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    Tikes Bikes — balance bike

    Balance Bikes: Details that matter (Look for these)

    Balance Bikes: Details that matter (Look for these)

    As with any discovery of a new way to enhance your child's motor skills and enjoyment, it's easy to be carried away with excitement and make a snap decision to buy the product that looks cool, the one that costs the least, or the one that "everyone is buying". There are more details than meet the eye, so it's good to be equipped with some knowledge that will help avoid the dreaded "buyer's remorse". 

    Decals versus stickers: Ever notice that the logos and markings on high quality bikes have decals that are covered with a clear topcoat? When you run your hand over the decal, it's like it's not even there. Cleaning the bike is easier and it just plain looks good and those looks last a lot longer. Stickers?.. They're applied over the final coat of finish, leaving them vulnerable to getting dog eared, collecting grime at the edges and eventually peeling off. Decals are preferred, and found on better balance bikes. When the finish of a child's bike matches the quality of a good adult bike, you know it's something special. An excellent example of good decals, below.

    Headsets versus bushings/clamps: What is a "headset"? It's a system of ball bearings and races that are designed to fit together and rotate smoothly and endure the trauma that's transmitted through the front wheel and into the frame and fork. They are locked in place with a pair of large nuts that are tightened in opposing directions. Almost every bike on the planet has a headset connecting the frame and fork. The only ones that do not, have some plastic bushings used to connect the frame, fork and handlebars with either a bolt or a quick release clamp.  Headsets are the way to go, but only the more expensive balance bikes will have them. Here's a good example of a real bike's headset below (the black parts). The bearings are concealed, but you can be sure that this bike will endure the harshest of terrain without failure.

    Rubber air tires versus foam (EVA) tires: This is an easy one! Rubber is the material of choice when only 1 square centimeter of material is keeping a bike from sliding out in a corner. Foam is a maintenance free option, but  certain elements are compromised: 1. the harshness of the ride (more trauma transmitted from the wheels to your rider's spine), 2. the inability to control the tire's pressure for various surfaces (an air tire can be pumped hard for pavement or pressure removed for softness when off-road) and 3. Rubber grips all surfaces much more successfully than foam (sliding out in a corner uses a lot of band-aids, lets avoid this by choosing air tires)

    Good geometry versus bad geometry: This is a little bit more difficult to detect, but we will help you visualize the issue. Whenever considering a balance bike (especially online) look for the profile view of the bike, from the side. Pay close attention to the horizontal distance from the seat to the handlebars. Some bikes use a T-shaped handlebar, configuring them such that the rider's cockpit is very small. The result is that the rider's elbows are bent to nearly 90 degrees, which is a very bad way to steer a bike. Bikes with proper geometry will have a bigger distance from the seat to the handlebars, so that the rider's arms are comfortably extended fully, and steering is managed by the shoulders and shifting body weight, rather than relying on the biceps to do the steering. For a good example, observe the arms of any adult riding a racing style bicycle or a motorcycle. Arms will always be extended 90-100%, not bent at a 90 degree angle. Below find examples of good geometry and bad geometry. Can you tell which is which?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fork rake versus no fork rake: This one is a little more difficult to describe, but it refers to the front fork of the bike. On most real bicycles, the fork will either have a slight taper forwards at the fork tips, or the fork will be angled to achieve the same wheel position. In other words, fork rake is when the front wheel is offset forward from a line drawn through the center of the frame's head tube (see illustration below) This makes the bike handle with more stability both while riding in a straight line, and while cornering. This issue is explained in great detail courtesy of Dave Moulton's Blog, which is worth checking out. If you observe a balance bike's fork is perfectly straight, without any "rake", it's going to be a bit squirrelly and more difficult to control, especially for the youngest riders aged 2 and 3, for whom stability is important!

    Brakes or no brakes: Some careful research will reveal something about the many brands of balance bikes out there: they are produced with only toy industry safety standards. No air tires? No headset? No fork rake? It's a toy. What we've observed over 12 years of selling [nothing but] balance bikes is that only the real balance bikes (with actual bike industry safety testing) have these features, and that they almost always includes brakes as a means of slowing down and stopping. What is often omitted from marketing (despite the usual "fear sells" protocol) is that dragging the feet to stop only works well at slow speeds and only on textured pavement. It's not very effective on slick surfaces, at high speed, and especially off-road, where feet tend to just slide along in the dirt with little or no stopping power. When kids get good at riding their balance bikes, they will go faster than you expect, and they will want to explore dirt trails where there is more freedom to roam. A hand brake is recommended, and gives the rider a new dimension of control.

    Keep these things in mind during your search and you will much more easily drill down to the best balance bikes, without wasting time considering those that seem to be merely imitating real bikes with lots of shortcuts and cost-cutting to keep the price low. You get what you pay for: a better first cycling experience, an enhanced level of safety, and of course great durability that is easily serviced with industry standard bike components.

