Learning how to ride a bike is a huge deal for most kids, but it takes a lot of practice to master that skill. Chances are, your little one may want to start tearing up the town on two wheels as soon as they're toddling, and balance bikes are a way to introduce them to the art of, well, balancing. So when can a toddler start using a balance bike, and how well do those things work anyway? Also known as a runner bikes, glider bikes, or pedal-less bikes, balance bicycles just might make training wheels a thing of the past.
For the most part, kids can start using a balance bike at around 18 months of age, and they can still be fun for kids up to 5 years old, as noted by Two Wheeling Tots. Other organizations echo this information as well. Children are encouraged to start using a balance bike around age 2 or even a little younger by the First Bike website. As with most any new skill, the exact time your kid can start using a balance bike will depend on her individual development, height, and skill level. But for the most part, kids around the age of two are able to begin using these specialized bike trainers. If your little one seems ready, then let her give one of these pedal-less bikes a spin.
As a bike without pedals, the balance bike may not make a lot of sense to adults who grew up with tricycles and training wheels. But these training devices are gaining a lot of popularity and attention, and not just from companies that happen to sell balance bikes. "Balancing and pedaling skills come from different parts of the brain, so the child being able to work on one skill in isolation is helpful, especially for any children with motor delays,” said Dr. Tara Cancellaro, a developmental pediatrician, in NBC News. In theory, balance bikes can help kids transition to regular two-wheeled bikes quickly and efficiently, skipping the awkward training wheels stage entirely.
So how do they work? Kids can stand with both feet on the ground at any time on a balance bike, and they ideally develop balance and core strength while scooting around on it. Because it lacks cranks or pedals, a balance bike is totally powered by the child. “Riding a Strider Bike gives kids independence and the ability to gain confidence on a bike without the having pressure of having to pedal or push back for braking,” said dad David Eastin in Care.com. “They have more control, as they can touch the ground and go at their own speed.” This sense of independence has won over many parents and kids alike to the joys of balance bikes.
If you're ready to purchase a balance bike for your kid, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, there are many brands and styles of bikes available, so give yourself a little time to shop around. Next, fit is also a huge factor. As with any bicycle, it's important to make sure the balance bike is the right size for your kid, as explained in Cycling Weekly. A bike that's too tall or short kind of defeats the purpose. If at all possible, try to test out the bike in person to find the best size. For many families, adjustable balance bikes that can grow with your kid are ideal. Lastly, it's important to let your kid enjoy the balance bike at her own pace. For the most part, kids don't need a lot of instruction, just time, practice, and positive encouragement with the balance bike, as noted in Two Wheeling Tots. Your toddler will be zooming all over the place on two wheels in no time.