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Balance bikes are simply the best way to teach your toddler or preschooler the joys of riding on two wheels. But with so many options on the market, finding the best balance bike for your needs can be a daunting task. Luckily, we’re a bike-obsessed family and also bring more than 10 years of professional bike industry experience to our recommendations. Read on to see our top balance bike picks of 2023.
As a former kids’ bike buyer and mechanic at one of the nation’s largest outdoor retailers, we know what to look for in a balance bike. And as a dedicated biking family, we’re out on the trail or road every single week, regularly putting all sorts of bikes through their paces. In addition to our vast experience and professional expertise, we consider critical factors like overall balance bike weight, seat height, build quality, and price when selecting our top balance bike picks.
Best Balance Bikes for 1- and 2-Year-Old Toddlers
These balance bikes fit babies and toddlers with 10- to 15-inch inseams who are 23- to 40-inches tall.
Pros: – Very light and low seat height are a great match for young toddler. – Hand brake and air-filled tires add comfort and control. Cons: – Expensive (but you get what you pay for). – Really hard to find a fault.
Why it’s Great
The woom ORIGINAL 1 is hand down the best balance bike for your 1- or 2- year old toddler, checking every single box along the way. What sets the woom 1 apart from its competitors isn’t one single feature, it’s the entire package. The mighty little balance bike features a low 10.4-inch seat height, perfect for very young toddlers to start riding. And the remarkably low 6.6 pound weight is much easier to maneuver compared to heavier options. The woom 1 also sports lightweight air-filled tires that provide ample cushion on bumpy roads, and the child-specific hand brake is easy to grab and helps toddlers control their speed–increasing safety in the process. As a final nod to its excellence, the woom 1 is very quick and easy to assemble, allowing us to have our toddler up and scooting in about 5 minutes. For the very best balance bike, it’s impossible to beat the woom ORIGINAL 1.
How it Compares
With its full set of features and high-quality craftsmanship, the woom 1 is the best balance bike that money can buy. However, priced at $249, it may be out of reach for some. For those who aren’t willing to shell out that kind of money, then we think the Chillafish Charlie 10″ is worth a look (listed below). For about $200 less than the woom, the Chillafish weighs a mere 5.5 pounds and has a respectively low 11-inch seat height, which works well for toddlers with inseams of 11.5 inches and greater. However, the Chillafish can’t compete with the woom in terms of features–you won’t find brakes or air-filled tires–and the build quality is significantly lower on the Chillafish.
For those with very small toddlers, or if you’re eager to introduce your child to biking at a very early age, then the Frog Tadpole (listed below) is worth considering. Similar to the woom 1, the Frog features an aluminum frame, rear hand brake, and other toddler-specific features like small grips. However, what sets the Frog Tadpole apart is its incredibly small 10-inch wheels and the lowest-in-class 9.5-inch seat height, making it the best first balance bike for a very young toddler or baby.
Pros: – Affordably priced at about $50. – Very lightweight and easy to maneuver. Cons: – Build quality can’t match the woom 1. – Lacks premium features like brakes and air-filled tires.
Why it’s Great
Priced at a very reasonable $50, the Chillafish Charlie 10″ is the best budget balance bike for 1- or 2-year old toddler. For about $200 less than the woom ORIGINAL 1 above, the Chillafish offers great value for your little rider and has everything they need to start their biking journey. The Charlie 10″ features small 10-inch foam-filled tires that are hassle-free (no dealing with flats), and the low 11-inch seat height works well for kids with inseam lengths of 11.5 inches and greater. What’s more, the Chillafish weighs a mere 5.5 pounds, which is impressively light for a balance bike. The Chillafish’s seat adjusts 3.5 inches, meaning that it will grow with your child, and the integrated carry handle makes it easy to schlep back to the car when ride time is over. While the Chillafish Charlie 10″ may lack premium features like brakes and air-filled tires, it remains an excellent choice for budget-conscious shoppers.
How it Compares
It’s important to have realistic expectations for budget items, and the Chillafish Charlie 10″ is no different. It’s a great balance bike for getting started on two wheels, however, it can’t compete with premium models when it comes to build quality, durability, or features. And that’s where our top balance bike pick, the woom ORIGINAL 1 (listed above), comes in. Compared to the Chillafish, the woom’s aluminum frame is thicker and more robust, the air-filled tires on the woom offer more comfort and provide better traction, and the hand brake adds loads of safety and control (the Chillafish has no brakes). Finally, the woom 1 has a lower seat height (10.4 inches vs the Chillafish’s 11), which means that your little one can start riding sooner. For budget shoppers, the Chillafish is a solid option, but for those who have a little extra to spend, then the woom ORIGINAL 1 is an easy choice.
Pros: – The smallest balance bike with the lowest seat height. – Rear hand brake and air-filled tires for added comfort and safety. Cons: – A bit heavier than expected. – Limited seat height adjustment.
Why it’s Great
If you’re searching for one of the smallest balance bikes with the lowest seat heights for your young toddler, then the aptly-named Frog Tadpole Mini is the perfect choice. What really sets the Tadpole Mini apart from all other push bikes are its very small 10-inch tires and the exceptionally low 9.5-inch minimum seat height. This allows kids with inseam lengths of about 10 inches and greater to experience the freedom of two wheels. But that’s not all. The Tadpole Mini is a premium push bike featuring a durable aluminum frame, a rear hand brake to help control speed, and air-filled tires for improved comfort and grip on all types of surfaces. Finally, the steering limiter prevents oversteering, further enhancing safety for your little guy or gal. All in all, the Frog Tadpole Mini is a premium balance bike in a tiny package.
