Tips

How to encourage a child to start riding their balance bike

Riding a balance bike

This is a question, I get asked a lot by customers when they purchase a balance bike and I have to admit it is a fair question. However, the answer is most of the time not what the parents expect. Very often, they think they need to help and hold the child to develop confidence and expertise. Let’s not forget though, that we are not talking about a child sitting on a pedal bike without training wheels. A balance bike is designed for children so their feet touch the ground. Because both feet are flat on the ground there is no need to hold them, the feet are doing the job. There is also no need to show them how to ride the bike, all they need to do is walk, a movement they are familiar with.

So what can parents do to get the ball rolling? The only thing that is required is to make the balance bike available as often as possible.

If you live in an apartment or a small house, the answer is to get outside regularly with the bike and let the child ride. Initially, it will be slow and sometimes they won’t want to ride, but if you are persistent, you will see results. Just ensure that the ride is correlated with fun and not a must. If they don’t want to ride at the moment when you go outside, it’s not a problem, just try again another time. Persistence will pay off, I am positive.

Another option is to team up with another family where children already ride. Children learn from children much faster than from adults. Second children have this advantage and learn far earlier and faster to ride a balance bike whether you chose the above or the next method of approach.

Riding together

If you are lucky enough to live in a house with a lot of space or even better with a big garden, then you have the best conditions for a quick success. Ensure you leave the bike in a spot where your child can access it a hundred percent at their own discretion. This is the approach we did and it worked wonders. Initially, the bike was ignored. With time it became more interesting and it got pushed around in the house. Occasionally, it got turned around and the wheels were spinned. With time the courage and curiosity was big enough to hop on it and to slowly walk around with the bike. From this point the progress sped up rapidly. Within no time the motions became more comfortable and controlled, the arms were able to coordinate the steering and it started to look like riding a balance bike. As soon as riding was interesting and fun enough, we retired the pram and substituted the pram with the balance bike. We used it to go anywhere, like grocery shopping, walks, small rides, I went for a run and my boy was riding next to me, where possible we took it for bushwalks, there are no limits to your imagination. In short, the balance bike became part of our child’s life and made my personal life so much easier.

push my balance bike

The second option is obviously the more effective option to get started, but as mentioned, many families live in smaller houses and have no garden, where it is harder to provide the bike a hundred percent of the time. However, having said that, it does not mean that the children won’t learn to ride their balance bike, it might just take longer. But if you don’t throw in the towel and encourage them to ride you will never regret it. Riding a bike from such a young age is nothing else but beneficial. It trains the children’s motor skills, their balance, their spatial awareness, it makes them aware of traffic rules from an early age and they move, which is an essential to a healthy and balanced life. In a future post I will go more into detail about the benefits of letting children ride a balance bike / bike from an early age.

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When to start on a balance bike

Balance Bike

Skatebowl balance bike

Very often when we have the pleasure to meet customers in person, we get asked when the best time is to start a child on a balance bike and how the parents can help the child develop their skills.

This post is certainly not a piece of advice from an expert’s point of view. I am not a sports teacher or physio therapist, but I have personal experience through my own and friend’s children and of course through the stories of our customers. However, most people do appreciate our story and I thought it would be good to share it with you as well.

Most balance bikes on the market are labelled with a recommendation for children from the age of 2-3. This probably applies to many children, especially first borns, but as we experienced it with our second child, she was ready a lot earlier, i.e. at 16 months.

In general, I do not agree with any age labelling on children’s products anyway. Just as I experienced with clothes, my son fit most clothes labelled with the same age as he was at the time, but my daughter who is nearly three still fits into 12-18 months clothing. Each child is different and therefore relying on an age recommendation is certainly not the way to go. This also applies to when children are ready for a balance bike.

When to start also depends fully on how well the children can walk. A child that starts walking at 18 months, is certainly not ready for a balance bike even though we do have bikes that most 18 months old children fit. Same applies to children, who are not comfortable with ride on toys and are scared at the sight of it. However, a child who has been walking for at least three months and is confident and past the wobbly phase may try a balance bike and succeed quickly.

What I personally noticed as well with my own but also friend’s children, is that first born children are ready at a later stage. They have no other child to observe and copy from and face the challenge by themselves. My son got his first balance bike for his second birthday and it took him nearly three months to figure out the concept and to develop some confidence. My daughter on the other hand, saw her brother cruising along and became very interested at 16 months and tried it out. By 18 months she rode the bike slowly but independently and confidently.

Rather than focusing too much on the age of the child, it is probably the safest to take the child’s height into account. Our pedeX 01 (here and here as well) and pedeX pirate range is suitable for children from a height of 80cm, the pedeX 02 and pedeX bamboo from 85cm and the pedeX wood wave from 90cm. If your child reaches any of these heights and they is a confident walker it is time to give him/her a chance to ride.

In the next post, I will describe what we as parents did to assist our two children with the initial attempts to ride a balance bike.

© scoolbikes.com.au

Ice Stickers

ICE STICKERS – Rider safety is not just about accident prevention, but also about how efficiently you can act if and when an accident does occur.
I’ve been interested in the development of ICE technology ever since my husband purchased his POC helmet which uses the icedot.org platform.  I love the technology and simplicity of having your medical details easily available via a visible QR code in the case of an emergency, but (…knock on wood) I am not in need of upgrading my older giro helmet, so I came across these ICE stickers from Taggisar, which was a much less costly solution for me than buying a brand new helmet. At $10 for two stickers (say one for your helmet, and the other for your phone or bike frame), it could be the best $10 you’ve spent that you hopefully never have to use!
La Velocita recently provided a very helpful and succinct review of the product, which I think is worth sharing – see below or click here:

Taggisar ICE Stickers reviewed by La Velocita

Melbourne based website La Velocita reviewed our Taggisar ICE Stickers – Here’s what they had to say.

