August 08, 2013 05:00 PM

Courtesy FirstBIKE

To pedal or not to pedal — that’s the question on every parent’s mind when it comes to teaching little kids how to ride a bike.

While balance bikes have long been hitting the streets in Europe, they’re still just gaining recognition in the U.S.

But don’t think they’re only a fad. Pedal-less bikes actually provide many important physical, developmental, and emotional benefits for tykes learning to ride.

So we’ve asked Joseph Rumley, chief marketing officer of FirstBIKE, for the top five reasons why balance bikes simply do the job better than bikes with training wheels. Check them out below:

You can start ’em young. Children as young as 22-months-old can learn to balance on their own! At the age of 4 or 5, when they get taller and stronger, they can smoothly transfer to a pedal bike without ever needing training wheels.

They create confident riders. Unlike training wheels, balance bikes teach skills like balancing, steering, braking, using caution, as well as basic traffic rules — basically everything you need to know to ride a traditional pedal bike. Plus, as kids gain confidence they become more enthusiastic about biking.

They’re lightweight. Balance bikes are two to three times lighter than pedal bikes with training wheels, which sometimes weigh as much as the child. Thus, toddlers can ride several miles without getting tired and run up hills without having to heave around a heavy bike.

There’s less risk of injury. Because there are no pedals, preschoolers benefit from the security of having their own feet on the ground. When the bike starts to tip over, kids instinctively plant their feet to slow down and stabilize, reducing the risk of tipping over. A few balance bikes on the market, such as FirstBIKE, also come equipped with rear, hand- controlled brakes; steering limiters for a smoother ride; and non-swivel seats to further reduce the chance of falls. Moreover, many pediatricians advise against using training wheels due to their negative impact on a child’s spine.

They foster parent-child bonding. Bike riding is something families can do together — it’s free, encourages physical activity and outdoor exploration, and gets the whole brood moving together. Balance bikes allow younger children to keep up with their parents or older siblings and keep the entire family happily on the go!

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