    The Ultimate Gift Guide for Elementary Age Kids

    Designed for 5 to 8 year olds, these unique gifts keep active kids busy outside developing their balance, coordination and confidence. For those who have yet to ride a pedal bike, a 16" balance bike is a great tool for learning and Cleary pedal bikes are the perfect next step.

    Starting at just $55.00, all orders over $70 ship FREE and we never charge sales tax.

     Get 10% off your order using discount code GIFTGUIDE!

    EzyRoller

    A Parent's Choice Award winner, the EzyRoller slithers across the ground like a snake, without chains or pedals, using left to right leg movements. Works on most surfaces except grass or sand.

     

     

    Trikke T5 Carving Scooter

    Trikke Carving Scooter

    Taking the scooter up a level, this carving scooter keeps moving when a child shifts their weight from side to side while turning and leaning into the turn. Resembling a skiing motion, it's great practice for the off season.

     

     

    YBIKE Explorer

    This pedal powered go-kart allows the child to steer with their arms by controlling the back wheels with the hand levers.  The seat adjusts as your child grows.

     

     

    TykesBykes 16 inch Balance Bike

    TykesBykes 16" Balance Bike

    For the 5-8 year old that has yet to ride a pedal bike, this 16" bike is the way to go. No pedals means the child will learn how to balance confidently and will be jumping onto a pedal bike in no time (seriously, it takes some kids just a few days at this age!) Available in 4 colors this holiday.

     

     

    BERG Buddy in White and Pink

    BERG Buddy

    Pedal forward or reverse, coast or use the hand brakes to stop, this cruiser sneaks in exercise while having fun. The air tires and sealed bearings provide traction on various surfaces and the adjustable seat ensures use for kids ages 3 to 8.

     

     

    Spooner Boards

    Spooner Boards

    Truly fun for all ages and virtually indestructible, Spooner Boards improve core strength and balance, coordination and stability. They are also an effective tool for learning to skateboard, snowboard or surf.

     

     

    uvex Quatro Junior Helmet

    uvex Quatro Junior Helmets

    Designed by German engineers, the Quatro Jr fits kids with a head circumference from 50-55cm and will protect precious heads from the inevitable tumble.

     

     

    Cleary Pedal Bikes

    Cleary Bikes 16" or 20" Pedal Bike

    When you want a real bike, not a toy, Cleary Bikes delivers with this high quality, lightweight pedal bike. Weighing less than bikes found at big box stores, your elementary student will learn how to ride confidently and look good doing it.

     

    The Ultimate Gift Guide for Active Toddlers

     

    We've curated our favorite products to help your active toddler get their wiggles out! These award-winning bikes and toys help develop coordination and balance along with a boost of confidence for your able toddler.

    Starting at just $59, all orders over $70 ship FREE and we never charge sales tax.

     Get 10% off your order using discount code GIFTGUIDE!

    FirstBIKE Street Bike

    FirstBIKE Street Bike

    Weighing 7 pounds, it's the perfect first bike for kids as young as 18 months. Constructed of a composite resin found in the airline and marine industry, it's indestructible.

     

     

    YBike Pewi

    YBike Pewi

    This hybrid walking-buddy and ride-on for kids as young as 9 months teaches important motor skills such as balance, coordination and body in space awareness.

     

     

    Wishbone Flip Ride-On

    Wishbone Flip Ride-On

    It's a rocker OR a ride-on and transforms between the two functions in seconds. Eco-friendly construction from 100% reforested birch plywood.

     

     

    Early Rider Lite

    A retro styled, classic wooden bike, it weighs just 7 pounds so your toddler can easily carry it around themselves. An extended seat post means it will be ridden for years.

     

     

    Wishbone Wagon

    Wishbone Wagon

    This classic wagon is also a soap-box racer and foot-to-floor car. Constructed of sustainable birch, aluminum and steel along with air filled tires means this durable wagon is the perfect outdoor toy.

     

     

    Early Rider Spherovelo

    Designed for 10 month to 24 month olds, this ride on helps toddlers make the connection between their senses (vision, pressure, equilibrium) and their motor system.

     

     

    Kinderbike Mini Trainer in Green

    Kinderbike Mini Trainer

    Weighing just 8 pounds and with seat lowering to 11 inches, kids as young as 18 months can get on this first bike and be gliding quickly. 

     

     

    Joovy Noodle Helmet in Blueberry

    Joovy Noodle Helmets

    It's never too early to set a good example, particularly when it comes to safety. These toddler sized helmets will keep your little one's head protected for the inevitable falls.

     

     

    Wishbone Recycled Edition

    Wishbone 3-n-1 Recycled Edition

    This innovative ride is designed to be used in 3 different modes: tricycle, low balance bike and high balance bike. This is a great gift a child will use for years, perfect for the 1 to 5 year old.