Bike or Balance Bike

It's a common knowledge that to be fit and healthy you need to be physically active. Regular physical activity can help protect you from all kinds of diseases. And if you want to be fit and encourage your kids to be physically active, make sure they learn to ride a bike or a balance bike.

And here a few interesting facts about bikes and cycling:

  • Over 100 million bicycles are manufactured each year.
  • The longest bicycle is 47.5 m (155 ft 8 in) long - the record was achieved by Bernie Ryan (Australia) as measured and ridden in Paynesville, Victoria, Australia, on 14 November 2020.
  • In the Netherlands, 30 percent of all trips are on bicycle, and seven out of eight Dutch people older than 15 have a bike.

Power P and Einstein E entered the world of bikes when they were around two years old. We started with a balance bike. It took us one afternoon to drill two additional holes and lower their seats, as the boys were a bit too small for their new balance bikes, and another two days to leave our backyard.

kids on balance bikes

Back then it seemed to me that they, kind of, didn’t grasp the concept of the word “slow”. OK, it still seems so today. The only times they didn't try to reach the speed of light (which is  defined as 299,792,458 metres per second) was when we rode through the forest and there were too many obstacles such as tree roots. Of course, not all kids are speed maniacs. We have several friends whose children rode those balance bikes (and bikes) at a walking speed. In our case, the minute we left our garden, my walking days were over.

You might notice that I am very careful not to mix up a bike and a balance bike. If you ask Power P and Einstein E, the difference between these two terms is huge.

Anecdotal story: Bike or balance bike

Our friends came for a visit, and we were about to take the kids to the forest. Their boy, Amazing A, was three two years old, and Power P and Einstein E were a year and a half older. Luckily, after this conversation, we all continued being friends.

Amazing A: Look! Me riding a bike!

Power P: That’s not a bike! It’s a balance bike.

Amazing A: Me riding a bike!

Power P: No! This is a bike [pointing at his bike]. Yours is a balance bike.

Amazing A: No, this a bike!

Einstein E: Look, it’s slow and it doesn’t have any pedals or a chain like mine. It’s a balance bike.

Amazing A’s mum: It’s OK. He is still little. We told him it’s a bike.

Einstein E: Well, you lied to him.

When we had all learned the difference, we were ready to go for a ride.

The transition from balance bikes to bikes went smoothly. We managed to find bikes small enough for them at the age of three and a half. It took them one afternoon to get the idea of pedalling a “real bike”, and another week to master turning and braking. During that week, they successfully bumped into two cars and three people. Two of those people were completely understanding and friendly. One was not.

What I learned during this period is that running after two kids on balance bikes really helps you stay fit. Running after them on their bikes is almost impossible. Again, not all children scream, ‘Mummy, I am faster than a TGV!!!’ So, I started going on our little adventures with my bike. The feelings were always mixed. It’s a combination of constant repetition of the phrases ‘ride on the side’, ‘slow down a bit’, ‘not so slow’, ‘don’t chase your brother’, ‘watch out for those people in front’, and ‘apologise for bumping into them’, while enjoying watching two little human beings actually riding their bikes. Scary, frustrating, and amazing.

kids on bikes

We were also brave enough to ride all the way to kindergarten. Those adventures cost me several years of my life in stress. Pedestrians, crossroads, cars coming out of garages…. Round the age of five, it got a bit easier. By the time they turned six, they almost did it themselves. 

As you can see, riding bikes and balance bikes and one big adventure. Now, get your kid, look for your own adventures, and make some happy cycling memories :)