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  1. #1
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Balance bike or pedal bike for 3 year old?

    My daughter is about to turn 3. She's a bit tall for her age. Up until now, she's been riding a plastic tricycle (not really a big wheel style, as she sits above the pedals), but she's outgrowing that. She loves it though. I thought it was time to move on to a bicycle for her (she calls this her bicycle and loves riding it on walks with us or just up and down the driveway). I'm trying to decide whether to go with a kids bike with training wheels for her or an actual balance bike. I know I could (probably, not sure I have the right tools) pop pedals and crank off a decent kids' pedal bike and use that as a balance bike for her and then put the pedals back on later, but I've heard other people say that's a lot heavier than an actual balance bike and only works with name brand pedal bikes (because store brand ones don't disassemble as well or something). I'm just trying to get some advice as to what's worked well for other people.

    Also, I'm not sure how best to figure out what size I should be looking into for her.

    thanks.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  2. #2
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Definitely balance bike.

    But if you want to get a pedal bike and take off the pedals (or, realistically, not put on the pedals), that works (almost) as well. Yes, it's a little heavier, but not so much to avoid it.

    (I have balance bikes for both of my kids, but I like buying bicycles a little too much.)

    The common wisdom now is to avoid training wheels and I agree with it.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Yeah, I get the whole no training wheel thing. I'm just not sure how fast she'd outgrow a balance bike, and, if she outgrows it fast, if it'd be better to have pedals waiting and ready to go. How long did yours stay on balance bikes? A year? Less? More? Is it variable with each kid? Also, how do you know what the right size is? I like buying bike stuff, but not something she's going to outgrow right away and I'm not sure I want to drop $100 or so for a fancy balance bike that will be quickly outgrown.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  4. #4
    Senior Member BruceHankins's Avatar
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    I did the training wheels with my oldest boy and he didn't have to much trouble getting rid of them. I got my 2 year old daughter a 12" bike with training wheels for Christmas and while she can't ride it yet I have it set up so she can get on it in the house and pedal without the rear tire hitting the ground. Everybody does their own thing so find what works for you and do with it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cplager View Post
    Definitely balance bike.

    But if you want to get a pedal bike and take off the pedals (or, realistically, not put on the pedals), that works (almost) as well. Yes, it's a little heavier, but not so much to avoid it.

    (I have balance bikes for both of my kids, but I like buying bicycles a little too much.)

    The common wisdom now is to avoid training wheels and I agree with it.
    + a billion. Balance bike or little pedal bike w/o pedals. Got my 4 y.o. up and riding in short order doing the balance bike (really a little pedal bike w/o pedals) method.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  6. #6
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Yeah, I get the whole no training wheel thing. I'm just not sure how fast she'd outgrow a balance bike, and, if she outgrows it fast, if it'd be better to have pedals waiting and ready to go. How long did yours stay on balance bikes? A year? Less? More? Is it variable with each kid? Also, how do you know what the right size is? I like buying bike stuff, but not something she's going to outgrow right away and I'm not sure I want to drop $100 or so for a fancy balance bike that will be quickly outgrown.
    My kids used their balance bikes for a year. If I had been more proactive, it could have been shorter.

    If money is an issue (and, really, it should be), then I'd just do the regular bike and remove/not add the pedals. I'd go to your local bike store and have her sit on a few. My guess is that 12" wheels is what you'll want to do (and this should work for a few years).

    If you find that 12" wheels are too big, then finding a 10" balance bike may be a reasonable choice...

    Good luck (and when shopping for bikes, don't forget to look at Craig's list and garage sales),
    Charles
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  7. #7
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cplager View Post
    My kids used their balance bikes for a year. If I had been more proactive, it could have been shorter.

    If money is an issue (and, really, it should be), then I'd just do the regular bike and remove/not add the pedals. I'd go to your local bike store and have her sit on a few. My guess is that 12" wheels is what you'll want to do (and this should work for a few years).

    If you find that 12" wheels are too big, then finding a 10" balance bike may be a reasonable choice...

