Video: Balance Bikes Are The Ultimate Way To Learn - How To Bike with Ben Cathro

Feb 29, 2024
by Pinkbike Originals  


Balance bikes really changed the way kids learn how to bike. In this episode, Ben Cathro walks us through how to get a young rider interested in balance bikes and how to help them progress as they get more comfortable riding them.


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Member since Feb 15, 2012
1,099 articles

  • 75 1
 "Balance Bikes Are The Ultimate Way To Learn"
I disagree. As I'm not a good rider I bought one, but that thing is super small and I'm crushing my balls on it. And I'm not any better at riding my bike.
  • 57 22
 Just don't put your kids on ebikes..this generation is already going to poopoo
  • 5 19
flag joecrosby (Feb 29, 2024 at 11:26) (Below Threshold)
 Have you ever heard of motorcycles?
  • 2 4
 I've seen it plenty of times.
  • 23 5
 No they’re not. Here’s a suggestion: go roll up to any competitive DH race. Good luck getting a podium even in the U12 class. Kids these days rip harder than you, don’t knock em.
  • 4 5
 What generation? Isn’t the average age of your typical mountain biker 44? It’s old man’s sport these days. Kids aren’t out mountain biking like we were when we were at that age.
  • 13 1
 @thenotoriousmic: You’re right, the kids don’t ride like we ride because they are on FS bikes with slack geo and disc brakes. The average kid who rides the bike park and/or a decent bike trail system in any mountain town , is far more skilled than 99% of the crusty 40 some year olds who try to pass off their opinions as the gold standard in the comments section.
  • 3 2
More groms riding than in any point in cycling history. Hell, I even know a few groms on those kids Levo eMTB's and they probably would not even ride a bike if not for that. So-you are wrong and clearly the fun guy at parties.
  • 3 0
 double post because the site is glitching
  • 4 2
 @freeridemafia420: the kids don’t ride like we ride because they can’t afford bikes and it’s not cool to them they see it as old man sport. See a kid on a bike and 99.9% it’s because his dad rides and the majority of the time they’re riding with their dad’s mates because they haven’t got any friends of their own who ride.

As much as this upsets me because I usually like being right especially on pinkbike but the veteran 40-50 category at any UK enduro is the most competitive and where the fastest time of the day usually comes from. It’s an old man’s sport, there’s no new generation they’re doing the things that are cool to them.
  • 3 1
 @thenotoriousmic: fair enough. I think you and I have very different experiences of MTB. I take my son to DH races with a few hundred entrants and 75% of them are under 18, a handful of whom will be representing the US in the World Cup this season and following ones. So I get that there are middle aged riders that think the sport is dominated by their age group, but I really don’t see that at all. The sport is in very good hands.
  • 3 0
 @freeridemafia420: our kids ride because we ride and we’re willing to pay the expense and know how to fix their bikes and I’d imagine most of the kids at those races have the same back story. When we started out you just needed a regular mountain bike, a riser bar and a pair of Tioga Factory DH tyres. If you was really invested you might have bought a Z1. Now you’re paying £3k for an entry level deore / SX POS which you need a degree in engineering to keep running smoothly. They’re just not going to do it and the parents aren’t paying for that unless they’re invested themselves. Way more kid’s playing descenders on the Xbox that riding in real life.
  • 6 0
 @thenotoriousmic: for sure. This sport has always been a game of privilege. Even early mountain bikes were expensive for their time. But I feel some of your claims are exaggerated. That $3k bike will handle any terrain and one most definitely does not need an engineering degree to maintain it. The deore of today is light years beyond what it was in the 90s. My family rides $3kish bikes on any and all terrain. If my kid complains and says he needs an upgrade, I tell him it’s a game of skill and he needs to be a better athlete and after that, get a job.