Taggisar ICE Stickers

The guys at Taggisar have come up with a simple solution to provide people with access to important information about you in the event of an accident. La Velocita takes a quick look at the ICE Sticker.

Safety when riding is critical no matter who you are, racer, commuter, mountain biker, weekender. Unfortunately, from time to time things go wrong and we end up on the ground. If you are unlucky enough to be seriously injured people with you and emergency services will need fast access to contact details of family and to any medical conditions you have.

This is where the Taggisar ICE sticker comes in. Scanning the Ice Sticker QR code provides people with your emergency contact details and medical conditions.  It also allows an alert to be sent to a pre-nominated person letting them know that you have been in an accident and providing your position on a map.

We really like  this product. There’s no batteries to worry about, it’s pretty much impossible to activate by accident and very simple to set up and use.

Taggisar sent us some of their “rider Edition” two packs. Within minutes we had the app downloaded, emergency information endeared, sticker linked and one on our helmets and one on the back of our phone case.  Easy.

Taggisar is quickly gaining momentum in Europe and the USA and is in the process of entering the Australian market.  We think that it’s a product that has the ability  to save lives and make riding safer, so a big tick from us.

The importance of quality

Centennial Parklands

A year ago when we started our bike business, we took a big risk, by entering a very different market from what I personally knew from Germany, where I spent most of my life growing up. My view is that the Australian bicycling market appears to be happy to spend endless sums on high-end road and mountain bikes for adults, but when it comes to 20” or 24” children’s bikes, $300-$400 seems to be the absolute maximum. Bikes below the 20” size tend to be under the $100 price bracket.

Our bikes are above those price ranges and many people are at first in doubt about our pricing (as also discussed in Bicycling Trade). Yes, we agree, our bikes are not cheap, but in our opinion, the incremental price provides our junior riders with superior performance in developing and accelerating their riding skills. After all, isn’t the common saying: You get what you pay for?

Blackwattle Bay

When our eldest graduated from his balance bike, our priority for choosing a pedal bike was quality, how easy it was for him to ride and our budget. To make a bike easy to ride, it is necessary to invest into quality components. Low quality components are typically heavy and make the bike hard to manoeuvre, especially for a small child. Personally, I think low quality bikes are extremely dangerous. I constantly would question how responsive the brakes were, how the bike reacted if a major part broke and as a result what injury my child would get from it. Cycling alone is not risk free, but I want to reduce the risk of falls and accidents wherever I can and it is certainly possible by choosing a good quality bike.

And what a difference the bike makes! Lower quality bikes in my mind, pose a higher risk for injury as are very difficult to ride while learning and building their confidence on two wheels. Good quality bikes typically ride well and the rider can focus on balancing and riding rather than manoeuvring the bike.

Balast Point Park

Our boy moved from a balance bike to a normal push bike shortly after his 3rd birthday. He never used training wheels and he transitioned within less than an hour and off he was by himself. He initially needed help to get on and off the bike, but with time he mastered those challenges problem free. As he does have access to bikes through his parents’ business, he became extremely curious about the new bikes he saw us promoting. He wanted to ride them, even though they were too big for him. By the time he was 3 ½, we allowed him to try one of our troX elite 20” samples not thinking he would succeed (a mountain bike we recommend for kids 6 years and up). Well, we were wrong! He needed help to get on, but he mastered the rest with ease and soon went for his first proper bike ride with me.

Narrabeen Beach

Bad Feilnbach

Shortly after we visited friends, who had a 12” push bike with training wheels. He wanted to ride it too and we obviously let him. What happened next surprised me. My son sat on it and could not ride it. He had trouble moving the pedals. The same boy, who rode 20” bikes at 3 ½ simply couldn’t get the 12” with training wheels moving! This bike appeared to be a lower quality bike in my opinion, even before he sat on it. My first impressions by simply looking at it cemented my view. The welding was poorly done, the cranks were too long, the wheels and spokes were made out of steel and it was extremely heavy. S’COOL’s kids’ bikes are designed for children and for their abilities. They have light-weight aluminium frames, roll well and are easy to push. As a result the child can solely focus on balancing, riding and having fun. They look forward to getting on their bike, so much so, it’s sometimes impossible to leave the house without their bike (which is the way it should be when you’re growing up). I saw this with my son and with children in our circle whose parents got them S’COOL bikes when we launched. The kids are of different characters and abilities and some of them are more timid than the others, but they all love riding their bikes. The beauty of this is, they last. Our son’s bike will be passed on to our daughter and I have no doubt we will then be able to pass it on to another child as well.

Many factors speak to investing into quality kids’ bikes, just like we invest into other shorter-term items as our children grow such as prams, clothes (that kids sometimes wear only once or not at all), cots or the fit-out of their nurseries and bedrooms. It makes me wonder why people are happy to spend so much on these items, but when it gets to a bike they first shy back?

Brauneck

Lenggries

A bike is a tool to learn balance, i.e. their motor skills develop. It’s fun and gets the kids into exercise (a separate topic to address with childhood obesity and lack of movement becoming an increasing problem affecting kids nowadays). Quality means it lasts and can be re-sold or passed down to other children who are lucky enough to inherit it. As the saying goes, “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap things” so I’d rather save more and pay a little more and not have to replace and repair lower quality products so often (hence I save) and also contribute to protecting the environment, by reducing waste and landfill.

All S’COOL bikes are designed and engineered in Germany and come with a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty.