The history of the bicycle is one that has been shrouded in mystery, propelled by ingenuity, occasionally tripped up by the popularity of bad ideas, and once again pushed forward by intuitive developments. In the same way that some suggest that the Penny Farthing Bicycle may have held back progress to the development of the modern bicycle by around a decade, the use of training wheels has been holding back the developmental skills of children for the better part of a century. Once again a new revolution in biking technology is coming to the forefront of the marketplace to correct the old training wheel paradigm.
Surprisingly, while in a sense balance bikes for toddlers, also referred to as glide bikes by some, although being a new concept for teaching the skill of bike riding to children are not necessarily a new invention. Sure, they may seem like the newest unneeded appendage grown out of modern materialism, but it isn’t really anything of the sort. It’s actually much more like the old adage that there is nothing new under the sun.
The glide bike can trace its historical parentage to the very first (in terms of agreed documentation) bike ever created. This bike was known as the Laumaschine (Running Machine), more commonly referred to as the Hobby Horse in the English speaking world, and was invented by, one brave advocate of modern democracy, Baron Karl Von Drais in 1817. As a side note, there are some huge physical differences to the glide bike as compared to the hobby horse. Comparatively, balance bikes for toddlers have more in common with a later adaption of the hobby horse developed by Briton Dennis Johnson. Johnson’s version was much easier to steer, as such safer, and substantially lighter. Much in the same manner that balance bikes for kids are gaining huge traction today, hobby horses swept over Europe like a wild fire back in its hay day. Hopefully, unlike the fate of the hobby horse and its truly visionary inventor, the best balance bike for toddlers will continue to gain traction in the coming decades.
It is possible that adults of the next generation will have replaced our fond memories jilted tricycle rides with fond memories of running along nimbly and safely on a balance bike. Feel free to give yourself a pat on the shoulder and think of yourself as a visionary parent by making the decision to buy one of these toddler balance bikes today. In fact, if you are feeling really edgy you could get yourself a modern hobby horse and ride along-side your child while teaching them.
I can imagine that it would make for more than a few good memories for all parties involved: not to mention being so literally proverbial in nature that it could almost be seen as poetic. Truthfully, even though the balance bike is firmly anchored to inventions of the past, it is still a great idea moving forward: even if you don’t get one for yourself. Beyond this, it is certainly a safer and more efficient way to teach involves your kids in the age of tradition of bicycle riding.
Best Balance Bike Reviews 2016
Before we take a really deep look at balance bike reviews we are going to go through some great bikes that you can start with. This is aimed for those of you who already have a pretty good idea of what a balance bike is and just want to get straight to fleshing out some good purchasing ideas. For those of you that are still very new to the best balance bike phenomenon fear not. A lot of what we go here, in terms of purchasing tips, will be covered in much greater detail later. Just keep some of the things mentioned here in mind and maybe even check out the links quickly. You can always come back to them later when you have completed our article and feel much more versed in the subject.
First for our balance bike reviews is FirstBIKE, no pun intended. Granted, FirstBIKE is a brand as opposed to being a one item piece. Still, as a brand it tends to lead the overall market place and not merely for superficial reasons. If you want to make a no brainer purchase with a high yield pay off, then you would do well to get a FirstBIKE glider bike for your child. FirstBIKE frames are made with a very resilient fiber glass material reinforced with nylon. This makes the bike relatively light weight, but able to take a great deal of punishment. Additionally, most FirstBIKE balance bikes come fitted with pneumatic tires, allowing for a very smooth and comfortable ride.
A good pick for a 3-4 year would be the FirstBIKE Limited Bike with Brakes. This is a phenomenal balance bike for children although it is also the most expensive bike on our list. This bike hosts all the signature features of the FirstBIKE brand such as an extremely durable and flexible frame and high quality rear brakes. It currently holds a 5 star rating on amazon and has been a great overall experience for both parents and children alike. One of the only down sides to purchasing this best balance bike would be that occasional expense related to maintaining tires. Granted the overall expense really isn’t that great, but it is good to be away of it. There are some other lines in the FirstBIKE brand that come with solid rubber wheels that you could purchase if you want to avoid this in the long term, but it’s not really a big deal.
