What is a Balance bike and how it compares to a pedal bike?

comparison pedal vs balance bike

Balance Bike popularity is growing around the world, so “what is a balance bike?” and “what is the difference between a balance bike and an ordinary bike.”

A lot of people will still not have heard about balance bikes. Far from surprising when you see the vast array of children’s bicycles still fitted with stabilisers available.

  • The obvious first difference is that a balance bike has no pedals.

It is a very simple design, which has removed all the unnecessary parts of a bike that adds additional weight and can confuse a child.

So the pedals are gone, and the crank and chain are not present. All that remains is a strong durable frame, two wheels, and a handlebar with nothing complicated in between them. The child will still be stable as they have four points touching the ground; two wheels and two feet.

By removing things that confuse a child, such as brakes, and pedals, a bike with no pedals is far lighter than traditional bikes and hence allows younger children to manage them safely.

Children start by simply walking the bike along. Often, they won’t find the saddle to sit down on for a few days, so don’t worry! Then, when they do sit down, they will start moving it along quicker and learning balance is intuitive. They are learning to balance and ride a bike without realising it.

Our lightest bike is 2.9 k.g for good reason. Beware of models heavier than 3.5 kg – they are simply too heavy for toddlers.

  • Things to watch out for when buying a balance bike – If a bike doesn’t state its weight – AVOID!

A good quality bike will normally be made of a strong alloy rather than wood, as some cheap wooden balance bikes can warp in the rain or break under strain.

It is important to check that seat height can adjust in any increment to ensure that it fits your child correctly at all times.

A suitable bike for toddlers and young children will allow you to adjust the seat position and handlebar angle/reach to suit your child as they grow. We cover this in more depth in Choosing the best balance bike for your child

We all know how varied leg length and height can be in children so finding the most adjustable one you can find is important for this reason.

Another important feature of the balance bike is a footrest. When you think about how you ride a bike; you take the bumps you go over in your legs not with your feet in the air.

Make sure your balance bike has somewhere to put feet to mimic the pedals for later.

Why not a pedal bike with stabilisers?

A pedal bike with training wheels/stabilisers will not help your child learn to ride a bike. They are heavy for a child as they need to be bigger than a balance bike and the additional brakes, drivetrain and cranks all add significant weight. Bikes fitted with support training wheels make the child’s centre of gravity far higher than necessary and are scary when falling over.  Pedal Bikes with stabilisers teach a child to pedal a bike whilst rocking precariously from one side to another. It is impossible to get both touching the ground simultaneously as pavements are rarely flat smooth surfaces.

As soon as they are removed, then you are back to square one and have to learn to balance still.

They still provide exercise and fun but compare that to a balance bike.

How does a balance bike work?

Riding a bike requires coordination and includes pedalling, balancing steering, and braking. That is a lot of skills to learn for a toddler, so children gain confidence quicker by concentrating on the skill “balance” first, as that is the hardest skill to learn. Balance bikes are a much better way to learn to ride a bike, as they focus on only balance and steering first; the two most essential skills to master to get cycling.

Lighter Bikes improve confidence. When you are small and light, the bike must be in proportion to what you can comfortably handle.  Balance Bikes need to be super light; even the smallest child can lift the bike and move it around easily. It improves confidence as the child can walk their balance bike along independently, and they relish their newfound sense of freedom.

The toddler sets the speed. With both feet on the floor, the child will walk the bike along at their speed. As they don’t have to concern themselves with brakes and pedals, they learn to control their speed from Day 1 and as confidence and balance improve, they will start getting quicker.

They can stop when they wish to! Balance bikes brake by the child placing their feet back on the floor, which is good instinctive behaviour. After all, if your brakes fail as an adult, that is exactly what you would do. That feeling of being able to control what they are doing is an important one as prevents tantrums. No wonder toddlers strapped into pushchairs throw a wobble now and again, as they have no say in what they are doing and are not getting any exercise. Use a balance bike; the whole experience is much safer, and the child (and you) feels happier.

Once the child has learned balance, they focus on their coordination, turns, and positioning. There are many benefits to using balance bikes!

We guarantee that your child will quickly progress, needing a bike with pedals. You will never need stabilisers!

For ideas on how to make it fun, we have compiled some simple game ideas too. Some ideas on Top Tips on How To Ride A Balance Bike.


General - March 11, 2022
Written by Karen Wood

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