Balance bike to teach kids how to ride

Balance bikes teach balance before pedaling. Learning to pedal is easy if you know how to balance. Learning balance is fairly easy, too. But learning them concurrently is hard. With a balance bike instead of a trike or a standard bike with training wheels, it’s much easier for a child to learn the balance, steering dynamics and handling required to ride a bike. My son, at 2 1/2, can go at least a mile on his Skuut bike, and is learning all the skills he’ll need, so that when I get him a normal bicycle, with pedals, he won’t need training wheels.

The design of a balance bike is brilliant -- it’s actually similar to the design of the first bicycles (velocipedes) that had no drivetrains. The particular brand of a running or balance bike for kids is not of much concern. Cool Tools previously featured the Likeabike, which was imported from Europe and lovingly crafted, but notably expensive. You can find cheap $50 metal balance bikes these days, but we use the current wooden standard Skuut which is good enough quality for $85. -- Elon Schoenholz

Skuut Balance Bike $63


  1. For cheapskates, a lower cost alternative is to buy a 12″ sidewalk bike at a yard sale for $10 and remove the cranks. You’d need a pair of big Channelock style pliers to pull that off.

    1. This is exactly what I did with my younger daughter.  She learned to ride a bike in three days and then I just re-attached the pedals and she was ready to go.  No extra expense.

      1. I can teach a kid to ride in 20 minutes. No training wheels, crankless bikes or other malarkey necessary.

        Find a gentle grassy slope, hold the bike firmly under the seat, and run along with the bike until you’re doing less and less to hold it up.

        Before long, you’ll be able to let go and the kid will be off and away.

    2.  A lot of the specialty balance bikes have lower seats that make it easier for a smaller child to balance, though.

    3. I did this exactly and saved a bunch of $$.  I couldn’t believe how much they wanted for a bike that my daughter was only going to use for a few months.  Even on Craigslist, they were bloody expensive!

  2. For even cheaperskates, find a gentle slope.

    Roll down hill with feet scraping the ground. Push back up. Roll back down. Slowly progress to rolling with feet on pedals.

    1. That’s what we did. Our neighborhood park has a grassy amphitheater that makes a great bike-learning hill.

  3. Our kid learned on a Kinderbike balance bike and the first time we put him on a pedaled two-wheeler he took right off with no help.

    The only problem was that he had no idea how to use the pedal brakes on the pedaled bike.  It took some practice before he could stop without crashing.

    1. A LOT more bumps, scrapes, and bruises.

      And I suspect a good part of the reason that so many people “know how” to ride a bike, but choose not to.

  4. Just another piece of anecdotal evidence that says these things are awesome for getting kids started on bike riding.  We didn’t have one when either of our older two were riding and it took the oldest AGES before she got the hang of balancing.  We got one when #3 was two and she learned to ride at four years old and was on and riding confidently in one week.  It was nearly the same for #4 child.  They are fantastic for learning to ride.  

    1. As you’ve shown, it’s not just about being a training bike in the conventional sense: it’s a very useful conveyance for those early years.  My youngest started before she was two years old and used it for about 3 years before deciding she was ready for a “real” bike.

  5. We got ours during a trip to Berlin when the youngest was a toddler. After an entire day spent with a local family (who let us borrow theirs) taking a train, walking from the train station to Potsdam, walking everywhere in Potsdam between all the different palace buildings, gardens, etc., getting back to the train station and then “home” again….the toddler had kept up the entire time and was not exhausted.  We were sold.  It takes even the youngest kid only a few minutes to figure out, and then they are flying.  So much easier and nicer (and healthier) than wheeling them around in a stroller.

    They glide significantly better than regular children’s bicycles, so just taking off the pedals is fine but not the same experience.

    1. “They glide significantly better than regular children’s bicycles”

      That’s possibly because regular children’s bicycles are often crap.  Toys rather than tools.  Most cheap ones weigh more than my adult-sized hybrid bike, which according to a quick search is “a beast” at 13kg.  A good quality bike for an 8 year old weighs at least 10kg.

