Most of us learned to ride a two-wheeler with training wheels for stabilizing as we (theoretically) learned how to balance. Then the day the training wheels were removed and we realized that we really weren’t ready. After the requisite number of falls and crashes, we finally mastered balancing.
Now there is a wonderful new innovation that makes the entire process much easier and at a much earlier age. It is called a balance bike and in Australia, they are being enjoyed by more and more children every day.
The best Australian balance bike is sized to fit a young child, and it has no pedals. Sitting on the seat, the child will simply walk. After a bit, they will figure out how to glide while lifting their feet off the ground. Little do they realize they are actually learning to balance. As they discover how to move their arms at the same time, they begin to steer. All of this is a treat for the child and the first steps toward actually pedaling a full-sized bicycle. Okay, there will be some tumbles, but the balance bike is sized to the child, so there is less distance to fall and less fear of any injury.
Traditional Pedal Bikes
Now let’s look at a traditional pedal bicycle with training wheels. The child mounts the bike and learns to pedal, steer, and balance all at the same time. The training wheels help to stabilize as he or she loses balance so the kid, in effect, learns to ride while wobbling. That means he or she is not actually learning to balance. When the training wheels come off, the child must re-learn much about riding the bike and dealing with balance while steering and pedaling. Learning on a balance bike makes an easier transition to a two-wheeler because the balance is already there.
You may be sitting there wondering if you can’t just jury rig a standard bike into a balance bike. Here are the downsides of that project. Pedal bikes are generally much taller than a balance bike which is designed so that the toddler or preschooler’s feet touch the ground while riding, so the modified pedal bike will simply be too tall for the kid. Pedal bikes are made of steel and would be too heavy for a kid to propel just using feet and legs while the balance bike is lightweight enough. Even if you overcome the height and weight issues, when your child learns to balance and steer, you will need to reinstall and reassemble all the changes and brackets and cranks.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that riding a bike is great for a child to get healthy exercise; to build motor skills, balance, and confidence; plus just have fun. Decades of riders started with pedal bikes and training wheels, so they do work. Balance bikes simply allow the child to start at a much earlier age and to build balance first, and then as the child grows and matures, he or she can move into a pedal bike.