My first bike was a balance bike. It holds such prominence in my memory because of how fond of it I was. The best part was that there was not much of a learning curve to be had. I must have been but a few years old at the time. If it had been a difficult thing to master, I may have thrown in the towel. What was even better is that it never broke down. Well, at least as far as I can remember. Balance bikes cater to some of the most vulnerable individuals in our societies. As such, you will find that there tend to be higher standards expected of it.
Fortunately, children of this age are not the fussiest when choosing bikes. They are excitable. That leaves you to handle this decision. The easiest part is choosing the colour and designs of the bike. What might be harder is figuring out what each one has to offer. Fortunately, we have researched and gathered a shortlist of balance bikes that are worth your while. Each one is reviewed in detail, so you know what you are getting.
In a Hurry
If you had to narrow it down to two critical things to consider it would be safety and aesthetics. Safety is something that we cannot compromise on. It is the be-all and end-all of selecting a bike. You need to choose a bike that is sturdy. Part of the process is tapping into the experiences of other users. That is part of the research we carried out. Learning from their experiences saves you a lot of time and effort. Seeing as you will be seeing this bike for a while, it wouldn’t hurt for it to be easy on the eyes.
The top pick on this list must be the Chillafish bike. I have recommended this bike to the top position because they have worked hard to make this a children’s balance bike. Almost every other company on this list simply made very small adult bikes with no pedals. With this bike, you have added protection as you cycle. The frame is metal but, on the outside, it is covered in hardened plastic which makes the bike much safer for toddlers to play with. It also protects them from being cut if the bike develops any rust. It also comes with a well thought out footbrake that no other bike on this list has. This will work well as you try to teach your child how to ride an actual bike. Every other bike did not include brakes but made the bike in the same way an adult’s bike is made which defeats the purpose. The only feature that I did not like very much on the bike was its air-free tires. I argue this is bad because these tires are often likely to chip and may end up looking raggedy over time. In the end, the ride quality will be reduced.
Best Balance Bikes for Toddlers
OUR TOP PICK
This bike is made from Radio Flyer and is a great option for young toddlers looking to learn balance. It comes with rubber air tires that will glide smoothly on any territory. These tires are 12 inches which is a decent size for young children. The seat is adjustable meaning that as your child gets older, they can still use the bike. I would imagine however that as they get older, they would end up preferring a bike that has pedals. The frame has a grip on tape that will allow the child to comfortably place their feet whilst they cycle. It is a good bike for learning that comes with a cool paint job. It, unfortunately, has no brakes, only a bell. This is a bit of a downfall because it would be nice for the child to learn how to stop as they go without using their feet.
- Rubber tires for a smoother ride
- Tape on grip
- Fun paint job
- No brakes on this bike
This is a great bike for your child to find confidence when cycling. It has a low built frame that works better with your feet on the ground as opposed to gliding. The frame is made from steel and it is a maintenance-free bike. Once you buy it you can rest safe knowing that it should last long enough for your child to learn how to balance. The tires are air-free which is not beneficial in the long run as they will quickly wear out.
- Steel frame
- Low frame for better balance
- 4 colours to choose from
- Tires are not durable
This bike is made for a slightly older child i.e. between 2-4. It comes with a SmartStart steel kids balance frame which is much more efficient for learning than the other bikes on the list. Children can glide much easier on this frame because the bike has been shrunk to their size quite well. The ball bearing headset offers greater stability and better steering for your child to enjoy. You can easily adjust the saddle if you need to without any tools. It comes with 12inch Mag wheels and EVA foam tires which will last your child much longer than regular bike tires.
- Mag wheels
- Eva foam
- SmartStart steel frame
- No brakes
This bike made by strider comes with a 12 Inch bike size. It is made for young children around 18 months of age. The bike has a very low riding steel frame that is quite stifling for your child’s balance. It means that your child cannot glide on the terrain. The back wheel is just barely off the ground which means to use the bike they will mainly rely on their legs. This makes it more of a pushbike than a balance bike. It has durable handles on the grip and comes in 5 colours meaning it's not all bad. The seat can be adjusted however to go higher as the child grows. Even so, I do not think that it makes the design of the frame better.
- Durable hand grips
- Foam tires
- Available in 5 colours
- Poorly designed low frame
Schwinn has made a nice balancing bike here that comes with 12-inch wheels. The frame has been designed nicely to mimic a real bike and if your child manages to glide safely there is a place to put their feet on. The frame is made from steel but is still quite lightweight enough to have fun with. It fits riders aged 2-4 and comes with a handlebar that is not difficult to manoeuvre. The tires are filled with air and are more durable than the other ones on this list. As your child gets older you can easily adjust the seat to their height.
- Lightweight frame
- Easy steer handlebar
- Air-filled tires
- No brakes
Chillafish have made an innovative little bike here for toddlers. The bike is designed for children aged between 2- 5 years. It is the only bike on the list that comes with a footbrake. A footbrake is quite essential when learning how to cycle because it will allow the child an easier progression onto adult bikes. I like this feature from Chillafish because it shows that they are not simply trying to take an adults bike and make it smaller but instead they want to make the bike fit for the exact purpose it is bought, to teach balance safely. The seat is adjustable meaning that as your child gets older, they can still use the bike. The frame is lightweight and designed with oversized hardened tubing covering it. This is a wonderful feature to protect delicate little toddlers as they cycle. A metal frame can end up causing problems when it rusts meaning it could cut your child as they cycle. The tires do not have air which I would argue is the only disadvantage with this otherwise excellent option. It is a problem because over time these tires will wear out and begin to chip off. Rather than deflate they will simply deteriorate until dangerous.
