What are balance bikes?
Balance bikes are small, lightweight pedal-free bikes carefully adapted to small hands and bodies making them ideal for first-time riders as young as 18 months old.
Initially, children learn to sit on the balance bike and push themselves along with their feet, using their body weight to control and steer the bike. Once confident, the next step is to gradually push and glide – lifting feet off the floor to make the most of the momentum.
Balance bikes are taking over from stabilisers as the preferred way to teach children how to balance on two wheels. They very quickly teach children the skills needed to transition to a regular bike, without the need for stabilisers. It usually only takes around two years to graduate from a balance bike to a regular bike.
Reasons to love the balance bike
- They glide easily over rocks, jumps and curbs and can handle the most uneven surfaces with ease
- Balance bikes are safer than tricycles and stabilisers because the child is concentrating on balancing as opposed to pedalling
- Feet are used for braking and steering, which gives them greater control and confidence
- Balance bikes are better for longer distances – toddlers can travel so much further on a balance bike
- They’re lightweight and can be carried and transported very easily when not in use
- Balance bikes are simply brilliant fun – they’re a fabulous way to get kids exercising
What’s wrong with stabilisers?
Isla Rowntree, founder of Islabikes, tells us that “stabilisers are not actually a great way to learn to ride. A bicycle steers by leaning, you lean it to the right and the handlebars fall to the right, you lean it to the left and they fall to the left. Stabilisers hold the bike in a rigid, upright position – so when a child learns to steer with stabilisers on the bike, they’re actually learning to steer a tricycle.”
“Instead of learning to steer by leaning, they learn to steer by turning the handlebars, and pushing their bodyweight away from the bike, to stop it toppling over. When they come to ride without the stabilisers, they’ve then got to un-learn what they’ve been doing and learn something different.”
Recommendation: The Rothan Islabike
The ultimate in balance bikes for toddlers has to be the Rothan, by Islabikes. Cycling Weekly gave this bike a perfect ten on review, calling it the ‘marker of how to build a kid’s first bike’ – high praise indeed.
The Rothan’s perfectly proportioned frame is made from aluminium and is incredibly lightweight, weighing in at just 3.2kg. The lightweight aluminium frame and smooth rolling 12 inch pneumatic tyres (puncture resistant, of course!) makes the Rothan balance bike super-easy for toddlers to use and manoeuvre. The Rothan is easy to transport and no trouble at all for parents to pick up and carry once the little ones have had their fun.
The Rothan’s micro-reach brake lever is perfect for little hands, and provides only a light braking action. The scooped saddle is seriously comfy and very clever in keeping a toddler’s bottom centred. The rounded allen key bolt through the wheel axle is there to prevent injury in the event of a fall.
The Rothan is available in four bold colours suitable for every little learner.
A top tip to remember
Buying the correct size bike is key: think about the seat height and the adjustability of the bike to ensure enough room for growth. The Rothan is perfect for toddlers with a 30cm inside leg upwards.