The Ultimate Guide to Balance Bikes (And Comparison Chart)

Ultimate Guide to Balance Bikes

If you are the parent (or grandparent) to a to toddler or preschooler, no doubt you’ve become aware of the omnipresent balance bike!  It’s not uncommon to see a balance bike every time you go to the playground, take a walk around the neighborhood, or head to a play date.

In this guide, I’ve tried to outline everything you need to know about a balance bike, whether you are totally new to bikes or an experienced cyclist.  For newbies, I start off with an explanation of balance bikes and why they are so popular, and then delve into everything you need to know to choose the best balance bike for your child.  You can pick a bike from my “best of” lists or use the comprehensive comparison part.

Now go ahead and clean up that spilled milk and get the kiddo a new snack, and then read on.

What is a balance bike?

Balance bikes, also known as push bikes or run bikes, are pedal-less bicycles designed for young kids.  As soon as kids can walk and have decent motor skills (generally around 18 months), they can start on a balance bike.  These bikes are different than tricycles in that they have two wheels, and are intended as real bicycles as opposed to toys.

Why choose a balance bike?

There are a couple reasons that balance bikes have become so popular.  For one, they allow very young toddlers to start biking.  When kids start on a balance bike at 18 months old, they are often able to pedal (without training wheels by 2.5 or 3 years old)!  They also help toddlers and preschoolers to develop gross motor skills.

Another reason that balance bikes are so great is that unlike a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels, balance bikes allow kids to ride long distances around the neighborhood, or even off-road on a dirt singletrack or BMX track.  It is not unusual to see young kids developing very impressive bike handling skills on their balance bikes.

Finally, for kids of any age, balance bikes do what their name implies—they teach balance!  You may well remember trying to learn to ride as a child.  Your parents probably took off your training wheels and then held onto your bike as they ran around the neighborhood with you.  Crashes and tears ensued.  Most kids who learn to ride on a balance bike skip the training wheels all together, and when they do transition to a pedal bike—they already know how to balance and ride.  No crashes or tears (or at least not many).

For more on this topic, read my post, Benefits of a Balance Bike: 7 Reasons Why Your Toddler Needs One Now.

The Best Balance Bikes

So now that you’re convinced that your child needs a balance bike, it is time to pick one.  If you want to skip the information overload, buy one of these bikes, and you won’t be sorry.  No further research required.

If on the other hand, you are the kind of person who likes to research everything (I’m like this too), read on.

Things to Consider When Shopping for a Balance Bike

If you’re not intimately familiar with balance bikes, it is hard to know what you should be looking for.  Why are some bikes more expensive than others?  Are the ma

Balance Bike Tires

If you can afford it, we always recommend choosing a balance bike with pneumatic (air) tires. Air tires provide significantly better traction and allow kids to ride their bike in varied terrain—thru gravel, on dirt, and across the lawn. This might be less important for an 18-month old who is riding around the house or on the patio—but remember, they will want to venture out sooner than you realize. On the flip side, the one big advantage of foam tires is that they will never go flat. For folks that don’t want to mess around with bike maintenance, this can be a big plus.

Balance Bike Wheel Size

Wheel size is a basic indicator of how large a balance bike is going to be. The smaller the wheels, the smaller the bike.   A better indicator of sizing however, is the seat height.

Balance Bike Seat Height

You want to make sure your child’s inseam is at least as long as the minimum seat height. A bike that is too big will only frustrate and discourage your child. Bikes with highly adjustable seat heights mean that the bike can grow with your child as well.

Frame material

No one frame material is best–they each have their own advantages. Steel is a traditional material for bicycles, and is known for being strong and durable (something that’s important when we’re talking about toddlers). Aluminum is lightweight and has the look and feel of a “real” grown-up bicycle.  Wood is both environmentally-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. And composite frames are ideal for those looking for a lightweight bike that is also easy to clean and maintain.

Brakes

Before the age of 3 or 4, most kids are not going to have the eye-hand coordination required to operate a hand brake. Young toddlers generally do just fine stopping with their feet. After that, however, a brake becomes increasingly important (and can save the soles of a lot of shoes).

Bike weight

Generally, a lighter weight bike is going to be preferable to a heavier one. This is especially true for very young kids (1 and 2 years old). In all cases, a lighter bike is easier to maneuver and manage.

Price

Any bike is better than no bike. Expect to spend $100 to $150 to get a good quality bike—one that will last a while, be safe, and will ride well for your kiddo. For bikes above $150, you get extra bells and whistles which can vary from special colors to carbon-fiber handlebars to extra-beefy tires.

Balance Bike Comparison Chart

There are A LOT of balance bikes on the market.  Here is a comprehensive comparison chart that shows how they all stack up.  The bikes are sorted by age first and then by price.  In cases where we’ve done a full written review of a bike, we’ve linked to the review; otherwise we’ve linked to where you can purchase the bike.

