Like most of you reading this, I learned to ride a pedal bike using stabilisers (a.k.a training wheels). I remember getting my first bike for my 5th birthday and the joy of taking it out on the path while I pedalled along. I also remember the day when my parents took the stabilisers off and I wobbled down the road with my dad running behind me, frantically trying to keep me upright.
I hadn’t yet developed the coordination required to cycle independently so suddenly taking my stabilisers off was pretty scary. Needless to say, there were many crashes that day but I eventually got there!
Thankfully, there is now a better way that allows kids to get started as young as 2 years old – balance bikes. But exactly what is a Balance Bike and what are the main differences between balance bikes and kids pedal bikes with stabilisers?
Yes, you can convert a normal pedal bike to a balance bike by taking off the cranks, pedals and chain. However, the saddle will probably still be too high for smaller toddlers to have their feet flat on the ground. Many kids pedal bikes are made of steel and will likely be too heavy for kids to push along. Not to mention, you need the required skills to take off then re-assemble the cranks, chain, bottom bracket etc. which can be a bit fiddly.
Handlebar reach on both balance bikes and kids bikes with stabilisers can vary dramatically. On either bike, it’s best to have a longer reach so the body is leaning forwards in an open arched position with the arms slightly stretched. If the bars are too close to the saddle it makes the cockpit cramped and will make the bike feel twitchy. Wide bars are also preferable to keep the steering stable, a must for when your child is reaching warp speed! On our range of Balance bikes, the geometry changes as it converts from a balance bike to a first pedal bike so the bike adapts with your growing child.
We’re always delighted to see kids outdoors on bikes of any kind, whether on a child seat, balance bike, or bike with stabilisers. But it’s even better to see kids zooming along independently with their parent often lagging behind. It’s not just us, even classic brands like Raleigh are moving away from bikes with stabilisers to balance bikes. So if you’re looking for a new bike for your toddler, don’t forget there’s no need for stabilisers, buy a balance bike instead and give them the best start on two wheels!