Everything Parents Need to Know About Training Wheels
Training wheels were designed to simplify the process of learning to ride a bike, but they often lead to more confusion! Although balance bikes are becoming much more mainstream year by year, training wheels are still the standard “go-to” for many families.
As a result, we often get a lot of questions about training wheels, especially in regards to how to use them and how to get rid of them! If we missed your question or if you have additional questions, please leave your question in the comment section below!
1. Do training wheels work?
Training wheels help kids stay upright on a bike and pedal at an earlier age. If your goal is for your child to pedal a bike while assisted, then yes, training wheels work.
But if your goal is for your child to learn to ride a bike, the answer is no, training wheels do not work because they don’t actually train kids to ride a bike. As soon as the training wheels come off, the real training begins! From running beside them while holding onto the seat, to the numerous pep-talks after crashes, transitioning a child off of training wheels isn’t easy.
Why? Because training wheels don’t teach a child how to balance a bike, which is the first and most difficult requirement for learning how to ride a bike. People often assume learning how to pedal is the first requirement – it’s not. One can easily “ride” a bike by sitting on the seat and running with your legs, no pedals required.
The emphasis on training kids to balance over training them to pedal is why balance bikes have become increasingly popular. For more information, check out our detailed explanation of the differences between riding with training wheels and a balance bike.
2. Are balance bikes better than training wheels?
Yes! Balance bikes teach kids to balance and allow them to independently ride a bike as young as 18 months old. Fast and nimble, balance bikes can take kids of all ages up and over jumps, curbs, and hills, as well as over various terrains.
Bikes with training wheels, however, require kids to be older and taller to start riding (typically around 3 or 4 years old) and they are also limited to riding on flat surfaces. Kids who graduate from a balance bike also do not ever need training wheels to master a pedal bike – they typically just get on the bike and grasp riding within a couple of minutes.
If you’d like to see our favorite balance bikes for any budget, check out our 10 Best Balance Bikes list. Need more convincing? Check out our article 5 Reasons Why Balance Bikes are Better than Tricycles or Training Wheels.
3. What is a good age for a bike with training wheels?
Kids typically begin riding a bike with training wheels around 3 to 5 years old, but the age range spans from 3 to 8. Training wheels are available on bikes of various sizes to accommodate kids of various ages.
While many 3-year-olds are ready for a bike with training wheels, finding a bike small enough to fit them comfortably can be challenging. In order for a child to properly “fit” on a bike with training wheels, they should ideally be able to touch the ground with both of their feet at the same time while seated on the bike.
3-Year-Old on Balance Bike vs. 12″ Bike with Training Wheels
4. Can you put training wheels on any bike?
Training wheels are mounted on the rear axle of a bike and do not work with every bike. While most kids’ bikes found at big-box stores come with or can accommodate training wheels, many higher-ends kids’ bikes cannot.
In order to accommodate training wheels, the bike’s rear axle needs to be long enough to support the training wheels as well as an additional bolt and washer to hold the training wheels in place. These two bolts are located on the outside of the bike frame. Bolts located between the rear tire and the inside of the frame play no role in supporting training wheels.
If the rear axle on a bike is too short to hold an additional bolt, the bike is not compatible with training wheels. Most higher-end bikes, such as woom and Guardian, are not compatible with training wheels as most of their riders are moving up from a balance bike, so training wheels aren’t necessary.
5. Can you put training wheels on a 24″ bike?
While there are training wheels that will fit 24″ bikes, most 24″ bikes do not have a rear axle long enough to fit traditional training wheels. As a result, specialized training wheels that mount onto the frame of the bike (rather than the axle), like these CyclingDeals training wheels, are usually required.
If your 24″ bike is geared and has a rear derailleur, you must have training wheels that attach to the frame, rather than the axle.
