There’s a different type of training wheels for kids that’s getting a lot of attention: balance bikes.
Cycling is a low-impact exercise that people of all ages can enjoy, and toddlers are no exemption. There are many promising benefits that come with starting their biking journey young. Kids from ages 18 months to 2 years old, in particular, can help build their muscle mass.
A bike with pedals is a classic choice for teaching them to do so. But bike enthusiast parents are turning to a balance bicycle to get their little ones moving. In most cases, they find it a better starting point before transitioning to a regular bike.
If you or your child wishes to learn and be on a balance bike mode on their own, use this guide to get started!
Balance Bike Mode
A traditional balance bike features a bike frame without pedals. It also comes with a fork, handlebars and wheels but no drivetrain. What’s more, there are no stabilisers or training wheels attached.
To move forward, a kid has to push off the ground with their feet (just like the Flintstone family). This helps develop their sense of balance and coordination. And when they’re confident enough, they can progress to biking with pedals.
As mentioned, 18 months and two years old is the ideal age for a child to start their balance bike journey. This is the average kids age when they’re physically and developmentally ready to cycle.
But whatever your child’s age, a budget balance bike will help them transition to pedalling. It’s a great exercise where they can refine their strength, have a sense of control, and build confidence.
Riding Balance Bikes: Things to Consider
Before you can expect your little one to master it, you need to find the perfect balance bike for them. There are various types of balance bike by age, but the top feature to consider is the height.
Ensure your child’s chosen training wheels are the correct height. Their feet should touch the ground so they can push off. The same goes for the handlebars; they must be within their comfortable reach. Otherwise, it’ll delay their independent riding and make learning more difficult.
Using the brakes
When getting started, most kids will intuitively use their feet to stop. But once they get faster, they’ll need to start using the brakes.
Consider teaching them to use the rear hand brake throughout their learning process. As they get more confident, advance them to using the front brake. Run alongside them with your hand on their back for support and in case they need to stop.
Gear them up
A fall is inevitable, but to ensure that it doesn’t knock your child’s confidence, gear up them with protection. Bike helmets, for one, are strongly recommended. Pair it with sturdy shoes, elbow pads, and well-fitted biking clothes, e.g. a soft padded jacket.
Top tip: Avoid loose clothing or shoe laces that may get caught in the wheels.
Find a safe learning environment
An open area free from traffic and distraction is a better bet. Location with tarmac or short dry grass can also help your child get the momentum to balance safely.
A gentle downhill is another good location that can help pick up speed. Just make sure there’s a good run-off at the bottom! Steer clear of packed parking spaces, near steps, open water, and near the highway.
Mastering a Balance Bike
There are four steps to riding a balance bike for toddlers:
- Stand and walk (kids from ages 18 months to 3 years old)
- Sit and walk (between 2 to 3 years old)
- Sit, run, and balance (kids from ages 2 to 4 years old)
- Sit, run, and glide (kids over age 2.5 and 4 years)
1. Stand and walk
For this stage, your child will likely stand over the bike and walk it. They won’t even try to sit on it and just stroll it around the whole block or several feet.
The duration can vary, but for most toddlers, it’ll be the longest learning stage. You may expect the kid to sit and walk during their first ride. This may take months before they get comfortable sitting down. The younger the child, the longer this phase of standing and walking can last.
Let them do so in their own space. At the same time, provide them with the opportunity to ride without the aid of a pedal bike slowly.
2. Sit and walk
Eventually, your little one will learn to sit. However, once they do, they may continue to walk the bike for a time. But the excitement tends to build at this stage. Once comfortable with sitting and moving, they can advance to the ‘sit and run’ stage.
Get your child around other balance bike riders to encourage them further. Kids with competitive personalities will try to keep up with others and move forward.
But remember, don’t make them feel like they are being compared to others. Try your best to determine what works for them best - will it benefit from it or not?
3. Sit, run, and balance
As the parent, be prepared to get in shape for this stage! When your child finally learns to run on their balance bike, ensure you can keep up with them.
After learning to sit and run on their two wheels, they also master the power of balancing. Let them practise in open areas, where you don’t have to worry about them running into the street, for instance. Also, take the time to instruct them about where they’re allowed to ride and where they’re not.
4. Sit, run, and glide
During this last stage, your child can experience the most exciting part of the ride, a.k.a. the glide. This may be a natural step for them, figuring it out on their own.
Anything is possible by now, as your kid is now a master of their bike! But don’t rush them and let them enjoy their balance bike until they’re ready for a bike with pedals.
Your child still needs guidance in gliding, have them roll down a driveway or a grassy hill. And for exploring, take them on a trail riding or set up small ramps in your backyard.
Once your kid has the hang of ‘gliding’, adding pedals, rear brakes, and gears becomes much easier.
Let them keep practising these steps, from the simple stand and walk to mastering the glide. When they fall, encourage them to try again and give lots of praise. Always be there to make them feel better.
As they advance further and become more adventurous, they’re more likely to rub off the fact they fell and laugh. And as the parent, their cycling development can be very rewarding on both their and your part.
Balance in cycling can be mastered pronto, but pedalling and braking can take longer. If your child is reluctant to start their balance bike journey, let them be and wait until they’re ready. (Top tip: Fitting some jazzy bike accessories could help entice them!)Read this post next for more tips on how to cycle with a toddler. And if you’re looking for a quality bike to invest in soon, Bobbin is your one-stop bike shop!