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5 Best Balance Bikes for Your 3 to 5 Year Old

saracen freewheel balance bike off-road

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.

Here is a list of our favorite balance bikes for 3, 4, and 5-year-olds, as well as some tips on how to choose the best bike for YOUR child.


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.

sarcen freewheel balance bike

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.

Hand brake

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.

Kiddimoto Super Junior Max hand brake

Wheel Size

Kids this age will do best on a 14” 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. You might also want to check out our post (and video) on kids bike sizing.

Price

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 won’t be sorry.

Another option if you are feeling a bit hesitant about spending money on a balance bike is to buy a convertible balance bike. These bikes convert from a balance bike to a pedal bike once your child is ready. If this sounds of interest to you, check out our list of the best convertible balance bikes.

Finally, you may also consider buying an appropriately sized pedal bike and then (temporarily) remove the pedals.  In this way kids can still learn to scoot and balance without training wheels, but you don’t have to worry about the cost of buying a balance bike now and a pedal bike later. 

If you decide you want to go this route, see our list of the best pedal bikes for 3 and 4 year olds.

Weight

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.

woom 1 plus size

5 Best Balance Bikes For 3, 4, and 5 Year Olds

These are what we consider the BEST balance bikes for preschoolers. Before you leave an angry message that these are too expensive, see my note above on alternatives, or check out the GOMO, Banana Bike GT, or Vitus Nippy on our list of the Best Budget Bikes Under $100.

BikeWhat We LovePrice
1Woom 1 PlusLightweight, high-quality build$269
2Ridgeback Scoot XLBright colors, wide handlebar$225
3Frog Tadpole PlusBrand-name components$260
4Kokua LikeABike JumperBuilt for aggressive / off-road riding$329
5Early Rider Trail Runner XLBrushed aluminum frame $249.00 *
*Amazon price last updated: 2020-08-14 at 22:56 – More Info)

Woom 1 Plus

woom 1 plus balance bike

Long fans of the smaller Woom 1, we were super excited when Woom announced the release of their new larger sized balance bike–the Woom 1 Plus–for preschoolers.  This balance bike has it all: color-coded dual handbrakes, a “surf board” for coasting, quick-release seatpost collar, removable steering limiter, and more. 

The bike has a 132-pound rider weight limit which means it can take any abuse your 3-year-old can throw at it (and mom can probably play on it too).

Read Our Review: Woom 1 Plus

Price: $269


Ridgeback Scoot XL

Ridgeback Scoot XL balance bike

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.

Price: $225


Frog Tadpole Plus

frog tadpole plus

The Frog Tadpole is one of our fave bikes for tiny riders, and it’s sister bike, the Tadpole Plus, is one of our favorites for older riders.  Designed for the preschool crowd, this 14″ balance bike is ready to roll! 

It has high-quality components including a Tektro v-brake and Kenda tires.  We also appreciate the quick release that makes seat height adjustments easy.

Price: $260


LikeaBike Jumper

LIKEaBIKE Jumper balance bike

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.

Price: $329


Sacaren Freewheel

Sacaren Freewheel Balance Bike

While this bike actually has 12” wheels, the frame is large enough that I still recommend it for older kids.  Made by a popular UK mountain bike manufacturer, this is a REAL bike. 

High volume pneumatic (air) tires, wide handlebars, and a real v-brake make this bike a good choice for kids who like to venture off-road.  It can handle grass, mud, gravel, and dirt with ease.  The max seat height (19”) is a little lower than the other bikes on this list, so keep that in mind.

Read Our Review: Saracen Freewheel

Price:$200


Early Rider Trail Runner XL

Beautiful bikes shouldn’t be reserved for grown-ups.  The breathtaking Early Rider Trail Runner with its faux-leather saddle and a hand-brushed aluminum frame is sure to garner attention wherever you take it. 

Fortunately, the bike’s components are as good as it’s looks.  The Trial Runner boasts sealed cartridge bearings, Kenda tires, and an integrated threadless headset.  The only thing lacking is a handbrake.

Price: $249.00 (Last updated: 2020-08-14 at 22:56 – More Info)


Comparison Chart

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).

