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  1. #1
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    Skipping balance bikes and training wheels

    Hi all,

    Came across this link when trying to find for tips on teaching my kid to ride a scooter:

    Teaching Kids To Ride

    It's a link to Sheldon Brown's site, and if I read it correctly I think the article is suggesting you can perhaps skip balance bikes and training wheels when teaching a kid to ride a bike.

    The thought actually crossed my mind before when I was having issues in getting my kid to ride on the balance bike. My kid wanted to ride a bike because he'd always try to climb onto bigger bikes and try to pedal them. But it was kind of hard to get him to grasp the concept of balance bikes.

    Since we already have the balance bike, I'm going to stick with the current plan but am keeping an eye out for a decent used 12 inch bike to give this a method a try. The original plan was to start him off with a balance bike then to a 16" bike once he got big enough. And originally planned to skip a 12" bike.

    I still see the value and point in a balance bike. The biggest thing is how low the seat can go to the ground on a balance bike compared to a 12" bike with pedals. So do plan to go the balance bike route again because want to start earlier. But if a kid is the right height, a 12" bike using something like holding the shoulder method may be worth a try.

    Anyways just wanted to pass thing along for those that might be considering balance bikes. Prior to reading this article, I thought the only two options in teaching a kid to ride a bike were training wheels or a balance bike.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmum View Post
    Hi all,

    Came across this link when trying to find for tips on teaching my kid to ride a scooter:

    Teaching Kids To Ride

    It's a link to Sheldon Brown's site, and if I read it correctly I think the article is suggesting you can perhaps skip balance bikes and training wheels when teaching a kid to ride a bike.

    The thought actually crossed my mind before when I was having issues in getting my kid to ride on the balance bike. My kid wanted to ride a bike because he'd always try to climb onto bigger bikes and try to pedal them. But it was kind of hard to get him to grasp the concept of balance bikes.

    Since we already have the balance bike, I'm going to stick with the current plan but am keeping an eye out for a decent used 12 inch bike to give this a method a try. The original plan was to start him off with a balance bike then to a 16" bike once he got big enough. And originally planned to skip a 12" bike.

    I still see the value and point in a balance bike. The biggest thing is how low the seat can go to the ground on a balance bike compared to a 12" bike with pedals. So do plan to go the balance bike route again because want to start earlier. But if a kid is the right height, a 12" bike using something like holding the shoulder method may be worth a try.

    Anyways just wanted to pass thing along for those that might be considering balance bikes. Prior to reading this article, I thought the only two options in teaching a kid to ride a bike were training wheels or a balance bike.
    My personal experiences definitely align with what he says about scooters and undersized bikes for learning,and I'm glad to finally hear from someone else who doesn't think scoot-bikes are really all that (specially when it's coming from somebody as knowledgeble as SB).

    "These are a waste of time and money. You can achieve the same effect simply by unscrewing the pedals from a real bicycle."

    Maybe striders are just the little kid equivalent of fatbikes - something you 'have' to have one now in order to do what everyone has been doing for ages without them. Hmmm....
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  3. #3
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    The thing is about unscrewing the pedals on a real bike is that you don't get any bikes small enough for the average 2 year old (or even younger) to use as a balance bike.

    Ok, it isn't necessary for a toddler to have a bike, but it is very fun, and such a good introduction to cycling. Also my 3 year old still uses his balance bike to do tricks that he won't be able to do for a while on a pedal bike.

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  4. #4
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    I think age, height and athleticism really dictates whats right for each individual kid.

  5. #5
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    My kid was flying on his Strider well before 2 years old. Worth every penny. I also was ok on the occasional off day that I had to carry home a melting down toddler and his 7 pound Strider. I would not have wanted to do that with a bike that weighed any more than 7 pounds...

    No one needs a balance bike for a toddler. We didn't buy a big wheel, tricycle, scooter, or wagon. We bought what fit our family. No judgment on our end. People should buy what fits their family and their budget.

    No kid really needs a bike at any age (as opposed to water or food), but they sure are fun.

  6. #6
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    Skipping balance bikes and training wheels

    the part of SB's article about running w/the child and holding shoulders, not seat or bars is the way to go.
    imho training wheels just used to teach pedaling and just riding. striders are good but unnecessary.
    the hardest part teaching kids bike riding is how to start from a stop position, stopping, and turning. thats where the real training begins

  7. #7
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    Don't Skip Balance Development

    Just wanted to chime in here.

