If you’re looking for a toddler bike, but aren’t even sure where to start, this article is for you. We know that it can be a bit confusing–especially if this is your first child–to know what bikes are best and how to get your little one started. That’s why we’ve created this guide.
We share the different types of toddler bikes, our top picks, why biking is important for toddler development, and what you should consider when choosing a bike for your little one.
Why You Should Get Your Toddler A Bike
The earlier you get a child started on a bike, the easier bike riding will be for them — for the rest of their lives. Kids who learn to ride a bike as a toddler have a much easier time learning to balance, pedal, brake, and cruise.
We started our son on a balance bike when he was just over a year old and had him pedaling (sans training wheels) by 2.5 years old. He’s eight and is better at biking than many kids twice his age, thanks to the early start.
Even if you don’t care that much about biking, there are plenty of other reasons your toddler should have a bike. Bicycles provide exercise, get your kids outdoors, and help build confidence. Balance bikes, in particular, can also develop and improve your child’s gross motor skills
Types of Toddler Bikes
If someone in passing were to ask me what kind of bike to get a toddler, I would automatically respond with “A balance bike!”
The truth is though, there are several types of bicycles that might be appropriate for a toddler depending on their age and skill level. Here, I’ll go over a couple of different options including ride-on-toys, tricycles, balance bikes, and pedal bikes.
Best For: Toddlers Between 12 and 18 Months
The very youngest toddlers (starting around 12 months old), can have fun on a ride-on toy. These are usually three- or four-wheeled bikes that help toddlers start to get the hang of scooting around on a bike, but are appropriate for little ones that aren’t quite big enough yet for a balance bike.
We bought a ride-on toy for my son’s first birthday and it was one of the best purchases we’ve ever made. It helped to get him excited about biking and provided years of entertainment — even once he had moved on to a pedal bike.
Top Pick: The Hape Scoot Around*
The Hape Scoot Around is perfect for little ones to get their first taste of biking. We appreciate that it has rubberized wheels that won’t mark up your indoor floors, is made of wood, and has non-toxic fishes.
More Options: The Best Ride-On Toys and Pre-Bikes for Toddlers
Or: Bikes That Convert From Ride-On To Balance Bike
Best For: Toddlers Starting At 18 Months Until They Are Ready To Transition To A Pedal Bike
Balance bikes, also known as push bikes or run bikes, are pedal-less bicycles designed for young kids. As soon as kids can walk and have decent motor skills (generally around 18 months), they can start on a balance bike.
Balance bikes are our favorite kind of bikes for toddlers because they provide kids with the tools they will need to be successful on a pedal bike later. Indeed, the majority of kids who learn to ride on a balance bike as a toddler will be able to skip training wheels altogether once they switch to a pedal bike. Balance bikes are also excellent for developing gross motor skills and boosting confidence.
Top Pick: Woom 1 Balance Bike*
The Woom 1 is a good fit for toddlers as young as 18 months old thanks to the low standover height. This balance bike is more than a toy, it’s a real bicycle. It has pneumatic (air) tires rather than plastic ones, a rear handbrake so kids can start to learn braking skills young, and high-quality components that will last for years.
Read Review: Woom 1
More Options: The 5 Best Balance Bikes for Toddlers
Another popular option for toddlers is a tricycle. Tricycles or big-wheels can be great fun for use in the backyard, but they don’t teach real cycling skills. If you go this route, we recommend choosing a balance bike as well. One notable option is the Wishbone 3-in-1 that converts from a tricycle to a balance bike.
Top Pick: Wishbone 3-in-1*
The Wishbone 3-in-1 will last your child for years. Around 12 months, toddlers can start using the bike as a tricycle. Later, it converts to a small balance bike and then to a bigger balance bike. We also appreciate that it is made of environmentally-responsible materials like birch and post-consumer recycled plastic.
Similar to a tricycle, pedal bikes with training wheels hinder the development of skills at this age. They are heavier than a balance bike which makes them difficult for young ones to handle. They also keep toddlers from developing balance which is critical for success on a pedal bike.
If you do decide to buy a pedal bike, make sure to remove the cranks and/or pedals and teach your child to scoot and glide first — similar to what they would do on a balance bike.
Once a toddler has mastered a balance bike (or a pedal bike without training wheels), you can then switch them to a 12″ pedal bike without training wheels. This can be as young as 2.5 or 3 years old depending on your child’s interest and ability level. If your child is ready for their first real pedal bike, make sure to pick one that is lightweight. At this age, the biggest hindrance to success is a bike that weighs too much.
Top Pick: Cleary Gecko 12″ Pedal Bike
The Cleary Gecko is our favorite pedal bike for young riders that are ready to graduate from a balance bike. It has a low minimum seatpost height, durable frame, and a lightweight build.
