Balance bikes have exploded in popularity within the next decade or so. They are a great alternative for training wheels on a regular bike. But, before going any further, let’s find out if balance bike is the right choice for your little one.
Even though you can see balance bikes on any playground and bike trail now, many parents are still cautious about them. We consider them the best way for younger kids get prepared for ‘real’ bikes when they grow up. Why it’s the best? Unsurprisingly, because of that ‘balance’ word in their name. The earlier kids learn how to balance (even without pedals in our case) – the better cyclists they become.
Are balance bikes the only way to learn how to ride a bike earlier? Certainly not, trikes (or three-wheel bikes) and training wheels have been around for a while. However, what they both lack is that feel of balance. Not only they slow down the progress of your kid’s learning curve, they’re not fun to ride at all. Instead of all that excitement to feel the balance, they’re just riding on rails.
Despite seeming very simple at first glance, there is a number of ways the balance bikes differ from one another. There is a lot of competition in his market, so even in such a narrow niche manufacturers keep innovations going. Luckily, the best balance bike for your kid is not always the most expensive one.
However, depending on your use scenario and surrounding terrain you may want to see certain features more than the other. Let’s start with the most basic ones and continue to more rare and advanced.
Unfortunately, even respectable bike manufacturers don’t always get the balance bike geometry right, not to mention the ones that don’t specialize in bikes at all. Poor geometry will result in fatigue and general inconvenience. Luckily, it’s easy to tell if your bike has good geometry or not right from the first glance.
What you should be looking at:
These are the small details that can make all the difference. Premium bikes will have more comfortable seats and advanced protection features.
For example, take a look at Islabikes Rothan seat:
A seat like that will keep your child in place even on steep descents while minimizing the risk of sliding forward.
Or Woom 1 handlebars that will protect little hands:
When it comes to tires choice, you have two options: foam and air. The only benefit if the foam tires is that they are puncture-proof. On the opposite, air tires offer better grip in any conditions and can be easily replaced. Imagine finding a replacement tire for a balance bike that has been discontinued by manufacturer for 5 years already – a nightmare.
We would always recommend getting a bike with hand brakes rather than without them. The balance bikes with brakes always have only one, and it’s a rear brake (for safety concerns).
Now, if your kid is about 18-24 they will most likely not use it for several reasons: first, their hands might not be big enough to get hold of the brake handles. Secondly, they most likely be braking with their feet.
However, as they grow up, they will eventually start using handbrakes. It will come natural as at the speed they develop feet will no longer be effective. This will also bring two benefits: first, you will start saving tons of money on new shoes and secondly, they will be prepared to use the handbrakes on their grown-up bikes.
Having a place to put the feet when going downhill, for example, sounds like a great idea, but there’s also a downside to having footrests on your balance bike. And that is, your child will inevitably kick their legs while they’re walking with the bike.
Not many balance bikes have them, and they’re not necessary by any means, but we suggest to consider the terrain you’re willing to use the bike on. That is, if you’re riding downhill, having footrests will make a whole world of difference for your kid. If it’s uphill or just plain terrain – better choose a bike without footrests.
Balance bikes can have metal (steel and aluminium), wooden or fiberglass frames.
We like metal frames the most (especially aluminum ones) for their sturdiness, stability and reliability. Aluminium ones are more lightweight, but also more expensive than steel bikes. They are also rust-free.
Wooden balance bikes are gaining popularity as we speak, however not all of them are great. While the ones from reputable brands are pretty reliable, cheaper models fall apart pretty easily.
As for fiberglass balance bikes, they are pretty new to the market. They are cheaper than aluminium while being same or even smaller weight. However, they have two downsides – most of them are using foam tires. The other – fiberglass is not that sturdy and there’s some flexing which will make you want to recycle the bike after some time.