There are many wooden balance bikes in the market, but the Early Rider Balance Bike is perhaps one of the better models in terms of quality when compared to others
Weighing in at 7 pounds, it is one of the lightest when compared to most wooden options. It can carry a maximum weight of 100 to 125 pounds, which is a high number for a wooden construction.
The Early Rider Lite is more expensive than most wooden and metal models – available between $145 to $160 but with its stylish design, versatile features, waterproof wood quality, excellent and comfortable riding performance, it may just be worth those additional price. It is suitable for children as young as twenty months, and as old as 5 years old therefore as long as it is cared for properly it should last quite a few years. The company itself is a bike manufacturing company based out of Henley on Thames, United Kingdom and are well known for their innovative and quality designs especially for early bikers.
In the next sections that follow we look at some of the main features included.
The bike is built using FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified birch wood. The FSC certifies companies who practice sustainable forestry. The use of birch wood is already an eco-friendly feature, but an FSC certification ensures that the wood was extracted using environmentally friendly methods. Unfortunately wooden versions are susceptible to wood rot and warping. So why do companies continue to use wood if it isn’t durable? Since birch wood is light weight, this makes it easier to carry and handle by parents, and especially, children. Most companies that make wooden models use a non-toxic lacquer finish to give the wood some type of protection. However this models goes a step further and incorporates water and weatherproof birch wood.
Although, proper maintenance and care still need to be performed during the living expectancy, parents don’t need to worry as much if it gets left outside.
Adjustability and Adaptability
Generally, a good balance bike is one that offers the rider flexibility in that it can be adjusted to accommodate the size, or riding habits of that child. Most wooden bikes such as the Smart Gear Classic, Diggin Active Skuut, and the Prince Lionheart are more limited in their ability to adapt. In those three models, the seat is the only adjustable piece. This is where it steps above those other models.
- Seat – The seat post is adjustable, with a minimum height of 11.6 inches and a maximum height of 15 inches. The lower range of the seat should be low enough to accommodate a 20-month old. Additionally an extendable post can be purchased separately if the child requires a seat height above 15 inches. The option of purchasing an extendable seat makes the Early Rider Lite accessible to older children. In the aforementioned wooden bike models, no separate extendable post is available.
- Handlebars – The handlebar reach is also adjustable. It has a 2 inch laminated riser.
- Steering Turning Limiter – In many balance bikes, the turning limiter is a beneficial feature for concerned parents. Particularly for younger children, who are still learning to steer and balance, the steering limiter prevents it from jackknifing and crashing. Although the limiter is a good safety feature, it eventually becomes a hindrance to the more experienced biker. In several of the other wooden bike models, this limiter is non-removable. However it provides the user both options: limiting its turning ability, or removing the limiter for unrestricted steering.
Bolts are another characteristic seen on wooden bakes. They are used to keep the bike together, and may need re-tightening using an allen wrench, once in a while. It has recessed bolts, thus keeping children safe from scratches.
- Tires and Wheels – 12” pneumatic rubber tires. Standard tires used are the “Fat-Boy” tires which provide the rider a comfortable ride even on non-paved surfaces. The hubs are sealed ball bearings which make the wheels spin smoother and faster. The wheels of the Early Rider Lite are spoked alloy rims which help by adding weight and stability to the bike. One could even argue that the spokes on the balance bikes pose a safety concern to parents in that a child’s foot may get caught in between the spokes and trip.
- Hand grips and seat pads – Made of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam which is soft for children’s hands to hold on to, but not the greatest for providing a proper grip around the handlebars. The seat pads are embroidered faux leather, containing non-toxic phthalates. The seat padding may end up cracking in time, but with proper maintenance (i.e. using a little leather polish for protection) cracking should not be a problem.
- Water and Weatherproof Birch Wood – Finally, a wooden bike that can withstand some of nature’s elements! Several other wooden bikes are merely protected with a lacquer veneer finish, but this is not usually enough to keep the wood from warping or rotting. This model is made with a marine grade birch wood which gives both parent and child ease of mind.
- Adaptability – With the option of using an extendable seat post, this model ensures that more than one child in the family can make use of this balance bike. Many other wooden bikes do not have extendable seat posts available for purchase. Furthermore, the adjustability of the handlebars and the option of switching the steering from restricted to unrestricted are further benefits.
- Environmentally Friendly – The birch wood is a reusable resource which is why many eco-friendly companies turn to it. The Early Rider Lite goes one step over and acquires an FSC-certified birch wood, which ensures that it was taken using proper methods in sustainable forestry.
- Lightweight – Weighing a mere 7 pounds, it is the lightest among the wooden balance bikes. As a result, it is easily handled by children as young as twenty months.
- Foam Handgrips – Unlike top level grips, the foam grips included weren’t the strong reviewed.
- Price – Coming in at a price between $140 and $160, the Early Rider Lite is higher priced than other wooden balance bikes that can sometimes be found between $60 and $100.
- No footrests or brakes – The Early Rider Lite does not provide the option of using footrests or brakes, which some parents and bikers find convenient. However, this con is common among many balance bikes as they are usually considered a safety concern.
The Early Rider is a nicely designed bike that possesses many versatile and great features that its other wooden competitors do not. Its marine-grade quality wood makes it more durable than the Smart Gear Classic, or Diggin Active Skuut. It provides the option of adjusting several of its parts to accommodate change. That alone is an added benefit to parents who wish to use the for more than 1 child. Even though the bike is a little more expensive, the consumer should receive more value and quality for the money. So, not only does the Early Rider Lite deliver on its purpose (i.e. helps develop the child’s balance and biking skills) but it is also durable and innovative.