Keeping Kids Warm in Winter

Gear you need to keep kids warm!

15 Things to Do in Calgary This Winter

Winter fun in Calgary from skiing and tubing to ice falls and festivals!

14 Things to Do in Canmore This Winter

With canyon ice walks, world class cross country skiing, dogsledding, and more, Canmore is a winter adventure playground!

10 Things to Do in Banff This Winter

Ski, skate, hike, or snowshoe, then hit the hot springs and dine in town!

9 Things to Do in Lake Louise This Winter

The Ice Magic Festival is amazing, but there's so much more to do in Lake Louise!

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 nieces have Striders and we purchased the Runners bike at MEC), 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: Strider 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 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 from the manufacturers' websites follows:

Classic Wooden Runners Bike Strider 12
Weight 9.47 lbs 6.4 lbs
Wheels No spoke wheels Five-spoke wheels
Seat height Seat adjustable from 12.5″ to 16.5″ Seat adjustable from 11″ to 16″
Tires Pneumatic high quality cross country tires EVA (never flat) polymer tires
Frame material Solid birch Steel alloy
Steer stop Yes No
Foot rest No Yes
Brake mount No Optional add-on

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 for $15. 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
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)

UPDATE: For a review of Woom Bikes USA's WOOM 1 balance bike, please see this post. 

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!