Contrary to popular opinion, your child doesn’t have to wait until elementary school to learn how to ride a bike. Bike riding is momentous for every child because it serves as a rite of passage, allowing them to socialize with friends and gain a little independence. Do you have fond childhood memories of riding a bike? Were you too scared to ride? Did you fall and hurt yourself a lot? Learning to ride may seem scary because it requires confidence and skills, but it is possible to jumpstart on the necessary cycling skills. With a balance bike, children as young as 2-years old can build confidence and learn the crucial skills needed to progress to a conventional bike when they get older. In this comprehensive buyer’s guide, we’ll explore the different features of these balance bikes and how their innovative design makes it easy for 2-year-old (and upwards) children to learn bike-riding skills and experience a taste of independence necessary for healthy growth and development.
What is a Balance Bike?
The balance bike has become a popular way to teach bike riding to kids. As the name suggests, they are bikes designed to help toddlers learn the art of balancing. Balance bikes are training bicycles that lack all the complex parts of a typical bicycle .i.e no drive train, no pedals, no chains, no gear shifters, and no brakes. Learning to ride a bike requires a great deal of coordination. Children need to learn to steer, pedal, brake, and balance. Even under your supervision, it can be overwhelming and scary for your little one, but a balance bike will help your child master the two most challenging cycling skills—steering and balancing—without the fear of getting hurt. And as for pedaling and braking, your child can learn them later on as they grow more confident. Because the balance bike presents an uncomplicated approach to learning bike riding, your kid can stay focused on enjoying the ride rather than trying not to fall off and hurt themselves. Balance bikes are also known as glider bikes, running bikes, or no-pedal bikes.
What is the Best Age Range to Ride a Balance Bike?
If your child can walk comfortably without tripping, then they are ready to mount a balance bike. It is perfect for children aged 2 to 5 years. After your 2-year-old child learns to balance and steer on the bike, they can progress to a conventional bike to develop their pedaling skill. Apart from the fact that kids can ride balance bikes earlier than pedal bikes, they are highly likely to transition to pedal bikes earlier than age 5-years because the balance bike encourages consistent practice, resulting in improved muscle coordination.
smarTrike Bike for 2-year-old Children and Upward
The smarTrike bike is designed to grow with your child. When your child first starts using the balance bike, the seat can be positioned at the lowest height for stability and comfort. You can raise the seat a little once you perceive that your child has grown confident enough to pick up speed. As your child grows taller, the bike can be adjusted to ensure that it not only remains comfortable and safe to use but also supports skills development.
Benefits of the smarTrike Balance Bike for Kids
The balance bike’s principal purpose is to prepare your child for real cycling by helping them build confidence and balance on two wheels without having to rely on training wheels. This makes it an excellent replacement for training wheels There are many benefits your child can enjoy from riding a no-pedal bike. One obvious benefit is that children can use a smarTrike balance bike far earlier than a bike with training wheels or even a trike. Children as young as 2-years up to 5-years old are eligible to ride.
Other benefits include:
- They are lightweight and easy to ride, allowing children to ride for much longer and farther without getting tired.
- They allow kids to move without risk over uneven surfaces, helping them stay safe while enjoying the fun ride.
- Kids can control and steer the bike by using their legs to propel themselves in different directions and balance using their body weight. Having this much control will help build the confidence needed for cycling on a traditional bike.
- With the skills learned on the bike, young children can advance early to a pedal bike without needing training wheels.
What About a Bike for 2-Year-Old With Training Wheels?
If you learned how to ride a bike using training wheels, you might wonder why your child can’t do the same thing. After all, if it worked in the past, why wouldn’t it work now? For this reason, you may be reluctant to consider trying something new.
Today, we are better-informed that learning to balance is the most crucial aspect of learning to ride a bike, so it is best to start with a balance bike. With the balance bike, your child will learn the basics of bike riding without feeling overwhelmed by the intricate workings of a pedal and handbrakes.
A bike with training wheels can delay your child’s desire and ability to ride significantly. A 2021 study that compared training wheels to balance bikes found that children are more receptive to learning how to cycle on a balance bike, and so children who used balance bikes learned how to ride bikes earlier and better than those who used training wheels.
While training wheels may seem like a tried-and-trusted method of teaching bike riding to kids, it may be counter-intuitive. Fitting a bike with training wheels will cause it to tilt to one side, thereby creating a false sense of balance. So your child will learn to ride while being unbalanced.
Also, training wheels will force your child to concentrate on the easier aspects of riding—braking and pedaling—making it difficult to learn how to balance independently. The sad truth is, if you already taught your child how to ride using training wheels, they would need to unlearn everything before they can learn how to ride balanced.
A toddler balance bike requires proper balance techniques from day one, so your child will need to learn the basics first. It will allow your child to develop confidence while enjoying fun, happy-go-lucky rides.
