At Rascal Rides, we’ve been known to be a bit snobby about kids bikes, recommending only the very BEST bikes out there. That said, we believe all toddlers and preschoolers should have a balance bike, even those whose families aren’t bike snobs as well.
For all the moms and dads out there who recognize the benefits of a balance bike, but don’t want to spend a fortune, we’ve compiled a list of the best budget balance bikes under $100.
No, these bikes don’t have the same features as higher-end balance bikes (such as sealed bearings and hand brakes), but they will teach your child to ride a bike….which is the whole point, right?
In addition to a list of our top picks, we’ve also included a comparison chart and some tips on how to pick the best balance bike for your child.
(And we couldn’t help ourselves–we’ve also talked a little bit about when you should just suck it up and spend more….)
7 Best “Budget” Balance Bikes – 2019
|2||Banana Bike GT *||Price not available *|
|3||Strider Classic *||$99.99 *|
|4||Yvolution Y Velo Jr *||*|
|5||Retrospec Cub*||$79.99 *|
|7||Schwinn Koen / Elm*||$89.99|
*Amazon prices last updated at 2022-09-27 at 07:03 – More info
|✔️ Quick-release seatpost and handlebar post collars||❌ Lacks pneumatic (air) tires|
|✔️ Upright geometry||❌ Plastic parts may be prone to break|
|✔️ Unobtrusive footrest||❌ Steering limiter isn’t removable|
|✔️ Attractive paint job and design|
The GOMO (short for “Get Out More Often”) is one of our favorite budget balance bikes thanks to its confidence-inspiring geometry, easy size adjustments, and unobtrusive foot rest. We also love the attractive paint job and bright color schemes.
The only downsides to this bike are that the wheels are foam rather than air, and many of the parts are plastic rather than aluminum or steel.
Fits: 2.5 to 4 years old
Read Review: GOMO Balance Bike
Banana Bike GT
Price: Price not available (Last updated: 2022-09-27 at 05:13 – More Info)
|✔️ Pneumatic (air) tires||❌ No steering limiter|
|✔️ Quick release seatpost collar|
|✔️ Low standover height|
|✔️ Threadless headset|
The Banana Bike GT looks and feels like a more expensive bike than it is. Unlike most budget balance bikes, it boasts pneumatic (air) tires rather than foam. They have plenty of tread and can safely be ridden in any type of terrain including dirt and gravel.
The bike also has a quick-release seatpost that allows for easy size adjustments, and a low step-over height so young kids can easily maneuver the bike.
The only bummer is the lack of a steering limiter which can lead to kids who are just learning to ride to over-rotate the handlebars.
Fits: 2 to 4 years old
Read Review: Banana Bike GT Balance Bike
Price: $99.99 (Last updated: 2022-09-27 at 05:13 – More Info)
|✔️ A Strider gains you entry to the “Strider club”||❌ Lacks pneumatic (air) tires|
|✔️ Accessories and upgrade kits allow for a wide range of customization|
|✔️ Easy to find used and to sell|
The Strider Classic is the popular company’s most affordable and most simple balance bike. But fear not: it can be endlessly customized and upgraded as you see fit.
It will also get you in the Strider “club” and all the fun that entails–Strider races, photo contests, and more.
As for as performance goes, the Strider lacks the bells and whistles of many other bikes–it has foam tires rather than air tires, for example–but sometimes simplicity is best. Thanks to the brand name, the bike is also easy to sell when you’re done with it, or to pick up used in the first place.
Fits: 18 months to 3 years old
Read Review: Strider Classic Balance Bike
Yvolution Y Velo Jr
|✔️ Unique double rear wheel design is ideal for young toddlers||❌ Tires aren’t ideal for outdoor riding|
|✔️ Rubber wheels don’t mark up indoor floors||❌ Better as a “toy” than as a “bike”|
|✔️ Easily adjustable handlebar and seatpost|
|✔️ Recessed bolts and smooth surfaces mean there’s nothing to get injured on|
The Yvolution Y Velo Junior is the ideal balance bike for very young riders (starting around 18 months old). Thanks to the unique double rear wheel, it provides additional stability and helps kids learn to ride with confidence. Once they’ve mastered the double wheel, you can remove it to have a traditional single rear wheel.
