My two boys, aged three and five, were excited at the arrival of the wooden balance bike – designed without pedals or stabilisers to teach very young children how to balance and steer. When they saw the Union Jack-decorated bike on the box, one exclaimed, ‘It’s a Jubilee bike!’ Inside, along with the bike, we discovered Union Jack gloves and a glossy red helmet with goggles printed on it.
The bike was already part assembled and took only about five minutes to complete, which was just as well as the children couldn’t wait to have a go. The instructions were clear and the short text was supported by drawings.
First to try the bike was my five-year-old, who donned the helmet and mitts and declared, ‘I’m going on a mission on the bike to save the Union Jack flag.’ The other cried, ‘Let’s go to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen.’ Yet despite my son’s eagerness to get going, the bike did not move in the way he thought it would. He couldn’t get up any speed because he wasn’t used to the sensation of having to balance. He didn’t give up easily, though.
I gave him a helping hand by taking the bike to the top of a slight slope on a grass verge and holding onto it so that the child could feel some speed and work out what to do when he was on the flat surface. I did this five times and by the sixth time, he had worked out that he could use his feet alternately to edge forward. This was the start of the process that saw both him - and the other children who tested the bike - begin to master the art of forward balance.
GETTING THE RIGHT BALANCE
In all, I tested the bike with children aged three to five and a half years old. Some were very cautious at first, and didn’t want to sit on the seat, but just walked with the bike frame between their legs. Some moved on from this stage quickly, starting with sitting on the seat, using one leg at a time to push themselves forward.
One child, aged four and a half, was determined to master it and after a week of using it every day, was confident enough to sit on the seat and use both legs to simultaneously push himself forwards so that he could really pick up some speed. When he went too fast, he just brought one of his legs down to steady himself. Watching his determination, alongside other children who gave up easily or were really not that interested and preferred the scooters or the three-wheelers, made me realise how different each child is.
I also became aware of how difficult it is for a child to master the skill of balance. I think the balance bike is a fantastic way to prepare younger children for riding a bike without stabilisers. However, I think it’s a skill that might take some children longer than others to master and that practitioners should be aware of this and be at hand to offer lots of support and encouragement.
The bike is recommended for children aged three to six years old. The seat height can be adjusted to suit the age of the child. Some of the children approaching six were too big for this bike and I think would be better suited to the next stage up. The only negative point is that the children who enjoyed riding on this bike for longer periods of time complained that the seat was uncomfortable. On the whole, I would recommend it to nurseries and childminders.
- Comfortable sculpted handgrips to fit little hands
- Three-position adjustable seat height
- Upright riding position similar to regular bike
- Steering lock restricts turn to 30 degrees so bike will never jack-knife
- Slick 10-inch pneumatic tyres with inner tube
- Made from birch plywood sourced from managed forests (recyclable)
- All plastic and metal parts safety tested as non-toxic
- Meets all safety standards, Safety tested to EN 71, CE marked
- Award-winning British design
- One-year guarantee
- Handlebar height: 525mm
- Seat height: 370mm adjustable to 395mm
- Inside Leg: 37cm to 50cm
- Wheel base: 510mm
- Weight: 4.5kg
We tested the bike using Kiddimoto’s Union Jack Gloves, £7.99 and Red Goggles Helmet (£24.99)