What Type of Bike to Start Learning?

Updated on January 31, 2011
L.C. asks from Boulder, CO
11 answers

My step-daughter is going to be 5 soon and we were wondering what type of bike would be best to get her? She has a trike, and has had it for a couple of years but hardly ever rides it b/c it's too hard for her to pedal. Her other family is talking about getting her a bike w/ training wheels for her birthday. But should she just start with a normal bike w/ no training wheels?

I'm for a normal bike and here's why...I had a bike w/ training wheels but didn't learn to ride a regular bike till I was 13. Partially it was due to living in the mountains but I think more it was that I was afraid to ride a real bike. We were close enough to town that my dad could take my bike to parking lots in town, but it still took me a long time b/c I was really afraid of real bikes. Even today I'm not the best bike rider and don't ride on anything more difficult than flat, wide gravel and pavement. I won't even do really steep hills to this day (for going down, that is. For up, when I was really in shape that was OK).

However, the man says that he's sure that trike > training wheels > bike is a normal progression for a lot of kids. Though, on the other side I've heard to start kids off w/ a balance bike and never touch the 3-wheeled variety. Lastly, neither me nor my husband have bikes currently and don't really ride. Though we probably would look into it if we taught the girlie how to ride. So...I'm conflicted...


EDIT: The reason she's having a hard time w/ the tricycle is that apparently according to physics, it takes a lot more work to pedal a tricycle based on the center of gravity or something. LIke it takes more leg work vs. the body weight it takes to ride a bike.

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So What Happened?

We ended up getting her a 16'' bike w/ training wheels. She's doing well on it, though it's not quite what I would have preferred. Though, she's a super-cautious kid so I guess it's good for her. I'm concerned about how long she'll have the training wheels on but I guess it's fine to let her go at her own pace. We're not huge bike riders so it wouldn't be the end of the world if she didn't learn to ride a bike till she was in middle school.....

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answers from Jacksonville on

Training wheels come off the bike so get a bike with training wheels, take them off and see how she does. Worse cause you have to put the training wheels back on. Balance bikes are nothing more than a bike without pedals and cost way more than a regular one!

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answers from San Francisco on

you can get a regular bike and remove the pedals (you can even leave the cranks on, just unscrew the pedal portion - this is what hubby did for one of my daughters) and it'll function about the same as a balance bike. Then once she gets the hang of balancing, you put the pedals back on. The only thing to keep in mind is that the left pedal is reverse threaded so you turn it the opposite way to unscrew.

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answers from Los Angeles on

We bought our 3-year old son a balance bike for Christmas and he is doing great with it! It's amazing to see the progression and confidence he has while riding it, just gliding along, lifting his feet more and more. My husband and I really think our son will be ready for a two-wheeler not long from now. Speaking for myself, I learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels, but I think I was older, like 6/7 or so when I was taught to ride. Good luck and don't forget the helmet!

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answers from Kansas City on

when you say her "other family" i assume you mean her mother? in general i don't think it's a good idea to cause waves unless it is over something really important. to be honest, it sounds to me like you have your idea of how things "ought" to be, and you are seeking validation on here....honestly ....she's 5. that's pretty little to try to ride with no training wheels. most kids do fine with training wheels. i'm not sure why you feel the need to push the issue. my only advice is not to spend too much money, because she will probably outgrow it fast, and "try" to get one that will grow with her as much as possible. but mostly, relax about it. it's really no big deal.

for the record, my son got a really cool retro radio flyer tricycle for his 2nd christmas - barely touched it. it was hard for him to pedal. then when he was three we spent $50 on a cheap little bike from walmart, with training wheels - not the smallest size but one bigger, maybe 18"? not sure. anyway, he LOVES that thing. i really feel, myself, that if you expect them to ride without training wheels from day 1, you're kind of setting them up for failure. it's supposed to be fun! good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Get her a bike without training wheels. Then find a grassy place that has a slight hill and have her just sit on the bike and roll down the hill-feet can be near the ground. Then have her go down the slight hill with feet up. Once she is comfortable you find a little steeper grassy hill. Send her down with her feet up. Do this until she feels comfortable. Then go back to the slight hill and have her pedal down. Soon she will be able to ride herself.

