Watching your little one reach milestones is equal parts exciting and terrifying. Among the many decisions you’ll make in your child’s first few years of life is which bike to start them with.
Below, we’ll compare the advantages and disadvantages of a balance bike vs. training wheels.
What is a Balance Bike?
The major difference between a balance bike and one with training wheels is the lack of pedals. Balance bikes are made for your child to sit on the seat and push themselves along with their feet. This helps create stability as they learn to balance back and forth on the bike.
Balance bikes are ideal for younger kids who are already comfortable walking. As they walk with the bike, they learn how to move it side-to-side to balance. By doing this without pedaling, they build a fundamental skill of biking first. They learn to balance before they focus on pedaling.
For some kids, this makes the transition to a bike without training wheels easier.
When riding a balance bike, your little one can start out walking. As they get faster, they eventually glide and then teach themselves to coast by lifting their feet as they ride. Once they are gliding, you’ll know your child has mastered balancing and is ready to take the next step.
Additionally, many balance bikes are made from lightweight materials like aluminum. Without the hardware of pedals, gears, and brakes, the bike is significantly lighter. Balance bikes are also easier to turn, as they do not require the same wide space that causes bikes with training wheels to tip over.
If a balance bike seems right for your child, here is our list of the best balance bikes
Training Wheel Bikes for Toddlers
Of course, many parents choose the more traditional route and buy a bike with training wheels for their little one. After all, many people have learned on training wheels. It took a little persistence and probably a few falls, but eventually, they were able to do it.
One of the benefits of a bike with training wheels is that it will help your child learn to handle falls. Training wheel bikes often have large turn radius and they may topple if your little one turns too sharply.
Starting with this type of bike is also helpful for teaching your child to pedal and building up the muscles needed to push a bike forward. As these bikes are generally heavier, they build more muscle.
Additionally, if your child is already familiar with falling from their bike, they will be less discouraged once you take the training wheels off.
Here are some great ideas for the best tricycles for toddlers.
Which Bike Should I Choose for My Toddler?
Regardless of which bike you choose, you should choose a bike.
There are many benefits of bicycling for children, including visual skills, better reaction time, balance, athleticism, and more. It is a great foundation for many other skills involving body awareness, including running and kicking a ball.
Bicycle riding is also a great way to encourage fitness and help your child enjoy physical activity younga much healthier alternative to sitting inside and watching television or playing video games.
- There is no wrong choice. As you weigh the option of balance bike or training wheels, keep in mind that both types of bike can be inexpensive compared to some other things you buy for your child, so some parents even buy both.
- The balance bike teaches critical balance and turning skills, while a bike with training wheels helps your little one develop the leg muscles for pedaling. Letting them experience both will help your child be sure they are ready to transition to a big kid’ bike.
Advice for Teaching Your Toddler to Ride a Bike
Regardless of if you choose a bike with training wheels or a balance bike, you’ll want to be sure your little one is safe and having fun. Here are a few tips:
- Get your little one interested early. Many toddlers look forward to their first bike ride. Until they are ready to hit the trails themselves, consider a mounted bike seat that you can attach to your bike on the go.
- Always use safety gear. Helmets are a must and you should always choose a helmet with a proper fit. Knee pads and elbow pads will also protect common injury areas if your little one falls.
- Choose a bike that fits. When your child is on the seat, he or she should be able to touch the ground with their feet. You should bring them with you when shopping for a bike, especially if you want them to use it soon. Avoid bikes that they will grow into’, as these are not always guaranteed to fit.
- Teach safety rules. Tell your kids to make eye contact with drivers when crossing streets, driveways, and parking lots. They should be sure they are seen before crossing.
- Maintenance your toddler’s bike regularly. This involves being sure the air pressure is good in tires, tightening any loose parts, and adjusting the seat as needed. A well-maintained bike is a safe bike.
- Practice safe biking. Add reflectors to your child’s bicycle, especially if you are driving in low-lit areas (though you should wait until your child is older to take them out at night). You should also avoid loose-fitting clothing or shoestrings that might get caught in the wheel.
Even though many parents learned on a more traditional bike with training wheels, the revolutionary style of a balance bike may be the way to go.
Of course, your child will still learn to ride a bike regardless of which you choose. Their age and the skills they already have might affect which type of bike works best.
Finally, as you consider a balance bike vs. training wheels, follow the same guidelines of adding safety gear and maintaining the bike. Remember that the overall height of the bike is important; your little one will not get much use from a bike that is too tall to help them learn.