Introduction: Design a Custom Balance Bike

A balance bike is a great way to teach kids balance and start them on their way to riding a “real” bike.  While benefits can include learning how to steer without having to pedal at the same time, the bikes themselves can cost upwards of $150. For the price of materials (less if you use recycled parts) and a little bit of design work (the software is free), you can design and build a custom balance bike.

Step 1: Download Autodesk 123D

Before you start, download and install Autodesk 123D Design (it’s totally free). 123D Design makes it easy to manipulate all kinds of shapes and create viable designs using numerous materials.  For a general tour of the interface and commands, see these short tutorials:

Step 2: Design the Wheels

The first step in designing a custom balance bike is the wheels.  As is the case with each step of this project, you’ll want to take into account the size of the child who will be using the balance bike once it’s finished.

Starting with one wheel, sketch circles (Sketch > Circle) to represent the outer boundary of the tire, the hub, and what will likely be a metal frame between the two.

After that, use the extrude tool (Construct > Extrude) to give the wheel the desired thickness, extruding the “hub” and the “metal frame” to slightly shorter levels than the tire itself.  On the other side of the wheel, project the surface, and create the same extrusions on the hub and the frame as the first side.

Using the Modify fillet tool, round off the top surfaces, and then add color to the hub, frame, and tire using Materials.  What started as a few circles should now be looking much more like a wheel.

Once you have finished the first wheel, use the Rectangular Pattern Tool (Pattern > Rectangular Pattern) to create a second wheel, and punch a hole in the center of each wheel.
Be sure to SAVE your file.

For a step-by-step video tutorial on this stage, see this video:

Step 3: Design the Fork

Once you’ve finished with the wheels, start a new file to begin designing the bike’s fork.

Use the polyline tool to create the profile of the front fork (really drawing half of the fork), and use the rectangle to create the sketch of the opening for the body. Be sure to use the trim tool (Sketch > Trim) to trim any lines that are not required. 

Like you did before with the wheels, extrude the sketch to the desired thickness, and use the mirror tool (Pattern > Mirror) to complete the front fork. 

Use the fillet tool (Modify > Fillet) to round off the sharp edges, and add your desired material finish. 
Be sure to SAVE your file, since you’ll be adding it to the file with your wheels later.

For a step-by-step video tutorial on this stage, see this video:

Step 4: Design the Handlebars and Grips

Before you design the handlebars and grips, open the wheels file that you created, group the wheels, and place the model of the fork in the bike assembly (File>Insert>From My Computer).  From there, you can move the fork into place 

For the handlebars themselves, first use the project tool (Sketch > Project) to select the top face of the front fork, use a polyline to create a rectangle for the handlebar, and extrude the profile to the desired handlebar thickness. From there, you can apply material and whatever color you’d like to your handlebars. 

To put grips on the end of the handlebar, use the project tool (Sketch > Project) to select the end face of the handlebar, sketch a circle on the projected face, and extrude the outside portion of the circle. Repeat the process with a slightly larger circle to place a knob on the end of the handlebars (this is a balance bike for a small child, and we don’t want their hands slipping off the end).

Finally, fillet the sharp edges on the handlebar grip and apply whatever material you like. 
Lastly, SAVE your file.

For a step-by-step video tutorial on this stage, see:

Step 5: Design the Bike Body

For the bike body, start by using the polyline tool to sketch the profile of the body, and extrude the sketch to the desired thickness.  Remember to take into account the height of the rider, and to leave a flat space on the top of the body for a seat. 

Once you have finished sketching and extruding the body, move it into position, fillet the sharp edges, and apply whatever material you like. 

Lastly, create a hole for the axle by projecting the hole from the back wheel, and SAVE.

For a step-by-step video tutorial on this stage, see this video:

Step 6: Design the Seat

Last but not least, design the seat.  You’ll want it to line up with that flat space you left on the body.

First, use a polyline to create a sketch of the seat. Tweak the sketch until you’re happy with the shape of the seat, and then extrude the sketch to your desired thickness.

Next, hide the sketch, fillet the sharp edges on the seat, and apply the materials.

Lastly, make sure the seat is in place and aligned, and group all the parts.

For a step-by-step video tutorial on this stage, see:

Step 7:

Once you’ve created your custom balance bike plans, there are a few different choices of assembly. 

Depending on your design, you can make a balance bike very cheaply using recycled or salvaged building materials.

You can also have custom parts crafted from your Autodesk 123D Design files, or print them on a 3D printer. 

Places like TechShop have the tools to turn your design files into physical parts, and staff the people who can show you how.

Places like Shapeways can even print parts for you.


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