BALANCE BIKES
A MUST-READ GUIDE FOR PARENTS

Discover what makes a balance bike the perfect starter bike for your child

What is a Balance Bike?

A balance bike is a bike without pedals. It has a frame, fork, handlebars and wheels but no drivetrain. To move forwards, kids push off the ground with their feet, like Fred Flintstone.

Balance bikes don’t have stabilisers (aka training wheels). Kids have their feet on the ground, so they can develop their balance and coordination without the need for stabilisers. When they’re confident and ready, they can then progress to pedals.

LittleBig bike at the Enduro World Series
Best Age To Start on Balance Bike

What's the Best Age For a Child to Start On a Balance Bike?

Between 18 months and 2 years old is the ideal age for kids to start on a balance bike. This is the average age range when a child is physically and developmentally ready to start balancing a bike.

But while kids should be encouraged to start ‘balance-biking’ as early as possible, they’ll still enjoy the benefits even if they’re a little older starting out.

Whatever your child’s age, a balance bike is great exercise and will help the transition to pedalling by improving their balance, coordination and strength.

Most importantly, check that the bike is the right size for your child, otherwise it will delay their cycling development and make it more difficult to learn

How To Ride a Balance Bike

Riding an ill-fitting bike is awkward and frustrating. While sitting on the saddle, your child should be able to touch the ground with the balls of their feet, with a slight bend in the knee.

The handlebars should be within comfortable reach, without being cramped, so your child can steer easily. Handlebars on proper bikes can be rotated backwards or forwards and moved up or down to get the right fit.

Most kids will intuitively use their feet to stop while using the balance bike, at least while they’re getting started. Once your little one gets faster they’ll need to start using their brakes.

It’s best to teach them to use the rear brake first, then also using the front brake as they get more confident. You may wish to run alongside them with your hand on their back in case they need to stop.

To ensure that a gentle fall doesn’t knock your child’s confidence, it’s best to be kitted up properly. A well-fitted helmet is strongly recommended, along with sturdy shoes and robust clothing, like jeans and a soft padded jacket. Avoid loose clothing or shoe laces that may get caught in the wheels.

An open area free from traffic and distraction will provide a safe learning environment, and ensure your child is focused on the task at hand.

Avoid parked cars, steps, open water and any other obvious obstacles. Tarmac or short dry grass will ensure your child can get enough momentum to balance safely.

In order to get your child coasting along easily, it’s best to find a very gentle downhill which will help in picking up speed. Just make sure there’s a good run-off at the bottom!

Balance is normally mastered quite quickly. But the nuances of pedalling and braking can take longer.

If your child is reluctant to start riding it’s best to put the bike back in the shed for a few weeks until they’re ready.

Fitting some jazzy accessories like bells, stickers or a basket could help entice your child to get on their bike.

Your child will try and copy whatever you do, so try to let them see you riding a bike as much as possible.

If they have a brother or sister who rides a bike then all the better. You can then go out and ride as a family, and that’s what it’s all about!

Why Choose a Balance Bike?

If you’re still undecided if a balance bike is the right choice, these pointers might help you decide. 

Physical Development

Studies have shown that children who learn to cycle on balance bikes develop better balance, strength and coordination.

Bye Bye Stabilisers

You can ditch those stabilisers (aka training wheels) as the balance bike offers an alternative approach to cycle training for kids.

Safe & Easy To Use

A balance bike can only go as fast as your child can push, so less chance of high-speed crashes. The low seat height means falls rarely end in tears.

Fun & Convenience

Kids aged two & up will love zooming about on a balance bike. They’re small and light enough to pick up and carry if your child gets tired of riding.

Balance Bike vs Pedal Bike Fitted With Stabilisers

A bike with stabilisers is more likely to tip from side to side unpredictably as the child’s weight transfers from one stabiliser to the other. This is why bikes with stabilisers cannot be used on sloped or rough surfaces as they will tip over.

A balance bike challenges children more to actively maintain balance which helps to develop the skills needed to cycle quickly & independently.

ids pedal bike with stabilisers training wheels

How To Choose The Right Balance Bike For Your Child

The best balance bike to buy is the one that finds the best compromise between cost, size, weight, function, customer support and sustainability.

It’s up to you to weigh up the different considerations and determine which is best for your child.

We feel the longevity, function, aesthetics, sustainability, personal service and cost of the LittleBig bike makes it great value for money overall.

