Balance Bikes: Everything you need to know

Balance bikes are a pretty new phenomenon, so in this blog we want to help clear up a few things and help you understand how AMAZING they are in a balance bikes guide to EVERYTHING you need to know!

The Evolution of Balance Bikes

Balance bikes – also known as “running bikes” have a simple yet ingenious design that dates back over two centuries would you believe?!

Karl Drais invented the first “running bike” for adults in early 19th century with the aim of getting around the royal gardens quicker, while Rolf Mertens launched the first commercially produced “running bike” for children in 1997.

Over the years, balance bikes have evolved but their core purpose remains the same: to build confidence, balance, and coordination in young riders, laying a solid foundation for a lifetime of cycling.

A balance bike has no pedals, gears, or chains. It offers an easy transition from walking to riding, for young children especially. The bike is low to the ground and children sit with their feet touching the ground and propelling themselves forward without help from others. This allows children to develop their skill in balancing and steering the bike before adding the need to accomplish the pedal action.

Why Balance Bikes Are Brilliant

At Cycle 360, we’ve seen firsthand the incredible benefits balance bikes offer to children. Here’s why they’re so brilliant:

  • Builds Balance and Coordination: Without pedals, children learn to maintain balance on two wheels, improving their coordination and motor skills.
  • Boosts Confidence: Starting on a balance bike removes the fear of falling, allowing kids to gain confidence at their own pace.
  • Seamless Transition to Pedal Bikes: Children who start on balance bikes typically find the transition to pedal bikes smoother and quicker, as they’ve already mastered balancing.
  • Fun and Exercise: Balance bikes provide a fun way for kids to get outdoors and stay active, promoting a healthy lifestyle and the freedom of cycling, from a young age.

Top Tips for Transitioning to Pedal Bikes

Transitioning from a balance bike to a pedal bike is a significant milestone, but how do you know when your child is ready to transition to a pedal bike?

Most adults will put an age on this milestone, but we think it’s down to two things:

  1. They’ve mastered a balance bike
  2. They have good hand/eye coordination and are developmentally ready.

So, what does mastering a balance bike look like?

Mastering a balance bike goes beyond just riding along the prom. A master balance bike rider can ride for long distances and on various terrains. Observe your child and see if they commonly display these skills:

  • Riding up and down a curb or ramp
  • Riding for over a mile
  • Zig-zagging their way through cones or weaving in and out of obstacles
  • Shift their weight in and out of a turn
  • Lean forward or back while going up or down a hill

The greater mastery a child has of these skills while on a balance bike, the easier and less stressful the transition to a pedal bike will be.

And how do you know if they are developmentally ready?

Pedalling a bike while steering and maintaining balance can be a triple threat for even the most confident balance bike riders.  We’ve seen many 3 and 4-year-old balance bike masters who, while coordinated on a balance bike, simply didn’t have enough coordination to pedal a bike while balancing too.

That said, when your child is developmentally ready, they will learn to pedal. You can’t rush a child’s development. It’s usually the parents that need patience, rather than the child!

Top tips to make the process as smooth as possible:

  1. Wait for Readiness: Transition when your child shows confidence in balancing and expresses interest in pedal bikes.
  2. Choose the Right Bike: Ensure the pedal bike is the correct size. Your child should be able to touch the ground with both feet when sitting on the saddle. At Cycle 360, we’ll do all of this bit with you.
  3. Remove Pedals Initially: We can consider removing the pedals initially for the child and lowering the seat, allowing your child to use the bike as a balance bike to get used to the size and feel.
  4. Introduce Pedals Slowly: Once comfortable, we can reattach the pedals and help them practice pedalling while supporting them. Encourage them to look ahead and not at their feet.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice: Find a safe, flat area for your child to practice starting, stopping, and turning. Patience and encouragement are super key!
  6. Safety First: Always ensure your child wears a helmet and protective gear. Safety should always be the top priority.

We understand as your local bikeshop and cycling experts the importance of choosing the right bike for your child’s developmental stage. Balance bikes are not just a tool for learning; they’re the foundation of a lifelong cycling journey and finding freedom on two wheels.  With our selection of balance bikes from Frog Bikes, Early Rider, and Specialized, and our expert advice, we’re here to support you and your child every pedal of the way 😉 – see what we did there?!

Remember, the transition to pedal bikes is a journey filled with exciting milestones!

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Bikeshop opening hours

Monday – Friday: 8am – 5pm
Saturday: 9am – 4pm
Sunday*: closed (cafe open only)
Bank holidays: 10am – 4pm.

*winter schedule

Cafe opening hours

Monday – Friday: 8am – 5pm
Saturday: 9am – 4pm
Sunday: 10am – 4pm
Bank holidays: 10am – 4pm.