Guardian Balance Bike Review: Teach Your Child To Balance AND Brake!

When it comes to teaching your child how to ride a bike, there are only a few fundamentals. While it is easy to get distracted with fun bells and decals, the Guardian Balance Bike concentrates on the essentials: balancing, steering, and braking.

But, Guardian not stop there. Their balance bike is also built with excellent components and is composed around a durable and lightweight frame, making this a perfect bike for any growing rider. 

Additionally, they have the parents in mind when packaging this bike for shipment. With added stickers, and nearly ready to go construction, it is easy to assemble. Within minutes, you will be well on your way to teaching your child to grow their confidence on the bike, while also giving them the necessary tools to brake safely and effectively.

young rider on the guardian balance bike

Review in a Nutshell

Pros:

  • Quick, out-of-the-box assembly
  • SureStop Brake system
  • Long wheel base for stability
  • Rubber steering limiter to prevent overturning
  • Widely adjustable seat height

Cons:

  • Rear brake location can hit child’s ankles

Price: $199


Focusing On Fundamentals

Having had the opportunity to review many toddler balance bikes has given me a few insights into what it takes to teach a child to ride a bike. The immediate focus tends to be on balance.

In fact, our first balance bike (the Strider) was nothing more than a frame and two wheels. While balance is no doubt important to the process of learning to ride, learning this skill is intuitive for most kids and doesn’t require much coaching. Give them a balance bike, and eventually they’ll figure it out.  

Braking, on the other hand, can be a struggle. I remember learning to ride a bike as an older child. I was placed on a bike with both pedals and brakes and was sent off to learn to balance, pedal, and brake all at the same time.

It was exceptionally difficult, and my first memory was crashing into large bushes while my family screamed, “brake!” Braking never entered my thinking as I struggled to balance. 

Now that my child has mastered balancing, it is only necessary to push on to the other essential skills, namely braking. At the moment, his primary method of braking happens to be striding as fast as he can, steering like a pro in any direction he wishes, and slamming his heels into the ground to skid to a halt. 

While this method is effective over several seconds, he is getting to speeds where he will need to brake sooner and not burn as many holes into his tiny sneakers. And this is why it is of utmost importance to get your growing rider on a bike that will teach them this essential skill as soon as possible and also where this bike becomes one of the best on the market.

Because proper cycling isn’t just about balance.

SureStop Braking System

Now that I will be beginning to teach my child how to brake properly, it will take some time to let go of the old method that he has been using. Meaning, I wish I had placed my child on a bike with proper brakes sooner. I suppose I doubted his ability to understand the concept, or even reach the brake lever itself, but the Guardian Balance bike is designed with small kids in mind. 

The brake lever is easy to reach, can be adjusted, and is quite easy to engage with a small grip. Additionally, this bike is equipped with Guardian’s proprietary SureStop braking system, which integrates both the front and rear brake calipers into a single hand lever. This makes the action your child is performing with the single lever twice as effective. 

It is easy to find options on the market in which the brakes are overlooked in the design of the bike. This is not the case with this bike.

The SureStop system works by engaging the rear brake first, then applying additional action on the front wheel. In regards to real life application, this not only prevents “fishtailing,” which is a result of a locked rear wheel, but also prevents the child from falling forward should they apply too much pressure to the front brake in the event of an emergency. 

The goal with this design is to have your child stop more effectively, and that is exactly what is achieved. Not only is your child more likely to stop sooner should they need to, but they will also not cause themselves any additional harm by not braking properly with either the front or rear brake. 

Placement of Rear Brake

The only trouble I have run into with this bike is the placement of the rear brake. Traditionally, the rear brake is mounted on the seatstay, placing it well above any movement of the feet.

Because there is no seatstay on this smaller frame, Guardian has opted to mount the rear brake below what is known as the chainstay. (Though this bike, of course, has no chain). 

This places the brake in the line of action while my child strides, making for an occasional strike with his ankles and halting his ride altogether. But, as children are exceptionally adaptable, after a few hits, he has adjusted his feet to a wider stance to prevent any more injuries.

