Kids don’t need training wheels to learn to ride a bike

Kids don’t need training wheels to learn to ride a bike

Your kids don’t need training wheels to learn to ride a bike!

We have 2 soapboxes that we stand on at Bambino Bikes - 1) Always wear a helmet and 2) say "No!" to training wheels! Despite their persistent popularity, training wheels are not a helpful “tool” for learning how to ride a bike. In fact, they are counterproductive to the learning process, prevent steering, and are downright dangerous. Let’s talk about training wheels and why you might want to think twice about putting them on your children’s bikes when they are learning to ride for the first time. 

Balance is king:

Training wheels or “stabilizers” are doing the work of balancing for the rider, which completely defeats the purpose of learning how to balance on a bike (balance is arguably the #1 skill required for riding a bike)! Have you ever seen a child on a bike with training wheels for the first time, leaning from side to side, completely relying on the training wheels to keep them upright? That doesn’t seem right, does it? And it’s not, because they are not learning how to BALANCE.

Your child should be learning how to balance and steer, and training wheels completely remove this from the equation, making the rider dependent on them. This dependency can actually become dangerous on larger bikes that carry more speed, preventing the rider from being able to properly maneuver the bike around or over obstacles. Many people don’t realize that to properly steer on a bike you actually lean the bike using the bike’s handlebars to initiate a turn. Again, training wheels don’t allow for this movement on the bike. 

Do you see the light now? Training wheels aren’t as useful as we once thought. So what are your options? Start your kids off right with a balance bike!

There is a better way:

We’ve learned over the years that there is a better way to learn how to ride a bike than the struggle that we parents went through. The simple and elegant balance bike, also known as a kick bike, scoot bike, or run bike. Balance bikes are extremely beneficial for children because they remove all the unnecessary distractions and really break it down to the basics for them. Learning how to balance on a bike AND pedal is like trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time - you’re probably not going to be very good at it, at first, or without lots of practice. By removing the drivetrain and pedals from the bike, it allows your child to focus on creating movement with their feet. That action of “kicking” or running on the bike actually translates very well to pedaling when the time comes.

Furthermore, on a balance bike, the rider’s feet are the brakes. A hand brake is a good addition at the right time, and 100% a requirement on a pedal bike. So it's your decision when you're looking to purchase a balance bike if you want to buy something with a brake, or really focus on the breaking down of fundamental skills with a balance bike. The brake oftentimes is not used while learning (toddler hands are small and can’t often reach the lever), it can be a distraction, and since there are a lot of “spills” to be had when learning, another hard object sticking out from the handlebars is not ideal.

From balance to pedals:

Transitioning from a balance bike to a pedal bike, or starting your child out on a larger bike that already has pedals? Great to hear, we’re so excited for you! 

If your child hasn't mastered balance then they may not be ready for pedals. However, if your child is in the camp of scooting along just fine without pedals, then this section is for you! We break it down into a few easy steps. There’s a great video from Sustrans Coaching that covers all of these steps. 

  • Prepare yourself with lots of snacks and a well-rested toddler.
  • Find a flat area without distractions or any traffic.
  • Remove both pedals - treat it like a balance bike. They’re comfortable with this concept and it helps the transition to a newer, larger bike. 
  • Introduce hand brakes - if your child is new to this concept, you should spend a few days at this step, getting them to understand the concept of a hand brake (little hands have a hard time reaching the level and depressing it. If they’re having a hard time with this, check the lever reach adjustment. If you’re maxed out, you might have to wait a little longer for their hands to grow).
  • Add 1 pedal - with one pedal it simulates how your child typically scoots around on their balance bike. 
  • Add the second pedal - with the second pedal added it’s time to ride! (see video for support suggestions)
  • Start small - little rides is all it takes to get the skill. Add more and more distance as your child gets more comfortable with pedalling! 
  • Lastly, Have Patience - this will likely take time and you may not be successful on the first try, but the point is to keep practicing in small doses. And before you know it - they'll be pedaling alongside you in no time!

We hope you have a better understanding of balance bikes and training wheels now and see the advantages of starting your kids on a bike that teaches them the lifelong skills needed to succeed! If you have any questions, we’re here to help. 

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