Three best balance bikes

Allen Foster

The best way for children to learn is by performing tasks by themselves.

"It's like riding a bike." Yes, that may be true. Riding a bike is something you never forget how to do. But learning how to ride one? That's a completely different story, and one that's filled with struggles, anxiety, and injuries. The road to learning to ride a bike is paved with lots of scrapes, cuts, and bruises.

A balance bike circumvents the hard (and sometimes painful) part. It's a bike without pedals, so it works like a scooter. A balance bike allows the child to push with both feet and roll to his or her comfort level. A child who feels unsafe can plant both feet firmly on the ground and avoid a tumble. The ease of operation encourages children to challenge themselves at their own pace until they've mastered balance and learned how to ride without all those nasty spills.

Considerations when choosing balance bikes

Seat height: The proper seat height for a balance bike allows a child to sit with feet flat on the ground and knees only slightly bent. Since a child can grow about ten inches between the ages of two and five (the years when a balance bike is most beneficial), you need a bike that can grow with your child.

Construction: You want a lightweight bike that is comfortable and durable -- one that is safe and built to last. Parents will want a balance bike that is easy to assemble. If it offers tool-free adjustments (seat and handlebars), that can be a desirable option.

Handlebars: The handlebars should be designed for a child's grip. A cushioned pad for the handlebar is welcome, but any sharp edges or protruding nuts or bolts are a safety concern.

Tires: Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) tires are much lighter than rubber and puncture proof, but they don't always offer optimum traction, so it's a trade-off for the customer: lighter weight versus more traction.

Footrest: A footrest can be nice, but it is optional.

Balance bike prices: The price range for balance bikes is not as wide as you might expect. As long as you're diligent and look for the features mentioned above, you'll be able to find a decent balance bike for between $50 and $110. Once you go over $120, you'll find higher-quality bikes, but remember that your child will likely only use it for two or three seasons. If there are younger siblings, however, the increased durability might be a justifiable expense.


Q. What safety gear does my child need when riding a balance bike?

A. Spills are few and far between, but they can definitely happen. An accidental collision with an older sibling, for instance, can cause some painful scrapes and bruises. A helmet is not optional. Other recommended gear includes knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, and gloves.

Q. What is the right age to start riding a balance bike?

A. It depends on your child's development. Some companies suggest as early as a year old, but if your child isn't comfortable walking, riding a balance bike can be a hazardous activity. As long as you have a small enough bike, starting at one and a half is okay for a child who has mastered walking and balance. Typically, two years old is a good starting point.

Balance bikes we recommend

Best of the best: Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

Our take: High-quality, dependable bike made by an innovative company that understands your needs.

What we like: Features a lightweight steel frame, adjustable padded seat, and adjustable handlebars with toddler-size grips. Designed so that most adjustments can be made without tools.

What we dislike: The company occasionally receives knocks from consumers for choosing EVA tires over rubber tires, but EVA is lighter weight, puncture proof, maintenance-free, and shock absorbent, so we think it's a wise choice.

Best bang for your buck: Chicco Red Bullet Balance Training Bike

Our take: Comfortably priced, sturdy balance bike that's lightweight and easy to assemble.

What we like: Impressive design that's reminiscent of classic BMX bike styles, so it looks ready for fun. Soft, puncture-proof tires and ergonomic design with adjustable seat and handlebars.

What we dislike: Protruding bolts on the back tire aren't completely beyond the reach of some children. Ankles can occasionally clip or graze the bolts, causing discomfort.

Choice 3: Schwinn Balance Bike

Our take: Affordable balance bike built more like a bike than a stepping stone to a bike.

What we like: Pneumatic tires and solid steel frame with adjustable handlebars and seat. It rolls smoothly, has more traction than other bikes in its price range, and features a sizable platform if your child wants a footrest while traveling downhill.

What we dislike: Since it's built like a regular bike, it's much heavier than typical balance bikes. Some comfort and durability issues with the seat.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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