It is lightweight, and thanks to the low standover height and smaller wheels, it fits tiny toddlers perfectly.
We wouldn’t recommend this bike for older toddlers or preschoolers who will be better off with a more aggressive-minded bike, but it’s one of our faves for younger riders.
Fits: 18 months to 3 years old
Read Review: Yvolution Y Velo Junior Balance Bike
Price: $79.99 (Last updated: 2022-09-26 at 20:11 – More Info)
|✔️ Quick-release seatpost & handlebars||❌ Lacks pneumatic (air) tires|
|✔️ Lots of fun colors, good aesthetic||❌ Heavy|
|✔️ Tough, rigid steel frame|
|✔️ Low standover height|
The Retrospec Cub is a great option for parents who just want their child to try a balance bike without having to make a big investment. It’s easy to get on and off thanks to the sloped top tube, and easier to maneuver for kids who’ve shown frustration on other bikes.
We also really appreciate the quick release collars on both the seatpost and handlebars. This means you can quickly and easily make height adjustments without needing any tools.
Often times with budget balance bikes, we’ve found that they aren’t that durable. That’s not the case with Retrospec Cub. The frame is tough and rigid, and has held up well with lots of abuse–except for some scratches to the paint.
Fits: 2 to 3 years old
Read Our Review: Retrospec Cub
Price (MSRP): $74.99
|✔️ Incredibly lightweight (under 5 lbs)||❌ Lacks air tires|
|✔️ Fits toddlers as young as 18 months||❌ No quick-release on seatpost|
|✔️ Sleek, aesthetically pleasing design||❌ Headset is a bit wobbly|
Vitus, a UK bike brand, is gaining a reputation for making high-quality kids bikes at a fraction of the cost of other competitors. Their balance bike, the Vitus Nippy, is no exception.
At a mere 4 pounds, the bike is shockingly light, making it ideal for toddlers and smaller riders. Both the seat and handlebars are adjustable as well, so it can grow with your child a while.
The best part though might be the sleek design and color scheme–that make the bike look just like something dad might ride.
The only drawbacks are the lack of pneumatic (air) tires and the plastic wheels.
Fits: 18 months to 4 years old
Schwinn Koen / Elm
Price: $89.99 (Last updated: 2022-09-27 at 06:52 – More Info)
|✔️ Quick-release seatpost collar||❌ Lacks air tires|
|✔️ Handle on saddle||❌ Quill-style headset tends to rattle loose|
|✔️ Steering limiter||❌ Limited seatpost adjustability|
The Schwinn Koen and Schwinn Elm balance bikes are durable, lightweight, and fun to ride. The two bikes are the exact same, just with different color schemes.
My way too big 7 year old has put this bike through the ringer and it has held up admirably well. A true test of its durability.
We like that it has a quick-release seatpost collar for quick and easy seat height adjustments. The seat also has a handle which works well for teaching toddlers to ride, as well as for carrying and hanging storage. The only bummer is that the seatpost only has 2.5 inches of adjustability so it won’t grow with your child as long as other balance bikes.
Fits: 2.5 to 4 years old
Read Our Review: Schwinn Koen / Elm
Comparison Chart: Balance Bikes Under $100
|Balance Bike||Wheel Size||Minimum Seat Height||Maximum Seat Height||Weight||Frame Material||Pneumatic (air) tires?||Quick release seatpost?||Adjustable handelbars?|
|Banana Bike GT||12"||13.5"||18"||10.3 lb||Aluminum||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Strider Classic||12"||11"||16"||6.4 lbs||Steel||No||Yes||Yes|
|Retrospec Cub||12"||12"||16.5"||9.2 lbs||Steel||No||Yes||Yes|
|Vitus Nippy||12"||15"||17.5"||4.1 lbs||Aluminum||No||No||Yes|
|Schwinn Koen / Elm||12"||14.5"||16.75"||8.5 lbs||Steel||No||Yes||No|
|Yvolution Y Velo Jr||10"||11"||14.7"||8.4 lbs||Aluminum||No||Yes||Yes|
What to Look For In a Budget Balance Bike
While you can’t expect to find higher-end features, such as hand brakes, in a cheaper balance bike, there are still a few things you should look for.
