You’ve decided without a shred of doubt that a balance bike is better than a tricycle for your little one. You’ve been looking at a bunch of the best balance bikes for toddlers and kids. And for the life of you, you can’t seem to decide on what the best choice is.
In this parents’ guide, you’ll meet and interact with the best options ever. I don’t guarantee that you won’t have any problems with any of these recommendations. I’m simply saying many parents and grandparents and the recipients of their birthday gifts love these picks, because they work.
Which is the Best Balance Bike for Most Kids?
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It’s no accident that the 12″ Schwinn Kids’ Balance Bike came out on top. This balance bike for toddlers and kids offered various features and specs that made me say, “this thing stands head and shoulders above all the other contestants in the race.”
For the price, I feel that kids who get this bike enjoy all the value their $$ deserves plus a whole lot more besides.
This green kids balance bike looks amazing. There’s a good chance that all the kids in your neighborhood will want to own it after seeing your little one flying down the street on this thing.
Before they get their own shiny Schwinn, your kid’s buddies will want to borrow this ride to test it out. Don’t worry though because this bike is very well built, and its heavy-duty steel frame lasts forever.
Its wheels/rims are all metal instead of plastic as often is the case with balance bikes. What’s more, the tires are pretty wide and made from rubber. Because the traction is great, neither the front and rear tire every washes out when the rider encounters loosely packed paths.
Both the handlebar and seat are adjustable, and this bike’s stand over height works for even 2-year-olds. Your LO can will use this bicycle throughout toddlerhoold and beyond, and they won’t need to ever ride a pedal bike with training wheels.
The bearings are good quality and the wheels spin really well, better than most, in fact. The reasonably beefy non-slip grips are designed with child safety top of mind. And the relatively wide footrest is a nice-to-have feature for when gliding.
Unlike the seat post of the Strider Sport 12″ that sticks out through the bottom of the frame, that of the Schwinn doesn’t do this. And this fact makes (at least for me) the Schwinn somewhat safer than the more popular Strider.
There isn’t much to not like about the metal-wheeled Schwinn Balance Bike. But the bike could be lighter. And the paintwork could be better quality, and the saddle develop wrinkles of sorts after some use. But these three cons aren’t significant enough to amount to a deal breaker.
Persuaded by all these awesome truths about the 12″ Schwinn Balance Bike, I believe it’s the best balance bike for most kids aged 2 until old enough to ride a training wheel-free pedal bike at age 3-4.
Best Balance Bike Buying Guide
How do you pick a balance bike your little one will want to own and ride? Below is a bunch of factors to keep top of mind when shopping:
Construction Quality of the Balance Bike
Nothing feels flimsy on a good balance bike. All the parts feel sturdy and solid. All the welds are high quality, and the paintwork shouldn’t chip off easily. This kind of bicycle sees tons use, and you don’t want to see all kinds of scratches and scrapes on a poorly finished frame.
If the bike has a footrest, it needs to be properly designed and intelligently placed. It shouldn’t keep getting in the way or hurting small feet during rides.
As for nuts and bolts, they shouldn’t be missing, nor should they be stripped or protrude in a way that undermines safety. Some cheap choices come with axle bolts that stick out dangerously, bolts that catch on things such as pant legs and roots. Such bolts may also bruise or cut the small rider’s legs.
The bike shouldn’t have sharp edges, and every part should fit safely and perfectly into a unified design that works smoothly for the youngster.
Proper Balance Bike Geometry
Choose a bike that fits the rider properly. Some bikes have the geometry completely off and make for a less-than-perfect fit. Riding a bike whose geometry doesn’t work discourages kids from riding and might even cause kids to hate the bike.
The handlebar shouldn’t be too wide or too narrow. It should come in a toddler-friendly size. And the fork angle shouldn’t be too steep that it compels the small rider to shift their weight forward over the steering. If this happens, the child finds that steering and controlling the bicycle becomes super challenging.
A balance bike needs to have a decently long wheel base for stability. The cockpit (the space before the saddle and handlebar) should be spacious enough, and there shouldn’t be too much room between the rear of the seat and the back tire.
If buying a convertible balance bike (one that switches from being a balance bike to a pedal bike), make sure the placement of the folded-out pedals isn’t awkward.