– Made from innovative and resilient material
– Comfortable ride for children
– Trustworthy manufacturer
– Possibility of tire punctures
Chicco Red Bullet Balance Bike
At only a quarter of the cost the previously mentioned FirstBIKE, the Red Bullet is almost a steal. Overall this is another highly rated bike, just from a slightly smaller brand in the business. It comes with a lightweight metal frame that can sustain up to 55 lbs of load, according to the manufacturer. This makes the bike ideal for up to 5 year olds. That is something you might want to keep in mind if you need to get a lot of mileage out the toddler balance bike: aiming for it to serve two or three successive children or maybe for an older child that’s struggling to pick up the art of bike riding. The metal frame, while not as revolutionary as the FirstBIKE’s, is still quite durable in its simplicity and will likely handle most of what you kids can throw at it. In the long run this may not be as state-of-the-art as the FirstBIKE’s frame offering, but it can still do its job decently and for only a fraction of the cost. In contrast with the FirstBIKE, the Chicco comes fitted out with foam tires.
As a consequence some of the advantages and disadvantages between each are reversed. You won’t have to worry about getting air for the Chicco’s tires every now and them. Furthermore you will not have to fear for punctures. On the other hand it is evident that the Chicco provides a less comfortable ride for children than the former. Another disadvantage is the lack of brakes. Both of the other devices in our balance bike reviews come with brakes. Admittedly, brakes are not a must for a best balance bike for 3 year olds, a subject that we will cover in greater detail later, but they can be a good additional safety feature, especially for older kids. One extra note is that many customers praise the grips for the handles. Overall, the Chicco, going for around $50 on amazon, is a great lower cost, lower maintenance alternative to the FirstBIKE.
– Low cost
– Low maintenance
– Serves a wide range of ages
– Less comfortable than industry leaders
– Lacks brakes
EZee Glider Kids Balance Bike Cro-Moly
One of the best features of the EZee glider Cro-Moly is its removable foot rest. This is a really great innovation that allows owners to get the best of both worlds. Later in the article we discuss some of the pros and cons of foot rests, but with the Cro-Moly these do not really apply. In our opinion this little feature helps the EZee Cro-Moly, while smaller in size than the other two reviewed toddler balance bikes here, stand out. The Cro-Moly shares quite a few features in common with both both of the other bikes here. Like the Chicco, this bike comes with a metal frame and at a much lower cost than the FirstBIKE. Additionally, the EZee Cro-Moly comes with foam tires; however, it comes at a slightly higher cost than the Chicco.
That being said, you can order pneumatic air tires from the manufacturer. Furthermore, the bike also comes with a hand brake, much like the FirstBIKE. The EZ Glider comes with 12 inch tires and is overall quite a bit smaller than either of the other two bikes. As such it may be more appropriate for 2 – 3 year olds unlike the FirstBIKE which seems to be gaining more traction with 3 – 4 year olds. The EZee Cro-Moly is a well-made balance bike for kids that forms some middle ground between the other two bikes. However, features like removable foot rests make it quite unique and great purchasing idea.
– Great Features such as brakes and removable foot rest
– Good quality frame
– Optional pneumatic tires
– Reasonable price
– Aimed at smaller children
– Standard foam tires
Our Balance Bike Reviews
So what is it about our balance bike reviews exactly and makes them so special? Balance bikes are simply bikes aimed at little children (usually between the ages of 2 and 5) in order to help them learn to ride a real bicycle latter in their development. Now in examining what a balance bike is and what makes it so special it is inevitable that comparisons to the tricycle and the use of training wheels (stabilizers for people in the UK) will be made. Essentially what makes the best balance bike for a 2 year old special is how much better it is for a child to use than traditionally used early development training devices: such as the afore mentioned tricycles and training wheels.
