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Balance bikes vs stabilisers: which do I choose?

childrens stabilisers

Removing stabilisers from a child’s bike is a significant milestone. Parents spend months gently encouraging their kids, and running up and down quiet roads teaching their children to cycle without stabilisers. It’s a staple event that every big kid and adult remembers. However, are children’s bike stabilisers doing more harm than good?

Balance bikes vs stabilisers (or training wheels) has long been discussed amongst the cycling and parent community but research has shown that stabilisers don’t actually help children to learn to cycle. Instead they give a false sense of security to children that feels nothing like independent cycling which is what they are gearing up to. Bike stabilisers encourage children to over-lean and give them the misconception that they can cycle at any speed and if they turn the handlebars they will stay upright, which isn’t the case. With a balance bike, the child’s feet always touch the ground encouraging them to learn to balance on their own.

Balance is a key area for children to learn, not just in terms of cycling but with general motor skills. When using a balance bike, children learn about leaning and body positioning, and how this affects steering, as opposed to relying on handlebars alone. It encourages them to think about the whole idea of cycling, and how movement and weight affects motion and balance. As with stabilisers, balance bikes support children in the early stages of learning to cycle and help to increase their confidence. After a bit of practice, these skills will begin to become second nature and they will be able to make the smooth transition to a pedal bike.