You may never forget how to ride a bike, but thankfully you forget how you learned. Otherwise, approaching a kids bike would bring up all kinds of psychological, gravity-related trauma. Also, the Tour De France would be effectively marketed as a death sport.
If you learned to ride a bike back in the ’80s or early ’90s, you probably took the standard progression. It went: tricycle, training wheels, and then bruised and bloody limbs on a newly 2-wheeled pain machine. But there is increasing debate that training wheels should go the way of the penny-farthing. What replaces them? The balance bike. Check out the argument (which doesn’t include any mention of how crashing builds character, you pansy).
What Is A Balance Bike?
A balance bike is a squat, two-wheeled contraption that looks pretty much exactly like your standard bike. The only difference is that it lacks pedals.
The way a standard kid (starting around 2-years old) uses the bike is by standing astride it and essentially walking, running and eventually lifting their feet for a smooth, fast glide. This makes your average 2-year old a tad faster than you’d probably like them to be.
Europe and Australia are big fans of these bikes. Parents offer them as the bike-learning method of choice in place of larger training-wheeled models. They actually have a pretty lengthy history. It’s said the design goes back to 1816, when a German baron came up with a design for a mechanical horse called a Draisine. Which is appropriate considering kids love horsing around.
Bikes In The Balance
The argument for the balance bike is pretty simple. Proponents say that it teaches a kid the most important thing about learning to ride a bike: balance.
Even child development experts agree that the only thing training wheels do is help a kid learn to pedal. That, they argue, is the easiest part when learning to ride a bike. Not to mention, training wheels pretty much ensure your child doesn’t learn how to corner. Which is odd, considering being able to turn is a pretty good skill to have. Particularly if you live in a cul de sac.
The Case Against Balance Bikes
The only real case against balance bikes is that they can be a bit more difficult to master than other ride-on stuff that makes your kid go zoom. So if you have scooters are trikes around, your kid might be pretty reluctant to figure out a balance bike.
All remaining arguments are simply nostalgic. If your kid can master their balance bike by 3 years old, they’ll pretty much be able to make a seamless transition to the pedal-pushing bike. That means that you won’t really get to run behind them, shouting gleeful encouragement like you normally see in popular media.
Whether you’ve already started with a balance bike or not, just know that your kid will learn to ride a bike on their own time. You just have to support them. That might mean running behind them and picking them up when they crash and burn, or marveling at their balance bike gliding. Either way, you can rest easy knowing that while they won’t forget how to ride, they will certainly forget how they learned.
This article was originally published on