Balance bikes

May 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

I’ve shared pictures of the $5 blue trike we got at the elementary school’s sale, and then there’s the red one I talked about on facebook that we got at the bike sale in town. At the same time we got the red trike, we bought the bike you see pictured above. We did take off the training wheels, and a friend took off the pedals and chain.

Why in the world would we have someone do that, you ask?

Basically, a bunch of my friends have done the research and they’ve read that kids have a smoother transition to a regular bike by steering clear of training wheels. Kids need to learn how to balance and steer more than they need to learn how to pedal. Pedaling comes pretty easily once the balance part is down. Enter the balance bike. It has no pedals and no chain. The kid starts by standing and walking the bike, then easily transitions (without adult help) to sitting and pushing off with their feet, to really taking off by pushing off at a faster speed and holding up their feet.

This wikipedia page on balance bikes says:

With a balance bicycle, the rider learns balance first, pedal last. In contrast, with a normal bicycle fitted with training wheels, the rider learns pedal first, balance last. Although opinions differ regarding which learning sequence is easier for most riders[citation needed], it is generally agreed that a bicycle with pedals is too difficult for most very young children[citation needed] and that training wheels may encourage the rider to learn some behaviors which later must be unlearned.[citation needed]

The balance bike appealed to me because it reminded me of using diapers. We train our kids to use the diaper as a toilet and then have to help them unlearn that behavior. A leap for you, perhaps? It’s as clear as day to me. šŸ˜‰

The thing I’m noticing with the converted balance bike bilingual baby is using is that she’s way more independent than a kid who is using training wheels or more so than a kid who is unlearning the training wheels. After dinner tonight, we took a ride into town. Baby brother was in the stroller, bilingual baby asked to bring the balance bike. It’s light and there are no pedals to scratch you when you have to carry it. Why not?

She started getting on and off of the bike, resting on the seat, walking it like a grownup scooter. By the time we got through town and to the state house lawn, she was really cruising. She’d push herself to a comfortable glide speed and pick up her feet as she balanced on the bike. She’d stop if she felt like she was going too fast.

I totally agree with this site, who sells balance bikes they call gliders (there are lots of names for this kind of pedal-free bike):

Pedals can make it very difficult for a child to learn how to balance because they can’t get their feet off the pedals and on the ground quickly enough and they fall over. It is difficult enough for a child to learn to balance when you also have pedaling and braking to learn at the same time.

I could see bilingual baby wanting to have her feet on the ground the whole time she was playing on her balance bike. It really made sense seeing it in action. I think even Josh was convinced that this was a good way to go- it took him a while. I mean, what dad would want to give up the days of holding the back of their kid’s bike as they learned how to ride it on a warm summer day? I can see why he was reluctant. Now that he’s seem bb cruising with more confidence all through town, he liked it.

Here are some videos of kids riding a popular model, called the Skuut. It’s all wood and made for kids starting at 2 years old. Another website that compares different brands of balance bikes, suggests parents look at it from their perspective, too:

While children thrive off their new foundĀ independence, parents enjoy the convenience of an ultra light bike that is easy to bring to the park or tote around, weighing less than half that of a tricycle and a third of a bike with training wheels.

Having carried, pushed, maneuvered, and hassled with a trike, and with a bike with training wheels (we had to get it home), I have to say I completely agree with the “it’s better for parents” angle. You will be carrying your kid’s bike. They will get tired, or want to jump off their favorite rock. I can’t be sure that either of our kids won’t get tired when they’re on a regular bike, but by then they’ll have more stamina, or better yet, we’ll all be riding and there will be nobody to walk the extra bike.

There are balance bikes for 2-5 year olds and there are even balance bikes for littler kids. We were just in Onion River Kids and they have two balance bikes out (and a tricycle) for kids to play on. They seemed tiny in comparison to our 12″ converted bike. The nice thing about kids… they always grow. Plus, our friend that took off the pedals and chain told us to bring the bike back to him when bb was ready to bike with pedals.

This isn’t a race. I’m not trying to get bb biking on her own before someone else’s kid. I did see sheer satisfaction as she coasted along the sidewalk, getting on and off, feeling like she owned the town. I can’t help but think that being able to just hop on the bike and go pumped her up, making her very confident. Before converting the bike to a balance bike, her interest in the bike was so hesitant. She’d get upset really easily – and I did hold her up so she could feel balanced while she tried to pedal. She never did pedal. There was too much going on.

For what it’s worth, I really recommend this style of bike for your 2 year old (and up). I can’t recommend a brand, but just look for something through craigslist, garage sales (ha!) and the like. They’re a really hot item around here and they get picked up really quickly. A friend of ours convinced me to buy the regular bike and have it converted. That works, too, if your kid fits the bike already. If they’re 2 years or younger, definitely go in and try out the smaller balance bikes. I’ll be keeping an eye out for one for baby brother. He’d really love it.

Have fun!


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§ 4 Responses to Balance bikes

  • Juliet says:

    We did it! You inspired us to modify Paula’s old training-wheeled bike, and she’s totally loving gliding along on it now. I have to admit I doubted at first that we had done it right, that she would get the hang of it, etc. But she’s already balancing and feels so proud of her “two-wheeler.” Thank you! By the way, you can see the photo of her on FB. I tagged you on it.

  • Rea says:

    Thanks for the encouragement to build our own. I’ve been eyeing them on-line as i can’t find one where we live in Spain. A liite DIY should sav us shipping costs. Thanks.

  • […] for a bike ride. Start your kid off on a balance bike. Some balance bikes, also called gliders, are small enough for an 18 month old and can be adjusted […]

  • […] neighbors here in Vermont. He’s the guy that took the pedals off of bilingual baby’s bike. No matter how busy he is, or how stressed he is, he’s always willing to stop for a second […]

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