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Why no stabalisers?

slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
edited October 2017 in Family & kids cycling forum
I'm one of those new pushy parents that has gone down the route of balance bike before adding pedals - rather than the traditional route of stabalisers ..


We went on an extended ride away from the campsite - down the trails over lumps, bumps and various tracks - fab time and Little SB loved it.... then it dawned on me - this would be impossible on a bike with stabalisers ....
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  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 8,219
    Suspect you got it right first time, both mine started with stupid stabilisers and were late riders in my eyes. Grandson was whizzing around on his little bike about 2 1/2 or so, ok no concept of brakes as he used his feet/toes to stop.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    We've only got 1 so can't do any experiements ... ;) Don't think I would anyway - I've seen his cousins on stabalisers - the bit that gets me is that, although they pedal, some of them go so slowly that they are reliant on the stabalisers to keep them upright - with no concept of putting a foot down.
    LSB does go slowly - when he's not sure - but has to use his feet for balance - which is what he'll do on a pedal bike.
    He doesn't have a brake - which is a bit of a shame as I think he'd start to use it - but he has got the idea of skidding his feet to slow/stop - which is a better method than trying to ride between the legs of our neighbour ... :o

    A friend (experienced cyclist) has said he's ready for pedals - but I think we need wait a bit longer - apart from anything else, he's only really had a couple of months on this bike and there's plenty of growing room - so it'd be a shame to make him part from it so soon - next summer may be ... for his 3rd birthday!
  • graeme_s-2graeme_s-2 Posts: 3,382
    My 2 year old is whizzing about on his balance bike at the moment too - he loves it! Was fantastic watching him just walking around with it between his legs for an hour on the first day, to starting to lengthen his stride and get both feet briefly off the ground on the 2nd day, to now lifting his feet clean off the floor and free wheeling down hill. If we go for a walk in the park he can now ride around faster than a comfortable walking pace for an adult.

    Just need to keep encourage him to look where he's going and to stop riding into people now!
  • I hear BMC are bringing in balance bikes to train their riders in staying upright.
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 3,996
    My little one just walked with his balance bike between his legs. We got a bike with stabilizers and he went quicker. After he was able to almost ride it without always resting on one stabilizer we took them off. He was 3. Didn't like it and wasn't interested.

    When he turned 4 in the spring we suggested trying the bike without stabilizers. Still not interested. Then 2 weeks later he asked to try it. Downhill on tarmac. Got it very quickly but kept putting foot down to stop when he realized whoever was push starting him had let go.

    Then he lost interest for 2 weeks until we tried it again. The kid got the hang of push starts, then self starting after only being told how to do it once. Then he was racing me down the cycles path. A 12"when is OK to run alongside but 16" isn't. As I found out 2 weeks later when we bought him his new bike as a reward. Well he was too big for his other bike. He was doing stunts 10 minutes after first riding it!

    Seriously proud parent, sorry!

    My main point is that you'll find your child will decide to ride a pedal cycle. It'll happen on his/her timescale. Go with the flow and accept what happens.

    BTW my little one had the balance bike route but he never benefitted from the scooting along aspect, it just never clicked with him. We found the stabilizers helped give him the movement the balance bike didn't. His balance was not delayed because he got it by other means. Any potential delay was because he was not ready.

    Mind you at 4 years and a bit it's not like he was late. Judging by the admiring looks from parents and grandparents (strangers) we bumped into. It was only about 3 months later he joined us on a cycle tour for 2 weeks. 3 months from stabilizers removal to racing his parents up and down hills. Up to 13mph within a week along a bumpy canal towpath before the holiday.

    Did I say I was a proud parent and apologise for that?
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    My little one just walked with his balance bike between his legs. We got a bike with stabilizers and he went quicker. After he was able to almost ride it without always resting on one stabilizer we took them off. He was 3. Didn't like it and wasn't interested.
    <snip>

    Did I say I was a proud parent and apologise for that?

    Never apologise of being proud of your child - they're all different and will amaze us in different ways - you tried the balance bike and it didn't take - fair enough. TBH, at first Little SB wasn't interesting in his - well - actually he was thrilled with it last year when it first arrived (we have a video of the first viewing), but quickly lost interest when it didn't stay up by itself.... it took quite a few prods and incentives for him to accept it - which he finally did this year at around his 2nd birthday.

