Toddler balance bikes have become an increasingly popular trend for teaching our youngest kiddos how to ride — they’re like the bridge between stumbling on two feet and zooming on two wheels. Aside from learning to drive, there is no bigger right of passage for a kid than learning to ride a bike.
This year, we’re all focused more than ever on getting out of the house for some fresh air and fun. We’ve already stocked up on pool floats, kiddie pools, and water tables, so it’s no wonder bike sales are spiking up too! Now, as the mamas, we have to figure out how the hell to teach a toddler how to ride a bike?! That’s where the amazing balance bike comes in.
What age is best for balance bikes?
Many parents wonder when should kids learn to ride bikes. Would you believe us if we said as early as 18 months? It’s true! (We know it’s mind-blowing!)
Balance Bikes vs. Training Wheels: Are balance bikes a waste of money?
Balance bikes are totally worth buying, Mama. While training wheels keep your little ones upright when riding, they aren’t actually teaching them to stay balanced on their own. Balance bikes focus on teaching the idea of balance before peddling, and most kids can transition to a regular bike much earlier than with traditional training wheel bikes. Many balance bike riders are all set for the real deal by age 3 while training wheel riders may have a couple more years to go.
Balance bikes will also teach your toddler independence and confidence. Even when starting with balance bikes when they’re a little over a year old, they’ll be able to walk with their balance bikes, move their balance bikes without help (they’re super lightweight!), and eventually ride them solo. We know you may be on the fence because of their short life span in your kiddo’s bike-riding training, but that just means the balance bike has done its job!
Trust us — balance bikes are in and training wheels are out!
Finding the right balance bike sizes
One of the most important things to consider when looking for a balance bike is the bike fit. Balance bike sizes range from 12” to 20” tires and are generally geared towards kids ages 2-6. However, if your child is older than 3, we highly recommend getting a balance bike with handbrakes. (We don’t want to ruin those new shoes, Mama!)
Ryan Birkicht, a two-time dad (aka he knows a thing or two), and spokesperson for Schwinn Bikes, explains what to look for when measuring for a kid’s bike. “The number one thing you want to make sure when getting a new bike for your little is that they are comfortable which translates to confidence while riding. To ensure the child is comfortable, they should be able to put a foot down to balance when sitting in the bike seat. He shared a simple, 3-step process to ensure you’ve got the right size:
1-Measure the child’s inseam with shoes on. This measurement is from the floor to the top of the inner thigh.
2-Check the measurement from the ground to the top of the bike seat (with the seat in its lowest position).
3-If the inseam is larger than the lowest seat height measurement, then the bike is a fit! This is more important when the rider is still a beginner because it allows them to put a foot down if they’re losing their balance or having trouble cornering.
We’ve scoured the internet and found the best toddler balance bikes that come in a range of sizes to fit every kid. And keep in mind, while we feature boy bikes vs girl bikes, it doesn’t mean we feel anyone has to pick a side. Bike brands, however, do market them this way not just for color choices, but for the genuine difference in build between traditional boy vs girls bikes (think center bar height).
Here’s a kids bike size chart if you need help determining the right size to buy (by age and height). Family bike rides will be a weekend ritual in no time!
Best Balance Bikes For Toddlers
Generally recommended for kids 2yrs+
We love the Schwinn Skip Toddler Balance Bike, and so do 1200 Amazon reviewers! Since 1895, the Schwinn mission has been to, “develop bicycles that allow people to experience the confidence and freedom that comes from riding a bike.” A balance bike for a toddler embodies this mission. What’s more freeing than being able to keep up with the big kids without having to learn to pedal first?
This 12” bike is designed for riders 28-38” in height or approximately ages 2-4 years old. The height allows our kiddos to still touch the ground as they push off and learn the art of balance. The handle bars have a limiter so keeping control won’t be an issue. The lightweight frame and tool free adjustable seat means frustration free riding for the whole family!
One reviewer notes, “I bought this for my 3 year old who is kind of tall for his age. He’s about 44 inches tall so he’s probably about the height of a 4 year old. He loves this bike because it looks like a ‘big kid’ BMX bike and I like it for it’s quality and ease of setting up right out of the box. A couple of wrenches to put the wheels on and it’s ready to go in less than 5 minutes.”
GOMO toddler training bikes are some of our favs because it’s super lightweight and super versatile, coming in eight different colors, and is both comfortable and durable. One mama commented, “I have two 2 yr old grandsons that are 6 days apart so I bought them both one. They love it. The seats adjust so they both are able to touch ground. I would recommend to anyone. Solid but light enough for young children to pick it up. Handlebars come toward them do its better on their backs.”
