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When you are trying to decide on which bike to get for your toddler, we are faced with the question of should we start with a balance bike or a pedal bike with training wheels.
To help make your decision a little easier, we’ve written this article comparing the pros and cons of balance bikes vs pedal bikes.
Essentially, balance bikes differ from pedal bikes because they have no pedals, making them easy for kids to use. However, there are a lot of other factors to consider, so let’s get to it!
What Are Balance Bikes?
Balance bikes have all the features of a normal pedal bike, minus the pedals.
To move on a balance bike, a child has to push the ground using their legs. This is like what you do with a scooter, but with both legs.
If you’re worried it’s too much work for your child’s little legs, don’t be. Balance bikes are designed specifically to be lighter and smaller than most pedal bikes, so your child can sit comfortably and do the job easily.
The main aim of balance bikes is to teach children how to balance and coordinate, which would be harder if children’s legs can’t touch the ground. On a pedal bike, children have to learn to balance and pedal at the same time. This makes things even more difficult.
What About Pedal Bikes?
As we said, the trick in pedal bikes is that you have to balance and pedal at the same time, which is hard for children of young ages.
To make things easier, you can add stabilizers, also called training wheels, to pedal bikes. That way, children don’t need to worry about balancing.
This, however, begs the question: Are balance bikes better or training wheels?
Balance Bike vs. Pedal Bike with Training Wheels
A common misconception is that training wheels would eventually teach children to ride pedal bikes normally. Many people also think that a four-wheel bike would be safer for children than a 2-wheel balance bike.
However, balance bikes have proven to be more efficient than training wheels in many aspects. Here are some of them:
Balance bikes force your child to learn how to balance themselves. Training wheels take away that balance-training factor because the bike is already balanced enough.
Adding to that, training wheels don’t help much in mastering steering because it’s hard to make sharp turns with them. While that’s considered being on the safe side, it won’t teach your kid what he needs.
On the contrary, balance bikes train children to steer safely, especially when turning. They teach children to control the bike and their speed when they’re riding on sloped surfaces or making sharp turns.
Balance bikes are also so close to the ground, so if your child falls, the injury won’t be so bad. Little by little, your child will grow better at riding, allowing for a smooth transfer to pedal bikes.
As we agreed, balance bikes are much lighter than pedal bikes. So, children can easily carry them whenever they need to get through a couple of steps. We all know carrying a bike for some stair steps is a hassle!
Because training wheels are so small, they can get stuck if the surface is uneven. What’s even worse is that it’s hard to turn left or right using them. Your kid will have to take it very slowly, so the bike doesn’t lose its balance. Plus, he’ll need to make sure the training wheels aren’t caught on anything.
On the other hand, balance bikes run smoothly on uneven surfaces, just like ordinary pedal bikes, but safer, of course.
At What Age Should Children Start and Stop Riding Balance Bikes?
There’s no ideal age for your child to start riding bikes. Some people suggest starting at 18 months.
Likewise, there’s no specific age at which your child should stop riding a balance bike. Most people, however, agree that most kids can start to learn to ride a pedal bike by the time they’re 5–6 years old. Then, they can let go of balance bikes.
How to Make the Transformation from Balance Bike to Pedal Bike?
Just because we agreed that balance bikes train children to use pedal bikes doesn’t mean your child will start pedaling on their own right away. You have to take things slowly with them.
Some steps that will help you teach your child to ride a pedal bike are:
- Teach your child pedaling by laying down and pushing your hands
- Adjust the bike to suit your child
- Hold the bike still while your child pedals
- Let your child start biking while you’re standing close
- Little by little, allow your child to ride further away from you
Every child should enjoy a good biking trip. I’m sure you must be thinking hard about the best way to give them that.
I recommend taking it step by step. A balance bike is great for teaching your child biking skills. As someone who grew up riding training wheels, I can safely tell you that they don’t give you the best independent experience, even if they do help.