Kids Balance Bike
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  1. #1
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    Kids Balance Bike

    Looking at getting my 3.5 year old his first bike and want to grab a balance bike for him.

    The question I had was hand brake or no hand brake?

    It seems a hand brake is better for the kids who are closer to the end of the age range (bigger and older) vs. no hand brake which is better for the younger/smaller kids.

    Anyone have any experience with this?

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    I bought a Strider 12" wheel model for my 3yo granddaughter and it didn't have any brakes. At that age.....they just drag/plant their feet to stop.

    Strider doesn't put brakes on any of their models until you get to 16" wheels.

  3. #3
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    Go with no brakes. By the time your child is capable of using hand brakes, he will be graduating from a coaster brake bike.
    You can't fix stupid.

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    Depends on where he's riding. Flat or hilly? No need for brakes if flat or slightly hilly.

    I think a big part of balance bikes is to keep it as simple as possible. My one grandson learned on a moderately steep driveway (4-5% grade) with no brakes but he did ditch it in the grass off the side a number of times when he started going faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by theWdotY View Post
    Looking at getting my 3.5 year old his first bike and want to grab a balance bike for him.

    The question I had was hand brake or no hand brake?

    It seems a hand brake is better for the kids who are closer to the end of the age range (bigger and older) vs. no hand brake which is better for the younger/smaller kids.

    Anyone have any experience with this?
    The problem is a law (I believe it's federal) which prohibits hand brakes on small pedal bikes (I think it's 20 inch bikes). Because of that, kids learn on coaster brakes and have to unlearn that habit when the graduate to a bigger bike. No matter what you do, there will be a few falls during that transition.

    It becomes even more difficult when they learn on a balance bike with hand brakes, transition to coaster brakes, then switch back to hand brakes. You can expect to double the amount of falls as the result of clueless do-gooders passing laws that are counterproductive.

    Incidentally, you are doing the right thing as your child with learn to ride with no instruction. In six months he will be ready for a pedal bike.
    Last edited by SwiftSolo; 03-20-2019 at 04:53 PM.

  6. #6
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    This is what I got my youngest son. Might as well start him off right...

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    I started my daughter at 2 on a balance bike with no brakes. At age 3 she was riding a bike with a coaster brake. She did really well, so later in her age 3 year I got her a mountain bike with hand brakes.

    When we switched from the balance bike to the coaster brake, she had to learn a new way to brake. It was a learning curve. When she switched from the coaster brake to the disc brake bike she had to learn a new way to stop all over again. She was 3, had owned 3 bikes, and each one stopped differently. That seems unnecessarily complicated.

    So I bought a woom balance bike with a hand brake for my 2 year old. I'll get him a different 16'' bike that has a hand brake and no coaster brake. I just can't for the life of me figure out why I'd do anything different. I want this to be easy and fun for them. Bikes are important to me, and I want them to love it. Why make it harder and more of a learning curve than necessary?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    The problem is a law (I believe it's federal) which prohibits hand brakes on small pedal bikes (I think it's 20 inch bikes). Because of that, kids learn on coaster brakes and have to unlearn that habit when the graduate to a bigger bike. No matter what you do, there will be a few falls during that transition.

    It becomes even more difficult when they learn on a balance bike with hand brakes, transition to coaster brakes, then switch back to hand brakes. You can expect to double the amount of falls as the result of clueless do-gooders passing laws that are counterproductive.

    Incidentally, you are doing the right thing as your child with learn to ride with no instruction. In six months he will be ready for a pedal bike.
    Yep. Self-sufficiency, confidence, at an early age. I've heard 3-4 year olds have a great sense of balance. The 12" and 16" bikes all come with training wheels. Parents have said they usually retard the learning process, take them off, and the kid quickly leans how to balance. Fiip-flopping on training wheels really sucks when you're learning how to pedal, steer and brake.

    20" wheel "mountain bikes" with front shocks, front and rear hand brakes, 6 speed Grip shifters are available. Never seen any 16" wheeled bikes with hand brakes. The two sizes hit the age ranges about right, they figure. BS.

