Your balance bike questions answered!

Your balance bike questions answered!

Your balance bike questions answered! 

Is a balance bike safe for my child? When can my child ride a balance bike? How do I teach my daughter or son how to ride a bike? What happens if they crash? As parents, when our kids are trying something new, there’s always a set of questions like this that go racing through our minds as we try to determine what’s best for our kids. Rest assured, balance bikes are a fun and safe developmental tool for your little one that helps prepare them for a lifelong of fun adventures on two wheels. Let’s answer these questions and more to put your mind at ease so you can get back to what’s important; riding bikes! 

When can my child ride a bike?

Short answer; if they can walk, they can ride! Each and every child is in a different place on the mental and physical developmental scale. Some kids will be ready to hop on the bike at around 18 months or earlier, while some will be ready closer to about 2-3 years old. We are advocates of starting them early though! Our advice is to skip the training wheels and start with a balance bike. A balance bike helps develop one of the most important skills needed to learn how to ride a bike - balance. They also need to be tall enough to touch the ground with their feet with ease so it’s important to measure their inseam properly when you’re shopping for a new balance bike. 

Where is the best place to teach my child to ride?

The best place to teach your child to ride is on a smooth, flat surface in a place they feel comfortable and are accustomed to. This could be your neighborhood street, a school parking lot, a soccer field...wherever you and your child can practice without too many distractions and on flat ground. It’s also best to stay out of traffic and remove any other obstacles in their path. Don’t worry if they don’t go in a straight line, it’s all part of the learning process. And don’t forget to bring along a good supply of snacks and water to keep your little one fueled up. 

What is the most important skill for learning how to ride?

Balance! Balance is integral to learning how to ride a bike and so many other activities in life. Balance helps develop many of the body’s lesser-used muscle groups that provide stability in everything from standing to running and jumping. There is also a second very close runner up, and that is steering. There’s a common misconception that to steer a bike you simply turn the handle bars clockwise or counterclockwise to turn the bike, this isn’t exactly correct. When you steer a bike there’s a whole body movement involved and the result is that you’re actually leaning the bike by putting light pressure on one end of the handle bars or the other and this is what initiates a turn, and thus steering. Of course, without balance steering would be much more difficult, and this is why we’re such huge advocates of balance bikes for children and so vocal about NOT using training wheels on bikes.

How should I introduce bikes to my kids?

Kids are naturally very curious and are even more interested in whatever you naturally gravitate towards (for better or for worse). You can start by explaining what a bike does, its component parts and how they all work together. If you’re showing them a bike for the first time, leave the bike around the house for them to explore on their own terms. They’ll spin the wheels, push it around and get comfortable with it before you have them sit on the bike. If your child is within the size range to try a ride-along bike seat - go and ride together. We recommend the Mac Ride bike seats! Trust us, you won't be able to get far before your child is giggling with joy! Oh and forewarning - parents will be stopping you left and right wanting to know where you got “that awesome little bike seat”.

How do I introduce pedaling to my kids?

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!

What happens if they take a spill? What should I do?!

We've all fallen off a bike at one time or another and it's part and parcel to the learning experience. We suggest dusting off your little rider, grabbing one of those trail cookies we know you have stashed away and provide positive feedback. For example; I'm sorry you took a tumble and that it didn't feel very good, but you have been riding so well! Let's take a break and get back on after we share this trail cookie. Please note - if you feel that your child has done serious harm to themselves call emergency services immediately.

If you have any questions about balance bikes, bike gear, or how to teach your child how to ride a bike, drop us a line any time. 

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