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Safest Bicycles for Toddlers

by Jaimie Zinski

By age 2, many toddlers are ready to venture out on the driveway or in the neighborhood on their own bicycle. From tricycles and traditional two-wheelers to balance bicycles, many options are available for your budding cyclist. Whatever the decision, it's crucial to purchase an appropriately sized model and always insist your toddler wear a helmet and pads.

Tricycle

A tricycle is the safest way to teach a toddler the two basic concepts required to ride a standard two-wheel bicycle: pedaling and steering. Choose a tricycle for your toddler that is low to the ground and allows him to learn steering before teaching him how to pedal. Once your toddler is comfortable either pushing the tricycle or using the handles for steering, help teach him how to use the pedals. As the toddler becomes more confident on the tricycle, and is able to navigate it with ease, it's time to move him onto a two-wheel model.

Bicycle Size

When choosing a traditional two-wheeler, look to the wheel diameter, not the seat's height or frame's size to find the ideal fit. The appropriate size bike for a toddler features a wheel diameter of 12 inches. Sit the bicycle on the ground and allow your older toddler to straddle the seat. It's best to buy a lower model that allows a younger toddler to keep both feet on the ground. As the toddler ages, it's acceptable to either get a bike featuring a larger wheel diameter or adjust the seat higher.

Training Wheels

Once your toddler is steering and pedaling his tricycle without assistance, he's ready to transition to a two-wheeler with training wheels. Install the training wheels so they sit slightly above the bicycle tires. Test out the training wheels by instructing your toddler to straddle the seat and pedal forward. Ideally, the bike's weight should rest on the back wheel, not the training wheels. As the toddler ages and becomes more confident, move the training wheels farther off the ground until they're not touching at all.

Balance Bicycle

Balance bikes provide an alternative to tricycles, but are safer than traditional two-wheelers because they don't feature pedals. The bicycle's seat is also lower than a traditional two-wheeler, allowing your toddler to keep both feet on the ground as he scoots along. Your toddler is ready for a balance bicycle between 18 and 24 months.

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