While a balance bike can easily train your kids about how to make balance and give them a playful outlook, there are various things which you surely keep in mind before buying one.
We have tested and analyzed more than 40 different balance bikes and came up with important factors to consider before making a purchase. All these factors are mentioned below with detail description.
Size the foremost factor to consider while purchasing a balance bike. Usually, these bikes are marketed as one-size fits all. However, it is not true completely. Because same bike doesn’t fit to 18month old and 6year old. Tire size and seat height determine the exact size of the balance bike.
- Wheel Size
Most of the balance bikes come in 12inch or 14inch sizes. 12 inches are by far the most common option. Balance bikes with 14inches option are suitable for older kids and preschoolers. Few models are available with 16inches and 20inches wheels but they are suitable for kids and teens.
- Seat Height
Though wheel size is a good reference point, size of seat also plays and important role to determine which one works best. Balance bikes come in a vast range of height ranges. In order to ride the bicycle properly, your kid’s feet should touch the ground which sitting comfortably on the bike. To choose a balance bike that fits perfectly into the height requirements, the seat has to be at least 1inch to 1.5inch less than kid’s inseam – which is the measurement from crotch to the floor including shoes). The range and 1 and 1.5inch range is usually considered for slight bend in knee.
As kids grow pretty quickly, it is better to consider a balance bike with 2 inches more than your child’s current inseam. The extra inches allow the balance bike suitable for your kids at least 2 or 3 years more.
For example – If your child’s inseam is 16inches, then seat height for the balance bike has be over 14 inches.
Below is a table representing the guidelines of a Balance Bike
Tips to Measure the Child’s Inseam Height
The easy way to measure a kid’s inseam is to do with a hardbound book. Let your kid remove the shoes and stand against the wall. Now, squeeze a book between the legs and gently move the book up until it touches his crotch. Now, level the book to the floor and measure the area between the top and bottom of the book.
Thumb rule to consider when considering this factor is – balance bike should not weigh more than 30% of kid’s weight. For a 2-year old, 10-pound balance can be difficult to move but it can easy for a 3.5year old who weight 35lb.
Simple calculation to determine the right weight is mentioned below…
(child’s weight) x (0.3) = (max bike weight in lbs)
Let’s consider your child’s weight is 25. If you multiply it with 0.3, then the result is the weight you should look for in a balance bike.
So, 25lbs x 0.3 = 7.5lbs.
Main weight of a balance bike usually depends on the frame and wheels. When compared to air tires, foam tires are much easier. High quality yet light weight bikes contain good handbrakes, air tires, true headset and others. This usually increases the cost of the balance bike.
Usually, geometry of a balance bike usually has a great impact on how it performs. Ideal balance bikes have good geometry which helps your kid to balance or move the bike easily. If the you purchase a balance bike with poor geometry then, it can work against them.
In order to determine whether the balance bike you choose has good geometry or not, you have to consider certain factors like
- Wheelbase – Wheelbase is usually considered as the area between the two wheels where they touch the ground. Balance bikes with longer wheelbases are generally easier to balance and stable as well.
- Cockpit – It is the area between the handlebars and seat. A good balance bike has enough cockpit space to lean onto the handlebars while running the bike. If the cockpit area is short, then your kid may not be able to properly lean on the bike. Swept-back handlebars have limited cockpit space. Flat and raised handlebars are also not that great but slightly raised one are the best.
- Fork Angle – Angle of the fork also plays a major role in moving a balance bike. Upright fork decreases the bike’s wheelbase which forces most of the child’s weight to fall on the front wheel. If more weight is falling over front wheel, then it will be hard to steer or balance, especially on uneven surfaces.
- Seat Position – An ideal balance bike usually has less space between the seat and rear tire, especially when it is in the lowest position. If the seat is positioned lower than frame, then it lowers the gravity and makes it easy to balance the bike even at low speeds. Poorly designed bike has less gap between the seat and rear tire which is very difficult to control and balance.
Tires are an important piece of a balance bike. Balance bikes have either one of the balance bile tires – foam and air.
- Foam Tires
There are the most common balance bikes are often cheap, light in weight and made of high quality solid foam which will never go flat. If your kid rides mostly on a pavement and well-maintained roads, then foam tires are the good option. However, if you have uneven roads or if your kid likes adventures, then foam tires are not good. For them, you have to choose air tires. Foam tires are mostly used to create smaller and lower bikes.
- Air Tires
Compared to foam tires, air tires have more traction and cushioning. While riding balance bikes with foam tires, your tires can feel the bumps. However, with air tires, they will feel less impact. Because they provide more traction. They are perfect for on all-terrain surfaces and aggressive riders. Foam tires cannot perform well while taking turns.
Based on the locality you live, choose the tires based on it. Air tires can lead to pinch flat or puncture when run over a nail or piece of glass. To avoid this, you can use sealant which covers any cuts or hole. You can purchase it from any local bike shop.