Read Review: Cleary Gecko
More Options: The Best 12″ Pedal Bikes
Things To Consider When Choosing a Bike For Your Toddler
Indoor Use Vs Outdoor Use
Is the bike going to be used primarily indoors or outdoors? For indoor use, we like ride-on-toys and balance bikes with rubberized or foam wheels.
You want to make sure that they aren’t going to mark up your floors. Avoid plastic wheels that don’t have rubber, as they are too slippery on indoor floors.
If your child is going to be biking outdoors, make sure to invest in a real bicycle (balance bike or pedal bike) that has pneumatic (air) tires rather than those with foam or plastic. Plastic is almost never a good choice; foam tires can be okay for very mild use in the driveway.
If your kiddo is going to be riding on mixed terrain including dirt, gravel, or uneven pavement, make sure to invest in a bike that has pneumatic (air) tires. They get superior traction when compared to plastic or foam tires.
Toy vs Bike
The next thing to consider is whether you want to buy a “toy” or a real bicycle. Many toddler bikes are toys–and that’s okay!!!
But, if you want your child to gain real bike skills or go on adventures outside of your backyard, you need to get them a real bicycle. A “real” bicycle is a balance bike or pedal bike with pneumatic (air) tires, an aluminum or high-grade steel frame, and (maybe) even brakes.
Size and Readiness
When should you start your toddler on a bike? As soon as they can walk!
As previously mentioned, the tiniest toddlers (around 12 months old) may have an interest in bicycles. They are well served by a ride-on-toy.
Around 18 months, I’d recommend trying out a balance bike. At this age, your biggest issue will be finding a balance bike small enough. (You can find our recommendations, in our post on the best toddler balance bikes).
The other thing to take into consideration, is how much the bike can grow with your child. Does the seatpost raise? Are the handlebars adjustable?
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to buy another bike a few months or a year down the road, look for a bike where your child is on the smaller end of the size spectrum so that they have some room to grow.
Toddler bikes (balance bikes and small pedal bikes) are sized by the size of their wheels: 10 inches, 12 inches, or even 14 inches. The bigger the child, the bigger the wheels you’ll want.
An even better indicator of how well a bike will fit your toddler is the minimum seatpost height. Which brings us to our next point….
How To Measure For A Toddler Bike
Make sure to measure your child’s inseam and compare it to the minimum seatpost height of a bike, before making a purchase. Your toddler’s inseam should be AT LEAST as tall as the minimum seatpost height to fit on the bike.
Some toddlers will be rocking and rolling from Day 1 and some may take days, or weeks, or even months to take to a bicycle. That’s okay. Just keep offering it and eventually they will be ready.
- Learn More: Kids Bike Sizes
We generally look for different safety features when it comes to toddler bikes than we do from a bike for a bigger kid. This is because toddlers crash a lot–they just don’t have the same coordination and strength as preschoolers or grade school kids.
Some of the safety features we look for on a toddler bike are: rounded and/or recessed bolts, grips with flanges at the end, and a steering limiter (keeps little ones from over rotating their bars).
Toddlers are tiny! They don’t have the much size or muscle to handle a heavy bike.
For this reason, we emphasize light weight bikes for kids this age. It make the experience much more enjoyable and safer for them. A light bike is easier to handle and to learn on.
How light is light enough? We like to look for bikes that come in under 10 pounds.
How To Teach A Toddler To Ride A Bike
With very young kiddos on a pre-bike, just offer the bicycle as you would any other toy. The idea right now is just to introduce them to a bicycle. You might notice that you set them on the bike and they crawl right off and play with the wheels instead. This is totally normal.
With slightly older toddlers on a balance bike, you’ll want to help them actually learn to balance and scoot on a balance bike. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes a day.
For tips on techniques you can use to encourage your child to ride, check out this article:
Learn More About Biking With Toddlers
The Rascals are a family of three. Kristen (mom), Blair (dad), and Parker (kiddo). We started Rascal Rides when Parker was born and we didn’t want to give up our passion for biking. As we learned, we shared. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of kids bikes, helmets, bike trailers, and more.
Kristen is a USA Cycling certified coach and loves to share her passion for biking with other families. Blair is a bike geek, mechanic, and mountain bike junkie. Parker is our resident tester and inspiration.
If you see us out on the trail, make sure to say hi!
12 thoughts on “5 Best Toddler Bikes For Your 1, 2, or 3-Year-Old”
Saved as a favorite, I really like your web site!
We started our 1 year old who was an early walker and quite steady on a balance bike. He didn’t really get the you need to hold the bike up concept and fell a few times making him spooked. Now he is almost 2 and we are considering training wheels since he hates the balance bike. He also got a Y-bike as a gift that he rode around the house and that allows you to sit down. Any advice on getting back on the balance bike?