It may seem somewhat counterintuitive to suggest to parents that a toddler bike with two wheels is somehow safer than one with 3 or 4, but in actuality it is. This becomes even more apparent when you consider how they work in teaching children to ride a bike. The basic premise that most parents work from is in fact the same as anyone who first approaches a learning to ride a bike be they a child, teenager, or adult. Riding a bike, or more specifically balancing on two wheels, seems utterly implausible: after all there is a reason why any self-respecting chair or table would have at least 3 legs.
Therefore, it would logically follow that learning to ride a bike, seemingly a moving chair of the sorts, would be safer with 3 to 4 wheels. The reality is actually the opposite, and yet when you think of it carefully equally logically it makes quite a bit of sense. Bikes, the bikes we most commonly use, have 2 wheels (and, as an aside, are in fact not chairs or tables… quite the opposite). As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. If you practice riding on 3 or 4 wheels, then you will likely perfect the art of riding tricycles and quad bikes, but not bicycles themselves. In order to practice and perfect (to learn) how to ride a bike then you should practice and perfect riding on two wheels. As a matter of fact, prior to the invention of training wheels this is how people, of all ages, learned (maybe with the addition of a steadying hand from a parent or friendly mentor).
However, there is one caveat to the above principle. People tend to be afraid to both balance and move forward, at seemingly alarming speeds, on just two wheels. This fear understandably complicates the learning process and tends to lead to, often both painful and funny, mistakes. And this is what truly makes the balance bike for two year olds such a wonderful innovation (or re-innovation if we are to be historically pedantic). Balance bikes for toddlers not only lack the extra wheels of tricycles and bikes with training wheels, but, additionally lack pedals. They are moved by an odd striding / sitting combination that gives the effect of “gliding”. As odd as this may seem it actually does provide improved safety for the rider by tremendously increasing how much control in velocity the rider has, especially for children who cannot build as much speed without pedals. Furthermore, it also eliminates problems in balancing that riders, again especially young children, tend to experience when learning.
By compelling the rider (referred to as child from here on out) to frequently have at least one foot on the ground the act of riding a best balance bike feels more like aided walking or running, depending on speed. This is why the best balance bike is suitable for children as young as two and why their precursor, the hobby horse, was called a running machine by its inventor. Once a child can walk and even run comfortably, then they are able to safely operate a balance bike. In this way balance bikes for toddlers act as a learning medium between natural human acts of locomotion, like jogging, and riding a bike.
Hopefully you can now see that a toddler balance bike is really the safer alternative to training wheels when it comes to teaching children how to ride. Not only that, but in every way it is just a much more effective and natural means of instruction. Bike riding is a skill dependent on the ability to balance and that is what balance bike reviews teach, as can be observed in the name. However, there may be additional benefits to using balance bikes to teach kids how to ride. For example a number of parents have commented in their balance bike reviews that using balance bikes to teach kids bike riding strongly parallels teaching them to be self-reliant and more confident.
The child has to put faith in each step they take forward. In many ways it is a more involved experience for the child than using pedals and training wheels. They are quite literally in control each step of the way. Teaching children this lesson in personal responsibility at such a young age can have huge benefits for them down the road. Another huge advantage in buying your child a balance bike for kids is that they have proven to be good, safe fun. There is a reason why Baron Drais’ Hobby Horses became so popular for a time in 19th Century Europe and for that same reason best balance bike is still great fun for children today.
A Closer Look
Now we have reviewed what a balance bike for 3 year olds is all about let’s take a closer look at them to help you make the more informed decision when you purchase one.
First let’s examine what the frame of the balance bike is made typically made of. The frames of balance bikes differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Like almost any transportation device, these days, they can be made from a wide range of materials; however, the most popular materials would be wood, metal, and advanced meta-materials. Each has its own merit, but, when it comes to both safety and durability, quality meta-material framed balance bikes tend to stand a head taller than others. Some brands like FirstBIKE make such great plastic frames that they are almost literally “child-proof” (except that nothing in the known universe is entirely child-proof).
Wooden frames tend to hold more of an aesthetic appeal than the others and are more environmentally friendly, but this comes at the expense of typically being the least durable (aka child proof). Steel framed bikes fall somewhere in between in terms of durability, but lead in load bearing capacity. Unfortunately they tend to fall to the rear in terms of aesthetic appeal and sometimes even safety. That being said, the onus of safety does lie more with the parent and any child using a glide bike is safe once they are supervised correctly.
