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Balance bicycle facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Kids balance bike (Kinderlaufrad)
Wooden balance bicycle

A balance bicycle or run bike or no pedal bike or dandy horse is a training bicycle that helps children learn balance and steering. It has no foot pedals, no drivetrain, no chain, no gears, no gear shifters, no derailleurs, and no freewheel.

Designs

Toddler on metal balance bike
Toddler on metal balance bike

Balance bikes have been made out of both metal and wood. It can be a normal bicycle with pedals and related parts removed, or it can be purpose-built (especially for very small children, for whom normal bicycles are generally not available). Some are fitted with brakes and come with either air tires or solid foam tires. Most commercially available designs have flat handlebars.

To function properly, a balance bicycle must be small enough for the rider to be able to walk the bicycle while sitting comfortably in the saddle, putting both feet flat on the ground. The rider first walks the bicycle while standing over the saddle, then while sitting in the saddle. Eventually, the rider feels comfortable enough to run and "scoot" while riding the bicycle, then to lift both feet off the ground and cruise while balancing on the two wheels.

Learning method

Manufacturers of balance bicycles say that children can learn to bicycle faster because they learn to balance and countersteer first and then to pedal later, and that training wheels slow learning because kids become too dependent on them, acquiring bad habits. Training wheels that prevent the bike from leaning also prevent countersteering, so that, as with a tricycle, kids learn to turn the handlebars the wrong way, which must be unlearned later.

Sheldon Brown wrote that training wheels can become an obstacle to learning if they are adjusted incorrectly, because they prevent the bike from leaning if they are too low, and can inhibit braking if too much weight is taken off the rear wheel by training wheels that are too low. Adjusting training wheels correctly, and raising them higher as the child's skill increases, avoids these problems. Balance bikes with no brakes at all except the rider's feet might stop poorly as well, though very young children might not use brakes effectively anyway. Brown recommended simply removing the pedals from a normal kid's bicycle, avoiding the extra expense of a balance bike, and parents have had success with this approach. USA Cycling President Derek Bouchard-Hall said in a Wall Street Journal article that balance bikes "have made training wheels obsolete."

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