Balance bike is a two-wheeled pedal-less bike and allows children pushes themselves along with their feet. It can teach toddlers as young as 18-months to balance on two wheels.
There are hundreds of balance bike on the market, come in all price ranges, from $50 to $200+. Different brands and price balance bike have different performance and quality.
It’s a tough task to choose the appropriate balance bike for your child. We’ve personally tried and tested over 30 balance bikes and collected many parents’ suggestion to help you buy the best bike for your toddler.
In a hurry? Directly preview the result Best balance bike for toddler.
The elements you should consider when buying the balance bike are:(1)size,(2)frame,(3)wheels,(4)weight,(5)brake,(6) Turning Limiters ,(7) Footrest ,(8) Handlebar, (9)Detail and Appearance, (10)Assemble, (11)Warranty, (12) Accessories, , (13)Your requirement and budget.
A basic balance bike contains one beam，two wheels，handlebar，seat，front fork, rear fork and bolt connection all parts. Some balance bike also has footrests, brakes, turning limiters, etc., but not essential.
Beam, handlebar, front fork, rear fork together form the bike frame, rear forks often are welded together with the beam.
Frame and two wheels play a key role on the bikes’ safety, performance, and durability, also determine the size of the bike.
When we choose a balance bike for kids, we first should choose an appropriate size bike.
According to the diameter of the wheel, There are mainly four specifications balance bike: 12″, 14″, 16″, 20″.
The common size of the balance bike is 12″wheels. It’s suitable for the children 18months through 3years old who learn to ride a balance bike.Famous manufacturer like Strider ，Woom offers 12″ balance bike with the adjustable seat heights to accommodate ages 18 months to 3 years.
14″wheels are suitable for older or taller preschoolers 3 through 5 years.We recommend Strider – 14X 2-in-1 bike. It can be used as a balance bike for toddler 3-5 years. After having mastered the balance of riding , Strider – 14X 2-in-1 can quickly attach the Easy Ride Pedal Kit become a regular bike.
There are a few 16″ and 20″ balance bikes designed for kids 6-8 years who have difficult in riding a pedal bike and want to develop their ability of balance. Such as Strider – Youth 16 Sport, Glide Bikes 16-Inch, Bixe 16″ Balance Bike.
While wheel size is a common reference point for the overall size of a balance bike，it is not indicative of the seat height of the bike.
Too high or low seat height will both make the child feel uncomfortable.Proper seat height should allow for a slight bend in the knee.
The simplest way to know if a child will fit the bike is to get them to ride over it. Let the child personally try to see if the size is right. Or you should measure your kids’ inseam, it should be 1″ to 1.5″ higher than the bike’s seat height.
Some parents think that children are growing fast and like to buy bigger balance bike to fit kids future.
In our opinion, the bike needs to fit the child right now, not the child after 6 months time.Because the seat heights and the handlebar can be adjust to accommodate the growing children.
Summarize how to choose the right balance bike size.First, choose the appropriate wheel size, then adjust the seat height to accurate fit the child’s inseam.
A bike with a good frame will perform well and make it easier for the children to learn to balance and maneuver.
It’s difficult to see at a glance whether a bike has “good frame structure”. This is a professional issue that requires detailed design analysis and experimental verification.
As a consumer, we should choose the balance bike that naturally comfortable to ride.
There are three common frame structures on the market.
(1)Rear Footrest The footrest is on the rear fork of the bike, where feet would be retracted if putting on it. But it won’t interfere with a child’s stride. The balance bike for racing often adopts this frame. Strider is the classic version of this type of frame.
(2)Front Footrest The footrest is in the natural place, where feet would be comfortable if coasting on a pedaled bike, helping to find their center of gravity. The footrest also makes it more fun and comfortable than holding their legs off to the side. Such as KaZAM, JOYSTAR balance bike.
(3)No footrest When the children ride the no footrest balance bike, they will hold their legs off to the side. This frame structure is common in wood and composite material bike, such as Kinderfeets, FirstBIKE Street Balance Bike.
If you want a good riding experience, you should consider the following several elements. (1) Wheelbase (2) The space between the seat and the handlebars (3) Fork Angle (4)Seat Position
(1) Wheelbase: longe wheelbases generally make a balance bike more stable and easier to balance. The short wheelbase makes the car more flexible, which is more obvious when turning at high speeds. The short wheelbase makes the angle of the turn smaller. The Strider is a typical representative of the short wheelbase. So in the advanced races, participants generally use Strider’s bike for faster turns.
(2) The space between the seat and the handlebars.Having ample space between the seat and the handlebars make the rider naturally comfortable to ride.When their body leans forward into the handlebars，they may fell more labor-saving.