Depending on the area you live in and the type of terrain the child will be riding, the tread pattern can make a big difference. Choose the relevant tread type to your area to provide the best possible platform for the child to enjoy their riding.
|Feature||Foam Tires||Air Tires|
Mostly, kids use their feet in order to stop the balance bike. In most of the times, hand brakes are pretty optional. However, if it is a requirement, then purchase a bike with hand brakes – they are helpful in preventing any injuries. And it is always better to prepare a child to use brakes.
It is very important for kids between 2.5 to 3.5 years of age as they have enough hand-to eye coordination. Once they master using brakes on balance bikes, your kids can use a regular bike easily. Young kids may not be suitable for applying brakes, but if you want them to use brakes once they become 2 years above age, then you may have to invest in a balance bike with hand brake.
Remember that not all balance bikes are created equal. Some have short-reach bikes – which are suitable for pre-schoolers as they have small hands. These brakes make it easy for tiny hands to use the brake.
Standard size brakes let the kids stretch their hands to reach the lever which may discourage them to use the brake. If you want to test out, then use your pinky finger to apply the bike. This will let you stimulate the same strength of a child. If it was easy to apply break, then it will be easy for your kid as well.
It is very obvious that a balanced bike can’t be used by all age groups of kids (a 6 years old kid can’t sit on the one for 18 months). So, it becomes very important to know about the size and usually, an average size of 55 X 22 X 15 can fit 3-5 years of kids.
7. Weight Holding Capacity
Approximately 30kgs of weight holding capacity can be precisely perfect because kids who are mostly less than 10 years would use it (PS-kids of 2-6 years only use it often). It is important to check whether the quality of the material is sturdy enough because that becomes very important to check the weight holding capacity as well.
The balanced bike should have a wide seat where the kid can easily be seated. As the kids tend to move or lean forward, it is very important if the seat is perfectly designed. If the kid is 2 years old or 3 then going with the one which has 4 wheels could be fine (four wheels balance bike has wider area as compared to two wheels only)
9. Turning Limiters
These are present to prevent the handlebar and wheel to turn 360 degrees. It also prevents sharp turns and maintain the brake cable from twisting. Some people claim that turning limiters will prevent the child from jackknifing. However other claim that this option can prevent young kids from learning how to properly steer while riding at low speeds.
Though there are benefits and drawbacks of turning limiters, it should not be a major aspect while purchasing the balance bike.
They are a common and essential important feature of a footrest. As the name implies, it is the place where your child keeps your feet while riding a balance bike. To glide the balance bike, kids usually use their feet so they may not need foot rests. However, most of the balance bikes come with footrests. A poor footrest can interfere with stride, create imbalance and hurt their calves.
So, it is important to purchase a balance bike that doesn’t hinder the with balance and movement. Make sure to choose a model with non-slip footrests so that your child may not slip. Having good footrests are important to kids who like to ride a balance bike for longer periods of time.
Bears determine how smooth and how fast they can spin. Sealed ones usually come with rubber seal which prevent any dust, dirt or water from entering into a bearing. So, they will experience less friction while the wheels are spinning. So, your child will enjoy the ride much smoothly without adding more pressure on the pedals. Balanced bikes usually have high-end features and quite expensive as well. It is better to choose a balance bike with sealed bearing if it is within your budget.
12. Frame Materials
Balance bikes usually come frames made up of wood, steel, composite material, aluminum materials. Frame material can impact the weight, durability and design of the bike. It also affects the price of the product as well.
- Aluminium– This alloy has major impact on the weight and capacity of a bike. They are light in weight, rust proof and mostly used in high-end models.
- Steel – These are heavyweight frames and kids usually don’t feel much comfortable riding these but the quality of the material is very sturdy in it. They are expensive and prone to rust. Durability is one of the major drawbacks of steel balance bikes. As they are heavy, kids may have to add more pressure while riding. And moreover, it is more prone to rust.
- Plastic frames- These are the most widely used frames in the market because they come with the plastic body made up of eco-friendly, BPA -free ABS plastic (best for durability and sturdiness). Plastic frames are very attractive and widely used ones in balance bikes. This material is mostly used in cheap balance bikes.
- Wooden frames- Well, these are the frames that are made up of mostly plywood. Irrespective of being a little expensive, they provide the best biking experience and training to the kids. These are not widely used in India. They are environmental friendly. They last longer if properly taken care off. They look classic, recyclable, durable, and affordable in price. However, they have limited seat height adjustability.
- Composite- This is a material of glass reinforced nylon composite. Though this frame is light in weight, it has high weight capacity. It doesn’t rust or chips off the paint. However, they can easily be flexed or bent if used by older kids with more weight.
source: RoyalBaby Pony
Though this may seem to be a less important factor, it helps determines the safety of the balance bike. A rubber gripped handle provide better control and protects kids from slipping or falling. All balance bikes come with grips and some of them even have protective bumpers. Make sure to purchase a balance bike with protective bumpers and rubber grips.
The surface and handlebar should be anti-skid so that the kid doesn’t fall off while he is playing with the balance bike. Most kids tend to fall down because of a certain amount of water on the floor or on the surface of the bike.
