The 5 Best Balance Bikes for Your 3 to 5 Year Old
Most balance bikes are designed for toddlers, but what about preschoolers? It may be tempting to put your 4 year old on a pedal bike with training wheels, but if they haven’t yet mastered the balance bike, you are doing them a disservice. A balance bike will develop the bike handling skills they need to master a pedal bike (sans training wheels), and bolster their confidence without the frustration and tears associated with pushing a child to a pedal bike too soon.
What to Look For
There are specific things to look for when shopping for a balance bike for your 3 or 4 (or even 5) year old. Obviously the bike itself should be bigger than what you would buy for a toddler, but you should also look for these features when buying a bike for a preschooler.
Pneumatic (Air) Tires
I prefer pneumatic (aka air) tires over foam or plastic tires for all ages, even toddlers. That said, toddlers can often get by safely without them. A 4-year-old, on the other hand, is far more aggressive and will ride faster than a toddler. Because pneumatic tires provide superior traction, they are safer when being ridden on grass, gravel, or off jumps.
By around age 3, kids develop the eye-hand coordination required to use a handbrake. It is also around this age that kids start riding fast enough that they will literally rip the toes off their shoes using them as brakes. For this reason, I strongly recommend buying a balance bike with a handbrake. Just make sure it is an appropriately-sized, easy-to-pull lever; some bikes have better brakes than others. Also, by introducing kids to brakes while they are still on a balance bike, they will have the skill and ability to use them when they transfer to a pedal bike.
Kids this age will do best on a 14” or 16” balance bike, although I’ve also included a few 12” bikes with larger frames and higher maximum seat heights. Balance bike sizes refer to the wheel size, not the frame size. Before buying a bike for your child, make sure to measure their inseam. You want their inseam to be at least as long as the minimum seat height of the bike, and 2” less than the maximum seat height so that they have room to grow. Use the comparison chart at the bottom of this post for minimum and maximum seat heights for each of our recommended bikes.
While I always encourage parents to spend as much as they can realistically afford on their kids bikes, it’s a bit tougher to make that argument for a balance bike when your child is already 4 or 5. They won’t be on the bike for that long before they are ready for a pedal bike. If you can find one of the bikes on this list used, snatch it up! If you can justify paying full price for the LikeaBike Jumper, you wont be sorry. On the other hand, the Stampede Charger is a totally decent bike too and won’t cost you an arm and a leg (only a hand or two).
I’m usually less concerned about weight when it comes to an athletic 4 year old than I am about a tiny toddler. That said, a lighter weight bike is still going to be easier to maneuver and faster to ride for kids of all ages. When looking for a balance bike for your 5 year old, pick a bike that weighs about 13 pounds or less. If your little one is only 3 or is particularly petite, then choose something even lighter. The LikeaBike Jumper, for instance, is a mere 7.5 pounds.
The Best Balance Bikes for Your 3 to 5 Year Old
Ridgeback Scoot XL
The Scoot XL comes with two seatposts to allow for growth, and an extra-wide adjustable handlebar that is perfect for athletic preschoolers. The durable aluminum frame comes in several bright, attractive colors, and is durable enough to last through several hand-me-downs. Although the Scoot is middle-of-the-road when it comes to price, it comes with all the extras– a bell, internally-routed cable housings, and rear v-brake.
Buy: $199 at Amazon.com
The Stampede-brand bikes are always my first recommendation for cost-conscious parents. For the value, these bikes are the best bang for your buck. The Stampede Charger is a 16” balance bike that comes with beefy pneumatic tires, an easy-to-pull hand brake, and lightweight aluminum frame.
Buy: $147 at Amazon.com
If your kiddo plans to take their balance bike to the bike park, BMX track, or mountain bike trail—the LikeaBike Jumper should be your top choice. The Jumper is unique in that it is the only bike on this list that has a shock, which makes it perfect for—you guessed it—jumping. Even once your kiddo has moved on to a pedal bike, they’ll want to keep this one around for play.
Buy: $299 at Amazon.com
While this bike actually has 12” wheels, the frame is large enough that I still recommend it for older kids. Knobby tires allow it to be ridden in mud, on the grass, or across gravel. The adjustable brake lever is also a nice touch. The max seat height (19”) is a little lower than the other bikes on this list, so keep that in mind.
Buy: $179 at WeeBikeShop.com
Early Rider Trail Runner XL
Beautiful bikes shouldn’t be reserved from grown-ups. The breathtaking Trail Runner with its faux-leather saddle and hand-brushed aluminum frame is sure to garner attention wherever you take it. Fortunately, the bike’s components are as good as its looks. The Trial Runner boasts sealed cartridge bearings, Kenda tires, and an integrated threadless headset. The only thing lacking is a hand brake.
Still not sure which bike is best for your child? Here’s how they stack up.
(Note: You may have to view on a desktop computer to see all columns).
|Bike||Wheel Size||Price||Seat Height||Suggested Age||Frame Material||Tire Type||Bike weight||Brake?||Multiple colors|
|TykesBykes Charger||16″||$160||16″-23″||4-6 years old||Aluminum||Air||13 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Ridgeback Scoot XL||14″||$200||21″-26″||4-8 years old||Aluminum||Air||12.5 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Early Rider Trail Runner XL||14″||$230||14.5-19.5″||3-5 years||Aluminum||Air||8.5 lbs||No||No|
|Saracen Freewheel||12″||$199||13″-17″||2-4 years||Aluminum||Air||10.5 lbs||Yes||No|
|LikeaBike Jumper||12″||$299||13.5″-18.5″||2-5 years||Aluminum||Air||7.5 lbs||Yes||No|