...
Why to not use Stabilisers on your bike

10 reasons NOT TO use stabilisers on your kids bike

I recently saw two kids cycling together at the local BMX track; one was on a traditional pedal bike, the other was on a balance bike. While the kid on the balance bike had no trouble with the bumpy gravel surface, his friend kept toppling over and getting stuck on the humps. Although he was enthusiastic and just wanted to keep up with his friend, the problem was that he had stabilisers (AKA training wheels) fitted to his bike.

While stabilisers allow a child to start pedalling immediately, there are other skills that should be learnt first, such as steering and balancing.

1. Stabilisers Prevent A Child From Learning Proper Bike Balance

As the stabilisers keep the bike upright, the child does not learn how to balance. They must suddenly develop the core skill of balancing the bike when the stabilisers are taken off.

Learning how to balance before learning to pedal makes much more sense.

2. Stabilisers Don't Work Well on Rough or Uneven Ground

Stabilisers will only keep the bike upright if they are on a flat, smooth surface. Gravel, forest paths or wet grass will cause the small plastic stabiliser wheels to get stuck. Likewise, the bike will easily topple over if the surface is banked to one side

Stabilisers limit the terrain that your child can ride on and hinder their little adventures.

Child on bike with stabilisers training wheels

3. Stabilisers are not the safest way to learn

Once the stabilisers come off, the transition from being supported by the stabilisers to being unsupported, can result in wobbles, crashes, and a loss of confidence.

After becoming comfortable with stabilisers, the transition to riding without them can be difficult for many children as they suddenly need to learn how to balance!

4. Stabilisers add extra cost

The addition of stabilisers is an extra cost to the bike manufacturer. This will be reflected in the price that you must pay.

Manufacturers build their range of bikes to meet certain price points, and the cost of
including stabilisers is potentially taking away from the quality of other parts on the bike.

Top Tip!

Our LittleBig balance bike with pedals grows with your child so can last much longer than a standard bike, giving kids extra time to ride, saving money and is kinder to the planet.

5. Stabilisers Reduce A Bikes Agility

A bike steers by leaning, but stabilisers prevent the natural lean of the bike while cornering, which reduces the bike’s manoeuvrability and means the child can’t steer the bike as easily.

You only need to look at a Motorcycle Grand Prix to see how much the riders lean while cornering.

6. Stabilisers Cause Bad Habits

As the stabilisers stop the bike from leaning naturally inwards when turning, the rider needs to counteract this, a habit they will need to unlearn later.

Learning how to lean left and right to corner safely and effectively is a core cycling skill that is hindered by having stabilisers on the bike.

7. Stabilisers add extra weight

The lighter a bike can be, the easier and more enjoyable it will be to learn to ride on. Stabilisers add weight to the bike making it harder to get moving.

For what is an already unnecessary addition to the bike, it also reduces the handling and enjoyment a child will be able to get from it.

8. Stabilisers are cumbersome, ugly, and noisy.

As the wheels are generally made of hard plastic, they tend to rattle and scrape and can be very noisy. They are also flimsy (one regularly bends more than the other so the bike leans more on one side) which requires adjustment and can add complexity to keeping the bike running safely.

Bicycles are beautifully simple, two-wheeled machines. Adding stabilisers is essentially turning it into a four-wheeled bike!

9. Stabilisers Are Unnecessary additions to landfill

Stabilisers are usually worn out after just one child uses them and end up in a landfill with all the other waste. As an unnecessary part this is needlessly wasteful.

Because they are not built to last, they generally will have a lifespan of one bike and eventually just contribute to landfill. 

Training Wheels Cause Unnecessary Waste

10. Stabilisers add to a bike's carbon footprint

It should be considered that there are materials used to make them, as well as the resources and energy required in manufacturing them.

Cycling is an environmentally friendly activity, let’s try to reduce its impact on the planet as much as possible.

There is another way – Balance Bikes!

LittleBig balance bike at the Emerald Enduro in Wicklow, Ireland

By contrast, having learnt to ride on a balance bike riders will develop their coordination & motor skills and make a seamless transition to pedalling. Find out more about the benefits of balance bikes, how to choose one, and how to teach your child to ride a balance bike on our balance bike guide. We also wrote a detailed comparison on our post Balance Bikes Vs Training wheels, Which Is Best? Need more proof that balance bikes are great, check out this research Mastering balance: The use of balance bicycles promotes the development of independent cycling.

