Skip Training Wheels, Consider A Balance Bike
By Angela Davis
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Now that summer is almost here, many of us are spending a lot more time on our bikes.
And if you have kids, you may be looking at buying a new bike that’s a better fit, or teaching a little one how to ride.
I discovered something I’d never seen before. There are bikes for kids between the ages of 2 and 5, and not only do they have no training wheels, they have no pedals. They’re called balance bikes.
Some kids do a better job of learning how to ride a bike if they start off learning how to balance first. After that, they have no problem moving to a bike with pedals.
I watched a 3-year-old boy named William joyfully ride such a bike up and down an alley behind One on One bike shop in Minneapolis. His dad, Gene Oberpriller, is an owner of the store, which is located in the Warehouse District.
“When the seat height is set at the right height, they have just enough to put their feet flat on the ground, and they basically Fred Flintstone it, as it is called,” Oberpriller said. “And they just put their feet down and skid on their shoes to a stop.”
Balance bikes have been around for about 10 years, but in the last three they’ve become a popular alternative to bikes with training wheels.
“When you get older, you want a lot of independence. My experience with my kids is, they don’t like being told what to do. They don’t want you involved. Leave them alone, and they will figure it out,” Oberpriller said.
He says whatever bike your kid is on this summer, be sure to check the tire pressure. Under-inflated tires lead to the most problems.
And if you are shopping for a new or used bike for your child, here’s what to look for. “The main consideration is the level of control, or the handlebars, how wide they are. Then, of course, the seat height and the wheel size,” Oberpriller said. “You graduate up a wheel size as you grow older.”
Oberpriller says training wheels can actually impede progress in learning how to balance on a bike. But he acknowledges that some children are not comfortable with balance bikes.
He and his wife have three kids. His daughter didn’t care for the balance bike at all, but his two sons love them.
Balance bikes made by Strider sell for about $110 when they are new. Oberpriller says that people tend to hold onto them and pass them down to the next kid in the family, or maybe to a family friend.
It’s apparently hard to find used ones for sale, but there are some on Craigslist.