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  1. #1
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    The case for training wheels

    There's lots of pushback against training wheels in the enthusiast community. I've drunk some of that Kool-Aid myself, but now I'm not so sure that there isn't a place for these devices after all.

    Tuesday I was in Millennium Park in Chicago whiling away a few minutes prior to a meeting. Saw a mother strolling the paths with her young daughter who was pedaling along on a training-wheel bike. Daughter was maybe four. (Just a guess). Mother walking. Daughter Pedaling. Both enjoying the day. It is difficult for me to imagine that scenario playing out with a balance bike. What kid is going to want to kick the bike along with her feet for that sort of distance?

    Then there is my neighbor's experience. He bought a balance-bike last year for his son, and his son would not, and still won't, touch the thing. Zero interest. Nada. The kid is not dumb, and sees that everyone else has pedals. This year the kid has a pedal bike with training wheels. He'll ride that one, but never the balance bike. (He rides a kick-scooter however, and surely is learning some balance from that).

    Two years ago I'd have said reflexively to avoid training wheels. These days I'm not so sure.

  2. #2
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    I haven't tried to find any threads here, but until now I had never heard of a "push" bike. A young co-worker a few years ago mentioned taking the pedals of his toddlers bike and the theory why. Is push code for taking the pedals off or actually special training tool with no capacity for pedals? The latter seems like a waste of money. My recollection as a kid was neither. I vaguely remember my dad pushing me around for a day by the sissy bar of a too big bike until I got it and I've been hooked ever since. My daughters briefly had training wheels. I think training wheels worked for decades. Feels like a fad, or personal choice to me. Not sure it really matters.

  3. #3
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    The case for training wheels

    Yes. One can buy bikes with no capacity for pedals. Kids basically coast on them. Probably a small hill is helpful. Strider Bikes is one brand.

    My kids were all PBB - pre balance bike. My closest to direct experience with balance bikes is from watching my neighbors.

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    What I did for my kids was drop the seat and pull the pedals off of a normal kids bike. After they got the hang of balancing, the pedals went right back on.

  5. #5
    Senior Member loky1179's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    There's lots of pushback against training wheels in the enthusiast community. I've drunk some of that Kool-Aid myself, but now I'm not so sure that there isn't a place for these devices after all.

    Tuesday I was in Millennium Park in Chicago whiling away a few minutes prior to a meeting. Saw a mother strolling the paths with her young daughter who was pedaling along on a training-wheel bike. Daughter was maybe four. (Just a guess). Mother walking. Daughter Pedaling. Both enjoying the day. It is difficult for me to imagine that scenario playing out with a balance bike. What kid is going to want to kick the bike along with her feet for that sort of distance?

    Then there is my neighbor's experience. He bought a balance-bike last year for his son, and his son would not, and still won't, touch the thing. Zero interest. Nada. The kid is not dumb, and sees that everyone else has pedals. This year the kid has a pedal bike with training wheels. He'll ride that one, but never the balance bike. (He rides a kick-scooter however, and surely is learning some balance from that).

    Two years ago I'd have said reflexively to avoid training wheels. These days I'm not so sure.
    I think you have it right - training wheels don't teach kids how to ride a bike - they let them have fun on a bike before they are able to actually ride. Emphasis on "fun". That's the part that will make them want to learn for real.

    +1 on the scooter. That is what I did with my son. I read a funny funny blog post that basically said " 2 steps to teaching your kid to ride a bike: 1. Buy them a scooter. 2. Sit back and have a beer."

    The scooter teaches them the steering corrections needed to ride a bike. When they can do a figure 8 on the scooter, they are just about ready to bike - but the kid needs to be the one to make that decision.

    I didn't buy a balance bike, but they seemed like a good idea, so I made a poor man's version - I took the crank off my son' s bike. He tried it, but didn't like it. I've seen other kids scoot all over the place on them, so I suppose it really depends on the kid.

    My thoughts: training wheels teaches pedaling + scooter teaches steering = new bike rider!

    Good luck - and have fun!

  6. #6
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    On a recent outing my 2 year old rode 2 miles on his balance bike. When I take him to the park on it I have to run to keep up.

    My older son regularly rode 8 miles on his when he was 4.