    Full Disclosure - I work for Strider.
    We deal with kids learning to ride bikes every day. We've seen it all, tried it all (including training wheels and tricycles). As Sheldon points out kids only learn balance when they tip from one side to the other, but that scares most kids (including my own son, which led me to Strider).

    What also scares and scars kids is a bike that's too heavy and doesn't fit. Sheldon makes an excellent point when he talks about the Undersized Bike Approach. Smaller bikes are easier, less prone to injuring the child, and much more fun for the child to handle.
    The assumption is that an undersized bike won't fit or function for the child learning. This is the key to balance bikes. They are light, easy to handle, AND they FIT! Especially well designed bikes with highly adjustable saddle and handlebar heights. Purpose built to teach children advanced balance and handling skills, very young, and let them have a blast doing it

    Feet to ground, no training wheels is going to teach bike balance faster and more effectively than any other method. It works for adults and kids alike. It's just a matter of optimizing that method. Balance bikes are the optimization of that method.

    We too absolutely encourage holding the child, NOT the bike.

    When transitioning to that bigger, heavier pedal bike, I highly recommend removing the pedals. Keep the feet on the ground so they feel safe, and they can learn to handle this much heavier bike with confidence. Then add the pedaling in, at 4 - 5 years old learning to pedal is pretty easy.

  8. #8
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    Whether you go with a little strider or other push-bike, or use a small bike with the pedals removed, really just depends on the size and strength of the child - but the push-bikes are available at much smaller sizes if you're starting early. My son got his when he was two, and was coasting down grassy hills with his feet up unassisted before he turned three - I haven't yet seen a pedal-bike that would have been short enough to allow that so there definitely is a market segment for very small push-bikes.

    And to add in one argument I haven't seen mentioned around here yet against the use of training wheels - they teach incorrect steering technique. When I started riding a 600+ pound motorcycle I learned a lot more about steering two-wheeled vehicles than I thought I would - after all I had been riding on two wheels for close to 30 years by that point. Truth is (and its well-known in the motorcycle community), ALL two-wheeled vehicles counter-steer, it just becomes far more important to understand when the weight goes way up. To get this back on-topic - when using training wheels the vehicle steers like a 3 or 4 wheel vehicle - you turn the way you want to go and rely on the outside training wheel to keep you from falling over. But on a two wheel vehicle (except at ridiculously low speeds), you initially steer the opposite direction of where you want to go - the bottom of the bike is then steered out from under you causing you to lean into the corner, and around you go. Putting kids on training-wheels may be ok for teaching them straight-line balance, but then they need to un-learn and re-learn steering all over again when you take the training wheels off. Letting them learn balance and steering all at once (they are very much linked) with their feet down on the ground is the way to go.

  9. #9
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    I removed the crankset and chain from my son's 16" training wheel bike. He balance biked around for about 30-40 minutes. I put the chain back on and he was riding.
    Took all of one day.
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  10. #10
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    The way I look at balance bikes is that they are not just a means to an end, they are a really fun way to play.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ProjectMayhem View Post
    The way I look at balance bikes is that they are not just a means to an end, they are a really fun way to play.
    I had a reply typed out trying to say this and it was really long and made no sense. Then I saw your response which succinctly summarized what I wanted to say so I cancelled mine.

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    I can agree with them being another toy for kids to have fun on, similar to scooters, etc. There has been a major tendency to over-hype their importance as a tool to teach a kid how to ride a real bike though. As NYrr said, most kids will finish learning everything they're going to from a balance bike that will transfer to a real bike in a matter of hours. And just like kids are going to have to 're-learn' how to steer if they're allowed to spend to long using a crutch like training wheels, they're going to have to 're-learn' to get over different habits they picked up from spending too long using a crutch like a push-bike.

    So I guess IMO/E, if the near term goal is to have a strider-rider, then a strider is the way to go. If it's to get a kid up and runing on a real bike, then a real bike is the way to go. Even if it does have training wheels for the first couple tries.
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    There are so many skills a sub 5 year old can pick up on a light balance bike that can't be picked up on a 20 pound pedal bike.

