Balance Bikes FAQ: What you need to know before you buy one

A run bike or balance bike is a training bicycle that is designed to help children learn steering and balance. This range of training bikes have no pedals, training wheels or chain, and can be crafted of plastic, wood or metal. Balance is the biggest nuisance of learning to ride a bicycle and once your child masters that, they can head straight for a big-kid pedal bike.

Also referred to as kid bikes, pre-bikes, glide bikes, toddle bikes, or push bikes, balance bikes can be fitted with one or two hand triggered rim brakes or none at all, and what makes them unique is the plethora of developmental, physical and emotional benefits they provide to children. First seen on the streets of Europe, balance bikes today have become increasingly popular across the globe, and here are a few reasons for this surge of appeal

  1. Lightweight – perhaps the biggest reason for the success of balance bikes is their lightweight footprint and comparatively much lighter than bicycles with training wheels, which in some cases weigh as much as the child. Being lightweights allows kids to ride more without getting tired and sprint uphill without having to haul around a heavy bike.
  2. Creates Confident Riders – unlike traditional training wheels, balance bikes teach several key skills such as steering, balancing, using caution, braking and following basic traffic rules. In short, your child will learn everything there is to know about a pedal bike and gain confidence as they become more enthusiastic about this activity.
  3. Less Risk of Injury – owing to the lack of pedals, your child benefits from the security of having his/her own feet on the ground. In the event the balance bike starts to tip over, your preschoolers instincts kick in and force them to plant their feet to slow down and stabilize and reduce the risk of tipping over.

 

Some balance bikes are even equipped with steering limiters for a smoother ride, rear-hand controlled brakes and non-swivel seats to reduce the chances of falling. Furthermore, many pediatricians do not recommend using training wheels due to their negative impact on children’s spines.

What is the recommended age for a Balance Bike?

You can start them ’em out pretty young and as young as 22 months old or as early as they grown out or a three wheel plastic bike. The sooner you start helping kids with their balance bike, the quicker they’ll be able to get onto a pedal bike. Toddlers seem to learn pick up the pace really quickly, sometimes within a matter of hours and a few who are less excited to move around; those who won’t be excited about a balance bike at the age of two.

It is important to note that children starting to ride a balance bike at the age of 4 generally take longer to learn and tend to have a problem with keep up with their balance. This is mostly due bad habits developed by bicycles with training wheels or from ride-on carts.

Are Balance Bikes Safe?

As mentioned earlier, your child immediately benefits from having the support of his/her feet on the ground. But it is also important to adjust the seat to suit their height so when they sit, both feet should be firmly planted on the ground and not just their toes with the knees slightly bent. In this way your child will be able to properly stabilize themselves, slow down and push off.

Balance bikes are designed for driveways, side-walks, wooded trails, driveways and areas such as parks that are away from the streets and under adult supervision. Next and this goes without saying, it is important to wear a helmet and one that fits and doesn’t move around on their head.

Are all Balance Bikes basically the same?

All balance bikes are basically backed by the same concept, but are available in several different sizes, brands, designs and materials including wood, plastic, composite and metal. Wooden balance bikes are mostly crafted from various layers of Baltic birch plywood and generally weigh anywhere between 9-12 lbs.

Owing to their wooden construction, many people believe that this range of balance bikes is more susceptible to warpage and cracking, but this is not necessarily true. Birch is an extremely strong type of wood and when you put 12-12 payers together, the results are a solid construction. However, you must avoid getting them wet just like most other wood products.

Next up are metal balance bikes that are generally made from lightweight steel or aluminum and weigh between 8-12lbs, and you can gauge the quality by examining the welds on the balance bike. Just like their wooden counterparts, steel made balance bikes should not be left in the rain owing to the risk of corrosion, which will consequently affect the performance of the balance bike.

Composite balance bikes are in most cases made up of a mesh material for added strength. They might be slightly different in terms of construction material from plastic made balance bikes, but both composite and plastic made balance bikes will resist warping, corrosion, cracking and in most cases are a little lighter than wooden or metal balance bikes.

Read out balance bike reviews

Should I choose a Bike that my Child can grow into?

It all depends really! You can let your child learn key skills on a balance bike and then reward them with a new pedal bike once they are ready to make the switch. Or you can invest in a bike that literally adapts to your child’s age. This will save you the cost of buying a new bike as the one you have and can be easily transformed into a pedal bike.

What Features should I consider before purchasing a Balance Bike?

The process of buying a balance bike can be overwhelming, but here are a few key features to consider to get ensure you get the right one for your child.

Seat Height and Adjustability – this is the number one thing to consider when buying a balance bike and can vary greatly across balance bikes. It is highly important that you buy a balance bike of the right size because the wrong size will not only frustrate your child and inhibit their ability to properly learn riding with a balance bike, it is can be extremely dangerous.

