Balance Bikes or Stabilisers – What’s the Best Route?
Every year bicycles take pride of place on little boys’ and girls’ letters to Santa, so what better time for us to call on iconic British bike brand, Raleigh, to examine the question asked by many parents as their little ones set out on the first stages of their cycling journey. Raleigh’s Michelle Jakeway, mum to two under-5s, takes us through the options.
Are balance bikes or bikes with stabilisers best for little ones learning to ride?
“Ever since balance bikes burst on the scene a few years back they’ve become firmly established as a much-loved activity for boisterous and active under-fives.
Whilst they‘re proving a popular pastime for little ones who enjoy darting along as fast as lightening as their confidence grows, they’re also helping to build balance and co-ordination skills. As your little ones scoot along on their balance bikes they’re also strengthening their leg muscles and (hopefully) beginning to develop a love of cycling that will continue into their adult lives.
Balance bikes, such as the Raleigh Dash featured below, tend to be suited to 2-5 year olds, my own son was keen to get on his just before his 3rd birthday and hasn’t looked back!
What many families (my own included!) tend to do is start with the balance bike at around 2-3 years old and then move onto a bike without stabilisers once they’ve grown completely confident on their balance bike, at around 4-5 years old.
The Raleigh Atom featured below is a great bike to get started with pedal power. The frame is built from lightweight aluminium, making it easier for little riders to handle. Helping to build confidence quickly, the bike has adjustable brake levers meaning that small fingers can always reach the brakes.
Balance bikes don’t feature pedals, so there are some families who prefer the more traditional route from trikes to pavement bikes with stabilisers, leaving out the balance bike stage. There have been many discussions on whether it’s best to opt for balance bikes or stabilisers, but I’d suggest it’s not an ‘either or’ situation, as both routes have considerable benefits. For parents picking a bike with stabilisers, look no further than the 12” or 14” Atom or Molli.
Of course, all children are of varying heights and capabilities (I know my two boys are completely different builds and personalities) so this transition happens at different times for different children. At this point the children get accustomed to pedalling and we find that the former balance bike riders tend to master pedalling skills quite quickly.
As a general rule, by the time the child is around 5 years + we find parents are looking for a 16” or 18” wheel bike that’s single speed. Bikes such as the Raleigh Chic and the Bedlam are the perfect choice for these children.
As the child becomes a competent cyclist and their pedalling power grows, they then progress up the wheel sizes and get to grips with the exhilaration that riding with gears can bring. The Beatz and Chic 20” bikes have rear gears offering a great introduction to shifting with Shimano’s Revoshift system meaning they can change gear whilst keeping their hands fully attached to the handlebars.
Getting children started cycling as pre-schoolers plays a part in the fight against child obesity. Cycling is a fun and sociable activity for both children and adults, but if we nurture a love of cycling at pre-school age it has to be a major plus point for the future, as we encourage our children and teens to keep active every day for those all-important health benefits.
Bikes are a great gift for children at Christmas as they keep on giving over the whole year and the skills learnt and memories created will last a lifetime.