Shop for Balance Bikes (With Worldwide Delivery)

"The bike is absolutely brilliant, my grandson is thrilled to bits with it, he is not quite 2 but he sat on the bike whilst I held it for him, within 5 – 10 minutes he could push himself along. I can’t wait until he grows so I can fit the pedals ( not really wishing his life away ). I'd also like to thank Simon and his team for the professionalism and service shown during this transaction."
Trevor
London, UK
"I saw an article about bikes for toddlers and became interested in Littlebig bike straight away. We are not disappointed – it looks very cool in Apple green colour, easy assemble and to drive. My boy is nearly 4 and I was worried that we missed the opportunity to try a balance bike but with Littlebig we feel happy as we adjusted the seat and it's perfect for him."
Tatyana
Manchester, UK

Frequently asked questions about Balance Bikes

As balance bikes are low to the ground, kids reach the ground with their feet. To move forwards, they push off the ground and begin by walking the bike, then progress to running, striding and gliding.

Once they are gliding along independently, they are mastering their balance and are ready to begin pedalling. But there’s no rush, kids can keep going on the balance bike for as long as they wish.

Balance bikes also teach kids how to steer properly by leaning the bike towards the corner, with the assurance of having their feet on the ground.

Balance bikes typically give kids independence much earlier than traditional pedal bikes with stabilisers/ training wheels.

Their inherent simplicity makes means they weigh less than normal bikes and are easier for young kids to understand.

Balance bikes are very intuitive for kids and usually they just grab the bike and go, no instructions needed!

By taking the task of pedalling out of the mix, kids are able to concentrate on the more tricky and nuanced skill of balancing the bike.

If your child can walk, chances are they can ride a balance bike.

Between 18 months and 2 years old is the ideal age for kids to start on a balance bike. This is the average age range when a child is physically and developmentally ready to start balancing a bike.

But while kids should be encouraged to start ‘balance-biking’ as early as possible, they’ll still enjoy the benefits even if they’re a little older starting out.

Balance bikes are easy for kids to propel and steer because they don’t have a drivetrain (pedals, cranks etc.), plus they’re much lower to the ground and much lighter than traditional kids bikes.

If you're wondering what balance bike is right for your child's age, note that balance bikes come in a variety of sizes, so you should have no difficulty finding one to suit most children from 18 months to 7 years old.

To check if the LittleBig will fit your child, check out our sizing page.

A balance bike allows your child to master the fundamental skills of balance and coordination much better than a normal bike that’s been fitted with stabilisers (aka training wheels).

This is because a balance bike promotes independent cycling as it requires the child to actively stay upright by leaning their body and steering.

Recent studies have found that children who had only ridden balance bikes were able to cycle independently at a younger age, compared with those who practiced on a bike with stabilisers/training wheels. 

Your child should be able to have their feet flat on the ground while sitting in the saddle. To check if the bike is a good size, measure your child’s inseam, with shoes on. This should be the same or slightly longer than the minimum saddle of the bike. If your child’s inseam is longer than the maximum saddle height of the bike, you need to choose a bigger bike! Your child should be able to reach the handlebars comfortably with their torso leaning slightly forwards. Balance bikes with a longer arm reach will allow your child to go faster and maintain a more aggressive, forward leaning stance on the bike. If the bike is more upright (like a Dutch Bike), it will be okay for shorter distances but more difficult to propel the bike forward. Check out our sizing page to see if the LittleBig bike will fit your child.

Brakes aren’t really necessary on a starter balance bike for kids 18 months or so. However, as children grow older, they get more confident and  glide along much quicker, so a rear brake is preferable to help them stop safely.

Balance bikes can come with no brakes, rear hand brake only, or both front and rear hand brakes. Balance bikes with no brakes assume the child can slow the bike by dragging their feet off the ground. This is okay at slower speeds, but not when the speed increases. You can read more on our article Balance bike with brakes? Do you need them? 

Brakes are particularly important on inclines or rough surfaces where dragging your feet won’t slow the bike much. Having brakes on the balance bike also saves kids wearing out the soles of their shoes!

 

 

Many children with physical & developmental special needs have difficulty trying to coordinate balance, pedalling and steering.

A balance bike is far easier to control than a pedal bike, so is a great way for kids with special needs to learn to glide along independently. The independence it provides is great for personal development and confidence building. 

Gliding along on a balance bike is also great exercise and helps improve motor skills. 

The LittleBig’s unique design allows it to be used as a balance bike for 5 years. If your child has slower growth (such as kids with Down syndrome), they may be able to use it for even longer. Kids with low muscle tone are fully supported by the saddle while they have their feet on the ground, making it even easier than walking.

