I never had a bike when I was a little kid. I did get one eventually but it was too late; I couldn’t get the hang of balancing on the bike, pedaling and changing to whatever relevant gear you needed while watching where I was going at the same time.
Consequently from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I told my husband he HAD to teach our child how to ride a bike as soon as possible. It’s coming up to my daughter’s second birthday and now that she’s walking and running pretty decently, it seems like a good time to start the learning process of how to ride a bike.
In our family we typically over-research everything when it comes to purchases like this, so here are some tips we learned while picking out a balance bike for Miss E.
What’s a balance bike and why get one?
A balance bike is essentially a regular bike but without the pedals. Typically made for younger children, these bikes help kids develop the balance and coordination skills required to ride a proper bike later on. Balance bikes are also often more lightweight than regular bikes which makes them easier for young children to handle.
Other options are tricycles/trikes (three-wheels; one in the front and two at the back) that can come with pedals or without, a standard bike with two training wheels added at the back (you can usually detach these wheels later but the seat height and pedals are typically for older kids), or a tricycle with a detachable stick at the back so you can hold onto the other end and help guide them. Each style has its own benefits so it’s a good idea to look at any ones you’re interested in and compare them to figure out what’s right for you and your child.
We wanted a balance bike to take pedaling out of the equation and for Miss E to learn how to cope with a bike that has less stability. It feels like the next level from the little low plastic trikes most Kiwi kids seem to have these days, and without the additional wheel/s at the back she will get a feel for riding on two wheels placed in a straight line – even if her feet will be on the floor most of the time. When she’s older and taller, we will look into a regular kids’ bike with training wheels.
Materials and durability
We originally wanted a wooden balance bike. There are a few of these available in New Zealand, including the Runna bike, and a range of bikes from Mocka which claims to have the largest selection available in Aotearoa (when I looked at the time of writing this post they had nine options in a variety of colours).
After doing more research, we ended up opting for a metal frame balance bike instead as online parenting forums showed mixed reviews. While the majority seemed happy with their wooden bike purchases, some voiced concerns ranging from the frames swelling with water when left outside in the rain, to being less durable when more adventurous children began to venture onto harder terrains. As I only want to be buying one of these (and if we have more children in the future, we’d like this to be handed down), it was enough of a concern for us to opt for a more durable metal option.
Most balance bikes are for children aged from around 2 to 5 years old; after that time the height of the seat probably won’t be suitable any more even if they are adjustable. If you’re after a bicycle for a child younger than two, one of the benefits of the Runna is the Mini version available to suit children from 12 to 18 months which converts from a trike to a balance bike. Mocka have a few balance bikes in their range suitable for kids starting at 18 months.
You can expect to pay around $50 – $100 for a new wooden balance bike, and $80 – $180 for one with a metal frame. As metal framed bikes are often found at mainstream bike shops, you’re more likely to find them on sale at some point. We bought ours for around $107 down from $179.99, so this can make quite a big difference if you’re on a tight budget!
DON’T FORGET A HELMET! It’s good to start encouraging this practice right from the beginning. If you’re on a bike, a helmet is on your head.
I’m not willing to take chances when it comes to my baby’s noggin so we’ll be paying a little more for ours. Toddlers’ helmets appear to typically range from around $17 to $100. As Miss E’s birthday is still a few months off, we haven’t agreed on the helmet yet (the husband wants one featuring The Incredible Hulk, whereas I’m more about the aesthetics and angling for a matte-finish with butterflies…).
Other things you might want to get include knee and elbow pads, and a bell – because let’s face it, what kid doesn’t want a bell on their bike?
What I chose
In the end we opted for a lightweight alloy model from Torpedo7, the Strider 12″ Balance Bike at a great sale price. Aside from my own gender stereotyping issue that the pink and white model is marketed as the ‘Girl’s’ bike and the red and black is marketed as the ‘Boy’s’ bike, we double-checked with customer service that there was no actual difference between the two before opting for the latter.
Would love to hear what bike option you have bought or what you’re thinking of getting! Comment below and let me know!
Image / NZ Real Health