    I remember at age 6, lusting after a black Raleigh tricycle the neighbor had. Nottingham on the head badge. Robin Hood country. 24" wheels, rim brake on the front wheel, coaster brake in back. Very disappointed because my bike didn't have that elegant chromed brake lever. It was obvious to any 5 year old kid: much more responsive than pedaling backwards! My dad said, "Yeah, you'll go off the handlebars! "

    I took it as an insult kids my size wouldn't figure out how to use a hand brake before they got tall enough to ride 20" bikes. By that time the kid is 8 years old!
    Last edited by Fredrico; 03-20-2019 at 09:17 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredrico View Post
    Yep. Self-sufficiency, confidence, at an early age. I've heard 3-4 year olds have a great sense of balance. The 12" and 16" bikes all come with training wheels. Parents have said they usually retard the learning process, take them off, and the kid quickly leans how to balance. Fiip-flopping on training wheels really sucks when you're learning how to pedal, steer and brake.

    20" wheel "mountain bikes" with front shocks, front and rear hand brakes, 6 speed Grip shifters are available. Never seen any 16" wheeled bikes with hand brakes. The two sizes hit the age ranges about right, they figure. BS.

    I remember at age 6, lusting after a black Raleigh tricycle the neighbor had. Nottingham on the head badge. Robin Hood country. 24" wheels, rim brake on the front wheel, coaster brake in back. Very disappointed because my bike didn't have that elegant chromed brake lever. It was obvious to any 5 year old kid: much more responsive than pedaling backwards! My dad said, "Yeah, you'll go off the handlebars! "

    I took it as an insult kids my size wouldn't figure out how to use a hand brake before they got tall enough to ride 20" bikes. By that time the kid is 8 years old!
    Well that's how I learned. Training wheels lifted off the ground enough to learn how to balance or ride lopsided. Once I felt confident enough, my dad removed them. It was a 16" wheel bike with a coaster brake. I then got a 20" wheel hand-me-down bike with a coaster brake. By the time I got a 26" wheel bike (5-speed) with hand brakes, I was 9 and old enough that the transition from a coaster to a hand brake was uneventful. I do remember that the hand brakes squealed a lot, but I never flipped over the handlebars or anything like that. It was a pathetic bike and I lost interest in biking when I was a teenager and got my driver's license. Out of the saddle until I reached my early 40's and became interested again.
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  10. #10
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    I'm at office and don't have model name with me but, I bought the larger one with a hand brake and blow up wheels. It's heavy and a bit too large for my 2.25 year old girl. With the seat down in its lowest she barely touches the seat. (she's 65% height for her age, for context)

    I may grab a Strider for this spring and then sell it off and have her use the larger one, if she wants. I guess what I'm saying is, if she was on a lighter Strider with smaller wheels standover she would feel more comfortable. We'e been zipping around on a city bike with a seat since she was 18 months btw
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  11. #11
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    No brakes all the way.

    Just do not buy the Specialized Hotwalk,it's freaking heavy. Probably he may handle it now but mine did not have a good start with it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdhbrad View Post
    I bought a Strider 12" wheel model for my 3yo granddaughter and it didn't have any brakes. At that age.....they just drag/plant their feet to stop.

    Strider doesn't put brakes on any of their models until you get to 16" wheels.
    Our granddaughter wore out the toes of her shoes dragging her feet to stop. It works. Also should consider just getting a regular kids bike, removing the pedals, and lowering the seat so the kid can use it as a scooter. They learn to balance and steer without difficulty. Then put the pedals back on and raise the seat. A couple of runs down the sidewalk and they are pedaling away. Braking is easy to explain to them once they have the pedals back on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    Well that's how I learned. Training wheels lifted off the ground enough to learn how to balance or ride lopsided. Once I felt confident enough, my dad removed them. It was a 16" wheel bike with a coaster brake. I then got a 20" wheel hand-me-down bike with a coaster brake. By the time I got a 26" wheel bike (5-speed) with hand brakes, I was 9 and old enough that the transition from a coaster to a hand brake was uneventful. I do remember that the hand brakes squealed a lot, but I never flipped over the handlebars or anything like that. It was a pathetic bike and I lost interest in biking when I was a teenager and got my driver's license. Out of the saddle until I reached my early 40's and became interested again.
    Both of my grand children were riding pedal bikes before their 4th birthday. They started on a balance bike but really wanted a "real bike". That is the best possible situation.