Good geometry makes for a comfortable seating position, and the rider doesn’t struggle to land their small legs onto the ground and push off.
Wheel Size: What’s the Correct Wheel Size?
Most kids’ balance bikes have 12″ wheels. In fact, all but one of my recommendations have 12″ wheels. This bike size works well for most children in the age range 2-6 years or even older.
Bikes smaller than 12″ can feel too cramped for older kids, and 14″ bikes can feel like too much bike for the youngest of kids.
Most bikes with 12″ wheels and with a toddler-oriented geometry and design remain useful until the young rider attains the maturity and expertise needed to ride a pedal bike without stabilizers (age 4 for many kids).
Wheels and Tire Type
Most cheap options have tough-plastic wheels, but pricier models may have metal wheels complete with spokes. Metal wheels tend to be heavier than plastic ones, but they generally outlast plastic wheels. Often, metal rims are paired with air-filled rubber tires.
The beautiful thing about inflatable rubber tires is that they’re really grippy, grabbing slick and rougher surfaces with greater skill than foam tires ever could.
Inflatable tires sometimes go flat, but the ride is incredibly smoother and more comfortable. This is because these wheels are amazing at dampening cracks, potholes, small rocks, and bumps.
Foam tires are lightweight, but while they work reasonably well on smooth outdoor surfaces such as high-quality sidewalks, they’re too slick for smooth indoor floors. The best foam tires tend to be softer and grippier than the cheapest foam tires which tend to be hard, plastic-y, and stupidly slippery.
Look at How the Valve’s Stem Angles
Are you wanting to buy a balance bike with inflatable tires? Make sure you can quickly air up the tires with a simple hand pump, the kind most people bring on outings.
If the stem of the valve angles awkwardly (points directly toward the axles), it becomes difficult to pump air in since you can’t squeeze the typical hand pump in between the wheel/rim and axle.
Stand-over Height Should be Low Enough
The height of the bicycle’s top tube from the ground is that bike’s stand over height. Choose a bike with a low-enough step-through height so that the young rider can comfortably stand astride the frame with the feet firmly on the ground, ready to propel the thing forward.
Obviously, the younger the kid you’re shopping for, the lower the step-through height needs to be. On a 12″ balance bike, make sure the stand-over height doesn’t exceed 8 inches. With the top tube sitting this low, most 2-year-olds shouldn’t face any difficulty when getting on and off their ride.
Also, if the child ever needs to bail out of a ride that’s gone awry, a low stand-over height makes sure they can do it quickly and safely. Pretty much all of my recommendations have a low step-in height, and the Chillafish Charlie Glow has the smallest stand-over height of any bike I’ve seen.
Bike Weight: Weight Matters to an Appreciable Extent
Toddlers’ bodies are small and still developing, and their muscles aren’t super strong. They’ve yet to develop to a point where pushing and maneuvering a heavy bicycle isn’t too much of a chore.
For this reason, it’s critical to pick a bicycle whose frame and the rest of the components don’t weigh too much.
The heaviest bike on my list weights in at 13 pounds, and I must say that anything above 12 pounds would be too heavy for younger kids. Anything that weighs 10ish pounds isn’t too heavy and most kids should be able to lift and push off.
If you’re wondering how heavy a balance bike should really be, it shouldn’t weight more than 30 percent of the rider’s body weight. For example, a kid who weighs 33 pounds shouldn’t ride anything that weights over 11 pounds.
Frame Material: Go for Steel or Aluminum
Most balance bikes for 2-year-olds and older children come with a steel frame. Steel is sturdy and tough and extremely durable. And repairing a broken steel frame is much easier and cheaper compared to maintaining an aluminum frame.
One of the lightest balance bikes ever is the Strider Sport 12″, and this bike features a steel frame. This means that lightweight steel frames exist, and it’s your job as a parent to find them for your LO.
Aluminum frames are almost always lighter, but they’re not as hardy as their steel counterparts. Plus, lightweight aluminum frames are typically more expensive than steel ones. Small wonder the vast majority of kids’ balance bicycles have a steel frame and not an aluminum one.
