The 5 Best Balance Bikes for Toddlers
I have seen time and time again the enormous benefit of starting kids on balance bikes early. Toddlers who begin on a balance bike at 18 months are likely to be pedaling by 2.5 or 3 years old. My own son began riding a Haro Balance Bike around 14 months old, started tentatively pedaling at 2.5, and then was flying by 3. He’ll never know or experience the fear and tears and blood associated with learning to ride a pedal bike like I did as a kid! If you’re still not sold on balance bikes, I suggest reading this article: Benefits of a Balance Bike: 7 Reasons Your Toddler Needs One Now.
The bikes on this list are chosen specifically for toddlers (not pre-schoolers). They will fit even the tiniest riders (starting around 18 months) and will grow with them for a few years until they’ve launched to a pedal bike. If you have a 3 or 4 year old and are just now looking at getting a balance bike, consider a choice from this list instead.
The 5 Best Balance Bikes for Toddlers
No matter the age, Woom bikes are as nice as they come. The Woom 1, the smallest bike in the Woom line-up, is truly top-notch. If you can afford it, there is no doubt that this bike will perform for your little one. The upright geometry and long wheel base make this bike stable and easy to cruise on. And at a mere 8 pounds this bike is super light making it easily maneuverable for very young children.
Strider has managed to so dominate the balance bike market, many people use the word “Strider” and balance bike interchangeably. The Sport version will last from 18 months to 5 years and comes with an extended seatpost and a quick-release to make seat adjustments easy.
Read my full review of the Strider.
This bike doesn’t have all the bells and whistles and safety features that some of the other bikes o n this list have, but it holds a special place in my heart as it was my son’s first real bike (he did have a pre-bike first). The Haro is the only bike on this list with 10” wheels, and the small wheels and tiny frame make it very manageable for particularly small children. My son was 14 months old when he got this bike for Christmas, and we recently handed it down to another little boy who was too small for a Strider.
Read my full review of the Haro PreWheelz 10.
FirstBike ($160) with lowering kit ($13)
With the growing popularity of balance bikes, the market has been flooded with new brands in the last few years. Even with all these new entrants, the FirstBike is the one balance bike that still stands out for its uniqueness. The composite frame is safe, soft, and durable. For toddlers, you will need the lowering kit that is sold separately, but that makes this an ideal “first bike.”
Like Woom, Islabikes is another company that has specialized in making fantastic bicycles for all ages of children. While pricey, these bicycles have quite the following and always sell well on Craiglist (something to keep in mind if the pricetag makes you bristle). The minimum seat height on this bike is a bit higher than others (11.5”) so if you have a particularly tiny child, keep that in mind.
The best thing about the Cruzee is how good it looks. The beautiful anodized frame comes in multiple fun, bright colors. At 4.4 pounds, the Cruzee is as light as they come, making it ideal for particularly petite children.
For parents on a budget, the Mini Glider is a solid choice. Unlike most balance bikes at this price point, it has pneumatic (air) tires and a handbrake.
No balance bike list would be complete without an eco-friendly wooden frame. Made of marine-grade birch, this bike is just a beautiful as a nursery decoration as it is fun to ride. With high quality parts and a 100 pound weight limit, this bike is sure to last for years (in your garage, not a landfill)!
So how do all these bikes stack up? Use this handy chart to compare price, weight, seat height, etc. For more information on each category and on what’s important, continue reading below.
|Manufacturer||Model||Wheel Size||Price||Suggested Age||Seat Height||Frame Material||Tire Type||Bike weight||Brake?||Multiple colors?|
|Glide||Mini Glider||12″||$84||18 months – 4 years||12″-17.5″||Aluminum||Air||8 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Haro||PreeWheelz 10||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|
|Cruzee||12″||$160||18 months – 4 years||12″-18″||Aluminum||Foam||4.2 lbs||No||Yes|
|Early Rider||Lite||12″||$140||18 months – 3.5 years||11.6″-15″||Wood||Air||7 lbs||No||No|
|FirstBike||Street||12″||$160||18 months (with lowering kit) – 3 years||12″-18″||Composite||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Woom||Woom1||12″||$199||18 months – 3 years||10.8″-15.7″||Aluminum||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Islabikes||Rothan||12″||$199||18 months – 3 years||11.5″-15.5″||Aluminum||Air||7.7 lbs||Yes||Yes|
How to Choose
Weight is a crucial deciding factor for bikes for kids of all ages, but is even more important when we are talking about the 2 and under crowd. Toddlers who are just learning get frustrated easily, and the lighter weight the bike is, the more likely there are to succeed in their efforts (without a temper tantrum). When comparing two bikes of the same price, pick the lighter one.
At 18 months, toddlers do NOT have the coordination required to use a handbrake. At this point, their feet work just fine as a brake. For that reason, I do not make a handbrake a big deciding factor when choosing balance bikes for toddlers. That said, by 2.5 to 3 years old, kids begin to be able to use the handbrake and it is good practice for children getting ready to transition to a pedal bike. So, if you plan on your child using this bike for several years, consider buying one with a handbrake.
The younger and smaller your child, the more important the minimum seat height. If you put a child on a bike that is too big for them, they are inevitably going to crash, get hurt, and become quickly frustrated. Before buying a bike, measure their inseam and choose a bike with a minimum seat height no larger than their inseam. At this age, kids need to be able to put their feet flat on the ground when seated.
Plan on spending a minimum of $100 for a balance bike. If that is outside of your budget, consider searching on Craigslist or asking friends about buying a used bike. A decent used balance bike is generally a better choice than an inferior cheap balance bike. If price isn’t an issue (thanks Grandma and Grandpa!), then go straight for the Woom 1 or Islabikes Rothan. You won’t be sorry.
You have two options when it comes to balance bike tires: foam/plastic or pneumatic (air). The foam or plastic tires are nice in that they never go flat (woohoo!), but my preference is always the pneumatic (air) tires. Why? Because they offer superior traction when riding on grass, dirt, and gravel. While this may not be that important at 18 months when your toddler is likely to be riding on the driveway or even the kitchen, you’ll be surprised how quickly they become more adventurous and daring.