Pneumatic (air) tires versus foam or plastic tires
Even in budget balance bikes, we prefer pneumatic (air) tires to foam or plastic tires. After all, YOU wouldn’t choose a bike without air tires, would you?
Compared to foam or plastic tires, pneumatic tires offer superior traction in almost all conditions. While this might not be that important for really young riders, or for kids who are going to be using the bike exclusively indoors, it is more important once kids get bigger and more athletic and begin to explore outdoors. On uneven pavement, grass, dirt, or gravel, you want to be sure your child has pneumatic air tires.
That said, you’ll still find several bikes on this list without air tires. That’s because most budget bikes simply don’t have them. Foam tires can also be nice for parents who don’t want to deal with flats or who want a bike that can be ridden indoors without marking up your floors.
Plastic Wheels versus Alloy Wheels
Like tires, wheels can also be a differentiating factor at this price point. We prefer wheels that are alloy (metal) as opposed to plastic. Plastic wheels lack the stiffness and durability of metal wheels.
Minimum (and Maximum) Seatpost Height
To know whether or not a balance bike is a good fit for your child, you need to measure their inseam. Your child’s inseam should be AT LEAST as long as the minimum seatpost height of the bike you are considering. This will allow your child to put their feet flat on the ground and balance.
On the flip side, you may also want to consider the maximum seatpost height. The higher the seatpost can be raised, the longer the bike will grow with your child.
Quick-Release Seatpost Collar
As I just mentioned, as your child grows, you’ll want to raise their seat. And as a parent of a young child, I’m sure you can imagine, just how often that will happen. Toddlers and preschoolers seem to grow daily!
That’s why we always like to look for a balance bike with a quick-release seatpost collar. This allows you to adjust the seatpost height quickly and without any tools.
While this is nice to have for all parents, if you have multiple little ones that are going to be sharign the bike, it becomes a must have! You want to be able to quickly raise or lower the seat for the child who wants to ride next.
The smaller and younger your child is, the more important weight becomes. While weight shouldn’t be your only consideration (cheap plastic is often much lighter than durable steel, for example), it is definitely a critical factor.
A lighter bike is far more enjoyable for young kids just learning to ride. If a bike is too heavy, they will get frustrated and give up easily. It can also make riding more dangerous, as heavy bikes lead to tip-overs and difficulty handling and maneuvering the bike.
You might notice that the balance bikes on this list include bikes that have both 10″ and 12″ wheels. So which is better?
It depends. In general, 12″ wheels are superior. They are larger which means they can roll faster and make it up and over obstacles more easily.
That said, we often prefer 10″ wheels for very small riders, especially those between 18 and 24 months old.
When to Spend More To Get a Better Bike
While a “budget” balance bike might work just fine for the majority of families out there, in many cases I’d still recommend you spend more money to get a top-shelf balance bike.
If your family does a lot of biking, if you have a particularly athletic child, or if you plan on using the bike off-road, definitely spring for a more expensive bike. A bike like the Woom 1 will roll faster, be more enjoyable, and provide added traction, stability, and braking power; i.e. it’s safer to ride in real-world conditions.
If you’re looking for a toy, pick a bike off this list; if you’re looking for a real bicycle, expect to spend more.
Additionally, if you have several children (or you plan on having more kids), suck it up and spend more to get a nicer bike. The higher-end bikes are durable and will last through multiple kids.
Convinced? Choose one of the bikes from these lists: