Balance Bikes - Worth It or New Fangled Scam?

Updated on May 14, 2012
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
11 answers

Mamas & Papas -

Our little boy is quite the pro on his chicco push then ride train. Seeing a lot of "balance" bikes out there. Some are quite handsome actually, the euro looking wood ones. Are these worthwhile? Is it a good next step? At what age do kids figure out how to pedal, how to balance how to bike? Where does one get really small helmets?

Thanks for your tips.
F. B.

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answers from Houston on

wish we would have started with a balance bike, heard nothing but great things about them. NOW I have a 7 year old who would rather ride his Swingline Razor instead of the bike because his friends don't need training wheels anymore.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You so don't need a balance bke. In one day I taught both of my boys to ride a bike using the balance method. You just have them go down a grassy hill with feet out to the sides-repeat until they are really comfortable with this. They will learn what it feels like to balance a bike. Then go to a slight grassy slope and pedal. Work up to pedaling on cement. After weeks of trying to teach the boyd by running behind them holding on and letting go-only to have them fall-this worked practically right away. Do don't waste your money on a special bike to do this though-just get a two wheeler with trainers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think it really depends on the child and their interest.

I see lots of kids in the neighborhood zooming around on balance bikes--they love them and do graduate to standard bikes pretty quickly. That said, we've had one in our garage for about 2.5 years and my son has ZERO interest in biking or riding his tricycle. He's five. We're not going to push it, because he's got other interests.

Overall, though, I think they're a great transition from tricycle to a standard bike. AND I really like SBs suggestion, too, of taking off the pedals.



answers from Oklahoma City on

If you are well off then a balance bike is an okay addition for a young pre-schooler. But by the time they are 4 then need to be on a regular 12" bike with training wheels. Ours could all pedal by the time they were 4. Most could ride without the training wheels by the time they were 6.

Walmart has toddler bike helmets. BUT try them on the child first. Our boy could never fit the toddler one, his head was too big. My daughter could not either. She wore a different kind of helmet all together. It was foam and maybe for wrestling.

They also sell knee, elbow, and hand pads too.



answers from Chicago on

For my older two boys we just removed the entire pedal from their bikes and that seemed to work, they were both riding within 24 hours or so at around age 4. For my youngest we used and loved a balance bike and started letting him play on it at around age 3, so the transition to the big bike was super easy.
I think they are worth a try!



answers from Albuquerque on

I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the balance bikes we bought for our girls. Seriously - they're fantastic. We bought them for the girls third birthday, but could have gotten them a year earlier. Actually, the brand we went with said they're for ages 18 months and up. My kids would have been too short at 18 months, but taller kids would have done fine. Within a few weeks, both of my girls were balancing with no issues and have been riding them all over the place for two years. Balance bikes are really popular here - at the park almost every child riding a bike between the ages of 2 - 5 is on a balance bike (versus a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels). We purchased metal Kettler brand bikes through Amazon because I knew they'd get left outside and I didn't want to deal with wood in the rain/snow and they've held up really well. I'm going to resell them in a few months and expect to get about 1/2 my money back. I've heard good things about the Strider brand too.

We just bought "real" bikes (no training wheels) for the girls' fifth birthday and they are almost riding, just a week later. I run along behind with one hand lightly on the seat, but that's it. That's how awesome the balance bikes are - they teach a child how to balance, so there's no need for training wheels when you step up to a pedal bike. The best part for me of balance bikes is that it gives an older toddler/preschooler something easy to ride. They're completely in control (can put their feet down anytime they need/want), and the bikes are much easier to propel and turn than pedal bikes with training wheels. As a result, my kids could ride them anywhere - grass, gravel, dirt, concrete, whereas bikes with training wheels couldn't do gravel, and would get stuck on the groves in a sidewalk or when turning.

As for helmets - any bike shop will carry infant size all the way through adults, and so does Target or Walmart.



answers from Miami on

I love our balance bike. We gave it to our LO at 3 and it is great. we feel it is great for motor skills in general. and he learns to fall 'safely' from it ....

Hope this helps



answers from Dallas on

They work. But we were not willing to pay for such a temporary item. Instead, we simply took the pedals off our son's bike. We had him practice for about 15 minutes every day for a week on it like it was a balance bike. When we put the pedals back on our four year old was riding a two wheeled bike.

As for the helmets, you can find them in all sizes pretty much any where they sell bicycles. For our daughter, she was riding in our bike trailer at a very young age. We got her an adjustable toddler helmet, so we could make it fit her.



answers from San Francisco on

We bought strider balance bikes for our kids.

If the child is young or not very tall, a balance bike can be a better choice over a regular bike with the pedals off for a couple of reasons. First off a balance bike can be closer to the ground than a regular bike. Even if you take the pedals off a regular bike, the bike still has to be tall enough to allow space for the pedals. So if you start younger, a balance bike may be the way to go. The other reason is that most balance bikes tend to be lighter than regular bikes so the kids can learn to pick them up themselves.

If you believe the statements about balance bikes versus training wheels, a balance bike will teach better habits with respect to bike riding than using training wheels.

Is it worthwhile? It depends on your kid. I know some kids that got the balance bikes when they were about 2 and loved it so much, they quickly got the hang of the balance and migrated to regular bikes without training wheels by the time they were 3.5 years old.

I have one kid that seems to be more into riding the bike and is starting to get it but to be honest, we don't have the space in our yard to practice. And since I have twins, I (or the nanny) can't just take one for a ride around the block if the other doesn't want to go unless someone is home to watch the other. I think the one that is into the bike would be making much better practice if we were able to spend more one on one time with him riding it. Maybe now that it's lighter later, we can do that.

On the flip side, my sister's kid refuses to ride the balance bike because she is thinking it's missing pedals. I've actually had to tell my mom to stop saying it's missing pedals in front of my kids so they don't get the impression that all bikes need pedals.

Generally speaking, I've heard good things about going the balance bike to pedal bike route. Pricewise, maybe you can find a used one. Or sometimes you can get discounts online. occasionally has one brand or another of balance bike on sale.

On an entirely different note, I saw something called a gyro wheel that looks intriguing as well:
It's expensive though. They are starting to do rentals, but not in all areas.



answers from Chicago on

A funny story to sister lived in Germany for quite a while so she started her daughter on a balance bike around age 3 because they're all the rage there. They came to visit last summer (when my niece was 4.5yrs old), and my sister was SO frustrated because my niece had no idea how to pedal. :) Just something from the "flip" side of having kids on a balance bike (and yes, my niece did eventually figure out how to pedal!).

I've done a TON of research on balance bikes, and I'm undecided. My oldest is almost 3, and I *think* we're going to just get her a regular bike and take the pedals off. There are some neat features on the various balance bikes (like the "lock" where the handlebars won't turn more than a certain amount - to prevent likelihood of tipping over), and they're usually lighter than "regular bikes" (which would be good for smaller kids), but I'm not convinced that they're worth the extra money.



answers from Los Angeles on

Every child I know who had a balance bike was riding their two-wheelers without training wheels before they turned 5. My son never wanted to use one, so we never got him one. I wish he would have, though, because he's one of the last of his group of friends who still needs training wheels. (This is probably hereditary, though. I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 9.) I wouldn't buy the expensive wooden ones, though. You can get a cute balance bike from JC Penney for $25.

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