Balance bikes are one of the most innovative inventions that are designed to help your child learn the crucial balancing and steering skills required on bicycles. It also helps your child develop coordination that will make riding a bicycle that much easier.
What are balance bikes?
Balance bikes are cycles with a very simple and uncomplicated frame. They do not have pedals or wheels. There are some balance bikes that also have hand brakes. Children sit on the balance bike and push the bike forward with their feet flat on the floor. They can go from walking to running to gliding within a very short time.
How do balance bikes help your child?
When learning to ride a bicycle, one of the most important skills is balance and coordination. Learning how to pedal and how to brake comes almost naturally once balance is achieved. In fact, learning to balance is often the most difficult thing to do. That is why balance bikes strip down the tricks of cycling down to the bare essentials-balancing first along with steering. Once children master this, getting on bicycling and pedaling and applying brakes is just child’s play!
What are the features you should look for in a balance bike?
- The type of material used for padding the seat.
- The shape of the seat.
- The height of the seat/saddle.
- The materials used for the frame and other components.
- What kind of tires are used.
- The weight of the bike.
- Brakes and what kind of brakes.
- Grip of the handlebar.
- Bolts which are safe-covered or recessed.
- Ergonomic design or geometrical symmetry of the bike.
How to choose a balance bike for your child?
Here are some of the important features to kept in mind when you are buying a balance bike for your child:
- Age of the child: Younger children will do well with bikes that are lighter (2.5 years and younger). Older children can manage heavier bikes well (3 years and older). The bikes made of a wooden frame are often heavier than their metal counterparts.
- Inseam length of your child: This is the measurement on the inside leg of your child, from the floor to the crotch. The height of the seat should be 1 to 1.5 inches lesser than the inseam. This makes it easier for your child to get on and dismount from the bike. There are balance bikes that have a height as low as 11 inches to as high as 15 inches from the ground. Your child’s feet should be flat on the floor when seated on the bike to make movements easier.
- Adjustable seat heights: As your child grows in height, it is essential to adjust the height of the seat as well to keep up with your child’s growing developmental needs. Look for seats that can be easily adjusted. Balance bikes made of wood have seats that are adjusted by removing a couple of bolts. Balance bikes made of metal, on the other hand, have seats that are adjustable with a quick release lever or bolt.
- Handlebar height: Handlebars come in two varieties-those that are fixed and those that are adjustable. Again, balance bikes made of wood have fixed handlebars and metal balance bikes have adjustable handlebars. If your child is younger (3 years or lower), then a handlebar height which is lower will be better. If your child is taller, then a higher handlebar height will be more convenient.
- Seat shapes: These come in triangular shapes and U-shapes. Triangular shapes are common but difficult for the child to stay on the seat. U shapes help keep the child on the seat and are available on the newer models of balance bikes in the market.
- Weight: Choosing a balance bike that is lightweight makes it easy to cart around everywhere-when you go to parks, playgrounds, visit family or friends, etc. Balance bikes are often made of steel, aluminum, or wood. Of these, aluminum is the most lightweight but can have a weight capacity that is lower than steel or wood bikes. Bikes with a steel frame can hold larger weights but can rust easily and weigh more. Wood bikes less adjustable but more environment friendly. The latest versions of balance bikes come in composite materials which make them easy to adjust, hold larger weights, and are lightweight as well.
- Tires: Balance bikes currently come in 6 different kinds of tires:
Hard plastic: Only for indoor use as it does not provide any cushioning. No traction.
Air: Provides good cushioning and a little traction but risks of flat tires are more.
EVA foam: No risk of flats, no cushioning, but provides good traction.
Rubber honeycomb: No risk of flats and provides enough cushioning as well as good traction.
Fat Boy/Big Apple: Risk of flats but provides great traction and cushioning.
- Brakes: Might not be essential on balance bikes since very young children will have a weak grip and not be able to apply it on time, preferring to stop the bike with their feet instead. Still, older children can learn to apply brakes and stop the bike effectively, skills which will stand them in good stead when they graduate to a bicycle which can give them greater speeds.
- Grips on handlebars: Usually made of rubber, it can protect children if they fall.
- Bolts: Need to be covered or recessed in order to prevent scraped knees or bruised legs during a fall.
- Ergonomic design: Bikes that induce the body to sit in a naturally curved angle with a center of gravity that is lower will give more riding comfort to a child (as opposed to those where your child’s body has to sit upright).
- Warranty: This is essential if you want to hand the bike down to your child’s siblings or other children.
Keeping these pointers in mind will ensure that when you buy a balance bike for your child, it will be a comfortable and wise introduction to the world of cycling!