Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about training wheels. You’ll learn what stabilizers are, what they do, how they work, and whether they offer any benefits to kids.
The first balance bike, Karl Drais’ Dandy Horse (aka Laufmaschine), was invented over 200 years ago. But the first modern balance bike didn’t materialize until about 25 years ago. However, being a recent invention hasn’t prevented this technology from becoming every kid’s dream.
Related: Good Kids’ Balance Bikes
Some parents believe that training wheels are a better teaching tool compared to a balance bike. And I get it. It’s hard to discard long-held beliefs and embrace new ideas.
But no matter what you believe about training wheels vs balance bikes, balance bikes are the better option for most kids. Most parents in the past used training wheels to teach kids to ride a bike, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try any fresh ideas.
If I miss a question you’ve been wanting to ask in the Training wheels FAQs below, please tell me about it in the comments box below.
1.What Are Training Wheels?
Training wheels are two small plastic or rubber wheels measuring 4″-6″ in diameter. They attach to the axle on either side of the rear wheel. These wheels help balance the bicycle, and they also teach kids to pedal a bike. Although adult training wheels exist, they’re typically used on beginner bikes for children.
The main purpose of these additional wheels is to give kids the skills needed to ride a regular pedal bike in the future. But are they effective? I answer this question under the section Do Training Wheels Work.
2.Is It Bad to Use Training Wheels?
Many parents today believe that training wheels aren’t the most effective way of teaching a child to ride a bicycle, but they’re not necessarily bad. It’s OK to use training wheels. And in some cases such as when introducing a special-needs kid to bicycling, training wheels lend themselves as an excellent teaching tool. However, there are several good reasons why you should use a balance bike instead.
3.What is the Diameter of Training Wheels?
Most training wheels have a diameter of 5″-5.5″. The smallest training wheels sold on the market today measure 4″ in diameter while the largest ones measure 6″ or slightly bigger.
4.What Are Training Wheels Used for?
Training wheels are used to get young children into the exciting world of bicycling without making it feel like riding a bike is too difficult. Pretty much all kids can hop on a bicycle with training wheels and ride away with little if any parental support or guidance.
The main riding skill training wheels teach a child is pedaling. Since the additional wheels are a kind of built-in bike balance, the child doesn’t do much to keep the bicycle upright. They’re therefore able to focus on steering and learning proper pedaling technique.
5.Can You Put Training Wheels on Any Bike?
No. Some kids’ bikes come with training wheels. Others don’t have them, but they’re designed to be compatible with training wheels. Check whether the bike you’re looking at comes with stabilizing wheels or not before buying.
These balance-boosting wheels aren’t expensive; they cost anywhere between $20 and $50. Some bikes won’t let you add training wheels though. Many high-end bikes have pretty short wheel axles, and this makes it impossible to safely add training wheels.
6.At What Age Do You Start Using Them?
Kids as young as 3 can learn to ride a pedal bike with training wheels, but the actual span begins at age 3 and extends all the way to age 8. One bad thing about these balancing devices is that finding a bike small enough to fit a 3-year-old can be tough.
A bicycle with stabilizers is said to be a good fit when the little aspiring rider can place both feet on the ground when seated. One reason balance bikes are increasingly becoming popular is that they’re more accessible to younger kids. Some balance bikes are small enough (in terms of frame size) to fit kids as young as 15 months.
7.What’s the Best Age to Take Off Training Wheels?
Most kids aged 4-9 can graduate to a bike without training wheels. Children don’t develop at the same growth rate, nor do their physical abilities evolve the same way. The best thing to do is to observe the child to make sure they can balance on the bike without relying too much on the stabilizing wheels.
If they have mastered proper pedaling technique and don’t need much assistance to stay up, they’re probably ready to graduate to a training wheel-less bicycle. In the end, only you can know when your kiddo is ready to transition to a pedal bike without trainers.
8.Can a 4-Year-Old Ride a Bike Without Training Wheels?
Yes, a 4-year-old can ride a bicycle that doesn’t have training wheels. It depends on whether they’ve mastered balance as well as balance. In fact, there are many 3-year-olds out there who can ride a normal pedal bike independently. Kids who learn on a balance bike tend to transition earlier and easier to real bicycling compared to kids who learn on a bike with stabilizing devices.
