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Keeping Warm in Spring

The best spring gear plus proper fuel and hydration will keep you warm.

4 Great Spring Hikes in Banff

Try one of these family-friendly spring hikes in Banff!

The Top 5 Spring Things to Do in Kananaskis

Bike, hike, or go fishing in Kananaskis this spring!

5 Tips for Spring Hiking

Gaiters and microspikes for the win! Learn more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Runners vs. Strider Balance Bike Reviews

Have you noticed little rippers on little bikes without pedals or brakes? Some people think these bikes are weird – we've been told “half the bike is missing!” - but cyclists appreciate the true genius of balance bikes. Balance bikes allow very young children (18 months old if they are tall enough!) to develop balance and coordination. Once your little one has mastered steering and coasting down slight inclines, she can progress to steeper terrain, uneven terrain, and pump tracks. Within one to two years, kids who started on balance bikes are able to graduate to “real” bikes without the painful experience of learning to ride a bike with training wheels.*


My 3 year old on her Runners balance bike
The most popular balance bike is the Strider, but after trying both, my family prefers the Runners bike. Although the Runners bike weighs more and does not have some features of the Strider, I prefer the Runners bike for the following reasons:
  • wooden construction is like built-in suspension; the wood absorbs some shock when riding off road
  • the wheels have no spokes (my friends' kids have gotten their feet stuck in Strider spokes)
  • pneumatic (air filled) tires: 1) make for a more comfortable ride, 2) last longer, 3) “offer far greater traction on surfaces and prevent wheel 'slide-outs'. Wheel slide-outs occur when a tire looses traction due to poor gripping ability and are fairly common with EVA polymer wheels.” (Source: Kinderbike USAStrider will tell you that their EVA polymer tires are better because they won't pop on rough terrain, but in the 3.5 years our Runners bike has been used by 2 kids on and off road, we have never had a flat. If we did get a flat, we could simply get a $6 tube for the tire. If an EVA tire goes, you have to replace the whole tire (more expensive).
  • Steering limiter limits the turning radius and prevents wipeouts. This one is so important because beginning riders have a tendency to crank the handlebars farther than they should. Just watch a kid play with a steering wheel on a ride or playground structure!
  • Runners is a Canadian company.
runners Balance Bike
This said, the Strider is also an amazing balance bike. The pros of the Strider are the following:
  • it is the lightest balance bike on the market
  • you can start your child on it earlier because its lowest seat height is lower
  • it costs less
  • no maintenance tires
  • metal frame can be left out in the rain without worries
  • foot rest to put feet up when coasting
  • optional brake mount
  • optional ski bike attachment
More information on both bikes (as of July 2014) follows:

Feature                   Strider 12                                     Classic Runners Bike
Weight (lbs)            6.4                                                  9.47
Wheels                    5-spoke wheels                              No spoke wheels
Seat Height             Adjustable from 11″ to 16″           Adjustable from 12.5″ to 16.5″
Tires                        EVA (never flat) polymer             Pneumatic high quality cross country
Frame Material       Steel alloy                                     Solid birch
Steer Stop               No                                                  Yes
Foot Rest                Yes                                                 No
Brake Mount          Optional add-on                             No

If your child is too short for a balance bike or just not ready to balance on two wheels, try out the Radio Flyer Scoot-About. The Scoot-About is basically a ride-on toy that allows the rider to keep her feet on the ground or put them up on the foot rests and coast. We were lucky to find a used one on Kijiji.

My kids started on the Scoot-About, then graduated to a balance bike around 2.5 years old, and my oldest just started riding a “big kid” bike a few months ago (4 years old!). She never needed training wheels – just got on her bike one day and rode.

Radio Flyer Scoot-About

Conclusion 

There are several makes of balance bikes out there, but Runners and Strider are easy to find in Calgary and good quality and value for the money. Which one do you like best? Did your kids ride a balance bike or are you planning on getting one?

Prince Lionheart Balance Bike (Runners knockoff)
- almost as good except for the spokes
Happy Trails!

*Footnote: I recommend letting your child ride on a tricycle or tandem bike (e.g.Trail-a-Bike) during the balance bike period, so she can get some practice pedaling. Once comfortable with pedaling, steering, and balancing, your little one will just need to learn how to stop!

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