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Persevere with balance bike or get a pedal bike with stabilisers

(42 Posts)
TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 12:52:07

We bought DS a balance bike about a year ago (just before his 3rd birthday) and he's never really got the hang of it. The problem is that he doesn't get much chance to go on it and when he does he gets fed up with it fairly quickly (because he can't get anywhere very quickly with it).

We live in a fairly hilly but urban area so when we go anywhere local he tends to use his mini micro scooter which he loves and happily whizzes about on. Our local streets aren't particularly suitable for practicing on his balance bike until he gets the hang of it and can use the brake. Which means that having a go on his balance bike involves getting in the car to go to somewhere more suitable and this isn't always easy or practical.

I really want him to have the opportunity to learn to ride a bike though, so I'm wondering whether to give up on the balance bike and get a new bike with stabilisers, which I'd be much more comfortable letting him have a go on around our local streets. He doesn't have anything with pedals, so has been really frustrated on some days out lately that have ride ons with pedals because he can't work them.

Has anyone given up on balance bikes and switched to pedal bikes with stabilisers? I was really keen to give a balance bike a go, but neither DH or I are particularly outdoorsy and he's just not getting the opportunity to practice and build up the skills needed to be able to move to a pedal bike without stabilisers.

SkiBumMum Wed 25-Apr-12 12:58:07

I accosted blush someone in the street with a child who was v proficient and asked if we could meet them in the park so DD could copy as we were having no luck teaching her ourselves. It worked a treat! She's fair whizzing about now and loves it. Brake is another matter - lots don't have them & the kids use their toes...

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 13:08:42

grin SkiBumMum - I shall watch out for proficient children! How old is your DD?

I see what you mean about brakes, but there are a fair few boy racers etc round our way and I'm loathe to let him loose on our local streets until I'm confident he can stop at the pavement. We do take him to parks etc regularly, but as soon as he spots a climbing frame or something he's off! It'd be so much easier if there was somewhere near us we could walk to for him to practice but it's such a faff to get in the car to go somewhere for him then not want to have a go for longer than 5 minutes and then I have to carry it about while he plays in the park

fedupwithdeployment Wed 25-Apr-12 13:16:00

DS2 learnt to ride a bike without stabilizers when he was 3.5 (we took them off DS1 and DS2 demanded the same), and he was fine. Learnt in the garden and park, keeping up with his brother. we never had a balance bike.

My brother's boys are not very into cycling, but that is more to do with parental desire than anything else! I see what you say re not being very outdoorsy...the normal bike won't work unless you spend time with him...

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 13:21:53

fedupwithdeployment - yep, the time spent on it is definitely the problem. Our garden is titchy unfortunately and the nearest park to practice in is a good car ride away. I think I'd feel happier going up and down the street with him on a pedal bike because I imagine it would be a bit slower.

Perhaps we should persevere with the balance bike a bit longer but make more of an effort. I'd still be interested to hear from anyone who ditched the balance bike in favour of a pedal bike/stabiliser.

Ploom Wed 25-Apr-12 13:27:41

I feel like I keep saying this on threads but you can take the pedals off a normal bike so you then have a balance bike but with brakes.
But teaching a dc to ride a bike needs time & effort from both of you. We also live on a hill so used to drive ds2 to the park 10 mins away so he could have much further on the flat to practice. But I also let him go on the hills a bit too - ruined a few pairs of shoes though as he always used them as brakes.

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 13:36:39

I appreciate that Ploom - we do already have a balance bike though so having pedals on or off it isn't really an issue for us. I do know we need to put more effort into it and I don't have a problem letting him have a go on a hill per se, it's just not safe locally to us because of idiot drivers (and parking skills, but that's a whole other thread).

I am thinking it might be easier for us to spend more time practicing locally if he was on a pedal bike with stabilisers though hence thinking about whether to switch.

ErnesttheBavarian Wed 25-Apr-12 13:40:29

Is your balance bike made of metal or wood? Ours is metal and very light. My dd is v. speedy on it and loves whizzing around (hers doesn't have brakes, but no shoes ruined either...)

otoh, sil bought a wooden one few her ds and it is stupidly heavy, much much heavier than our metal one, so dd, though v. speedy and confident on ours would not/could not ride the v. heavy wooden one.