If a bike is too heavy, the kid struggles to lift and push it. Also, it’s harder to maneuver a heavier bicycle than a lighter one, especially when the rider is a 2-year-old. Besides that, younger kids have a hard time stopping a heavy steel bike especially if when relying on their feet rather than hand brakes to stop the bike.
Some balance bikes are highly adjustable, allowing kids of different ages to ride the same bike. An option that grows with the rider eliminates the need to invest in a larger-sized balance bike down the road.
You simply buy an option, and your kiddo rides it until they achieve pro status, which is when they transition to a pedal bike without wheels.
Be sure to know how much the seat adjusts as well as the extent to which you can raise or lower the handlebar. Such a balance bike remains ride-able for several years, and if it’s a high-quality bike, you’ll hand it down to your LO’s sibling in the future.
Some bikes such as the Strider Sport 12″ provide lots of room for growth. This bicycle allows you to adjust seat height up to 9″, and this is one of the most adjustable choices on the market today.
Remember: toddlers grow really fast, and it makes complete sense to pick a balance bike that evolves to accommodate growth spurts.
So, before buying any beginner balance bicycle, be sure to learn how easy it is to adjust seat and handlebar height, and how much these parts adjust.
Bike Assembly: Pick an Easy-to-Build Balance Bike
Some of the best choices out there are so simple to assemble that even a mom who’s never built anything can set up the bicycle in under 20 minutes. For the most part, assembling a balance bike entails popping the front wheel in and attaching and adjusting the saddle and handlebar.
Sellers typically pack the tools necessary for the build. But if the bike offers extra features such as a bell, you may need to buy a proper Phillips screwdriver for the job if you don’t own the tool already.
The problem with bike brands is that they don’t see the wisdom of writing helpful guides/instructions for consumers. In many cases, the instructions are pretty much a copy-and-paste affair, and the assembly instructions printed are generic and may not be useful at all as far as the build you’re about to undertake.
The best balance bicycles for toddlers and kids come about 60 percent assembled. And most have almost everything adjusted properly so that you won’t need to make any substantial adjustments. The best part is that many balance bikes don’t have a braking mechanism to adjust, a derailleur or shifters to set up correctly.
Brakes: Not All Balance Bikes Have Brakes
A few years ago, all balance bikes didn’t have brakes of any kind. Kids had to rely on their own feet and strength to slow down and stop the bicycle. These days though, there are many options that feature a rear brake. It’s usually a hand brake that works on the rear wheel, and the most common brake type is a V-brake, which is a linear-pull braking system.
If your area is pretty hilly, definitely choose a bike with brakes. But it’s better to pick a balance bike without brakes than one with poorly adjusted brakes that decrease safety.
Kids usually don’t need a front wheel hand brake, and many options don’t feature this brake. Many parents end up removing the front linear-pull brake until their kids are mature enough to use it safely. If you can’t easily squeeze the brake lever with your pinkie, it’d probably be too finicky for a young child.
Price: What’s a Reasonable Price for a Balance Bike?
With a budget of between $120 and $200, you should be able to get one of the best toddlers balance bikes out there. In this price range, you’ll get a well-built balance bike that brings together high-quality components that work well and last.
If you’re hunting around for a budget balance bike, you’ll spend anywhere between $60 and $100.
Bike and Parts Availability, Return Policy, Customer Service
You don’t want to pick a bike so uncommon that getting assembly and other information about it becomes difficult. Instead, choose something many kids like as this is less likely to become unavailable for a prolonged duration since the brand makes more of it.
Shipping the bike over to you shouldn’t take ages, and the return policy needs to be generous enough. As for customer service, give companies with poor CS a wide berth and instead hand your business over to a caring company that handles customer issues with speed and professionalism.
Rear-wheel V-brakes, a neatly designed footrest, a bell, a basket, and a well-designed turning limiter that helps the rider better manage steering are all nice-to-have features. Your kid may not absolutely need these added bells and whistles, but they do make life out riding easier and more
6 Top Kids Balance Bikes (You’ll Love the Best Pick)
Let’s dive right in.
1.12″ Schwinn Beginner Toddler Bike: Best Overall
Like the Retrospec, the Schwinn weighs about 11 pounds. It’s about 60% heavier than the Strider Sport 12″, but still light enough that our 3-year-old son could lift it with ease. But isn’t a sturdier, heavier steel frame better for longevity than a lighter one?