How it Compares
The Frog Tadpole Mini has everything we look for in a top-rated balance bike, all wrapped up in an extra small package. And while it’s a perfect match for exceptionally small or early riders, the class-leading minimum seat height will quickly be outgrown by bigger kids. For comparison sake, the Tadpole Mini’s seat can be adjusted from 9.5 to 12.3 inches off the ground, on the other hand, our top-rated woom 1’s (listed above) seat adjusts from 10.4 inches to 14.4 inches. That extra 1.2 inches of seat adjustment might not sound like much, but it makes quite the difference and allows the woom ORIGINAL 1 to fit a wider range of heights. So while the Tadpole Mini is a top choice for very young riders, it doesn’t provide the same range of adjustment as larger options.
Pros: – Four wheels and tires add stability for the youngest of riders. – At 4 pounds, it’s the lightest balance bike on this list. Cons: – Seat height is not adjustable. – Will quickly be outgrown.
Why it’s Great
With its very small stature, exceptionally low weight, and four wheels for added stability, the Retrospec Cricket Baby Walker Balance Bike is the best baby balance bike on the market. The small 5.75-inch wheels are easy to turn and maneuver for little arms, the four wheel design balances on its own and is a great match for babies, and the low 8.5-inch seat height is easy to swing a leg over. Further, the steering limiter helps to ensure that your little one doesn’t turn too sharp and take a spill, and the slip-resistant tires glide nicely indoors. Finally, the Retrospec Cricket weighs a mere 4 pounds, undercutting all other balance bikes on this list and making it the easy choice as your baby’s first balance bike.
How it Compares
With four small wheels and an extra small stature, the Retrospec Cricket balance bike stands alone as the best balance bike for babies or children younger than 18 months. However, if you’re looking for something that’s more akin to a regular push bike, then the Frog Tadpole Mini (listed above) is worth considering. Unlike the Retrospec, the Frog Tadpole Mini features two air-filled tires and an adjustable seat that grows with your child. And the rear hand brake adds control, making it the better option for true push bike activities. That said, the Retrospec weighs 3.5 pounds less than the Frog and is more maneuverable, especially indoors where most riding will likely happen. The Retrospec is also about $250 less than the Frog, which is considerable. For budget shoppers, the Retrospec is the logical choice. However, for those looking to invest in a quality first balance bike at the earliest age possible, then the Frog Tadpole Mini is a very solid option.
Shop the Retrospec Cricket Baby Walker Balance Bike at:
Pros: – Checks all the boxes for a high-quality balance bike. – Hand brake and air-filled tires offer great comfort and control. Cons: – Might be a little small for tall 3-year-old toddlers. – Expensive.
Why it’s Great
Simply put, the woom ORIGINAL 1 is the best balance bike for your 2 or 3 year old toddler and has everything we look for in a premium model. To start things off, the woom 1 is incredibly lightweight, weighing just 6.6 pounds, making it incredibly easy to maneuver. Next up are the air-filled tires, as opposed to foam, which offer more comfort and traction on all types of surfaces. The woom 1 also has a very low minimum seat height of 10.4 inches, which is lower than most other offerings, yet it extends all the way up to 14.4 inches, allowing a very wide range of rider heights and ages.
Another standout feature of the woom 1 is the rear brake, which offers tool-free adjustment for small hands, and is very easy to engage. Having a hand brake on a balance bike teaches proper braking technique from an early age and can greatly increase safety, especially on rolling terrain. Further, the woom 1 utilizes a steering limiter for added safety and the reflective sidewalls on the tires enhance visibility to passing cars. Finally, the woom 1 is easier to assemble than all other balance bikes we tested in this category–simply attach the handlebars and tighten one bolt. In conclusion, it’s not any one single design feature that sets the woom ORIGINAL 1 apart from the competition, but the culmination of bringing everything together in one package that makes it the best balance bike for your toddler.
How it Compares
If you can’t tell, we really like the woom 1. However, that isn’t to say there aren’t other viable options on the market. For families who regularly hit the trail or dirt path with their toddler, then the Early Rider Big Foot 12 (listed below) is worth a look. Just like the woom, the Early Rider has a host of kid-friendly features like an extra-low seat height and a rear hand brake, as well as a steering limiter for added safety. However, the Big Foot 12 turns up the dial in terms of off-road ability with its extra-large 2.25-inch-wide knobby tires, which really increase traction and shock absorption on dirt compared to the smaller and smoother woom tires. However, for pavement-bound families the Early Rider is overkill and the woom 1 is the better choice.
Another viable option with some great safety features is the Guardian Balance Bike (listed below). Like most quality kids’ bikes, it features an aluminum frame, comfortable air-filled tires, and an adjustable seat. What sets the Guardian apart from the woom 1, however, is the use of SureStop brakes. This unique design features a brake on each wheel, greatly increasing the stopping power, and does so with only one brake lever. However, this system comes at a cost and the Guardian is almost a full 2 pounds heavier than the woom 1, which is significant for a toddler. That said, if you’re especially concerned with your little one being able to slow down very quickly then the Guardian is worth a look.