    I promised them that I would get them a pedal bike when they learned to ride the balance bike all the way down our driveway with their feet up (about 150' of about 1.5% grade). They are about 1 1/2 years apart but both were extremely motivated by the promise of a real bike.

    Neither ever used training wheels. The transition only took an hour to adapt to pedaling and brakeing.

    There is no question that I am fortunate to have them living a short distance away and to have a great driveway to learn how to use the balance bike.

    There is a company in Portland that makes light kids bikes (I'll post the name when I remember it). It's important to spend a little more and get a good bike that is light (under 20 lbs) for their first "real bike". Nothing ensures failure like puting a 35lb kid on a 30lb bike with sh!t for components.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    Both of my grand children were riding pedal bikes before their 4th birthday. They started on a balance bike but really wanted a "real bike". That is the best possible situation.

    I promised them that I would get them a pedal bike when they learned to ride the balance bike all the way down our driveway with their feet up (about 150' of about 1.5% grade). They are about 1 1/2 years apart but both were extremely motivated by the promise of a real bike.

    Neither ever used training wheels. The transition only took an hour to adapt to pedaling and brakeing.

    There is no question that I am fortunate to have them living a short distance away and to have a great driveway to learn how to use the balance bike.

    There is a company in Portland that makes light kids bikes (I'll post the name when I remember it). It's important to spend a little more and get a good bike that is light (under 20 lbs) for their first "real bike". Nothing ensures failure like puting a 35lb kid on a 30lb bike with sh!t for components.
    Balance bikes are something that is relatively new. All the bikes I had while growing up had pedals. As a toddler, I had a trike with the pedals attached to the front wheel. Then came the 16" wheel pedal bike with coaster brakes and training wheels. The training wheels came off by the time I was 5.

    Nothing against balance bikes. One may have had me riding two-wheel earlier than 5. Just saying they weren't available in my day.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by masont View Post
    I started my daughter at 2 on a balance bike with no brakes. At age 3 she was riding a bike with a coaster brake. She did really well, so later in her age 3 year I got her a mountain bike with hand brakes.

    When we switched from the balance bike to the coaster brake, she had to learn a new way to brake. It was a learning curve. When she switched from the coaster brake to the disc brake bike she had to learn a new way to stop all over again. She was 3, had owned 3 bikes, and each one stopped differently. That seems unnecessarily complicated.

    So I bought a woom balance bike with a hand brake for my 2 year old. I'll get him a different 16'' bike that has a hand brake and no coaster brake. I just can't for the life of me figure out why I'd do anything different. I want this to be easy and fun for them. Bikes are important to me, and I want them to love it. Why make it harder and more of a learning curve than necessary?
    That's a really good tip. So it seems that maybe having the hand brake on the balance bike might set them up better later when they are ready for pedals. That way you skip a coaster brake bike and move right to pedals and hand brakes.

    Where we live isn't overly hilly and he'd probably be fine just with no brake but I might still opt for something with a brake to make the next transition easier.

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    I just remembered. The Name of the company in Portland that makes light and high quality (for kid's bikes) bikes is Islabike.

    They are reasonably priced and quickly shipped

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    I just remembered. The Name of the company in Portland that makes light and high quality (for kid's bikes) bikes is Islabike.

    They are reasonably priced and quickly shipped
    They also stopped selling bikes last year.

    Check out Woom for more pavement oriented stuff and Spawn for the dirt. Those were my favorite when I looked around a few months ago.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    The problem is a law (I believe it's federal) which prohibits hand brakes on small pedal bikes (I think it's 20 inch bikes). Because of that, kids learn on coaster brakes and have to unlearn that habit when the graduate to a bigger bike. No matter what you do, there will be a few falls during that transition.