Getting the right fit is however easy, where you simply require your child’s inseam measurement. The right seat height is where your child sits on the seat saddle and his feet well planted on the ground. Another aspect to consider is how quickly you can adjust the seat because the ability to adjust the seat without tools is less time consuming and easier.

Handlebar Grips – these should be comfortable to protect your little one’s hands during an accidental run such as with a tree, wall and also during a fall. The best balance bike handgrip is one that is outfitted with protective rubber and a cushion end. Adding to this, they should be able to absorb the impact, and smaller radius handgrips are better suited for younger children.

Balance Bike Weight – the simple thumbrule that applies when considering the overall weight of a balance bike is the weight should be no more than 30 percent of your kid’s weight. Boys normally weight 23.5 to 33.5lbs at the age of 2 while girls weigh between 22.5 to 32lbs.

So if your child weighs 25lbs, the balance bike should weigh no more than 7.5lbs. A balance bike that weighs considerably more than your child’s weight will make it difficult for them to maneuver, and heavier for you to haul around as well.

Bike Frame Materials – as mentioned early, the most common types of materials are aluminum, metal, wood, composite and plastic, each with their own set of benefits.

Tires – there are several different types of balance bike tires and the one that is best for your child depends on the environmental conditions your child will be riding in.

  1. EVA Foam – this range of balance bike tires offer a significant benefit in that they are considerably lighter and maintenance free. Balance bikes fitted with this type of tires are lightweight and are ideal for children of ages 3 and below. In addition, they are a great fit for indoor and outdoor environments and for most terrains and surfaces.
  2. Air (Pneumatic) – these are common for most balance bikes and provide great cushion and comfortable ride. Take note however, pneumatic balance bike tires are prone to flats, and will require air pressure maintenance and add to the overall weight of the bike.
  3. Solid Rubber – there’s no risk of flats with these types of tires and they offer great traction. They are best suited for flat hard surfaces and indoor use such as daycares, gyms and schools.
  4. Big Apple – considered as top of the line balance bike tires, they are much wider and are backed by an air cushion as natural suspension. This air cushion is integrated without the use of suspension technology.
  5. Honeycomb – fairly new to the balance bike arena, this range of tires is becoming widely popular owing to their lightweight characteristics and zero flat risk or a rubber balance bike tire or EVA foam balance bike tire.

Word of Mouth – this is perhaps the most powerful tool to use especially when buying an item for your child. It is best to read online balance bike reviews and testimonials to determine if the balance bike is indeed a good fit.

What is a “Steering Limiter” and do I need one?

Steering limiters basically keeps the front wheel and handlebar of the balance bike from completing a 360 degree revolution. Balance bikes fitted with them are generally considering much safer as it limits injuries during a fall, prevents sharp turns and the brake cables from being twisted. Equipping your child’s balance bike with steering limiters is simply a matter of personal choice.

Can my 18 month old really ride a Balance Bike?

Although the recommended age for a balance bike is 22 months, if your child’s leg are well planted on the ground, and they feel comfortable with the bike, then it’s a great idea to start them early. There are also balance bikes specifically designed to cater to this age category and may be worth exploring if your child’s legs are short are late walkers.

How do I teach my Child to ride a Balance Bike?

Striding – for starters, allow your child to get a feel for the balance bike by striding along with it. Let them enjoy the feeling of this first level riding with their own power and once they get their feet wet, they will quickly understand with a little more striding, they can lift their feet and start gliding a few feet.

Gliding – as your child gains confidence from the striding stage, gliding generally is longer and faster. So striding basically is when your child is riding with their feet planted on the ground and gliding is when coast with their feet up.

Is Assembly Required?                              

Regardless of the balance bike you choose, there is some level of easy assembly required, which is in most cases just putting a few parts together and nothing over the top. The best advice is to read the user guide included in the box and follow the instructions. The assembly process generally takes no more than an hour, but could take longer if you’ve ordered a balance bike with all the bells and whistles such as brakes, limiters, etc.

Brakes? How does my Child stop his Balance Bike?

Balance bikes are generally regarded as a stripped down version of a traditional pedal or a bike with less moving parts. Some balance bikes are fitted with brakes while others come without, so the big question is which one is best.

Well, a balance bike without brakes allows your child to stop with his feet consequently allowing them to gain confidence in riding and stopping as they see fit. Balance bikes with brakes are great too as it allows your child to master the art of balance as well as prepare themselves for a bigger bike.

With balance bikes fitted with brakes, there are still no gears or chains, but it will save your child’s shoes from being prematurely worn out and easier for them to make the switch from a balance bike to a pedal bike as they’ve already been practicing and its just one less thing to concentrate on when they ride a pedal bike.

Can I adjust the Seat Height to fit my Child?