Pros: – SureStop braking system greatly reduces stopping distance. – Very competitive price. Cons: – Much heavier than our top pick. – Tall minimum seat height will be too big for small toddlers.
Why it’s Great
If you’re looking for one of the quickest stopping balance bikes for your toddler, then the Guardian Balance Bike is definitely worth a look. What sets the Guardian apart from all other balance bikes on this list is the use of a braking system called SureStop. SureStop was developed by two students at California Polytechnic State University and uses one lever to apply braking force to both front and rear wheels, automatically adjusting the amount of force based on the road surface and rider weight distribution. It also ensures that there is never more force being applied to the front wheel than the rear, making it impossible for your toddler to go over the handlebars because of too much front brake. The Guardian Balance Bike has a number of other premium features as well, like air-filled tires, a steering limiter, and an adjustable seat height. For parents who prioritize safety above all else, then the Guardian Balance Bike is a smart choice.
How it Compares
With a host of kid-friendly features and loads of fun colors, the Guardian Balance Bike is a great choice for your toddler. Add in the SureStop Braking System and you give the woom ORIGINAL 1 (listed above) a real run for its money. So why choose the woom over the Guardian? Really, it comes down to two simple factors. First, the woom weighs 2 pounds less than the Guardian, which is quite significant and can amount to as much as 10% of your child’s weight–the Guardian’s SureStop Braking System comes with a weight penalty. Second, the woom has a minimum seat height that is one inch lower than the Guardian, which means your toddler can start riding sooner and the bike will be used for a longer period of time. In the end, both the woom and Guardian are great balance bikes. If safety and saving money are your top priorities, go for the heavier Guardian. However, if low weight, maneuverability, and minimum seat height are deciding factors, choose the woom 1.
Pros: – Adjustable seat and handlebar fit a very wide range of children. – Lightweight and easy to maneuver. Cons: – Rigid foam tires provide minimal cushion and grip. – Hard to turn handlebars.
Why it’s Great
If you’re looking for a no-frills balance bike that doesn’t break the bank, then you can stop your search with the Strider 12. Founded in a garage in South Dakota, Strider has been producing quality balance bikes for over 15 years and has sold over 3 million bikes in that time–and it’s easy to see why. For about $100, you get a balance bike that is lightweight at 6.5 pounds and has a number of kid-friendly features like small grips and a foot rest. We also like that the Strider 12 offers 5 inches of seat adjustment, which means it will last for many years as your toddler grows. And while the foam tires might not provide as much traction as the air-filled variety, you’ll never have to worry about a flat tire or need to change a tube–which as a time-strapped parent you’ll certainly appreciate. For a lot of kids, the Strider 12 balance bike is a perfect option and will happily meet their needs.
How it Compares
The Strider 12 is the best budget balance bike for your 2- or 3-year old toddler, but it does forgo a number of premium features that are found on our top picks. Both the woom and Guardian balance bikes listed above feature hand brakes and steering limiters for added safety, and their padded seats and air-filled tires provide better grip and more comfort compared to the Strider 12’s plastic seat and foam tires. Furthermore, the Strider 12’s steering is significantly stiffer and not nearly as smooth as the aforementioned models, which was noted by our toddler tester. Finally, the overall quality of materials used, as well as the fit and finish, is noticeably lower than others. However, as we mentioned above, the Strider 12 is a solid choice for a budget-friendly balance bike that will serve your toddler for many years.
Pros: – Grippy and high-volume tires excel off-road. – Hand brake and steering limiter add safety and control. Cons: – Mountain biking features are overkill for some toddlers. – You’ll be jealous of your kid’s bike.
Why it’s Great
If you’re a mountain biking family or if your toddler prefers to ride off-road, then the Early Rider Big Foot 12 balance bike should be at the top of your list. The Big Foot 12 is a premium balance bike with all the features to back it up. What sets the Early Rider apart, however, is the oversized 2.25-inch knobby mountain bike tires, which really excel on trails and dirt paths. However silly they may seem, the extra-wide tires provide tons of extra traction and cushion over smoother or smaller versions found on other balance bikes. Other noteworthy features include a hand brake for added safety and control, as well as a steering limiter to help prevent sharp turns and potential accidents.
The Early Rider Big Foot 12 also boasts a relatively low 12.2-inch seat height and manageable 8.3-pound weight. And the footrest is nicely sized, providing a comfortable perch for your toddler’s feet, without hindering their stride. We also really appreciate the durable raw aluminum finish on the Big Foot 12 frame, which after 3 years of heavy use by a very active toddler, still looks remarkably good and is ready to be handed down.
How it Compares
If you’re looking for the best mountain bike balance bike for your little shredder, then it’s impossible to beat the Big Foot 12. However, it may not be the best option for pavement-bound riders. The knobby tires that provide lots of traction off road take more effort to push on pavement, and the high-volume size results in a taller minimum seat height. Not to mention, they weigh more than smaller and smoother tread tires. For urban families who will mostly ride on pavement, we think the woom Original 1 (listed above) is the better choice. The woom weighs less, has a shorter minimum seat height, and makes more sense for most toddlers. In the end, the Early Big Foot 12 is a specialty balance bike built with the off-road-riding toddler in mind.