    Good luck (and when shopping for bikes, don't forget to look at Craig's list and garage sales),
    Charles
    Got ours through "alley recycling".
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  8. #8
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    ok, so probably 12". Hmmm, I thought I'd read somewhere that 3-4 was when 16" started. Should inseam be wheel size + 2-3 inches at minimum? I think I'm going to go with the whole pulling pedals off approach. I'm pulled a couple other BB's so, assuming it uses the same tools, I'll be good to go. Just need to figure out size (I can measure her inseam tonight, but she's like 38 inches tall and in the upper 90 something percentile for her height) and find the right thing.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  9. #9
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    I'm pulled a couple other BB's so, assuming it uses the same tools, I'll be good to go.
    Just to be clear: I'd advocate for just removing the pedals and leaving the crank and chain in place.

    You could pull the crank but (1) it may not be the same tools as it's probably a 1 piece crankset and (2) I'd be somewhat leary of being able to get it back together as kids bikes aren't built to have their cranksets swapped out (well, you know what I mean - although I may be over-thinking this part). That being said, removing the crankset would be cheap way to turn a yard sale find into a balance bike.

    p.s. I just put my 6 1/2 daughter on a 16" and there was some concern she wouldn't be big enough. She's small for her age, but she could be quite happy on a 12" bike (except that we needed that for her younger brother).
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  10. #10
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Hmmm, hadn't considered leaving the crank and chain on. Do you tie it or something so it doesn't spin and get in the way, or is that not much of a concern? Most of the ones I've seen only have a partial chain case, and I'm not sure I'd want the girl messing with a chain, but I suppose I could just cut that and put it back with a new quick link when the time comes. I guess I hadn't considered them all being old school one piece cranksets.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  11. #11
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    My son now rides a regular 12" bike without pedals. He had the pedals on for a day and almost got started, but then got frustrated, so I took them back off.

    It hasn't been an issue at all having the crankset there. It doesn't get in his way and the chainguard protects his pants from the chain (we don't leave him alone with tools, however, because he can break things amazingly quickly while trying to "fix" them).
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    If you get a bike with a one piece crank (common on cheaper small bikes), remove the crank as well, as they tend to stick out wide enough to hit little legs.

    If you can get a s/h balance bike, tho, go with it. We nearly always go that route snce our club bought 3 back in about 2000. we teach about 40 kids from 3 upwards every year.

    Training wheels are the INVENTION OF THE DEVIL! (Sorry about the shouting). They train nothing, except how not to balance and balancing is the heart of riding a bike. They should be banned under whatever is your equivalent of the UK's Trades Description Act as a misleadingly described product.

  13. #13
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    Best thing is to get a real balance bike, you can buy them cheap now,,most Walmarts have them for somehwere around 50 bucks.

    We had my grandson riding a 2 wheeler by three. You want them to use the balance bike only as long as it takes them to get good at it,,then move them to a 2 wheeler pedal bike.

    How we did it was,,,as he was learning the balance bike we also had a 2 wheeler with training wheels just so he could learn how to use the brake. As soon as he learned the brake and the balance bike, we moved him on to a 2 wheeler without the training wheels. By the time he was 4 he was riding his bike 8 miles at a time. He is 6 now, he rides a 6 speed mountain bike with 20 inch wheels with hand brakes and a BMX type bike.

    My grandson was very motivated cause I ride a lot and he wanted to be able to ride with me to the store and playground. Not every kid is going to learn to ride a 2 wheeler at 3.

  14. #14
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howeeee View Post
    Best thing is to get a real balance bike, you can buy them cheap now,,most Walmarts have them for somehwere around 50 bucks.

    We had my grandson riding a 2 wheeler by three. You want them to use the balance bike only as long as it takes them to get good at it,,then move them to a 2 wheeler pedal bike.

    How we did it was,,,as he was learning the balance bike we also had a 2 wheeler with training wheels just so he could learn how to use the brake. As soon as he learned the brake and the balance bike, we moved him on to a 2 wheeler without the training wheels. By the time he was 4 he was riding his bike 8 miles at a time. He is 6 now, he rides a 6 speed mountain bike with 20 inch wheels with hand brakes and a BMX type bike.

