My first introduction to balance bikes was when my daughter was about 1 year old. I saw twin boys “biking” around our neighborhood without any pedal. My first thought was – it is not a bike if it doesn’t have pedals. It is just another thing they have for parents to spend money on. Then as my daughter reached 18 months, I kept hearing more and more about “balance bikes” in the mommy groups I was part of and how wonderful they were. I looked it up, and there it was – the bike without pedals.
Now, being a mother and a personal finance blogger, I see a lot of children’s’ products as a complete waste of money. Many parents think they have to have certain things for their children to keep up with society. Let’s just say, in that way, my daughter is very deprived. So when it a $100+ purchase, I debate, wait and do a ton of research before buying it.
Why balance bikes?
Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage. I still have fond memories of learning to ride a bike with my mother. I also know that the later I wait to introduce a bike, the more fear she will have to ride one. My daughter is a very high energy, physically active kid. So it is natural to get her something she can use outdoors. It was either a balance bike or a tricycle.
Learning to ride a bike = learning to move + learning to pedal + learning to balance.
- Can start early: If your child can walk, they can ride a balance bike. From my research pedaling seems to be a 3 year old skill. Most of the kids with tricycles use them as a replacement stroller controlled by their parents; they, themselves learn no skills.
- Can skip training wheels: Comparing between pedaling and balancing, in my opinion, balancing is a more difficult skill. So if I can help her learn to balance sooner and give her confidence, I want to do that. My hope is once she knows how to balance she will pick up the pedaling skill when she is ready to ride a bike, without the need for training wheels.
- Lightweight and occupies less space: I have seen a trike; it is bulky. A balance bike is light weight and occupies very little space. I can easily take it along with me on trips for my daughter to ride anywhere.
- Give them the control: My daughter just learned to walk 6 months ago. She likes to use her legs and likes to keep them firmly on the ground. A balance bike gives her that control.
- Free of chains or protrusions: Balance bikes are really simple. They don’t have any chains, pedals, protrusions or anything that can catch the child’s legs and make them lose balance. I prefer this for a newly walking child rather than put her in a tricycle.
- Looks and feels like a real bike: It doesn’t look like a toy. Other than the lack of pedals and the chain, it looks like a real bike and gives the child more confidence when they transition to a pedal bike.
- Research supports balancing before pedaling: I read a lot of bike forums and books. Research supports that learning to balance before pedaling is better to ride a bike. After all, the first bike used by man was a balance bike called the walking machine!
- Safety: From my research there are many reports of tricycles being slow and awkward to maneuver; along with their tendency to easily tip over on uneven surfaces or turns.
Once I was convinced that a balance bike is better than a trike, I began researching my options. The first hurdle I encountered was that most of the balance bikes were fit for kids over 2.5 years. For those less than 2, the options were limited and expensive. Then I came across Strider. I don’t know why it took me so long, as Strider is one of the most popular balance bikes and for good reasons. They have 3 models of balance bikes for age 18 months to 5 years. Here is a comparison chart from their website.
There are many reasons to like Strider
- The bikes are light weight but super durable. The bike can handle paved walkway, bumps, grass, gravel and wood chips. The transition is smooth for an 18 month old.
- Easy to control and steer
- The tires don’t need me to fill air! It is made of EVA polymer that is maintenance free. There is a down side to the foam tires. They don’t provide a lot of cushioning, but at this point my daughter is not going to ride on very rough terrain, so I prefer never having flat tires.
- Works for 18 months – 5 years. Seats and the handle bars are adjustable to fit the child.
- Zero tools required for assembly. Assembly took about 5 minutes.
- 60 day “love it or return it” policy
- Great customer service
- Minimum seat height is 11” making it one of the smallest bikes in the market. But with the adjustable feature, the child can ride the same bike for at least a few years.
The assembly was super easy; with my daughter’s “help” it took me about 5 minutes to put the bike together. It took me another 5-10 minutes to adjust the handle bar and the seat to my daughter’s comfort. We took it out for a ride (this is the first time so she didn’t have a helmet, she does now!). She immediately knew how to work it! For now, she just walks with the bike which is perfectly age appropriate. Does every child need a balance bike? Absolutely not! They can, like I did, go directly to a pedal bike and learn to ride (even without any training wheels). It might be a little more difficult than transitioning from a balance bike, but it is very much possible. My daughter loves the outdoors and we were going to get her “something” to do other than just explore. For that, we are very happy with the balance bike. Many people with toddlers have the question – trike or a balance bike? For us, it is a balance bike hands down! So far, we love the bike and feel it is great value for the money!