With our LittleBig bike adaptable kids bike, it has a specially designed pedal kit, 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!"

  • US $70 Add to basket

Get 10% off your LittleBig bike

Frequently Asked Questions About Stabilisers

Typically, children can start riding a bike with stabilisers between 3 and 6 years old, depending on their physical development, coordination, and confidence. Observing your child's readiness, such as their ability to pedal and follow instructions is essential. Introducing a bike with stabilisers can provide a safe starting point for learning to ride, but remember that every child is different, and some may take longer to develop the necessary skills.

To see what age kids can ride a  balance bike, view our post Balance Bike Age Range | How To Choose The Perfect Bike

Stabilisers, also known as training wheels, are typically designed to be attached to traditional pedal bikes with thin tubed frames and bolt-on rear-wheel axles.

However, they are unsuitable for balance bikes designed to help children learn balance and coordination without stabilisers. Balance bikes rely on the child's feet to propel and stabilise themselves, promoting a natural transition to riding a pedal bike without needing training wheels. Attempting to attach stabilisers to a balance bike could hinder the child's ability to learn and develop proper balance skills.

Many experts consider balance bikes superior to stabilisers (training wheels) when teaching young children how to ride a bike. Balance bikes allow children to develop essential balance and coordination skills from an early age, as they learn to control their speed and direction by using their feet to push along the ground. This approach provides a more intuitive and natural progression to riding a pedal bike independently.

Unlike a pedal bike with stabilisers, which can hinder the development of balance and coordination, balance bikes help children gain confidence and independence, making the transition to pedalling independently smoother and faster. Balance bikes are often lighter, simpler, and easier for young children to manoeuvre, contributing to a more enjoyable learning experience.

For more info, see our in-depth guide Balance Bike Vs Training Wheels. Which is Best?

It is possible to skip stabilisers when teaching a child to ride a bike. Many parents, educators and researchers advocate for skipping stabilisers altogether and instead starting with a balance bike that focuses on developing balance and coordination skills from the outset.

By allowing children to learn to balance and steer using their feet on the ground, balance bikes provide a more natural and intuitive progression to riding a pedal bike. Skipping training wheels can lead to a smoother and faster transition to independent cycling, as children develop the necessary skills and confidence to ride without assistance.

Stabilisers, commonly known as training wheels, have long been regarded as a staple in teaching children how to ride a bike. However, evidence suggests that relying on stabilisers can impede rather than facilitate a child's biking journey. While initially offering a sense of security, these auxiliary wheels have many drawbacks that hinder a child's overall development as a cyclist. From stunting the acquisition of crucial balance skills to fostering a dependency on external support, the detrimental effects of stabilisers extend beyond the surface. In particular stabilisers:

  1. Prevent A Child From Learning Proper Bike Balance
  2. Don't Work Well On Rough Or Uneven Ground
  3. Stabilisers Are Not The Safest Way To Learn
  4. Add Extra Cost
  5. Reduce A Bikes Agility
  6. Cause Bad Habits
  7. Add Extra Weight
  8. They are Cumbersome, Ugly, And Noisy.
  9. Unnecessary Additions To Landfill
  10. Stabilisers Add To A Bike's Carbon Footprint

Round the world cyclist, mountain bike racer, engineer and all round bike geek, Simon Evans clearly loves all things BIKE.

Simon worked as a Structural Engineer in Cambridge for a number of years before setting off on an 18 month, 30,000km cycle around the world, testing his bike, body and mind to the limit and giving a wealth of wonderful experiences.

Coming home in 2010, he wanted to combine his engineering with his love of bikes to create a better and more sustainable bike for kids. In 2015 he launched LittleBig bikes which have now been sold to 77 countries around the world giving thousands of kids the best start on two wheels.

9 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  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. 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!

  5. 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.

    1. What a silly pointless article, a desperate attempt to be relevant on the Internet. Kids need to feel comfortable on a bike before attempting to ride without help. They need to learn to pedal and steer first. If the stabilisers sit higher than the back wheel, they also learn to balance. This is just bad advice.

      1. Thank you for those points Daniel. We agree with you that a kid should feel comfortable on a bike when learning to ride without help. We also believe balancing and steering are more important skills to learn before pedalling. Learning these basics builds the perfect combination of skills to be able to comfortably start using pedals.

        Balance bikes challenge postural control more actively and studies have shown that kids who learn on balance bikes, as opposed to bikes with stabilisers, progress to independent cycling earlier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.