Buying Guide for Balance Bikes
Why should you buy a balance bike?
There are two great reasons why parents should invest in a balance bike for their young children: easy usage and cost-efficiency. Unlike the heavy and complicated layout of a standard bicycle, the balance bike allows not just little kids but also young toddlers how to grasp an early understanding of coasting up and down their driveway, backyard, or park sidewalk. Of course, because it’s a simpler option, it’s also priced at a significantly lower cost than most standard bicycles. So, your child will get the same amount of fun for a far more reasonable price.
What should you look for in a balance bike?
- Conveniences: The shared design among balance bikes is already easy enough to manage as is, but there are a few other conveniences you should look for. Because a balance bike forsakes the need for pedals, they typically feature rear footrests for your child to tuck their legs once they’ve picked up enough momentum. Naturally, some are designed better than others (i.e., footrests that are wider or feature gripping surfaces versus footrests that are slim and rounded). Other conveniences to look out for include protective handlebars and seating, as well as a frame that balances portability with just enough heft.
- Longevity: This is a learner’s bike, but it doesn’t mean that you and your toddler shouldn’t get as much out of it for as long as possible. Key factors that determine how much use you’ll get out of a balance bike are defined by durability and versatility. For starters, look to options that employ rugged features, like reinforced frames or slash/puncture-proof tires. You can truly ensure your balance bike will last if it features a wide window of usage, which is typically due to adjustable settings that extend with your child.
- Style: Finally, it’s just as important to seek out a balance bike with style because why cruise around on a two-wheeler that’s boring? From mountain bikes and retro looks to choices that look like they’re straight out of the future, there are plenty of balance bikes that don’t look like run-of-the-mill bikes. Kids will also appreciate a model that pops with color, specifically their favorite color, so look to balance bikes that provide you with an assortment of hues to choose from.
What does a balance bike achieve that training wheels cannot?
For starters, most standard bikes with training wheels aren’t built for the younger rider. They’re too large and heavy, amounting to a huge inconvenience for a child that’s undersized. However, what a balance bike grants (that training wheels can’t) is the opportunity to truly learn how to ride a bike. Bicycles with training wheels offer a toddler the sensation of riding, but once they come off, it’s up to the parent to actually instruct their child on proper riding. The balance bike was designed to help your child get over that hump from the moment they sit down.
Our Picks for the Best Balance Bikes
Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike
Like its name suggests, this is a sporty option that's built for the adventurous kiddo.
Pros: Capable of accommodating riders from the age of 18 months all the way up to 5 years old, this balance bike brings you a great combination of easy-to-use and hard-wearing perks. In terms of strength, it features a highly durable frame with puncture-proof tires, the latter of which employs a design with deep grooves to promote the ideal level of traction. Its rubberized handles also ensure optimal gripping power, while a plush cushion around the guard rail prevents injury when braking.
Cons: Upfront, if you’re on the hunt for a bargain, then it’s best that you look elsewhere for your kiddo, as this is one of the most expensive balance bikes on the market. Some users have noted that this option doesn’t actually include an owner’s manual or written instructions for assembly. Instead, you are emailed a pdf file.
Bottom Line: Tough and snazzy, this Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike knows how to take its hits while delivering a sound riding experience throughout your child’s formative years.
Radio Flyer Balance Bike
A classic children's two-wheeler that features hefty steel construction and a ringing bell that's fun and focused on protection.
Pros: Forged from moderately hefty steel that looks and feels solid, here’s a balance bike that features every coasting-forward quality you’d want and even a bit extra. It’s all here, from deeply treaded tires that maintain traction on the road to an adjustable seat that keeps your child on a single balance bike for a longer period of time. It also features a real ringing bell, which serves two purposes as an added safety benefit that kids will have a wonderful time ringing up and down the street.
Cons: Unlike some other balance bikes, this option doesn’t feature explicitly designed footrests, so your child’s feet may slip off the sides whenever they’re attempting to glide. Its product listing also notes that it only becomes suitable for kids when they reach 2.5 years old, so buying this for any child that’s younger may require too much of a learning curve.
Bottom Line: From a brand name that’s practically synonymous with children’s training bikes, this Radio Flyer Balance Bike features a worthwhile combination of tough and safety-forward qualities that should assure parents as their kiddos ride around.
XJD Baby Balance Bike
If you're seeking a balance bike that knows how to accommodate young children, give this one a look.
Pros: This balance bike offers users between the ages of 12-24 months a supremely easy-to-manage design. It features a range of accommodating baby features, like its soft polyurethane seat and anti-slip handlebar, which is capable of turning 135 degrees in either direction so that a rider can steer with confidence. This balance bike’s extremely lightweight carbon frame also makes getting around a breeze.
Cons: A significant drawback for some parents is the small window of operation this bike provides, as some users have noted this option works best as a “pre-balance bike.” Within two years of purchase, your child will likely have outgrown this frame. Even if your child fits within the parameters of its usage, additional users have noted that this balance bike is almost too small and that it’s prone to tipping over at times.
Bottom Line: This Baby Balance Bike from XJD provides toddlers a manageable but sturdy carbon steel ride that’s smooth, safe, and available in a variety of colors that boys and girls are bound to love.
Retrospec Cub Balance Bike
This balance bike boasts a multitude of durable, mountain bike-like qualities that kids can put to the test on most surfaces.
Pros: Like the best the market has to offer, this balance bike touts convenience throughout its entire frame, whether you’re setting it up or letting your kiddo go for a spin. Its overall design requires a minor assembly process, and when it’s in motion, you can rely on its air-free tires and high-tensile steel to grant your child a strong, maintenance-free ride. Of course, it’s also designed to grow with your child, thanks to the pairing of its adjustable seat and handlebars.
Cons: An immediately noticeable disadvantage underlying the purchase of this balance bike is its weight. The most useful balance bikes should toe the line between lightweight and hefty, but this 9-pound option weighs more than most, and that may limit a child’s overall management of its frame. Some users have taken issue with the placement of the rear footrests, as they can protrude too far for some children and hinder their attempts at gaining speed.
Bottom Line: A stylishly rugged choice that bears striking similarities to modern mountain bikes, this Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike is another hard-wearing choice that children can enjoy on the pavement, asphalt, and grass.
Yvolution Senior Balance Bike
A stylishly daring balance bike that supports kids as old as 6 with large, puncture-proof tires and height-adjustable perks.
Pros: Featuring one of the more visually exciting design structures among balance bikes, this option, with its reinforced aluminum construction and high weight capacity, is another must-have for older toddlers. Even at its base height, its larger wheels grant it a higher ground clearance, allowing children safer play across most types of outdoor surfaces. This balance bike also provides children with nearly indestructible tires, as well as an adjustable seat and handlebar.
Cons: Whereas most balance bikes offer a welcome amount of color options so that you can personalize your purchase, this model comes to you in just three colors. Its 8.4-pound frame may also give younger toddlers a hard time when moving around. Additionally, its tires lack the deep surface grooves necessary to easily handle rocky and mushy terrain.
Bottom Line: If you’re seeking a two-wheeler with its own unique sense of style, this Yvolution Senior Balance Bike brings you a bold and slim design that older riders who require a bit more leg space are sure to enjoy.
The balance bike may seem like one step too many in the overall process of learning how to ride a bicycle, but if you and your kiddo are serious about having fun, then why not pull out all the stops? Have your kid strap on a helmet and get to riding with one of these balance bikes!