    He's now 2years and 2 months and fairly tall for his age - his confidence is building, but he still has moment when he's not sure and either gets off or just waddles with it between his legs. All we're doing now is encouraging him to explore riding it - if he wants to get off and walk then we're not going to fight (we didn't - I carried the balance bike whilst riding a 20" wheeled bike).

    I think what's most important is that he has fun - the added bonus for us is that we can widen his (and our) area of fun with the balance bike over one with stabalisers - if he's not having fun then we stop (he seems to indicate he's had enough by saying the back wheel is broken ... so we ride back to base and go and do something else).
    I'm not worried about being early or late - heck, it'll be a bonus if later in life he likes doing the things we like doing ...

    What prompted my post was the off-road aspect that in the argument of stabalisers or not (regardless of whether the child takes to them) - I felt that offroad isn't really an option for the stabalised bike - so that's a benefit of a balance bike - providng the child likes it!
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 3,996
    The not really gone off road even with his 16" wheeled bike. We're road types of late. It'll be interesting if we do go off road.

    Enjoyment is key, if they want to do it then they will. My child is 4+ and loves a lot of what we like. Camping, cycling, cycle touring, hiking, etc. I reckon it'll last to just before teenage years then it'll be all up in the air. I'm hoping he just gets hooked and keeps it up.

    Round here is occasionally see couples with a child or more all doing the same activity. Parents on road bike in full lycra and child on road bike in full lycra too. The only difference is the parents have a several thousand pound bike and the child has a cheaper, smaller kids version. One family I think the kid has a proper brand like pinarello!

    In our house it'll be Hoy or similar road bike when junior is old enough.

    It's so much easier I reckon to have kids into the same activities as you. My idea of hell is wasting weekends watching junior play football. I'll do it If he wants it and act interested / supportive but I'll be dying inside each game. Dying to get out in the hills or on our bikes.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    My idea of hell is wasting weekends watching junior play football. I'll do it If he wants it and act interested / supportive but I'll be dying inside each game. Dying to get out in the hills or on our bikes.
    Are we related?!

    We love getting away in our van to the New Forest - and before LSB was thought about, we'd bought a couple of 29ers to ride around the trails - although we're primarily "roadies", the roads in the NF are busy and quite frankly I'd had enough of cars beeping during the week.
    Obviously, a 2yo on a balance bike can't "road ride" - although he goes around our estate at home quite happily - it's quiet and we have to closely monitor him. We'd thought - or rather I'd thought that he'd probably just ride around the campsite - hard packed surface with loads of bumps - but we tried him on the trail and he seemed happy to have the adventure.
    We both still look at other riders travelling places thinking it'd be nice to get out - we will - when he's ready... :)
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 3,996
    My big advice is trailer, child seat then followme tandem. Trailer from baby to about 2 then up to junior whether trailer or child seat and from 3 child seat only until he took to his bike, then nothing else was acceptable.

    For our tour this year we realized he was too big for the seat so googled and found rave reviews on the tandem. It attached to the rear axle and a bracket left on the child's bike. It's more stable than a tagalong and allows for the child to be separated mid ride. After that it just hangs off the adult's bike until needed again. Heavy but you don't really notice it. Plus it's weird freewheeling with junior providing the power! Not joking, he thinks it's great. I don't do it for longer than a few miles, sorry a few seconds!

    Seriously think about a followme tandem. It'll open up your riding when he's on a real bike. The height is adjustable by moving the bracket on the kids bike. Tagalong like trail gator are fixed height and too high for 12"wheels. This you adjust so the front wheel is at the optimum height.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    We had a trailer - but got the seat when he was 1 - loved it - still use it for longer journeys. Interesting on the tandem - will have to look at that, although we've got a tailgator from family- but the tandem sounds better
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 3,996
    I believe the tandem is better. Trailgaitor attaches to the seat post this supposedly affects the balance more than trailer bikes attached to the special rear rack directly above the rear axle. However the followme tandem attaches to the axle which I should be better still. You will still get shifts in body weight from you affecting your little one and vice versa too. Amazing how a 4 year old can make your bike move one way or the other when he turns around to look for my partner behind him. Or when he decides to play silly buggers by swaying from side to side.

