Balance bikes are a great way to teach your child balance and coordination from an early age. Eager to explore their new freedom from 18mths on, balance bikes provide a safe and effective method to provide this freedom and develop your child’s motor skills.
With recent explosion in the number of balance bikes on the market there is and expected amount of confusion for parents. Live Play Create, as Australia’s leading manufacturer of balance bikes, see a plethora of new models enter the market every year – and this year is no exception. These are almost always cheap imports with little or no quality control, made of inferior componentry and that are unsustainably resourced. Most of the product, or importers, are not around even 12 months later once the enthusiastic importers realise that cheap and quality do not go hand in hand.
The following guide should assist you in identifying what to look for when comparing balance bikes.
This is where you will see the biggest different between makes and models. Some will be immediately obvious and others perhaps not for a month or so.
The TIKE uses 14mm ply for its man frame and 20mm for the front forks – other top selling brands use only 12mm and many of the cheaper versions use 10mm or 8mm. This additional thickness adds to the cost, but our philosophy for the TIKE has always been that it should an item to be passed on through your family, not discarded into landfill.
The ply we use is FSC certified (sustainable forestry) Grade 1 Beech. It is the highest quality available. Most other brands are made of birch or very cheap grades of ply – mainly from native forest timber.
The TIKE’s design incorporates bent ply on 2 parts of the main frame – this makes the TIKE much stronger than the use of straight sheets of ply. Yes, it is an expensive feature but the TIKE is strong and genuinely built to last (plus it makes the TIKE look really cool)
TIKE also has top level componentry, wheel bearings and bushes. This ensures the TIKE will last. Some we have seen have plastic wheel components which will feel fine for a month or so but quickly wear. Without spare or replacement parts these makes would be rendered useless very fast.
Australian design standards for toy products such as balance bikes are not overly stringent whereas the European Directive on toy design and safety, EN71, is the toughest safety standard for toy products today. It is an expensive set of tests to pass. These tests amongst other things include; structural integrity, safety and toxicity testing.
The TIKE has been certified EN71 compliant and complies with Australian and New Zealand toy safety standards. Sadly in Australia there is no formal requirement for balance bikes to undergo safety testing and the result is that there are many models on the market that we know would fail the EN71 guidelines miserably. Ironically, many models even carry a CE mark fraudulently and have never undergone any testing to warrant the carrying of this mark.
There are three main types of tyres found on balance bikes (though the quality of each type does vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer)
Hard Plastic Tyres are terrible – They are fine for heading in a straight line but in our experience children don’t tend to ride balance bikes in a straight line – they tend to waddle a bit from side to side and hard plastic or rubber tyres slip on sand, in the wet or on loose ground.
Pneumatic Tyres are great however when you decide to go for a ride, you get your child dressed, helmet on, sunscreen applied and then realise that you have a flat tyre, you will understand why we have fitted the TIKE with the latest EVA rubber tyres.
EVA Rubber Tyres are better for kids. The EVA rubber tyres we use on the TIKE are the latest European innovation. They do not dent or mark, have a harder rubber outer layer with tread pattern and a softer rubber inner core to mimic the feel of pneumatic tyre, They wear at a similar rate to pneumatic tyres and best of all they never go flat. We also find they do not mark your floors (or internal walls) as pneumatic tyres do.
Balance bike wheels should be solid. Your child will love their balance bike so much that even when they are not riding it they will play with it, spinning the wheels, ringing the bell, pretending they are racing in the motor cycle grand prix.
Metal or plastic spokes, or holes and recesses cut into the wheel are a hazard for young children who can get everything from fingers to shoelaces caught and sticks which can flick up. The TIKE has a solid wheel hub to avoid these issues.
Seat Height Adjustment
The TIKE has 6 height adjustment settings and will fit most 2-6 year olds. While the seat can go as low as all major balance bike brands the TIKE is also the largest of the balance bikes which means that children get a significantly longer life out of it.
Critically, the TIKE handlebars are moulded and ergonically designed to be comfortable at any seat height.
The TIKES steering is restricted which is an innovation to aid stability and prevent your child from jack-knifing. By design, it is not possible to capture small fingers between any moving parts of the TIKE, including the forks and the main frame.
Balance Bikes will generally have no brakes. Young children cannot manipulate a brake and the way that balance bikes are designed, your child’s feet should be in close contact with the ground – for more information on balance bike safety refer to our safety guide.
Live Play Create, the manufacturers of the TIKE, have been market leaders in balance bikes since 2006 and all of our products are fully supported with a complete range of spare parts just a phone call away.
Ease of Assembly
To save costs many balance bikes require substantial assembly including the front and rear wheels which can be a little tricky. TIKE owners need only do three screws to assemble the TIKE with the tools provided.
All lacquers used on the TIKE are water based, non toxic and environmentally friendly (they are also more expensive than chemical lacquers). We do three coats on all surfaces which are sanded back between coats. This means the TIKE not only looks great but it will also last longer than cheaper brands.
Seats on the TIKE are easily interchangeable (and washable) with the coolest colours including our new denim (urban) TIKE. Most other balance bike seats are physically stapled onto the bike and once the bike gets knocked around a bit the seats cannot be easily replaced.
The TIKE stand will make your TIKE a beautiful feature in your child’s bedroom and the Buddy bad is a funky, indispensable item for carrying drink bottles or snacks on long rides. The buddy bag is interchangeable with most other bikes and scooters and can be used for many years to come.
Chosen by leading retailers
But don’t just let us tell you…. our list of retailers includes some of Australia’s leading toy and gift retailers including Early Learning Centre/Kids Central. They are very tough in their screening process of new products, this is to all of our benefit and further stands as testament to our product..
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