Before your child learns to ride a bike, he or she needs to practice critical physical skills like balance and coordination. One fun way to get them ready for that milestone is by using a bike that doesn’t require any sort of pedal.
Balance bikes are fun, age-appropriate, and simple for just about every child to figure out. They’re one thing you know will grow with your child and help transition to that awesome day when a real bike appears with a bright bow.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite balance bikes plus answered a few questions about why you need one and how to choose. Let’s take a look.
1. Critical Cycles Cub Kids Balance Bike – Best All-Around Balance Bike
Our first balance bike is a cute orange, white, and blue balance bike with air free tires that never need fixing. The seats and handlebars adjust to accommodate children ages 20 months to five years.
The frame is a step-through for easy mounting even if your child is still mastering that skill. The frame is also lightweight enough for your child to hold up without help. They push forward with their feet and practice critical balance and gross motor skills.
The frame uses a high tensile strength steel that’s tough enough to withstand even the most enthusiastic child without compromising weight. Since it’s adjustable, it can grow with your child and any subsequent siblings down the road.
Watch Out For:
The tires are foam to prevent compression, but they can be tough to steer sometimes if your surface is wet or uneven. Make sure you test things out before your child begins to ride.
- step through frame is easy to mount
- high tensile strength steel frame
- tires don’t have much tread or grip
2. Strider – 12 Sport Balance Bike – Best Extended Seat
Strider was one of the originals with balance bikes, and this fun blue option uses a lightweight steel frame. It has a simple, step through design that makes it easy for your child to mount without much help.
At 6.7 pounds, it’s a cinch for your child to hold up. The bike adjusts for ages 18 months to five years. It doesn’t require a tool. Both the seat and the handlebars are heavily padded for comfort and grip.
The tires are puncture proof and have a decent amount of tread. The sports version of the balance bike has an extra long seat for even taller kids than the classic model.
Watch Out For:
The soft seat actually sticks out way to far through the bottom of the frame in the lowest setting. If your child needs the lowest setting on the seat, his or her feet may constantly run into the bar.
- extra long adjustable seat
- weighs just over six pounds
- puncture proof tires
- construction of the seat and frame can be a pain for the smallest children
3. WOOM BIKES USA Woom 1 Balance Bike – Best For Steering Control
The Woom is a fun, green and white balance bike with an aluminum frame. It’s quality checked by a team of engineers before it ever leaves the facility and should provide durable and safe fun.
The bike has a low center of gravity and a convenient step-through design. The steering has a really innovative lock against oversteering, which prevents the handlebars from turning too far and collapsing your child.
It has a long wheelbase for straighter steering and fewer crashes. The tires are air-filled, so they give your child a real feeling for the way a pedal bike will handle later.
It’s adjustable for heights 32 to 39 inches.
Watch Out For:
The air filled tires can puncture under the right circumstances. Be sure to check that they aren’t showing too much compression before your child rides.
- aluminum frame is lightweight
- low center of gravity and wide wheel base for stability
- steering lock prevents overturning
4. Diggin Active Skuut Wooden Balance Bike – Best Wooden Option
A delightfully vintage version of the balance bike, this one is made of wood and features a low seat and handlebar set.
This is a really simple bike with a natural pushing motion. The handlebars are lower, giving your child a little more lean and a bit more momentum. The maximum weight is 75 pounds, so even if your child is larger than the average kid, the bike has you covered.
The seat adjusts to accommodate ages two through five. The body is Birchwood, and the seats are pneumatic rubber. The bike is protected by a safe, non-toxic lacquer.
It’s the recipient of many awards including the Oppenheimer Gold Seal. For every bike sold, Skuut plants a tree to offset deforestation.
Watch Out For:
The handlebars are somewhat weak where they attach to the frame. This can cause cracks to form, so check the bike regularly for structural integrity before your child rides.
- wood is simple and non-toxic
- the design can support more weight than the average balance bike
- Skuut plants a tree for every bike sold
- handlebars have a weak spot
5. Wishbone Bike 3in1 Original, Quality Convertible Balance Bike – Best For Multiple Ages
Wishbone’s convertible bike is a single bike that can transform as your child grows. It adjusts from a baby walker suitable for beginning toddlers to a small balance bike to a larger balance bike.
The bike is made from birchwood and eucalyptus, both sustainably harvested woods. The finish is protected with non-toxic glue and finish. The packaging is recycled, and it exceeds green safety standards in several countries including the United States.