Pros: – Checks all the boxes of a high-quality balance bike. – Trade-in program saves you money on future bike purchases. Cons: – Heavier and not quite as refined as the woom 1. – Rear brake location interferes with toddlers’ feet while striding.
Why it’s Great
Just because the Prevelo Alpha Zero didn’t nab our top spot doesn’t mean it’s not a great balance bike, it simply shows just how competitive this space has become. In fact, the Alpha Zero has everything we look for in a 2- or 3-year-old’s first balance bike. The Prevelo rolls on 12-inch air-filled tires that provide plenty of cushion and grip on most surfaces, and the rear hand brake is easy to engage, helping your little one control their speed. We also like the very small diameter grips, which are tackier than most other options we tested and easy to grab for little hands. You’ll also find a relatively low seat height of 11.4 inches complete with a nicely padded seat. Rounding out the package are four really great color options with nice subtle branding–it really is an eye catching bike. Finally, Prevelo offers a trade-up membership program, which allows you to trade the bike in once your toddler has outgrown their current model, putting credit towards your next purchase.
How it Compares
So what holds the Alpha Zero back from being our top balance bike? It isn’t any one major thing, but a culmination of little details that elevates the woom Original 1 (listed above). For starters, the woom 1 weighs over a pound less, which doesn’t sound significant, but certainly is for your 2-year-old. Additionally, the woom 1’s minimum seat height is one inch lower than the Prevelo’s while maintaining a nearly identical max height, meaning your little one can ride the woom 1 for a longer period of time. We also like how the woom’s rear brake is mounted on top of the chainstay, instead of underneath like the Prevelo’s, resulting in significantly less interference with your toddler’s feet–our kiddo kept hitting his heels on the Prevelo’s brake. Finally, the woom 1 requires less assembly and is available in eight different color options–which are both important considerations as a parent.
Pros: – Feature packed and very lightweight. – Grippy tires work well on pavement and off-road. Cons: – Handlebars are a little tall for smaller riders. – Not as off-road ready as the Dirt Hero listed below.
Why it’s Great
For the best 14-inch balance bike for your 3- or 4-year-old toddler, look no further than the woom ORIGINAL 1 Plus. Positioned as the largest balance bike in their impressive lineup, the woom 1 Plus is aimed squarely at older toddlers and preschoolers. The woom 1 Plus features a seat height range from 14.4 to 17.9 inches, which makes it a great option for riders with inseams of 15 to 19 inches. And the taller 14-inch wheels and tires, as opposed to the more common 12-inch size, provide added stability and are appropriately sized for bigger kids. The woom also comes with fast-rolling knobby tires that work equally well on dirt and gravel as they do in paved neighborhoods and driveways, and the front and rear hand brakes keep speed in check. Finally, the woom ORIGINAL 1 Plus is quick and easy to assemble and comes in eight great color options.
How it Compares
The woom ORIGINAL 1 Plus is one of the few fully-equipped balance bikes that rolls on larger 14-inch wheels, making it an easy choice for older toddlers and preschoolers. However, the premium woom isn’t without its downsides. Priced at $299, it’s certainly expensive, and the feature-packed push bike might be overkill for some riders and parents. Enter the Strider 14x balance bike (listed below), which is about $80 less and offers a more basic build. You won’t find brakes or a lightweight aluminum frame, but the Strider 14x features a highly adjustable seat, air-filled tires, and a price tag that’s a bit easier on the wallet. Not to mention, it’s possible to buy a pedal conversion kit for the Strider, which certainly increases its versatility. However, while the Strider 14x does have its merits, the woom 1 Plus is still the best balance bike for your 3- or 4-year-old.
Pros: – Adjustable seat and handlebar easily grow with your child. – 14 inch air-filled tires provide cushion and comfort on rough roads. Cons: – 3 pounds heavier than the woom 1 Plus above. – Doesn’t have any brakes.
Why it’s Great
If the woom ORIGINAL 1 Plus above is a little too feature-packed, or maybe you’re simply looking to save a few dollars, then the Strider 14x is a worthy alternative. The Strider 14x has air-filled tires that provide comfort and grip on most surfaces, and the highly adjustable seat and handlebars fit a very large range of rider heights (children with 16- to 23-inch inseams). There’s also a nice foot rest for easy gliding and the 14x comes in five great colors, which are sure to make your little one happy. Perhaps one of the most interesting features, however, is the ability to add the Strider Pedal Kit to the 14x (sold separately)–which certainly increases its versatility. If you’re looking for one bike to transition your preschooler from a balance bike to a pedal bike then this will certainly be a main selling point for you.
How it Compares
The Strider 14x balance bike is a great option for cruising around the neighborhood and taking to the park. However, it can’t compete with the features and overall quality of our top pick, the woom ORIGINAL 1 Plus (listed above). Both the Strider 14x and woom 1 Plus roll on 14-inch air-filled tires, have nice footrests, and come in a number of great colors. However, that is where the similarities end. The woom 1 Plus is about 3 pounds lighter than the Strider 14x–which is significant–and it features two hand brakes, which really increases control for speedy 3- and 4-year-olds (the Strider doesn’t have brakes).
