Learning to ride a bike is a stressful ordeal, both for the children and parents. As many of us can personally attest to, mastering a bicycle also involves a lot of falling down – and pain. In fact, the experience actually causes some children to develop cyclophobia, which is an irrational fear of riding a bicycle. This phobia can last well into adulthood! Thankfully, a better method of learning is available now – balance bikes.
Balance bikes, also known as running bikes, can help toddlers from as young as 18 to 22 months old learn to ride a bicycle. The device teaches children to master the art of riding a bicycle with little fear of scrapes, cuts and bruises.
What is a balance bike?
A balance bike is basically a barebones bicycle with no pedals, drivetrain, or even brakes. Instead of pedalling, children simply use their feet to generate the propulsion to move the bike forward. The bikes are usually made from lightweight material, so even toddlers are capable of generating sufficient momentum to glide the bike forward.
As the name implies, the balance bike primarily teaches children the art of balance. Since they use their feet to balance the bike, there is little risk of falling down. As they push themselves forward using their feet, they have the ability to determine the speed of their vehicle. Over time, as they become more comfortable, they will start to lift their feet off the ground and gradually develop the ability to balance themselves on the bicycle.
Once the child is deemed ready, parents can introduce them to real bicycles. The transition will be extremely quick, and they will be riding on their own much faster than their peers.
Why are balance bikes better than tricycles and training wheels?
The most important advantage of using balance bikes is the absence of fear. Unlike conventional bicycles, children faces practically zero risk of falling down. After they learn to balance themselves on these bikes, children can easily transfer that skillset to normal bicycles.
Meanwhile, children who spend their formative years using a tricycle or bicycles with training wheels basically just learn how to pedal. Balance is a new skill which they will need to learn on a traditional bicycle. In addition, the constraints of training wheels will also prevent children from fully grasping the art of steering and counter steering, unlike their balance bike-riding peers. Andy Clarke, the president of the League of American Bicyclists, the largest amateur cycling organisation in the United States, believes that learning to ride a bike using a balance bike is “easier” as well as “more intuitive”.
What is the best balance bike?
So, what is the best balance bike to buy for your little one? Well, in terms of popularity, the wooden balance bike remains in the top spot in the balance bike market owing to their low cost, lightweight construction and durability. However, the market is now flooded by a variety of designs, materials, sizes, and colours to fill every possible requirement. The market leader though is Strider, which should not be confused with the character of the same name from Lord of The Rings. A strider balance bike, although slightly pricier compared to brand sold domestically, is well-known for its reliability and lightness, and sells over 1.6 million bikes worldwide annually.
If you’re on the lookout for a bicycle for your kid, perhaps it’s time to ditch the training wheels.