One area the Schwinn wins out over the Strider Sport is component quality. Instead of plastic wheels, the Schwinn features lightweight metal rims that look nicer and are more durable.
While the Strider 12 Sport features foam tires that literally stick to the ground instead of rolling, the Schwinn 12″ Balance Bike comes with inflatable rubber tires. These air-filled tires do a terrific job of rolling over all kinds of tough terrain, and the overall ride quality feels much better.
Another noticeable difference between the Strider and Schwinn balance bikes is bearing quality. I lifted each bike off the ground and gave each wheel a hand-activated spin. The Strider Sport did an OK spin at best while the wheel on the Schwinn Balance Bike spun nicely and smoothly for noticeably longer.
Then there’s the wheel hub axle bolts. Not only is the hardware better quality on the Schwinn balance bike, but it also doesn’t stick as far out as does the bolt on the Strider bike.
Both bikes have a near-to-the-ground top tube, but the Strider sits slightly closer to the ground. While both bikes fit smaller riders well, the Strider is a marginally better fit.
You can adjust saddle height and handlebar height on both bikes to better customize the fit to the little rider. The handlebar on the Strider isn’t as beefy as it is on the Schwinn, which makes for a more comfortable grip. But the grips on the Strider have a smaller diameter, which makes them more toddler-friendly.
Note: the seat post on the Schwinn balance bike is shorter than the one on the Strider bike. It may not adjust as much, but at no point does the lower end of the seat tube stick through the bottom of the frame, making the bicycle need greater ground clearance.
Footrest: both the Schwinn and Strider Sport come with a platform to rest small feet during gliding. But the foot platform on the Strider bicycle isn’t as well-designed, nor is it as comfortable. The footrest on the Strider is nothing more than a skateboard-like griptape. While it’s rough enough to prevent foot slippage, it’s not as wide as the footrest on the Schwinn bike.
Saddle quality: both seats are comfortable enough, but the saddle on the Schwinn balance bike ended up wrinkling up a bit after some time. It’s not a bad seat per se, but the best balance bike seats are soft, durable, and don’t wrinkle much at all.
One thing I don’t like about the 12″ Schwinn Balance Bike is the quality of the paintwork. We noticed that the paint started scratching off, but then our son rode the thing pretty much all the time. But the paint coming off is an area the company should do something about in future issues.
Many believe that the Strider Sport 12″, and it definitely one of the most popular balance bikes ever made. But in my opinion, and that of many parents who’ve owned both bikes, the Schwinn is the clear winner.
- Metal wheels instead of plastic as is the case with most balance bikes
- High-quality bearings that make the wheels spin like a dream
- Seat post doesn’t stick out of the bottom of frame (more safety)
- A beefy, comfortable, non-slip handlebar that doesn’t slide off
- A well-designed, wide foot platform
- Easy to assemble
- Adjustable saddle and handlebar
- Air-filled fat tires that take on everything your LO throws at them
- Good-quality components that are also replaceable
- A heavy-duty steel frame that outlasts the rider’s learning phase
- Fits smaller riders better than most
- Air-filled filled tires more difficult to maintain, plus flats happen
- Seat wrinkles a bit
2.Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike: Best Balance Bike for Smaller Riders
The Strider Sport 12″ Kids’ Balance Bike emerged as the overall winner for a slew of reasons. First off, this is a lightweight balance bike for children. The lightest balance bikes ever weigh about 5-7 pounds and the Strider 12″ weights 6.7 pounds. Do I need say more about how light this bike is?
I really like that it’s a steel alloy frame. Steel is super tough and easy to maintain, and it’s the best option when it comes to standing up to constant abuse on bumpy dirt trails.
Being lightweight is nothing really special, but it does mean that tykes are going to want to ride the thing more often. And this means a lot for many parents out there.
The frame is high-grade too. And this means it’s lightweight and hardy. It’s not the sort of thing that falls apart in a week or two of constant riding.
Assembling the Strider Sport 12 was pretty easy, and the included instructions for this process were clearly written and easy to follow. The wheels came attached, and when we gave each wheel a spin, we didn’t notice any kind of wobbling.
