Certain life experiences are almost universal — your first kiss, first time getting in trouble, first time driving a car and, of course, first time riding a bike.
Bikes tend to be the first taste of freedom many kids get, and the first mode of transportation they master (besides walking, of course). As adults who are well versed in the art of pedaling, braking and dinging our tiny alert bells, we’ve got many choices when it comes to the steeds we can ride through the streets.
There are e-bikes that give your own pedaling muscles a boost of speed when you need it, mountain bikes that are made to handle rough terrain, and chill cruiser bikes that are perfect for the beach.
As a child new to the whole biking scene, your first bike probably wasn’t all that advanced. In fact, it might not have had actual pedals, it very well might’ve been a balance bike.
What Are Balance Bikes?
Balance bikes are pretty much exactly what they sound like. They’re bikes ridden by young children, typically between the ages of two and a half and five years old. They’re perfect for kids just learning how to ride a bike, or just grasping the concept of what a bike even is.
They’re an excellent introduction to bikes in general because they’re low to the ground, built to be as stable as possible, and mimic the feeling of a bicycle without the scary pedaling part.
Your child will get the experience of grabbing the handles and moving forward using two wheels without having to lift their feet off the ground.
Benefits of Riding a Balance Bike
Your child can progress through the typical stages of learning to ride a bike at their own pace, close to the ground with the ability to safely put their feet down at any time. These bikes give kids the independence of being able to move faster with a lighter bike that’s easier to maneuver, since they don’t have a chain, pedals or a crank system inside them. Balance bikes also don’t have training wheels, so kids can develop their balancing skills on the bike without relying on them, which some see as a pro.
Balance Bikes vs. Bikes With Training Wheels
There’s no right answer when it comes to this debate of which is better for teaching children to ride a bike, in fact, many people use a combination of both bikes! So, as with anything having to do with parenting or child-rearing, you should do what’s best for you and your family after doing your own research.
Bikes with training wheels are further from the ground, since you need room for the pedals to fully extend downwards and not hit the floor, so they do give children a more accurate representation of what a real bike feels like. However, training wheels can cause children to lean the wrong way when going around turns and can limit how fast they will go.
Balance bikes, on the other hand, are built lower to the ground and may be better for some children for developing balance and trust. You don’t have to go through the scary process of removing training wheels with your child, and they’re lighter and easier to carry.
Here’s our list of the best balance bikes for children learning to ride in 2021.
1. Strider Sport Balance Bike
This is one of the most popular and most highly-rated balance bikes out there, and is a great choice for kids 18 months to five years who are just learning how to ride a bike for the first time. Both the seat and handlebars can be adjusted as your child grows, and the bike only weighs a little over six pounds, which makes it easier for your child to pedal. It also has a durable steel frame and puncture-proof tires, so rough play shouldn’t be a problem.
2. Bixie 16″ Pro Balance Bike
This no-pedal bike from Bixie is designed for slightly bigger kids, aged 5-9, and is great for active kids who like to challenge themselves and test their limits. All of the clamps on the bike are tamper-proof and both wheels have been equipped with safety washers for added protection. The bike comes partially assembled with the wheels already attached so it’s ready to ride, and a provided wrench makes it easy to slide the bike seat and handlebars into place.
3. Radio Flyer Glide & Go Balance Bike
Radio Flyer, the old school bike brand that’s as fashionable as it is functional has a balance bike that’s super Instagrammable and built very well. It’s got Traction Tread tires that are built to hug the road and provide plenty of stabilizing friction while your child rides. The bike also has a sturdy steel frame and a comfortable seat that can adjust to grow as your child does. It also comes with a bell your child will have a ton of fun ringing.
4. Banwood Bikes First Go! Balance Bike
This beautifully-designed, luxury balance bike is perfect for photogenic children and photoshoot-obsessed parents who want a gorgeous bike that also functions supremely. It’s made by a family business dedicated to creating safe, high-quality bike options for children, combined with mid-century charm as this bike thoroughly illustrates. This bike has a child-friendly frame, a soft saddle seat that’s height-adjustable and handlebars for maximum comfort. It’s made to help little ones bypass training wheels through promoting balance and mobility. It also has a whicker basket and bell, two lovely touches for kids who like to take their toys on the go.
5. Crate & Barrel Wishbone 3-in-1 Bike Natural
This balance bike is definitely pricier than the other options, but it’s actually built with a 3-in-1 design that’s a multi-use, learn-to-ride system for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and small children up to age eight or nine. It can be used as a baby walker, a toddler tricycle and even a pedal-free balance bike for kids progressing towards riding their own two-wheeled vehicles. It’s super easy to convert between the different modes, and has a durable but lightweight design that makes pedaling easy. It comes with black grips for holding on and a sustainably-sourced birch frame as well.
6. TheCroco Premium Model Balance Bike
This super lightweight kids bike only weighs four pounds, which not only makes it super easy for you to carry as a parent but also makes it easier for your children to steer and maneuver the bike while riding. It comes at a super affordable price, and also comes with a bell, padded seat, hand grips, a gripped footrest and safety-end screws. Both the seat and handlebars can be adjusted without the use of tools, and the ultralight tires are designed no-puncture, so rough terrain shouldn’t cause an abrupt end to the ride.
7. Strider 12 Pro Sport Balance Bike
BEST ROAD BIKE
This road bike from Strider has an all-aluminum frame that weighs just over five pounds, as well as a textured performance footrest for successful gliding. It’s fully-adjustable with easy-adjust clamps, and comes with maintenance-free foam rubber tires as well. It also has a racing number plate out front for labeling your kid’s bike and making their competitions with the other kids even more legit.
8. Leo & Friends Kid’s’ Wooden Red Scooter Bike
BEST WOODEN DESIGN
This super cool balance bike design is made of 100% non-toxic wood and has a durable, glide-friendly frame that’s super sleek. It’s got a bike/ scooter design with a comfortable seat, grippy tires and convenient hand grips. It’s got a frame that’s the perfect size for three to six year olds, and will surely stand out against the other kids’ bikes on the playground.
9. Chillafish Charlie 10″ Kids’ Balance Bike
BEST FOR SMALL CHILDREN
This balance bike from Chillafish is lightweight and has only a 10″ frame, so it’s perfect for smaller children age 18-48 months. The no-puncture EVA tires are made to hold up against rougher terrain and it’s got an easily adjustable seat and handlebar for comfortable modifications as your child grows. The lightweight frame only weighs five and a half pounds, and it’s got an integrated carrying handle so you can easily take it on-the-go.
10. Little Tikes My First Balance 12″ Kids’ Bike
BEST TRANSITIONAL BIKE
This bike from Little Tikes has a single gear balancing design and can easily transition from Balance Mode to Pedal Mode and back again. It’s got an adjustable seat, adjustable handlebars and tires made from EVA foam that are designed to not go flat. When it’s in Pedal Mode it’s got coaster brakes that can be activated by rotating the pedals in reverse. It also has the option of pedals without training wheels so your child still gets the benefits of the balance bike design, while also getting to practice with pedals.
11. Zycom ZBike Toddlers Balance Bike
COMES WITH A HELMET
This balance bike comes with a matching helmet, so you get both items in one convenient purchase. This bike is made for smaller children, 18-36 months and has adjustable handlebars and an adjustable seat you can raise as your child grows. It’s built with a steering limiter that makes it easier for your child to ride safer, and the lightweight frame is still designed sturdy to keep them safe.