They’ve got no pedals but are the perfect introduction to cycling for toddlers and pre-schoolers
A balance bike is a bike without pedals designed to teach children how to cycle without having to use stabilisers.
It’s a question we hear often at Kiddimoto, and it’s an entirely understandable one. People are used to seeing bikes with pedals so the sight of a bike without them can be an unusual one.
But the lack of pedals on our balance bikes is entirely deliberate and designed to help prepare children for a lifetime of cycling.
So what is a balance bike?
Balance bikes originated in Germany in the early 19th century with a bulky wooden adult version, but never gained popularity and quickly faded from use. They were reborn some time in the late 20th century for children and are now commonly found all over the world.
They look almost identical to a normal bike but don’t have any pedals or drivetrain (the bit that holds the chain in place). Instead of pedalling like you would on a regular bike, children propel themselves along by pushing along the ground with the feet.
When they grow in confidence and have mastered balance, they will start to cruise along with their feet off the ground. It’s loads of fun!
Balance bikes vs stabilisers
Children who learn to ride bikes with stabilisers (also known as training wheels) learn to pedal but not to balance – the extra wheels do all the balancing for them. So when mum and dad eventually take those stabilisers off, the child has to learn to ride a bike all over again because now they have to pedal and learn to balance all at the same time.
Starting out on a balance bike enables children to develop balance skills without having to pedal. Then, when they’re eventually ready to ride a pedal bike, all they have to do is pick up the relatively straightforward task of learning to pedal. No running alongside them, no holding their seat, no painful tumbles… it really is that easy.
As British cycling legend Chris Hoy says: “I’ve always been a big believer in the fact that stabilisers aren’t good for kids because they don’t learn how to balance. A balance bike teaches that important part of learning how to ride. Kids feel safe too because all they have to do is put their feet down if they start to wobble.”
Another top cyclist, Olympic gold medallist Craig Maclean, gives an emphatic answer when asked what parents should choose for their child’s first bike. “I’d say a balance bike without doubt,” he says. “You can learn to pedal at any age, that’s the easy bit, but the earlier they can develop their balance the better.”
Carl Burgwardt of the Pedalling History Bicycle Museum in New York derides the use of stabilisers as a “crutch.” “They don’t teach anything,” he says. “All they do is prolong the agony of learning to ride.”
Balance bikes are safe
For lots of children, their first experience of riding around on wheels will be on a tricycle, otherwise known as a trike. While lots of fun, these are often cumbersome, awkward to maneuver and can easily tip over.
On a balance bike, children are focused on balancing rather than pedalling and are thus more prepared for sudden losses of balance and less likely to fall as a result.
Once they master balancing, kids can also completely skip stabilisers and head straight for a standard bike. In doing so, the countless falls and grazed knees from learning to balance on a pedal bike are greatly reduced.
Balance bikes are good value
Parents naturally consider the financial implications of teaching their children to cycle, and we’re confident that buying one balance bike replaces the need to buy a tricycle and a 12″ pedal bike. By the time a child has learnt to balance on their Kiddimoto balance bike, they can graduate straight onto a 16″ or 20″ pedal bike.
Another little bonus… the resale value of balance bikes is also generally higher compared to tricycles and 12″ bikes, making a balance bike a great investment for your child and your pocket!