The bike starts with three wheels so your child can practice walking. When the time is right, covert it to just two wheels to practice essential balance skills and gross motor skills.
Watch Out For:
The turning radius of the bike is really wide, so you may need more space than you think to take advantage fully.
- three in one bike for practicing motor skills
- non-toxic, sustainablematerials
- winner of many awards
- turning radius could be sharper
There are a few things to consider before you buy a balance bike.
What Are The Benefits Of The Balance Bike?
Balance bikes help children practice vital skills before they’re able to do them on their own. Balance is something that takes a while to master, so having a piece to help the practice safely gives them confidence and allows them to experiment.
Besides balance, kids can practice coordination through leg movement and steering. As they move the steering wheel and coordinate their legs, they’re able to practice gross motor skills. Later on, when they’re learning to ride a bike, they have all the physical foundations in place to succeed.
Balance bikes are safer than pedal cars as well. The use of legs to propel help children get balance and keep the bike upright. They can’t go as fast as pedal bikes can so you don’t need to worry as much when your child tries to take off.
Balance bikes also come with safety features such as steering limiters that can help children maintain stability and prevent frustration.
What Should I Look For?
There are a few critical pieces of the puzzle to consider.
Some balance bikes are billed as one size fits all, but this isn’t exactly true. Many of them are adjustable, so you will have to be careful that the bike accommodates your child’s measurements.
First, you need to find a bike with the tallest seat setting at least two inches above your child’s current inseam measurement to allow for a lot of growth. The lowest setting should be at least the inseam of your child.
Second, the tire size should also accommodate your child. Ages 18 months to about two years should have a tire size of about 12 inches while three years can have as much as 14 inches. Older children can handle tire sizes of up to 16 or 17 inches.
The weight of a bike is a huge part of the process. The bike shouldn’t be any more than 30% of your child’s body so that they don’t have trouble holding it up as they balance. You want the bike to have enough weight that it rides well but not so heavy that it falls over easily.
A good design should have plenty of space between the seat and the handlebars to allow your child to lean forward. THat’s where the momentum comes from. As your child learns, they can get good movement and keep rolling. Without this feature, the bike is borking and clunky.
There are a few different types of tires you could consider. Basic foam tires are great because they don’t compress and they don’t get holes, but they don’t always have a good grip.
Air tires have excellent grip, but they require maintenance and can add extra weight to the bike body. Plastic, on the other hand, is cheap and often not very good on any type of surface but the most ideal. The upside is that plastic is light.
Without a turning limiter, the handlebars can overturn and cause awkward crashing. Turning limiters help your child handle the bike by handling the radius of the handlebars and correct overturning. It cuts down on crashes and frustration, encouraging your child to keep trying.
Footrests can seem ok, but in reality, they can limit your child’s stride. The footrest should be small and have a thin footprint because the most important part is your child’s foot on the ground.
How Do I Care For My Balance Bike?
Before your child rides, you should check the bike for structural integrity. Balance bikes are usually made of durable materials, but they may not be able to stand up to a super enthusiastic child. Each time your child rides, you should know that the bike is structurally intact.
After your child rides, make sure your bike is put up properly to keep it out of the environmental elements so that you don’t cause damage from exposure. Also, make sure your child rides on terrain appropriate for the type of bike tires, so you don’t damage them.
How Much Should I Pay?
Price doesn’t always mean quality, but you should make sure that the bike is adjustable and made from durable materials. You don’t want plastic because it will fall apart pretty quickly. Your budget should include quality materials, but it doesn’t need a bunch of bells and whistles.
The whole purpose is for your child to practice balancing. That should leave you with some room to make some good choices.
Balance bikes are a great way for your child to be able to practice those vital balance skills well before they can handle a bicycle. They’re safer than pedal bikes, and your child can use his or her body to create movement and interest. It’s an excellent way for them to get some confidence in their own bodies and learn to try new things.
Your child’s balance bike can grow as your child grows, too. Adjustable bikes give your child a chance to expand skills and make the most of the balance bike. Once they’ve grown out of it, either physically or mentally, the fear of riding a two-wheel pedal bike is minimal.
Imagine your child’s face the next time he or she gets a birthday or holiday present, and it’s a shiny new balance bike. If there are older siblings, especially, you’ll finally have everyone out and able to participate in all the fun.
Is your child itching to get out on his or her very own bike? Is a balance bike just the thing to help them develop confidence and skills? Be honest. What color bike is his or her favorite? Tell us all about it in the comments below.