The Glory of Balance Bikes

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Balance bikes are here to stay

Times have undoubtedly changed and there is no longer a need for a child to start riding a tricycle or move on to a bike with training wheels attached in order to learn proper bike balance. A specially designed balance bike – often called a glider bike, or pedal-less bike –  makes teaching a young tot to ride a breeze. Toddlers as young as 18 months old can quickly learn to handle the two-wheeled balance bike. Most children achieve riding skill on the pedal-less bike in a relatively short time period. Many pick up the bike and start to immediately ride with no instructions required. Soon they are coasting and even jumping like a pro.

Balance bikes first emerged in Europe over a decade ago where they have experienced widespread popularity. It is not uncommon to visit a family park in Paris, Amsterdam, or London and see a bevy of youngsters skillfully riding around on the pedal-less bikes. Recently the glider bike trend has started to take off in the United States and parents are beginning to encounter numerous brands of balance bikes at most retailers.

Toddlers tend to learn to ride a balance bike with far fewer bumps and bruises than more traditional tricycles or bikes with training wheels. The balance bike typically becomes a natural extension of the child and requires very little coaching from the parent. Most children find riding a balance bike less terrifying because they can easily utilize their feet to seek comfort and bolster their self-confidence. As the child gains assurance on the balance bike, he will naturally become more daring.

Parents can adjust the seat of a balance bike to accommodate their child’s specific body size. The seat’s adjustable height allows the child to sit completely on the seat with their tush while their feet are planted firmly on the ground. Having full control of his feet allows him to quickly push off, brake, slow down, and balance all with his soles. This gives the child a true sense of security and removes the scariness of a potential fall. Some balance bikes do not possess a brake, but a few brands are sold with brakes. Most bike shops can install brakes if the bike does not possess a pre-installed factory braking system. Ideally, the balance bike should come with an enclosed rear braking mechanism for complete safety. Children as young as 2-years old can quickly understand and grasp the concept of the bike’s brakes.

Riding and maneuvering traditional bikes with training wheels and tricycles tends to take a great deal of energy. The child often becomes tired from taxing their legs riding up hills and across difficult terrain. Even their arms start to feel the strain of trying to lift or steer traditional bikes because they are about two to three times heavier than a balance bike. As all parents know, a tired child is a cranky child. Avoiding overexertion on any bike ride makes the entire experience far more pleasurable for everyone involved. The balance bike makes physical exertion a thing of the past. A child can easily coast and scoot over hills with relative ease. A family can enjoy longer bike rides without worrying about junior becoming tired.

To start a child out on a balance bike, you should choose a flat location. Avoid hills during the first few outings. Once your child can ride on a flat surface, it’s time to tackle a hill or two. Toddlers who first start out their biking lives on a balance bike are normally able to transition to a modern two-wheel bike by the time they are four or five years old.

There is very little doubt that biking helps form a deep parent-child bond. It’s a classic activity that families enjoy together. Balance bikes allow the fun of biking to start early and continue for a lifetime.


Kimberly Sharpe is an outdoor sports and travel writer. She has spent a lifetime mountain biking the trails of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Florida, Northern California, and numerous other locations with friends and family.

Get A Mountain Bike That Fits

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Get your kid a mountain bike that fits

Many people mistakenly believe that a bike is a bike. As long as your kid(s) can reach the pedals and steer the bicycle, very little else matters. However, this is a falsehood. A properly fitting bike is one of the most important things you will ever invest in.

Many people don’t consider the importance of a professional fit when they purchase a bike for their kids. They just see the glitz and glamor of the shiny new machine and have to have it. Well in the world of bikes, looks aren’t everything. A bike must fit your kid’s body to make the ride smooth and inspire confidence.

Bikes are somewhat adjustable, parts can be changed out, and other modifications made to create the ideal custom fitting bike for your young rider’s particular body shape and size. When having your kid’s bike adjusted you should take into consideration these key points.

