Now, you ask, what is a balance bike? A balance bike or run bike is a training bicycle that helps children learn balance and steering. It has no pedals, no gears and no drive train. Balance bikes are good for children as young as 18 months and as old as 4 to 5. Basically, your feet are able to easily touch the ground. You propel the bike by sitting on the seat and walking or even running your feet. Because there are no pedals, your child can focus on balancing. If they feel uncomfortable or out of control, they simply put their feet down to stop. Again, the focus is on balance!
My daughter started riding a balance bike at a little more than three years of age. She loved it. Last summer we rode our balance bike every evening when I got home from work. We were able to explore our new neighborhood at a pretty fast pace. I even had to run to keep up with her on the downhills! And she was 100% independent. No push bar. No help from me. She learned basic traffic skills (stopping at stop signs, looking both ways before crossing) and gained confidence. She was even able to keep up with some older kids on a group bike ride.
Here are five reasons why balance bikes are AWESOME:
1) Fewer Injuries -- Because kids can simply put their feet down with any loss of balance, they fall less often (if at all). They are 100% focused on balance. Tricycles are slow, awkward and they tip easily. Plus children are distracted by pedaling and even trying to brake. My daughter has only fallen off a balance bike one time in the past 10 months when she tried to bomb down a ramp at full speed and hit a small curb.
2) More Economical -- Many parents consider balance bikes a waste of money but, in reality, they actually save money. A balance bike will last until four or five years of age. Parents then only need to purchase a balance bike and a large (16 or 20 inch) pedal bike. The alternative is to purchase a tricycle, a small (12 inch) pedal bike with training wheels and a large (16 or 20 inch) pedal bike. Plus a balance bike can be used by multiple children and has great resale value. Check Craigslist - they are always gone quickly!
3) More Quality Outdoor Family Time -- Because balance bikes are faster and promote both independence and confidence, toddlers are more likely to use them. They can cruise neighborhood streets or even small gravel trails at moderate speeds. Parents can actually ride, walk or even run along side their children. You don't need to help them stop, start or turn. There is no push handle.
4) Lightweight and Transportable -- Balance bikes are lightweight and, because they don't have pedals or heavy gears, they can easily be thrown in the back of a car or bottom of a jogger stroller. They can go anywhere.
5) Learn A Pedal Bike Faster (and often earlier) -- Because the focus of a balance bike is on balance and steering, transitioning to a pedal bike is much easier. Children who ride balance bikes often learn to ride pedal bikes at an earlier age, sometimes as early as three or four years of age (instead of five or six). My daughter learned to ride a pedal bike just after her fourth birthday and it literally took less than 10 minutes. Plus, because she was already comfortable with her balance, I didn't need to hold her bike or run beside her.
Below you will find a fantastic video if you've never seen a balance bike and a few web sites if you are thinking about purchasing a balance bike. Good luck, get out there and don't forget your helmet!
- http://kidsbalancebikecenter.com -- Great general information including a comparison chart of various balance bikes on the market.
- http://pedalmagic.com -- Pretty outdated, but a fantastic example of how important steering is in learning how to ride a pedal bike.
- http://www.twowheelingtots.com/the-best-balance-bike-for-your-dollar-2/ -- More comparison charts!