Everything You Need to Know About Balance Bikes

child on a balance bikeMay is officially National Bike Month, a designation sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and meant to promote awareness of the numerous advantages of bicycling, such as staying healthy and helping to preserve the environment. For kids in particular, learning to ride a bike is an important developmental milestone. It not only keeps them active but also gives them access to a useful mode of transportation.

Before mastering the skill of riding a two-wheeled bike, many adults today started out with a tricycle and/or training wheels. However, a new kind of learning tool has become popular in recent years: The balance bike.

If you’re a parent or caregiver considering what’s best for a child who’s ready to learn how to ride, here’s a quick rundown of everything you should know about balance bikes and why you might want to get one.

1. What is a balance bike? It’s essentially a bike without the pedals. Balance bikes are also usually considerably lighter than regular bicycles. They help kids learn how to balance and steer before they learn how to pedal, according to the Prevelo Bikes blog entry “Why Kids are Better Off Without Training Wheels: My 4 Point List.”

2. How do balance bikes work? Kids propel themselves on a balance bike by pushing their feet on the ground, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition article “Balance Bikes vs. Training Wheels.” They allow children to get the hang of balancing on two wheels, without the distraction of having to pedal.

They can walk and then glide along as they get more comfortable with balancing. Once a child can glide easily for about 15 feet, they’re ready to add pedals to the mix, the Coalition states.

3. At what age can my child start learning to ride with a balance bike? Using a balance bike requires a fair amount of coordination, so younger toddlers (1- to 2-year-olds) might have difficulty with them. These types of bikes are a great precursor to regular bicycles for 3- to 5-year-olds.

4. Why do parents choose balance bikes over training wheels and/or tricycles? Training wheels and tricycles teach kids how to pedal first, and then they must learn how to balance later. Balancing is more difficult to pick up than pedaling, so it makes more sense to tackle that skill first, the San Francisco Bike Coalition explains.

At Little Steps’ Bike Camp, we approach learning to ride with the same mindset: We start out by taking the pedals off everyone’s bike so the campers can focus on balancing first.

If you’re interested in signing your child up for a course that covers various bike riding skills – including starting and stopping, balance and coordination, and more – we have a few five-day sessions of bike camp coming up (June 10-14, July 15-19, and August 12-16). Each attendee must be at least 5 years old and have their own helmet and bicycle. For more information, contact us today by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing info@littlestepspt.com.

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