(3)Fork Angle: The angle of the front fork plays a huge role in the maneuverability of a bike. A more upright fork forces more of the child’s weight to the front wheel, causing the front wheel too weight and it is difficult to maneuver.
(4)Seat Position: If a bike has only a small gap between the rear tire and the seat, it’s a well-designed balance bike.The smaller the gap between the rear tire and the seat, the lower center of gravity of the bike, the easier to balance at low speeds.
The material also plays a key role in the performance of the frame. The common material of the balance bike frame is aluminum, steel, wood.
Aluminum: lightweight, rust-proof, but lower strength compared with steel alloys. Aluminum is the ideal material of balance bike, but the price is high, often used in higher-end bikes.
Steel: Strong, durable, may rust, heavier than aluminum, but steel offers better vibration dampening and a smoother riding experience.
Wood: environmentally friendly, but not so strong as aluminum and steel, used in Old-fashioned balance bike，not much used now.
The wheels are mainly included three parts: tires, Rims, and hub.
Balance bike tires are three primary types: air, foam, rubber.
Air tires have the best overall performance，can provide superior traction and cushioning, but it’s heavier than foam tire.
Air Tires can flex to shock-absorbing and offer a smooth ride. It is suitable for all terrain. If you want to take part in the balance bike competition, air tires are essential.
The Big Apple tire is a wide-body air tire with extra friction and cushioning, which are suitable for children who like jumping or multiple ways of playing. But this high-quality tire is expensive.
Foam Tires is lighter, never punctures and cost-effective, are very common on balance bikes. The foam tires are solid, the elasticity is not very good. Foam tires provide sufficient friction on the gentle ground, but the friction on the complex surface and the smooth surface will be worse. Foam Tires is suitable for flat road.
Rubber tires perform slightly better on traction and cushioning than foam tires, but not as good as air tires. Not much used in the balance bike.
The hub of a bike influence the speed and smoothness of a tire spins around the axle.Depending on the bearing ，There are two main types of hubs: Cup and cone bearings hub and cartridge bearings hub.
Cup and cone bearings hub are strong bearing capacity but easy to wear. This type of hub can be easily disassembled for replacing a worn part and lubrication.
In a “cartridge bearing” hub rotates more smoothly and quietly, waterproof and dustproof performance is higher. But generally not serviceable or adjustable. Instead, the entire cartridge bearing is replaced in case of wear or failure. And it’s expensive.
When choosing a racing balance bike, a “cartridge bearing” hub is a “nice-to-have”.
There is an easy way to judge whether the hub is good or bad. Turn the wheel hard and see how long it will last until the wheel stop. The longer the wheels turn, the higher quality the hub is.
At the same time, listen to the sound when turning and see the vibration of the frame.The smaller the sound and vibration are, the better the performance of the hub is.
Balance bike rims are two primary types：One-piece wheels and spoke wheel. The One-piece wheels will be stronger and more durable, while the spoke wheel will be more shock absorbing.
The wheel of the balance bike on the market, The One-piece wheels is usually combined with solid tire，The spoke wheel is usually combined with air tires. The combination of air tires plus One-piece wheels is few.
For the beginner, you don’t need to worry about the rims too much. You only choose the tire that suits you. For a professional, it is recommended to use the combination of air tires plus spoke wheel.
If a balance bike is too weight, it’s hard for the toddler to manipulate.
The overall weight of a bike is mainly influenced by the frame and wheels.The aluminum frame is lighter than steel frame. Foam tires are much lighter than Air Tires.Different combinations of frame and tires will generally form different weights as follows (for reference only, some models will have difference).
Generally speaking, the overall weight of a bike shouldn’t more than 30% of your child’s weight. If a child weighs 25lbs, the balance bike appropriate for him should weigh no more than 7.5 lbs. (25 x 0.3 = 7.5).
The child may feel tired when outdoor play. Parents may end up carrying the balance bike and child home. The lighter the weight of the bike, the easier it is for parents to carry.
When the child starts to learn the balance bike, Kids will primarily use their feet to stop a balance bike.
For the little toddler (under 3.5 years), using their feet to stop a balance bike is a more direct physical reaction.
The child 3.5 years and older may have enough hand-eye coordination to use a hand brake.
So, for the young toddler (under 3.5 years), it is safer to use feet to brake. For the older toddler (over 3.5 years), using the foot and handbrake together can stop the balance bike faster and safer. Once mastered the handbrake, the child can transition to the regular bicycle more easily.
If you want to buy a balance bike with a handbrake, the short-reach brakes are more suitable for toddler.