Yes there are more kids playing Xbox than riding mountain bikes but that has always been true for decades. The OP was about a very vague and crusty stereotype about how this generation was getting corrupted because they are riding ebikes. I’m going to call BS on older generations putting blanket statements on younger generations as lesser than. What a load of crap. Younger generations will respond as best they can to the world we leave for them. So it’s on us. If younger generations think MTB is an old guys sport, then shame on us for not representing it authentically, because it’s an awesome sport.
  • 4 1
 Interesting that I am being down voted for seeing kids riding eBikes? So, does that mean I'm lying?
  • 3 1
 @thenotoriousmic: the whole “old man sport” must be specific to your area. In Washington state, specifically Bellingham, I see WAY more groms on the trails than old guys. We have so many community and youth oriented programs, coaches, camps, etc, it’s insane. Whistler is the same way. Everywhere I’ve ever been in the states is the same way; more younger folks than older folks.

Sure, a lot of the big riding destinations are “wealthier” so you’ll see a lot of kids on decent bikes because their families can afford it. There’s a lot of kids out ripping on “cheap” bikes that are older than them, too. I just don’t see it as an old man sport like you describe.
  • 4 1
 @joecrosby: This is all obviously anecdotal but I have a similar experience. I see NICA teams riding on the local singletrack, kids tagging along with their parents, and groups of kids ripping on their own at the local mini gravity park or the bandit jump lines. They are usually pretty well represented at the smaller lift served parks too. Still plenty of middle aged folk out there though the sport is by no means limited to my age group and above. The future is bright.
  • 3 0
 @tomfoolerybackground: I volunteered at a local NICA practice two years ago and their were 80 kids. It was a 100 person group ride. Never seen anything like it.
  • 3 0
 @thenotoriousmic: I disagree... I teach kids to ride MTB at a local school, and most of them don't get to do that sort of riding with their parents.

I don't know that many kids that race though. We have some very talented youngsters, but most of them prefer to have fun riding with their mates, rather than competing.
  • 1 0
 Funny to read that everyone is off topic and is treating the wrong subject. HA ha passion...
  • 2 0
 @joecrosby: if you go to a resort or a bike park you’re going to be forgiven for thinking mountain biking is the biggest sport in the world but they’re not your typical average mountain bikers. Just take this page as an example. Biggest mtb site in the world and its key demographic is middle aged mountain bikers and most of them barely ever ride. They’re your typical mountain bikers most kids wouldn’t even be able to afford a lift pass at whistler. And yeah where I live at 39 I’m generally one of the younger ones or kids my sons age who have dads who ride. It’s rare to even see other mountain bikers these days. Way more common to see 40, 50 even 60 year olds on e bikes.
  • 22 0
 Balance bikes are the reason so many little tackers can ride so young. I got a used Giant balance bike for 40 bucks and it was an instant hit. For his 3rd birthday I splashed out on a Commencal Ramones 14 pedal bike, "way too much money" nan and mum cried, again, an instant hit. Both of these bike will no doubt end up in another kids possession and the cycle will be repeated, pun intended.
  • 4 0
 That Ramones tho. Best deal of any kids bike
  • 1 0
 we followed the same path
  • 27 3
 we should ban training wheels and never speak of them again.
  • 2 0
 Agree. Curse you, Huffy, for inventing them! Training wheels teach kids to turn away from the direction their bike is starting to tip, when in fact, you need to turn in to the direction you're starting to tip. After some time on a trike (where he learned the concept of pedaling) and a month on a balance bike, my son rode a real bike on his first attempt. It was so easy!
  • 8 1
 @GOOOO: any time I see a kid on a bike with training wheels I very seriously consider violating my pledge to not interfere with anyone else's parenting. They're backwards!
  • 7 0
 @owl-X: Every kid has their own path. For all we know, the kid had access to a balance bike and it didn't work out
  • 4 0
 Potentially unpopular opinion: training wheels are great for a week, after the kids already know how to balance from a balance bike. Gets the kids used to the pedaling motion (not intuitive at first), then you take them off and they pedal away like rockets. My son was riding trails with me super early (like 3 y.o.), and using training wheels for a few days helped us get to that point faster for sure.
  • 5 0
 @pmhobson: Yeah my oldest ripped on his balance bike but didn’t feel comfortable pedaling after a couple of tries. So I reluctantly put on training wheels for a few months. Took them off when he bent them close to shearing off turning hard. He ripped on his 16” with them off and still does on his 24”. In retrospect the fact that I was at all reluctant is so dumb. Do what works for your kid.
  • 5 0
 @tomfoolerybackground: @pmhobson @Chipster5

