Balance Bike vs. Training Wheels
There is a heated debate on playgrounds! It is concerned with kids, but they are not really vocal in it. Parents have taken a bigger role in this exchange. Balance bike vs. training wheels; which one is better? On one side, there are parents who argue that the more modern training wheel is more suitable for teaching a kid how to ride a bike. On the other side, there are more conservative debaters who argue that the traditional balance bike is a better training tool. So, which is your side in this balance bike vs. training wheels debate? Well, whether you have a side or not, check out my arguments for and against each one of them as tools of training.
- So What Are They?
If you have not been to a playground recently, you might not be familiar with a balance bike. They are bikes that neither have pedals nor training wheels. A kid simply sits on it and pushes against the ground with his or her feet to propel it. It is designed to train kids (and even adults) how to balance and steer a bike. Training wheels are pretty common. They are a pair of wheels that are attached to the axle of a bike’s rear wheel. They have been in existence for ages now and just like their counterparts; they are also designed to train balance and steering. Now to the big question; between the two, which one is the best for training kids?
- Proven Record
Some parents who are for training wheels argue that it is technology that has been in existence for a very long period. In fact, most of the people who are now parents learnt how to ride a bike using training wheels. Therefore, the fact that they have experienced training wheels and successfully learnt how to ride a bike gives them a level of guarantee that they are reliable and effective training tools.
- Transition Period
Regardless of the proven record of training wheels, it is a general fact that kids who train using balance bikes tend to ride pedal bikes sooner than those who use training wheels. A kid can transition from a balance bike to a pedal bike in a matter of weeks. However, those who start with training wheels can take as long as 5 or 6 months before they can fully transition to pedal bikes.
- The Cost
Economically speaking, a balance bike is more expensive compared to training wheels. That is because after buying a balance bike, you will still have to buy a pedal bike once your kid has learnt how to balance and steer. Furthermore, a balance bike costs more than a normal 12″ bike. On the other hand, if you opt for training wheels, all you need to do is buy a normal pedal bike and attach the wheels to it. Once the kid has mastered the arts of balancing and steering, you won’t need to buy a new bike. Instead, you will simply detach the training wheels from the pedal bike. Remember that even if the kid outgrows a bike, you can still fit the same training wheels on the subsequent bike that you buy him/her.
- The Kid’s Age
However, if we disregard the economic factor, balance bikes usually tend to be perfectly convenient for very young kids. Whereas it is not advisable to put small kids of 2 or 3 years on bikes with training wheels (experts always recommend the skuut), it is perfectly fine to train them using balance bikes. Expert advice holds that as a parent, you are supposed to wait until your kid is 5 or 6 years before introducing him or her to training wheels. Such limitations do not apply to balance bikes.
- Ability to Modify
Although you can still modify a normal pedal bike into a balance bike, it makes more sense to modify it into a training bike by simply adding training wheels. The reason the idea of removing pedals from a normal bike to make it a balance bike is misplaced is because it is not practical or safe to do so. That is because an actual balance bike is designed using specific frame geometry that is suitable for the child’s stance. Furthermore, removing pedals leaves some parts like the pedal crank loose, and they can easily cause injury. When it comes to training wheels, the only modifications involved are attaching and detaching the training wheels. That is very safe and practical. It has been done over many years without major problems.
- Safety of the Kid
In terms of the general safety of your kid, a balance bike will offer you more comfort. If you are a parent who used training wheels, I am sure you had a couple experiences where one of the wheels thunk into the ground; especially in sharp corners. To a kid, that might not pass as a minor mishap to the riding process. It might actually scare him or her from riding a bike comfortably for a while. Balance bikes do not offer such experiences because they cannot be made to go very fast. They are very safe, and a kid will rarely fall off the bike.
- Relation with the pedal bike
Bike riding is made up of a series of processes. They include balancing, steering and accelerating. Whatever makes a kid fail to learn one or more of the processes quickly is fear. A kid is likely to afraid of the idea of sitting on a bike without any form of support (except for the two wheels). Generally speaking, a training wheel is more effective at making the kid get used to the idea of not having extra support. When a kid learns riding using a balance bike, he or she will want to have his or her feet on the ground at all times (even on a pedal bike) to fee comfortable. However, for training wheels, the kid gets used to the idea of having his or her whole weight on the bike rather than on the ground. That tends to boost riding confidence.
- Health considerations
Health wise, a balance bike is far much better than training wheels. The need to propel the bikes forces the kid to exercise. He or she will use plenty of muscles in the process compared to training wheels that roll (and thus reduce the amount of energy required).
That is my take on the balance bike vs. training wheels debate. Basically, each one of them has its own merits and demerits. Depending on what you want your kid to achieve, you can make your choice based on the arguments above. All in all, training your kid how to ride a bike is a very great and noble idea. It will encourage him or her to go out and play, and it will also improve family bonding time during the training process and when you go out bike riding as a family.