    Seriously though it does make both bikes come together as a single, solid entity. The height adjustability of the front wheel of the child's bike is good too. Stops you tilting the child right back if a small wheeled bike.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    Ouch ... how much?!
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 3,996
    The tandem? £150 or so IIRC. Worth it IMHO. Seriously because you'll get a few years use out of it and it'll get you and your family out doing more distance. We took the decision the use it'll get makes it cheap on a day by day basis. It's just had 2 weeks solid use on a holiday that couldn't have happened without it. That holiday has to rate right up there on my all time great holiday list. My son rates it as his favourite too. He remembers three holidays and a tiny bit of a fourth. His best bit? The followme tandem!

    Worth the money to us.

    PS if you can hold on until he's grown out of it there could be secondhand one. But it'll be a few years.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    £186 from bike discount de, £190 from the uk distributors ... ( >£200 on Amazon! )

    yup - it looks good ... but it's certainly an investment rather than a just buy one in case ...
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 3,996
    Definitely an investment you've got to be sure you'll use. Still worth it if you use it.

    We had no choice really. We needed something because we realized he was not going to accept the seat much longer. We were planning an overseas tour and needed to load the panniers which ruled out a seat post mount and a rack mount trailer bike. If was so worth it because he loves it. He'll fight to stay off it sometimes because he doesn't like to accept being tired. Other times he'll ask to be attached.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    Thanks - LSB can still fit in his seat for now - but yes, does limit carrying capability as I carry LSB and Mrs SB carries a pannier with anything we need. I suppose, if we were really bothered, I could tow the trailer too - that would give me a workout!
    I must admit - having fitted the trailgator to an Islabien 20 I did wonder about the front wheel height for anything smaller - and this would seem to fit the bill perfectly.
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 3,996
    BTW I must point out that I have no association with the manufacturer or the UK distributor. I just like ours a lot for the freedom to go to places by bike that a 4 year old riding solo can't get to safely.

    Although the one I had did have a failure with one component but it was replaced FOC within a couple of days of reporting it. Good service from UK distributor. Glad I went local really rather than going for the cheapest option.
  • mac9091mac9091 Posts: 196
    I taught my kid in an afternoon to ride a bike. The only thing he had prior was a scooter and could balance fairly well on that. I found a small hill with grass at the end, in case he didn't brake. Told him to push off with one foot and just balance on the way down applying the brakes just before he got to the grass, couple of attempts later job done. Moved onto the flat and then told him to pedal as well, took a bit longer as he was trying to balance but not pedal once he got going.

    My opinion: stabilisers only help to teach how to pedal nothing about balance. Balance bikes do both as the kid learns that there is a requirement to move their feet to propel them forward while maintaining a bit of balance.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    A bit older than mine then ... whilst LSB understands a lot of what we say, he wouldn't comprehend "apply the brakes" - just as well he hasn't got any then! ;)

    Saturday evening was superb though - we went off for a little bike ride and he started to scoot along without any prompting - just raising his feet and holding them behind him, until the bike came to a stop ... he fell over a couple of times, but that wasn't to do with scooting - that was mistakes at where he can steer his bike - anyway, no harm done and he's picking up some serious speed - I now have to change down a couple of gears to keep up if I want to keep a reasonably slow cadence.
  • My main point is that you'll find your child will decide to ride a pedal cycle. It'll happen on his/her timescale. Go with the flow and accept what happens.

    I completely agree ... everything else is just padding until they decide they really want to .... and are big enough to keep up and ride a meaningful distance. (Meaningful meaning you can set off and cycle somewhere more than the park at the end of the road from which you can begin to ride longer and faster and less frequent stops)

    After that it's just about actually riding progressively.

    We rode with a friend and his Dad on Saturday (friends from racing kids XC) .. and he was saying his youngest just doesn't have it ... but then I pointed out that when he started with the eldest he was riding at the level and then a bit extra... but now the youngest has to keep up with the eldest.... so he isn't getting the same start. As it happens the youngest got a balance bike and the eldest didn't but the real difference I think is the eldest had the benefit of structured rides whereas the youngest has always had to try and keep up with his brother. It may well turn out the eldest is a naturally better cyclist but if what you want is the kid to be able to go on rides with the family (or race) then the balance bike is immaterial .. and its actually riding makes the difference.