I'm still gonna ban them from my utopian Mars colony. Your kids were still way ahead of the training wheels only route, and we don't have a lot of room in the ships.
  • 2 0
 @Chipster5: My kids (twins) had no concept of how to pedal. Id hadn't occurred to me that it would be a problem until I get their pedal bikes and they were completely uncoordinated. Took em a bit to sort it out, but now they're 6 and have no trouble at all!
  • 2 0
 @rallyimprezive: My daughter, after a lot of experience on a balance bike and a bit of time on a trike, was all set to ride a pedal bike, which she did like a champ if I just gave her a push start. Without a push from me, though, she would just wait on the bike, casually performing a track stand while protesting that she didn't know how to start pedaling. That was age 3.5. (She figured it out before long.) Balance bikes are awesome.
  • 2 0
 @ABhardtail: haha thats funny. Kids huh?!
  • 2 0
 SO much this!

We put our wee lad through training wheels and it did nothing but set him back. He had global development delay, which including considerable balance, motor, and strength issues. So we thought we were doing him a favour by "assisting" his riding.

When we finally ditched the training wheels AND the cranks, he learned to balance. When we put the cranks back, learning to ride came pretty quickly afterwards (his own issues considered).
  • 15 0
 My youngest brother taught himself how to ride on an old tiny bicycle when he was 3. The bike was intended for my then 5 year old brother, but he never used it. I caught 3 year old Jared pushing it to the top of the driveway, getting on, and coasting down to the bottom (25'?) until it came to a stop in the street. I was shocked. I stopped him, held the bike upright, and told him to put his feet on the pedals. Gave a gentle nudge and he started pedaling. I don't think he stopped for the next 148 hours. We also used to ride on my little KM100 motorcycle riding circles in our tiny backyard. He was fearless (I was a coward).

I always wonder where it would have taken him in life. He died in a freak accident a year later.

So yay balance bikes!
  • 9 0
 Man, sympathies that you lost such an amazing little bro.
  • 6 0
 Ben's point about not forcing the issue is THE MOST IMPORTANT.

I helped dozens of kids in my neighbourhood learn to ride. We had a bunch of bikes and let them share and take their pick, I removed bells and horns to remove the temptation to remove hands from handlebars. Some would do balance bikes, some wouldn't. A gang of kids can egg each other on, but I found telling some kids how to have fun in a certain way sometimes would backfire.

The most effective method I found was to have a child stationary on the bike, then crouching in front of the bike put your hands either side of the upright sections of the (BMXish) handlebar to catch the bike if they start to fall. Then have them try to trackstand, noticing how the bike falls and experiment with turning the bars, then leaning the bike, then combining the motions to making a game of balancing between my hands, not hitting them. Most kids would be riding unassisted after about 5 minutes (not my son). The holding under the saddle thing is back breaking, and doesn't help the child feel how their inputs control the balance.

My son wouldn't do balance bikes, but he pedalled about 1.5 miles each way to and from preschool from before he could speak full sentences until he moved up to 16in wheels by which time his training wheels were bent so far off the ground they did nothing. Although I helped many of his friends go training wheel free, he simply didn't care. Pedaling and covering ground was more important to him than balancing. He still rides to school every day, but he says we mountain biked enough during lockdown that he's lost interest for now.

