Balance Bikes at Naples Cyclery

Why Balance Bikes are a Good Start to Cycling

Did you know the first bike was actually a push bike? That it simply had two wheels, no pedals? Karl Drais designed it in Germany in 1817. And while the bike has evolved quite a bit in the last 201 years, an argument could be made that the essence of the bike is the same today as it was two centuries ago: two wheels and a seat. At least, that’s the argument that one of the first developers of balance bikes, Ryan McFarland likes to make. If you have a kid, or just live on planet earth near kids, you’ve seen a balance bike. It’s the super-fun looking kids' bike with a low seat and no pedals. You'll commonly see little kids use these bikes to rip sidewalks, pump tracks and even single track before they can handle a pedal bike. Like many great inventions, McFarland created a balance bike out of necessity and frustration.

“When my son was two, I got him a 12-inch tricycle and I watched him struggle with it,” McFarland says. “The tricycle was so huge compared to my son. He couldn’t reach the bottom of the pedal stroke.” 

So, McFarland stripped the tricycle down, lowered the seat, and ditched the drive train and the pedals until it looked something like that first Karl Drais balance bike. McFarland says stripping the bike of its pedals allows kids to focus on the more important elements of riding a bike: steering and leaning. Maybe even more significant, the lower center of gravity and lightweight build of balance bikes makes them less intimidating for young kids.

“So much of a kid’s fear of biking comes from being misfit on the bike,” McFarland says. “A balance bike is so low and light, they’re in control from the get go, so there’s no fear.” 

Kids seem to agree. Parents all over the world are eschewing the traditional method of training wheels and opting for balance bikes as their offspring’s first bike.

If you're looking for your kid's first bike this holiday season, you may want to consider giving a balance bike, as opposed to a tricycle. You might just be surprised by how young you can pass on a love of being on two wheels.

Information originally found on Bicycling.com.