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    As an alternative perspective, maybe if that little girl had had a balance bike, she would have been riding on her own already without training wheels. My son started on a balance bike (and a Micro Mini scooter) at 2. He was riding on his own without training wheels by 3.5 and shortly thereafter was commuting 4 miles home from daycare, with me biking with him. Of course, I couldn't stroll along beside him though, since his biking pace was about 5-6 mph.

    My daughter took a little longer to be interested in both the pedal bike and the balance bike, but she was also riding on her own and commuting the 4 miles home from daycare by 4.5.

    The problem is the training wheels become a crutch for both parents and kids. One of my friends kept insisting that her son wasn't ready to ride without training wheels--one weekend when he was with his grandparents, he convinced them to take off the training wheels and came home riding on his own. For the past two summers, we've gone to "Family Bike Night" at a local venue where kids can ride around without traffic and it shocks me how many 6 and 7 year olds I see there riding bikes with training wheels still--on bikes with up to 20" wheels. I've also seen kids on 16" bikes with training wheels that are way too small for them and have literally heard parents say "We'll get you a bigger bike when you learn to ride without training wheels", while they sit on the sidelines and watch their kid ride around with training wheels--umm the only way they're going to learn to ride without training wheels is if you take the training wheels off.

    I third the scooter suggestion, or buy them something like a trike or a Big Wheel. Keep the training wheels away.

    And kids do go miles and miles on their balance bikes. The benefit of the balance bike over a regular bike without a drive train is the weight--a Strider balance bike weighs roughly 7.5 pounds. Most 12" bikes weigh closer to 20 lbs. We've definitely gotten our $50 worth out of our balance bike.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Working, so can only respond briefly. Thank you so much mhifoe and mel2012 for sharing how your kids go the distance. My own exposure to balance bikes has been limited. It is interesting to hear how they've worked out for others.

    Mel2012, good point about the crutch business. It helps when parents are involved.

    In my own case, when I was young, it was a bored and very nice group of high-school girls from the across the street who decided one day to train me. Well, it doesn't get any better than that. They ran me around the block and stayed with me and caught me when I fell, and suddenly I wasn't falling anymore.

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    You've piqued my interest. I know there's some degree of variability, but do kids usually push for a day and get it, days, or weeks? In my case it's enough years I can't tell you for sure how long my daughters used training wheels. I do know it went something like this. Older started out small "toy" bike with trainers, we gradually cheated them up, then as she was outgrowing it, graduated her to larger child mountain bike with no trainers. Younger took over toy bike, same process. Older daughter moved up to ex's ladies mountain bike that was graciously handed down, younger graduated to child mountain bike. There were many variables including limited practice time when not with me, but I think the trainers worked out well. I suppose either way provides your child with a fun toy to get them outdoors and exercising. Hopefully they get hooked!

  10. #10
    Senior Member CliffordK's Avatar
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    I've taught a few kids to ride (with pedals).

    It usually means spending an afternoon practising, with a few spills... then something suddenly clicks... and they're off.

    Perhaps the next kid I run into that wants help learning... I'll try the push bike idea. But there is usually a point somewhere between about 4 and 8 where the kid just decides they are ready to learn.

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    I've noted before: I didn't go the balance bike route. My daughter is the younger end of the kids on the street by at least a year. All her friends on the street had bicycles and training wheels. It's what she wanted and what she's interested in.

    If she's having fun, that's the main thing.

    I'm sure as the summer rolls through that I'll pull off the training wheels and see how she does - if she falls, I'll wait a little while. She's only three and has many years ahead if she takes her time to learn.

  12. #12
    Senior Member loky1179's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpikedLemon View Post
    I've noted before: I didn't go the balance bike route. My daughter is the younger end of the kids on the street by at least a year. All her friends on the street had bicycles and training wheels. It's what she wanted and what she's interested in.

    If she's having fun, that's the main thing.

    I'm sure as the summer rolls through that I'll pull off the training wheels and see how she does - if she falls, I'll wait a little while. She's only three and has many years ahead if she takes her time to learn.
    My bribe to my son was to have a new bike waiting for for him, that didn' t have have training wheels. He had to learn to get the new bike. Though he actually learned on the old bike - took the training wheels off. It had 12" wheels so it was easier for him to reach the ground.