BikeWheel SizePrice Seat HeightSuggested AgeFrame MaterialTire TypeBike weightBrake?Multiple colors
Woom 1 Plus14″$26914.8″-18.5″3-5 years oldAluminumAir9.8 lbsYesYes
Frog Tadpole Plus14″$26015″-20″3-5 years oldAluminumAir9.2 lbsYesYes
Ridgeback Scoot XL14″$22516″-22″3-6 years oldAluminumAir12.5  lbsYesYes
Early Rider Trail Runner XL14″ $249.00 (Last updated: 2020-08-14 at 22:56 – More Info)14.5-19.5″3-5 yearsAluminumAir8.5 lbsNoNo
Saracen Freewheel12″$20013″-17″2-4 yearsAluminumAir10.5 lbsYesNo
LikeaBike Jumper12″$29913.5″-18.5″2-5 yearsAluminumAir7.5 lbsYesNo

Learn More About Balance Bikes

21 thoughts on “5 Best Balance Bikes for Your 3 to 5 Year Old”

  1. Hi! I found your site looking for info on bikes for my son, and I really appreciate how much you share. I wondered if you have any suggestions for my situation: My son is almost 5, but for various reasons we never got him started on a balance bike. Now he really wants a bike (and is convinced, in that magical 4 1/2 year old way, that he already knows how to ride one) and he’s adamant that a balance bike is not okay. I don’t really want to buy a balance bike for less than a year’s use, so if there are ways to make a pedal bike work, that would be my preference. What do you think of the advice to get a pedal bike and remove the pedals until the child gets the hang of balancing and braking? Are there any pitfalls to that idea? Or do you have any other suggestions I might not be aware of? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Diana,

      I would recommend exactly what you’ve suggested. Use a pedal bike and remove the cranks/pedals for a little while until he gets the hang of balancing and coasting. At this age, it doesn’t take them too long, especially if they are an athletic kid.

      The only thing to keep in mind is that the seat height will need to be a little lower so that his feet can be flat on the ground. (For pedaling, kids can have the seat a couple inches higher). So, you might need to buy a slightly smaller bike than you would for a kid who is transitioning from a balance bike. Just make sure his inseam is as long as the minimum seat height for the bike you are choosing.

      Cheers,
      KB

      Reply
  2. Awesome article! My son is very tall, he is only 3 but wears a size 5T and is 43.5″ tall with a 17″ inseam. So I had a hard time finding a bike that fits him. Thanks to your article I was able to find the perfect bike for him–The Schoot XL! Thanks again.

    Reply
  3. Thank you so much for doing so much work on this and putting this article out

    for all of us. I have a 2 and half year old child. Should I go for the toddler one or one for the 3 to 5 year old. She is good sized child and is athletic but has not been on a bike so far. She has good balancing sense.

    Reply
    • Hi Sunadra,
      Chances are, she’d be best served by one of the balance bikes on our “Toddler” list. But the best way to know for sure is to measure her inseam and then compare it to the minimum seatpost heights listed in the comparison chart. Pick a bike that has a minimum height slightly less than her current inseam to get the best fit and to make sure it grows with her for a while.
      Cheers,
      KB

      Reply
  4. Hi,
    Can you recommend any bikes in the $100 range, or do we really need to pay $200? Our son is 3 and a half so I don’t see him using this for very long…
    Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Hi, my daughter is turning 4. She’s great on scooter but never been on bike. We really should have introduced her to balance bike earlier. However we’re ready for a bike and I love the logic of the balanced bike vs training wheels. I am confident she wont be on balances bike for too long. What are the drawbacks with pedal bike with the pedals removed? I have heard that they tend to be much heavier then the balance bike and harder for inbetween to handle. Anything else ?? Thanks so much for your post.

    Reply
    • Most of the time with the pedals removed the bike is still really heavy, and sometimes the cranks get in the way. Most folks aren’t up for completely removing the crank set. I think this method works best for bigger kids and for kids who already used a balance bike. Your kid actually might be the rare kid who is the ideal age for the Little-Big convertible bike as she’d probably get a couple years of use. It’s by far the best of the convertible options out there, available on preorder to arrive next month right now. https://www.littlebigbikes.com/shop/
      If she’s a bigger and confident kid then you’d probably do just fine getting a higher quality lightweight pedal bike like Woom and starting out with pedals removed. Or look around from friends or craigslist to borrow a balance bike or get a cheap one–quality is going to be less important if it’s just a short term learn to balance use.

