I had my first bike when I was 4, and by 11 or 12, I had my first student — my 3-year old brother. I wasn’t going to force him to ride without training wheels but he broke the darn thing. I was furious. So I dragged him to a basketball court, and gave him a biking crash course — literally. That will teach him! Kidding aside, I can clearly recall he was already killing it before mid-day. Kids are like sponges, they say.
Twenty plus years later, I now have a new kid to train, a new protégé. This time, I know what to do, I’ve done this before. Easy. Also, I’d like us to beat my first apprentice, she must learn to ride before turning 3. That was the plan. What for, you ask? Just so I can poke fun at her uncle, that’s all. 😀
Anyway, let’s get down to business.
These days we have what they call a balance bike. It’s basically a bike without pedals and chains. All the kid needs to do is hold onto the bar, and walk, or stride until they learn how to balance. I don’t have the words for this, so here’s a video I found on Youtube. 😀
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Bikes With Training Wheels
This one needs no introduction. Most of us called them “balancers” or “stabilisers” back in the day. And we see this all the time in parks, no need for videos. 🙂
Things to Consider
Before I share my experiences with these two bikes, here are a few factors to consider:
The Kid’s Age – some balance bikes are labelled 18+ months. That means you can start introducing your kid to a balance bike at 1 1/2 years old. For the traditional bike and training wheels, around 2 to 3 years old would be ideal.
The Kid’s Size/height – now this is more important than age. When buying online, always check how low the seat can go, and measure your kid up if you can. But the best thing to do is, to go to a bike shop and let your kid try on some displays.
Bike weight – you may wonder what’s the difference between a relatively cheaper and a more expensive bike. A lot of times, it’s the weight. The pricier ones tend to be lighter, and of course, easier for kids to manage. Either way it’s still going to work, but it’s just something worth noting.
So what bike did I get my daughter? I got her both.
How Did the Balance Bike Go?
I bought her a red Strider 12″ Sport when she turned 18 months old. When it came though, it was a bit too big for her. Reason why I said, it is better to check the height, not the age.
Anyhow, this bike is a good looking thing and probably has the lowest seating height in the market. Perfect for smaller kids like ours. When she turned 2, she was big enough for it. Off to the park!
I don’t want to burst your bubble but, see the Youtube video above where kids stride along like pros? No, it will be far from that. It will be slow and chances are, your kid might get bored and tired within a few minutes. My daughter, she never liked it. Probably because she’s never seen anybody ride a bike before.
Change of Plans – Training Wheels
The balance bike ended up gathering dust and cob webs in the garage. I can only count the times we brought it out. Hoping to turn things around, I decided to buy her a new bike on her 3rd birthday. This time, it’s the regular bike with training wheels. Well it’s not just any bike, it’s got Anna and Elsa on! Just seeing that Frozen-themed box had her really excited. That’s one way to motivate. Good job, marketing team!
How did Anna and Elsa go?
At first, she did not know what to do and looked like she wasn’t strong enough either. This one’s much heavier than the Strider. I had to do a lot of encouragement, and a lot of pushing. This is why you’ll need a push handle, your back will thank you for it.
On our first day, she gave up within 3 or 5 minutes and said she wanted to walk to the park. I did not want to make it a chore for her so off to the park we went, walking.
Luckily, a friend happened to be there with his daughter, on her bike. Seeing them having some fun, she then wanted to get her bike. So we headed back home, took her bike, and she rode it back to the park with gusto. I am winning this round.
So she’s having fun with the training wheels. However, this Frozen bike is still a little too big and heavy for her. As much as I would like to see her ride freely in her 3’s, I would just let her do it at her own pace, whatever works for her. Uncle wins!
Balance Bike or Training Wheels?
If your kid is around two years old, go for a balance bike. Though it wasn’t much of a success for us, I have seen it work for some kids that I know personally. Furthermore, balance bikes are relatively smaller and lighter than the regular bikes, so that’s another advantage. If you want your kid to learn how to balance at the earliest age possible, then the balance bike is the way to go.
On the other hand, if you have a 4-year old, or if your kid is big enough to ride a 12″ bike and trainers, go for it. Simply because at this age, a balance bike will be outgrown in no time — practical reasons.
Whichever bike you choose, don’t expect too much from them during the first few days (don’t be like me). They will need time to work on their motor skills and strength. It would also help if you have your own bike so you can show them how it’s done. Kids mimic what they see.
Lastly, always remember to have fun with your young apprentice. It’s all that matters.
As much as I think it is best to check out your local bike shop, that’s not a very good idea these days. So here are some links should you want to shop around.
Please note – I noticed a steep increase on the Strider’s prices in Amazon. Probably due to the current pandemic where demands are high and supplies are low.
I got the Frozen bike from BigW, It wasn’t expensive at all. The bikes you’ll see below are a little pricey but they look so cool — worth your time. 🙂
Of course, let’s not forget safety.
There you have it. I hope it helps. Have fun!