The woom 1 Plus also comes about 95% assembled and simply requires two bolts to be tightened before your child is up and riding. The 14x on the other hand requires much more assembly, which can be a deciding factor for time-strapped parents. In conclusion, we think the woom 1 Plus is the best balance bike for your 3- or 4-year-old. But if you’re on a budget, or you’re looking for a balance bike that converts into a pedal bike, then the Strider 14x is a solid choice.
Pros: – Mountain bike geometry inspires confidence on the trail. – Knobby tires provide loads of control and traction on dirt. Cons: – Very expensive. – Overkill for riding on pavement.
Why it’s Great
For the ultimate off-road balance bike, look no further than the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero. It’s hard to know where to begin with the Dirt Hero, as there are just so many great things to talk about. Starting with the modular design, the Dirt Hero is capable of riding on both 12-inch and 14-inch tires, enabling it to grow with your toddler or preschooler. Furthermore, the high-volume knobby mountain bike tires provide a ton of grip, comfort, and control off-road or on singletrack. Then there’s the Magura hydraulic disc brake, which takes minimal effort to engage and adds control while descending trails or roads. Finally, the overall weight of the 14-inch Dirt Hero is a mere 10.3 pounds, which is exceptionally light for a bike of this size. For the ultimate off-road balance bike, the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero is impossible to beat.
How it Compares
The Dirt Hero balance bike is aimed squarely at adventurous toddlers and preschoolers who will spend most of their time off-road or on singletrack trails–which is where this bike excels. However, with its super knobby tires and hydraulic disc brake, it’s overkill for pavement rides or casual strides around the park. For those in urban areas that will seldom ride off road, the woom 1 Plus (listed above) is the better all-rounder. For starters, the woom 1 Plus features a more versatile tire choice that works just as well on pavement as it does off-road. And the woom 1 Plus has an optional steering limiter that provides stability at high speeds and reduces the chance of turning too sharp at lower speeds. Finally, the $459 price of the Dirt Hero makes it the most expensive balance bike on this list.
Pros: – One of the few balance bikes that can convert to a pedal bike. – The 2-in-1 kit cuts down on overall cost in the long run. Cons: – A bit heavy, especially for smaller kids. – No hand brakes.
Why it’s Great
The Strider 14x 2-in-1 bundle is the best balance bike for your 4-year-old child. It combines everything we love about the 14x, like air-filled tires and highly adjustable seat and handlebar heights, and adds in their Strider-specific pedal kit. The pneumatic tires provide ample grip on pavement and gravel paths, and the seat height works well for kids with 16- to 23-inch inseams–which is a very large range. Further, the 80 pound weight limit ensures it works well for 4- and 5-year-olds of all sizes, and there are a number of fun color combinations that are sure to please. What really makes the Strider 14x 2-in-1 bundle our top balance bike for 4-year-olds, however, is the included pedal kit. Once your child has mastered the art of balancing and striding along, you can simply add the Strider Easy-Ride kit to convert it to their first pedal bike.
How it Compares
The Strider 14x 2-in-1 Bundle is one of the few quality kids bikes that lets you convert a 14-inch balance bike into a pedal bike, making it an easy choice for 4-year-old riders who will quickly be ready to pedal on their own. However, for taller kids, or those on a budget, then the Bixe 16 Pro Balance Bike (listed below) is worth a look. The Bixe sports 16-inch wheels–compared to the 14-inch wheels on the Strider 14x–making it the better choice for taller riders. Not to mention it’s about $170 less. However, at that price, the Bixe is noticeably lower quality than the Strider 14x, and of course, it doesn’t come with a pedal conversion kit. For these reasons, the Strider 14x 2-in-1 bundle is still the best overall choice for your 4-year-old rider.
Price: $114.99 MSRP Fits Height: 40 – 50 inches Fits Inseam: 19 – 25 inches Wheel Size: 16 inches Seat Height: 18.25 to 22.4 inches Steering Limiter: No Hand Brake: No Weight: 14.9 pounds
Pros: – A nice budget option to get your 4- or 5-year-old started riding. – Air-filled tires are comfortable on rough roads. Cons: – No brakes. – Build quality is lacking.
Why it’s Great
For those on a budget, or parents concerned that their 4- or 5-year-old will quickly outgrow a balance bike, then the cost-conscious Bixe is a great option. Often found on sale for just over $100, the Bixe 16 Pro Balance Bike isn’t going to break the bank, but it provides everything you need to get your preschooler scooting along. The large 16-inch tires found on the Bixe are sized appropriately for older kids–most balance bikes use 12- or 14-inch wheels–and their air-filled design provides ample traction and comfort on uneven roads and paths. Other standout features include a lightweight aluminum frame, adjustable handlebars and seat, and a low step-thru design which is easy to swing a leg over. Finally, the Bixe provides a natural riding position and the long wheelbase adds stability and makes it a great match for older riders who are just getting started.
How it Compares
Like most budget-oriented products, there has to be some give, which rings true of the Bixe 16 Pro. Compared to other bikes like the Strider 14x (listed above) and the Prevelo Alpha Two below, the Bixe feels a bit cheap–the metal is thin and the plastic feels brittle. You also won’t find any premium features on the Bixe, like brakes for managing speed, which is especially important for faster riders. We prefer the Strider and Prevelo for their more robust set of features and higher quality materials used throughout–which are sure to last through a few hand-me-downs. However, for those looking for the best budget balance bike for their 4- or 5-year-old, then the Bixe 16 makes a lot of sense.