    It becomes even more difficult when they learn on a balance bike with hand brakes, transition to coaster brakes, then switch back to hand brakes. You can expect to double the amount of falls as the result of clueless do-gooders passing laws that are counterproductive.

    Incidentally, you are doing the right thing as your child with learn to ride with no instruction. In six months he will be ready for a pedal bike.
    Woom sells a freewheel kit for this exact reason

    https://us.woombikes.com/products/fr...kit-for-woom-2

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    Quote Originally Posted by 9W9W View Post
    I'm at office and don't have model name with me but, I bought the larger one with a hand brake and blow up wheels. It's heavy and a bit too large for my 2.25 year old girl. With the seat down in its lowest she barely touches the seat. (she's 65% height for her age, for context)

    I may grab a Strider for this spring and then sell it off and have her use the larger one, if she wants. I guess what I'm saying is, if she was on a lighter Strider with smaller wheels standover she would feel more comfortable. We'e been zipping around on a city bike with a seat since she was 18 months btw
    FYI, the Woom (I don't actually work for them, despite what it may seem like) has really long chainstays, which allows the seat to be a lot lower than other bikes because the wheel doesn't get in the way. It also makes the bike more stable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    Both of my grand children were riding pedal bikes before their 4th birthday. They started on a balance bike but really wanted a "real bike". That is the best possible situation.

    I promised them that I would get them a pedal bike when they learned to ride the balance bike all the way down our driveway with their feet up (about 150' of about 1.5% grade). They are about 1 1/2 years apart but both were extremely motivated by the promise of a real bike.

    Neither ever used training wheels. The transition only took an hour to adapt to pedaling and brakeing.

    There is no question that I am fortunate to have them living a short distance away and to have a great driveway to learn how to use the balance bike.

    There is a company in Portland that makes light kids bikes (I'll post the name when I remember it). It's important to spend a little more and get a good bike that is light (under 20 lbs) for their first "real bike". Nothing ensures failure like puting a 35lb kid on a 30lb bike with sh!t for components.
    "You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to SwiftSolo again."

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    Quote Originally Posted by masont View Post
    Woom sells a freewheel kit for this exact reason

    https://us.woombikes.com/products/fr...kit-for-woom-2
    That look like a great bike and the weight is low. Do you know what components are used?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    That look like a great bike and the weight is low. Do you know what components are used?
    No, but the balance bike comes with Schwalbe G-Ones on it, so I'd imagine they aren't terrible.

  23. #23
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    I'll also say the Early Riders are impressively light and well-built. Throwing out my back lifting a little kid's bike is not on my to-do list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    The problem is a law (I believe it's federal) which prohibits hand brakes on small pedal bikes (I think it's 20 inch bikes). Because of that, kids learn on coaster brakes and have to unlearn that habit when the graduate to a bigger bike. No matter what you do, there will be a few falls during that transition.

    It becomes even more difficult when they learn on a balance bike with hand brakes, transition to coaster brakes, then switch back to hand brakes. You can expect to double the amount of falls as the result of clueless do-gooders passing laws that are counterproductive.

    Incidentally, you are doing the right thing as your child with learn to ride with no instruction. In six months he will be ready for a pedal bike.
    That can't be true. I bought my two year old such a bike with a hand brake. He hasn't really figured out gliding yet, so he hasn't used it yet though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nealric View Post
    That can't be true. I bought my two year old such a bike with a hand brake. He hasn't really figured out gliding yet, so he hasn't used it yet though.
    Here you go (a simple 15 second search provided this info). https://rascalrides.com/coaster-brak...on-kids-bikes/

    "In the U.S., coaster brakes have long been the norm for kids bikes (not to mention the law). Conventional wisdom has claimed that young kids don’t have the coordination required for hand brakes, and moreover, that they are downright dangerous".

    Does you kid have a pedal bike without coaster brakes or a "balance bike"? To my knowledge, they have never been illegal on balance bikes for obvious reasons (coaster brakes will not work when there are no pedals).

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