ITs all about learning to balance. By doing it in the grass you are making it easier for her if she does fall and not as scary as flat pavement. I struggled teaching my first how to ride and then I found the above method online. In one day he was riding by doing it. Same with my younger son-took only one day to teach him.



answers from Denver on

I didn'tread the other resonses so I am sorry if this is a repeat :) I would suggest getting her a "regular bike" and then taking off the pedals. Both of my older kids (5 and 8) started with bikes with training wheels and once they were confident riders on their new bikes and understood braking we took the training wheels off and did the run behind method with my oldest. With my 5 y/o we took the training wheels and pedals off. When we put the pedals back on my 5 y/o bike it took her about 10 minutes to be a great rider. My 5 y/o actually has 2 16 inch bikes that she has access to. One with pedals (hers) and one with out(her older brothers outgrown bike). She rides them both but still seems to prefer the "running bike" although my 2 y/o has always only used the balance bike and she likes to ride with him. So I think it would be perfect for your stepdaughter to be able to use both :)



answers from Dallas on

I would start her with a bike with training wheels. Most kids are initially nervous around bikes and the training wheels will simply give her some confidence. You'll need to pump up the idea of a two wheeler...get her excited about the idea. We pointed out a lot of the older kids in our neighborhood to our son and talked about how the "big" kids ride two wheelers. We recently learned a really easy trick to learning to ride a two wheeler bike. I know at least 5 kids who learned to ride a two wheeler using this method. You simply take the training wheels and pedals off the bike. And let them push the bike around with their feet (like the balance bike, minus spending extra money). We told my son that every time he lifted his feet he was riding a two wheeler. Our son was really motivated, so we only did this for two or three days. Most kids do it for about a week or so. Then you add the pedals back on. It takes a few minutes, and most kids need you to hold the bike while they start pedaling, but within five minutes, each kid I know was riding a two wheeler. It took my son a day or two to be able to start on his own. And now he is cruising around everywhere. He had just turned 5 the month before.



answers from Oklahoma City on

If she isn't riding the tricycle because she thinks it's too hard she certainly won't ride a bike that it is impossible for her to ride without someone out helping her until she learns to feel the balance.

Kids start on trikes then go up to bikes with training wheels so they can build the strength to pedal and learn how to manage the pedaling and stopping and steering. Then if you watch they start riding and neither training wheel is touching, that's when it time to raise them higher or take one off. They have a natural progression.

If you get her a bike without training wheels she will likely not ride the bike and miss out on that adventure. It is going to be too overwhelming to her to have to balance, steer, pedal, learn to stand and do all that too, and pay attention to what is going on around her. It's just too much and I don't think she'll ride it at all without the training wheels.

The 16" girls bikes at Walmart with training wheels are under $100 and are sometimes on sale for much less. They last a couple of years because they just fit into that time/size for a while. At 5 they are the tiniest big large but they soon grow into them and then ride them for a couple of years. My 7 year old still rides her 16" bike but got a 20" for Christmas, it was stolen in the last week or so and she has the old one out again. She is 48" tall and the 16" still is a proper size. Her BMX bike is a 20" and has been a bit too big for her this past season, it will be the ideal size for her for the next year or two.

My 4 year old got a 12" boys bike from Walmart for Christmas and it was obviously too small. The 16" is just a bit too big so we kept the small one but when he stands to pedal and then sits down he consistently sits on the back wheel. Walmart does not return/exchange bikes so we were kind of stuck with it. They did say if it was spotless they might consider it for Christmas exchanges. Walmart does not carry the 14" bikes because kids usually skip them. We have a grand daughter just 11 months younger than him so she'll be getting a bike very soon. The small bike is just teaching h9m the pedaling, standing, steering, watching his environment, learning to stop, etc...then he will get the bigger bike.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Rather than spend the extra $100 on a balance bike, get a regular bike for her size, then remove the pedals and lower the seat as low as it will go. She'll learn her balance from pushing it with her feet just like a "balance bike." Both my kids learned this way; I actually read about it on this website years ago! Once she has her balance (able to coast long distances without putting feet down) try putting the pedals back on. There will still be a little bit of learning to do, pedalling, breaking etc... but getting her balance is the most difficult part. Once you get that, the rest should come quickly. Hope this helps!



answers from Casper on

Perhaps you could try a regular bike with just one training wheel? That way, if your daughter feels unsteady, she's got help until she's able to put at least one foot flat on the ground while seated.



answers from Denver on

Here is how I have taught two of my kids so far and learned a couple tricks along the way. I started with a trike that had a handle so I could help them get the hang of pedaling. Then I took the handle off and they were able to push the trike along on their own around 3 for both boys (around 2 1/2 for my daughter). Then I get them a bike with training wheels but the trick is to take them to the store and have them ride all the bikes so they can find the one they can pedal easiest. Believe me it makes a HUGE difference! Once they find that bike that works for them then you just let them ride it as much as you can so they get used to it. After about a year, I start talking to them about taking the wheels off. For my oldest boy, he was 7 when he was finally ready to try and for my 5 year old, he is already starting to ask and he has only had the bike since Christmas. I think the difference is having an holder brother to follow.

In short, I do think that the training wheels are an important part of learning so they can get used to the mechanics of riding a bike in the first place. Your encouragement is what will give them the confidence to go to the next level.

As far as you riding with her, that will not be for a while unless you want to circle her slowly with your bike. Basically they are so slow you can usually walk with them.

Good luck!

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