Older children will likely not run into the issue, as their stance will already be a bit wider. 

Rubber Limiter Prevents Overturning

When it comes to crashes, balance bikes only have a few causes for error, overturning being one of them. Guardian has designed a simple system in which this can be prevented.

They have attached a rubber ring to the underside of the frame and connected it to the fork. This adds tension to the movement, gently pulling the direction of the handlebars back to center. 

In the event your child does oversteer and the handlebars become crooked, the rubber ring assists the child when they attempt to remount the bike. This helps with confidence not only with riding, but also returning to the bike after falling. This is another aspect of learning how to ride that Guardian has considered.

We also appreciate that the rubber limiter is removable once your child has progressed and no longer needs it. This is a better design than the built in steering limiter than many balance bikes have.

Lightweight Design

When it comes to learning how to ride a bike, the lighter the bike the better. A child already has a lot to consider and adjust to, let alone having to also push a heavy frame.

This bike weighs in at just 8.5 lbs, which makes riding it more enjoyable. It also allows my child to pick this bike up on his own and carry it across uneven terrain, if necessary. 

The frame itself is a durable aluminum alloy, built with alloy wheels and spokes, and a moulded plastic seat.

Sizing

The seat post has a wide range of adjustability, making this bike suitable for children as young as 18 months and up to 4 years old. The seatpost height can be adjusted from 12.5 inches to 16 inches, and done quickly and easily thanks to the quick-release seatpost collar.

Of course, make sure to measure your child’s inseam before buying. If it is less than 12.5 inches, they’ll be better suited to a smaller balance bike like the Woom 1.

Fast Assembly

Out of the box, this bike can be assembled in minutes. All that essentially needs to be done is mounting the handlebars, which was made even easier by Guardian with the placement of guide stickers.

You don’t need any mechanical knowledge to get your child out riding, which is often a concern for those parents who may not know much about bikes. Additionally, should you need to make any adjustments, the brake pads are easy to adjust and can be done on the fly. 

We personally ran into the issue of a tension spring being missing from the rear brake. The box was tossed before I discovered the problem and likely had the necessary tension spring in it.

Guardian’s customer service team was quick to respond and also quick to send out a replacement without charge or question. They were eager to help and wanted to be sure that we had everything taken care of, so that we could get back out on our adventures as soon as possible. 

Long Wheelbase And Air Tires Provide Excellent Stability

We had a wonderful time test riding this bike. It is excellent on both pavement and trails with the stability from the wide wheel base.

The tires are rugged and have not yet sustained a puncture from our multiple outings. They are far superior to the foam or EVA tires found on cheaper balance bikes.

Guardian Balance Bike Vs The Competition

In a sea of balance bikes (holy smokes there are a lot of options out there these days!), the Guardian balance bikes stands out thanks to it’s proprietary SureStop braking system. Nobody else can offer that! If you are looking for easy-to-operate brakes on a balance bike, the Guardian really can’t be beat.

That said at $199, the Guardian is at the same price point as some of the very best competitors including the Woom 1 and the Prevelo Alpha Zero.

At a shockingly light 6.6 lbs, the Woom 1 is both a couple pounds lighter than the Guardian AND it has a lower minimum seat height. This makes it a better choice for very young toddlers learning to ride.

That said, the Guardian has a higher maximum seatpost height and an overall larger frame, making it the better choice if your child is already an older toddler. And it has the dual braking system (rather than just a rear brake), giving it superior braking power for athletic and agressive preschoolers.

guardian balance bike

Bottom-Line

If you are deciding on your child’s first balance bike, this is one of the best options. With the wide rider age range, SureStop braking system, and lightweight design, it would be difficult to find a more suitable option for kids ready to really ride.

Your child will not only benefit from the limiter that prevents oversteering, they will actually have an effective method of stopping that is both designed for small hands, but is also going to get the job done in a shorter distance. 

I am confident that once I break my child of the bad habits learned from having gone so long without brakes, he will be more than capable of engaging the lever and be able to hit those higher speeds that he is craving while also building confidence in braking. I am so happy that we have this bike on the next leg of our riding journey. 

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