Some manufacturers claim that their balance bike has turning Limiters.The steering limiting is mainly to prevent the child wrestling that caused by the handlebar losing controlled and turning too large. But at the same time, it will also limit the child’s control and freedom of the bike.
There are also two designs for steering restrictions: “hard limiter” and “elastic limiter”.
The hard limiter is that the handlebar itself limits the steering angle, usually 30°. If the steering is over 30°, it will not continue to turn.
The elastic limiter is the addition of a steering limit ring so that the handlebar is always pulled by the restraining ring while turning, and cannot be rotated too large angle. If the bike is using an “elastic limiter”, the limit ring can be removed when there is no need to limit the angle.
In fact, most of the balance bike on the market can turn for 360 degrees. This kind of 360° rotating handlebar design, when the balance bike falls, the handlebar will traverse.
The handlebar will not poke up to the children vertically, avoiding secondary damage from the handlebar when the children fall.
For the beginner, they may be unskilled by the steering, which makes the control of the handlebar unstable. The steering restriction can protect the children to a certain extent. When they are familiar with the balance bike, the turning limiter can be removed. So if you want to buy a balance bike with turning Limiters, we recommend choose the removable elastic limiter, such as woom 1.
In terms of the speed and smoothness of riding, there is no need to have a footrest. In fact, the majority of racing balance bikes do not have footrests, which will not interfere with a child’s stride and help to improve speed.
Some bike with footrests to facilitate the child to put their foot when they are sliding or turning to accelerate.
A properly designed footrest usually doesn’t interfere with a child’s stride. The strider footrest is not large and tucked back under the seat which designed just right.
The handlebar of the balance bike is two types: flat handlebars and riser handlebar.
A flat bar is a nearly-straight tube, in most cases slightly bent toward the rider.
In the case of the same length and material, the flat handlebar is lighter than the riser handlebar. The flat handlebar has high flexibility and fast acceleration and is more suitable for racing games.
A riser handlebar is a variation of the flat bar in which the outer sections of the bars rise from the center clamp area by about 15 to 50 mm.
The riser handlebar has better seismic performance and stability than the straight handle, and the ride is comfortable. It’s suitable for small riders with relatively weak upper limbs.
Riser handlebar is easier to lift the front wheel to cross the obstacle than the flat handlebars.
The handlebars usually require a rubber grip to improve comfort and slip resistance. A rubber grip with a knobby end is an easy and common way to keep your child safe. When the handlebars run into a ground, tree, etc., the rubber grip with a knobby end will protect kids’ hands.
9.Detail and Appearance
The details determine the quality. If the details of a balance bike are very good, we can think of it’s as a good one.
The exposed bolts have the potential to scratch the child, and the flat bolts，covered bolts, round bolts, and recessed bolts reduce the likelihood of scratches.
The other details like the smooth edges, no sharps point, we also caution before buying a balance bike.
Most manufacturers offer a two-year warranty to against manufacturing defects.
Some manufacturers request you to register your bike’s serial number to activate your warranty.
If a balance bike can’t offer a warranty, we do not recommend you to buy it.
Once you have bought a balance bike, you also need the essential accessories to protect your children. Helmet, Knee and elbow pads are essential for a beginner to learn ride balance bike.
Helmet plays a key role in the child’s safety when they ride a balance bike. The helmet protects the child’s head when the child falls.
As a parent, we should help the child to develop good habits that wearing a helmet when they are riding out on their own.
It’s important to have a properly sized and fitted helmet.
Knee and elbow pads
Knees and elbows are the easiest to injured when the child is riding a balance bike. Knee and elbow pads are not compulsory but you’d better wear knee and elbow pads when riding a bike, especially for the beginner.
13.Your requirement and budget
When we shopping for a balance bike, in addition to considering the quality of the bike, we should also consider the purpose of the bike and how much money I want to spend on it.
the purpose of I buy a balance bike is for the children to ride freely, or to let the children participate in competitive sport?
The purpose is different, and the focus is naturally different.
The children to ride freely is an amateur player, to participate in the competition is a professional player.
When an amateur player shopping for a balance bike, they mainly focus on price, configuration, appearance.
The amateur players just want to buy a balance bike to try it. They generally have no high requirements on the configuration of the balance bike.
For the amateur players often has the same requirements as the beginner, please review “Best balance bike for the beginner“.
For the beginner, often has the same requirements as the amateur players, please review “Best balance bike for the beginner”.
Professional players need the balance bike to complete professional movements, they focus on the performance of the bike.
They wish to buy the balance bike that suitable for the competition. They also consider whether the balance bike has a club.