9.Do Training Wheels Work?
Yes, training wheels do what they’re designed to do if you install them correctly. That is, they revolve around the rear-wheel axle and prevent the bike from tipping too far either to either side. If your kiddo is having a hard time rotating the pedals, consider teaching them using training wheels.
If you prop up the rear of the bike using bricks or something similar and firm the front of the bike with your hands, your child can really focus on pedaling. If they do this a few times, they’ll learn to make full pedal revolutions and in the correct direction sooner than you imagine.
10.Who Are Training Wheels for?
Training wheels are for young children who’re interested in learning how to ride a bike. They’re a teaching tool for absolute beginner kids, but I’ve seen adult versions as well. And if you have a kid with special needs and who’s been wanting to join the bicycling community, get them a bike with training wheels. Stabilizers make biking accessible to all kids and especially to those who need a little more support than most kids do.
11.What Are the Pros and Cons of Training Wheels?
Here are the pros
- Training wheels make balancing easier, and this dramatically increases a kid’s confidence around bike riding.
- Kids on training wheels need little to no guidance. Once the kid sits on the saddle and puts foot to pedal, they simply begin to roll away.They’re easier to master compared to a balance bike.
- Bikes with training wheels are real pedal mountain bikes or BMX bikes. And since the added wheels are detachable, you may not need to buy a new bike when it’s time to transition to a pedal bike. You’ll simply take off the stabilizers.
- Balance wheels keep the bike more or less upright with the child needing to do little to make this happen. For this reason, they’re safe. But they’re not necessarily safer than balance bikes. Balance bikes are smaller and the rider sits nearer to the ground. As a result, falls off a balance bike aren’t as hard.
- Training wheels increase a bicycle’s rolling resistance. For this reason, a bike with these devices tends to travel slower than a traditional pedal bike. And slower bikes are definitely safer.
- A bike with 4 wheels stops easier and with less effort than a two-wheeled option.
- Training wheels are a super effective way to teach a kid how to pedal a bike.
Here are the cons
- While training wheels teach a kid proper pedaling, they don’t do as great a job when it comes to balancing. Balance is the toughest bike riding skill to master, but training wheels do most of the balancing.
- Learning on 4 wheels can easily teach a kid bad riding habits. For example, the young rider gets used to relying on the bicycle for balance instead of correctly shifting their weight to achieve the same aim.
- A bike with this stabilizing mechanism tends to be harder to steer. The kid doesn’t much anything about leaning into a turn. Consequently, the learner comes out of the training period with half-baked steering skills.
- Training wheels add weight; they can drastically increase the overall weight of the bike. Older kids may ride a clunky bike without a problem, but the same can’t be said of a much younger child. If the bicycle gets too heavy for the young rider (over 30 percent of the rider’s weight), they might ride less and less.
- Learning on training wheels has been found to delay learning progress. Most kids who learn on stabilizers find that they need help and support when graduating to a regular pedal bike.
- Training wheels make the bike tip from side to side as it rolls along. If the rider isn’t careful enough especially when riding over uneven terrain, it’s easy to fall over.
- Bikes with training issues tend to be more challenging to fit to younger kids compared to balance bikes. Balance bikes often come in kid-friendly frame sizes and are easy to fit to younger children. That’s why you often see 18-month-olds getting around on a balance bike and not many kids of this age riding a pedal bike.
12.Are Training Wheels Better Than a Balance Bike?
In terms of keeping a bike balanced, training wheels win hands down. Stabilizers also win in the stability department since it’s much easier to balance a bicycle with 4 wheels versus a two wheeler.
Also, training wheels are better than a balance bike in terms of teaching young children to rotate the pedals. However, stabilizers tend to keep the rider’s true potential unleashed. Unsurprisingly, many kids who use extra wheels take longer to transition to a pedal bike.
When you consider every pro and con, you find that training wheels aren’t better than a balance bike. It’s almost always better to start off a complete beginner on a balance bike as opposed to stabilizing wheels.