Having the next size bike ready before it's needed and letting the child choose was fun and helpful. I highly recommend that.
  • 4 0
 One of my kids could not learn on a balance bike. Years of tears and training wheels. She now rides mtb with me from time to time. My other kid figured out a balance bike in a day. Every kid is different, don’t get stuck on what other people say is right for a particular kid.
  • 4 0
 25 years ago I used to just remove the pedals from our kids bike.
When our youngest was three the bike was standing around in the court yard.
One day my wife came to me and said I should put the pedals on because she was ready.
I asked "How do you know?" My wife answered: "She is running 8s with her feet on the rack"
  • 1 0
 Yes! Important to realize that any bike is a balance bike when you first learn how to balance before learning to use its pedals.
  • 3 0
 Waiting for the moment to strike, but my 13mo old son picked up the rocking base real quick. I thought this video would be a rare/exaggeration ... but he's pretty much the same:
  • 1 0
 oh my god! that looks incredible. Dude is going to be familiar with the setup...that rules! Didn't think they could fast track it even more, but that's sick.
  • 2 0
 Similar to other experiences here my kid learned on a balance bike and that was a major factor in him being able to ride a pedal bike just after he turned 3.

Some tips
- you don' t need a fancy one. Ours cost £30 from Facebook
- rear brakes means they have one less thing to learn when they get a bike
- A lot of kids don't get the gliding thing straight away. It doesn't matter, my kid just walked around with it for a few months until he needed to get over a puddle, after that he was up and away
  • 2 0
 I taught my daughter this way, she turned 5 over the winter, we had a fluke 70 degree day earlier this week. It was her first time out on her new real bike we got her at Christas and within 5 minutes she was pedaling on her own.
  • 2 0
 The only trouble with balance bikes is getting your kid to stop! Smile Ours stilled loved balance bikes after they learned pedal bikes; but then I think I'd have fun on a balance bike in a gravity park too.
  • 7 0
 All balance bikes should come with brakes - my two both had high speed crashes into walls!
  • 4 0
 Preferably with cantilever brakes and not disc brakes, so they don't chop their fingers off, when they stick them in the rotor.
  • 2 0
 @LemonadeMoney: literally just before this video was posted my son crashed into the back of our parked car and went flying onto the ground. I was teaching him to stop, which he can do, but then he didn't for some reason and binned it.
  • 2 0
 @LemonadeMoney @TommyNunchuck: I think this is the only downside to balance bikes--they allow really little kids to get cooking before they know how hot a stove can get.
  • 2 0
 My daughter wore out sneakers so fast with her brake-less balance bike.
  • 5 0
 Very literally how to bike
  • 3 0
 100%. Both my kids learned on balance bikes. They learned quickly and easily transitioned to pedaling. Training wheels are horrible from what I remember about 53 years ago.
  • 1 0
 Balance bikes for the win! I got my son a Strider when he was 3. Within a few riders he was doing feet-up cruises down the driveway, turning onto the sidewalk, etc. We got him a PW50 motorcycle for Christmas a year later and he was off like a rocket. The hardest thing my kid ever had to learn was how to pedal to make a bike go!
  • 2 2
 For MTB families, I highly recommend the Early Rider Big Foot 12! Not cheap, and can be hard to find, but our son got 3 solid years of use out of it (including loads of singletrack).
  • 6 4
 Why spend much money on a balance bike? This thing is overkill for what a 2 year old is going to use it for. We just got one from a bike swap program for kids. My first kid got a couple seasons out of it and now my youngest is on it. First kid was then on to a pedal bike on his third birthday. Anyway, that's my experience... and opinion.
  • 4 2
 @workingclasswhore: why spend so much money on any bike?

