A balance bike is a training bike that helps the rider learn steering and balance. It usually has no crank set and chain, no training wheels and no pedals. The bike is free from any cables, sprockets or other protrusions which may be harmful to the child. A balance bike may be purpose built; especially so for very small children for whom bikes are generally not available or it can be a normal bicycle with all the related parts removed. The bike can have one or two hand activated rim brakes or have none at all. It is worth mentioning that kids can start to enjoy the benefits of a balance bike from the very tender age of 18 months up to 5 years.
The bikes can be made of wood, metal or plastic and are also known as run bikes, training bikes, kid bikes, pre-bikes, push bikes and toddler bikes. What makes the balance bike very unique and very much in demand is the developmental and health benefits that it provides to children. Here are some of the key benefits of a balance bike to your child. These include but are not limited to the following;
- The bike improves their balancing capabilities
The one very important skill that’s needed to effectively and safely learn how to ride a two wheel pedal bike is balance. Studies have shown that children who use the bike for twenty to thirty minutes, twice a week did show significant improvements in both dynamic and static balance. They also did show substantial improvements in their bilateral coordination. Once a child has mastered the balance bike, his or her transition to riding any pedal bike is usually quite seamless.
- It is safer for your child
When using this bike, a child will at the first feeling of instability, instinctively place his or her feet securely on the ground. This provides the child with a sense of control, unlike when using training bikes where the training wheels may wobble and stir hesitancy, fear or general dislike of bike riding. The bikes are also steady and stable. The lack of protrusions, chains and other parts make the bike lighter and safer to use, in case of a fall which is quite unlikely, the harm or injury on the child will be non-existent and the discomfort will be quite negligible. This is also because as a general rule, the bike should not weigh more than 30% of the child’s weight.
- It is adjustable
Most balance bikes come with an adjustable seat which can be adjusted to accommodate your child and provide that perfect fit. Interestingly, the adjustable seat height can start at just eleven (11) inches from the ground, making the bike quite accommodating for even the shortest legs. Because of their design, these bikes are also quite easy to control and maneuver. It should also be noted that because they are meant for children under the age of 5 years, this fact is usually taken into consideration and it is not rare to have a three year old using the same bike as a five year old; with only the seat adjustment being necessary. A child is therefore able to grow with this bike until he or she is past the age of five when most likely he or she would have learnt tips on pedaling a bike and graduated to the same.
- It is more economical
Contrary to popular belief, balance bikes are not waste of cash and neither are they expensive. In fact, one of the main benefits of buying this bike is the overall savings it offers parents. In reality, one balance bike will replace that need for a tricycle as well as 12” bicycle fitted with training wheels. It is also worth noting that these 12” bikes are usually not usable once the training wheels are removed and parents will therefore be forced to buy a 16” or 20” bicycle as compared to only buying one balance bicycle and either a 16” or 20” bike. The resale value of 12” bikes and tricycles is also much lower when compared against balance bikes.
- Enables your child to ride pedal bikes much sooner
Studies have shown that kids who go through balance bikes tend to learn how to pedal bikes independently at a much younger and tender age than kids who opt for other options such as training wheels. This is mainly because balancing is the most important facet of riding a bike and with this bike, the kid only concentrates with learning and mastering how to balance and is not confused by the need to learn tricks on how to pedal at the same time. As earlier mentioned, transitioning or moving a kid who has experience in riding a balance bike to a pedal bike is very easy and fast; you just give them a bike and let them ride. You don’t need to run beside them or hold their seat, simply stand at some distance and see them ride off.
- Allows for Improved family time
With the current lifestyle changes where most parents and children find themselves mostly at home watching television and playing computer games, balance bikes are coming in quite handy. Going for leisure walk with your 3 year old on his tricycle or a stroller is not exactly fun as many parents will confess; tricycles are painfully slow whereas strollers are quite heavy and are prone of getting stuck on any small imperfection on the road, this makes many parents fear going for slightly longer walks. Balance bikes on the other hand allow toddlers to easily cruise bike paths and sidewalks at moderate and safe speeds; freeing and pleasing older siblings and parents alike; these bikes are also quite easy to transport, because they lack pedals they can be quickly packed in the car. This does greatly increase the amount of quality time most families spend together.
- Gives your kid a high level of independence
This is also one of the major benefits of a balance bike. These bikes give children independence since they are able to easily move around without the aid of some bothersome stabilizers which make them feel awkward and unsteady. Children love the sense of accomplishment and the independence they get and feel from riding these bikes. With his or her feet on the ground, your child knows that he can control how slow or fast they want to go and also have the ability to stop the bike instantly when required to do so. As the child progresses, he will quickly learn to sit on the bike, push the bike with his feet , raise them and then glide as he balances on two wheels.