Following taking the material that a bike is made from into consideration it is also important to take the overall weight of the bike into consideration. As a simple rule of thumb, typically the younger your child is the lighter a bike you should consider buying. Specifically the bike should be around 30% of your child’s weight. Just also keep in mind that if you are a reasonable distance from home and they decide that they no longer wish to ride their bike that they, or you, may have to push or carry the bike home. It is important to note that the material that the bikes frame is made from affects the load and size / age of child that the bike can sustain which leads to the next most important factors to consider when purchasing a bike for your child: overall size and tire materials.
The overall size of the bike is influenced two main factors. First the seat height and second the tire size. The seat should be high enough for your child to sit comfortably, but not so low as to inhibit their ability to “stride” forward. Children of different heights will find different seat heights applicable for them irrespective of age. Tire sizes tend to range from 10 inches to 20 inches, but the most popular sizes have been found to be 12 inches and 16 inches. These sizes more or less correlate to age, with larger sizes being favored by older children and smaller sizes by toddlers. For children in the 3-4 demographics sizes ranging between 13 inches and 15 inches may be the most recommended with the notable exception being taller children.
Much like frames, tires can be constructed from a wide range of materials. The most common types of materials in the balance bike market include foam, plastic, rubber, and compressed air (pneumatic). Generally pneumatic tires are the best type to pick, but can be both more expensive upfront and in the long run (due to flats and requiring their air tubes to be replaced). Foam, plastic, and rubber tires on best balance bike tend to last longer, but can be much less comfortable for the child. Further, depending on the terrain, these solid material tires can be more difficult to control. While on the issue of control we have to take a look at brakes.
Whilst it is not necessary for a balance bike to have any brakes at all, seeing as the child will use their feet as brakes, they can be helpful. Some professional cyclists advocate against brakes entirely, as balance bikes should not really be used in the sort of terrain or at the sort of speeds that require mechanical brakes; however, safety is paramount and so it doesn’t hurt to have them. When purchasing brakes ensure that the brake control fits in a comfortable finger distance for the child. Often special short brake levers are available for bikes aimed at toddlers. As a result, choosing brakes, if you decide to get them shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
The last thing to take into consideration, the foot rest, like the previous factor, isn’t a huge deal and bikes can be purchased without it. There are some advantages to the foot rest. Namely, the foot rest will allow your child to gain more experience balancing, especially for long times when moving at sufficient speed. Unfortunately, they can tend to get in the way of movement when they aren’t being used. Therefore, it is not so much of a good idea to a get a bike with a foot rest for a child just beginning to learn. Conversely, a more experienced and confident child may actually benefit from it as they transition into riding a proper bicycle.
A few final points that we can mention here are some general guidelines to teaching your child to ride on his or her best balance bike. Everybody’s experience with glider bikes will be a unique memory filled series of events. Still, there are some general principles to follow. One of the most important is to ensure that your child is always having fun while riding. Children may be shy at first and take some time to warm up to the new toy. Correspondingly, start them using the bikes for shorter periods of time first and build up as they gain confidence. Make sure you don’t ever force them to continue when they feel tired or are in an otherwise distracted state. Doing so can inhibit the overall learning process. As a caution, make sure to always perform a mechanical check before letting them ride.
Check the bikes brakes, tires, handlebar, and seat to make sure everything is functional and that nothing is wobbling. Teach them first how to get on and off the bicycle by themselves and then teach them how to stop using their feet safely and brakes. Lastly get them to start moving slowly in flat well paved areas. It is important to assist them by lightly holding the seat or their shoulders at first, but never hold their hands. This will obstruct them learning to steer and be in control of the bike and as a result may hinder their overall confidence development.
One Last Brief Word
Balance bikes represent the future of child instruction when it comes to bikes. This bike design manages to be both iconic and revolutionary. Furthermore, at such affordable prices there really is no reason not to take advantage of the web’s balance bike reviews for the benefit of your children.