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In November 2020, a new balance bike joined the cycling revolution – the Hornit Airo Balance Bike. Created by Hornit, an Exeter based company that has led the way in innovative cycling accessories for many years. Tom de Pelet, a former lawyer and Ironman wanted to create a quality balance bike that combined stylish design with great functionality.
We’ve got hold of a racy hot chilli red Hornit Airo to see what we thought of the new kid on the block.
If you want to find out why I rave about balance bikes over pedal bikes with stabilisers, check out my blog explaining the science here.
My first impression was a really positive one. Straight out of the box, the only thing you needed to do was to straighten the handlebars with the allen key provided. No fiddly fixing of multiple components together.
The other thing you notice immediately is how light the bike is. They’ve chosen a magnesium alloy to build the frame and forks from, which is super lightweight and won’t rust. Topped with aluminium wheel rims, this nudges the scales at just 2.95kg which is unheard of for a balance bike with air tyres! A light bike is a real bonus for a little rider. It’s also a lifesaver if you end up carrying it too!
One of the most important factors for me when assessing a balance bike is the seat height range. Too many balance bikes on the market have a very limited height range. This often means that your little one has to wait months to grow into it, or they grow out of it very quickly.
This bike has a seat height range of 15cm which is substantial and enough to suit a wide variety of ages and leg lengths. It fits children with an inside leg measurement of 31cm to approximately 46cm. So, it’s definitely suitable for a tall 18 month year old up to an average height 5 year old.
Talking of seats, the Hornit Airo has a comfortable moulded foam padded seat and I love the markings on the seat post. Really handy if some one else rides your bike and you need to reset the height.
It also highlights the minimum seat insertion point which is sometimes overlooked. This is essential for keeping the balance bike as safe a ride as possible.
Although we’re classing this bike as a 12″ wheel, it’s actually got 12.5″ wheels and slightly wider than average rubber tyres at a 2.25″ width. This gives the rider a little more stability and more traction.
With quality sealed bearings, and rust free aluminium rims, you’ve got wheels that spin and spin with very little resistance. A true sign of quality components!
The handlebars are an average width compared with other balance bikes on the market and it handles nicely through the turn. This bike doesn’t come with brakes or a steering limiter. But, most 2 – 3 year olds don’t have the fine motor control to move their hands to grip the brakes anyway! So even if brakes are on the bike, they aren’t physically able to use them.
The steering limiter, which is a safety mechanism found on some balance bikes, I don’t believe is entirely necessary.
When they first start out on a balance bike, they aren’t going fast so if they do twist the handlebars sharply and topple, it’s not a disaster! And they soon learn that turning the handlebars like this causes the bike to wobble or fall so they stop doing that pretty sharpish!
If they get used to a steering limiter on their first bike, when they progress to pedal bike without one, they aren’t used to suddenly having that range of movement. They then might over steer. By that stage, they will be riding at a faster speed and the consequences could be more serious. Having a steering limiter also makes the bike less maneuverable when turning.
This bike has grippy footrests and the shape has been contoured to provide enough surface area to fit most little feet. Yet they don’t jutt out too far and rub the inside leg of your rider as they stride along. These are a fab addition.
You won’t see them use the footrests to start with, but as they get more proficient, and are gliding along, it gives them a place to rest their feet while coasting. It’s also a useful benefit for the transition to a pedal bike as they get used to having their feet in the position for where the pedals will be.
The only downside is that the footrest does take a battering when the bike is dumped on the hard ground.
My tester Edith, is a tall 4 year old and wears size 5 -6 year old clothing so she’s definitely towards the top end of the bike’s range. We had her seat post set at 2 so she still had a little more seat height to go.
She enjoyed cruising on the bike, and had no problems with handling. She said the seat felt comfortable and she gave a ‘thumbs up’ to how the bike looked.
She could rest her feet on the footrests while gliding downhill and looked very comfortable on the bike. The handlebars don’t have any height adjustment but the geometry is good for a range of heights. You can see in the photo that she is quite comfortable in her reach and Edith is towards the top range of sizes for the bike.
The one thing you do need to be aware of is when the seat post is set right down, it does extend below the bike frame and has the potential to catch on uneven surfaces. You would only have it on this setting for a very young rider so they probably wouldn’t be travelling far or very fast at this stage anyway. But it’s definitely something to be aware of. Make sure that the riding surfaces are nice and smooth to start with.
