Balance Bike vs Regular Bike – Which bike is better for children?

Your child’s first bike is a big milestone in their first few years of life. It can be nerve-wracking to make up your mind while thinking of their future. So, between the balance bike and a regular bike, which is the ultimate best-first pick?

My friend’s daughter was just about to turn two and she was going crazy and driving me half-mad with the unending window shopping, scrolling, browsing, and phone calls about what best gift to get her.

Having been there and done that with my son, I suggested a bike and her jaw dropped. Jenny didn’t think her 2-year-old was ready for it but she was willing to find out more.

We came across tons of bikes and by the end of it, we had found a balance bike for her daughter and a regular one for my son. But what exactly made them so different – other than the pedals or lack thereof?

What is the difference between a Balance Bike and a Regular Bike?

Factor
Balance Bike
Regular Bike
Child’s Age
Between 18 months to 4 years
5 years and over
Cornering
Easier without stabilizers
Harder because of stabilizers
Terrain
Opens child to wide exploration
Open to wider terrains
Weight
Light
Heavy
Tires
EVA Foam or rubber
Rubber tires offer more traction and cushioning
Saddle Height
Low
High
Brakes
Some or None
Both front and rear brakes
Availability

Balance Bike vs Regular Bike – How do they Compare?

Child’s Age

A child as young as 18 months to 4 years can safely learn to use a Balance bike but a regular bike is heavy and has a high saddle which means it is limited to children aged 5 years and up.

A balance bike is one without pedals that a child can sit or stand over and use their legs to push themselves forward. By so doing, the child can learn balancing and steering the pedaled bike when he or she is older.

Learning to pedal is much easier than learning to balance.

The regular bike works best with kids who have mastered the art of bike balancing because otherwise they will get discouraged when they realize they are not able to control the bike.

This is because the stabilizers keep the bike from toppling over which eliminates the child’s perception of balance on a bike and prolongs his transition from assisted riding to independent cruising or pedaling.

Wheels and Tires 

Wheels and tires on a balance bike are more suited to young toddlers in size, weight, and protection compared to the bigger and heavier type sported on the regular bike.

Balance bikes use rubber tires or EVA form tires. Rubber tires have air tubes that offer the rider better cushioning and traction which come in handy in rough terrain and when taking sharp corners. EVA form tires are light and puncture-proof but they wear out quickly and do not provide the safest grip in the riding experience.

Regular bikes have rubber tires that are both safe and comfortable to ride in but the stabilizer wheels are made of hard plastic and they produce terrible rattling noises.

They also tend to have a one-sided lean caused by the mounting brackets which complicate the ride further.

Saddle height 

Balance bikes will offer toddlers years of fun and independent riding plus they can ride them further because of their low weight as compared to those heavy regular bikes. 

Necessitating the child’s feet-to-ground contact, balance bikes have a low positioned saddle and this is great for them to easily walk or run while on the bike.

Regular bikes have a higher saddle because the rider needs to pedal until his or her leg is straightened to complete a rotation. In this position, your child will only reach the ground on tippy toes.

If you are to use a regular bike, you must pick one with an adjustable saddle so that you can change it to a lower level enabling your child to reach the pedals and complete rotation.

Brakes 

Regular bikes help train the child better on the operation of brakes than the balance bikes which are not enabled with the same or any type of brake system.

On a balance bike, brakes may or may not be part of the design depending on the type and model. Most of those with brakes only have them on the rear wheel although there are exceptions that feature them on both the front and rear.

Regular bikes have both brakes and the front is mostly side-pull or V-brakes while the rear features coasters.

While they are not a huge necessity, they do add to the riding safety and also help to train the child on using them so they are more adept after they have grasped the concept of balance when you replace or add the pedals.

Riding Experience 

Your child can conquer longer and rougher terrain such as a compact dirt road on a balance bike as compared to a regular bike which should be confined to smooth pavements to minimize injury in case of a fall.

Because the balance bike is lighter, has a low center of gravity, and doesn’t have stabilizers, your child will maneuver corners easier and at lesser risk compared to the tricycle.

Regular bikes may be worth exploring but because they are heavy bikes, it will be complicated for your toddler to manage the sharp bends.

If it features stabilizers and you leave them on for long, they may lean away from the corner which puts your little one at risk of falling over or getting grazed.

Regular bikes are heavier than balance bikes and are only recommended for users above the age of 4, 5, or 6 who may be old enough to handle it because it might depend on your child’s temperament, body proportions, and will affect their future riding confidence.

However, it all comes down to the age of your child and their physical abilities when choosing which bike to get for their first bike ride.At the end of the day, get what you can afford and help your child along the first days of cruising.

Verdict: Which is better – Balance Bike or Regular Bike?

Balance bikes are overall the best choice for your young toddler to train on the rules and skills of cycling. Their simplistic and colorful designs are very attractive to the below age group 4.

If your child has reached their 4th birthday, then leave the balance bikes for the younger group. From the age of five, buying a regular bike with removable pedals and an adjustable saddle will save you some money and will last longer.

FAQ

How will I be sure that my child is ready to pedal?

You could test them on the tricycle before investing in a regular bike but worry not about pedaling because once your child has grasped the concept of bike balancing, pedaling comes naturally to most.

What are the cons of removing pedals for training?

The pedal bikes are built heavier, they have bigger wheels and frames and they are not great options for the toddler under 4 years. It also takes a special toolset to remove the pedals.