You are probably wondering how to choose the best balance bike for your kid. From getting the right bike size to tires, materials, and brakes, this comprehensive guide offers all-time relevant information on what matters.
Balance bikes are a recent exciting innovation in children’s bike segment. They are the best starting point when training kids to balance their bikes. Choosing the best balance bike can be hard despite it having an assurance of efficient training for toddlers and children. The features, material, quality, and size, are some few factors that dictate your choice.
When choosing a balance bike for your son or daughter, you would need to consider the size, weight, and type of tires, brakes, frame material, durability, and a plethora of other factors. Become a savvy and wise consumer when purchasing a balance bike for your child.
This guide is relevant regardless of the season, year, and any thinkable factor. As long as you need to choose the best balance bike, this is the best guide.
The Size Matters: Who is the Bike for?
A parent might think that bikes are one-size-fits-all. No, that is never the case. When shopping for a good balance bike, or any bike for that matter, size is the most significant factor. Bike sizing is very critical when choosing a balance bike.
Avoid the fuss by marketers that a balance bike does not have a sizing guide. It is outrageous to say that an 18-month-old toddler can fit the same bike with a five or six-year-old child.
When buying a bike for your child or toddler, consider the size of the frame, tires, and seat height.
Balance Bike Sizing Guide for Children (Table)
The tire and frame size are the standard measurements of a balance bike size. Nevertheless, the height of the seat accurately defines how your child will be comfortable sitting on the bike. A good balance bike size is one that lets the child push their feet off the ground at the comfort of their seats.
Mostly, the balance bikes come with adjustable seats. It is best if you adjust the seat height such that it is set at 1 inch or 1.5 inches less than the inseam of the child. Measurements should be when the child is barefoot and should be from the crotch to the floor.
A good seat should be adjustable to the position that it allows the child to have a slight bend in their knee.
If you anticipate maintaining the same bike, purchase a bike that has a seat height of 2 inches. Such bikes allow your child to grow with them and saves you the pressure of buying a pedal bike just yet.
Remember: Most of the balance bikes will fit your child for only 2-3 years until they are ready to transition into regular pedal bikes.
How do you measure your child for the correct bike size?
It is easy to measure the inseam of a child using a hardbound book.
1. Ensure that the child has their shoes on.
2. Make them stand against a wall at ease.
3. Fit the book between their legs in the thigh area.
4. Raise the book bit by bit until it reaches the child's crotch.
5. Ensure the book is leveled with the floor.
6. Measure the distance between the ground and the top of the book. Ordinarily, that distance is the inseam.
Caution: Always measure your child to a bike and not the bike to your child.
The sizes of the Tires
Most of the balance bikes come with 16”, 14”, and 12” tires. These kinds of bikes are a popular option for preschool and grade-school kids. To the lower extreme, 10” tires can serve the beginner balance bike riders. However, the problem is the rate of outgrowing the 10-inch tire bikes is higher compared to the other bikes. Thus, the latter is not recommended, unless you want to clutter your store or garage with bikes.
Frame Material: Wooden, Steel, Aluminum, or Composite?
Kids' balance bikes come in different frame materials. The most common include composite, wooden, and metal alloy frames. Most consumers, especially the eco-friendly-type, prefer the wooden frame. Although, it is very uncommon for parents to go for wooden balance bikes for fear of safety.
The wooden frame is fabricated using birch-wood, which is both reusable and renewable. It is a lighter version compared to metal alloy bikes and strong enough to carry up to 75 pounds in weight.
When choosing the wood type, be sure to check the certification of such bikes. Like metal alloy bikes, there are high-end and low-end wooden balance bikes. The durability and cost set each apart.
Metal alloy bikes are primarily made of aluminum and steel alloys. Therefore, you would expect them to weight slightly more compared to the wooden versions. Most of the balance bikes use aluminum alloy 6061, which is preferred for its lightness, flexibility, endurance, and durability. Thus, it is the main material for high-end balance bikes.
The less expensive balance bike models use steel alloys. However, they are weighty and prone to rust. If it is not aluminum, in the description, but metallic, conclude it is steel.
The composite bike frames are mostly made of glass fiber, which is reinforced using a nylon composite. These balance bikes are unbelievably lightweight and can carry more weight than you can imagine. When you get your child a balance bike with a composite frame, you forget the woes of rust or the paint chipping off.
When choosing a balance bike, its durability should be one of the deciding factors. Some of the bike models, mostly high-end balance bike brands, last longer compared to others. It all depends on the quality of the frame material.
A word of caution: When using composite bikes, consider the age and weight of the child. Sometimes, if used by someone beyond the recommended age, you can snap, bend, or flex, which brings safety concerns. However, most of the kids would have begun riding pedaled bikes before outgrowing their sensitive composite balance bikes.
The weight of the Bike and Weight of the child
Overall, a balance bike weighs between 6.5 pounds and 11 pounds. Presumably, the lighter the weight, the easier it is for the toddler or kid to handle the bike. Generally, the wooden balance bikes might be heavier than metal alloy bikes. However, composite frame bikes are the lightest in the balance bike category.
As a general biking guide rule of thumb, a bike should never weigh more than 30% of the weight of your child.
A heavy bike sometimes can mean many components. When you are just beginning to train, there is no reason to maintain the brakes. There comes a time when sacrificing some components is the only option for a parent, to get the right weight-fit for a kid.
Nevertheless, shedding off some features could cost more as there are specialized group sets that might be required to maintain a good weight. Mostly, if your child is athletic and fit, they can find the heavy bikes fit.