Here’s a post I wrote on this topic: https://rascalrides.com/5-ways-to-encourage-a-toddler-to-use-their-balance-bike/
For him specifically, I’d try to encourage the balance bike a bit longer before resorting to training wheels. (Although if you do, it’s not the end of the world either). If he’s afraid of falling, can you try to encourage him to ride on the grass perhaps?
Hope that helps a little!
An excellent way of writing, in this article you very politely explained that how many types of bicycles are for the kids.
And things which needs to consider while selecting the right bike for the kids.
In simple words, you have explained everything to the parents who are in search of bikes for their kids 🙂
I’ve requested a bike for my 2 year old nearly 3 year old boy as a Christmas present from my parents, they have asked me to choose one for them to buy , he’s had ride on toys and balance bikes and scooters but tends to favour walking next to them pushing them along rather than actually riding them and scooting along , what would you recommend
How about expanding on the fact that “balanace bikes” valuable usage lifetime is like maybe a month.
If you like the idea of not giving a kid the power to go faster or slow down without putting their feet down then get a balance bike. But if you want a bike that will last more than a month and will slow for off braking and accelerating as well as a place for your feet. Balance bikes are a marketing gimmick don’t be sucked in to that load of.
Maybe think about what would be easiest for you to safely play with them on their bicycle. So maybe one of those sticks that is attached to the bicycle to allow for a person walking behind to hold up the bicycle as their kid practices. You can get up to speed and help them safely slow down without wrecking your weak gym restricted covid back.
Also the gyroscopic factors that make a bicycle easy to ride really don’t happen until the wheels start to get into motion. So those balance bikes are pretty hard to learn on in that you will have to push your kid fast enough to get momentum and gyroscopic forces to stay up while not letting them stop in case of trouble. Just get a bicycle with or without training wheels and work from there.
Tip for training: slight hills with a runoff for out of control toddlers and kids is definitely recommended and will be used.
Get a helmet, slow tip overs like a kid would experience learning to ride a bicycle can definitely leads to head trauma without a helmet which still has its impact resistance. (After a crash or bang some helmets lose their ability to keep you safe. Keep a helmet on their head when around bikes if you don’t want the to have long term brain damage.
I have to disagree with the time factor of balance bikes only lasting a month. I run a private preschool and a few years back a student brought a balance bike for show and tell. I had no idea what the benefits were or were not but I watched the little guy show off to his friends and all the kids wanted to try it. ( we have a gym ) Some kids had their own balance bikes and had a great time with it. Kids who have not tried and did not know exactly what to do with it, still wanted to try it. In the end I was sold and purchased 10 balance bikes for our gym for kids to enjoy. Our kids range in age from three years old to just turning six years old and they all enjoy the balance bikes! Even the kids who already know how to pedal when they are at home love to ride the balance bike and try “ tricks”. Balance bikes are fun and that should be enough for any parent to consider having one for their child. Add to that they do learn balance and it’s a full package deal in my opinion. I say buy a balance bike and just have fun!
My son is 1 1/2 and is bored with his balance bike. Does anyone make a 10″ box peddle bike?
I got a 10” Spider-Man pedal bike and it was great, my now 6 year old pedalled on it without stabilisers a few days after his 3rd birthday but I have to add the only reason he done that was due to using a balance bike for about a year beforehand, my oldest (21) cycled without stabilisers at 2 1/2 (he was pretty early at everything from crawling walking talking etc, not that you’d think it now, think his mentality ceased at 12, goes to show makes no odds how early they develop as babies and toddlers 🙄😂) anyway balance bikes weren’t a thing back then so it all depends on each individual child, sure I’d one who didn’t learn to cycle without stabilisers til he was 7 🤷🏼♀️😄 My now 4 year old has absolutely no heed in learning or using his balance bike he’s had for 3 years 😏 Try eBay or Amazon for the 10” bike but if you can keep encouraging him on his balance bike, maybe play games and make him enjoy using it again, they really do help with the whole balance they need for pedal bikes, once he’s whizzing round running then putting both feet up free wheeling on the balance bike you know he’s ready to handle a pedal bike without stabilisers ☺️
My 24 month old loves his balance bike & flies on it. But we’re afraid he’s getting too tall for it. What would you suggest we get him next? He has the Luddy balance bike.
I’d recommend one of the bikes on this list: https://rascalrides.com/the-5-best-balance-bikes-for-toddlers/ Measure his inseam and then use the comparison chart to pick a bike with a minimum seatpost height at or just slightly below his inseam. That will give him room to grow.