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Great Ideas! 5 Reasons Balance Bikes Are Better for Toddlers

08/08/2013 at 05:00 PM ET

Benefits of Balance Bikes
Courtesy FirstBIKE

To pedal or not to pedal — that’s the question on every parent’s mind when it comes to teaching little kids how to ride a bike.

While balance bikes have long been hitting the streets in Europe, they’re still just gaining recognition in the U.S.

But don’t think they’re only a fad. Pedal-less bikes actually provide many important physical, developmental, and emotional benefits for tykes learning to ride.

So we’ve asked Joseph Rumley, chief marketing officer of FirstBIKE, for the top five reasons why balance bikes simply do the job better than bikes with training wheels. Check them out below:

You can start ‘em young. Children as young as 22-months-old can learn to balance on their own! At the age of 4 or 5, when they get taller and stronger, they can smoothly transfer to a pedal bike without ever needing training wheels.

They create confident riders. Unlike training wheels, balance bikes teach skills like balancing, steering, braking, using caution, as well as basic traffic rules — basically everything you need to know to ride a traditional pedal bike. Plus, as kids gain confidence they become more enthusiastic about biking.

They’re lightweight. Balance bikes are two to three times lighter than pedal bikes with training wheels, which sometimes weigh as much as the child. Thus, toddlers can ride several miles without getting tired and run up hills without having to heave around a heavy bike.

There’s less risk of injury. Because there are no pedals, preschoolers benefit from the security of having their own feet on the ground. When the bike starts to tip over, kids instinctively plant their feet to slow down and stabilize, reducing the risk of tipping over. A few balance bikes on the market, such as FirstBIKE, also come equipped with rear, hand- controlled brakes; steering limiters for a smoother ride; and non-swivel seats to further reduce the chance of falls. Moreover, many pediatricians advise against using training wheels due to their negative impact on a child’s spine.

They foster parent-child bonding. Bike riding is something families can do together — it’s free, encourages physical activity and outdoor exploration, and gets the whole brood moving together. Balance bikes allow younger children to keep up with their parents or older siblings and keep the entire family happily on the go!

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PEOPLE.com reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 9 comments

MomOfTwo on

Balance-bikes are totally normal here in europe. My boy got one for his 2nd birthday and he loved it! Now he is riding a bike with pedals and needed ten minutes to figured out how to use it:-) great thing!

Keltie on

I think balance bikes are great but can someone tell me how they “teach skills like…using caution, as well as basic traffic rules”?

It is one of the top 5 reasons listed by a chief marketing officer of a balance bike company as to why a balance bike is better than a pedal bike – I really think the reasons need to be legit and well researched.

Ashley on

I’m a pediatrician and I have no idea how training wheels can have a “negative impact on a child’s spine”. I just hope people still put helmets on their kids even though it is supposedly safer than a normal bike.

Anna on

Here in Czech rep. its common. My daughter got Yedooo Tootoo and its great. She started at age of 3 and now-at 5 she still love it. And as bonus- She learned ride a normal bike in 2 minutes this year!

Joel on

Both of my kids started at 16 months on their STRIDER Bikes! My 4 year old daughter is now ripping around on her pedal bike and my 2 1/2 year old son is a STRIDER pro!

Ariel on

We totally need more posts like this on People.

Rev. James G.W. Fisher on

A quote from a leading credentialed professional about the FirstBIKE says it clearly why it is so great: “Comfortable and simple to use, the FirstBIKE™ balance training bike creates a symbiotic relationship both physically and emotionally for a child. It is a wonderful product for helping a child build a greater level of confidence and self-esteem while contributing to the steady advancement of gross and fine motor skills simultaneously.” – http://tiny.cc/firstbikereview

Caution and basic traffic rules obviously are no a inherent part of the bike, they are inherent for a child from the interaction with their responsible parents while using the bike.

In regard to the comment below about the training wheels, a false sense of security is acquired by a child. A much higher risk of a child shifting abruptly from one direction to the other from over reaction when losing balance with the training wheels. This results in higher risk to the spine. Just perform due diligence and you will find plenty of documentation to support this statement.

Last point is about the claim of a child on a balance bike at 16 months. Let’s get real here. Unless you have one seriously tall child with above-average development, riding a balance bike at that age is near impossible. Especially with any acceptable level of safety. (No offense intended)

Anonymous on

I got a balance bike for my first daughter which was suggested to me by a pro mountain bike. For sure was the best idea she was always wanting to go out on it up to the jumps and then when she hit the skate park for the first time

Simone on

Nice post about the benefits of balance bikes. I hadn’t heard of training wheels negatively impacting a child’s spine – but would absolutely hate that, will look into it some more, thanks.

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