Strider’s best selling 12 Sport Balance Bike is a favorite for many looking to give their kids a high quality, long lasting, first bike. We love the design of this balance bike because it gives kids the right frame size for their small bodies to keep feet flat on the ground, while helping them to work on confidence, coordination, and of course balance. The seat and handlebar heights adjust to fit kids’ correct size from as young as 18 months up to 5 years of age.
One mom notes, “I have a confession! I have a 4yr old, a 3yr old and I am in the market for yet another Strider Bike for my 9 month old for his upcoming first birthday. Yes, that is my confession! I put my kids on these bikes on their first birthdays. I have incredibly tall kids. They learned to push the Strider bikes around before they could walk on their own. The Strider bikes are like attached to the two older kids. This has prepared them for their dirt bikes that they received on their second birthdays and they have had no problem learning to ride a pedal bike.” Available in bright, fun colors, there is truly something for everyone in this style!
What if we told you that you could buy ONLY one bike and it would last for years? It’s true! Growing kids outgrow everything, but this bike grows with them. The Xtend bike by smarTrike starts as a balance bike for kids around age 3. Once they’ve mastered phase one, you can add pedals. Beyond that, the frame grows! Kids up to age 5 or 6 can zip around on their big kid bike, feeling tall and strong. The Xtend comes in red or black/blue and has a lightweight magnesium frame.
Not only will your kids get use out of this for years, but think about what a great pass me down bike this is for the next baby in the family— they’ll use it for years to come, too!
This Bixie balance bike seems too good to be true weighing only 4 pounds and costing only 70 bucks. We can assure you the it’s every bit as good as it is true. All of us mamas who remember the good ole’ days of cruising around on our bikes will appreciate the old school construction of this bike. The simplicity of this model keeps new riders focused on the basics without overloading them with too much to think about.
Best Balance Bikes For 3-Year-Olds
The Globber Go Bike Air Balance Bike for boys and girls combine rider friendly geometry (better than us doing this math!) and high quality engineering. The reversible toddlers’ balance bike frame allows you to quickly and easily change the balance bike from a low frame to a high frame position — perfect to use as your kiddo grows! And for bonus points, it even includes a removable footrest.
We LOVE a great bike with an adorable basket. Available in a variety of bright and fun colors and 12” tires, we agree with the raving reviews praising this purchase. Banwood Bikes is newer to the bike game than some others, but they’ve built their brand around a safety with a modern look. The bike has an adjustable seat and handlebars. The included basket and a bell have also won us over. One reviewer raved, “I bought these for my twin daughters and we love them! It’s a bit of a splurge but definitely worth it. They’re really well-made, durable and light. The basket and bell are such fun additions. Overall, these bikes are just adorable!!”
Ryan B, (2x dad) from Schwinn Bikes recommends this line for beginners which is known as Koen for the more boy-ish brand and Elm for the more girl-ish brand. “To help with shopping, Schwinn has created this line of bikes that grow with your child. From the first balance bike, all the way up through pre-teen, the Schwinn Elm and Koen have the solution for your child.” The Koen and Elm bikes come in a range of sizes from the 12” balance bike to the 20” mini adult bike for kids up to 5’ tall.
Make sure to check the kids bike size charts when deciding which size option to get. Schwinn’s SmartStart technology designs each size specifically for kids to use now, not grow into. When kids are on a bike that fits, they’re comfortable and that means they’re less nervous about learning. Us mamas are less nervous too letting go when we know it isn’t too big or too heavy for them. In addition to wearing a helmet and keeping bike tires inflated, having a right sized bike is one of the safest things we can do for our kids!
Best Balance Bikes With Brakes
For kids 4 and up, we recommend balance bikes with handbrakes.
Handle brakes come in handy when your little one starts getting the urge to stop with there foot when going really (really) fast. Instead of potentially hurting themselves and their new kicks, this balance bike from Glide features handlebar brakes and easy access foot rest.
More Toddler Balance Bikes Options
Retrospec’s Cub Balance Bike is simple, lightweight, and practical for learning to ride a bike. The electric orange color is just icing on the cake. Fitting kids up to 5 years old, the options of colors work for both boys and girls.
This balance bike has nearly 3,000 reviews on Amazon. One mom said, “This is an amazing tool to teach the kids balance quickly and safely. They naturally will want to go faster and will pick up their feet to do so, thus learning balance. It is easily height adjustable, very sturdy, and not heavy.”
If your kid wants to be the coolest kid on the block, we found their new summer bike. Radio Flyer’s new “classic” takes us back to our first bikes (or the one we wished we had). But of course this 2020 balance bike version is better than what we ever rode round the block! Kids 3 and up will ooze vintage cool, and if your goal is to get them out of the house and riding regular bikes ASAP (raises hand), we found your winning ticket.
Now that the LOs have mastered bike riding, look for other ways to entertain them this summer. Check out all of our mom-approved kid toys for even more fun!