We originally bought the balance bike for ds but he could not get the hang of it, and eventually refused to try so we left it a while (like 2 years hmm), then when we resurrected it, he still was awkward and clumsy on it and didn't really 'get it', si I sat on it and showed him (not too easy or graceful!) but then he just sort of clicked. Even though he's old old old (8!) he still loved scooting around on the balance bike when dd lets him/ no one else is looking.

Ploom, I'm not sure that a normal bike without pedal is the same / as good as a balance bike it it? Would the chain and cog mechanism not be in the way? YOu can buy v. exp. balance bike where the whole mechanism detaches and you can later convert to a real bike, but a decent balance bike is only about 25 anyway (round these here parts)

ErnesttheBavarian Wed 25-Apr-12 13:43:28

op, why not ask him which he would like? I know a balance bike is best to help them learn to -erm - balance, this a prelude to riding a normal bike, but apart from the balance, the motion and sensation of the 2 are totally different, and he might well prefer one over the other, or have a bash on normal bike with stabilisers then revisit the balance bike. I wouldn't worry too much about bike with stabilisers, or see it as a backwards step, just let him do what he prefers, but I agree, letting him copy and learn from someone who does get it might well be a big help

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 13:43:57

Thanks Ernest. We were on a ante-natal thread together before I think (if you have a nearly 4 year old).

We've got a metal one - the islabike one. I think SkiBumMum's suggestion of accosting a proficient child is the way to go grin.

Actually, just giving it some thought, I might speak to his nursery. I'm sure they have some scooters/bikes etc that they use sometime in their very big garden, and I wonder if he could take it in next time they're doing that.

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 13:46:17

X-post. Good idea, thanks.

ErnesttheBavarian Wed 25-Apr-12 13:46:19

wow, good memory, mine is crap blush.

Yes, nearly 4 year old (shock) who loves her balance bike (Rennrad in German, aka Rennie).

And rides Rennie to Kindergarten everyday, and break neck speed. Weird she took to it no bother, but her brother just did not get it when he was that age.

Beamur Wed 25-Apr-12 13:46:37

My DD never got to grips with her balance bike, she's now got a bike with stabilisers but I don't hold out much hope of her being proficient any day soon, it is not coming easily to her - she is much better and more confident with her scooter.
However, I sold the balance bike to a friend whose little girl whizzed around on it, she has made an easy transition to a normal bike already.

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 13:49:00

You've got a memorable name! Mine has changed several times since then, so no idea what it was back in the day. I hope all is well with you and the family! I'm definitely going to speak to his nursery and find out more about what they do when they have a play on scooters/bikes - there might be an opportunity for him to try out some different options and watch other children then I can find out what he liked/didn't like.

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 13:50:20

Thanks Beamur. Does your DD struggle with the pedals?

Beamur Wed 25-Apr-12 13:56:18

She tends to watch the pedals and not look where she is going....but she is fine at making them go round!
Steering seems to be the big problem, and confidence - she gets alarmed very easily if the bike goes at anything faster than my walking pace and slams the brakes on.
She also gives up very quickly as it is hard for her and if she is not enjoying it, she wants to stop. The thing that is keeping her interested is seeing her friends in the street playing out on their bikes (although she won't be allowed out yet anyway as she is only 5)
Funny thing is - I was EXACTLY the same as a child, loved my scooter and really struggled with a bicycle.

BikeRunSki Wed 25-Apr-12 14:01:15

DS has the islabike balance bike. He got it for his second birthday and is now just gone three and half. He is brilliant on it, but like any new skill, it takes practise and time to master. He is now too tall for it even on highest saddle. He does not know that there is a (isla) bike with pedals waiting for him in the garage. We decided that Sept is a rubbish time to get a new bike, so he is getting his birthday present early.

Trouble100 Wed 25-Apr-12 14:05:04

We have ditched the balance bike for normal one with stabilisers. DD (now nearly 4 but was 3rd birthday when bought bikes) has never got the balance bike. She is great on a scooter, doesn't get the balance bike but got on a normal bike and zoomed off with out any trouble until she tipped over on some uneven tree roots on the pavement when she lost a bit of confidence. But as long as I help her over them she is absolutely fine on the flat or down hill (bit painful uphill!).

