Give your child a head start with a brake on their balance bike
The ability to brake safely, confidently and with precision is one of cycling’s most fundamental skills. To give your child the best possible start to their riding life, having a hand brake on their balance bike is the ideal way for them to approach this lifelong skill. Keep reading to find out exactly why and discover what makes a good hand brake on a balance bike.
Why do brakes on a balance bike make sense?
Riding a balance bike is a fun, playful way to develop important motor skills for your child, including how to keep balance, steer, and brake. As such, time spent on a balance bike teaches them safe movement patterns and supports the very foundation of their future on two wheels.
Even if children on impulse begin by braking furiously with their feet à la Fred Flintstone, giving them a balance bike with a fully functioning hand brake from the word go is a smart move. As soon as your child is ready to engage with the brake, you’re equally as ready to teach them how to come safely to a stop on their balance bike.
First, explain the principles of braking to your child. Don’t forget to show them how it works too: lift up the rear wheel, give the cranks a spin with one hand and pull on the brake lever with your other. Repeat this spin-brake-stop demonstration until your child has processed the information – you’ll know when this is because they are highly likely to express a desire to try it for themselves.
Find a safe, traffic-free area, such as a park or a courtyard, where you can practice their braking at the beginning. Later, you can introduce fun and engaging exercises to develop their skills, such as challenging them to come to stop on a line you have drawn on the floor.
Once your child has got the hang of braking, you are in a great position ahead of the transition to a bike. As you have already given them a head start with braking, they will find it much easier to focus on learning and practising the other movements that their new bike requires: namely, pedalling, and how to keep their balance while doing so.
What makes a good hand brake on a balance bike?
To set your child up for safe, simple braking success, it is important for the hand brake to be designed especially for children, and that means it must:
● be adjustable to make it easy-to-reach for child-sized hands and
● work effectively with nominal hand strength required.
These are the key criteria that informed the design of the woom hand brakes on our woom ORIGINAL bikes. Even our smallest balance bike, the woom ORIGINAL 1, is equipped with an easy-to-operate V-brake and an ergonomic brake lever. We also realise that it can be difficult for younger children to distinguish between left and right, which is why the brake lever and brake pads for the rear brake come in an eye-catching shade of green. A central goal of using this colour is to increase your child's awareness of which brake they are using. When they later transition to the woom ORIGINAL 2, which uses one green and one black brake lever, this earlier exposure will mean your child is able to continue braking intuitively with the all-important rear wheel brake and recognize which brake – front or rear – they are using. This awareness helps to prevent crashes, which can occur when children grab a handful of the wrong brake.
This much is certain: Your child will be safer from the very start with a good, child-specific hand brake. Because if there's one thing we all know about learning to ride a bike, it's that safety counts. And speaking of safety, this article outlines what a child's bike needs to feature as standard, and introduces you to the specific safety features you'll find on our woom bikes.