We haven’t started doing product reviews…yet (If someone gave me some free outdoor products I’m sure my arm could be twisted to test it out, perhaps a 29″ full suspension mountain bike that weighs 22lbs or a nice cyclocross bike…oops, daydreaming again). But I do want to point out what I think would be one of the best gifts you can get for a very young person to get them started down the road toward personal independence, a bike. Not any bike mind you but a non-pedal or balance bike. That’s right, no pedals.
You can skip the tricycle and training wheels (I was not a big fan of either as a kid). With the pedal-free bike a kid can learn balance from the beginning, they learn to handle the bike and they learn the power of momentum. When they get a little bigger and are ready for the pedals the transition will be relatively painless. I’ve seen some kids out on the trails with these bikes. The above photo is from 2010 Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day (not updated) which is sponsored by the International Mountain Biking Association and held the first Saturday in October every year (the 2014 event in Little Rock). That particular kid was riding lap after lap of the Rabbit Ridge Mountain Biking Trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park (We dedicated the trail that day and tied it to TKMBD.)
Several companies build these types of bikes. They run in the 100 dollar range which will seem high to some but go price a stroller or other piece of little kid gear including the cute little tiny The North Face jackets that are available and you may come to the same conclusion that I did. 100 bucks isn’t much to set your child down the path of respect for the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of the manufacturers that I know of:
So get them a bike and get them out on the trails. It wouldn’t hurt us grown-ups to get out more and gets rid of that excuse, “I can’t ride, I’ve got to stay home with the kid.”
Enjoy this video of a kid and his dad hitting the trails and think about giving your kid, grandkid, friends kid a little freedom. And don’t forget the helmet!
I’m a HUGE proponent for balance bikes. All of my kids started out riding on a trailer bike (attached to mine) as soon as they were able to sit on it & hold on. I’m *convinced* that helped them learn how to balance and coordinate pedaling. I didn’t have a balance bike for the 2 oldest kids, but they learned to ride on their own in less than week with me running behind them.
My youngest son got a Strider balance bike and rode that in conjunction with the trailer bike for several years. His babysitter had a bike with pedals and out of the blue one day (he had no prior practice with a bike w/pedals), he jumped on the bike and just started riding it around like he had been doing it for years. If that’s not a testament to a balance bike, I don’t know what is.
IMO, training wheels are more detrimental than anything else. I don’t care how well made the training wheels are, but there’s no way to simulate perfect balance with the training wheels. Kids who ride on training wheels usually end up leaning on one side or another so they never really learn to perfect their balance. It makes it much harder to learn to ride w/o training wheels when that time comes.
Boycott training wheels! Support balance bikes!
I was impressed with the Strider – it has a very light, solid frame, durable components, and the company makes the replacement parts available and for an affordable price. It’s light enough that my son was able to use it on his own at a very young age. I can’t wait for my baby girl to start using it too!
I agree with the thought that balance bikes are a better way to go; it was suggested several years ago that the easiest way to teach your kids balance was to take the pedals off a standard bike in their size, let them roll with feet down til they learned to balance, then reattach the pedals. The balance bike is just an extension of that idea.
I do disagree, however, with your assessment of training wheels; I’ve run three kids through them, they learned the balance point pretty quickly, only doing the ‘one wheel down’ thing for a short period. All three — 17, 14 tomorrow, and soon-to-be 9 — are BEASTS on bikes, all can and have done 25-mile rides on fat tires; it’s our favorite thing to do together.
Most people I deal with can’t get their heads around spending another $60 next year when their child outgrows the old one, so getting them to start with a balance bike is too much of a mental stretch….