Seven or eight years ago, when I lived in London, I became first aware of balance bikes. I spotted one in Marylebone on New Cavendish Street. A little boy was riding it and he was so fast and so confident, I could not believe my eyes. What fascinated me the most, was that he was not older than two and he could balance and steer a bike without training wheels. I had to stop and watch. What I saw there was not only such a simple concept, but also such an effective one. This bike had no pedals, instead this kid used his feet to run. This put the bike into motion and off he went.
Soon these bikes also appeared in our network. Friends who had kids bought them and the same phenomenon happened. But most importantly, what I saw again, the kids had so much fun. They embraced their independence, they felt free and they loved it so much, it was impossible to leave somewhere without the balance bike.
A year ago we got my son a balance bike for his second birthday. I have never regretted the purchase and cannot recommend it enough. It took no longer than a week for him to figure out the concept by himself. Once he felt safe, he became more courageous and daring and this helped him improve even more. This was also motivating for him to keep on going. Wherever we went, shopping, playground, park, bushwalking, etc., the bike had to be with us.
On his third birthday we got him a 16 inch push bike. It took about an hour for him to figure out the pedalling and then he rode it. No training wheels and no broken backs.
I cannot recommend a balance bike enough based on this experience and having seen kids in our network doing the same, it just proves they are effective learning tools. Honestly, when we were kids, I didn’t know a three year old who could ride a normal push bike without training wheels. I was six when my Dad moved the training wheels higher so I would not fall in case the bike tipped. And most of my friends were the same age. And it took ages until they were off. Now I know plenty of kids who started on a balance bike and then moved onto a normal bike with ease at the age of three. Those who skipped the balance bike are still on trainers. I think that just shows that it’s worth getting one.
Despite of my son having moved on to a push-bike, the balance bike is not dusting in a corner. My husband loves skateboarding and they go to skate parks together where he works on his BMX and mountain biking skills 😉 Recently, I took him to bushlands where he explored the off-road tracks. He had so much fun, it was impossible to get him and the bike into the car. Based on that, I can positively say, the balance bike has not retired yet. He might have to share it soon, though as our 17 month-old daughter is ready to hit challenging terrain as well.