Whilst the popularity of balance bikes are growing here in the UK, we do get asked "what is the difference between them and an ordinary bike". Karen Wood, Distributor of the STRIDER - the brand that has taught more toddlers to ride than any other explains
A lot of people will still not have heard about balance bikes, which is far from surprising when you see the vast array of children's bicycles fitted with stabilisers available here in the UK
The obvious first difference is that a balance bike has no pedals. It is a very simple design, that has removed all the unnecessary parts off a bike that adds additional weight and can confuse a child. So the pedals are gone, the crank and chain are not present, all that remains is a strong durable frame, two wheels and nothing complicated in between them. By removing all this it then allows a balance bike to be far lighter than traditional bikes, and hence allows younger children to manage them safely. Our balance bikes start at 2.2 kg for good reason. Beware of balance bikes that are heavier than 3 kg - they are simply too heavy for toddlers. If a balance bike doesn't state its weigh - AVOID!
A good quality bike will normally be made of a strong alloy rather than wood, as some cheap wooden balance bikes can warp in the rain or break under strain. It is important to check that it can adjust in any increment to ensure that it fits your child correctly at all times. A great balance bike will allow you to adjust both the handlebars and seat position to suit your child. We all know how varied leg length and height can be in children so the most adjustable one you can find is important.
Another important feature to the balance bike is a footrest. When you think how you ride a bike; you take the bumps you go over in your legs not with your feet in the air, so make sure your balance bike has somewhere to put feet to mimic the pedals for later.
Advantages of a balance bike over a bike with stabilisers
A normal bike with stabilisers is not going to help your child learn to ride a bike. In fact all they do is teach a child to pedal a bike whilst rocking precariously from one side to another. As soon as the stabilisers are removed then you are back to square one and have to learn to balance still. They still of course provide exercise and fun but compare that to a balance bike.
A balance bike helps develop your child's confidence. As a good balance bike will be super light at about 3 k.g then even the smallest child can lift the bike and move it around easily. Balance bikes also improve co-ordination, and really help your child's motor-skills.
Because the child doesn't have to concern themselves with brakes and pedals they learn to control their own speed, stop by placing their feet on the floor and the whole experience is much safer and the child (and you) feels happier. Once the child has learnt balance, they focus on their co-ordination, their turns and positioning. We dont endorse bikes with front lever brakes, as toddlers cant reach them or pull them safely -we have even seen kids remove their hands off the handlebars to try and use them
We guarantee that your child will then make a very quick progression to riding a normal pedal bike and you will never need stabilisers.