When you look at any balance bike website on the web (including our website), you will more than likely see two different types of balance bikes: those made from wooden products and those made from metal. So what are the differences? Is one better than the other? We hope this article helps to address some of these questions.
For the most part this type of bike is made out of birch wood. Birch wood is the preferred choice since they are renewable, and reusable resources. Should you end up throwing your bike away into the dump, the wood used to build the bike can be re-purposed and used for something else. Additionally, most balance bike companies turn to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to obtain an certification for their wood. The certification indicates that the wood used by the company was harvested through environmentally friendly methods. An FSC certified frame is often an attractive feature for eco-conscious consumers.
Most you’ll find are also finished with a layer of lacquer veneer which helps to protect the wood from the elements like rocks, mud, rain, etc. It is not completely effective in preventing the wood from rot or warping but does a solid job. In addition although there are some that are water and weather proof, they are more susceptible to terrible weather and should be stored inside at all times for longevity.
Wooden ones tend to allow for more weight but are a bit heavier than their metal counterparts. They are also less adjustable and tend not to provide as many different height ranges. Some people also enjoy the old school toy-look. They sort of provide a sense of nostalgia by using the lightly stained wood. In terms of price they are not necessarily cheaper than their steel framed counterparts.
Metal balance bikes are constructed out of either steel, or aluminum frames. As opposed to wooden versions, those made from this material typically have a greater lifespan as they are more durable and adaptable. So instead of having to use multiple versions for different age ranges, these ones normally offer great height adjustments to allow the bike to grow with you.
In terms of weight, these models tend to feel lighter in weight and just feel slightly easier to move around. They are also less susceptible to the harsh treatment from mother nature. For instance if the bike was left outside during a rain storm, most people would feel more confident knowing that it was made from metal instead of wood. Another often not thought about advantage that they offer is that they tend to be more innovative. Many companies such as FirstBIKE use special technology to create flexible frames that are better at absorbing shock. As a result of the bike’s durability and better ability absorb shock, they are well suited for the adventurous, and more experienced bicycle riders.
Like the wooden version, metal bikes tend to fluctuate in price point as well. Some are expensive while other are a bit cheaper. It largely depends on the quality of the material in the frame and additional features or customizations that the bike allows. If you want to learn more, this thread posted on a popular parenting forum offers more insight from regular parents.