If you told us that our daughter would learn to ride a bike without training wheels long before she turned 3, we never would have believed it. Thanks to a tip from family, we learned about balance bikes and never looked back. If you want to give it a try, we’d say go for it! Each child is different, but here are some tips that worked for us.
We gave Marti a balance bike for her second birthday. She could barely touch the ground as she wobbled around on it. We’ve heard of people starting even earlier, basically if kids can walk, they can start using a balance bike. Biggest barrier is finding a bike that has a low enough seat so they can get started early.
We used a balance bike from the beginning. We never used training wheels. Balance bikes teach balance from the beginning instead of waiting until the end like training wheels, making it a safer and more effective way to learn to ride. We started with a wooden Prince Lionheart balance bike with a seat/saddle height at 14”. Our exact model isn’t made anymore, but this model is similar. This was great for her at 2 years. When she got a little taller, we switched to a Guardian Bikes 14” that had a seat height starting at 16” and had the option to add pedals. This bike was lightweight and had a single hand brake which made braking easier. We also liked the band brakes because they offered the opportunity for back pedaling (unlike pedal/coaster brakes). We would have used this bike from the beginning, but unfortunately she wasn’t quite tall enough on her second birthday so we had to use the wooden one first. If your kiddo is a little taller, we’d vote to just go with the Guardian bike since it is both a balance and pedal bike in one.
There are a lot of balance bikes on the market. Some key things to consider when looking at balance bikes:
🚲 Buy a balance bike that can convert to a pedal bike so you don’t have to buy another bike when they are ready to try pedaling (believe it or not, not all balance bikes are made with the ability to add pedals).
🚲 Look for a lightweight but durable frame. Lighter bikes are easier to kids to control.
🚲Avoid pedal/coaster or two-lever hand brakes. We noticed that as Marti was learning to pedal, she often backpedaled. With coaster/pedal brakes, backpedaling would have engaged the brake, causing unexpected stops and loss of progress. Two-lever hand brakes can be hard for younger kids to operate. Her bike has one simple, yet effective SureStop hand brake.
Initially we walked behind helping to hold up the bike until she figured out how to manage it herself. Once she leaned how to sit and walk on it, she gained speed until she was running, and eventually gliding. When she could lift her feet for about 15 seconds we added pedals. We had her practice pedaling on a makeshift trainer made out of a wood block to raise the rear tire off the ground. Once she got the hang of that, we set her free and off she went!
From her first balance bike to riding independently it was about 9 months. We dedicated time to practicing as she showed interest. We went through phases of riding every day and then went periods of time without riding at all.
We picked a few fun helmet to ensure she would always want to wear it. Marti has a Little Nutty from Nutcase. Sowewent20% saves 20% at checkout, even on sale! We added a old shower caddy basket with some zip ties so she could bring along her favorite stuffed animal. We also popped on a bike cup holder for her water bottle, and a bell.
This process worked for Marti. Each child is different, so we share to give ideas. Hope this helps to get you and your kiddo started! Happy riding!