Parents in Europe have used balance or run bikes to train their young children to ride a bike for more than a decade. They have discovered that balance bikes are the safest and fastest way to train their kids to ride without tip-overs and the heavy drag of training wheels which do not train a child to balance on two wheels at all. If anything, training wheels give a false sense of security to children and can be a put-off because of the amount of effort (heavy) needed to pedal with the drag of the training wheels and the slow speed of movement despite the efforts.
My 2.5 year old son was greatly discouraged by his training-wheel bike because it was too heavy to move and when it did move, it moved so slowly compared to his German neighbor who was whizzing about in his run bike like a breeze.
After his switch to a balance bike, my son felt proud of himself that he could move very quickly on two wheels, and soon he became a confident rider who loved cycling. Balance bikes allow very young kids to pick up and develop their motor skills in a safe way, building their confidence and self-esteem and providing loads of outdoor fun and exercise.
The balance bike method of learning to ride is gaining popularity in the USA and more slowly, in Asia. Enlightened parents, preschools and bike shops are now trying to encourage their young children to pick up cycling using this tried-and-tested way of training kids to ride.
It is well known that children who start learning to ride with a balance bike end up on two wheel pedal bikes by around 4 to 5 years old, faster than those who use training wheels who transit (or more like learn how to balance and to let go of reliance on their training wheels) at around age 6 or 7 or never because they are too scared.
The transition between balance bikes to two wheel pedal bike is smooth and fast. You can see this video of my son doing the transition right after his he turned 5. We made a mistake of trying to get him to transit using a 16” bike at first, which was a little too tall for him (he had to stand on tip toe to support himself on the ground and didn’t feel confident although he could ride it). He found it easier to transit using a small light bike like his old 12” pedal bike and once he got the hang of pedaling, he transited very quickly to a 16” two-wheel pedal bike.
In summary, parents should teach their young children to ride using a balance bike because:
- Safest way to learn to balance, no tip-overs caused by training wheels
- Training wheels are wobbly and heavy
- Training wheels are more like a crutch and do not train a child the skill of balancing on 2 wheels.
- Children increase their self esteem when they can run and balance on a balance bike
- Children learn to love cycling because they achieve a sense of freedom riding fast and confidence
- Children improve their motor skills
- Tried and tested method used in Europe for over a decade
- Loads of outdoor fun, entertainment and exercise.