Balance bikes are the newest innovation used to teach children to ride a bike. They are meant to be transitional in that they prepare the rider for regular bikes by teaching them how to stabilize themselves and steer first.
However, with more and more options and modifications being made, they are quickly gaining steam and allow for the rider to grow with the bike. Depending on the age of the child, the bike could get quite a bit of use over the years!
This article aims to help provide consumers with the necessary info to buy the right balance bike. As there are so many models now its no wonder there is quite a bit of consumer confusion. This article will look at distinguishable features of a balance bike, look at some well-known brands in the market, and what to consider before buying one.
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What to consider before purchasing
The wise and savvy consumer, typically the parent, should determine the purpose for purchasing a balance bike. In no particular order things to consider are:
Who is it for?
Bikes are available for toddlers as young as 18 months. If the toddler is capable of walking steadily on her own, then he or she should be able to give it a try. On the other side, there are some models that are built to withstand children as old as 6. In general there are more options available for older children, therefore determining the age of the rider can help the parent narrow down their search.
Where will it be used?
Not all models are made to handle off-road riding. Some are better suited for indoor, or paved surfaces while others can handle the rougher terrain like gravel, and mud surfaces. Although, much of the performance depends on the tires installed, the frame and construction also plays a big role. In most cases wooden models are better suited for indoor settings, and paved surfaces. Due to their construction, they are not as durable as metal framed versions.
All consumers want their purchase to last a long time. But like anything some models have a longer shelf like than others. As a consumer, make sure to look at the construction to determine how much quality has been placed into the frame, tires, etc.
What is the parent willing to spend?
Regardless of whether you want wooden or metal, the price range from as low as fifty dollars, to as high as 300 dollars. Generally, however, a decent bike that still allows room for adjustments can be had for 100 dollars. Families need to determine how much they are willing to spend to ensure that the bike just doesn’t sit in the garage and not be used.
Wood or Metal
In general, consumers can choose between wooden and metal constructions. Wooden models are considered the more eco-friendly option because they are normally constructed using birch wood – a renewable and reusable resource. Birch wood is the main wood of choice because as it is light and strong enough to sustain a maximum weight capacity of 75 pounds. When purchasing this type check to see if the wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). An FSC certification indicates that the company used environmentally friendly methods to obtain the wood. Another tip when considering wooden frames is to check if the wood is finished with a water, or other weather proofing. One of the top wooden models available right now is the Skuut which has been positively reviewed by many people.
Metal versions on the other hand use steel, or aluminum material that are welded together. As a result, they tend to be more durable and adaptable to the needs of the rider.
No pedals, Crank sets or Chains
This new style of bicycle is also referred to as non-pedaled bikes due to their absence of pedals. This allows the child to concentrate more on using their legs further increasing their balance and steering skills. They also do not include crank sets, or chains, which is often a big safety issue for new riders.
Most of the time, they come standard with two types of tires: foam or pneumatic. Foam tires are popular because they are maintenance free. They are puncture-free (which means no constant air pumping, and less likelihood of purchasing a new set). Pneumatic tires on the other hand are the conventional air tires found in most. They need pumping every once in a while and rend to provide more flex and help in absorbing shock. Foam tires are not as flexible and have less traction on non-paved surface. If purchasing a balance bike, check what type of tires come standard, and ask if the tires are changeable. This resource provides more information on the different types of bike tires.
The overall weight of a balance bike can range from a low as 6.5 pounds all the way to the heaviest around 11 pounds. Like most things the lighter the weight the easier it is for a younger toddler to handle. Wooden bikes tend to be heavier while metal are lighter.
Footrests and Brakes
The majority do not come with footrests or brakes. The consumer does have the option of purchasing these separately, and installing them afterwards. Some companies provide two separate models (one with a footrest and brake already installed, another without either features). Additionally, some come with a patented footrest. The footrests and brakes are not made standard since riders have differing views on them. They are either safety hazards, or benefits.