Every kid wants to be a freewheeler–but learning to ride a bike is tough! You can’t just climb onto a pedal bike and go. Before making the step up, some tykes use trikes or training wheels. But these days, many parents and experts suggest a more balanced approach.
Enter the balance bike. It’s the perfect bike for kids – especially younger ones.
Balance bikes are just like normal bikes–minus the pedals. Kids learn to balance first and cycle second. In fact, as plenty of parents will attest, these safe starter bikes make the step up to a pedal bike seem like a walk in the park. These pedal-free starter bikes get kids out and active, boosting not only their balance but also their coordination, confidence and self-reliance.
But which model should you decide on? Here’s our list to help you buy the best balance bike for your kid available today.
9 of The Best Balance Bikes For Kids
Joovy Bicycoo BMX Balance Bike
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Strider 12 Pro Balance Bike
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Joovy Bicycoo GT Balance Bike
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Chicco Red Bullet Balance Bike
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Get on the right track with the coolest balance bike around! The Joovy Bicycoo BMX comes in pink and blue, but whichever color you choose, you’ll be getting a quality bicycle. Featuring a rear brake and wide rubber tires, it is specially designed for safety and stability. Its 7.3lb aluminum frame is durable but light enough for kids to carry with ease. With a fully adjustable seat, this awesome little roller will give years of being the primary bike for kids in your house. It’s all groovy with Joovy!
Ages: 18 months – 5 years
Ready for some magic? KaZAM! As featured on Shark Tank (ABC TV), the incredible KaZAM V2S is another popular balance bike. The high-end model in this second series, the V2S is available in 9 colors including metallic light blue, magenta and orange. This model comes with rubber air-filled tires, unlike the V2E model, which sports puncture-resistant plastic tires. The key feature of both bikes is their patented easy step-in footrest. Placed right in the center of the bike, it encourages kids to put their feet up and work on their balance. When they move on to pedal bikes, they’ll master it in a flash!
Ride a bike like a pro with the Strider 12 Pro Balance Bike! The high-end model in the Strider Balance Bike 12 series (ahead of the Strider Sport and Strider Classic models), it comes with a sturdy all-aluminum frame that weighs a stunningly low 5.3 lbs. With a tool-free adjustable saddle and handlebar, it’ll grow with its rider. It even comes with a second XL saddle for taller kids. Its foam tires will never go flat and are perfect for riding on any surface and kids can really feel the part with its sweet Motocross-style number plate. On balance, this bike is certainly one of the best!
Ages: 1 1/2– 5 years
Another gem from Joovy, the Bicycoo GT comes in two incredibly stylish designs. It is a quality build, with wide wheels, a rear brake, and a durable aluminum frame. Weighing just 8.8 pounds, it is light enough for a young child to carry. Its rubber tires allow for smooth, controlled coasting. Built to last, its saddle can be adjusted to match your growing child’s height. So, get your little ones pedal-ready with this Bicy-cool training bike!
Age Range: 18 months to 5 years
Created using state-of-the-art German engineering, the FirstBIKE Cross Bike is a lightweight, super-strong, smooth-riding two-wheeler. Its “horse-saddle” is designed to stop kids slipping off and it’s easily adjustable thanks to its child-friendly dial. With a high-tech plastic design, built to absorb shock and protect your child’s spine, it’s hard to imagine a smoother ride. What’s more, it’s easy to assemble and ready to roll in minutes. All in all, the Cross Bike is huge fun for little ones. So why not make the first bike for your child a FirstBIKE?
Ages: 22 months to 5 years
Make great strides with the Strider 16 Sport Balance Bike! Designed for older kids just getting into riding and ideal for many kids with special needs, it’s a sturdy, safe, cool piece of kit. Available in white, black and green, the Sport 16 features front and rear brakes, 16” wheels and no-tool saddle adjustment. A larger model, the Strider Sport 20, is also available for older kids, aged 10 and up.
You can get plenty of bang for your buck with the popular Chicco Red Bullet. With puncture-resistant foam tires, a strong lightweight frame and a soft adjustable saddle, it has everything a child needs to strengthen their balance and go shooting down the sidewalk! Move the seat post up as your child grows – the sturdy steel frame will last for a long time.
The world’s lightest balance bike, the Cruzee OVO Ultralight is another top-notch option. With a robust aluminium frame, puncture-free tires and a comfy saddle and handles, it’s guaranteed to get your toddler rolling. Weighing just 4.4lbs, it’s light enough for tiny toddlers to carry around with ease. There’s something for everyone with 9 colors available. With this handy freewheeler, you’ll be cruising in no time!
Ages: For 18 months – 5 year olds
As any Goldilocks fan can tell you, the bear cub always got the balance right! Likewise, the Critical Cycles Cub is the perfect trainer for any aspiring cyclist. Easy to assemble and available in 6 colors, it features an easy-balance foot rest and simple step-over low frame. With its charming design, puncture-resistant tires and tough steel frame, it’s the perfect balance of cuteness and strength that any baby bear should possess! Of course, the seat post is adjustable as well.
Ages: For 20 months – 5 year olds
Common Questions About Toddler Balance Bikes
Why use a balance bike instead of training wheels?
