If you’re a Mom or Dad reading this, it’s likely that your first bike didn’t have two wheels, but at least three, and more likely four. Tricycles and bicycles with training wheels were the standard for children learning to ride for decades if not longer, but fortunately for today’s kids, a few enterprising adults realized there was a better way to learn to ride – the balance bike.
By removing everything from a traditional bike that doesn’t help with learning the key cycling skill – BALANCE – these bikes allow toddlers as young as 18 months to safely scoot along using only their feet and gravity for locomotion and braking. Without the weight or complexity of pedals and brakes, the child is free to focus on feeling the natural balance that comes when a bike gets up to the right speed.
A low seat height provides the child with further confidence, as they are never far from the ground, and can easily get their feet down before a crash happens. We have three children that have learned on balance bikes and can say definitively that the difference is nothing short of amazing!
Once a child has become comfortable balancing on a bike, introducing pedaling becomes much easier, to the point we’ve seen children figure out the pedaling part in less than ten minutes.
Kidvelo is an awesome company out of Australia that’s putting out some of the coolest looking bikes on the market right now. With bright, bold colors that kids are sure to love, along with thoughtful safety features to keep Mom and Dad’s stress levels low, these bikes are a great way to introduce the sport of cycling to the next generation.
We reviewed their Rookie 12 Balance Bike recently and came away very impressed!
Review In A Nutshell
- Pneumatic (air-filled) tires make for a safe, comfortable ride
- Sloping top tube makes it easy to mount/dismount
- Thoughtful safety features
- Not available in the U.S.
- Bigger than comparable models from Woom or Strider
Price: $229 Australian
Size It Up
Before ordering a balance bike for a young child, some basic measurements are in order. The child’s inseam length is an important factor, as it will determine how easily they can swing their leg over the frame, and also whether or not the seat will be adjustable enough to accommodate them while they’re still on the shorter side. As kids grow, most brands sell or provide a longer seat-post, although we’ve found that by the time that’s necessary, a child is usually ready to move on to the next model (often with pedals).
Our current favorite 12” balance bike is the Woom 1, which features a radically sloping down-tube that makes getting on and off the bike a breeze, in much the same way women’s bikes of yore were designed (to allow for riding while wearing a long skirt). The Kidvelo Rookie 12 is designed as more of a traditional frame, with a top tube. However, Kidvelo smartly sloped the top tube at such an angle that it will allow most toddlers to stand over the bike without the frame interfering.
The quick-release adjustable seat can be moved up or down to provide seat heights ranging from twelve to seventeen inches, which makes this bike an excellent choice for children from two to five years old. Our two year-old test rider stands 30” tall, and had no issue getting comfortable on the bike.
Put It Together
“Building a bike” sounds intimidating, but in the case of these small balance bikes, assembly is very simple. The Rookie 12 arrives nicely wrapped for protection, but after removing the packing materials, assembly is a five minute process that merely involves inserting the seatpost to the correct height, and attaching the stem over the fork’s steerer tube.
A few quick pumps with our floor pump brought the tires up to proper inflation (we received the bike in the winter, when cold air often causes bike tires to lose air, no different than your car’s tires). Tools were provided, making Dad’s life even easier!
Comfort Equals Fun
Let’s face it, whether we’re talking about kids or adults, if someone isn’t comfortable, they’re not going to be having much fun. The Kidvelo Rookie 12 knocks comfort out of the park, with wide, air-filled rubber tires around traditionally spoked wheels.
This provides a comfortable ride over a variety of surfaces, from smooth pavement to packed dirt roads or gravel paths. We vastly prefer this setup to some of the cheaper foam tires that other brands use, as rubber tires provide cushion for the rider and also grip the road or trail surface better. Kudos to Kidvelo for going the rubber tire and spoked wheel route!
Another detail that enhances both the comfort and safety of the bike is the BMX-style riser handlebar. By allowing the seat to be low to the ground for a low center of gravity (important for learning to balance on the bike), a riser handlebar equates to a more upright seating position, which is both more comfortable and safer for new riders.
Safety Is Top of Mind
Tell non-cycling friends that you’re going to be teaching your 18 month old toddler to ride a bike without training wheels and you’ll likely get some VERY strange looks, if not outride negative responses. As a cycling family with cycling friends, we don’t run into this much anymore, but even if we do, Kidvelo has built safety into this bike at every turn, and we gladly point out these features to create converts out of our skeptical friends.
Little details like the foam cover that attaches via hook-and-loop closures over the stem and stem bolts, to prevent any skinned knees or bumps from inadvertent contact between little knees and metal bits, are greatly appreciated. Skateboard style grip tape on the “chainstays” (no, the Rookie 12 doesn’t have a chain, but we still refer to that part of the frame in such a way) is a brilliant way to provide grip for little feet without introducing extra weight that would make learning to balance the bike more difficult.
The smooth, rounded safety bolts that attach the front and back wheels are another little detail that tell us “Kidvelo gets it” and have put a good amount of thought into their design. Nothing sours us more on a balance bike than seeing sharp, exposed nuts or bolts being used in this area, which almost guarantees a few scrapes and tears as a child gets used to riding.
While not directly related to safety, the quick release seatpost collar is MUCH appreciated. Kids grow so darn fast, and Dad’s tools disappear so often, it’s nice to not have to go searching for an Allen wrench whenever a seat needs to be raised or lowered!
Speaking of that seat, the Rookie 12 sports a nicely padded seat, which is important, because unlike an adult bike with pedals, a balance bike sees the child sitting down much of the time. When asked how she liked the seat, our two year-old responded, “Great!” She’s a woman of few words, but believe us, that’s a ringing endorsement.
Compared to the Competition
When comparing the Rookie 12 to the Woom 1 and Strider 12” Classic, the Kidvelo bike holds its own. Weights among the three bikes are nearly identical, at 6.6 pounds for both the Rookie 12 and Woom 1, and 6.5 pounds for the Strider Classic.
The Strider loses a few points to the other two rides for its foam tires and hard plastic seat, but in its defense, the Strider also costs nearly $100 less at just $89.99. Whereas the Woom 1 comes standard with a handbrake (that our two year-old still hasn’t figured out), the Kidvelo relies on the child dragging their feet to stop.
Good for simplicity, bad for shoes. Fortunately, this stage doesn’t last too long!
Moving on to aesthetics, the Rookie 12 is a GOOD looking bike. The bold, bright colors, chunky rubber tires wrapped around straight-pull spokes, and riser bar looks cool, an adult opinion which our children confirmed was valid. Take the Rookie 12 to your local BMX track, and you’ll quickly realize the bike looks just like the big kids rides, which is something that the little ones simply love!
At $171 U.S., the Rookie 12 slots in above the Strider, but below the Woom 1.
The Bottom Line
If you’re in Austrailia or the UK, the Kidvelo Rookie 12 is a great choice. The Rookie 12 stacks up well against the competition, with good looks, smart design, safety features that Mom and Dad will appreciate, and a price that’s solidly in line with other 12” balance bikes on the market today. If you’re shopping for your child’s first balance bike, give the Kidvelo Rookie 12 serious consideration.