- User Rating: Excellent
Pros:* Helps child gain confidence
* Great transition bike
* Cheaper than the originals
Cons:* Expensive given limited use
The Bottom Line: Like any toy, satisfaction will vary depending on the child. If it clicks, this can help your child skip the training wheel stage.
After my then 4 year old daughter fell sideways off her "big girl bike" (a 16" Trek Mystic) when riding down the driveway with my father, she refused to get back on it. Instead, she tried to squeeze back onto her old Kettler Happy Navigator tricycle. I didn't want to push her to get back on the bike, so I knew I needed something other than the tricycle. I stumbled upon a lot of rave reviews on-line about balance bikes, so I thought they would be the ideal option between the tricycle and the regular bike. When I found a deal on the Skuut at only $60 shipped, I jumped on it.
What are balance bikes?
First, let me explain the concept, as I believe most American parents didn't grow up with balance bikes. Imagine a bike with no pedals and no gears at all. Your child has to use her feet to propel herself forward (or backwards). This also means that she is able to put her foot down when she invariably finds herself leaning too much to one side. In theory, it should teach your child how to balance while not being distracted by pedaling at the same time (or getting her feet caught in the chain/pedals).
Note, too, that there aren't any brakes other than her own feet dragging on the ground. She can steer, so if you get a nice long straight stretch in the park (preferably with a slight downhill incline), it looks really fun. There are great videos of kids on balance bikes on the Skuut website.
There are a number of European brands of balance bikes, as balance bikes are quite popular there. I've seen metal and wood versions. Recently, the Chinese-made balance bike "knock-offs" have been getting a lot of attention and toy awards here in the U.S. Skuut seems to be one of the prominent, though I've also heard about Strider pre-bikes, Y bikes, and Kettler.
About the Skuut
Skuut is an American-designed bike made in China. It looks identical to the Like-A-Bike designed and manufactured in Germany for $300 apiece. Yet the Skuut retails for less than $100.
The bike is largely composed of wood with a laquered veneer finish.
It has a slightly padded seat, which is essentially a wooden seat with a thin fabric cover. The seat is adjustable in height, so it should grow with your child. There are also plastic/rubber handlebar covers, which helps with gripping the handlebars and also protects the wood frame when you lay the bike down (so the handlebars won't get scuffed). It is intended to be stored indoors, unlike metal bikes that might be more weather-resistant.
The Skuut is intended for children ages 2-5 (though I would argue this really only fits tall 2 year olds, not my 50-70th percentile girls who were far too small at 2). The adjustable seat ranges from just over 13.5 inches to 16.5 inches high, fitting most 2-5 year olds per the Skuut website. My youngest, who is now almost 3, still refuses to try the Skuut but I'm hoping to convince her to give up the Kettler soon.
The bike weighs about ten pounds. The wood itself is quite light and the two wheels have real air-filled rubber tires (as opposed to the rigid foam tires on certain tricycles). There aren't any spokes, so shoelaces won't get caught (or so the manufacturer claims).
Assembly was easy and fast, as it's just a few large pieces. This is nothing like the typical experience when assembling furniture from IKEA, with multiple little bags of bolts and 20 or more steps. It took not even 5 minutes to put a few pieces together as the frame is just 3 wooden pieces.
I bought this for my 4 year old after a bad scare on her Trek Mystic. She loved the Skuut bike from day one as she could put both feet flat on the ground. She also thought it was fun to coast down our driveway and stop herself with her feet (she had trouble with the pedal brakes on the Trek). However, I never got her to coast a long stretch like you see the kids on the video do on the Skuut website.
For my somewhat timid daughter, balancing on the Skuut never really clicked in the sense that she could not balance on it longer than a few seconds. I think she just always put her feet down too quickly, like she didn't trust herself to balance longer. I can't fault the bike design for her reluctance so I'm still giving it 4 stars (deducting one star for the hard seat and questionable quality/longevity). I think parents should be prepared for mixed results depending on your child's personality/approach to new challenges.
I will say that it brought "cool points" to our family. She brought it to preschool on bike day and all the kids were fascinated. After seeing the kids' reactions, she wanted to ride it some more but then it sat in the garage all winter and when spring came, she was back on the Trek. Thus, she really only used the Skuut bike for a few months.
Given our cost per use, this bike was a bit too expensive even though I scored it during a 40% off sale. Yet while our Skuut is getting dusty waiting for my 3 year old to try it, I have high hopes that the younger one, who is a bit of a daredevil compared to her sister, will master the Skuut and be able to skip the training wheels stage.
Update: Just a month or so after writing this review, I finally got my 3 year old to try out the Skuut. She loves walking around on it, but she also likes to switch between this and her 12" Trek Mystic bike. I'm not quite sure how long she will be using this, but I think it's a certifiable hit!
For other parents considering this bike and who plan to ride in front of their house on the street, I highly recommend Step 2's Kid Alert sign to alert neighbors of children playing nearby. Its child-like silhouette catches drivers' eyes and helps encourage them to slow down!
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Amount Paid (US$): 60
Type of Toy: Sports
Age Range of Child: 3 to 5 Years