5 reasons why you shouldn’t use stabilisers on your kids bike in 2022

kids bike and stabilisers aka training wheels

I was recently down at the local BMX track and while I was chilling out between laps, a couple of kids started whizzing about on their bikes, or at least one of them did. You see, one of them was on a traditional pedal bike and the other was on a balance bike.

While the guy on the balance bike had no trouble with the undulating and slippy gravel surface, his buddy kept toppling over, getting stuck on the humps and generally looked like a fish out of water. While the poor lad was very enthusiastic and just wanted to follow his friend, the issue was that he had stabilisers (AKA training wheels) fitted to his bike.

Why’s that so bad you ask? Here are a few thinks to consider:

1. Stabilisers don’t teach a child balance

The whole point of stabilisers is to support the child as they’re learning to pedal their bike. When the stabilisers are eventually removed, the child will not be able to balance independently because they have become used to their support. This is akin to giving a child crutches while learning they’re learning to walk – then taking them away. It really doesn’t make sense.

2. Stabilisers make the bike less agile

Stabilisers prevent the natural lean of the bike while cornering which reduces the bike’s manoeuvrability. A bike steers by leaning and since the stabilisers hold the bike vertically, the rider can’t steer the bike as easily. You only need to look at the guys in the Moto Grand Prix to see how much the riders lean while in fast corners.

3. Stabilisers teach kids bad habits

Before the stabilisers are removed completely, people often raise the stabilisers upwards to help the child develop their balance. With only one stabiliser on the ground, the bike will often lean the wrong way in a corner and jerk around as it tips from side to side. The child will naturally shift their weight the opposite way to counteract, something that will need to be re-trained as they progress to a normal bike.

4. Stabilisers can’t be used on uneven ground

Stabilisers will only keep the bike upright if they are on a flat, smooth surface. Gravel, rocky paths or soggy grass will cause the tiny plastic wheels to get stuck. Likewise, if the surface is banked to one side, the bike will easily topple over. This limits the terrain that your child can ride on and hinder their little adventures.

5….And Stabilisers Have lots of other drawbacks

Stabilisers add extra cost, weight and complexity. They’re also cumbersome, ugly, noisy and flimsy (one regularly bends more than the other so the bike leans more on one side). Once you’re finished with them they’ll go to the landfill with all the other junk.
Stabiliser graduates still have to learn the primary skill – balancing – with a sudden transition from being supported to unsupported, which can result in wobbles, crashes and loss of confidence.

There is another way – Balance Bikes!

LittleBig balance bike at the Emerald Enduro in Wicklow, Ireland
There’s an ongoing debate about the pros & cons of a balance bike vs stabilisers (training wheels). But it’s definitely becoming more apparent now that kids who learn on a balance bike develop their coordination & motor skills and make a seamless transition to pedalling far quicker. With the specially designed pedal attachment, you don’t even need to change bikes. Oh, and it grows too! Just ask Esther in the UK who wrote to us a little while ago…
“…She’s been using it as a balance bike up until this evening when we decided to have the grand unveiling of the pedals – the result was instant. She hopped on and as we were explaining to her what to do we looked down and realised she wasn’t walking the bike along next to us…she was PEDALLING!”

7 comments

  1. Awesome post. We parents usually think that the toddlers learn the balance with the stabilizers but this does not look correct. Thank you for the thoughtful post. Helps to think the other side of stabilizers.

  2. Stabilizers are fine if used correctly. Set to be just off the ground they only work while teaching balance on straight runs. Not off road or doing cornering. Just session with an adult following encourage them to peddle and keep the stablizers off the ground. A few sessions and then they come off. Or run behind holding them!

  3. Iain Findlay-Walsh

    Kids learn in different ways and like different routes into stuff. There are pros and cons to balance bikes and stablisers.

  4. Stabilisers are good as they let the child learn how to start off from standstill on the peddles, practice using the brakes (instead of their feet) and how to turn while their feet are off the ground.

    1. Indeed it’s good that they can learn to practice using the pedals. However you can practice using brakes on a balance bike too (the ones with brakes like the LittleBig). Turning is a different matter though as the bike leans the wrong way in a corner as the weight goes to the outside stabiliser. This teaches them the incorrect cornering technique.

  5. What if the child has ASD or dyspraxia or both?

    1. Hi Trey, balance bikes can work great for kids with Autism or Dyspraxia and other needs. You can see one of our customer reviews in relation to it here.

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Customers in England, Scotland and Wales will not be charged VAT through our shop, but you will need to pay UK VAT at 20% once the your order arrives in the UK.

 

The LittleBig balance bike is duty free and the pedals attract 4% duty. Taxes are paid directly to UK Revenue and are handled by the courier 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.

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