  6. I second (or third or fourth) the recommendation that you just remove the crankset from a 12″ kids’ bike. (Not just the pedals–that would leave to much for kids to bang their ankles on.) That’s what I did for my daughter, and it worked great. Not only did it function just like a balance bike, but when I put the cranks back on, she was already familiar with the bike. She just rode away.

    The idea that the seats are lower on a balance bike is incorrect. A 12″ is quite low; I had to raise the saddle some for my daughter. 

    So is the suggestion that balance bikes “glide significantly better”. I’m not even sure what that means. Either style is a set of wheels, rolling on bearings, held apart by a frame, with a saddle in between and handlebars up front. 

    1. And crappy bearings and a heavy frame and wheels (and heavy saddle, and heavy handlebars) makes all the difference between my antique goldenrod cast-iron bike and a nice bike that isn’t a bit of a handicap :P

      (Disclaimer: probably not actually cast-iron… but it sure feels like it, and it survived a car accident unscathed that I didn’t)

  7. I won’t weigh in on the balance bike versus just taking the crank shaft off, but damn I wish my parents had though of one of those options when I was failing to learn to ride a bike. Took me ’til I was ten, although after that I biked everywhere.  

  8. The original design of these is the LIKEaBIKE. The wooden ones are beautifully made (if spendy), and avoid a lot of the finder traps and ouch points that other designs have.

  9. Oh wow, i still remember learning to ride my bike.

    My left handlebar ended up stained green :D
    (when rolling down the hill outside my house, the hedges were on the left)

    Strangely enough, my brother was taught the same way but could never learn the reflex to turn into the direction you’re falling, so always veering off and crashing within seconds.
    Though we had the opposite for swimming: he was like a fish and i still can’t do it to this day :)

    I do like the idea of these pedal-less bikes (or just bikes with the pedals temporarily removed as commentators have suggested) For this does seem an awesome idea to learn one thing at a time.
    I’m having similar problems learning a motorbike for the first time at the moment, got the balance down perfect, but really struggling trying to learn several different things at once: a manual gearbox + clutch, a different brake layout and all the road rules *all at once* argh! :)

  10. We were given one of these Skuut (pieces of…), and I have to say that the quality was definitely lacking.  Several large (and potentially leg puncture-y) splinters later, and we’ve decided to buy a strider bike.  Honestly, the Skuut is all wood and hipster friendly, but has poor quality standards and design.

    1. YMMV, but our kids both got a year of *hard* usage out of Skuuts without a problem other than some of the glued on foam bits (which are not necessary) falling off.  Both were passed on to friends and have continued to provide years of usage since.  After a year of skuuts, both kids were up and riding confidently within 5 minutes of getting their new bikes, with one of them being 3.5 years old at the time.

  11. Word of advice though.  Keep them off of busy bike paths.  Along the river in Brisbane on Saturday a kid on one didn’t really care where he was going and I almost hit him.  240 lbs probably wouldn’t have ended to well for a 2 yo.

  12. My son has a sturdy steel Kazam balance bike. He’s very fast on it, it’s high quality stuff (unlike the plastic-tired piece of crap we had before).

  13. I have one for my three-year-old, it is great.  But a proper one, made of metal (aluminum) with inflatable tires and good components.  Pro tip: light weight is important, because when going for walks if it’s lighter it’s easier for you to carry, and you’ll also carry it less.  Another pro tip: there’s a reason they don’t made adult bicycles out of *wood*!  The same reason holds for littler bikes.  The wooden Skutt shown above is a bad joke: it will torque and go unstable at speed.

  14. I have the Skuut and have been pleased so far – the build quality could be a little better, but for a wooden balance bike its a good choice.  

    My daughter is 21 months old and has been using it (with plenty of help from me) for the past two months.  I got a really good tip from another parent for getting the Skuut set up for smaller riders:

    When setting it up, flip the body (where the logo is printed) *upside down* and attach wheels, post & saddle that way.  Bonus is that It gives the bike a really cool “low rider” look.  It allows you to get the saddle closer to the ground, making it accessible for younger kids (shorter legs).   Looks like this:

    I imagine Skuut wouldn’t recommend setting it up in any manner other than the official instructions suggest, but I haven’t had any issues with it inverted.  When her legs get long enough, I’ll turn it around the right way and get even more use out of it!

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