5 Best Balance Bikes for Toddlers

Best Balance Bikes

June 28, 2017

Best Balance Bikes

Balance bikes build confidence, independence, and coordination—an awesome trifecta. Many biking experts recommend skipping tricycles and training wheels altogether and starting here instead.Best Balance Bikes

Do you remember learning to ride a bike with training wheels, and then feeling terrified when it was time to say buh-bye?

Couldn’t your parents hold the back of the banana seat while steering you down the block a little longer? Today’s kids—as young as 18 months—are getting a leg up (quite literally!) when it comes to mastering two-wheel bike riding, thanks to balance bikes.

What’s a Balance Bike?

Balance bikes build confidence, independence, and coordination—an awesome trifecta. This small two-wheeler without pedals is much lighter and easier to navigate than a traditional pedal bike. They’re designed to help little ones develop balance through an intuitive process of first walking while sitting over the saddle, then scooting, running, and gliding with feet lifted (no parental assistance required!).

Many biking experts actually recommend skipping tricycles and training wheels altogether and starting here instead. Not only are balance bikes safe to ride on all sorts of outdoor surfaces, but they’re so much fun… just ask any kid that zips by you on one at the park.

Keep in mind: Despite all the benefits, a balance bike isn’t for everyone. Some tots would rather hop on a classic tricycle. Check out our guide on the best picks.

How Do I Know Which Balance Bike to Buy?

Balance bikes come in a range of sizes (for kids 18 months - 5 years) and budgets (from $50-$200+). The higher end models have more features, top-notch components, and better maneuverability. You’ll want one with an adjustable seat that grows with your child and lasts several years. The earlier you start your tot on a balance bike, the longer they’ll ride it. In most cases, a toddler will ride a balance bike for 2-3 years and switch to a pedal bike when they’re four or five.

What to Look For:

  • Make sure there is plenty of room between the seat and handlebars, so your child’s legs aren’t scrunched up when they’re on the move.
  • Your child’s feet should be able to easily reach and push off the ground (especially important for the running stage as well as stopping).
  • The seat should be low (and close to the rear tire) for easier balancing. A poorly designed high seat can throw off your child’s center of gravity.
  • Some balance bikes have hand brakes that preschoolers are coordinated enough to use. But most riders just rely on their feet to stop. (Sorry, shoes.)
  • Handlebars should have rubber grips and bumpers to protect your child’s hands should they steer into something or fall.
  • The tire size on smaller balance bikes should be 12”.
  • The heavier the bike, the harder it will be for little ones to maneuver. A good rule of thumb: a bike should not weigh more than 30% of your child’s weight.

Fan Favorite

Why We Love It

The Strider Classic is the perfect starter balance bike for tots as young as 18 months. At just under a hundred bucks, it’s a popular, well-made option. It’s one of the smallest and lightest on the market, helping newbies hit the road with ease. The Strider is simple to assemble and adjust. Better yet, you won’t have to worry about getting a flat, thanks to the puncture-proof tires made of EVA polymer. The built-in footrests are a nice perk for long glides.

Keep in Mind

The frame’s petite size and low seat height are perfect for little ones, but not for tall toddlers and older kids. However, Strider has other models (Sport and Pro) for bigger riders.

What Babylist Parents Say

“The balance bike is amazing. We often say it’s one of the best investments we made for our son. He loves riding around and we’ve loved to see him grow more confident on it. I can’t wait to see him transition to a two-wheeler.” -Bethany

Additional specs:

Ages: 18 months - 3 years

Bike weight: 6.7 lbs.

Tire size: 12”

Top-Notch Two-Wheeler

Why We Love It

The amazing features of the WOOM 1 combine to create a smooth ride with exceptional performance… so get ready to be wowed by your toddler. From the low seat/step-through to the long wheelbase, it’s thoughtfully designed so the littlest riders can quickly find their center of gravity (and groove!) on two wheels. Other notable features include the removable steering limiter, brakes that are easy for small hands to master, and wheels with alloy rims and rust-free spokes.

Keep in Mind

This is another great “starter-bike” for toddlers and younger preschoolers. When kids learn balance early on a WOOM 1, they’ll be ready to pedal at at a very early age on the WOOM 2.

What Babylist Parents Say

“Lightweight, good fit, low bike seat, good tires.” -Audrey

Additional Specs

Ages: 18 months - 3.5 years old

Bike weight: 8 lbs.

Tire size: 12”

Wooden Wonder

Why We Love It

The classic style of the Skuut is inspired by the original balance bikes of the 1800’s (yep, they’ve actually been around for a really long time.) The 3-piece design is made from birchwood, coated with nontoxic lacquer. Although the Skuut is all about simplicity, there’s an adjustable seat and turning limiter. This is a great pick for eco-conscious families.

Keep in Mind

A wooden balance bike shows more wear and tear than those made of materials like aluminum alloy and steel. It’s more prone to scratching, warping, and rotting from the elements. So, avoid leaving it outside when not in use.

What Babylist Parents Say

“Great adjustable seat height, perfect size for a first bike! I love that it can grow with my little guy!” -Megan

Additional Specs

Ages: 2 - 5 years

Bike weight: 10 lbs.

Tire size: 12”

Best on a Budget

Why We Love It

The Radio Flyer is an inexpensive choice that brings big time fun. While the components don’t stack up to those on higher end bikes (and don’t handle wear and tear as well), it rides smoothly on pavement and is easy for kids to maneuver. The steel frame is lightweight, the cushion is comfortable, and the seat adjusts to grow with your kiddo up to age five.

Keep in Mind

You can customize your balance bike on the Radio Flyer website, choosing everything from the frame (steel or wood), to the color (red or pink) to the tires (air or foam). The price adds up when you add accessories, but can you really pass up the bell, streamers, and name plate?

What Babylist Parents Say

“Very simple for my son to use.” -Sylvia

Additional Specs

Ages: 2.5 - 5 years

Bike weight: 6.6 lbs.

Tire size: 12”

The Transformer

Why We Love It

Can’t make up your mind over a balance bike or a trike? Have them both with the Bunzi. This adorable three-wheeler converts into a two-wheeler (without tools) when your tot is ready. It’s the most gradual way to get the hang of a balance bike. The wheels are designed for use inside, too. Parents appreciate the incorporated handle when they need to carry it from room to room.

Keep in Mind

The Bunzi will definitely help your toddler develop balance and coordination on wheels, but it’s more of a ride-on-toy than a true balance bike.

What Babylist Parents Say

“Chillafish is great for little little babies, tons of fun, suitable for use inside even in relatively small spaces.” -Joan

Additional Specs

Ages: 1 - 3 years

Bike weight: 4 lbs


Jessica Solloway is a writer and digital content strategist. From start-ups to global brands, she helps companies tell their stories online. She regularly contributes to websites including weeSpring, The Muse, Mommy Nearest, and Motherly, among others. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two little girls.

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