Start 'em learning to ride at an early age with the YBike balance bike. Perfect for toddlers, the YBike is designed and engineered to help your child build the skills, balance, and coordination necessary to ride a big-kid bicycle. The … see full wiki
I consider myself pretty in-the-know about new products for the preschool set, so of course, I did catch on to all the "balance bike" rage that erupted in 2009. I considered buying one for my daughter, but it was actually a couple of online videos that dissuaded me. I watched kids riding these balance bikes, and I just didn't get it. It just looked like kids walking around with a bike between their legs.
When given the opportunity to test this one out, however, I was eager to see for myself why people were talking so much about balance bikes-- and within minutes, I could see the appeal.
First, this is simple to assemble and looks cool. My 3 1/2-year-old couldn't wait to try it out as soon as it was together, so she rode it around the living room and kitchen. She didn't want to get off her bike for the rest of the night-- impressive, considering she owns two tricycles and one bike with training wheels and hasn't really taken to any of them. This one, she thought was fun. While she watched TV, she sat on her bike and picked up her legs and tried to balance as she leaned side to side.
Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to try it out for myself. Now, I am positive the manufacturer didn't intend for a 34-year-old woman to sit on this thing, but I did it anyway (rationalizing that I'm petite), and... I "got it." What looked to me like just plain walking on the videos might have been (maybe they were inexperienced riders), or it might have been more of what I wound up doing, which was sort of gliding. It was fun! Then, to really give the manufacturer a heart attack, my daughter decided she wanted to ride with me. I have no idea how we managed this, but we did, at least for 30 seconds.
The next day, we took our adventures outside, where she rode down the block to the playground and back, finally tiring out at the end and asking me to carry her (it's a lot of leg work!).
There's a flyer in the box explaining why the manufacturer decided not to invest in adjustable seats (it typically adds no more than 2 inches, and kids can adjust by just bending their knees), which I thought sounded like a lame excuse for not spending a few extra bucks, but I ended up appreciating it-- the molded seat is very comfortable and sturdy, and I like it better than typical bike seats. And considering I was able to ride it as an adult, I'm pretty clear proof that you can adjust by just bending your knees. My daughter is a very tall 3 1/2-year-old, and it's the perfect size for her.
I really like the design-- the double wheels in the back add sturdiness without taking away the need for the child to balance, and it feels like safety was the first consideration in the manufacturing of this product-- no wheel spokes, partially-covered back wheels, no place for fingers to get stuck. Our only problem in this regard is that when my daughter tries to go too quickly, her heels sometimes get caught momentarily in the back wheel base.
The only other negative I can find is that the literature said the wheels were solid rubber, but they're not-- they're hard plastic just like the rest of the bike. That can make for a noisy and less smooth ride, which is why Step 2 recently came out with a Whisper Ride Buggy version of their bestselling Push Around Buggy. But in all honesty, the plastic wheels on this don't seem to make as much noise as the Push Around Buggy's did... maybe because there's less surface area of the wheels actually touching the ground.
My daughter is enjoying showing off her newfound bike-riding abilities to everyone who comes to our house.