    He hadn't been riding more than five minutes when we retired the old bike and he started riding the new one with 16" wheels.

    EDIT: Only three years old? I wouldn't be in a big rush. That is very young.

    It is very individual to the child. Just because you hear stories of 3 and 4 year olds learning to ride after using a balance bike, doesn't mean ALL 3 and 4 year olds are ready to ride.

    The boy across the street learned to ride a year and a half before my son. But he is a much bigger kid, not that size necessarily correlates with development. This kid was riding at 4 - and riding very well.

    My son was almost 6, and even after he had learned to ride, it was clear that he would not have been ready sooner.
    Last edited by loky1179; 06-19-15 at 11:40 AM. Reason: auto correct too aggressive!

  13. #13
    Senior Member mstateglfr's Avatar
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    There is absolutely a place for training wheels in the process of learning to ride.



    Our 8.5yo rode with trainers until she was a little older than 6. She could go for a handful of miles. When she was ready for the trainers to come off, a neighbor suggested pulling the pedals so she could learn to balance on a parking lot across the street that has a slight downslope.
    A handful of balance practice sessions later and she was riding every day.

    Our 4.5yo has trainers on and she is still working to get comfortable and confident on her current bike since she has had it for only a couple months after moving up in size.
    Her old bike is now a balance bike- I removed the pedals and she will push and balance for a few feet at a time. She isnt ready to do more than that, even though she asks to.



    Looking back, if we had a balance bike, our oldest would have been riding on 2 wheels much earlier as she is a very strong rider. And I would have been OK with it since she is hyper-aware when riding and works hard to follow every safety rule we have thrown at her.
    With that said, I think it’s a case by case sorta thing with kids- I wouldn’t trust a 3yo to ride as fast as they can go on 2 wheels since their decision making and awareness are so inconsistent. Itd be flat out dangerous for many kids riding on sidewalks and multi use paths.
    Its cool that kids so young have the balance to ride on 2 wheels, but unless they also have the discipline and awareness to ride safely at the speed 2 wheels allows, there isnt much(any) benefit in it.

  14. #14
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Just as a personal data point... I had a plastic tricycle at age 1, according to photos. I don't remember it, it was lost in a house fire when I was about 4. After that I had a Big Wheel and then a BMX. My bike hoarder grandad who built the BMX for me refused to put training wheels on it. He put shorter cranks on it and had me climb on from a curb. I remember it being really awkward. But I must have made it by about 6 because I rode it to first grade, and I do remember graduating to longer cranks.
    Genesis 49:17

  15. #15
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    My bike hoarder grandad who built the BMX for me ...
    I just want to pause for a moment and acknowledge grandfathers and the building of bikes. What a cool thing that he built it for you instead of just buying it from the shelf.

    We now return you to your regularly rambling thread...

  16. #16
    Senior Member snow_echo_NY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mel2012 View Post
    As an alternative perspective, maybe if that little girl had had a balance bike, she would have been riding on her own already without training wheels. My son started on a balance bike (and a Micro Mini scooter) at 2. He was riding on his own without training wheels by 3.5 and shortly thereafter was commuting 4 miles home from daycare, with me biking with him. Of course, I couldn't stroll along beside him though, since his biking pace was about 5-6 mph.

    My daughter took a little longer to be interested in both the pedal bike and the balance bike, but she was also riding on her own and commuting the 4 miles home from daycare by 4.5.

    The problem is the training wheels become a crutch for both parents and kids. One of my friends kept insisting that her son wasn't ready to ride without training wheels--one weekend when he was with his grandparents, he convinced them to take off the training wheels and came home riding on his own. For the past two summers, we've gone to "Family Bike Night" at a local venue where kids can ride around without traffic and it shocks me how many 6 and 7 year olds I see there riding bikes with training wheels still--on bikes with up to 20" wheels. I've also seen kids on 16" bikes with training wheels that are way too small for them and have literally heard parents say "We'll get you a bigger bike when you learn to ride without training wheels", while they sit on the sidelines and watch their kid ride around with training wheels--umm the only way they're going to learn to ride without training wheels is if you take the training wheels off.

    I third the scooter suggestion, or buy them something like a trike or a Big Wheel. Keep the training wheels away.

