Bike with Training Wheels or "Balance" Bike?

Updated on October 03, 2013
J.W. asks from Sebastopol, CA
21 answers

We are finally getting our son his first bike! He is 4 1/2 years old and a bit on the short side (not sure if that matters when purchasing a bike). We wanted to know if it's better to get the traditional bike with training wheels or a balance bike for teaching them how to ride a bike. Suggestions? Also, any helmet recommendations?

Thank you!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

We did the traditional bike without training wheels. The guy at the bike shop recommended starting on the regular bike without the pedals to learn balance (they need to learn to coast on a slight downhill).Once he was coasting, we put the pedals back on. He already knew how to pedal from his tricycle.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

Balance bike! And you can take the pedals off a regular bike to make it a balance one - experts recommend mastering balance first and then pedaling.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Chicago on

I think balance bikes are a waste of money. I would get a regular bike with training wheels but don't put the pedals on, thus making it a balance bike. Once your son has mastered balance, put the pedals and the training wheels on.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

IMO balance bikes are a waste of money. We got my son a small bike with training wheels when he was 3 and before he turned 4 he was riding a 2 wheeler.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Balance bike, for sure! Our first was riding a training wheels bike for-ev-er and was completely at a loss when we removed his training wheels. It was miserable for him. We bought him a balance bike on a whim, he scooted around on it for two weeks, then jumped on his pedal bike and took off. He still enjoyed the balance bike as another option for playing out front of house, even after he was riding his bike with confidence.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I recommend not using training wheels. They are a crutch. My granddaughter didn't learn to ride her bike until after we took off the training wheels. She tried with the wheels for over a year. She couldn't balance and was continuously tipping onto the wheels. Once they were off she was riding within an hour.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Balance bike.

We did training wheels with the first and she took them off when she was 6yo. Have the 3yo on a balance bike. She is now almost 4yo. I think we could stick her on a regular bike and she would do great. They really do teach balance and take some of the pain and fear away from learning to ride on two wheels.

That said. I'm sure that there are some out there who think that working through the pain and fear of learning to ride a bike is good for building character.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Depends on your child. We have friends who did great with the balance bike. Loved them, learned to ride a regular two-wheeler at three years old because of them. My kids, however, have never liked them. They couldn't figure them out, and they just had more fun on a regular bike with training wheels. My son was a little later than most of his balance bike buddies learning to ride his two-wheeler, but he was still 4, so I think that was pretty good.

As far as helmets, my main suggestion is to get a brightly colored one, because you can see it from anywhere. Also, stay away from licensed characters if you can. I bought my 3-y.o. a helmet with Lightning McQueen on it. Three years later, he still fit the helmet, but it didn't seem right to send my 1st grader to a skateboard camp with a helmet that had Disney characters on it. We ended up getting him a red Razor helmet. It's brightly colored and gender neutral, so it can be handed down to our daughter when she's big enough. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I have three kids and the two oldest learned to ride easily on a balance bike starting at age 3. It look a matter of weeks. Our friends and neighbors were shocked to see how effortless it was for them to ride. My littlest one will also use the same balance bike when it's her turn. Best $150 we ever spent on a bike. We also loaned it out to people once our kids were on two-wheelers. We always got it back in about 2-4 weeks because that's all it takes. Kids love these and still want to ride it sometimes even though they are no longer "learning." We never had to use training wheels, which are basically a crutch and not really helping them balance and learn to ride. So in my opinion, go for the balance bike :)

I should note... I see someone thought 4.5 years old is too old for a balance bike. That's definitely NOT true. We loaned it to a 6-yr old girl and a 7-yr old girl who were having troubling and they both learned quickly and loved it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

We bought our son a regular bike, took the pedals off and let him coast around on it for a couple of weeks like he would have with a balance bike. When we put the pedals on, he was riding immediately. Don't spend your money on a balance bike and don't go with the training wheels. Children become reliant on the training wheels and it is hard to wean them. Happy riding!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Like some others mentioned, buy a regular bike and lower the seat as low as it goes so you can use it like a balance bike. I would also consider a scooter. My oldest self taught himself to ride a bike at 4 and I believe the balance he learned on the scooter had a lot to do with it. I even think my 2 year old will be ready to ride a bike next year based on his balance this summer on the scooter. As far as helmets, we got ours at the local bike shop. We love them because they have blinking lights in the back that you can turn on and off and they fit really well.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I would get the regular bike with training wheels. I think balance bikes are intended for younger kids. When my kids were ready to take the training wheels off we took them to the schoolyard and let them ride on the grass until they got the hang of it.



answers from Chicago on

I'd get a regular bike with trainers if my kid was 4, because he should be able to ride a bike at 5, so you will just be buying another bike next year.



answers from Houston on

Training wheels. After he gets the hang of it, raise them a little every few weeks or so.

We actually had our son learn balance with a scooter. He would go up and down the driveway on one foot, and then the other. Then we put him on a bike with training wheels. He was almost 5 when he learned to ride without the training wheels and we never had to go through the pain of doing the "hunched over and run along side" technique.



answers from Sacramento on

I would recommend buying a regular bike and taking off the pedals for a bit. We started with a Strider bike for my younger daughter when she turned 2. On her 4th birthday we got her a pedal bike and she just took off on it. One tip is to make sure you don't buy a bike that is too big for your son (Maybe a 12"?). We accidently bought a bike too big for our older daughter and she had a really hard time with it.


answers from St. Louis on

I would suggest a bike with training wheels, and yes, height DOES matter.

A. :)



answers from Boston on

Training wheels, definitely. He is too old for balance bike.


answers from Columbia on

We got a regular bike and let them ride in the grass. They have a better chance of learning to balance, and falls aren't scary. Both of my boys started in the grass and moved on to pavement when they felt confident enough to do so. It didn't take long.

Height DOES matter. I'd head to a local bike shop to have him properly fitted.



answers from Columbus on

Check out the Balance Buddy.
Both my kids struggled to learn with training wheels - we're talking years. Neither mastered it until about 7 years old. My daughter, I did the old fashioned way, running by the bike. But she was worried and the minute the bike would tip, she'd get nervous. My son, though, we found this balance buddy thing - it literally took 15 minutes! If you hold the bike and it tips, it can't go very far to either side, so they never really feel their own balance. But this balance buddy thing, you can let it tip far enough that you still have control and they know that, but they can start to feel where their balance points are. I'm serious - 15 minutes! We passed it along to his friend, took him about 15 minutes, too. Our balance buddy has gone around the neighborhood from parent to parent now and everyone loves this thing. Don't do training wheels or a balance bike (although I'd do balance bike before training wheels) - try this balance buddy thing.



answers from Las Vegas on

I would go with the balance bike. We went with the training wheels and she was 7 years old before she could ride a bike by herself.



answers from New York on

Don't know what a balance bike is. Bikes with training wheels have worked for many many many years successfully. So I would get bike with training wheels.

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