The light weight of the LittleBig means it is much easier to push forwards and steer than a traditional kids bikes with stabiliser wheels.

However much your child enjoys gliding around on a balance bike, there will inevitably come a time when they want to start pedalling. 

If your child has good hand/eye coordination and has mastered the skills needed to glide the balance bike confidently and safely, they’re probably ready to try pedalling.

But as pedalling adds a new skill to learn, it may still take them a little time to adjust before they can pedal away confidently. It’s important therefore that they practice pedalling in a safe place, away from obstacles and traffic, and that they keep wearing a helmet.

The LittleBig bike makes the transition from balance bike to pedal bike easier by having the option to attach a set of pedals. This means your child can learn to pedal on a bike they’re already familiar with which will give them extra confidence.

Balance bikes are designed specifically for children to ‘glide’ rather than ride. So while your child is still in ‘balance’ mode, pedals would just get in the way.

You can't fit pedals to most balance bikes as they are not designed to take them. 

Unlike other balance bikes, the LittleBig has the option to transform into a pedal bike with very little adjustment needed.

When your child is ready to cycle independently, you just attach the specially designed pedals and it converts to a standard pedal bike without the hassle of buying a new bike.

Accurate figures for global sales of balance bikes are hard to come by. But another way of measuring interest or popularity of balance bikes is to look at the online search trend.

The Google trend graph below highlights the worldwide volume of searches for “balance bike” since 2004.

As you would expect, the search interest peaks around Christmas time, but the volume of online searches has grown consistently since 2004, indicating the popularity and global demand for balance bikes remains very strong.

Balance bikes are great for toddlers as it will help develop their coordination and motor skills and give them independence and the freedom to explore.

Balance bikes are really natural for toddlers to use and as they progress it will give them extra confidence.

When choosing the best balance bike for a toddler (2/3 year old), you need to consider safety & stability, along with aesthetic appeal. If your child doesn’t like how the bike looks, you’ll have a hard job getting them to try it out.

For parents, ensuring a safe ride on a well-built bike that won’t fall apart, would probably be factors in the decision-making.

LittleBig's unique design achieves this balance. Your child will love riding the balance bike, while you’ll have the assurance of knowing it’s helping them learn to cycle easier and safer.

Balance bikes are very safe for your child. They are intuitive for kids to use giving them confidence in the bike. The more we understand something, the less we are scared of it.

Balance bikes are also very simple to maintain, so there is less to go wrong. That said, we would always recommend wearing a helmet!

The saddle on a balance bike should be set so that the child can have their feet flat on the ground.

Most decent balance bikes have a quick release seat clamp for easy adjustments. They should be able to reach the handlebars comfortably, with their torso angled slightly forwards.

Imagine pushing a broken down car, you naturally lean forward so you can brace against the ground. If the torso is too upright, it can be difficult to push forwards.

For a balance bike to work perfectly, it has to be a great fit for your child. To compare your child's leg with the saddle height range, you need to measure your child's inseam leg length. 

To do this, ask them to stand up straight next to a wall, then place a book at the very top of their leg, at their crotch. (Similar to the way you place a book on top of their head to measure their height.)

Hold the book steady, and measure the vertical distance from the top of the book to the floor. This is your child's inseam leg measurement. To fit the balance bike, this needs to be within the saddle height range. 

If their inseam is smaller than the lowest saddle height, the bike is too big. If the inseam is longer than the maximum saddle height, the bike is too small.

There are a number of decisions to make when choosing a balance bike for your child:

1. Size

Unlike normal kids bikes, balance bikes are sized based on inseam rather than wheel or frame size. Your child should be able to have their feet flat on the ground while sitting in the saddle. To check if the bike is a good size, measure your child’s inseam, with shoes on. This should be the same or slightly longer than the minimum saddle of the bike. If your little one’s inseam is longer than the maximum saddle height of the bike, you need to choose a bigger bike! Your child should be able to reach the handlebars comfortably with their torso leaning slightly forwards. Balance bikes with a longer arm reach will allow your child to go faster and maintain a more aggressive, forward leaning stance on the bike. If the bike is more upright (like a Dutch Bike), it will be okay for shorter distances but more difficult to propel the bike forward. The geometry you choose depends on the type of terrain you envisage your child riding on.