Pros: – Very low seat height and lightweight build makes it easy to maneuver. – Loaded with premium features. Cons: – Even with the pedals removed, crankarms can interfere with striding. – Expensive, but you do get two bikes for the price of one.
Why it’s Great
While not technically a balance bike, one final option for older kids is to remove the pedals off a small standard bike. For that purpose, we highly recommend the Prevelo Alpha Two. What sets the Alpha Two apart from other options is its unique combination of being very light with a low seat height, both important considerations for this approach. Tipping the scales at 13.9 pounds, the Prevelo Alpha Two actually weighs less than the two balance bike options listed above, which is impressive considering it features brakes and a full drivetrain. And with a minimum seat height of 17 inches, children with inseams lengths of 17.5 inches or greater can easily stride along without pedals. Finally, the Alpha Two uses air-filled tires for added comfort and grip. For preschoolers who need a bike that will easily change from balance to pedal bike as their skills grow, the Prevelo Alpha Two is a great choice.
How it Compares
Considering the Alpha Two is first and foremost a pedal bike, it doesn’t really compare with any other options on this list. However, the Strider 14x 2-in-1 bundle (listed above) is a close alternative. Priced at about $140 less, the Strider is certainly the cheaper route. But as with most things in life, you get what you pay for, and the Alpha Two is the obvious choice when it comes to quality and features. The Prevelo features front and rear hand brakes–the Strider uses an inferior and less intuitive coaster brake–making for more natural braking. Further, the aluminum framed Prevelo is lighter and better resists rust compared to the Strider’s steel. Finally, overall build quality on the Prevelo is much higher than the Strider. If you’re on a budget, the Strider is a solid option. But if you’re looking for the absolute best balance-to-pedal bike option, then the Prevelo Alpha Two is the obvious choice.
With more than 10 years of bike industry experience as a mechanic, buyer, and product developer, we bring unmatched expertise to our top balance, strider, and push bike recommendations. Further, we’ve been a dedicated biking family for over 4 years (and counting), and at our kids’ insistence, we’re out riding bikes just about every single day. Riders before writers as we like to say.
A balance bike, also known as a strider bike, push bike, or run bike, is a kids’ bike designed to help toddlers and preschoolers learn how to balance on two wheels before transitioning to a pedal bike. Models like the Guardian Balance Bike forgo pedals, training wheels, and gears, and instead rely on children’s feet to balance and push themselves along. The whole idea around a strider bike is to help a child learn to balance first, and then when they’re ready to move on, pedal on a larger bike.
What Age is Best for a Balance Bike?
Toddlers and children from ages 12 months to 5 years are prime candidates for balance and strider bikes. Coordination, size, and your child’s demeanor all play an important role in determining when your kid is ready to start riding. See our sizing information below for more information regarding ages and the best balance bike sizes.
Can’t I Just Take the Pedals Off a Regular Bike?
For older or taller children, we’re talking ages 4 and up, this is a great option that cuts down on buying multiple bikes. The Prevelo Alpha Two is a top choice for this purpose. However, for smaller or younger riders, this simply isn’t a good idea. It really comes down to minimum seat height, your toddler’s inseam length, and the overall size of the bike. With tall seat heights and hefty overall weight, even the smallest pedal bikes will be much too big for your 2- or 3-year-old rider. And while less of a concern, the crankarms will cause interference with their legs and the ability to scoot along.
For example, the woom ORIGINAL 1 balance bike has 12-inch wheels and a minimum seat height of 10.4 inches, and it only weighs 6.6 pounds–making it a great option for toddlers with inseams of 11 inches and greater. Now compare this to their smallest pedal bike, the woom 2, which features 14-inch tires and a minimum seat height of 15.7 inches, and weighs 12.3 pounds. With an increase of almost 5 inches in seat height and about double the weight, the woom 2 isn’t a viable option for most young toddlers.
What Size Balance Bike Does My Toddler Need?
To find the best size balance bike for your toddler or preschooler, measuring their inseam length and matching it with a bike’s seat height is your best option. The table below provides a good starting point for finding the correct size balance bike for your child.
Inseam length is the single most important measurement when determining which size balance bike is the best fit for your toddler or preschooler. Thankfully, it’s extremely easy to figure out. With shoes on, have your child stand tall and put their back against a wall. Next, place a book between their legs and move it up as far as comfortably possible. Now, measure from the ground to the top of the book. You now have your inseam measurement! From here, you’ll want to reference the minimum seat height specification–brands like Prevelo Bikes clearly list this information–and make sure that it’s at least half an inch lower than your child’s inseam. This will ensure that they can reach the ground when using their new balance bike.
Seat Height Adjustment
While minimum seat height is the most important consideration for small toddlers, it’s also essential to consider the entire adjustment range as well. More adjustment means more years of use. Some very basic and budget-oriented models, which we don’t recommend, feature static seats that aren’t able to adjust or grow with your child, significantly reducing the amount of time they will fit your kid. In contrast, nicer models like the woom ORIGINAL 1 feature seats that can adjust up to 4 inches, providing ample range to accommodate years of growth and use. It’s worth noting that not all balance bikes have the same range of adjustment. If you’re looking to maximize your child’s use of their balance bike, paying close attention to this specification is a good idea.