Balance bikes are bike without pedals that teach kids how to balance a bike first. When they’ve mastered balancing, they learn to pedal. Since balancing is the more difficult technique to learn, kids who’ve learned to balance easily progress to pedaling. Training wheels, however, balance the bike for the child. When the training wheels come off, the kid must unlearn the way they’ve been riding the bike. Now they need to learn to balance while pedaling.
To turn a corner, bikes require leaning into the corner. The low gravity of balance bikes makes it easy to turn corners. The bike automatically steers toward the leaning side bringing the wheels under the center of mass keeping the bike balanced. Bikes with training wheels keep the bike upright making it difficult to turn.
The small training wheels limit the area a rider can travel. Inclines that are too steep can topple the bike because all four wheels need to touch the surface. Balance bike wheels allow kids to ride up slopes and on rougher terrain where training wheels can’t go. The wheels won’t get stuck like the smaller wheels on a training bike does.
Balance bikes are light in weight making it easy to steer. Kids can ride longer distances than the heavier bikes with training wheels.
Kids who are too young or too short for the smallest pedal bikes are big enough to experience the exhilaration and freedom of riding a balance bike.
How To Get You Toddler Started With A Balance Bike
Riding a balance bike has four stages. Let the toddler guide you in how long they want to stay on a stage; they will progress to the next stage when they are ready.
Introduce the bike to your toddler. Initially, 3-5 minutes per day may be more than enough to get them used to the bike. Remember to have them wear the helmet from day one. They’ll associate the helmet with the bike even when they grow older.
From 18 months to about 3 years old, toddlers will stand and walk the bike. They stand over the frame of the bike but won’t sit on the seat. How far they walk the bike depends on the child. As a parent, be patient and prevent confusion by limiting their usage of tricycles and bikes with training wheels.
From ages 2 and 3 years, kids will start sitting on the bike seat. During this phase, they will alternate between standing and walking the bike to sitting and walking the bike. Once they’ve mastered sit and walk, they would like to go faster especially if surrounded by other kids on bikes.
Things speed up when they realize they can sit and run. They quickly learn to balance and experience the fun of moving faster. Don’t be surprised by how fast they can move. To keep them safe, be mindful where they ride because once they realize the freedom on a bike, they’ll go anywhere and everywhere. Stay away from roads or uneven terrain.
Gliding follows naturally. If your toddler needs some help, let him glide downhill to experience the fun. At this stage, the kid’s adventures and desire to explore will depend on where you take them to ride.
What’s essential to begin using a balance bike?
Teach the child to always wear a helmet. They are going to fall, and a helmet could prevent nasty head injuries.
Knee and elbow pads may avoid unnecessary scrapes and give the child extra confidence to be more adventurous.
Closed-toe shoes will protect their toes when they use their toes instead of the soles of their feet to stop the bike.
Seat and Handlebars
Kids of the same age are different heights which influences the seat and handlebar height. The minimum bike seat height must be 1-1 ½ inches less than the inseam of the child. If the seat is too high the child won’t be able to comfortably sit and push with their feet, walk or run. It’s easier to fall off if they can’t use their feet to steady them. To low will restrict the movement of the legs.
Handlebars should be about mid-torso. The right seat and handlebar height allow for an athletic stance with slightly bended knees giving the child optimum movement and strength.
A non-slippery seat and handlebars with grips small enough for a toddler’s hands will help avoid accidents from sliding off the seat or losing their handgrip.
How Old Should A Child Be Before Beginning?
The smallest sized balance bikes fit 18-month-old toddlers and the largest sizes are big enough for adults.
Generally, kids from 18 months to 5 years old enjoy riding balance bikes; the same ages that kids ride tricycles and bikes with training wheels.
How do you stop the bike?
Teach a child learning how to ride to stop with their feet flat on the ground. Stopping with their toes isn’t as effective and they’ll wear out their shoes.
Some bikes have hand brakes. Kids 3 years and older have the skills and strength to use the hand brakes. It will make it easier for them to safely stop when they start riding pedal bikes.
What tools are needed to fit a bike properly?
You’ll need a hex wrench to assemble the balance bike and maybe an Allen key to adjust handlebar height. If the bike has a bell or reflectors, you’ll need a screwdriver.
What maintenance will be needed?
The way you wash the bike will depend on the material it’s made from. Aluminum and plastic can be washed with lots of water and soap but not wood and steel that tends to rust. Make sure the bike is thoroughly dried when stored.
Store the bike inside and in a dry place.
Check the bearings of the wheels, brakes, seat, and handlebars and lubricate to prevent rusting and squeaking.
What type of tires should I look for?
Rubber tires give more traction and rebound. The type of tread depends on the terrain.
Foam tires have less rebound but are lower to the ground, ideal for smaller bike. Foam tires are lightweight which is important for balance bikes. The tires are also low maintenance and inexpensive.
EVA (ethylene-vinyl-acetate) foam rubber tires are puncture proof, durable, lightweight and with different treads gives a great ride on various terrains.
Pneumatic tires may not be as practical for kids learning to ride and not being mindful where they ride. Air tires tend to flat. Also keep a look out for quick release wheels for older children – they will save your heartache.
These are our top picks for the best balance bikes on the market. What do you think? Have you got any of the balance bikes mentioned in the list? Or did we leave out your favorite one? Let us know all about it in the comments section below!
Featured image courtesy of Flickr, StriderBikes.