A balance bike is a small, lightweight bicycle that has no pedals and no chain. The seat of the bike is set up so that it can be adjusted with respect to the height of the handlebars. A child will stand beside the bike, straddle it with their feet planted on either side of the center bar, put their hands on the handlebars, and push off from the floor with their feet. The forward motion will move the bicycle forward.
In simplest terms, a balance bike is a product that allows a child to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels or a parent pushing them. Children can use this type of bike when they are as young as two years old with common features including a low center bar for easy straddling and lightweight construction with pneumatic, rubber tires. Many balance bikes are constructed using wood or an imitation of wood because these materials have practical benefits in terms of being less expensive than steel but more durable than plastic.
Many parents choose to introduce their child to the world of bicycling with an inexpensive balance bike that costs $100 or less. This allows children to “practice” riding, enabling them to eventually transition to a pedal-style bicycle with ease and safety. As toddlers master the use of balance bikes, they can move on to pedal bicycles when they turn four or five years old.
However, parents should not envision buying a balance bike as a cheap alternative to purchasing a high-quality pedal bicycle. Many children enjoy riding these lightweight bikes well into their preteen years because they can be used both indoors and outdoors on paved surfaces. In fact, there are some balance bikes that resemble the design of standard bicycles but have no pedals or chains, allowing preteens and adults to enjoy the benefits of a simple bike in terms of ease and safety.
Balance bikes are typically not intended to be used for racing or extreme outdoor use. They may only be offered in a limited number of colors and designs, though certain models offer an adjustable seat height so that multiple children can share one bicycle. Balance bikes vary with respect to wheel size, but most are equipped with 12-inch wheels.
Some balance bikes may be equipped with a brake that can be activated by pedaling backward or by using hand brakes attached to the handlebars. These features allow parents to transition their child to a pedal bicycle with minimal chances of injury if these safety mechanisms are used properly. However, many parents prefer for their child to learn how to brake by backpedaling rather than breaking alone.
Pedal bicycles typically use a chain and sprocket system in order to operate, but balance bikes rely on gravity and the weight of the rider to propel them forward. Many parents choose this type of bicycle when they want their toddler or preschooler to learn how to ride a bike without the use of training wheels.
The idea of learning how to pedal a bicycle is intimidating for many children, leading them to become frustrated often. Balance bikes are better suited for these learners because they do not require pedaling in order to move forward. Instead, children can propel themselves by running beside the bike or by pushing it forward. As they develop their physical coordination, toddlers can eventually transition to pedal-style bicycles when they are old enough to begin learning how to ride using pedaling methods.
Balance bikes typically have 12-inch wheels, which make them perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who are learning how to ride a bicycle on paved surfaces. If parents want their child to learn how to brake without relying on hand brakes or backpedaling, they may prefer for this type of bicycle to be equipped with a braking mechanism located on the pedals rather than the handlebars. However, balance bikes are not typically used for racing or extreme outdoor activities, but for basic riding.
There are some balance bikes that resemble the standard bicycle design but have no pedals or chain system to operate the sprocket and wheels. These types of balance bikes allow preteens and adults to enjoy a simple bike at a low cost without the need for expensive spare parts or maintenance. Pedal-style bicycles typically use a sprocket and chain system in order to operate, but balance bikes rely on the weight of the rider for propulsion.
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