    And kids do go miles and miles on their balance bikes. The benefit of the balance bike over a regular bike without a drive train is the weight--a Strider balance bike weighs roughly 7.5 pounds. Most 12" bikes weigh closer to 20 lbs. We've definitely gotten our $50 worth out of our balance bike.

    i have to agree with @mel2012

    our neighbors daughter was riding a 2 wheel pedal bike by age 3.5 after riding around on her skuut balance bike.

    following our neighbor's example,

    we used a strider balance bike from 2.5 until 3.5 then started trying the pedal bike. we got rid of our stroller at 3 years old and had her go everyday the 0.5 mile trip between home and her daycare/preschool with it. she built up strength as well as riding ability and technique. kids learn fast and riding a bike is easier to teach a child than swimming, but less easier than the mini kick scooter. they all of course just need practice. within 4 months (we tried 1x a month) from 3.4-3.7 years old, she was able to ride a pedal bike on her own by age 3.75. the only thing we used was a bike handle to run alongside in back of her so she could get the hang of pedaling. she's now 4.5 and i'm looking to upgrade her ride. unfortunately the world of kids bikes is crowded with terrible terrible bikes. trying to find a quality bike without breaking the bank is challenging to say the least.

    perhaps training wheels have a place. we never needed them or used them so i can't say. but if you want your kid to ride a two wheel bike, take the training wheels off and let the kids have a session trying to ride. and do so at least once a month. the balance bike and scooter are merely other helpful tools to get your kid riding. i agree too much failure can be discouraging and a deterrent to riding. but it doesn't mean your kid shouldn't be trying regularly until they get it.

    and agree with @mstateglfr that kids that young don't really have the comprehension ability to figure out how to ride with other people on a MUP or other path. when we ride, i teach her about braking for people. if the path is too narrow and there are too many people on it, she brakes and stops and waits for the people to pass then continues on her way when she thinks it's safe enough to go. i was extremely impressed with her when she did this on her own after my instruction of her for about 4 rides prior to that. teaching her this aspect of riding is pretty important and i'm glad to start her young. i realize it will take longer than with an older child and there are certain things she won't be able to judge well until she's much older. that's okay. it's enjoyable for her and me in the mean time.

    here's a video of her riding her bike Sept of last year (2014) when she was 3.75 years old. this was her 3rd session or so on a pedal bike https://www.facebook.com/echo.NY/vid...32180275314134
    Last edited by snow_echo_NY; 06-22-15 at 11:44 AM.

  17. #17
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    My younger daughter started on her push bike when she was 2. She cruised around the neighborhood and bike trails with us comfortably. When we let her ride the 12" bike, she didn't need th training wheels, but she did have to learn how to pedal uphill. My older daughter didn't have that experience since we didn't know about push bikes; she didn't enjoy her tricycle much when she was little, and didn't ride much on the 12" until she was over 4.

    Other than the benefit of balancing on push bikes, the biggest factor is the huge weight difference between a push bike and tricycle or regular bike. Very few neighborhoods have perfectly level sidewalks. IMO push bikes let kids ride much earlier, see more stuff, and enjoy more.

  18. #18
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    The key to riding a bike is balancing, first and foremost. Pedalling comes second to that. My own view is that the phrase
    "training wheels" is a contradiction in terms. They don't "train" children to ride a bike since they prevent them learning to balance.

    We teach up to 50 kids a year to ride and with only a couple of exceptions* in the last 17 years, they've all learned to ride, either on balance bikes, or on their own with the pedals off. Most of them do this in a morning or less (a morning being 2 hours). The youngest was just 3yrs old and the oldest a severely dyspraxic 14 yr old who took about 4 Saturday mornings. We sometimes have to be a little firm with them, especially those who don't want their pedals off, but we almost always succeed. The fastest was a 3yr old who learned in 5 minutes (literally).

    * One was an 11 year old who flatly refused to try it with pedals off because "that was what the little kids were doing". I went down the traditional route with a hand in the middle of her back and pushing (never push the bike - it then goes where you're pushing, which might/probably not be going in the same direction the kid is). T'other was a kid of about 5 who threw a tantrum of spectacular proportions so back to the traditional route

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