On the contrary, petit children or those who are having difficulty coordinating and controlling their bikes might find it hard to handle a heavy bike. Regardless, choose a bike that follows the 30% bike weight rule for children.
Footrest and Brakes: The Locus of Control
Most of the recent balance bikes do not come with either brakes or footrests. Typically, they are designed with the idea that they are being used to quickly and easily teach the children to ride a bike without using tricycles or training wheels.
Luckily, for anxious parents, there is the option of buying and installing both brakes and footrests. However, why spoil the party for the child? It is more fun riding without these two components that when you have them in your child’s balance bikes.
The footrests can be a safety hazard or beneficial, it all depends on the design. If poorly designed, the footrests can affect the striding of your child. In this respect, your child will be hitting their calf any instance they are gliding. A good footrest design should only accommodate the heels of the child and not the toes.
Do you need brakes for a balance bike either? No. stopping and control is all done by the kids’ feet. However, in some circumstances learning how to break while on a balance bike builds confidence to transition to regular bikes. Besides, brakes help prevent injuries and reduce the wear and tear of the shoes.
Kids who use the handbrakes prefer using their feet as well. It is a great step that helps them build balancing, control, and braking skills, necessary for regular bikes.
For toddlers who would ride for long on balance bikes, investing in a good handbrake is a must.
The brake designs differ depending on their brands. The short-reach brakes, which are accurate and reliable, come as a component of high-end bikes. Such brakes are good for kids riding balance bikes and have fear.
When choosing the brakes, you can test them using your pinky finger for accuracy. A brake should always be activated by the right hand and should be on the hind-wheels of the balance bikes. If you make a mistake of having the front-wheel with brakes, your kid risks toppling over, which can cause injuries.
Types of Bike Tires
We already explored the tire sizes that are good and standard for balance bikes. Now, let us also explore the types. Bike tires determine the smoothness of a ride. They also control the surface traction when in different terrains. Although most of the balance bikes come with foam and pneumatic or air tires, there is the option of changing to the big apple, hard plastic, and rubber tires. The size must be put into consideration if you are replacing the tires.
The rubber tires, which are the most uncommon are puncture-proof. They are never inflated and provide the most traction. However, in terms of cushioning, they are not reliable despite being better compared to foam tires.
The air or pneumatic tires are the most commonly used types in balance bikes. They are flexible and have better traction and shock absorption or cushioning capacity. Their durability and ability of maintenance make them a preference of many consumers.
The pneumatic tires come with treads of different shapes. There are those that are good at taking the road while others such as those with knobby treads, take on various terrains altogether.
It is always advisable to use tire sealants to enjoy a long-term use of air tires without too many flats.
The foam tires are a cheaper option. This type removes the worry of having flats as they are puncture-proof but at the expense of both traction and cushioning.
They are a good option for paved surfaces. Never let your child ride a balance bike with a foam tire on a smooth surface, it is a safety hazard. Their treads are also prone to tear and wear.
The Big Apple or fat boy tires have both traction and cushioning. These bike tires are good for a confidence boost for kids to ride and jump in the parks. However, just like other high-quality and valuable things, they come at a higher cost.
The hard plastic tires are the lightest kid’s bike tires category. Nevertheless, their wear and tear rate is high due to low quality. To say the least, these tires are pollutants and have no traction or cushioning.
Budget: What are you willing to spend on the balance bike?
All factors constant, your budget is a huge determining factor when choosing a bike for your kid. A good price range for a balance bike is between $50 and $250+.
A decent bike will come at around $100, but this is one that will need an upgrade. If you love the quality, go for high-end balance bikes, they come packed with quality features.
However, the family needs to come first when choosing a good balance bike. So, always plan well and save for a bike for your kid if you must. Maybe, having them save the little money you give them daily for their birthday, a financial wellness approach can be a good idea after all.
Grips, Bearings, Bolts, Crankset, and Chains
To begin with, balance bikes do not have pedals, crankset, and chains. It is never a safety issue at all despite the fear of parents new to riding. The major aim here is to have the child train fast and gain control and balance in just a few weeks.
On matters grip, ensure your child has cycling gloves to reduce injuries on their hands. A handlebar should be one of the considerations when buying your son or daughter a balance bike. Choose one that has a knobby end. This is why: it will prevent the chances of injuries to their hands when they accidentally fall or when they ride against a tree or a wall. A good balance bike should have grips that feature safety bumpers. Check on the bumpers because safety can never be traded.
Choosing a good balance bike also means checking the bolts. Different brands of balance bikes come with different bolts. Some have the recessed bolts while some have either the covered or rounded bolts. Bare bolts are problematic as they can cause injuries to the kids’ legs as they stride or when they accidentally fall. For small-framed toddler balance bikes, always opt for the covered, recessed, and rounded bolts.
Go ye shop for the Best Balance Bike for Your Kid
Typically, these set of bolts are superior at ensuring no scratches. You could save the paints on your corridor if your child rides there. There is no point in the house where a child will never ride. A good choice of the bolt brings peace.
If they are exposed, you could cover them using rubber or plastic to reduce the risks of scratches. All the same, when your kids are riding make sure they have the right cycling gear, from helmets to shoes and clothes.
Choosing the best balance bike is not akin to playing dice. It is never a matter of making a gamble. A wrong decision can be a safety hazard and a disappointment to your kids’ bike riding journey.
This all-time comprehensive guide on how to choose balance bikes is epic.
Every parent needs to train their children to ride bikes using balance bikes. But why balance bikes? You may ask. Here are the reasons why balance bikes are preferable.
When choosing a good balance bike consider the size, weight, frame material, weight, and features such as grip, seat height, footrests, brakes, and bolts.
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