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“Balance Bikes Are Stupid!”

A bike with no pedals.

The idea seems silly. Like a scooter that you sit on.

I remember when my husband came home with a balance bike for our three-year-old. I thought he had lost his mind. “What is he supposed to do with that?” I asked him. “All the pros start their kids on them. They never need training wheels if you teach them to glide on these!”

I didn’t believe him, so he started pulling up videos of tiny children flying down driveways and rolling down ramps with their legs raised high and giggles surrounding them. They were fast, and they were balanced, and they were having fun.

The concept is pretty basic. Once your toddler is past the need for a solid sitting surface like on a tricycle or scooting car, you want them to learn balance before pedaling. It’s been proven that for most kids it’s harder to overcome the dependency on training wheels than it is to add pedaling to a balancing skill.

So instead of creating a training wheel dependency, you put your three-year-old on a two-wheel bike where they can put their feet firmly on the ground, and the faster they go, the better they get at raising their feet and coasting. Once they are coasting well, you can get them ramps and some downhill slopes so that they will coast and steer at the same time.

Once your child can coast through a turn, you can add pedals to their bike or get them a bike with pedals.

A tip for this transition is to get them a properly fitting bicycle with pedals but to remove the actual pedals for the first while. Let them transition their coasting skills to the new fit, and then put the pedals back on. Let them try pedaling on a downhill slope where they are used to doing a long coast, and it should only take them a few minutes to figure out how to pedal and continue their long coast.

In countries where it’s traditional to start with a balance bike instead of pedals, most children can transition to a two-wheel system by 4-5 years old, whereas most American children are using trainers until they are 5-7, and sometimes 8 years old.

Now my kid is outside on his 2-wheel bike every day, riding up and down our road. It’s been 5 years since my husband brought home that tiny blue balance bicycle, but he occasionally pulls it out of the garage and coasts down our back hill on it, legs raised to the sides and a grin plastered across his face.

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Strider Balance Bike Review

Not all balance bikes for toddlers are created equally. It may seem at first glance that any old 2-wheel that they can coast around on will work, but if you really want them to enjoy themselves and become addicted to the rush of cycling, you need to make sure to equip them with a model that doesn’t have the following shortcoming:

  1. Too heavy.  If your kid can’t easily lift and move the bike, they will become discouraged very quickly and you will find that your new investment is more of a lawn ornament than anything else.
  2. Seat doesn’t adjust enough. The seat needs to have a quick release that holds. If you can’t raise it as they get more confident, then their coasting abilities will be limited to how long they can hold their legs at difficult angles.
  3. Missing footrests. Having a natural place to set their feet while coasting will let them coast longer and encourage them to go a little further on balance than they would if they were simply raising and dropping their feet. That said, you don’t want footrests to be in a place where they will beat up the kid’s shins. Additionally, it is better to give up this feature, if it means the bike will be too heavy. Weight is the most important buying decision.

Why We Love The Strider

The Strider Balance Bike is our favorite pick for starting a toddler with no pedals or training wheels. It has a lot of factors working together to make it versatile for an age range of 18 months up to 5 and 6 years old.

The classic does not have a quick release for the seat, so make sure to add that upgrade for easy adjustments as your kid gets more confident and grows.

Key Features That Work In Your Kid’s Favor

Lightweight (6.5 lbs ) At only six and a half pounds this bike is so lightweight that your child will be able to pick it up and carry it over places that can’t be ridden on, or back to the starting point of their downhill slope. Balancing and getting speed are much easier than on competitors like the Pinnacle Tineo that weighs nearly 11 pounds (that’s a full third or more of a toddler’s body weight) or the Bobbin Gingersnap that passes that 11 pound mark.

Foot rests. Kids need to have somewhere to set their feet when they coast, and the gripping spots on the back tire fork are there for a natural motion of setting the heel on them after continuing a back stroke. The child leans forwards, pushes the bike forward and naturally sets their foot on the rest in a true coasting posture.

Durability. These little bikes have been known to be passed from sibling to sibling, and then on to cousins and friends. The All Terrain EVA polymere wheels are suitable for kids up to 60 pounds and mean no flat tires ever — just years and years of coasting fun and balance practice!