    Don't sell a balance bike short, if it's properly designed and featured (footrests that can be stood on), it's the only complete biking adventure a 3 year old can have. They can ride it anywhere they can walk, over rocks, logs, gravel, grass. Most kids aren't strong enough to pedal up a smooth surface hill, let alone gravel or grass until they are well beyond 6. My daughter is 6, and she's a beast on pedals (if she's on the tag-along I can feel her pushing me forward!), but on her 16", simple diamond framed bike, standing and pedaling, she doesn't get far on our gravel and grass inclines.

    We all stand when we ride to get over obstacles. We have sub 3 year olds standing and riding Striders.
    Manual wheelies, pulling up on the bars to clear bumps, bunny hops.
    Kids at 3 or 4 years old can be very skilled with the proper tool

    We highly encourage parents to set up obstacle courses for their kids, and the kids LOVE it! They are engaged and challenged.

    Our owner's son always learns his tricks on a Strider first, then transfers them to his heavier bikes and motorcycles

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    no one has addressed this. as i mentioned before, getting the child to balance on two wheels is the easy part. seriously. balance bike or no balance bike.

    the HARDEST part of teaching a child to ride a bike is stopping and starting and the MOST important thing when teaching a child to ride is to ALWAYS get up when they fall. I've taught both my kids, two nephews all w/o balance bikes and it took all but a day. my other nephew learned on a balance bike but he was no way ahead than my two kids or other nephews who i taught myself (no balance bike). they ALL had issues with stopping, starting (especially), and turning (they would all favor left or right)

    don't get me wrong, balance bikes are great...if you have the cash,but i do find them a little unnecessary and pricey for something only to be used for a very very short specific period

  15. #15
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    My last kid used her balance bike for 4 summers. I thought it was a great investment. She started riding it the summer she was 2. The end of the summer she was 4 I got her on a crappy 12" and it took her a few minutes and she was pedalling. She continued to use both the pedal bike and the balance bike for the summer she was 5 and the summer she was 6 she was upgraded to a 16".

    She used her 16" for 2 summers. And it cost me 3x what her balance bike cost her that she used for 4 summers. Whether or not she would have learned as easy without the balance bike doesn't really matter to me. She loved it, and used it and it was easier to chase after her on balance bike than it was once she got on a bike with pedals.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkjacobs21 View Post
    There are so many skills a sub 5 year old can pick up on a light balance bike that can't be picked up on a 20 pound pedal bike.

    Don't sell a balance bike short, if it's properly designed and featured (footrests that can be stood on), it's the only complete biking adventure a 3 year old can have. They can ride it anywhere they can walk, over rocks, logs, gravel, grass. Most kids aren't strong enough to pedal up a smooth surface hill, let alone gravel or grass until they are well beyond 6. My daughter is 6, and she's a beast on pedals (if she's on the tag-along I can feel her pushing me forward!), but on her 16", simple diamond framed bike, standing and pedaling, she doesn't get far on our gravel and grass inclines.

    We all stand when we ride to get over obstacles. We have sub 3 year olds standing and riding Striders.
    Manual wheelies, pulling up on the bars to clear bumps, bunny hops.
    Kids at 3 or 4 years old can be very skilled with the proper tool

    We highly encourage parents to set up obstacle courses for their kids, and the kids LOVE it! They are engaged and challenged.

    Our owner's son always learns his tricks on a Strider first, then transfers them to his heavier bikes and motorcycles
    I can see that a kid could definitely pick up those types of handling skills earlier that way; good point. I'm not down on Striders by any means, nothing better than seeing little kids ripping on them at the pumptrack. Kids, wheels, and dirt is a good combo any way you slice it. I just live with a reminder that going the training wheels route for a short time isn't any sort of kiss of death as far as developing good skills at a young age.
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    ok so we have not addressed how the balance bike teaches kids to start, stop and turn WHILE PEDALING to keep speed.

    don't get me wrong, I don't dislike the balance bike and was even thinking of getting one for my son back then but through my own experiences with 4 other kids I really don't think it is that necessary.

    I am sure if you've always used a balance bike you would think they are wonderful, but just saying there are cheaper alternatives which work just as well and lets please address stopping with foot/hand brakes, starting by pushing off, balancing and then pedaling, and turning.

  18. #18
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    The hardest, scariest part of learning to ride a bike is balancing and steering. The balance bike takes care of that part, usually with ease.

    Once a child can balance and steer and handle the bike really well, and when they are 4 or 5 years old, learning all the other stuff is pretty easy.