Is a Balance Bike Safe?
A toddler running bike is one of the safest ways to teach your child how to ride a bike. But you still have to be physically present to supervise your child until they are comfortable enough to ride alone.
Before the first ride, you will need to have a short pep talk with your baby. Sit them down and explain the potential dangers, including any sidewalks or vehicles, present in the area. Even if they'd be riding in the confines of your backyard, they still need to be made aware of the importance of being alert to components, including pets, stones, low tree limbs, and thorns, in the surrounding environment.
Consider having your child's first few attempts on a lawn, carpet, or other soft surfaces, and make sure they have a bike helmet on, so they get used to using it when they move onto sidewalks, roads, and other hard (or rocky) surfaces. If they take a tumble, they are most likely to fall hands first, so consider investing in safety gloves.
But not to worry, unlike trikes or bikes with training wheels, balance bikes have no pedals, cranks, or gears for children to catch themselves upon, so your little one is less likely to get hurt.
Besides being physically present to watch your child so that they don't get hurt, you need to consider the structure and quality of a balance bike because they determine whether the bike is safe or not. When you start shopping, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of attractive options available in
the marketplace, so you need to understand the critical features you should consider before making a buying decision. These include:
- Frame: A supportive frame must have a simple design and ideal form to allow your child to balance with ease. The position of the seat and handlebars have a massive impact on the usability of a toddler bike. If a bike is well-designed, it will feature a frame with a small gap between the seat on its lowest setting and the rear tire. If not, it will feature a large gap that will create a higher center of gravity, making the bike difficult to control and balance. While manufacturers don’t tend to provide geometric measurements, it is easy to see how the smarTrike frames are designed to ensure usability and good support
- Seat: As with any bicycle for kids or even adults, the seat should be comfortable. If the seat feels uncomfortable, your child will be reluctant to use the bike for even short rides. The smarTrike’s balance bike for 2-year-olds has a height-adjustable molded seat that provides maximum support for learners and more experienced riders.
- Design: Your child doesn't care for the frame, adjustable handlebars, seat position, or overall quality of the bike as much as you do, but they care about the visuals. The best kids' bikes feature bold, funky designs that appeal to children. The SmarTrike balance bikes come in two (2) bright colors—blue and red—that will complement your child's features and give them a pride of ownership. The bright colors also make it easy for parents to spot their kids in busy locations.
- Materials: The materials used to create a bike will determine its functionality, usability, and durability. Children struggle to use heavy bikes, so models with steel frames can tire them out. It is best to get a bike made with lightweight yet durable materials. In compliance with the general rule that states that bicycle for kids should weigh no more than three times their body weight, smarTrike bikes weigh approximately 6 pounds, making them easy to use for children weighing 18 pounds or more.
- Wheels: The wheels and tires on a toddler bike can vary from natural rubber and steel to carbon black and hard plastic. There are just so many products with different tire compositions in the market to pick from, but one of the best is the Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam. Not only is it lightweight and chunky to make maneuvering easy, but it will never go flat because it is puncture-proof. EVA foam gains sufficient traction on many types of surfaces. By the time your child starts to explore the park or even the neighborhood on their balance bikes, you will be amazed at how much mud and dirt can get stuck in the wheels, but not to worry, the EVA foam material is easy to clean and quick-drying.
How Long Does it Take to Learn to Ride on Balance Bikes?
Learning to ride a balance bike is far easier than riding a traditional bike or a bike with training wheels. The duration of time it will take to learn to ride depends on the child's developmental stage and temperament. For instance, an athletic and spirited 3-year-old is likely to pick up the cycling skills more quickly than a frail and timid 2-year-old.
But regardless of age and temperament, if your child practices a couple of times every week, they will grow confident and gain mastery of the bike in 2 weeks to a month. There are four (4) stages to master riding the balance bike. They are:
- Stage 1: Standing and walking
- Stage 2: Sitting and walking
- Stage 3: Sitting, running, and balancing
- Stage 4: Sitting, running, and gliding
With consistent practice, your child will gain a lot of confidence, ace all four stages and pick up speed sooner than you'd expect.
It's Time to Join Your Kid - It's Fun!!
Once your child can ride their balance bikes without your intervention, it is time to get out there and have some family fun. With a lightweight bike, your child should be able to enjoy a family day out without becoming too tired. And if they do get tired, you can easily pick up the bike and place it in the trunk of your car.
Toddler balance bikes make family outings more enjoyable. You won’t have to find easy activities to engage them in because they’d be too busy playing on their bike. Create unforgettable memories with your child by joining them on a ride around the park.
10 Most FAQ About Balance Bikes
We recognize how challenging it can be to choose a perfectly fitting bike for an active young child. As a responsible parent, not only do you desire the happiness and healthy development of your precious little one, but you also wish to keep them safe from harm.
