The 5 Best Balance Bikes for Your 3 to 5 Year Old

The 5 Best Balance Bikes for Your 3-5 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.

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.

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

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.

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 an appropriately sized pedal bike and to 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

The Best Balance Bikes for Your 3 to 5 Year Old

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 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).

For more information, read our detailed review of the Woom 1 Plus.

Price & Where to Buy:

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 & Where to Buy:

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 & Where to Buy:

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 & Where to Buy:

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.

For more information, read our full review of the Saracen Freewheel.

Price & Where to Buy:

Early Rider Trail Runner XL

Early Rider Trail Runner XL balance bike

Beautiful bikes shouldn’t be reserved for grown-ups.  The breathtaking 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 & Where to Buy:

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).

Bike Wheel Size Price (MSRP) Seat Height Suggested Age Frame Material Tire Type Bike weight Brake? Multiple colors
Woom 1 Plus 14″ $269 14.8″-18.5″ 3-5 years old Aluminum Air 9.8 lbs Yes Yes
Frog Tadpole Plus 14″ $260 15″-20″ 3-5 years old Aluminum Air 9.2 lbs Yes Yes
Ridgeback Scoot XL 14″ $210 16″-22″ 3-6 years old Aluminum Air 12.5  lbs Yes Yes
Early Rider Trail Runner XL 14″ $240 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


2 thoughts on “The 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!

    • 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

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.