Only caution is that the bike is much heavier than a balance bike so we have a rule that if she takes it she has to ride all the way or push it herself as I'm not going to carry it (with buggy and 2 siblings to push...). Also, re post above, I was unable to take pedals off our normal bike to make it into a balance bike - tried and failed, contacted manufacturer who said couldn't do - can't remember the reason. so not always possible.

Have you tried taking him to a shop to see if he can work the pedals? DD zoomed around the shop straight away. Interestingly, she couldn't pedal some of the bikes but the one we picked she seemed to be able to pedal straight away. Must be something about how they are set up that suit different individuals so try them all! (Halfords usually have loads out you can try)

ragged Wed 25-Apr-12 14:07:29

The balance bike should be very easy to use, hills or not. Are you sure the seat is low enough? They should be able to sit on it completely still, chair like, since their feet are main brakes (feet should be flat on floor).

I never had a balance bike with DC1-2-3 & never missed it.
Got a balance bike for DC4, he goes too fast on it for my liking but otherwise okay. I predict he will be the oldest of DC to learn to ride without stabilisers, the balance bike is just too easy to use instead of having to pedal & balance together.

If your problem is small child going too fast down hill to be safe, I don't see how a bike with stabs will be better, except that presumably it will have a handbrake which most balance bikes lack.

5-6yo is normal age to learn to ride with stabilisers. So imho you are worrying a bit unnecessarily about this.

mistlethrush Wed 25-Apr-12 14:15:33

Copying is definitely the way - Ds did this in the park at about 2.5 and was very quickly zooming everywhere. He learned to ride a normal bike with pedals over a weekend (no stablisers) - only issue was starting off.

Pavements are ideal. He needs to be sitting properly - not standing up, then push each foot in turn - as they get faster, the amount of time they spend with feet off the ground increases and their balance improves (and steering) so by the time they get to ride a 'normal' bike its only the pedalling on top that is needed - probably the easiest of the skills required.

ErnesttheBavarian Wed 25-Apr-12 14:17:11

I just googled islabike to see what it was. Toitally shocked to see it selling for 120 pounds!!!! That's completely bonkers, here seriously they are around 30, really posh one for say 60.

Surprised so many say their kids don't get it (though to be fair 1 of mine didn't either!) we had guests for the weekend who had never heard of them and didn't understand them at all (till saw it in action) then when we were out and about, almost every little kid we passed was riding theirs. They're pressty standard here, whereas in UK I see loads of kids riding those 3 wheel micro scooters which you don't see that much here.

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 14:34:19

Thanks for all the comments.

Ragged - the seat is definitely at the right height. It's not that I think he's finding a balance bike hard, more that he's not getting the time to master it Re: running off - I guess I'm thinking that he would go slower initially while mastering pedals so less likely to whizz off onto the road while he's getting the hang of it. His balance bike does have a brake, but I can imagine him getting away from me a bit quicker on a balance bike and I'd rather he was more confident in using it and stopping before letting him out in our local streets because of the problems with traffic that we have.

I'm not worrying about it really, just wondering if a different approach might be helpful.

Ploom Wed 25-Apr-12 14:35:29

<waves to Ernest> long time no "see". But i've namechanged but still on the German thread.

Agree that its the done thing in Germany to have a balance bike. Very rarely see stabilisers.

Ds1 learned on his bike with the pedals taken off as he was too tall for the balance bike. Nothing seemed to get in the way.

TheScottishPlayer Wed 25-Apr-12 14:36:01

Yes, they're very expensive Ernest, but thankfully I only paid half that! Scooters are everywhere here - you hardly ever see someone on a bike on the street.

thisisyesterday Wed 25-Apr-12 14:44:52

it took ds2 quite a while to get used to his balance bike.

i'm not sure a pedal bike will be any slower to be honest with you.
the beauty of the balance bike is that your ds ought to be able to stop himself using his feet on the floor, even if he can't use the brake yet.

i would just keep using it for short trips out. he'll get used to it eventually

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