Seat heights for balance bikes can vary greatly and can be as low as 11 inches to the ground and as high as 18-19 inches on a 12 inch balance bike. However, not all balance bikes have this range, which is why it is important to know your child’s inseam and get the right starting range.

Metal balance bikes generally have either a quick release bolt to adjust the seat height or an adjustable bolt that allows you to raise or lower the seat with a wrench. Adjusting the seat height on wooden balance bikes is a little more time consuming and usually requires removing 3 bolts, adjusting the seat height and the refastening the bolts.

Wooden balance bikes generally offer 3 different positions to choose from. Balance bike seats also come in a variety of padding and shapes, where some mimic a real bike seat and are even set on rails whereas others are made of plastic.

What is the proper Seat Height for my Child?

Proper seat height is when the child is sitting on the saddle and his feet are planted on the ground. You can adjust the seat height slightly up for long distance striding on smooth surfaces. For tricks, obstacles and off-road riding, the seat should be adjusted for a slightly more bend in the knees.

My child has Special Needs, would they benefit from a Balance Bike?

Yet another noteworthy feature of balance bikes is that they make the difficult tasks of balance, pedaling and steering extremely easy. Kids with autism, poor balance, arthrogryposis, Down syndrome and cerebral policy can benefit from a balance bike in several different ways, most notably for social interaction and group play.

Since balance bikes are stripped down versions of pedal bikes, there are far less parts to deal with hence making the riding process fun and easy. Adding to this, the unique design of balance bikes allow them to be used for a minimum of 5 years of age so if your child has slower growth, they will be able to use it for longer.

Learning to ride a balance bike independently will also help their fine motor skills and help improve muscle tone owing to the fact they’re fully supported by the seat while they have their feet planted on the ground.

How will I know when my Child is ready for a Pedal Bicycle?

A child is ready for a balance bike once thy coast or glide without their feet planted on the ground, but don’t be in a hurry to make the transition just yet.

Riding a balance bike is fun, and even when your child has mastered the basics of a balance bike and is riding like a pro, moving to a pedal bike right away can derail progress and discourage your child.

Take note that even though your child is comfortable with riding a balance bike, a pedal bike is much heavier sometimes more than the weight of the child itself, and this extra weight can be extremely difficult and frustrating to a child.

Let your child play, practice and perfect their balance bike and the more time spent on a balance bike will make them more proficient and confident on a pedal bike once they make the switch.

Another point worth mentioning is putting kids on a pedal bike too soon will limit where they can ride. This is because riding a balance bike on dirt, grass or any other obstacles is much easier than with a pedal bike.

The best advice is to have a pedal bike and balance bike available to child once they’re proficient on balance bike riding and have them choose between the two.

Are your Balance Bikes free of Lead Based Paints?

All our balance bikes are made in accordance with the highest quality and safety standards and this includes compliance with California Proposition 65 standards.

Does my Child need to wear a Helmet?

Although there are no Federal rules that require children to wear a helmet while riding, it I simply a safe and good practice. With any type of bikes, falls and accidents are inevitable and helmets provide that additional layer of security to reduce injury.

When should I use the Strider XL Seatpost?

The Strider XL seatpost is generally a good fit when your child reaches 3 ½ years to 4 years of age. The height of the saddle can be extended an additional 3 inches from 16 inches to 19 inches from the ground/ inside leg measurement, giving you a few more options get the right fit.

What is the proper Handlebar Height?

People generally overlook how important handlebars affect the choice of bike, but it can play a key role especially if your child is very young or taller than average. Handlebars on balance bikes are for the most part adjustable up and down, some front and back or fixed at one height.

Handlebars are not adjustable on wooden bikes and are set lower in height. These are an ideal fit for toddlers 3 and younger because they have more control over the balance bike with low flat handlebars. Handlebars that protrude upwards generally have a higher starting point and are great for kids over 3 years especially those who are tall for their age.

Most metal balance bikes have adjustable handlebars that can be moved up and down a few inches. The ideal height for handlebars should be at the mid-torso and as they grow, this can be adjusted at the lowest setting for 18-2 years old, mid-height for 3-4 years old and the highest setting for over 5 years old.

Do I need to put Air in the Tires?

This completely depends on the tires you choose. There are a few tires that do not go flat, but for balance bikes fitted with EVA foam tires, it is important to maintain proper air pressure.

What are the differences between the various Balance Bike Models?

There are several differences between the various balance bike models including, size, weight, features, and accessories. Before buying one, it is important that you read balance bike reviews to ensure it is a perfect fit for your child.

Why is there no Steering Limiters on some Balance Bikes?

Balance bikes generally do not come fitted with steering limiters owing to mixed opinions, where some critics consider these “Training Wheels” for handlebars, while others consider this a hindrance to a child’s development and potential safety issue in the event of a fall.

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