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Balance bikes are sweeping the world as the best way to teach children to ride bikes. What is a balance bike and how does it work? Balance bikes are designed to teach kids the most difficult portion of riding – Balance.

Balance bikes are a great way for kids to adapt to a life of riding

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Balance bikes are sweeping the world as the best way to teach children to ride bikes. What is a balance bike and how does it work? Balance bikes look a lot like a normal bike with two wheels, frame, seat and handlebars. What you won’t see on a balance bike is a crank, chain and pedals. Balance bikes are designed to teach kids the most difficult portion of riding – Balance.

Balance bikes for fitness and fun

The best way to get kids excited about their balance bike is to make sure it fits them and it’s fun. To adjust the fit, start by loosening the seat and dropping it all the way down. Next, have your child stand over the bike and lift the saddle until it makes contact with their backside. Tighten the seat at that height. Once the seat height is set, adjust the handlebars to a comfortable position for your child. They should be able to reach out normally and hold the grips. If they look as if their arms are too high (this will fatigue them prematurely) lower the bars. Inversely, if the child is reaching too far down, raise them.

balance bike sizing

So once the bike is fit right, be sure to make it fun! In short, make sure the bike is what the child wants it to be. Stickers, colored tape, bags, bells or horns work great to customize your child’s balance bike for them.

Saftey

A balance bike is a bike and should be treated as such. This means, you want to practice in a flat safe area free of traffic, wear a helmet and be careful of obstacles.

Start out fun

Starting out on the balance bike can be intimidating for your kids. Try to keep it fun. Kids love motorcycle sounds and wheelies. In my 15 years working in a bike shop, I never once ran into a kid who didn’t like getting pushed around on a bike while making motorcycle noises. If you can add a wheelie to the mix, all the better. Even if the first rides aren’t very long, be sure to stop as soon as it’s not fun. 5 – 10 minute rides may seem short, but are totally acceptable.

Support the child not the bike

While helping your child with their balance bike, remember that the goal is for your children to understand how to balance WITH the bike. This is different to balancing ON TOP of the bike. A great way to help this is to support the children by the shoulders rather than holding the seat and handlebars. If you support the child, they will learn to use the bike to help them balance. If you hold the bike stable, the kids have more trouble feeling what real bicycle balance is.

Pedals aren’t all bad

All our talk about balance makes it sound like pedals at the young age are a bad thing, That’s not the case. Bikes with training wheels or tricycles have a great place in teaching kids how to pedal. The action of pedaling forward is not as difficult to learn as balance, but the frustration of not being able to do it can hamper a child’s move from balance bike to pedal bike.

What age

Balance bikes come in many different sizes. The smallest sizes can accommodate kids as young as 18 months. Before picking a bike try to have the child stand over it. You want some clearance between the child and the bike, and a comfortable distance from the seat to handlebars. Most Balance bikes will top out sizes for kids around 6.

Transitioning to a full size bike

In a few stories you will hear about the kid who got off his balance bike, onto his pedal bike, and pedaled away. It’s a great story, but not too common. Transitioning to a pedal bike takes a little effort. Start in a similar fashion to the balance bike – Fit and Fun. Adjust the pedal bike’s seat and handlebar. Next step is to explain how the bikes brakes work. With a balance bike kids can become accustomed to stopping by dragging their feet, so it’s important to show them how the pedal bike stops. Next step is to let them ride while supporting them by the shoulders and let them pedal around. Once they feel comfortable pedaling, you can let go. You will find they have almost no issues riding and the transition from balance to pedal bike will happen within a day.

Make your bike a balance bike

After all this you’re probably asking yourself “Why can’t I just pull the pedals of my child’s bike and use that as the balance bike?” The truth is, you can do that.

Pulling the pedals off a bike will give you a lot of the same benefits as a balance bike. The shortcomings of doing that are pedal bikes are wider than balance bikes and make it more difficult for the child to push off. Pedal bikes are also heavier than balance bikes. Pushing around the extra weight of a pedal bike can be difficult for smaller riders.

However you choose to teach your kids to balance, keep it fun.

The Strider 14X is a really cool new balance bike that incorporates an install-able drivetrain for when the kids have learned balance. Read on to learn more

Strider’s 14x is a new breed of balance bikes and out of the box

By John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

We’ve talked a lot about balance bikes in the past, and with good reason. Balance bikes teach children the most difficult aspect of riding in a fun and easy way. By doing away with the pedals, a balance bike allows kids to scoot along sidewalks and paths with relative ease while learning how to balance a two wheeled machine. In the world of balance bikes there is no bigger name than Strider. Strider has been at the forefront of creating affordable, lightweight, and adjustable balance bikes since their inception in 2007. What is new to the Strider world is the 14X, a really cool new balance bike that incorporates an install-able drivetrain for when the kids have learned balance. Read on to learn more

The 14x is out of the box

Our 14X arrived in a large brown cardboard box (common for all forms of bicycles). The frame of the bicycle, and the fork were separate, but both were protected and stabilized well. I took all the components out of the box and removed the packaging in a few minutes. Once I had everything out, I saw that building the bike was as simple as installing the fork, handlebar, and seat. Happily, Strider included easy to read instructions as well as all the tools necessary for assembly. Now before you run for the hills at the word “assembly”, realize that to put the bike together you only needed to tighten two bolts. It was so easy in fact, I had my 5 year old son do it. As the recipient of the new bike he was happy to pitch in.

What is different about the 14X

So what makes the 14x different? To start, this bike incorporates the features that Striders are known for. It is lightweight, has foot platforms for coasting, and a great fit and finish. Additionally, it has a massive amount of adjustability In the bars and seat so your child can really grow with the bike. Where the 14X really sets itself apart is its ability to transition your child onto a pedal bike. As an example, in the story of Strider, Ryan McFarland taught his son balance on a prototype Strider, then transitioned him onto another bike with pedals. For some kids, that change of bikes is difficult. For the 14X, one simply needs to install the pedals once their child is ready for them. That way the child’s position on the bike stays the same, his comfort is high, and he can focus only on the new propulsion system. Brilliant!

Who does it fit

The 14X is designed for kids from about 3 years to 7 years old. Overall, reviewing the amount of adjustments tells me that this range is totally achievable, although if your 3 year old is on the small side, or your 6 year old inherited some Sasquatch genes, you may not quite fit.

Pedal installation

Like building the bike itself, installing the pedal system is really simple. A few bolts secure the cranks in place, the chain goes on easily, and the included chainguard is easy to place. Once everything is installed, this bike looks like a normal bike with a few great features. First, the cranks are narrower than most other bikes, so they match the narrow width of kids hips. Also, the low overall stance of the bike is really confidence inspiring for riders just starting out.

Moving on

I plan to really try this whole system with my younger son. As of now he isn’t riding on two wheels, and I would love to get him started. We will progress from the balance features, into the pedal features and really test this concept. Stay tuned for more on his progress and how well the Strider worked for him.