The most involved part of the assembly (which wasn’t complicated at all) was fitting the bushings on the noticeably durable head set. Finally, we tightened two quick-release levers: one to help adjust the handlebar and the other to help adjust (that is, lower and raise) the seat.
One thing I love about this bike is that it comes with two seat tubes, a shorter tube that measures 8.6″ and a longer tube that measures 11.5″. The beauty of these tubes is that they’re completely interchangeable.
With this bike, you can adjust the saddle a nice 9 inches, from 11″ all the way to 20″. Very few balance bikes adjust this much. Things get even better: the top tube sits really low at just 8″. When combine a low-sitting top tube and a generous seat adjustability of 9″, you get a bike that 2-year-olds as well as 7-year-olds can straddle comfortably and ride.
The tires are lightweight because they’re foam and not air-filled. No worrying about flats, and no need to routinely monitor tire pressure.
Foam tires tend not to be great at traction when ridden on bumpy, rough terrain. However, the wheels on the 12″ Strider Sport seem to have been made of better quality materials than the majority of balance bike tires we’ve tested. I believe being better quality accounts for the marginally greater traction our son noticed when out riding this little kid-friendly bike.
The handlebars are narrow enough and most kids can steer them with ease. And the grips plus the thickened handlebar ends make sure small sweaty hands don’t slip out. Also, if the little rider does a less-than-perfect bunny hoppy and ends on the pavement, the handlebar design makes sure the fingers don’t get scraped.
But no, the Strider 12 Sport doesn’t come with hand brakes of any kind. This isn’t a problem for most kids as long as they won’t mostly ride the bike downhill. Fortunately, you can easily attach Strider’s well-designed rear-foot brake if you don’t like the idea of your little one flying around on some brake-less contraption. The add-on brake costs about $20, and availability isn’t a problem.
Lest I forget, this bike features a neatly-designed footrest to pack small feet when your LO glides or goes down a gentle slope.
Even though this product isn’t the cheapest deal out there, it’s reasonably priced. This is the only balance bike your kiddo will ever own before graduating to a pedal bike without wheels.
- Pretty easy assembly + clear instructions
- A super lightweight balance bike with a tough steel frame
- Lightweight, foam tires that don’t ever get flats
- A tough steel frame that takes abuse without breaking
- Comes with 2 interchangeable seat posts
- Very low stand over height and seat adjusts generously
- A well-designed footrest
- Adjustable seat and handlebars
- Narrow, safety-focused handlebars with non-slip grips
- No brakes, but add-on rear wheel brake is available inexpensively
3. Retrospec Baby Beaumont Kids Balance Bike: Best for Bumpy Dirt Trails
Weighing 11 pounds, the 12″ Retrospec Baby Beaumont Kids Balance Bike is 4.3 pounds heavier than my best pick the 12″ Strider Sport Balance Bike.
While it’s almost twice as heavy, it isn’t too heavy for most kids. And it’s great that the frame is an all-steel affair that stays intact no matter how hard your little one plays. But the welding could be better, not that I’m complaining.
This bike looks stylish. It has a classic retro feel to it, and the overall build is solid. It’s like you’re looking at a miniature adult bike that lasts and lasts.
Also, it’s easy to assemble, and at least 2 tools needed for the task came in the box: Allen Wrench and multi-tool wrench. You’re going to need to have your own Phillips screwdriver to tighten the screw on the little safety bell. All we needed to do was pop the front tire in, fit the handlebar in and set it to the right height, and attach the saddle.
It took us about 15 minutes to put this balance bike together and get it working. which isn’t surprising for a bike without hand brakes, shifters, or a derailleur. It’s a clean design that focuses on one thing: teaching your kid how to ride a balance bike while enjoying tons of fun along the way.
Both the saddle and handlebar are height adjustable, making the Retrospec Baby Beaumont a good fit for 3-year-olds and above.
The top tube of the frame sits low enough that a 3-year-old can get on the bike easily. And if they fall, which inevitably happens when riding any kind of bike, they won’t hit the ground too hard since there isn’t such a great distance to cover.
BUT even though the marketing says this bike fits 2-3 year olds, it may be too big for most 2-year-olds. I suggest that you go with the 12″ Strider Sport if buying for a 2-year-old.
