Balance bikes are bicycles without pedals, used to teach children ages 18 months to 9 years old the basic skills of riding a bike. When children learn to ride a bike with stabilisers, they only learn to pedal and steer, while relying on the stabilisers for balance. Balance bikes teach children the key skills of balancing on two wheels and steering while balancing from the very start. This makes the transition to a normal bike with pedals very easy.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Balance bike
- Sturdy shoes
- Bike helmet
- Knee and elbow pads (optional)
Purchase the right balance bike based on your child's age and needs. Your child should be able to sit on the bike with her feet flat on the ground and knees slightly bent. Balance bikes are made of wood or steel. Some have pegs or platforms for your child's feet, and some have handbrakes and kickstands. You can make a balance bike by removing the pedals from a normal bike and lowering the seat.
Find an appropriate place to teach your child to ride. You will need a large, open area with level ground. Playgrounds, parks and empty car parks are ideal. Your child should always wear a helmet, and if he starts on a paved surface, you may also want to equip him with knee and elbow pads. Starting on a lawn or other soft surface can make falling easier, but it's more challenging to get the bike to roll.
Begin with your child sitting on the saddle, straddling the bike. Her feet should be on the ground, with her hands on the handlebars. Have her slowly start to walk the bike in a straight line.
Encourage your child begin to glide on the bike. As he walks around on the bike, he will automatically start to push off with his feet and glide. Have him increase the gliding time. He is now learning how to balance on a bicycle.
Tell your child to put her feet on the ground to stop. Most balance bikes stop when the rider simply drags her feet on the ground. Have your child wear sturdy shoes because this action will quickly wear down the soles. Older kids with more developed fine-motor skills can use balance bikes that have handbrakes.
Start turning the bike by leaning into the turn, rather than turning the handlebars. Have your child make slight direction changes on the bike, then go around corners. He is now learning to steer his bicycle while balancing.
Introduce elevated places on which to ride. Your child will grow more comfortable balancing on her bike at higher speeds the more she practices. Once your child is comfortable with navigating corners and higher speeds, she is ready to learn to ride a bike with pedals. If your child is enthusiastic and comfortable with riding, you could put her on a normal bike in as little as two hours, or you could allow her to practice and enjoy her balance bike for a few years before teaching her to ride with pedals.
Tips and warnings
- A bicycle speciality shop can remove the pedals from a normal bike to make a balance bike.
- Children under 2 years old may find riding a balance bike too difficult and may prefer a tricycle.
- Riding a tricycle will teach your child how to pedal.
- Always wear a helmet when riding any bicycle.
- Teach your child to obey traffic laws while riding a bike.
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