      Reply
    • Hi Tram,
      Balance bikes have geometry that’s designed specifically for scooting rather than pedaling. And the weight will be less for an equivalent quality bike. A balance bike will feel more “sporty.” For this reason, I’d always recommend a balance bike for toddlers and/or parents for whom budget isn’t an issue.

      That said, if your kiddo is athletic and you don’t want to spend the money on two bikes, I wouldn’t think twice about just taking the pedals off a pedal bike. Will it be harder to handle? A little–but not enough that it’s going to be a problem or turn her off from biking.

      My two cents. Good luck!
      KB

      Reply
  6. Hi! I love your site and your thoughtful advice. I was about to go with your top pick for balance bike and order the Woom Plus for my tall, athletic 2 year old son (37”) but they are out of stock and can’t find any. I would love to know if you would recommend the zoom 2 and removing pedals or going with another top 5 choice on your balance bike list.

    Reply
    • Oh man, that’s a tough one! I would be tempted to go straight to the Woom 2 with pedals removed, especially since you say he’s athletic–which means he could start pedaling soon. If you’re feeling budget conscious, I’d go that route.

      That said, if budget isn’t an issue for you OR if you have (or will have) a younger sibling to hand it down to, you might still want to go with the balance bike. A true balance bike is a little lighter and has geometry better suited for scooting/gliding. Also, even once kids learn to pedal, they often have fun using the balance bike for a long time more….(My 7 year old still has fun riding a balance bike around the house).

      Hope that helps a little bit!
      KB

      Reply
  7. What a great site to read up on kids bikes. Thanks Kels and Kristin for your comment. Makes lots of sense, I want to start of right and let her have fun and built confidence. Decided to get a balance bike, the ridgeback scoot which is up there but on sale for almost half the price so it is worth it even if short live. Otherwise would really go for the Zoom , maybe once she graduates to pedal. Thanks again for your insightful comments.

    Reply
  8. I just want to say thank you for your whole site! Super informative and really helped us make a decision for our 3 year old’s first bike. We found a used Scoot balance bike and will probably get a new Guardian Ethos when she’s ready for pedaling.

    Reply
  9. Hi, my daughter has been using the Haro PreWheelz 10 inch since before she was 2. She is almost 3.5, she glides pretty well, and wants a pedal bike, but not sure if I should get a second bigger balance bike for the air brakes, or get her onto a pedal bike with the air brakes. When I measure her inseam she is about 14, and when I measure her seat height its about 14 to 15 on the current bike. What do you recommend after the Haro?

    Reply
    • Hi Chaim,
      If she’s been on a balance bike for that long, I’m sure she is ready for a pedal bike! Start with the pedals off to let her feel comfortable on the bike, and then add them back. She’ll be pedaling in no time.

      Reply
  10. My 7 year old son is thin and on the short side. He has always preferred a scooter but is now interested in learning to ride a bike. Should he still start with a balance bike over a pedal bike?

    Reply
  11. My 3.5-year-old has been on a balance bike only since he was about 1.8. He really does shred on the balance bike and even pops really small jumps. he’s now so good at it he doesn’t even want to air a pedal bike. It’s great to travel on bike rides with him now! I do have an issue though: after a mile roughly, he starts to complain a few sore butt and tired legs. I tell him with a pedal bike he wouldn’t need to work as hard and will go faster and longer, but the pedal bike is “harder” for him and he doesn’t prefer it in the slightest degree. I’m sure eventually he will want to create the change on his own, but he’s so ready and just doesn’t are aware of it. does one have any tips about a way to transition to pedals? Or should I just be waiting it out until it’s his choice?

    Reply
  12. Thanks for the list! I have a 3yr old and I’m torn between which bike would be best on my gravel driveway. You say the Saracen is good for gravel but it doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to use it as long. Is the LikeABike good on gravel? Or one of the others you wrote up. Thanks!

    Reply

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