Kids bikes are high on the list of big ticket purchases for Christmas gifts.
But choosing the right bike is a big deal.
Not only is it a major financial outlay, but the first bike you choose can be the difference between your child learning to ride easily or finding it really difficult.
In this first of two posts on how to choose a first bike for your child, we focus on our experiences with balance bikes.
Why Buy a Balance Bike?
Balance bikes have proven a great way to get our girls up and cycling, because learning to balance is such a major part of learning to ride. Both girls went straight from a balance bike they had ridden since they were 2 to a pedal bike completely bypassing stabilishers before they were 5.
In both cases, they could ride their pedal bikes within minutes of getting on them … and then they were off, enjoying the freedom of two wheels without stabilisers to slow down the process.
Having seen so many of our girls friends still struggling to learn to ride at 6 or 7, we’re so glad we opted for balance bikes early on. If you didn’t, our bike club actually recommends you take the pedals off your kid’s first pedal bike and get them to use it as a balance bike rather than give them stabilisers.
How to Choose a Balance Bike?
As people have seen the amazing success of balance bikes … several 3 year olds we know are already on pedal bikes having had them … more and more have come on the market. But they are unfortunately not all as good as each other so use this list to check them out …
- Cushioned saddles help stop sore undercarriages. Hard plastic ones don’t.
- U-shaped saddles are great for helping kids stay on.
2. Saddle position
- Minimum saddle height should be around 1″ to 1.5″ less than a child’s inseam.
- Go for an adjustable saddle.
- Look for seats that are farther back on the bike frame, this enables a child to naturally lean forward as they run. The greater the body angle, the lower the centre of gravity, the better they balance.
3. Bike weight
- Go for a lightweight frame, it’s easier for a child to move around and easier for you to carry when they’ve had enough! Aluminium frames tend to be lightest.
- Foam tyres – puncture proof, but traction isn’t great, bumpy ride.
- Solid rubber tyres – puncture proof and give more traction.
- Air tyres – most comfortable ride, but need pumping and can puncture.
- Toddler and preschooler hands aren’t ready for using brakes, so don’t bother. Kids quickly learn to use their feet to stop their bike.
6. Handlebar grips
- A rubber grip with a knob at the end protects small hands from hitting the ground or scraping up against walls and other hazards.
- Adjustable handlebars are a great option.
Our Favourite Balance Bikes
Strider Balance Bike
Our first purchase for M was a pink Strider balance bike (UK). Designed by a dirt biker enthusiast, Strider bikes look super cool. The Strider ST-4 has got a light-weight steel tube frame and foam tyres.
M found riding her Strider really easy and it didn’t take long for her to be whizzing care-free around the park on it.
Any downsides? Just one – as with a lot of balance bikes, the seat could have been softer, as she sometimes complained of a sore undercarriage!
Micro Balance Bike
And have to say that we’ve absolutely loved it!
After just a few weeks F was whizzing around the park at unbelievable speed … and very soon got the idea of lifting her feet to genuinely balance for 50 metres at a time.
She loved twisting and turning to keep up speed and balance … all absolutely essential skills for a big bike that you can’t practice with stabilisers.
The Micro bike isn’t the cheapest but we have certainly had our money’s worth and as they are so well built they really keep their value if you want to sell it later.
Other Balance Bikes to Check Out
I do hope you found this helpful and if your kids are ready to move up to a big bike do check out our tips on how to choose a great first pedal bikes.
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