I’ve given feedback to the company about this and suggested that they might look at the possibility of having two different interchangeable seat posts.
|Super lightweight at only 2.95kg||Foot rests will get a bit battered|
|High quality wheels with sealed bearings and air tyres||At the lowest seat setting, you must keep to smooth terrain.|
|Magnesium alloy forks and frames that won’t rust|
|Good seat height range of 29cm – 44cm|
|Easy to assemble|
|Good value for such a quality product|
|Footrests for gliding and a benefit for transitioning to a pedal bike.|
So, I have to say that I was very impressed with this new product. These are a really fabulous choice as the starting point for your toddler on the biking journey!
These bikes are currently being marketed at £119.00 which I think is great value for such a high quality balance bike that is so light and has air tyres.
I’m going to be buying a few of these bikes for my bike sessions in schools and pop up community biking sessions. So, if you live in the local Devon area, feel free to come and give them a test ride!
The current colours are Hot Chilli Red ridden by Edith, Hammer Yellow, Orca White and Candy Floss Pink although I have it good authority that they’ll be adding an exciting new colour to the range in April!
Whizz over to our shop if you want to snap one up now or get in contact with me here if you have any questions about the suitability of this balance bike for your rider.
Strider Balance Bikes have been around for nearly 10 years now and STRIDER® is not the kinda company to rest on their ‘good thing’. They’re constantly refining their bikes to make them even more awesome based on technological changes and customer feedback.
Come the end of August 2018, a very exciting revolution in Balance Bikes will be available to buy. And it’s a game changer!!!
Introducing the Strider 14X Sport Balance Bike with Pedals! A tried and tested balance bike that can be transformed into your child’s first pedal bike with one unit added using just one bolt. This bike is perfect for your 3 – 7 year old that needs a slightly bigger framed balance bike.
Priced at RRP£180 with FREE SHIPPING, you’ve got two bikes in one with this innovative product. At the moment, the colours available are blue and green.
HAND OPERATED FRONT AND REAR BRAKES
14 INCH PNEUMATIC RUBBER TYRES
LIGHTWEIGHT STEEL FRAME OF 6.1kg (13.4lbs) AS BALANCE BIKE, 6.9kg(15lbs) WITH PEDALS
PADDED SEAT WITH HEIGHT RANGE OF 40-58cm (16″-23″) INSIDE LEG
EASY RIDE PEDAL KIT WITH CRANKS AND COVERED CHAIN
NARROWER PEDALS AND SHORTED CRANKS FOR EASIER PEDALLING
We’ve already got people on the waiting list to snap up the first few bikes when they hit the market at the end of August 2018.
Check out the Strider 14X Sport Balance Bike/Pedal product page now.
I’ll have a demo bike at my Balance Bike Circuit sessions so the kids can try before you buy.
Sadly we are no longer able to source these products for sale in the UK.
The Strider parent company, based in the USA, has changed their business structure and are now selling direct to the customer, rather than through dealers in the UK.
It’s disappointing that they have made this decision. We feel it means that you, our customers, won’t get the same level of customer service with this business model.
Please don’t panic though if you have bought any Strider Bike from us. The Warranties on all the products are still fully operational and we do have some spares in stock if you ever need them.
Learning to ride a Balance Bike is a BIG DEAL in the life of a youngster. And it’s great to be able to celebrate that success by giving them a Balance Bike Licence.
They will feel so proud of themselves and rightly so!
It doesn’t really matter what your criteria is for the licence.
I give out these licences to the kids at schools that do Ride a Bike Activities after a block of lessons.
I’m amazed by the improvement that I see in the Nursery and Reception children when they have weekly lessons on bike handling. Learning to negotiate their bikes around gentle and tight bends, over rough surfaces such as rumble strips and up and down hills of our ramp.
Not to mention learning to put on their bike helmets and check their bikes for safety before the ride.
If you have a biker who might be ready to receive their Balance Bike Licence, why not download a high quality A5 PDF printable version below and have an award ceremony at your place soon!
Do leave us a comment below if you’ve used this resource, we’d love to hear how they liked it.
Got a friend who has a budding biker that might be ready for their Balance Bike Licence? Share this post. I’m always happy when I know there are lots of ‘Whizz Kids’ around!
I was chatting with some parents at a Bike Circuit Event that I was running on the weekend in Devon and several of them were asking which bike size would be best for their children to start riding on? It’s a common question so hopefully this article gives you some pointers. I certainly recommend starting with a balance bike of some description and not using a bike with stabilizers if you can help it. See my post on the reasons why Stabilizers teach your children bad habits.
Kid’s bikes are sized by their wheel diameter in inches rather than frame size.
Be careful when looking at just age ranges for bikes as children vary hugely in height so they might be too small or too tall for that specific bike. Measuring your child’s height or their inside leg is a much better indicator.
You want your child to be able to sit comfortably on the seat with their feet on the ground and a slight leg bend. They should be able to reach and manoeuvre the handle bars with ease.