This brown kids’ balance bike with a tough BMX-style handlebar and fat tires (2.125″) rides like a dream on all kinds of surfaces. Whether your LO is riding through grass, participating in a family forest trail ride, riding on a bumpy gravel road, or on smooth sidewalks and driveways, they’ll love how comfortable the ride feels.
The reason this bike smooths out bumps better than most is that its tires are air-filled. The tires are wide, as wide as most BMX or mountain bike tires. Wider tires increase overall bike stability and traction even if this necessitates making little sacrifices in the speed department.
When our little rider tested this bike on a loosely packed path, the tires didn’t wash out. This is something you don’t see in many balance bikes with foam tires. But we noticed that the toddler-friendly grips tended to slide off without too much effort. Nothing you can’t fix though.
When a balance bike’s wheels wash out during what should be a happy ride, disaster swiftly follows. Your little one should definitely have the best biking knee pads and helmet on their small delicate noggin when the crash happens.
But while being air-filled is a good thing, there’s always the little issue of flats. If your child rides this thing through a grass-carpeted field with a few thorns lying around, the tires will go flat. But here’s a nifty trick to make air-filled bike tires self-heal after being pierced by some sharp object.
One thing this toddlers’ bike boasts that many balance bikes don’t is the nice basket on the front. While not absolutely necessary, your kiddo will carry snacks and anything else they might need when out and about.
The ties attaching the basket to the handlebar are made from leather as is the comfortable saddle. Leather looks classy and lasts, but if you’re a caring vegan, you may want to consider a different bike.
Another extra feature the Retrospec Baby Beaumont offers is the bell on the handlebar. It’s rare to see a bell on a balance bike, and many pedal bikes come without one. I like that this bell has a plastic dinger switch instead of a metal one which might cause injury during a fall.
- A tough steel frame that’s not extremely heavy
- A nice basket included
- A bell included for safety out riding
- Adjustable seat and saddle
- Tools need for the assembly provided
- A refreshing classic retro look
- A solid, adult-like bike with no pedals
- No tool for tightening screw on the bell
- One of the heavier balance bikes out there, and the price could be lower
- May be too big for most 2-year-olds even with the seat sitting flat on the frame
- Handle grips tend to slide off without much effort
- No brakes
The 12″ Swagtron K3 Pedal-less Bike comes in a highly adjustable design. Saddle height adjusts between 12″ and 16″ and perfectly fits 13″-17″ inseams. These are kids in the 2-5 range. Its stand-over height is quite low. With proper seat height adjustment, it fits 2-year-olds as perfectly as it does 3-year-olds and older kids.
This bicycle looks nice, and it’s available in at least 2 solid colors: blue and pink. That makes it a unisex ride that both boys and girls can own and ride with pride. *Note that this bike doesn’t come with spoked wheels as shown in the picture. And the tires, even though they roll smoothly over everything thrown at them, aren’t great quality and don’t last.
The wheels are mountain-bike wide and air-filled, which means they’re not sucky when it comes to conquering tough terrain and crappy sidewalks. If you’re from an area with tons of potholed roads and bumpy dirt trails, this is the bike to get for your little one.
One difference between the Swagtron K3 Balance Bike and most other balance bikes is that it boasts an aluminum frame. It’s a lightweight aluminum frame, and the bike weights in at just 7 pounds. It’s slightly lighter than the lightest balance bike on my list, the 12″ Strider Sport Balance Bike.
But just because the frame is crafted from aluminum, it doesn’t mean it’s not sturdy or durable. Well, it may not be as tough as steel frames, but if you think this thing falls apart within weeks of buying, think again.
The welding on this frame is great quality, and this frame lasts. Some of the finest bikes the world’s ever seen have a super-strong and ultra-lightweight aluminum frame.
Unlike most balance bikes for children, the Swagtron K3 comes with metal rims. Plastic rims/wheels maybe lightweight, but they’re not as sturdy as are metal rims.
When subjected to hefty impacts and shocks — perhaps when your kiddo bunny hops — these metal wheels may get a dent or two. And the wheel may get out of true and wobble. Fortunately, truing bike wheels isn’t rocket science, nor does it take forever to do.