  1. Their overall comfort.
  2. Safety and the ability to quickly dismount the bike.
  3. Saddle size, shape, and contour
  4. Smooth riding performance

One of the best ways to determine if a bike is right for your child is to get them on the bike in question and take it for a spin. See how it fits their body, how it performs, and the bicycle’s overall feel.

Prior to leaving the bike store with the newly purchased bicycle, you should have a bike professional make any necessary adjustments. When having a professional technician adjust the bike to your kid’s body, he/she should be wearing the bike shoes they’ll normally wear when biking and have the pedals you’ll be using readily available. If your kids wear a particular biking outfit, then on the day of the adjustments they should wear the same biking pants that they’ll traditionally wear for a long ride.

Most bike technicians could take a little time to fit a bike properly, so be prepared to be at the shop for awhile. Usually, the first step to creating a custom bike fit is to set the bike up on a trainer and have your child hop into the saddle and start pedaling. While watching them in action with your bike, the technician will be able to determine the necessary tweaks to make the machine flow smoothly with their body.


Kimberly Sharpe is an outdoor sports and travel writer. She has spent a lifetime mountain biking the trails of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Florida, Northern California, and numerous other locations with friends and family.

Mountain Biking Safety Equipment

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The right safety gear is paramount when mountain biking with kids

One nasty crash on a bike could set your young rider’s confidence back quite a bit. To bolster the love of bike riding with your child, you need to take every safety precaution available to stack the deck in your favor. Unforeseen crashes happen. Be prepared.

Here are just a few ideas to help protect your child while biking. While no equipment is fool-proof and the odds are good that your little one will inevitably sustain boo-boos, following a stringent safety protocol helps lessen the odds of a severe accident or injury.

Helmet Required – A child’s head is highly susceptible to injury. Even a small bump can cause brain trauma. Most head trauma is avoidable by making sure your youngster wears a properly fitted helmet.  Any helmet that you purchase for your child should have a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sticker affixed to it. The sticker indicates that the helmet has passed the strict safety requirements set forth by the United States government. 

Bike helmets need to fit snugly and never slip or slide on the child’s head. Avoid letting your child wear a hat under the helmet or the helmet’s safety ability might be impaired. A properly fitted helmet sits level across the child’s forehead and covers it almost to the eyebrows. Always make sure the straps are firmly attached beneath the child’s chin. A slipping and sliding helmet is ineffective at providing any sort of safety.

Clothing – If you are hitting the roadways or trails for a bike outing, make sure you dress your youngster in bright colors so he is easily spotted by other riders, joggers, or drivers. Shoes should be properly laced up so they don’t drag the ground and pants should not be overly baggy or they may get caught in the bike’s chain. Never let your child wear sandals or flip flops or they could easily skin and peel the skin off their toes during a sudden stop or fall.

Elbow, Knee, and Shin Guards/Pads – At some time, most kids will inevitably hit their shin with the bike’s pedal. Everyone knows that a shin bruise is painful. Often wearing a pair of shin guards helps prevent such an injury.

Eye Protection – Hitting the trails on a mountain bike is an exhilarating experience, but many trails are muddy and filled with rocks or debris. Wearing a pair of safety goggles will help protect your child’s peepers from flying objects.

Reflectors – If you plan to let your child ride near traffic, it is advised that their bike have reflectors to make them instantly visible to motorists.

LED Lights – When riding in the early morning or late evening hours, a headlight and tail light not only helps light up the trail for your child to see obstacles but also makes the child more visible to other bikers, joggers, or motorists in the failing light.

Bike Bell – What child doesn’t like a bell? Besides being fun, a bell is a handy safety item that a parent can teach their child to use appropriately when riding.

Cycling Gloves – A pair of full-finger mountain biking gloves not only provides grip but also helps protect small hands from chafing or skinning during a fall.

Neck Braces and Back Braces – If you are riding technical downhill terrain, elevated wood features, off-camber steep slopes, hucking the drops and jumps, you should consider a neck brace with a full-face helmet and back brace for you and your kids. I’ve taken a hard crash with a neck brace in a bike park and so have my sons. All of our injuries have been limited by always wearing the proper gear.