It’s always tempting to buy a bike that your child will grow into but be wary of this as a bike that is too big and unwieldy is potentially quite dangerous for your child. You want their first biking experiences to be positive ones!
Also remember that different brands of Balance Bike have different size frames even though they may have the same size wheels. For example, with 12″ wheels, the Hornit Airo 12″ Balance Bikes are suitable for a small to average size child.
See my post Which Balance Bike is Best for my Child? if you want to find out more about the differences between bikes.
The table below gives you an indication of which size to start with and move onto as your child grows and develops their biking skill.
Generally you would look for them to start on a 12″ wheel Balance Bike although if you have a 5 year old or tall 4 year old that is just starting out on their biking adventure, you’d probably be looking at the 14″ wheel size as their starting point.
Once they’ve mastered the balance bike and have been confidently biking around on that for a a few years or have outgrown that frame size, the next step would be to look for a 14″ or 16″ pedal bike depending on what age and height they are when ready to make that transition. Some children are ready to make the move to a pedal bike at 3 years old, others need more time and practice and aren’t ready to progress until they are 6 or 7 years old. Don’t be too much of a rush for them to move onto pedals. They can be very speedy on a balance bike!
You’ve made the decision that you want to buy a balance bike for your youngster, great choice, you won’t regret it! Check out my post Stabilisers are Teaching Children Bad Habits if you want to read the science behind the benefits of balance bikes.
Next comes the research to figure out which one will be the best one to buy.
Balance bikes come in a gorgeous array of makes and models these days which is great! Although it makes sifting through the many options a little more work.
I’ve tried to save you some work highlighting the key points that you might want to consider.
The size of the frame varies from model to model so it’s important to pick a bike that has a frame size that fits your child now but also comes with adjustability in the seat height range and possibly handlebars to ‘grow’ with your child.
Some balance bikes such as the Wishbone Bikes or Ridgeback Scoot Balance Bikes have a larger overall frame so suit a child who is of average height or above for their age, or if your rider is a little older in starting out their balance bike journey. The Hornit Airo Balance Bikes have a slightly smaller frame size so suit those toddlers who are more petite or younger starting out.
The Seat Height Range is a really important component of your decision making. They need to be able to fit on the seat at its lowest setting. And the range of seat height needs to be enough so that the bike will last for several years. Many balance bikes on the market have a very short seat height range which means your child will grow out of it too quickly.
If you can’t physically try it out in a store, or at one of my demo sessions, the best thing to do is to measure your child’s inner leg length from crotch to the floor(some call this the inseam). Then take away 2cm to give allowance for the slight knee bend which you want them to have when sitting on the bike saddle for safe riding. This number is then the seat height that they need to ride the bike ride now.
Check out the Bike Seat Height Comparison Chart below for a comparison of the range of seat heights in the bikes that we sell.
Nylon is a great tough option and, with glass fibre re-inforcement, has extra strength. The Wishbone Recycled Edition Balance Bike or Trike are super sturdy and have stainless steel axels now too so they can be left outside with no problems.
Wooden bikes are nostalgic, yet relatively hard wearing options. For the eco-conscious out there, Wishbone Original Bikes come from sustainable birch wood plantations. The downside of wood is that it doesn’t appreciate being left outdoors day and night and adds a little more weight to the overall balance bike.
Steel bikes are quite common towards the cheaper end of the market and while sturdy, they do add quite a bit of weight and have the downside of rusting over time.
Aluminium bikes are light and with an anodised paint finish, they have the benefit of not rusting or chipping paint. Bikes with these frames would be the lightest on the market like the Ridgeback Scoot and Scoot XL.
Magnesium alloy is the latest super lightweight material to be used in bike frames. The Hornit Airo Balance Bike have magnesium alloy forks and frames and comes in at a levitatingly light 2.95kg, and that’s with air tyres too!
Air filled Rubber Tyres, Foamed Filled Plastic tyres or Solid Rubber Tyres are the main 3 options in the market.
Air tyres offer a much better riding performance and if you’re planning on doing a fair bit of biking, these are definitely the best option. The bike is springy and therefore much more comfortable, and the air cushioning cuts down the vibrations going through to your child. A bonus for their rapidly developing little bodies. The rubber tyres also have good grip on the surface, whether it’s wet or dry.
Solid polyurethane (EVA) tyres don’t have as much spring or grip as the air tyres. These types of tyres are best used on smooth surfaces such as playgrounds, skate parks or concrete tracks and over short distances. You have lower maintenance with this tyre type but the trade off is a less comfortable ride.
Wishbone bikes all have non-marking rubber 12.5″ air tyres which give a great smooth grippy ride but do add a little extra weight to the overall bike. The Ridgeback Scoot and Scoot XL, along with the Hornit Airo balance bikes all head down the air tyre route too for a more cushioned ride.
