All About Balance Bikes

Learning how to ride a bike is an important part of being a kid! Not only that, but bicycle riding has proven time and time again to be beneficial not only to our health, but to the health of the environment as well. That’s why at Bambino Bikes we’re all about getting kids on two wheels as early as possible, whether it is in a Ride Along Bike Seat, or on their first balance bike.

Every human being is unique in their own ways, which means we all learn differently and at a different pace, so while there is no set age to learn how to ride a bike, there is a perfect bike to get little riders started on, and that is the balance bike. But what is a balance bike, why does it not have training wheels, and how do you actually ride one? We’ll answer all these questions and more shortly!

What is a balance bike?
Why no pedals, training wheels, or brakes?
How do you ride a balance bike?
What's the difference between a balance bike and a pedal bike?
How to teach your child to ride a balance bike
How to choose the right size balance bike

What is a balance bike?

Simply put, a balance bike is a bicycle without pedals. Balance bikes come in many shapes, sizes and forms. The basic idea is to create a simple bike without the distractions of pedals, brakes, training wheels or a drivetrain so that a child can focus on developing key skills, one of which is balance! To propel themselves forward, children use their feet to kick, scoot, or run along while riding the bike. You may have heard other names for a balance bike such as kick bike or run bike, these are all the same types of balance bike. Once kids have mastered the skills of balance and steering, they’re ready to make a quick and easy transition to a pedal bike.

Child standing next to a balance bike

Why are there no training wheels, pedals, or brakes?

As adults we often forget that we learned everything we know today little by little and with lots of practice. Pause for a minute and think back to when your child was learning colors or shapes. Maybe they had one of those cubes with the shapes. You could almost see the gears turning in their heads when they picked up a shape, began figuring out where it goes, and then how to make it fit into the hole. This is the reason that balance bikes are so beneficial for children, they remove all the unnecessary distractions and really break it down to the basics for them.

Three balance bikes of different colors

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.

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! Your child should be learning the most important skill, which is balance, 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.

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.

How do you ride a balance bike?

Balance bikes are very easy for kids to ride and oftentimes they won’t need any instruction to learn. When starting out your child simply “walks” their bike around, getting a feel for how to turn the handle bars and position their body over the frame and saddle.

Child riding a balance bike outdoors

As time goes on your child will start to scoot around and really begin to refine their steering skills and start to pick up on balancing by allowing their feet to hover over the ground. It is not until this point that they introduce another skill, which is braking, and that is done with their feet. Using their feet to stop by dragging them on the ground is another natural skill that will quickly develop. And now comes the speed! When your child is confident enough they will start to move quicker, kicking faster, almost running. Their balance is getting better and it might be at this point they put their feet up on the frame and coast along for a long distance, really testing their balance and steering skills.

Child riding a balance bike

What's the difference between a balance bike and a pedal bike?

The difference between a balance bike and a pedal bike is mainly the lack of pedals. Balance bikes are propelled by your child pushing themselves with their feet. Balance bikes are suited for younger kids who are learning/are comfortable walking. Pedal bikes are best for kids who have mastered walking and have a higher level of hand/eye coordination.

How to teach your child to ride a balance bike

  • First thing first, SAFETY - Always properly fit a helmet on your child and make sure that it is correctly sized for your child’s head. If you don’t know how to do that, check out our instructions for proper helmet fit. Please always wear a helmet when you and/or your child is riding a bike. If you’d like to explore additional protective wear you can check out our gloves and knee pad products.
  • Bike setup - Make sure to correctly position the saddle height and any other adjustable components before riding. If you need help with that, please check out our bike sizing guide or set up a call with a Bambino Gear Expert.
  • Location - Find a flat and spacious area that is free of any vehicular traffic.
  • Learn - Show your child how to hold the handlebars and how to sit on the seat and simply encourage them to walk around!
  • Monkey see monkey do - Remember this saying? Well, it really helps with learning to ride a bike. If you have friends or family with a little rider that is just a little more experienced, your child will quickly progress by just seeing their peer ride a balance bike. You’ll be amazed at how willing they are to try new things when riding with someone their own age.
Parent helping child ride balance bike

    How to choose the right size balance bike

    Getting the right size balance bike for your child is simple and only requires a couple tools to get the right measurement.

    • Step 1: You’ll need a book, a measuring tape, and your child in their favorite pair of shoes.
    • Step 2: Have your child stand against a wall, place the book between their legs and raise the book up until it hits their crotch. Measure from the top of the book (make sure to hold it level) to the floor.
    • Step 3: Subtract 0.5 inches from the measurement and that is the inseam measurement, or what is also called the “standover frame height” for your child (we recommend subtracting 0.5 inches from their inseam because you want your child to be able to place their feet flat on the ground when standing over the bike).

    Simple as that! Check out our bike size guides to find the appropriate inseam range for your child.

    It’s important to get the right size bike because one that is too small or too large will hinder the learning process. Here’s an illustration of what we mean by not having the right size bike or not having the saddle height properly adjusted:

    Bambino Bikes Balance Bike Fit Guide
    • CORRECT - Your child is seated on the bike, fleet flat on the ground, knees are slightly bent. This is best because it allows for full leg movement while still be able to stand over the bike with feet flat on the ground. 
    • WRONG - Your child is "standing" over the seat. Their feet are not flat on the ground (tiptoes) and their knees are not bent. This will make it hard for your child to ride the bike if their feet can't reach the ground. 
    • WRONG - Although your child is sitting on the seat their knees are very bent, so much so that they will not be able to "kick" or run on the bike with full and complete leg movement.

    If you have any questions about measuring or fitment please feel free to schedule a call with a Bambino Gear Expert.