    I think this is really no different to adult training.... at the end of the day there are all the modern ideas and incremental gains etc. but nothing beats actually putting in the miles.... If you don't put in the miles then the rest of the differences ... well really aren't differences...
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    Steve-XcT wrote:
    <snip> It may well turn out the eldest is a naturally better cyclist but if what you want is the kid to be able to go on rides with the family (or race) then the balance bike is immaterial .. and its actually riding makes the difference.

    I think this is really no different to adult training.... at the end of the day there are all the modern ideas and incremental gains etc. but nothing beats actually putting in the miles.... If you don't put in the miles then the rest of the differences ... well really aren't differences...
    Eek - you've jumped a fair bit there ... my toddler is 2 ... I don't give a hoot where we ride to - we go at a pace he wants to go (although sometimes with encouragement to go the right way) and stop when he's had enough.
    The balance bike wasn't immaterial - he couldn't have ridden a pedal bike with stabalisers in the forest - it just wouldn't work - not that he'd have the strength for pedaling yet anyway.

    Race? Yes - he gets to race - one of us ... whether he wins depends on the "finish line" and whether we need one of us infront to check on cars or not....

    Sometimes we don't go anywhere - we just "hang out" on our bikes - hiding in the trees or riding around bumping up and down the curb or across drain covers - again - this is just about having fun and gaining confidence on the (balance) bike.

    It's just another toy at the moment - he seems to enjoy it no matter the surface. We'll see if he wants to continue to ride in his own good time - hopefully he will, but tbh, if not, then that's up to him. We'll probably push for him to use it as transport as a minimum - but I'm not going to be pushing him into club rides, races etc etc ...
  • Haggis Jr. will be getting a bike soon. At almost 6, he's older than I recall being when I learned, but it's only now that he actually wants a bike.

    He can scoot on two wheels and turn proficiently tilting the body, so I suspect he's got the balance right. It's no-pedals first for him but the problem is, he's as stubborn as Mrs Haggis and me, and flat out rejects the idea of two wheels. I fear it'll take me twice as long to convince him to try the balance way than it'll take him to master it. We'll see. At least Tiny Haggis the III is completely hooked on bikes, and will get a taster earlier.
  • drhaggis wrote:
    Haggis Jr. will be getting a bike soon. At almost 6, he's older than I recall being when I learned, but it's only now that he actually wants a bike.

    He can scoot on two wheels and turn proficiently tilting the body, so I suspect he's got the balance right. It's no-pedals first for him but the problem is, he's as stubborn as Mrs Haggis and me, and flat out rejects the idea of two wheels. I fear it'll take me twice as long to convince him to try the balance way than it'll take him to master it. We'll see. At least Tiny Haggis the III is completely hooked on bikes, and will get a taster earlier.
    but it's only now that he actually wants a bike.
    School ??? Seeing other kids with bikes ...

    Taking the pedals off isn't compulsory :D It's just one way .. my kid went from stabilisers to not in seconds... literally BUT only when he wanted a bike... (some soft grass) and a straight line so they don't need to turn immediately and just give it a go... I'd planned to run behind mine but he was off... got to the end of the cup-de-sac and wobbled a bit turning round then rode back... then it's just adding in turning.

    If he wants a bike "like the other kids" then the barrier might be the whole "no pedals" you proposed? In your head its a short time, in his it's an eternity ... but why not try ...

    In your head it's the "correct way" .. but in his head it's Dad telling him how... so just worry about the outcome.. rather than method. (If you are stubborn he will just be as stubborn) so why not just say OK, lets try it... if it doesn't work (though it probably will) you can then suggest taking pedals off .. but you probably won't need to...

    when mine wanted to learn to skateboard I proposed the "proper way" I looked in YouTube etc. but he had it in his head to go up a hill and just come down... I expected bad things to happen but he just did it (more or less)...
  • Thanks for the reply. I guess my kids are just as stubborn as Mrs. Haggis and me. Combined.

    TBH, I'd much rather have bike w/ stabilisers than no bike. He knows how to pedal, and has no problems getting around in a bike w/ stabilisers. My concern, though, is that he won't want to get rid of them in ages.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    drhaggis wrote:
    Thanks for the reply. I guess my kids are just as stubborn as Mrs. Haggis and me. Combined.