So, hopefully that gives you a little more information on which bike to pick. Of course, your kids have a BIG say in the decision making too! If they love the look of the bike, they’ll more likely want to pick it up and whizz along!
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or queries about a make or model of balance bike that you’re considering. Always happy to help get your youngsters moving!
I’m a child of the seventies and remember, with the nostalgic fuzziness of time, learning to ride a two wheel bike. A rite of passage that most children go through which offers, once mastered, a sense of divine freedom to explore the neighbourhood. Not to mention the amazing array of gross motor skill development that goes with it!
Mix that memory with a good dollop of stress on both the child and parents’ part, plenty of bruises and scabs from frequent tumbles, many months of trying, a gradually building back problem for the parent and you are close to reality!
Learning to ride a bike the old fashioned way was never easy…..and here’s why!
Stabilisers (or training wheels as they are known in some countries) were developed to solve the very real problem that it is hard to balance on a two wheeled bike. And being able to ride a bike is such a great skill to have in life. It offers a sense of independence for your child as well as the development of so many gross motor skills. Leg, arm and core strength, balance and endurance to name a few.
It gives an opportunity to stimulate their senses, improving sensory processing, and gets your child outdoors which improves mood and reduces stress levels. It’s a cheap method of transport, and is environmentally green.
Yes, you could argue that they start to build up some of those skills by riding a bike on stabilisers but dynamic balance is a vital skill. There is a complex set of brain activity going on using many of the sensory and motor control systems. Plus, riding with training wheels forever is not cool!
So, at some stage, out comes the tool box and the stabilisers have to go. Then come the tears!
To balance a bike requires two main strategies: steering and body movement relative to the bike. The centre of mass of the person needs to be over the frame of the bike. Suprisingly it is the steering strategy that is absolutely necessary to balance a bicycle, whereas body movements are not so vital.
And the steering alterations necessary to keep the bicycle upright do not follow common sense. Check out the video below for the science stuff:
If your 2 wheel bike wobbles and leans to the left, you have to turn the handle bars to that same direction to allow the bike to steady itself. It’s totally counter intuitive so no wonder we have a hard time learning to balance on a moving bike. A child on stabilisers never experiences the lean so never learns the correct strategy.
Turning Left? With stabilisers on, your child will learn to turn the handle bars left to go left. Common sense right? That’s what they do on any 3 or 4 wheeled ride-on toy that they may have already experienced. So, what’s the problem? If they do that, the 2 wheel bike will right itself and stop the turn. Your child will be learning something that they will have to then unlearn.
If you want to steer your bike to the left, you have to counter steer to the right first, then steer to the left and your bike will go left. Science is weird sometimes! You and I won’t even notice that we do this because it is a subconscious action, but your child will have to learn this concept the hard way once the stabilisers come off. This is often the reason that it can take months and sometimes up to a year of stress for your child to master it.
Learning to balance is a hard skill, not to mention learning to balance on a moving object. It’s so much easier to balance first, then learn to turn the pedals afterwards than learn to pedal first then try to figure out how to balance and steer. Balancing a moving object is a much harder concept to grasp than turning pedals.
Balance Bikes have been around for a couple of decades but are becoming increasingly popular for a very good reason. I absolutely love them as a concept! They are basically a bike frame without any pedals or chain and allow your child to figure out how to balance literally step by step. No stress, no tears, no anxiety.
A child can learn to balance a two wheel bike in as little as a few hours. Their feet comfortably touch the ground and initially, it looks like they are just taking their bikes for a walk. They use their feet to propel themselves forward and little by little, increase the time that both feet are off the ground until they are essentially balancing.
Give them a few weeks and they’ll be confidently scooting along having figured out the whole counter intuitive steering/balancing issues. Kids on balance bikes can travel so much faster than on a heavier bike with training wheels, so they can join in with family bike trips, or ride alongside the jogging or walking parent with ease.
Once they are confident on the balance bike, they can progress to their first pedal bike with no dramas. My son was up to speed by 3 1/2 years and it took just two goes before he set off on his new Trek pedal bike. His grandparents stood by looking sceptical until they saw him zipping around. They are now total converts to my balance bike mantra!
There are so many choices out there in the market at the moment. You can choose a wooden, steel, aluminium alloy or synthetic frame. The bikes can have air or foam filled tyres. And there are plenty of cool accessories to personalise their ride. Some people question the cost and value for money. Fair comment, most aren’t cheap. But, if you took the cost of a tricycle and a 12″ pedal bike with stabilisers, I reckon that you would have spent more than the cost of one balance bike.
That’s all from me for this time. Stay active!