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10 things you need to know before buying a balance bike for your toddler
Buying a balance bike for your child is a big decision. It’s probably their first bike and you want to make the right choice. There are so many makes and models available it can be rather bewildering. The age, height and physical maturity of your child, your budget and how much use it will get will help you decide which balance bike is right for your child. To help you though the decision making process, here are a few questions you’ll want to think about before you buy a balance bike.
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10 things you need to know before buying a balance bike for your toddler
1) Are they big enough to ride the bike?
It is important that your child can get both their feet flat on the floor to “scoot” along, so don’t be tempted to buy one for them to grow into.
The most common size balance bikes come with 12″ wheels, and need an inside measurement of approx. 32cm.
However as balance bikes are all different, do make sure you measure your child’s inside leg length, or get them to stand over the frame before you buy.
To measure their inside leg stand them against the wall and slide a book between their legs and move up gently until it can’t go any further. Mark where the bottom of the book is then once they’ve moved you can replace the book on the mark you’ve made and work out their inside leg measurement.
If they’re not big enough, or don’t have the co-ordination, for a balance bike then consider a pre-balance bike – there’s a lot of options listed in this post on bikes for a 1 or 2 year old
2) Do they need a bigger balance bike?
Whilst most balance bikes come with a 12″ wheel, there are a few manufacturers making 14″ wheel and larger balance bikes for taller and older children who aren’t ready to move onto a pedal bike. See our article on Big Balance Bikes for Taller Children for a full selection.
Another alternative is the new range of “growing” bikes from Black Mountain. which convert from balance bikes to pedal bikes, and are available in wheel sizes 14″ through to 20″.
3) Do you need brakes on a balance bike?
Not all models of balance bike come equipped with brakes. Whilst this can be off-putting to some parents, it should be remembered that a 2 year old is unlikely to have the co-ordination and response times to use brakes if fitted.
With balance bikes it is the feet that generate the momentum, and they are also the main tool used for braking.
Brakes will obviously add cost to the bike, but some parents like their child to get the feeling of using a brake before moving onto a pedal bike.
4) How heavy is the balance bike?
Very heavy steel balance bikes can be difficult for young children. Your little one needs to be able to hold the bike up by themselves and propel it along. They need to be able to pick it up when they’ve left it on the ground. You need to be able to carry it when they’ve had enough and decide to walk, or get back in the buggy / bike trailer / cargo bike.
The lighter the balance bike, the better, is the general rule to follow.
5) Where and how often will you be using the balance bike?
If you’re going to be using the balance bike on a daily basis, or on off road terrain, then the quality of the frame and components plus type of tyre are going to be very important to you. Cheaper balance bikes often have components that will rust if used in the rain and are heavy to ride / carry.
6) What is the balance bike constructed from?
There are balance bike models on the market made from metal, plastic or wood so there really is something to suit all requirements and budgets. As with all kids bikes you do get what you pay for in terms of quality. More expensive balance bikes tend to have lightweight aluminium frames and come fitted with pneumatic tyres because these are more comfortable than solid plastic tyres, especially if your going over bumpy ground. However, the trade off is that you do run the risk of getting a puncture, although tyres and inner tubes are more robustly made these day, so this doesn’t tend to happen very often.
7) Would you rather own or rent a balance bike?
We’re all getting increasingly uncomfortable with living in a throwaway culture, and balance bikes are one of those things that children grown out of rather quickly. Thankfully you don’t have to add to the mountain of waste as it’s now possible to lease a balance bike through The Bike Club.
If you’ve not heard of them yet, then they’re a subscription service where you pay a monthly fee in return for the use of one of their quality kids bikes. When your child outgrows it, you send it back and upgrade to the next size.
They’re now stocking a range of premium balance bikes, including Strider, Squish and Frog Bikes, meaning your child can enjoy the benefits of a quality balance bike, without the upfront cost (or the environmental impact of yet another purchase).
8) How important is the styling to you?
Balance bike design has improved significantly over the past few years, and now there are some very desirable looking balance bikes available if you’ve got the budget, such as this Hornit AIRO balance bike – one of the lightest balance bikes around.
9) Will the balance bike seat grow with your child?
Most balance bikes have a standard seat and post arrangement enabling changes in height to be performed quickly and easily. On some models handlebars can be lowered or raised to take account of child size and get them comfortable for the fun ahead. Check manufacturers guidance to confirm what can or cannot be adjusted.
10) How much do you want to pay for a balance bike?
This is probably going to be one of the most important factors when buying a balance bike. If you want to avoid the upfront cost and still get a
Prices range from around £40 up to over £400, depending on the size and quality of the bike you’re buying. The most popular in the cheaper range of bikes is the Chicco Bullet Balance Bike (RRP £34.99).
Puky Balance Bikes got the most thumbs up from parents in our recent balance bike poll and come in at between £56 and £170 depending on the model you choose.
The quality kids bike brands all tend to do a balance bike and cost £100 plus. Options include the Frog Tadpole, Islabikes Rothan, Wiggins Pau, and the Hoy Napier. For this you can expect to get lightweight frames, brakes and pneumatic tyres.
The Black Mountain Bikes are £330, but they also convert into two sizes of pedal bikes, which means they’re actually good value for money over the longer term.
So, there you have it – 10 questions to ask yourself before buying a balance bike. Whichever bike you choose, I’m sure the lucky young rider will have a fabulous time getting up some speed. I’d love to hear how you got on, so do get let me know via Facebook, or share your photos on Instagram using #cyclesprog.
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You may find these other articles useful:
- Choosing the best balance bike for your child (a closer look at the makes and models available)
- The best balance bikes as recommended by parents
- Big balance bikes for taller children
- Black Mountain – a bike that grows with your child
- The best bike for a 1 year old
- Toddlebike review – a pre balance bike for under 3’s
- What is a balance bike?
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