(Note: this chart is best viewed on a desktop computer.  If you are on a mobile device, try turning it sideways (landscape view).

BikeWheel SizePriceSuggested AgeSeat HeightFrame MaterialTire TypeBike weightBrake?Multiple colors
12 months +
Wishbone 2-in-1 Original12″$19912 months – 5 years11″-18″WoodAirNoNo
18 months +
Strider Classic12″$9018 months – 5 years11″-16″SteelFoam6.7 lbsNoYes
Haro Z1010″$10918 months- 2 years11″-17″SteelFoam8.8 lbsNoNo
Strider Sport 1212″$11918 months – 5 years11″-16″SteelFoam6.7 lbsNoYes
Eastern Bikes Pusher$13012″18 months- 4 years10.75″-17″AluminumFoam4.6 lbsNoYes
FirstBike Basic12″$13018 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years12″-18″CompositeAir7.7 lbsYesNo
Cruzee12″$14918 months – 4 years12″-18″AluminumFoam4.2 lbsNoYes
Early Rider Lite12″$15018 months – 3.5 years11.6″-15″WoodAir7 lbsNoNo
Yedoo Too Too12″$15918 months – 3 years12″-18″SteelAir8.4 lbsYesYes
FirstBike Street12″$16018 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years12″-18″CompositeAir7.7 lbsYesYes
FirstBike Cross12″$16018 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years12″-18″CompositeAir7.7 lbsYesYes
Strider Pro12″$16918 months – 5 years11″-16″AluminumFoam5.3 lbsNoNo
FirstBike Racing12″$18018 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years12″-18″CompositeAir7.7 lbsYesYes
Woom 112″$19918 months – 3 years10.8″-15.7″Aluminum
/Steel
Air7.7 lbsYesYes
Islabike Rothan12″$19918 months – 3 years11.5″-15.5″AluminumAir7.7 lbsYesYes
2 years +
Glide Mini Glider12″992 – 4 years12” – 17.5”AluminumAir8 lbsYesYes
Muna12″$1102-4 years13″-18″SteelAir11.8 lbsYesYes
Burley MyKick12″$1192-3 years12.5″-15.5″SteelAir11 lbsNoYes
Stampede Scamper12″$1302 years – 4 years12.5″-17.5″AluminumAir10 lbsYesYes
Haro Z1212″$1392.5 – 4 years12.5″-18″SteelAir11 lbsNoYes
Kiddimoto Super Max Junior12″$1402 – 4 years13.4” – 17.7”AluminumAir9 lbsYesYes
Yedoo Too Too12″$1592-4 years12″ – 18.1″SteelAir8.5 lbsYesYes
Specialized Hotwalk12″$1702-4 years13.5″-17″AluminumAir8 lbsNoYes
Early Rider Classic12″ (rear), 14″ (front)$1752-4.5 years12″ -15.3″WoodAir10 lbsNoNo
Frog Tadpole12″$1892- 3 years13.3″- 16.5″AluminumAir9.2 lbsYesYes
Cleary Starish12″$1992-4 years12″-17″SteelAir11 lbsYesYes
Saracen Freewheel12″$1992-4 years13″-17″AluminumAir10.5 lbsYesNo
Early Rider Alley Runner12″$2102-4 years13.8″-17.8″AluminumAir7.9 lbsNoNo
Bixbi Bikes12″$2102-5 years13.8″-18.9″AluminumAir7.4 lbsNoYes
Little Big12″$2332-4 years14″-18″AluminumAir11.2 lbsYesYes
Ridgeback Dimensions 1212″$2992-5 years14″-20″AluminumAir8.95 lbsYesYes
LIKEaBIKE Jumper12″$2992- 5 years13.4″-18.5″AluminumAir7.5 lbsNoYes
3 years +
Kundo Ultralight12″$1293.5-4.5 years14.5″-17″AluminumAir7.1 lbsNoYes
Early Rider Evo14″$1753-6 years15″-18″WoodAir10.5 lbsNoNo
Ridgeback Scoot 12″12″$1803-6 years old16″-22″AluminumAir11.2 lbsYesYes
Ridgeback Dimensions 1414″$2993-6 years16″-22″AluminumAir9.95 lbsYesYes
4 years +
Stampede Charger16″$1394-6 years old16″-23″AluminumAir13 lbsYesYes
Ridgeback Scoot XL14″$2004-8 years old21″-26″AluminumAir12.5  lbsYesYes
Early Rider Alley Runner14″$2104-6 years14.7-19.5″AluminumAir7.9 lbsNoNo
Older
Strider Sport 1616″$2496-12 years19.5″-25.5″SteelAir7.7 lbsYesYes