    My grandson was very motivated cause I ride a lot and he wanted to be able to ride with me to the store and playground. Not every kid is going to learn to ride a 2 wheeler at 3.
    In an ideal world, I'd have the cash to buy both. This being the real world, the affordability of doing that comes into question.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    In an ideal world, I'd have the cash to buy both. This being the real world, the affordability of doing that comes into question.
    ok so I am sorry, I am not rich either but I am an amatuer bike mechanic and buy and sell some bikes that is how I finance my and my familys bike riding habits lol.

    So what about this,,when it comes to the pedal bikes I never buy them new. I go to thrift shops and find them from 5 to 10 bucks, maybe they need a little adjutment but many times you can find them almost new since kids grow out of them so fast. Then the balance bike you can do the same and make one. You just have to make sure the bike is low enough where he or she can sit on the seat and push off.

    I hope this helps,,,even if you have to do just one,,get her on a bike. Get one at the thrift shop with training wheels, she can learn to pedal and stop with the brake. Then take the training wheels off run with her till she gets it. The balance bike is kewl,,but I dont think it is a must.

  16. #16
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    I hadn't been looking at thrift shops, but that is a good idea.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  17. #17
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    It would be great if you could get her a used balance bike. They end up using it about 6 months before they master the balancing. But the transition to a bike with pedals and no training wheels is so much smoother. We did make the mistake that, after the balance bike, we bought him a regular bike that was too big for him. It took him another 6 months for him to reach the ground with his feet and feel secure enough to start riding with no training wheels. But he didn't "unlearn" the balancing he had learned with the balance bike. He started riding right away.

  18. #18
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    I had acquired a beater pedal bike that I immediately pulled the crank/chain from to serve as a balance bike. My oldest had his pedal bike with training wheels and the "balance" bike. He would use them both and would alternate between both of those and his big wheel. He was probably 5.5 or so when he told me that he wanted to remove his training wheels. I spent maybe an hour with him pushing him down the side walk to get his speed up. He got he hang of it pretty quickly. He only had a couple of minor falls. He was very excited to finally ride on his own. I need to be more proactive with my next one and I plan on getting him off of training wheels this summer.

  19. #19
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Yeah, the bike I bought is just too big for my daughter to run as a balance bike without pedals (I tried), so I put the pedals back on and the training wheels on and raised the saddle back up to where it should be. A balance bike would be nice, but it's financially not in the cards at the moment. If I see one at a garage sale, I'll definitely grab one, but I guess she's going to have to learn the way I did otherwise.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  20. #20
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    Maybe you can also look for a used 12" regular bike and take off the pedals. (I am assuming she is now using a 16" wheel bike).

    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Yeah, the bike I bought is just too big for my daughter to run as a balance bike without pedals (I tried), so I put the pedals back on and the training wheels on and raised the saddle back up to where it should be. A balance bike would be nice, but it's financially not in the cards at the moment. If I see one at a garage sale, I'll definitely grab one, but I guess she's going to have to learn the way I did otherwise.

  21. #21
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    We didn't notice any issues with leaving the crank in place. Try that first and if it's a problem then you can look into removing it.
    Last edited by delcrossv; 04-07-14 at 11:18 AM.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    Our son learned it the old fashioned way with training wheels. We did not even know about these balance bikes back then. But we started our daughter 5 years later with one of these cheap wooden balance bikes. There were not many available back then and you could not find used ones. But now you can choose between dozens of brands and there are always some for sale on Craigslist. Already with 3 she was zipping along like crazy. She also used training wheels intermittently but she learned riding without them much faster than my son did.
    The only thing I would do different now is to get a balance bike with brakes. Our daughter became a dare devil on her bike and crashed a few times because she could not stop.
    Plus I am not sure I would go with a wooden bike again. Although painted they will take on water if left in the rain. The metal ones seem to be more rugged.
    But in general I think that these balance bikes are a great way for them to start.
    And yes with them growing so fast you have to change the bike latest after two years. But we hardly ever bought a new one and either found used ones on CL or got "hand me downs" from friends.

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