Using a balance bike or "run bike" helps your little one create a solid foundation of basic bike handling skills and instill the love of biking from a young age without the added intimidation of pedals.
The next milestone in your little balance biker’s journey is the most exciting one - THEIR FIRST PEDAL BIKE!
In our experience, most balance bike graduates are ready for their first pedal bike by the time they are around 2.5-3 years old. If they're not ready by then, don’t worry about it. Allow your child to progress at their own pace - they will get there. We'll show you how to help your little one on that journey!
Step 1: Introduce the new bike!
Unpack and assemble the new BIKE! Name it, put stickers on it, and show your child what the brakes do and how the pedals work before putting the kiddo on the bike. The learning process is a lot easier if children already know how to ride a balance bike. Take the pedals off for the first day or two and let your child use the pedal bike as a balance bike. When your child is comfortable with using the bike as a balance bike, install the pedals!
Step 2: Ready, Set, Pedal!
Set the seat height a little higher, just so the child can touch the ground with the balls of their feet while seated but not low enough that they can place both feet flat on the ground. It is helpful to teach your kiddo to lift the bike to the upright position while standing over it rather than holding the bike and the child. This helps your little one develop the habit of starting on the bike independently without relying on an adult to hold the bike and climb over it.
Start out on a gentle slope and let your child coast down just as they would on a run bike. This will help them focus on balance while they get used to the new bike without having to worry about pedalling or braking.
Once they are comfortable "coasting", suggest placing their feet on pedals and getting a couple of pedal strokes in! You'll be surprised how quickly they grasp this concept!
Tips and Tricks:
Here are a few simple but tried and true strategies to get your kiddo riding on his or her own quickly and with minimal pain:
- Keep the pedals off the bike for the first day or two and let your child get used to the new bigger bike
- Make sure the seat is not too low
- When your child is comfortable with using the bike as a balance bike, install the pedals!
- Start out on a gentle slope and let your child coast down - this will help them focus on balance while they get used to the new bike
- Consistency is key, just like with everything else, so try to spend as much time outside riding as possible until they figure it out
- Encouragement is important so get your cheer squad out 🙂
- Do not sell your balance bike quite yet - your young Padawan may revert to using it as a “fun” bike since learning something new can be intimidating and toddlers tend to go back and forth 🙂
- If you are strapped for time (most of us are), we recommend using a local bike camp for beginners. Pedalheads and Dialed In Cycling are ones we're familiar with in our area, but you'll probably have to look around to find something similar where you live - there are a lot of great groups out there now!
- Another great resource that is often overlooked by parents is a local BMX track. These are usually run by parent volunteers and provide a great and encouraging environment for young kids who are just starting out and parents who may be feeling a little rusty and would like to brush up on their bike handling skills. You may also want to take advantage of coaching sessions offered by professional riders at BMX tracks; you don’t have to race, but it is a great way to learn something new as a family. Balance bike graduates pedal off into the sunset within the first couple of days and the transition is amazing to watch! It truly opens up a whole new world of freedom on two wheels for the whole family.
First Pedal Bike - 14" or 16"?
Since this is a post on the first pedal bike, we’d like to cover the following two models in depth - the Yoji 14" and 16" models.
The Yoji 14” is the ultimate first pedal bike that is suitable for 2-4 year-olds (refer to our size guide if you have any questions).
If your child is about 35" tall or just under, this bike will work!
The Yoji 16" is best for 3-5 year olds or kids 36"+ tall. Both sizes share a lot of the same characteristics. Both are lightweight with kid-appropriate geometry, high-quality "real" bike components, and the lowest seat height among ANY bikes. We've done everything possible to make sure these bikes rip!
Full bike highlight videos are available on our YouTube channel for the Yoji 14" and Yoji 16" (we also have bike assembly videos on our YouTube channel too - Fraser is an amazing bike mechanic here in Squamish and he makes it all look easy).
Our size guide is spot on and was designed to size kids on our bikes properly without having to pop into a shop and try out the bikes. Since we use a combination of height and inseam to select the correct size bike, we want to make sure the inseam is measured properly:
- Have your child take their shoes off and stand up straight, with their back against a wall.
- Place a book between their legs and slide it up the wall to meet the crotch firmly as if they are seated on a saddle.
- Make sure your child still has their heels on the ground, then mark where the top of the book touches the wall.
- Measure the distance from the floor straight up to the mark.