Someone recently emailed me wanting to know if the Swagtron K3 Balance Bike features a steering limiter. And the answer is it doesn’t have this feature. This means that the handlebar turns a full 360 degrees, and there’s always the risk of crashing as a result of the bar turning sharply when least expected.
Having no turning limiter wasn’t a problem at all for our son and for many other kids judging from online reviews from parents.
In fact, being able to steer the handlebar all the way around could be a blessing in disguise for younger riders (2-year-olds). Because these smaller riders can more easily access the handlebars and control the bike better.
- A lightweight yet strong aluminum frame
- Works well for 2-year-olds and older kids
- Not hard to put together using provided tools
- Saddle comfortable and wide enough
- Seat adjusts easily and stand over height is low enough
- Wide inflatable rubber tires that soaks up bumps and cracks well
- Tires could be better — they wear out sooner than you’d expect
- Wheels not spoked as advertised on the product listing
5. Chillafish Charlie Glow: Best Light-up Choice
If you’re out shopping for a 1-2 year old toddler, give the 10″ Chillafish Charlie Glow Balance Bike. I’ve yet to see a toddler’s balance bike with smaller/shorter frame. It may look like some toy, but the frame is metal and not plastic.
I’m not aware of any other bicycle that works better for very young kids. You really don’t want to purchase this for any 3 year old because the bicycle will be too small for them.
This little thing is the lightest bike on my list. Weighing just 5.5 pounds, it’s even lighter than the most popular balance bike here, the 12″ Strider Sport.
But the wheels are plastic, and the tires lightweight foam. At this price point, I didn’t expect metal rims or pneumatic tires, so I can’t honestly say I was disappointed.
Unlike all the other bicycles on my list, the Chillafish Charlie Glow Balance Bike comes with light-up wheels. It’s the plastic “spokes” on this thing that light, but for us only one of the wheels lit up.
I bought this small balance bike for a dear friend’s son who stands all of 2’7” as a birthday. And he really loves the lights on the spokes. I don’t know whether these lights will endure, and I’m not aware that these lights are replaceable down the road.
One thing I love about this little bicycle for 2 year olds and even younger kids is that it’s available in all sorts of colors. I don’t exactly like the beige color on the bike above, and I suppose many toddlers won’t find this color particularly exciting.
Toddlers seem to prefer bolder hues. And there’s a whole slew of energetic colors to choose from including pink, beige, blue, orange, silver, sky blue, and black. It’s highly likely that your son or daughter will find a color that resonates with their personality.
Unlike most balance bikes, this little beginners balance bicycle features nearly flat axle bolts. It’s impossible for these bolts to hurt small calves no matter how awkwardly they might ride.
The saddle adjusts from 11″ to 14.6″ and the simple-looking-but-tough handlebar adjusts from 18.9″ to 20.1″. One thing I’d improve is the way the saddle adjusts. You definitely need some tool to move the seat up or down, which means performing this small task isn’t exactly a cinch.
Here’s one more thing about this small bike: it features a carry handle for easier transportation. The handle is located on the uniquely shaped top tube. I don’t think a balance bike really needs a handle, but it’s a nice-to-have feature.
After a few uses, I noticed that the sticker on the seat post started to come off. Not a big deal even if the entire name disappeared, but it’d have been nice had they done a better job of it.
- A small bike that fits even the youngest kids
- Seat and handlebar adjust to a reasonable extent
- Available in lots of bright colors that kids love
- Nearly flat axle bolts that promote safety
- 10″ wheels with light-up spokes
- An ultra-lightweight steel bike for young children
- Tool needed to move saddle up or down
- Won’t fit kids older than 3
- Most kids need a bigger balance bike before they’re old enough to ride a pedal bike without stabilizers
6. Little Tikes My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike: Most Versatile
Before I tell you about anything else about the Little Tikes My First Balance-to-Pedal Balance Bike, note that it’s 13 pounds heavy.
I noticed that the company behind this product on Amazon says it weighs 9.97 pounds, which isn’t correct. At 13 pounds, it’s the heaviest balance bike I reviewed, but most 3-year-olds shouldn’t face difficulty when lifting it up or pushing off the ground to propel it forward.