Balance Bike Wheel Sizes
Balance bikes are available in a number of wheel and tire sizes, ranging from tiny 6-inch wheeled bikes like the Retrospec Cricket designed for the smallest 1-year-old riders to 20-inch options for 5-year-olds and up. Smaller wheels are easy to navigate and lighter overall, making them the better match for shorter or younger riders who are 1 to 3 years of age. The downside of smaller wheels, however, is that children will outgrow them more quickly before it’s time for the next size up. Additionally, small 10- and 12-inch wheels are more likely to get hung up on bumps and obstacles.
On the other hand, 14-, 16-, and 20-inch tires and wheels are excellent options for 3-, 4-, and 5-year olds. While they might be a little harder to turn and maneuver, especially for more timid riders, your child will get more years of use out of their balance bike. Larger tires, like those found on the woom ORIGINAL 1 Plus, also have the added benefit of providing more stability at higher speeds, as well as being less likely to get hung up on trail obstacles or imperfections in pavement.
Balance Bike Weight
Balance bike weight is a very important factor to consider when cross-shopping different models, as it directly impacts your child’s overall ride experience. A lighter balance bike is significantly easier to maneuver and control, which makes for a more enjoyable experience for your toddler or preschooler. And let’s be honest, fun is the reason behind a balance bike. Secondly, there’s a very good chance you’ll spend a lot of time hauling your kid’s balance bike around the park, playground, or trail–we know we do. To make it easier for all parties involved, it’s worth finding a lightweight model. It’s for this reason, among many others, that the woom ORIGINAL 1 is our top-rated balance bike at the moment, which weighs a mere 6.6 pounds.
Do Balance Bikes Have a Weight Limit?
Yes, most kids’ balance bikes have a weight limit, which can be an important factor to consider when choosing one for your child. These weight limits are set by the manufacturer and are usually clearly stated on their websites. For reference, smaller and more affordable models, like the Chillafish Charlie 10″, have a weight limit of 77 pounds, while more expensive and higher-quality aluminum models like the woom ORIGINAL 1 Plus are rated for kids up to 130 pounds. If you have an especially large toddler or preschooler, we recommend looking for bikes made from aluminum or steel, as they typically offer higher weight limits.
Key Features of Balance Bikes
Balance Bike Tires
Foam vs Air (pneumatic) Balance Bike Tires
In the world of balance bikes, two main tire styles exist: foam-filled and air-filled (pneumatic). Foam tires, like those found on the Strider 12 Classic, offer the advantage of being lighter and eliminating the need to worry about fixing a flat tire, as there’s no inner tube filled with air. However, foam tires don’t provide nearly as much grip or traction, especially on gravel roads and dirt trails. They’re also considerably less comfortable and can be quite jarring for toddlers on rough surfaces.
Pneumatic (air) tires, on the other hand, outshine their foam counterparts when used off-road. Models like the Prevelo Alpha Zero feature wide air-filled tires that offer significantly more traction and comfort compared to foam tires, especially when set at the correct pressure–we recommend starting at around 10 psi. However, the one drawback to air tires is the occasional need to address flats and replace inner tubes. One expert tip to address flat tires is to remove the valve core and inject approximately 30 ml of Stans tire sealant, a method we’ve had great success with. While it may appear somewhat tedious, if your toddler frequently enjoys going off-road, and you hate changing flat tires as much as we do, it’s worth the effort.
Smooth vs Knobby Balance Bike Tires
Similar to adult bikes, there’s a wide variety of tire styles available for balance bikes. Smooth tread tires, like those found on the woom 1, roll fast and are a great match for pavement and concrete. They roll a little easier than knobbies and are the better option for urban families. On the other hand, knobby tires are a perfect alternative for trail riding, gravel roads, and rural biking families. They provide significantly more traction off-road for turning–and perhaps more importantly–stopping. If you’re a mountain biking family looking for the best balance bike for your toddler, we recommend the Early Rider Big Foot 12 which has 2.25-inch wide knobby tires and a handbrake for stopping.
Should I Get a Balance Bike with Brakes?
Yes, you should. While brakes on a balance bike might seem unnecessary at first, they significantly increase safety and control for your child. Moreover, introducing brakes at an early age is a great way to teach your toddler the fundamentals of biking right from the start. Brakes are especially important for families and kids that live in hilly areas, or those who want to explore undulating dirt trails. Most quality brands, like woom, Guardian Bikes, and Prevelo, offer balance bikes with hand brakes. Regardless of the brand, be sure to look for models with brake levers that can easily be adjusted to fit small hands. While it’s perfectly acceptable for toddlers to use their feet to slow down on level roads and trails, a hand brake provides a substantial bump in control on hills.
As the name suggests, footrests offer kids a convenient place to rest their feet while cruising around on their balance or strider bike. When choosing a model, look for one that features a noticeable footrest. However, it’s important that the footrest doesn’t extend too far forward towards the front of the bike or become excessively wide, as this will interfere with your child’s legs and make it more challenging for your little one to push the bike along. The Strider 12 Sport serves as a good example of a balance bike with a nicely sized footrest, it provides sufficient room for a toddler’s feet without interfering with their striding.