15. Turning Radius
Turning radius is nothing but the radius which allows the bike to turn (the kid can learn more balancing with this). But, there are various bikes with certain limiters that don’t allow the turning to get close to the frame. Well, this is important as it provides maximum safety to the child.
16. Ease of Installation
The kids should not fall off. Parents should check whether the step off provided in the cycle is easy or not. There are certain bikes that come below the height of the kids and most parents consider it to be the best one.
Your kids are in the growing stage and they require the best products without any compromise. There are better products at an affordable price as well and you can find those at 3500-7000 INR easily.
It is better to choose a model that attracts your kid and gets them excited to use. You can go for a model with their favorite colors and cartoon characters.
Just like any other product, check out the warranty details like – how long it works or how to replace their parts if something has to be repaired. Most of the balance bikes in India come with lifetime warranty.
How to Maintain a Balance Bike Properly?
To improve functionality and longevity of a balance bike, you have to consider some maintenance tips.
- Tires – Make sure the tires are filled with enough pressure. You can check the instructional manual or specifications mentioned by the manufacturer. Make sure to remove any dirt or grit removed. If the tires are not inflated properly, then they will become prone to pinch flats. This may adversely affect the handling and balance.
- Bearings – They are usually present in wheels, handlebars, brakes and seats. In order to prevent them from rust, damage or squeaking, we recommend lubricating them regularly.
- Clean and Dry- Always keep the balance bike dry and clean. If your bike is made up of wood or steel, it is more prone to degradation. If possible, keep the bike indoors once your kid is finished with riding.
Essential Accessories to Have with a Balance Bike
Once you have purchased a balance bike, you have to think about the extra accessories that will keep your kid safe while riding it. We have mentioned them below.
Good quality and properly fitted helmet is very important. Even if your child falls from the bike, it will protect him/her from getting injured. This also encourages them to develop good habit of wearing helmet once they grow up.
2. Knee and Elbow Pads
Though these are not a compulsory accessory, they can still safeguard your kid when they fall or slip. Having such extra security can be very helpful especially if the terrain around your home is uneven.
Benefits of a Balance Bike
- Safety – During your kid’s initial days of learning a balance bike, he/she may lack in confidence. They may not put their feet down instead of pedaling. Your kid has to be comfortable to stand over the bike and walk through the bike with confidence before learning to ride properly.
- Confidence – It provides children to learn the riding at their own pace. It helps to master the basics and gradually progress towards advanced skills.
- Coordination – Riding a balance bike will help to improve the coordination and motor skills which will help them during other facets of life. Riding a balance bike will improve spatial awareness, and improve flexibility, strength and mobility.
- Traffic Rules – Though they are not going to bake them to ride on roads, it will help them learn few basic traffic rules.
- Health – With so many electronic devices at disposal, balance bikes are an opportunity for kids to move their body and play outdoors. It keeps the kids active and also encourages to spend more time playing rather than watching TV or videos.
- Fitness – As kids will stay active in by riding a balance bike, fitness will improve and helps them build a healthy lifestyle. If fitness schedule is started at an early age, then it will become a natural habit for everyone.
- Outdoor Activity – Playing out or having an active schedule keeps children from getting away from TV screens, tablets, and computers. It is one of the best ways to keep them active.
- React to Stimulus – Riding outside will let the children learn to deal with outdoor factors like wind, temperature, rain and others.
Frequently Asked Questions
In order to ride a balance bike, kid has to understand how to balance and be able to push the bike themselves – which is not possible if they can’t walk. They have to comfortably stand over on the bike and place their feet on the ground. This will help them stay in control and balance/stop the bike with their feet.
Never force a kid to ride a balance bike. Let them enjoy the experience and stay optimistic. If you force them, then you can make the kid resent riding and you as well.
Measuring the balance bike isn’t that tough. You just have to see whether your child’s feet can reach the ground in case of a balance bike which doesn’t run on battery. The one which runs on the battery doesn’t require to be measured in terms of height.
It is very easy to train kids over a balance bike as they will just have to pull them or walk while sitting on it. You can just ask them to imitate you which could be through a cycle or even using a normal chair.
Well, it depends on the age as well because if your kid falls under the age group of 2-6 then going for a balance bike would be a nice option. Also, if your kid is above 7 years then going for a normal paddle bicycle would be perfect (you can monitor them while riding it).
Usually, the recommended age for a balance bike is 2-6 years but if the kid wants to use it till he’s 8 years old, he can. Well, it also varies from bike to bike as the manufacturer mentions the minimum and maximum age-group.
Yes, balance bikes are considered safer than tricycles and coaching wheels. The reason behind this is the number of wheels and the extra support like backrest which is given in these balance bikes.
Mostly, the balance bikes come with a short height (which becomes very easy to transport) but it depends on the type of balance bike your kid has. If the balance bike is very easy to assemble and not the replica of real bikes (because it will have many wheels and extra parts in it) then you can easily purchase it.