    TBH, I'd much rather have bike w/ stabilisers than no bike. He knows how to pedal, and has no problems getting around in a bike w/ stabilisers. My concern, though, is that he won't want to get rid of them in ages.

    Couple of tips for getting rid of the stabalisers ... they probably won't want to because it's the "unknown" and a massive deal - so the bigger you make it the less likely they'll want to.
    However ..

    2 methods I know .

    a) Peer pressure - once their friends or peers ride without, they'll want to do the same.
    b) If you can, get them to try without stabalisers on someone elses bike - we did this with my niece & nephew (same size bikes fortunately) - niece wouldn't ride her bike without stabalisers, so we took them off her brothers bike "for maintenance" and suggested she had a quick go - this made it into less of an issue as she knew her bike still had stabalisers on and could go back to it.

    as for LSB - he's whizzing about doing longer and longer stints with his feet in the air - I suspect he'd move fairly swiftly onto a pedal bike - but we're holding out for now.
  • If your kid wants to they'll pick it up, just in their own time. My lad did a 180 over losing stabilizers. No way was he going without them. 2 weeks later or of the blue he came up to me one Friday asking to try riding without stabilizers. That Saturday on a traffic free route he did it for short runs but feet went down when he realized his mum wasn't holding him. It was a short, downhill, tarmac path. Tarmac to make it easier than grass to pedal on. Downhill for obvious reasons.

    After 10 minutes he wanted stabilizers back. 2 weekends later he asked again so we went to a smooth, flat, tarmac mixed use path. He was off first attempt. 10 minutes later he asked how to set off on his own. We told him about the starting pedal being up and he was off on his own.

    I am completely convinced children are physically able to learn to ride quickly by the time their head is ready. If your child asks to learn to ride without stabilizers then I reckon they've decided it's time and they're ready. Give them as much opportunity to master it as you can it won't take long.

    Then you just need to keep them hooked! The more kids living a life with cycling as part of normal activity the better. I wanted my lad to ride to school on his first day at primary school. IMHO it would have been a statement of intent. Cycling is normal. Alas my lass said no. He was up for it and even fished his Halfords kids bike lock out.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    I wanted my lad to ride to school on his first day at primary school. IMHO it would have been a statement of intent. Cycling is normal. Alas my lass said no. He was up for it and even fished his Halfords kids bike lock out.
    Really - why not?
    Our current options for primary school are reasonably close - one just 1/2 mile away and the other is 2 miles away - the closest one is the worst one to get to traffic wise as it requires crossing a main road.
    Our intention is not to drive LSB to school - there may be times when we need to due to time constraints - but mostly we'd like him to get there under his own steam (which is where that follow-me-tandem would be handy if we're running late!).

    The closer one is the wrong way for me for work (assuming I do the drop off) - but at least going back would mean I could drop his bike back at home - the further one is better - but if no bike parking available then I've got a long old drag with his bike on the back ... unless I go back home and drive in.
  • I don't know why, or at least didn't see the logic. Something about first week and not knowing what it is like. Mind you it is only a couple of streets away so hardly worth arguing over. It does have some bike parking though which is good.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    Sometimes there's no logic in their decisions - and there's no rationalising with them either ...
    I stated my wishes ages ago and Mrs SB seems to be onboard with it (she's a keen cyclist too) so so far so good ...
  • wolfsbane2kwolfsbane2k Posts: 2,965
    Just caught up on this thread as really regretting the stabalisers on little wb's bike.
    I'm desperate to get out on the more traffic free routes to school with them, as are they, but needing stabilisers to stay upright means that far too often the rear tyre isnt' touching the ground, so they can't actually move, and he spins out.

    Even on the pavements there are a number of instances of this, let alone when bad repairs throw them off the bike due to the camber, whereas just one wheel down would disappear without a thought.
    Intent on Cycling Commuting on a budget, but keep on breaking/crashing/finding nice stuff to buy.
    Bike 1 (Broken) - Bike 2(Borked) - Bike 3(broken spokes) - Bike 4( Needs Work) - Bike 5 (in bits) - Bike 6* ...
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