FirstBIKE certainly isn’t the first balance bike on the market, but is hitting the UK this year with the goal of being the safest one out there. Designed by Ralf Coerschulte, an avid German cyclist, and father-of-three, it’s been among the hot parental buys worldwide for the past three years.
From Ralf’s home country of Germany, to Australia, across the Middle East, to Poland – where it won the Toy of the Year 2014 award – and the US, where it has featured on the Queen Latifah Show, FirstBIKE has won a string of plaudits.
The balance bike concept is to help little ones develop the sense of riding a bike – without being held up by stabilisers – so that the transition to a real pedal bike is easier and faster.
With FirstBIKE costing from £69.99 to £119.99 depending on the model, it’s on a par with brands like the wooden Kiddimoto bikes, which cost from £49.99 to £114.99, or Micro’s version for £99.95.
The Cross Silver balance bike is sold on being lightweight, but is it really lightweight?
At 3.9kg (or 3.5kg for the version without the brake), the FirstBIKE Cross is genuinely pretty lightweight. My 3-and-a-half-year-old son could lift it himself, which was useful if he needed to haul it over a tree trunk, or similar obstacle, while out in the park.
In reality, it’s normally me who ends up carrying home whatever we have taken out with us, so it’s a bonus it’s so light. The cut out sections in the frame also mean it’s easy for small hands to get a grip on.
It comes with brakes, how do they work?
It’s a single brake on the back wheel, which FirstBIKE calls its “SafetyStop” rear wheel drum brake system.
FirstBIKE recommends the brake for use from when your child is about 2 ½, as that’s when they can be used most effectively.
It’s very useful to have the brake on the bike, as you never know when an energetic little child might start picking up speed. More importantly though, I though, it’s a good way to start introducing the idea of using a proper brake, for when my son progresses onto a pedal bike.
However, it is a bit tricky for small hands to reach and use properly.
It’s worth noting not all the FirstBIKE models are fitted with brakes – the basic model doesn’t have them – but the Street, Cross, Racing, and Limited Edition versions do.
What do you think of the height of the bike?
It is the perfect height for my son, as he is able to reach the handlebars easily, and the fact the seat can be adjusted from 34.5cm to 44.5cm (or 30.5cm to 40.5cm using a lowering kit) is a good feature.
The bike is recommended for kids aged 22 months to five years, and I do think it might be slightly on the small side for a five-year-old.
Is it comfy for your little one?
Definitely! I could hardly get him off it, and every trip out started with the question “Can I take my bike mummy?”
Although the seat isn’t padded like a regular bike seat would be, it’s covered in a thick, flexible rubber-type material, which feels very comfortable and has a non-slip attribute to it.
The handles are made from the same rubber, so were really comfortable for my son to hold. He would literally be on it happily for hours.
What’s the steering like?
I liked the way the bike steered, as it is very free-moving, yet has been built with an anti-jack knife steering limiter.
This basically means the handlebars can only turn to a certain place either right or left, less than 45 degrees.
The idea is this safety feature reduces the risk of falling, and I do think it works as Rafi only fell off once while we were testing it out over a couple of weeks.
Can the seat be adjusted?
Yes it can – from 34.5cm to 44.5cm high (or 30.5cm to 40.5cm using a lowering kit). I was so happy when I saw that there is one single knob on the FirstBIKE for adjusting the seat.
It simply unscrews using the large star shaped knob, you pop off the seat column, adjust to the right height for your little one and screw it back on with your hands. No special tools needed, and no fiddly nuts and bolts. This is a big plus for me.
Does it handle all-terrains?
Yes. The FirstBIKE Cross is meant to be for grass, gravel and loose dirt conditions and we tried it on pretty much every surface.
In fact, we also took it on regular pavements too, and it handled well. The air-filled tyres are chunky with big treads and look very cool to boot.
The Street version has similar tyres, but they have less grip and are ideal for concrete surfaces, while the Racing and Limited models have special Schwalbe Big Apple tyres. It’s worth noting the tyres are inflatable, and you can use a regular bike pump.
Is the bike durable enough to be passed to a younger sibling?
Definitely. It is really well made and sturdy, with just a few robust parts. It’s made of a polyamide with 30% glass fibreglass, so I would certainly expect it to have a long lifespan.
It’s not a cheap option, so I would want – and expect – that it would last for a good few years. In fact, it does come with a lifetime warranty.
Because the frame is so tough, I think the kind of bumps and bashes I would expect the FirstBIKE to go through would hardly make an impact at all.
With models suited to every terrain, 10 colours, and distinctive design and safety features, FirstBIKE has got everything covered. My son loved it, his friends loved it, and I was delighted to find a bike that he would happily play on without my help.
I would recommend FirstBIKE as, although it’s pricey, features like the easy seat height alteration, brakes and steering limiter make it great value. The range of accessories like baskets, bells, helmets and safety vests would also make great presents.