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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
|Bike||Wheel Size||Price||Suggested Age||Seat Height||Frame Material||Tire Type||Bike weight||Brake?||Multiple colors|
|12 months +|
|Wishbone 2-in-1 Original||12″||$199||12 months – 5 years||11″-18″||Wood||Air||No||No|
|18 months +|
|Strider Classic||12″||$90||18 months – 5 years||11″-16″||Steel||Foam||6.7 lbs||No||Yes|
|Haro Z10||10″||$109||18 months- 2 years||11″-17″||Steel||Foam||8.8 lbs||No||No|
|Strider Sport 12||12″||$119||18 months – 5 years||11″-16″||Steel||Foam||6.7 lbs||No||Yes|
|Eastern Bikes Pusher||$130||12″||18 months- 4 years||10.75″-17″||Aluminum||Foam||4.6 lbs||No||Yes|
|FirstBike Basic||12″||$130||18 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years||12″-18″||Composite||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||No|
|Cruzee||12″||$149||18 months – 4 years||12″-18″||Aluminum||Foam||4.2 lbs||No||Yes|
|Early Rider Lite||12″||$150||18 months – 3.5 years||11.6″-15″||Wood||Air||7 lbs||No||No|
|Yedoo Too Too||12″||$159||18 months – 3 years||12″-18″||Steel||Air||8.4 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|FirstBike Street||12″||$160||18 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years||12″-18″||Composite||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|FirstBike Cross||12″||$160||18 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years||12″-18″||Composite||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Strider Pro||12″||$169||18 months – 5 years||11″-16″||Aluminum||Foam||5.3 lbs||No||No|
|FirstBike Racing||12″||$180||18 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years||12″-18″||Composite||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Woom 1||12″||$199||18 months – 3 years||10.8″-15.7″||Aluminum|
|Islabike Rothan||12″||$199||18 months – 3 years||11.5″-15.5″||Aluminum||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|2 years +|
|Glide Mini Glider||12″||99||2 – 4 years||12” – 17.5”||Aluminum||Air||8 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Muna||12″||$110||2-4 years||13″-18″||Steel||Air||11.8 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Burley MyKick||12″||$119||2-3 years||12.5″-15.5″||Steel||Air||11 lbs||No||Yes|
|Stampede Scamper||12″||$130||2 years – 4 years||12.5″-17.5″||Aluminum||Air||10 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Haro Z12||12″||$139||2.5 – 4 years||12.5″-18″||Steel||Air||11 lbs||No||Yes|
|Kiddimoto Super Max Junior||12″||$140||2 – 4 years||13.4” – 17.7”||Aluminum||Air||9 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Yedoo Too Too||12″||$159||2-4 years||12″ – 18.1″||Steel||Air||8.5 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Specialized Hotwalk||12″||$170||2-4 years||13.5″-17″||Aluminum||Air||8 lbs||No||Yes|
|Early Rider Classic||12″ (rear), 14″ (front)||$175||2-4.5 years||12″ -15.3″||Wood||Air||10 lbs||No||No|
|Frog Tadpole||12″||$189||2- 3 years||13.3″- 16.5″||Aluminum||Air||9.2 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Cleary Starish||12″||$199||2-4 years||12″-17″||Steel||Air||11 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Saracen Freewheel||12″||$199||2-4 years||13″-17″||Aluminum||Air||10.5 lbs||Yes||No|
|Early Rider Alley Runner||12″||$210||2-4 years||13.8″-17.8″||Aluminum||Air||7.9 lbs||No||No|
|Bixbi Bikes||12″||$210||2-5 years||13.8″-18.9″||Aluminum||Air||7.4 lbs||No||Yes|
|Little Big||12″||$233||2-4 years||14″-18″||Aluminum||Air||11.2 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Ridgeback Dimensions 12||12″||$299||2-5 years||14″-20″||Aluminum||Air||8.95 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|LIKEaBIKE Jumper||12″||$299||2- 5 years||13.4″-18.5″||Aluminum||Air||7.5 lbs||No||Yes|
|3 years +|
|Kundo Ultralight||12″||$129||3.5-4.5 years||14.5″-17″||Aluminum||Air||7.1 lbs||No||Yes|
|Early Rider Evo||14″||$175||3-6 years||15″-18″||Wood||Air||10.5 lbs||No||No|
|Ridgeback Scoot 12″||12″||$180||3-6 years old||16″-22″||Aluminum||Air||11.2 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Ridgeback Dimensions 14||14″||$299||3-6 years||16″-22″||Aluminum||Air||9.95 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|4 years +|
|Stampede Charger||16″||$139||4-6 years old||16″-23″||Aluminum||Air||13 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Ridgeback Scoot XL||14″||$200||4-8 years old||21″-26″||Aluminum||Air||12.5 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Early Rider Alley Runner||14″||$210||4-6 years||14.7-19.5″||Aluminum||Air||7.9 lbs||No||No|
|Strider Sport 16||16″||$249||6-12 years||19.5″-25.5″||Steel||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|