Simple Ideas with Profound Impact
Our Favorite Kids Bikes (balance and pedal) – Woom
My first high school job was working at a bicycle shop. When you work at a bike shop you start by building the kids bikes and at the time that meant 16” bikes with training wheels. Like many people, I thought that was the only way kids learned to ride a bike.
Shockingly, balance bikes have actually been around since the 18th century! Somewhere between my working at a bike shop and present day, balance bikes became a thing. Once I learned why using a balance bike is the best way to learn to ride a bicycle, we decided it was the route to choose for teaching our kids.
The next question of course is, which balance bike to choose? There are a ton of options out there now, which is great because it means that more and more people are realizing the benefits of starting on a balance bike over a tricycle. It can be a bit overwhelming, however, when trying to figure out which bike to pick for your child.
There are a number of key factors that go into our top choice. Before getting into those details I’ll explain how we started out. We knew we wanted to start with a balance bike, so when our son was 20 months old we got him a basic Strider Balance Bike. We didn’t really research bikes, just got him the one they had at the sporting goods store. It did the trick and over the first few months he got more and more comfortable on it. He loved riding so much that it didn’t take long for him to start wearing the bottoms off of his sneakers as he had to use his feet to brake. That’s when we decided we needed to look into some other options.
We initially promised that he could get a pedal bike, but realized that he was still too short to ride a pedal bike that didn’t have trainings wheels. After a bit of research we learned about Woom bikes, which met most of the criteria we were looking for, essentially a well designed balance bike that somebody could grow with. Despite a slightly higher price, we decided to take a shot and ordered the Woom 1 online.
As somebody who worked at a bike shop I instantly appreciated the thought and craftsmanship that went into the design of this bike when it arrived. It was designed with the young child in mind, a 1.5 year old can stand over the seat, lightweight aluminum, air tires for a smoother ride over multiple surfaces, a hand brake to start to teach him how to stop, a steering limiter to help keep the young rider from over steering, and of course his favorite aspect – the bell.
When our son was ready to progress to the Woom 2, their 14” pedal bike we continued to love their philosophy and design. Unfortunately the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission essentially requires bikes with a seat post less than 22” to have a coaster brake (a foot brake that activates when you pedal backwards.) Thankfully Woom and a few others offer a cheap free-wheel kit for their pedal bikes so that you can remove the back-pedal brake. This may not seem like a big deal but being able to remove that back-pedal brake so your child can just use their hand brakes and can actually back pedal normally is really wonderful. It teaches them the same skill they will learn as the grow into bigger bikes.
We have absolutely gotten more than our money’s worth with as much as our kids ride their bikes! If you’re hesitant on the initial cost then I’d recommend starting with a less expensive and more basic balance bike. Either get one used or buy something more simple like the basic Strider bike. But if you’re child is going to really ride a good amount then springing for the Woom 1 is absolutely worth it. They also hold their value pretty well and are easy to sell once you’re done with them. If your child is a bit older and/or taller, you can also consider just buying the Woom 2 from the start and removing the pedals at the beginning to turn it into a balance bike until your child is ready to have pedals added to the equation.
We can’t recommend Woom bikes, enough. They’re well-made with superior quality materials that hold up to heavy use by kids and are designed to facilitate the process of learning how to ride. There really are lots of options out there, however, so another great resource for sorting through the different options is the website twowheelingtots.com. They provide reviews of many different brands and give comparisons of different brands.
There are many options out there at various price-points but in the end, no matter what your budget is, we’ll always argue that your money is better spent on a balance bike over a tricycle. Get them on two wheels from the start and they’ll develop their balance early on and make the transition to a pedal-bike with ease.
Stay tuned next week for our tips on how to teach your child to ride!