13.Are Training Wheels Mounted the Same Way as the Rear Wheel?
Yes, both kinds of wheels connect to the bike through the rear wheel axle. However, stabilizing wheels for larger bikes such as 20″-29″ bikes attach via the bike frame rather than via the axle.
14.Are Training Wheels Even?
Yes, training wheels are even, but the ride never quite feels even, especially when traversing sloping surfaces/terrain. On very few bikes, the wheels touch the ground at the same time and the bike doesn’t keep tipping from one side to the other.
For the most part, these wheels mount a little higher than the rear tire. And this mounting style is what causes the side-to-side tipping.
15.Are Training Wheels Better Than Tricycles/Trikes?
Training wheels are slightly better than tricycles as far as preparing a child for riding a pedal bike. This is because the pedals are easier to reach on a training wheels bike compared to a trike. However, both don’t do much in terms of getting kids to learn the skills they need to transition smoothly to a regular bike.
Also, neither option fits kids the way a balance bike does. But it’s somewhat easier to fit a kid on a bike with training wheels than on a trike. On a trike, many kids have trouble reaching the pedals. Maybe this happens due to the rather awkward placement of the pedals on a trike. As for training wheels, it’s not easy to find an option that fits kids younger than the age 3.
Both offer lots of stability, but trikes tend to be more stable since all 3 wheels stay in contact with the ground. Additionally, trikes are somewhat safer because they don’t keep tipping side-to-side as does a bike with stabilizers. Neither steers quite like a balance bike.
16.How Do You Get a Kid Off Training Wheels?
The easiest way to get a child off training wheels is to take them off/unscrew them along with the pedals. Doing this converts the bike into a kind of balance bike.
Removing the pedals helps prevent pedal strikes as the child strides or runs on the “balance bike.” The main goal of weaning a child off training wheels is to take away the comfort they have gotten accustomed to. This allows them a glimpse of what it’s like to ride without training wheels.
Most kids should be able to walk, run, and finally glide on their pedal-less bike in a week or so. Once they master balance, put the pedals back on and have the kid try to run/stride as before.
Soon enough, the child gets a hang of how balance and pedaling ability come together into a complete skill-set that enables them to do both with the bike in motion.
17.Which Are the Best Training Wheels?
The best training wheels install like a breeze and detach from the bike just as easily. Stabilizers attach to the bike frame through an arm-like device, and the best ones are height-adjustable. You can mount the wheels lower and gradually raise them as the child’s riding ability grows.
Good training wheels have a reinforcing bar that makes them stronger/sturdier and more durable. Training wheels with a strengthening bar are often referred to as heavy-duty training wheels.
Many 12″, 14″, and 16″ bikes come with training wheels. If a bike doesn’t come with training wheels, chances are that it’s not meant to use them, and it’s often incompatible with them.
Can you attach training wheels to a 20″ bike? Most 20″ bicycles or bigger don’t work with training wheels attached in the traditional way: to the axle of the rear wheel. But there are specialized training wheels that work with 20″ bikes. Unlike regular options, these wheels attach to the frame of the bicycle.
Training Wheels FAQs Wrap-up
Training wheels may have some benefits for young children just getting into the amazing world of bicycling. But they’re a pretty ancient technology. And this is why a growing number of parents opt to get a balance bike instead for their evolving cyclists.
Stabilizers make pedaling a bike easier and increase overall bike balance, they’ve been known to slow down the learning progress. But for kids with special needs or kids who have serious trouble balancing on a balance bike initially, stabilizers can be a worthwhile teaching tool.
I'm Esther Moni, a proud stay-at-home mom and a psychology graduate of the United States International University (USIU) . I hate it when anyone calls me a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires me to no end, but I still manage a smile at the end of it all. And when my boys aren't done doing mischief, I juggle writing a post on parenting or baby gear performance for this blog and running my little counselling office based out in Nairobi. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/esther.moni/">Visit my Facebook profile here</a>, and this is my <a href="https://ke.linkedin.com/in/esther-moni-3841b573/">LinkedIn profile</a>, and here's my <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcVb3NNDrURDH8C0KiAE1g/">nascent youtube channel.