The 12″ wheels are made from plastic, and the tires are soft foam. They roll fine on smooth surfaces, but on rougher terrain, the small budding ripper would feel every impact. These wheels wear out pretty fast though.
One thing that sets this bike apart from the others on the list is that it comes pedal-ready. With all the other balance bikes I reviewed, you can’t attach pedals in any shape or form. But the Little Tikes Balance Bike lets you add pedals when your child is ready to transition to pedal bike riding.
All you need to convert the bike from a pedal bike to a balance bike and the other way round is an Allen Wrench. And this tool comes with the bicycle.
As typically happens with balance bikes, the saddle and handlebar on this bike are adjustable. But the seat isn’t the most adjustable I’ve seen. If you’re wondering how much saddle height adjusts, it’s about 5″. To adjust seat height, all you have to do is yank the simple lever on the seat post.
Seat quality? The seat isn’t great. It feels plastic-y and doesn’t seem like it’d last.
I love that this is an easy-to-assemble balance bike, but there’s one thing every parent needs to be aware of. This bike doesn’t work well for very young kids. Most kids younger than 3 years have trouble fitting on this bike.
I bought this for my 2.5 year old nephew, and their feet could barely touch the ground, and I just had to return the thing. I don’t see how anyone younger than 3.5 years could ride this bike comfortably.
It seems that this balance/pedal bike has a serious design flaw. The bike’s geometry seems be a little off. First, the pedals when folded out tend to strike the little rider’s calves when using the bike as a balance bike. The rider needs to stride with the legs placed wide enough to avoid pedal hits.
And when smaller kids use this bike as a pedal bike, they find that the pedal position is awkward. If the child is 2.5 years or younger, the pedals are challenging to rotate because of this awkward pedal placement. When my nephew attempted to revolve the pedals, his knees came all the way up to the chest LOL. Clearly, this bike is for older kids and not the youngest children.
I like the idea of a 2-in-1 balance bike, one that converts from a balance bike to a pedal bike easily. But the design/geometry and fit of this bike isn’t perfect. If you’re buying for 3.5 kids, that’s OK, but this isn’t something a 2-year-old could ride.
And no, this bike doesn’t accept training wheels. The listing states that parents can actually attach stabilizers to this bicycle, but those who tried doing this found this claim is completely untrue.
I recommend this bike with for older kids but with reservations, which means it’s not the best balance bike for kids ever designed. For older kids with better coordination skills and pedaling ability, it’d work.
- Easily converts from a balance bike to a pedal bike
- Seat and handlebar adjusts, but the seat could adjust more
- Easy to operate seat adjustment lever
- A sturdy steel frame that withstands abuse
- Pedals fold in for use as a balance bike and out to allow use as a pedal bike
- Heavy bike, not ideal for very young kids
- Wheels not ideal for rough terrain
- Wheels wear out rather fast
- Plastic-y saddle with questionable durability
When buying a balance bike for a kid, choose a solidly built option that features decent quality and lightweight components. Make sure that the step-in-height is low enough to allow even the shortest of tykes to easily get on and off the bicycle.
You really don’t need brakes unless your little one will mostly ride down steep slopes. Nor is a footrest or steering limiter needed, but if they’re well-designed, they’re really nice to have. The same goes for a basket on the front, shrill bell, air-filled tires, and light-up wheels.
As for price, be ready with a $120-$200 budget, but there’s always a decent sub-$100 budget pick.
Did any of the balance bikes on the list above interest you? If yes, grab the pick, hand a good bike helmet and pads to your kid, and be patient until they evolve into the pro they really are.
I'm Esther Moni, a proud stay-at-home mom and a psychology graduate of the United States International University (USIU) . I hate it when anyone calls me a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires me to no end, but I still manage a smile at the end of it all. And when my boys aren't done doing mischief, I juggle writing a post on parenting or baby gear performance for this blog and running my little counselling office based out in Nairobi. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/esther.moni/">Visit my Facebook profile here</a>, and this is my <a href="https://ke.linkedin.com/in/esther-moni-3841b573/">LinkedIn profile</a>, and here's my <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcVb3NNDrURDH8C0KiAE1g/">nascent youtube channel.