will be stable as they have four points touching the ground; two wheels and their feet. As the child controls how fast the bike moves, they feel safe and enjoy riding them. They are fun to ride - the key to success!

Children can use them as soon as they can walk, typically from around 18 months! 

Having good balance is the crucial skill to almost every activity; ballet, football, walking, climbing, running as well as riding a bike so start early and improve those skills. 

A balance bike is a lot lighter than a bike with stabilisers!

This is important so the child can manoeuvre the bike independently. By being able to lift and turn the bike, they can control their own learning pace.

Choose the lightest balance bike you can afford. The more lightweight the bike, the easier it is to use! 

Children start by simply walking the bike along. Often, they won’t find the saddle to sit down on for a few days, so don’t worry! Then, when they sit down, they will start moving it along quicker as they rest their weight on the bike. They are learning the balance needed to ride a bike without even realising it.

Why not a pedal bike fitted with stabilisers?

Stabilisers do not help your child learn to balance as the stabilisers keeps them upright. Bikes fitted with them are heavy, as they need to be bigger and the additional brakes, drivetrain and cranks all add significant weight and confusion. The child’s centre of gravity is far higher than necessary and they get scared when the bike tilts to one side. Pavements are never flat so the child ends up leaning to the other side, to counteract it. Rides are frustratingly slow and parents need to help them over curbs, and gain momentum. 

As soon as stabilisers are removed then you are back at square one, still needing to learn balance .

How does a balance bike work?

Riding a bike requires coordination and includes pedalling, balancing steering, and braking. That is a lot of skills to learn at once for a toddler, so by concentrating on the skill “balance” first, as that is the most challenging skill to learn, children gain confidence quicker.

The toddler sets the speed. 

With both feet on the floor the child will walk the bike along. As they don’t have to concern themselves with brakes and pedals they are in control of their speed and as confidence and balance improve they will start getting quicker.

They can stop when they wish to! 

Balance bikes stop with the child placing their feet back on the floor, which is good instinctive behaviour. Some balance bikes do have brakes fitted, but young children can't control them properly and react quick enough. Brakes are not recommended for children under 3-years-old. 

The feeling of being able to control what they are doing is an important one as it prevents tantrums. Toddlers strapped into pushchairs throw a wobble now and again; as they have no say in what they are doing and are not getting any exercise. Use a balance bike and the whole experience is much safer and the child (and you) feels happier.

Once the child has learned balance, they focus on their coordination, their turns, and positioning. 

With a balance bike, your child will then make a rapid progression to riding a regular pedal bike and it is said you will never need stabilisers!

If you don't wish to buy two bikes consider a convertible balance bike.

Kidvelo have cleverly designed balance bikes that convert to lightweight pedal bikes for children aged 3 up to 8-years-old. Learn to balance first, before bolting on the included pedal kit, and then pedal away. This option prevents parent's from having to buy two bikes.

This article has been kindly written for Toddle About by Karen Wood, Founder of Kidvelo Bikes, a new manufacturer of balance bikes.

No stranger to the industry, Karen has been teaching children to ride for over 14 years and her company have distributed balance bikes since they were first designed. 

Learn More - https://kidvelobikes.co.uk