It may not be my earliest memory, but it’s certainly one of my clearest memories from my childhood; learning to ride my bike. It was a silver Raleigh and I remember being in my back garden trying to cycle from 1 end to the other, from 1 parent to the other.
I really do cherish that memory, not purely because I’m now a keen cyclist, but because it’s a wonderful and warming memory of my mum and dad spending quality time with me.
I’ve always wanted to do the same for my children, so they too, have the same memory.
Ted’s of an age now where he could start to learn how to ride a bike, and so I’ve been doing much reading about the best way to teach your child how to ride a bike. The latest school of thought is that stabilisers are nothing but a hindrance. Don’t get me wrong, many of the world’s cyclists will have begun their riding journey with stabilisers, but even pro cyclists are now stating that stabilisers are not the way to go.
Enter LittleBig Bikes.
1 bike that grows with your child. It starts off as a balance bike and once that has been mastered, you can simply make the switch with the same platform/bike and enter a world of pedals!
In short, it’s a convertible balance bike, meaning that it starts life with your toddler as a toddler bye and then once your toddler becomes of age (or size) you can convert it into a fully fledged pedal bike.
It’s not easy to master a bike that delivers at being both a balance bike and pedal bike, but LittleBig Bikes are on the money. Designed and built in Ireland, with top-notch components, you can be sure your buying a decent piece of kit.
Now, I must confess, we haven’t tested it as a balance bike, because Ted was so excited about the pedals, but whilst in the ‘balance’ mode, it weighs in at 11.2lb. It might not be the lightest, but it does have some extra features that other balance bikes don’t have; dual hand brakes and 14” tyres for starters. These components not only make riding safer being more stable and more control over your speed but also do the job of teaching your kid some basic skills ahead of transitioning to pedals.
The LittleBig comes up rather large as a balance bike when compared to some rival balance bikes, but when you consider the longevity of the bike itself, this makes sense.
As a pedal bike, the seat sits at 18.5-21”. This is about right for a 42” tall toddler. Ted is probably just on the small side of this as he needs to utilise his tippy toes when seated on the saddle. That means, when in pedal mode, it may well be too big for some toddlers so worth having a measure up.
The theory has it, that having spent countless hours using LittleBig as a balance bike, means the transition to pedals is seamless. They have already learnt how to stop the bike using the hand brakes and should be pretty slick at coasting.
The one downside, or rather, the one consideration and something I notice almost immediately, was that the handlebars sit considerably lower than other entry-level pedal bikes. This isn’t a short-term issue but does bring into question the lifespan of the bike. Your child is likely to outgrow the pedal mode within a year; unless they grow slowly…
It does come with a 1” spacer that can be used to raise the bars, but only by the 1”.
As I mentioned, the components are a high spec but not many 4 year-olds will appreciate this. What they will appreciate is the performance. The easy-pull hand brakes are exactly that making it simple for the child to slow down. The wider tyres make balancing, grip and traction better meaning they feel more secure. And the gearing is such that whilst it takes a little more effort initially, you get up to speed quicker with fewer wheel revolutions.
Converting from Balance Bike to Pedal Bike
The process of switching from balance to pedals is simple and quick; no more than 20-30 minutes. And you’ll only need an Allen key!
The main change (other than adding the drive chain and pedals on) is flipping the frame round. You remove 2 bolts, spin the back half of the bike 180 degrees and reattach. One of the excellent design features is that the brake cable has been threaded through the frame tubing meaning you don’t need to worry about it in the slightest.
Flip the bike upside down, unlatch the rear brake and remove the back wheel. You then add the provided seat collar around the stem, pop in the drive chain & pedals and tighten it up as well as the 2 extra bolts you’ll find in the stem. Wrap the chain around the drive ring and then thread it over the geared side of the when as you place the wheel back in its axel slots and tighten it all up.
It was a little bit of a fiddle to make sure the chain has enough tension; I called in Jen to assist with this as it was easier with an extra pair of hands, but not essential. Make sure you reattach the brake!
There is no doubt in my mind, that if you’re looking for a balance bike, LittleBig Bikes should be your bike of choice. The reason being, you have the advantage of learning the skills of cycling quicker and easier. You can switch to the pedal mode as soon as your child is ready and the transition will be seamless.
If you’re in the market for a pedal bike, this may not be the best option as it won’t last your child very long. They will need a 16” bike pretty soon afterwards.
To finish, Ted adores his bike. When people come round, he wheels it out proudly and shows it off. He loves riding it, rain or shine and I do too.
Priced up at 250 Euros +PP, I feel this is competitive within the market and for the components and the benefit of learning those necessary cycling skills from the get-go, it’s worth it.
If we were giving it a star rating, we’d give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.