Balance bikes, as we know, are used by kids and are surprisingly getting very popular these days. These are basically bikes with no brakes or pedals.
My parents also bought a balance bike for me when I was a child. Interestingly, I came to know the fact: The first balance bike designs were not targeted at the children at all.
As a matter of fact, when balance bikes came into existence in 1817, there were no modern bicycles either. Karl Drais, a German pioneer, invented this bike, in which two wheels were attached to a wooden frame.
Having no brakes and pedals arose safety concerns over the speed and control of these things in busy city sidewalks. This discouraged mass production of balance bikes then.
A Recent Return to Reality
A sensible question here would be: How come this centuries-old abandoned design becomes a toddler crowd’s favorite plaything in the west today?
All thanks to Ryan Macfarland who took apart a regular child-size bicycle to make it more manageable for his kid.
Then in 2007, he used this concept to start ” Strider Bikes”, a US-based company that specialized in making balance bikes.
Within a few years, balance bikes became so popular that the production and sales skyrocketed.
Do Balance Bikes have no Disadvantages at all?
The popularity of balance bikes is down to many of the benefits they have.
We can find plenty of articles on the internet about the perks of having a balance bike. But it is really rare to find materials that discuss the other side of the coin.
If we have proper learning and experience we can obviously find some downsides to it.
Likewise, here we have listed and discussed some disadvantages of balance bikes you might want to know.
1. Incapability of Driving a Normal Bike
The first disadvantage of balance bikes I experienced is that the child is being taught to be incapable of riding a normal bike.
Riding a bike should be done by moving the pedals with one’s legs which isn’t the case with balance bikes.
Having no brakes or pedals, as a child, I found it very hard to understand the fundamental functions of those parts in a bike when I shifted to a real bike.
So if the parents expect their child to learn these skills then balance bike may not be the right thing to start with.
2. Expensive and Short Utility Period
Balance bikes do not come cheap. Furthermore, you don't intend your child to use it for a long period of time.
As parents, we expect our kids to learn the actual bike as soon as possible. In such a case, the balance bike could become instantly useless.
It would be rather intelligent idea to buy a real bike which fits for your little one.
After this, you can take the pedals and chains off, lower the seats, and voila, there you have your balance bike. However, it’s not as easy as you think if you don’t have the right tools and/or skills.
When the child is finally ready to shift to a regular bicycle, it is more expensive to replace the balance bike than simply reassembling the normal bike.
3. No Brakes, No Pedals; Dangerous!
This is the sheer reason why balance bikes were abandoned two centuries ago.
Without full control over the vehicle, they can speed up to 12 kilometers an hour. They were considered safety hazards on the busy sidewalks of Europe and therefore faded away.
Now, imagine a kid on rather steep or difficult terrain on this bike. This could very well be a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.
Some might argue here that there is always a guardian close by the kid. If this is true, then you might as well buy a regular bike (or with a training wheel).
4. Lack of Physical Fitness
Since balance bikes do not have brakes or pedals, a kid will not reap the full benefits of physical exercise by pedaling or applying the hand brakes. As a result, your child will lack proper fitness of fingers, legs, and other muscles despite riding a bike.
If you are always alongside your child during the bike sessions then there is almost no point in not buying a regular bike for your kid.
Another advantage would be that your kid would not have to go through the unnecessary transition from a balance bike to a regular one like me back then.
Additionally, it might as well save some time and money for parents and kids.
5. Unconvincing Marketing: “Balance Learning”
Balance bike advocates always argue that we should learn to balance the bike first, as it is fundamental to learning biking.
It may sound like an irrefutable argument at first. But hasn’t a child already learned to balance themselves in many ways around the age of two?
Before being on a balance bike, a child is already capable of standing, walking and a few other basic physical balancing activities.
Giving them a mobile pedal less bike may not necessarily be the best of ideas to help them learn the art of balancing.
Even after learning the balance bike the transition to a regular bike is not such a piece of cake.
The actual balance of a bike depends heavily on the motion and ability to stop.
Likewise, brakes are also very important. You never learn these skills on a balance bike and therefore you have to learn almost from scratch to learn the real one even if you are good at balance bikes.
So the marketing of ” balance learning” from a balance bike doesn’t quite sound generally applicable.
In addition to all of this, what my personal experience suggests me is that it is more of a toy and less of a bike.
If you are the parents trying to save every penny to ensure a better future for your family then you might as well not spend your hard- earned money on balance bikes.
Just buy a regular bike and give the necessary help and attention to your kid, they will come out fine.
You and I both are probably the best examples of this.
Even ordinary bikes these days are safer and comfortable for a child’s learning than what was available to us back then.
By saying this I don’t mean Balance Bikes are complete waste. If it was so, you an I weren’t be here discussing about it.
A child might wanna grab a balance bike rather than a regular bike just like his friends. Of course he won’t know how applicable it’s gonna be for him in future.
But again, if your child seems interested in a balance bike, then as parents we have to buy one for them.