- Integrated footbrake
- A lightweight frame with reinforced plastic around it
- Adjustable seats
- Tires do not come with air so may wear out quickly
This is one of the only traditional balance bikes on this list made from Kinderfeets. This bike comes with 3 wheels as opposed to 2 like the other bikes have on this list. It does not necessarily teach balance because the two back wheels support the bike and the rider. It has been mainly designed as a toy rather than an educational product for children. The frame is made from birchwood which Kinderfeets argues is more sustainable than steel. It is however that’s not important given the size of the bike. It does make the bike lighter however the wheels are made foam and come with no air. The tires are only 9 inches big meaning they are the smallest by some range. This is what makes it more difficult to glide. Rather the child will be mainly pushing the bike.
- Environmentally sustainable bike
- Comfortable design
- Safe for playing with
- Not good for learning balance
This is one of the low to high budget options on the list. This bike works very well and does the job that all the other balance bikes do but at a more affordable price than those. It has a 10inch bending frame and is suitable for children between 1 and 3 years old. The bike comes with a lovely footrest that allows the child to get some speed going whilst they glide. It is also safer for them having a place to put their feet. The tire doesn’t come with air meaning it is puncture-proof. The ride quality is significantly reduced with tires that do not have air. The durability is also reduced because as the bike is used it gets chipped and loses pieces. It is also not easily repairable. It is made from an EVA foam polymer material that reduces the weight. Hence, they have tried to make the bike better at gliding. The Seat and handlebar are adjustable meaning that the bike grows with the child.
- Footrest for safer cycling
- 10-inch bending frame
- Adjustable seat
- Air free tire
Our buyer’s guide is designed to answer some questions that might have come up when you read the product reviews.
Do you need to wear a helmet on a balance bike?
Wherever kids are involved, safety is first. Most people may neglect the use of helmets on a balance bike because of how slow they go. However, there are other people on any road that you may cycle on. While your child may be going slow, there is nothing to say that others will not be going much quicker. A collision may result in catastrophic consequences. That is why you must always encourage the wearing of a helmet even on the balance bike.
Can you add pedals to a balance bike?
Most balance bikes do not come with pedals. As their name suggests, they are designed to encourage a child to balance and prepare them for cycling. You may find some balance bikes that sell pedals separately. These would give you the option to add them onto a bike. The complicated bit of this is that some of these bikes do not come with a chain. If you are comfortable tinkering with bikes, you may be able to figure a way out. Otherwise, you are better off just purchasing a bike that comes with pedals.
Should I get a balance bike with brakes?
Yes. Braking is a transferable skill. If your child is able to develop this skill on a balance bike it would make it much easier to use the braking system on any other bike they may use in the future.
How long do balance bikes last?
Balance bikes longevity depends on various factors. The main one being the material that they are made of. Most balance bikes that are made of steel or other closely related materials can give you over a decade if they are cared for. You can get around the same from a wooden frame balance bike if you take good care of it.
Are balance bikes safe for 2-year-olds?
Yes, a balance bike is safe for the average two-year-old. They will need to be carefully supervised as they use their bike. You want to ensure that they understand how the bike works for starters. Making them aware of dangers would also be important. That is a skill they can take forward with them.
How do you teach a balance bike?
Teaching a balance bike can be very easy. The vital thing is to inspire confidence in the child right from the beginning. If they are confident and feel safe, they will be more receptive to instructions. We will divide the learning experience into three parts.
Getting the child to sit on the saddle is where the confidence-building begins. Place your hand on the child’s shoulder to ensure that they are fully supported. The other hand should hold the bike still. Instruct the child to grab the handle. Check that their feet are in a safe position before moving. Start with their feet being off the ground with you holding the bike up for balance.
Think of this as pushing a stroller. Most children enjoy the experience of seeing the world go by at an unusual speed. With the child holding on the handlebars, start to push them around. This is the perfect chance to teach control. Instruct them to turn away from certain things or follow a certain path as you go. Speak to them about speed. Find out if you should go faster or slower. Show them how to place their feet on the ground for balance. Use this opportunity to show them how to push off the ground to move. Once you are happy with progress at this stage, move onto the final stage.
Most kids desire to have some degree of control over their lives. “I can do it.” or “Let me.” are some of the statements you may have heard from them. Give them the chance to do it. The first two stages prepare them for this. Stand a few metres in front of the bike facing them. Get them to come to you by pushing their keep off the ground. One foot at a time to start, then two feet. Remind them about controlling the handlebars. Allow some time for confidence to build up.
How do you stop on a balance bike?
Some balance bikes will come with brakes. Others require the child to use their feet to stop. The braking ones are straightforward. Squeeze the brakes to slow the bike down to a stop. Using your soles is the other option. Gently press the ground with your soles as the bike moves. It creates friction by rubbing against the ground. That will bring the bike to a stop. The faster you are going the more force you may need to place on the ground to slow down. Gradual is the best way to do it safely.
A balance bike is the perfect right of passage to a pedal bike. Most of the skills that you pick up using it will be transferred to a bigger bike. Choosing one for your child is not as easy a task as you may have imagined. The shortlist in this post has some stellar options for you to consider. Each one has been reviewed in a way that gives you sufficient information to make an informed decision. Did you learn anything new in the buyer’s guide? Our job here is done. Be sure to give our top pick, the Chillafish Bmxie² Lightweight Balance Bike another look.