    Most children that started on a balance bike for a couple years will be much more competent and skilled riders than a 4 or 5 year old that used the "remove pedals" method to learn balance. Again, the concept is valid either way.

    Training wheels don't teach balance, they simply can't.

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    it is the "hardest" because it is the "scariest", but once that is over with (and done relatively fast) in my opinion, its the stopping, starting and turning that becomes the hardest part and longest part to master

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    Quote Originally Posted by gsy971 View Post
    it is the "hardest" because it is the "scariest", but once that is over with (and done relatively fast) in my opinion, its the stopping, starting and turning that becomes the hardest part and longest part to master
    My daughter's balance bike had a hand brake which she started using when she was 3 (nearing 4). So when she started using her 16" pedal bike (which I bought one with a hand brake), she already knew how to brake with it. Starting was one of those things that took her a few tries to get and then she had it. Same with when she moved to her 20" bike and I expect it will be the same with her 24" that's coming in a day or two.

    I will say that my kid never really figured out the coaster brake. Since she was going faster on pedals and the rear hand brake didn't stop her as quick at higher speeds, she'd want to drag the soles of her feet on the ground as well, something she didn't really even do on her balance bike. But ya, never used the coaster brake. What I'll need to work on with her when her new bike comes is using both front and rear brake since this is her first time with a bike that has both.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkjacobs21 View Post
    The hardest, scariest part of learning to ride a bike is balancing and steering. The balance bike takes care of that part, usually with ease.

    Once a child can balance and steer and handle the bike really well, and when they are 4 or 5 years old, learning all the other stuff is pretty easy.

    Most children that started on a balance bike for a couple years will be much more competent and skilled riders than a 4 or 5 year old that used the "remove pedals" method to learn balance. Again, the concept is valid either way.

    Training wheels don't teach balance, they simply can't.
    I guess it's true that neither balance bikes or training wheels can teach them everything. I'm willing to bet that riding a scooter helped my kid pick things up pretty quickly; he was off and pedaling before 4 after a very short training wheel stint, racing BMX and riding lifts with a year (started both with a coaster brake), and discovered he had a knack for air and park riding by 5. I think the kid's actual riding skill development is a lot more about the kid and how much they're into it (and you're into it) than what they play on as a toddler. Mine was getting me to do stuff by 6 that I've seen experienced adult riders shy away from. Still hasn't been able to teach me how to jump worth a damn tho.





    Truthfully, we ride a good amount of places that are popular with younger riders, and I rarely see 5-6-7 year olds that have really good bike handling skills (besides at the BMX track). Most of them seem to gravitate towards the scooters these days.
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    I posted this video here before, but I think it is quite a good illustration of the start that balance bikes give kids. This is my 3 year old, I don't think he would be doing this sort of thing at his age if he hadn't started on a balance bike at a tender age.



    However, I do realise that even though he is well ahead of his peers at this point, some of them who are trundling along with stabilisers at the moment may well surpass his skills at some point.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkjacobs21 View Post
    Most kids aren't strong enough to pedal up a smooth surface hill, let alone gravel or grass until they are well beyond 6.
    This is exactly why my daughter went straight from her balance bike to an electric moto. We live on five acres of sloping land (at 10,000ft no less!) and there's no way she could pedal up hill. She can ride her moto all over our land though. We have a few short steep chutes that are difficult to walk up, but she roosts her way up them.

    Every bike has something to teach a child. Even a tricycle teaches a very important life lesson. FWD sux!
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ProjectMayhem View Post
    I posted this video here before, but I think it is quite a good illustration of the start that balance bikes give kids. This is my 3 year old, I don't think he would be doing this sort of thing at his age if he hadn't started on a balance bike at a tender age.



    However, I do realise that even though he is well ahead of his peers at this point, some of them who are trundling along with stabilisers at the moment may well surpass his skills at some point.
    Wow, amazing for a three year old!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve71 View Post
    Wow, amazing for a three year old!
    yes very very impressive however i beg to differ that the balance bike is what taught your son to do this. it seems as if your son is a little more coordinated and has above average upper body strength for a boy his age. this little bunny hop is done by being able to lift the front end of the bike up so to land even on the ground. not sure how the balance bike taught him that though. albeit, i wish my son at age 7 could do that and make it look so simple. awesome.

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