2. Weight

In order for your child to push the bike easily, the bike should be as light as possible. The frames on kids balance bikes are usually made from aluminium alloy, steel, wood or plastic. The best material for balance bikes is aluminium alloy as it’s rust proof, and is much lighter than steel. Wood balance bikes can look cute, but don’t come with brakes. Look out for those using marine plywood as this will not warp and delaminate when wet, unlike the cheaper bikes made of standard plywood.

3. Cost

Cost is obviously a big factor for many parents and really what you choose depends on the bike’s intended use. A more expensive bike will usually be lighter and longer lasting, use better components, have better customer service, and will often have a better re-sale value. Most quality kids bikes will use genuine bike parts that can be serviced and replaced by a bike shop so can keep the bike running perfectly for longer. Cheaper bikes can often look like they're more expensive counterparts. There are numerous copycat brands out there, but they fall down on attention to detail and build quality. They are usually missing some important features such as brakes, air tyres, ball bearings as described below.

4. Wheels

It’s best to look go for wheels with air (pneumatic) tyres, alloy rims and hubs with steel spokes. Air tyres will provide more cushioning and grip for your child, giving them more confidence. Tyres with a wide knobbly tread will give better grip on rough surfaces, while those with a narrower smooth tread will roll faster. Some brands use EVA foam tyres which are puncture proof, but do not provide much grip. Once they wear out they cannot be replaced, so you need to buy a whole new wheel.

Make sure your bike has ball bearings or cartridge bearings rather than nylon (plastic) bushings which can rattle and wear out easily.

5. Brakes

Some balance bikes have no brakes, others have a rear brake only, and a few have both front and rear brakes. Look out for V brakes rather than sidepull brakes. V brakes are much more powerful than sidepull brakes, so your little one will be able to stop safely. Kids specific short reach brake levers are a must, to ensure they can be used by little hands. (perhaps add brake info from above into this?)

6. Contact Points

Look out for a padded saddle rather than hard plastic. Check the material is tough so it doesn’t rip easily. Wood balance bikes usually have wood “saddles” with foam padding on top, which don’t seem as comfortable as a fully padded saddle. Similarly with grips, look for soft rubber rather than plastic. Rubber grips are more comfortable and grippy than plastic one. The only reason brands use plastic is to keep the cost down. The best balance bikes come with a ball bearing or cartridge bearing headset, this allows the handlebars to rotate & steer freely. Some cheaper balance bikes come with plastic bushings which are rattly and cannot be serviced.

7. Serviceability

Most decent balance bikes are built like a real adult’s bike with genuine bike parts that can be serviced and replaced as parts wear, ensuring that the bike keeps running for many years. Other cheaper balance bikes are more like toys, with parts like plastic bushings and moulded proprietary parts (handlebars, wheels etc) that cannot be sourced locally.

Amazing as it may seem, there are still people who think that balance bikes are just a big con. They believe that balance bikes are a marketing ploy to sell more bikes to unsuspecting parents.

The fact is, a balance bike is specially designed to suit small children who can't cycle yet. Most balance bikes are low to the ground, lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, making it safer and more enjoyable for your child.

The purpose of a balance bike is to improve your child's coordination and balance before transitioning to a pedal bike. This is a critical stage of your child's physical development. The skills learned on a balance bike will help your child's development in a range of other activities too.

Talk to friends, read reviews, watch some Youtube videos, or visit your local bike shop which has knowledgeable staff (not toy shop).

Check for impartial reviews from 3rd parties, as some bloggers only recommend bikes from stores with affiliate links like Amazon which skews things slightly. 

Look for reviews that test the quality and function of the balance bike itself rather than just the concept of the balance bike. I’ve read many reviews over the years that say “this balance bike is better than a normal bike” but they overlook whether it’s actually a good example of a balance bike. 

Consider the long term value of the bike. Having a growing convertible bike like the LittleBig means you won’t need to worry about buying a new one for a few years, giving peace of mind.

The LittleBig balance bike comes in different colours too, just in case your child has a preference:

Balance bikes vary in price from €30 to over €1,000, but most decent ones are between €100 to €200.

LittleBig balance bikes are unique in that they’re convertible and can adapt as your child grows, giving long term value for money.

Customers in England, Scotland and Wales will not be charged VAT through our shop, but will need to pay UK VAT at 20% once your order arrives in the UK. Taxes are handled by DPD who charge a £5 admin fee.

 

Example: for the classic bike and separate pedal attachment, the taxes and charges equate to approximately £49 GBP.

 

Northern Ireland customers pay VAT of 23% on our website, but there will be no further charges.

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