It's not for everyone and certainly wasn't cheap but it was worth it for us and our little guy. The rear brake was a huge safety boost for singletrack trails and our steep gravel driveway (dragging feet wouldn't stop him). Air-filled tires run at ~5 psi actually made a huge improvement in traction and comfort. And well because it looks awesome Smile

It got used 4-5x per week for years. And now it will get another ~3 years of use by our second. Getting 6 years of use out of it was/is worth the cost. Then we'll sell it for half of what we paid for it.
  • 4 0
 @workingclasswhore: Specialized Hotwalk carbon has entered the chat
  • 4 0
 My first child's balance bike was a Norco 12" wheeled BMX which I whipped the cranks and chain off. Worked like a charm.
  • 2 0
 You are correct it is worth the money my 4 year old started on a push bike and has been pedaling a Commencal for over a year now. My 2 year old got the new Commencal push bike with the brake this week. Not cheap but we have a steep driveway and the brake was worth every cent. They will get passed down and get far more use than any of my bikes.
  • 5 1
 @workingclasswhore: why does everyone get so hung up on money? Why does anyone give a shit how much someone else is willing to spend on something?
  • 2 1
 @blueH2Oj: my kid did the same but for zero $...that's the point I'm trying to make. I did drop $500 on a commencal 16" for his second bike though.
  • 2 0
 @enilson: I did the same; almost no air in the tires and a good brake, and my little dude can rip around and his tiny fingers can actually stop him. He rode Bob’s Trail on Galby in Bellingham before he turned 3, which was terrifying but he insisted. It won’t be long before he’s on the pedal bike and his little brother takes the push bike.
  • 1 0
 @workingclasswhore: Ah, bike swap programme, love it! Just doesn't exist here, so we gotta cough up the pennies.
  • 3 0
 @deepcovedave: Yep, that's what I did for my daughter. I was given a small pink Walmart special with a rusted chain and a seized crank. Tore the drivetrain off.. voila we had a balance bike. She's a teenager now racing in NICA and can smoke me on the trails up or down.
  • 1 0
 @joecrosby: especially on our kids! It's wild to me when someone insists they'd hold anything back from kids...the only way I can process it is to imagine they're not parents themselves.
  • 2 2
 @owl-X: I hear ya. I think in general, comments about what other people should do with their kids royally pisses me off. If I want to drop $1000 on a push bike, I can. If I want to buy a ebike for my kids, I can. If you don’t want to do that stuff for your kids, don’t.

I would sum it up as, “don’t you f*ckin dare tell me what to do with or for my own kids.” Especially when it comes to them having fun.
  • 1 0
 @workingclasswhore: I’m tired of whinebags complaining about how other people spend their own hard earned money. There’s people out there spending $150k on a Benz for their kid’s 16th birthday, and you know what? Good for them. People here complain about someone else spending couple hundred bucks for a kids bike. People need to get their head out of their ass.
  • 2 0
 From my family’s experience with my son, I can vouch for balance bikes. From balance bike to DH racing and 30ft tables in 7 years. f*ck training wheels.
  • 4 0
 I just wanted to hear some toddlers with Scottish accents.
  • 1 0
 Any tips on what backpack can hold a balance bike? Keen on the idea of when my daughter has had enough can pop her on the Shotgun seat and balance bike on my back and we are away.
  • 2 0
 @nofx007 I gotta think anything with external loops would work. Run a couple bungie cords x-style through the frame and you're set...thinking packs made for backcountry skiing/snowboarding off the bat... a one-wheel trailer would maybe be overkill, but they're so sick too
  • 1 0
 Best balance bike in the market: Kokua Jumper!

The 14 inch one even comes with rear brake.
  • 2 0
 Balance bikes are awesome, I found one with 10 inch wheels so when my kid is 1, she'll be able to fit on it really well.
  • 1 0
 My kids grew up on the ol' Strider 12s and switched over to pedal bikes with ease by 3-4 years old. One push and they were off on their own. Balance bikes are the best.
  • 1 0
 Balance bikes are amazing! I just picked up one for myself. I prefer the carbon Hotwalk as it is the lightest bike Speci makes. It feels amazing at the local bike park!!!!!
  • 3 0
 Is there a dummy kid on the bike in the background? It's freaking me out.
  • 1 0
 i just pulled the pedals off my kids bike, let him run-bike for a couple weeks then swapped them back on.
  • 3 0
 Jackson Goldstone agrees
  • 2 0
 My 2 year old is doing fakies. Better than me even.
  • 2 0
 Finally, Ben Cathro makes a video for MY skill level

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