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We are massive fans of balance bikes around here. They teach kids balance and coordination, which makes the transition to a regular bike much smoother. Instead of focusing on pedaling, which is fairly simple, balance bikes have kids learn to balance first. Brilliant. Balance bikes for kids focus on the most difficult aspect of biking for kids which is balancing.
Are balance bikes better than regular bikes?
When our oldest son was two, we bought him a sweet kids bike from Craigslist for $5. It was a really simple toddler bike – no brakes, unpoppable tires, and training wheels that were impossible to get straight so he always rode a little crooked. We thought “it’s just fine, he’s only 2”. Well fast forward 2 years to a 4 year old who’s outgrowing that bike and terrified to get rid of training wheels. He was even more furious when we tried to take off the pedals and training wheels and help him learn to balance. It was quite the battle. Luckily, he now rides a bigger bike very well and we’re so glad that learning to ride a bike is behind us. The sad part is that our son could actually balance pretty well from the start, but we thought we had to put training wheels on his bike, because that’s how we learned to ride a bike. In the end, the training wheels had become such a crutch that he was really attached to them and didn’t think he could ride a bike without training wheels.
Is it bad for kids to use training wheels?
While training wheels are not necessarily bad, we learned early on that if they are used for a long time, they can quickly become a crutch for kids learning how to bike. After teaching our oldest to ride a bike using training wheels, we decided to look for other options for teaching our remaining kids to bike. Teaching our childe to ride a bike probably took a year longer than was necessary because his child training wheels created some bad habits
To avoid such drama with our other kids, we decided that she needed a balance bike from the start. We looked around and instantly fell in love with several bikes, but the price tags made us take a step back. We wanted her to feel like she was getting her own bike, not just the one that Mason had severe tantrums about because he wanted his training wheels back (‘cuz she picks up on stuff like that). Well, we did have to shell out $2 for some spray paint (on sale), but we love the result.
Here’s what we started with. (Well, it had training wheels too, I just forgot to take a picture)
We started by taking the pedals off. On this bike, the pedals and crank were integrated so it came off all as one piece. There were some random bolts that we had to take apart and one pedal had to come off to get the whole piece off the bike. (okay, the parts weren’t random, I know!)
Then we hit a hard spot. The chain. It was looped around the frame so I couldn’t get it off. I didn’t want to just take a hammer to it, in case we want to put it on later. So, we took it to our local bike shop to see if they could help. Well, the shop technician was so excited that we were turning our bike into a balance bike that he took a link out of the chain for free. SWEET!
Now, to make the bike unique. The bikes original decals had to go. We found out that a razor blade and Goo-Gone were our best friends for this part. It’s essential to get rid of all the extra sticky residue so you don’t have a big nasty mess later.
Then we took the wheels and handle bars off. which was super simple and only required a wrench.
Now we gave the whole bike a light sanding to help the new paint stick better. It is really important to prepare your surface properly, or your spray paint will just give you a big mess. At this point, you’re ready to paint. If you want a really good looking paint job, use primer first. However, that thought didn’t occur to me until after I started painting. Luckily, our finish is holding up quite nicely. Do several thin and even coats of spray paint so that it doesn’t run and get streaks, allowing it to dry, per paint directions, between. After the bike is painted and dry, reassemble the bike by putting the tires and handle bars back on.
Voila, brand new bike.
Christmas is just around the corner and this is an easy and cheap way to get your child learning to bike. Although we love our bike (and the $8 price tag), the ‘real’ balance bikes do have some great features that we couldn’t replicate. The major one is that the seat goes REALLY low. This is especially nice if you start your child early. As it is, Chloe can barely touch the ground. We’ve actually taken the seat off right now because then she can walk easier. Here are a few of our favorite balance bikes that you can purchase here and here.