Steering limiters are a great feature found on some balance bikes, providing an added layer of safety and stability for your little rider. While there are a couple of designs available, the most common one is a thick rubber band that attaches from the bottom of the downtube to the front fork. This smart feature, which is found on the Guardian Balance Bike, prevents the front wheel from turning too sharply, helping to reduce spills. Furthermore, it helps maintain wheel alignment at higher speeds and adds an element of stability. As your toddler becomes more skilled and gains confidence, the limiter can be removed, giving them full control of the bike and its steering.
While not very common, pedal kits offer a cost-effective way to avoid purchasing multiple bikes. Models like the Strider 14x begin as a standard push bike but can easily transform into your 3- or 4-year-old’s first pedal bike with the addition of their pedal kit. These kits are typically designed for larger balance bikes with 14-inch wheels, making them an excellent fit for older riders aged 3 or 4.
Balance Bike Material and Build Quality
Plastic, wood, aluminum, and steel are the four main types of materials used in balance bikes, with each having their own pros and cons. Aluminum stands out as our preferred material, offering an ideal balance between low weight and durability, two critical factors for a balance bike. In contrast, plastic, while incredibly lightweight, compromises on durability. Steel, another common choice, is typically more budget-friendly than aluminum but results in a heavier strider bike. Lastly, there’s the option of wood. While wood balance bikes look really stylish, they tend to be heavier compared to other materials. If you’re seeking a lightweight balance bike that can endure years of use and wear, aluminum is undoubtedly the top choice.
How Much Should I Spend On a Balance Bike?
Balance bikes come in a wide range of prices, starting at around $50 for budget models and go all the way up to approximately $440 for fully-equipped options like the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero Off-road. As with many things in life, you typically get what you pay for. Budget-friendly options are an excellent choice for beginner riders or families exploring the sport for the first time. However, they often lack features that can significantly enhance your child’s experience, such as air-filled tires, hand brakes, footrests, and steering limiters. On the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive balance bikes will likely be overkill for most kids. For this reason, we recommend focusing your search on balance bikes in the $100 to $300 price range. Models from woom, like the ORIGINAL 1 Plus, include all the features your child needs and are priced around $299.
Balance Bike Assembly
Some assembly is usually required for most balance bikes before your little one can start riding. The extent of assembly varies from model to model and brand to brand but typically involves tasks like installing wheels, handlebars, and possibly the seat. Models equipped with hand brakes may also require adjustments. The assembly process is not overly complicated, and many brands, such as woom, offer video instructions on their website to guide you through the process. It’s a good idea to review these instructions before making a purchase to ensure you’re up for the task.
Popular Balance Bike Brands
The market for balance, push, and strider bikes is inundated with various brands, as a quick search on Amazon will reveal. However, not all brands are created equal, and opting for well-known ones can ensure a better experience for your child. We recommend sticking to reputable brands, with some of our favorites including woom, Prevelo, Guardian Bikes, and Early Rider. These companies are well-known for offering high-quality products, and their commitment to standing behind their products is a sign of their reliability.
Balance Bike Warranty
One of the more wonderful aspects of balance bikes is their ability to be passed down to younger siblings or friends. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the warranty offered by each brand. High-quality models from woom stand out with an impressive 10-year warranty, which is among the best in the industry. On the other end of the spectrum, less expensive balance bikes from Chillafish come with a standard 2-year warranty. If you have multiple aspiring balance bike riders in your household, it’s certainly worth considering the warranty when making your purchase.
Balance Bike Trade-In Programs
One advantage of selecting a premium balance bike brand over others is the availability of trade-in or trade-up programs. Trade-in programs allow you to return a bike once it’s been outgrown and receive a substantial discount on your next purchase. Both woom and Prevelo Bikes provide this service, offering a generous 40% discount on your next bike purchase. Typically, this membership involves a one-time fee of around $50. If your little rider is committed to the sport, trade-in programs can lead to significant savings in the long run.
Where Should I Buy a Balance Bike?
The absolute best place to find a balance bike is in the local classifieds, as buying used can save a considerable amount of money. If purchasing a used bike isn’t an option, several popular retailers offer a wide selection. REI is a great choice, offering a great range of balance bikes with an exceptional return policy in case the bike doesn’t work out (1 year from the date of purchase). Other reliable options include Ready Set Pedal, Backcountry, and, of course, Amazon. You can also purchase balance bikes directly from the manufacturers’ webstores; woom, Prevelo Bikes, and Guardian are among the more well-known options.
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Erik Nilson, founder of Cascade Gear Reviews, boasts a decade-long journey in the outdoor industry. He began his career at REI, excelling in marketing, merchandising, and product development. Later, at Switchback Travel, Erik managed cycling content. With multiple Pro podium finishes in mountain biking, he’s not just an industry expert; he’s an active participant. Whether testing gear, capturing photos, or crafting reviews, Erik’s hands-on approach defines his dedication. Based in Winthrop, WA, he brings experience, expertise, and passion to outdoor gear reviews.
Erik Nilson, founder of Cascade Gear Reviews, boasts a decade-long journey in the outdoor industry. He began his career at REI, excelling in marketing, merchandising, and product development. Later, at Switchback Travel, Erik managed cycling content. With multiple Pro podium finishes in mountain biking, he's not just an industry expert; he's an active participant. Whether testing gear, capturing photos, or crafting reviews, Erik's hands-on approach defines his dedication. Based in Winthrop, WA, he brings experience, expertise, and passion to outdoor gear reviews.
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