We tried it: FirstBIKE
Who tried it: Anya Leon, PEOPLE.com writer-editor
Why she did it: I have a 3-year-old who refuses to pedal a bike. Enough said.
I also have a secret. I’ve never really believed all the hype surrounding balance bikes. Honestly, I thought it was one more cute kid product to add to the already long list of maybe-not-so-functional items on the market.
In fact, I had considered buying one as a Christmas gift for my little guy last year, but figured it would make a momentary splash before being pushed to the back of the garage. (Spoiler alert: Nowadays, it’s definitely being pushed — all over my house!)
Adding to my doubt of purchasing a balance bike was the fact that my son was showing no interest in graduating to pedals — he was more than happy to stick to his trusty old ride-ons.
So when I was glancing at a selection of these bikes and my preschooler pointed to one and said, “I want dat,” I figured we’d give it a go, if for nothing else than for the sole purpose of crossing these innovative two-wheelers off any future wish lists.
Pros: I’ve finally found a bike that my son is willing to give up the goods — his ride-ons! — for without so much as a glance back (well, maybe one little peek). The bike comes fully assembled so kids can hop on without waiting for a parent to put it together, other than a second or two to adjust the seat height.
Unlike other bikes and trikes that I’ve come across, the FirstBIKE is not heavy. At all. So when my kid crashed a few times on the grass before he found his groove, I wasn’t worried about him being pinned beneath the bike. He could easily hop back up and on and continue whizzing down the sidewalk.
Whether you’re an adult looking for a luxe ride or a 3-year-old taking sharp turns around the block, a smooth coast is important. And FirstBIKE delivers. How do I know that? I may or may not have taken a quick spin on it to show my son the ropes and it was then that I immediately noticed how nice it felt cruising down the street.
Other noteworthy parts of the FirstBIKE: the saddle seat that keeps kids from slipping forward while riding, the incredibly easy steer and the optional add-on lowering kit ($10), which allows kids as young as 22 months to ride.
One of the coolest parts for kids? FirstBIKE comes in an assortment of fun and bright colors for a more customized look.
Before you put this balance bike off until the spring, wait one second. Old man winter has got nothing on FirstBIKE. For $40, parents can transform the bike (exchanging the front tire for a ski) into a winter-ready ride for snowy adventures.
Cons: The age bracket for the bike is 2 to 5 years old, so at 3, my son falls right into the target audience without a problem. However, it’s a bit of a stretch for him to be seated on the bike and hold onto the handlebars comfortably. When he gets tired, he’ll often switch back to his old-school move: straddling the bike as he walks from one spot to another.
Since kids use their own feet to move forward, there are no brake pedals. And although there are hand brakes, my child is still trying to coordinate realizing he has to stop, slowing down with his feet, remembering there’s a hand brake and actually pushing it. But steer clear of hills until they learn, and it shouldn’t be a problem.
The verdict: I’ve been converted. I’m a believer that this whole phenomenon surrounding balance bikes is actually well deserved!
Yes, my son still refuses to use traditional age-appropriate bikes and trikes, but I just keep telling myself that thanks to his savvy skills on his new balance bike, he’ll transition straight to the real thing.