Balance bikes are the ideal solution for parents whose kids are eager to spend time outside, with their friends, learning to ride a bike, but are still afraid of the whole balancing business. This initial scare makes it all the more difficult for them to learn, and that’s exactly where balance bikes come into the game. In short, they allow your kid to master balancing without the fear of falling. Of course, now that you realize the full benefits of one, here is the caveat – you have to make sure you’re getting the right one. For now, we’ll limit the discussion to choosing the right tyres for your kid’s first bike (and make no mistake).
First thing’s first – when it comes to tyres, it should be noted that most balance bikes make use of 12-inch tyres. Bigger ones – 14-inch and 16-inch variants, are intended for grade-schoolers, or tall pre-schoolers, who might have already outgrown these bikes. Sure enough, there are also smaller ones that measure 10 inches that are put on starter bikes. However, these are hardly worth their salt, as kids outgrow them all too quickly.
That’s the size covered, but let’s see the various types of tyres according to their material, and their respective benefits and drawbacks. Roughly speaking, there are five types: Air, Big Apple, Foam, Plastic, and Rubber. They’re not arranged in any particular order, apart from alphabetical, so you shouldn’t take this as an indication of preference.
If you’re looking to get the most cushion, that is, shock absorption, then go for air (or pneumatic) tyres. This type also gives great traction, and is a good all-rounder. As far as treads go, there are more than enough varieties out there on the market. For most kids, and most users for that matter, any kind of tread will do.
However, for more advanced riders, those that feel comfortable on all sorts of terrains, including rough ones, the knobby tread would be ideal. These tyres usually add about 3 to 4 pounds to the overall weight of the bike, depending on the manufacturer, tyre quality, as well as rim quality, but they more than make up for it with the comfort they provide. The one major downside is that they can go flat. To prevent this, you’d do well to use some sort of tyre sealant.
The interestingly named Big Apple tyres, also known as Fat Boy, due to their wide profile, are the type that gives you (or your kid, rather) that added measure of traction and shock absorption to enable them to do stunts. Well, the little stunts they can do at that age; however, this will go a long way to boosting their self-confidence, and allow them to excel, and even perhaps become professionals. They do cost a pretty penny, but rest assured they are well worth it.
EVA foam tyres are sort of a cheaper and lighter cousin of the air tyres. As a matter of fact, they are at least as common as their air-filled counterparts, and they hold an edge over them – EVA foam will never go flat. Not only will they not leak are, but they are also puncture-proof (seeing there’s no air to begin with, this is hardly a surprise).
On the flipside, they are somewhat lacking in the shock-absorption department, as they have very little give, so they are fairly less comfortable than air tyres. More importantly, however, foam tyres are prone to losing traction on smooth surfaces (think gym floors, grass and the like), though they do provide enough of it on paved surfaces. Also, the tread on these tyres wears off fairly quickly. They are cheap as dirt, though.
Plastic tyres are pretty much what you’d expect – the lightest and the hardest. There’s practically no give on them, so they are far from the golden standard that their air counterparts represent in terms of comfort. Moreover, there’s little to no traction on them, and the tread is all but meaningless. For this reason, they are fairly uncommon, and you’ll mostly find them on bikes that are intended for indoor use, only.
The final type of tyres – rubber, is somewhere between air and foam. Think of it as a step up from the EVA foam. It’s still puncture-proof, but the cushioning and traction are both markedly better, thanks to the qualities of the material. There are two sub-types here, if you will – honeycomb and solid. Now, while honeycomb rubber tyres do feature sealed air pockets due to their design, their traction and cushioning are still a far cry from that of air tyres. The latter type – solid rubber tyres, are the best in terms of traction, at least when it comes to puncture-proof tyres, but they are lacking in cushioning.