With the proper equipment, biking can not only be fun but also safe for new and beginning riders alike.


Kimberly Sharpe is an outdoor sports and travel writer. She has spent a lifetime mountain biking the trails of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Florida, Northern California, and numerous other locations with friends and family.

Preparing For The Mountain Bike Ride

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Preparing for the mountain bike ride

A bit of advance planning and preparation helps make any bike trip more enjoyable. No one likes to run around at the last minute trying to remember what needs to be done and what to pack. This is extremely true if you have children. Preparing for a bike ride a day or two in advance will lower the stress level and make the entire trip more enjoyable.

Here are a few tips on how you can prepare for a bike ride.

Bike Readiness – The key component to any successful ride is to have your bike in tip-top condition. Bike maintenance should be a standard preparation for any upcoming ride. Pump up the bike’s wheels and make sure they contain the required amount of air. Look closely at the bike for any signs of wear or any indications that the bike’s tire might not hold up to a ride. You should also examine the bike’s chain and braking system. A day or two prior to the ride have your child sit on the bike and make any necessary adjustments to the seat’s height and the bike’s pedals. Remember that kids grow fast and even if your tot’s bike fit him well a month ago the odds are good that he has grown and the bike will need a bit of tweaking to offer a comfortable ride.

Clothing – Pick out your biking outfit and your children’s clothing a day or two in advance. Try to take into consideration the weather’s forecast so you can dress appropriately. Ideally, you should dress to peel if the forecast calls for a warm afternoon but a chilly morning.

Helmet Check – Your child’s head grows just as quickly as the rest of his body, so be sure to make sure that junior’s helmet fits. Everyone in the family should examine their helmets for any broken straps, fasteners or other safety issues.

Sunscreen – No matter what the weather forecast is you should always remember to pack sunscreen. Burns happen even when the weather is chilly and overcast. Packing a sufficient amount of sunscreen helps protect not only your skin but also the delicate skin of your child.

Gear Up – Consider what gear you will need to achieve the ride from start to finish. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, biking gloves, proper shoes, and comfortable riding clothing.

Water and Snacks – Advance food and water planning are a necessity if you plan to bike with your children. Kids always want foods and snacks, so you should always pack necessary beverages and snacks to keep the children happy.

Map It – No matter how many times you have ridden the trail, if a season has passed then it’s time to map the trail again so you are familiar with the terrain. You should always know the trails you plan on riding, any distinguishing landmarks, and realistic distances.

Phones and Chargers– Pack your cell phone with a fully charged battery in the event of an emergency. You should also pack a solar charger to keep your battery fully powered.

Bring Money – Even though you plan on riding a trail through the wilderness, it’s always a good idea to bring money and identification.

Check the Forecast– Weather is notorious for changing quickly. Even with the best weather forecasting methods, nothing is foolproof. It is best to prepare for the worst.  If it looks like rain, then pack rain gear just to be safe. Mornings and evenings are often chilly, so bring a lightweight jacket. Dress to peel if it looks like the afternoon will warm up.

Be Realistic – If you are biking as a family then you need to be realistic about how far and how many hours your child can ride. Prepare for long rides by gradually building up with shorter rides. No one, young or old, will have fun if you aren’t physically ready to meet the demands of the trail. Try to pick a trail level with the skill set of everyone in the party. Don’t think that you or your anyone in your group can do more than they realistically can achieve.

Rest and Rejuvenate – The night before a big ride make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep. In the morning hydrate and fuel for the day ahead by planning a wise breakfast that will adequately fuel your physical needs.

Never underestimate the importance of advance planning and preparation. Taking care of everything prior to any bike outing lets you focus on the ride and revel in the moment.


Kimberly Sharpe is an outdoor sports and travel writer. She has spent a lifetime mountain biking the trails of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Florida, Northern California, and numerous other locations with friends and family.