Frame-Mounted vs. Axle-Mounted Training Wheels
6. Are training wheels supposed to touch the ground?
Training wheels should always be set slightly higher than the rear tire. While this does cause the child to tilt back and forth on the bike as they ride, this uneven riding is oddly necessary for safety reasons.
If all three wheels were touching the ground (two training wheels + bike’s rear tire), it would be impossible to consistently keep most of the weight on the bike’s rear tire, instead of on the training wheels. If the weight of the bike is on the training wheels rather than the rear tire, the rear tire will not be able to maintain proper traction and braking power will be limited.
The vast majority of kids’ bikes with training wheels have a rear coaster brake (back pedal brake) that stops the bike, so it is essential that the rear tire always be in contact with the ground and with as much weight on the back tire as possible.
In theory, as a child becomes a more confident rider on the bike, the training wheels should be moved up higher to encourage kids to balance the bike without the training wheels. Unfortunately, without continual guidance and encouragement to not lean to one side while riding, raising the training wheels rarely helps kids learn to balance the bike on their own.
What usually happens is that as the training wheels are raised, a child just leans more drastically to the side and gets freaked out! Raising the training wheels rarely encourages a child to stay more upright and balanced. As a result, most kids do not learn to balance a bike until after the training wheels have been completely removed.
7. Are training wheels supposed to be uneven?
Training wheels are set at an equal height above the rear wheel. While the training wheels are even with one another, the rider feels uneven because they are constantly tilting to one side.
Because both training wheels can never touch the ground at the same time, a child must ride at a tilt for one of the training wheels to make contact with the ground and maintain stability. This unnatural tilt is designed to encourage kids to stay upright, which in theory would help them learn to balance a bike on two wheels. Unfortunately, we’ve never seen it work this way.
8. What are the best bikes with training wheels?
If you plan on purchasing a bike with training wheels, the Specialized Riprock 12″ and 16″ are our top picks. Specialized‘s training wheel design is very stable compared to most brands and can be removed without any tools! Raleigh’s MXR and Jazzi lines, available in 12″ and 16″ bikes, also offer quality training wheels at a family-friendly price tag.
There are a few high-end bikes that are training-wheels-compatible, although they don’t come with training wheels. Pello Bikes and Priority Bicycles are two exceptional brands that we highly recommend.
9. What are the best training wheels if I already have a bike?
If your 12″, 14″ or 16″ bike did not come with training wheels, it’s very likely that the bike is not compatible with training wheels. Prior to purchasing training wheels, be sure to check with the bike manufacturer to ensure the bike is compatible. Often times, the rear axle on higher-end brands is too short to mount training wheels.
If your bike is compatible with training wheels, “heavy duty” training wheels that have an additional stabilization bar between the mounting arm and axle arm are your best bet. Several brands are readily available, such as the Fortop or Little World.
Heavy Duty vs. Standard Training Wheels
For those who need training wheels for a 20″ bike or larger, it’s very likely that the bike will not accommodate traditional training wheels that attach to the rear axle. Special training wheels that attach the frame of the bike, such as the CyclingDeals Adult, are likely needed.
10. How do I get my kid to lose the training wheels?
There are several different methods to help your child move on from training wheels. Our favorite method is to remove the training wheels as well as the pedals of the bike and essentially use the bike as a balance bike.
Using this method, you lower the seat of the bike so that the child can stand over the bike with their feet flat and have them practice running and gliding on the bike.
Removing the pedals of the bike is not essential, but it prevents kids’ legs from hitting the pedals during their stride. If your child is hesitant to start running on the bike, practicing on a grassy hill is a great way to help them quickly get the feel for gliding.
Once your child can successfully run and glide on the bike, it’s time to put the pedals back on! With the pedal backs on, have the child once again run and glide on the bike and then start pedaling. It’s much easier for kids to balance and pedal a bike once it’s moving, so do not have the child attempt to start pedaling a bike from a standstill (that will come with time).
Check out our article, How to Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike Without Training Wheels, for additional methods to help your child graduate from training wheels.