To provide you with more relevant information that'll help you make the right choice, we compiled a list of ten (10) most common frequently asked questions about balance bikes.
How Do I Measure My Child’s Inseam?
Your child’s inseam (distance from the base of the crotch to the ankle) is the most reliable way to judge if a bike is their correct size.
Here's how you can measure your child's inseam:
- Have your child stand up straight against the wall with their legs together. Make sure that their heels are touching against the wall.
- Slide a thin, hardback book spine up between their legs until it reaches their crotch. Make sure the book is parallel to the floor.
- Use a tape rule to measure from the floor (the point where your child's heels are) up to the book's spine. For a more accurate measurement, make sure that your child is wearing similar shoes to what they'll wear when riding the bike.
Note: When you adjust the height of the seat and handlebars, you should check that they are in the correct position by taking another inseam measurement.
2. Does My 2-year-old Child Need a Very Low Seat?
As we mentioned earlier, the supportive frame's profile should depend on your child's height, but a bike for a 2-year old will need a low seat. A very low seat will provide a lower center of gravity, making it easier to develop the balance skills needed to use the bike. As your child develops confidence and grows, you can adjust the seat to a higher position.
3. When is the Perfect Time to Transition From This Bike to a Pedal Bike?
As we mentioned earlier, there are four (4) stages of using the balance bike. Your child will start by standing and walking. They will progress through the stages of sitting and walking, sitting, running and balancing, before reaching the gliding stage.
When your child can balance, glide and stop, they can transition to a conventional pedal bike. This usually happens between the ages of 3 and 6-years old.
4. How Can I Encourage My Child to Ride Their Bike?
Riding any bike calls for a great deal of confidence, so it can be challenging at first to get your child to ride their balance bike. You can motivate your child to ride by having them practice around other children riding bikes or playing games.
You can even create games involving sidewalk chalk or traffic cones and cheer them on as they move around on their bike. Unsurprisingly, the more frequently your child rides the balance bike, the more comfortable and confident they'd get. Once your child has developed balance skills and confidence, you will find it hard to get them to leave the bike and come inside for lunch.
5. Can't My Child Learn Balancing on a Scooter?
The skill of balancing is easy to overlook as an adult with decades of experience maintaining balance. For small children, finding balance can be frightening as they would have to learn how their body weight can affect movement and security.
Balancing on a scooter is an entirely different experience from balancing a bike. Scooters require a child to balance while standing, which can be mastered while a bike calls for balance while sitting and moving. A child may find it relatively easy to ride a scooter, but they will struggle to transfer their balance skills to riding a bike.
However, the balance bike creates a sense of balance that can be easily transferred to a pedal bike without needing training wheels.
6. Which Tires are Best for These Bikes?
There are many models of bikes that use air wheels or EVA wheels. Air tires are similar to conventional vehicle tires; They have many different tread patterns and a rubber outer filled with air. Air tires provide smooth traction even on the bumpiest road and cushion nicely, but they are pretty heavy, need to be pumped frequently, and have a high puncture risk.
EVA foam tires are super soft, lightweight, and puncture-proof. They require minimal maintenance and do not add significant weight to any vehicle they are attached to. Although they may not provide as smooth traction as air tires will, they tend to be a better choice for kids' bicycles.
If you choose a balance bike with a heavy tire, your child will find it hard to balance, let alone steer the bike.
7. How High Should I Set the Seat?
Your child’s feet should be able to hit the ground and push off while sitting comfortably on their bike. If you set the seat too high, your child might have to stand on their tiptoes, making it difficult for them to run or gain momentum while riding.
To get a base measurement, set the seat height to be 1 inch lower than your child’s inseam. The best way to set the seat height is to have your child sit on the saddle and slightly bend their knees, so you can check that their feet are flat on the ground.
9. How High Should I Set The Handlebars?
Set the handlebars at the lowest point for your 2-year-old toddler, graduate to mid-point at 3 to 4-years old and adjust it to the highest point by the time your child clocks 5-years. The precise setting will depend on your child's growth.
Typically, the handlebars of a bike for 2-year olds are supposed to be positioned around a child’s mid-torso, so they can retain control of the bike without losing balance.
The placement of the handlebars can influence how quickly your child learns to balance. If they are set incorrectly, your child will likely fall from the bike or even develop a bad posture.
10. Do smarTrike Bikes Need Assembly?
Unlike many other manufacturers, SmarTrike supplies 90% assembled bikes. You won't have to worry about the hassle of working with complicated tools while assembling a bike all by yourself.
Your smarTrike bike will arrive with one wheel attached to the flip frame. All you need to do is attach the handlebar, saddle, and second wheel to the flip frame.
As some of the best toddler bike models, smarTrike bikes are provided with a tool and instruction kit, making it easy for even novice DIYers.