The Great Debate: Balance Bike or Stabilisers?
The world is an ever-changing place. But learning to cycle, that’s always going to be the same, right? Er, maybe not…
Parents of today’s young children might remember how they learnt to cycle. It probably involved their own parents taking them somewhere large, flat and soft, ritually removing the stabilisers, a firm shove to get them started, and then everybody crossing their fingers hoping the rider would stay upright. Eventually – probably after a number falls and a fair bit of whining – they did.
Nowadays there is a slightly more scientific approach to teaching very young children to cycle. Bike manufacturers have realised that if the two main challenges to cycling – balancing and pedalling – are split in two, perhaps getting started doesn’t have to be quite so beholden to luck. So read on for our guide to the great debate: balance bike or stabilisers?
WHAT IS A BALANCE BIKE?
The result of the bike manufacturer's train of thought is the balance bike market. Here at Bike Club we have balance bikes from Strider, Frog and Squish, but they’re all built according to the same theory: these are simple bikes with a frame, wheels, a handlebar and a saddle. Some have a rear brake, too, but none of them have a pedal or drive system.
By removing those pedals, toddlers can use their feet on the floor to scoot themselves around and grow used to the way the bike moves beneath them. Once they get particularly good at balancing, they can zoom about with their feet in the air.
Then, when the time comes to move up to their first pedal bike, half the problem has been conquered. They know how to balance in the saddle, all they need to do now is get used to pedalling forwards.
>>Read our guide to the best bikes for learners here<<
WHY NOT STABILISERS?
This approach also removes the need for stabilisers, which has other benefits. Of course, we can still provide stabilisers for people who need them but they’re not ideal on a numbers of points.
Firstly, stabilisers actually promote ‘wrong riding’. Children on bikes with stabilisers learn to lean the wrong way when cornering – preferring to lean outwards to keep their outside stabiliser wheel on the ground, rather than lean into the corner, as they would do on a non-stabilised bike. And because there’s no need to maintain momentum for balance, children on a stabilised bike can also end up learning to pedal by spinning their legs backwards.
Secondly, and probably the biggest hurdle, stabilisers often act almost like a safety net or comfort blanket, and the mental turmoil of removing them can prove to be a bigger hurdle than the physical difficulties of learning to ride.
In any case, for us, the magic of balance bikes is so fantastic that we really would urge you to try them out first before going to stabilisers. We have seen our own balance-biking children jump onto their first pedal bike and be cycling – unaided – in literally a matter of minutes.
So get your new rider on a balance bike today and help to create a little cycling miracle.