Updated November 2014
Over two years ago, FirstBIKE helped to revolutionize the balance bike market in the US. Built with an emphasis on safety and durability, rather than affordability and visual appeal (i.e. tassels and cartoon characters), the FirstBIKE was the childhood prodigy amongst a sea of poorly constructed toddlers tricycles. With its weatherproof composite frame, child-sized handbrake, air tires, recessed bolts, turning limiter, sealed-bearings and air tires, the FirstBIKE quickly rose to the top of the market. Years later, countless other bikes have entered the market, but in many ways, the FirstBIKE is still the bike to beat.
Why? Why many other bikes offers the same safety features as FirstBIKE, it is the only one to offer all of them together in four different models. The perfect combination of safety features, value and durability, the FirstBIKE is our Best in Class for Safety Features and is rated as Exceptional for toddlers aged 18-months to 3 years.
Having reviewed over 20 different balance bikes over the years, our favorite feature of the FirstBIKE is its unique composite frame. While not suitable for older riders (see explanation below), the nylon composite frame’s smooth surface is free of any protrusions or sharp edges that may potentially hurt a child during an inevitable fall. When kids fall while riding a balance bike, they generally land directly on top of the bike. The flexible frame, smooth edges and recessed bolts of the FirstBIKE, helps to minimizes and/or prevents injures as a result of these falls.
The U-shaped saddle is another standout feature of the FirstBIKE. The shape helps to prevent kids from sliding off the seat, but also partially wraps around the child which provides a much needed sense of security for hesitant kids. The gel-like composition of the seat is also non-porous which makes for easy clean-ups as the result of potty-training accidents. Due to its shape and “stickiness”, the seat is problematic for the youngest toddlers in size 24-month-clothes (toddlers in 18-month clothes will not fit on the FirstBIKE, even with the lowering kit) as they will have trouble getting on and off the bike by themselves.
Additional safety features include the turning limiter, easy knob dial seat post adjuster (block knob shown below seat above) and hand brake. While we haven’t seen a compelling reason for turning limiters over the years (we haven’t seen a negative impact from them either), we have seen kids greatly benefit from learning how to use a hand brake while on a balance bike. In addition to saving their shoes and preventing crashes at higher-speeds, most balance bike graduates have a difficult time using coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) on pedal bikes, so knowing how to use a hand brake helps them smoothly transition to a pedal bike.
The FirstBIKE is available in five different models, the Cross, Street, Basic, Limited and Special Edition. The Basic is the only model that does not come with a hand brake or air tires. The solid rubber tires on the Basic are puncture-free and provide a lot more traction than the standard foam puncture-free tires found on lower-end balance bikes. The Cross, Street, Racing Edition and Limited models are identical except for color and tires. For all air tires is it highly recommended to seal each tire with sealant to prevents flats.
The Cross models will provide the most traction on off-road surfaces and the Limited and Racing Edition Big Apple tires will provide the most cushioning. For basic riding around paved neighborhoods, any of the models will do just fine. All models also come with industrial-strength sealed bearings.
While FirstBIKE offers many different accessories, the lowering kit is an essential upgrade for any child in 2T or 24-month clothes. The lowering kit is available for $15 and attached to the back axel to lower the rear tire about 2 inches. Older toddlers who are in 3T clothes, or about the transition into them, will fit the FirstBIKE just fine without the lowering kit.
Due to issues with the seat post sliding down on riders, the current FirstBIKE models are now shipped with an aluminum seat post clamp instead of a composite one. These clamps better secure the seat post and are available directly through FirstBIKE if needed.
With its all-weather frame, the FirstBIKE is also a great choice for year-round riding. In addition to being waterproof, a mono ski is available for $45 and quickly converts the balance bike into a sled. Our testers, aged 3 to 6, all-loved the ski and parents loved the worry free, weather-resistant frame, for when the bike was accidentally left outside during a snow storm.
FirstBIKE’s molded nylon baskets are also top notch as they are strong enough to withstand anything your child can fill them with, even large rocks. In fact, we found the basket to be much stronger than the zip-ties used to adhere the basket to the bike. The baskets are available for $25 and can attach to any bike via a zip-tie.
Comparisons to Other Bikes
Compared to other bikes, FirstBIKE certainly has some pros and cons. The Islabikes Rothan has a lower minimum seat height, lower-step through height and is easier for the smallest toddlers to mount. The Yedoo Too Too weighs the same as the FirstBIKE, but is a much better fit for older kids as its rigid metal frame will not flex when ridden by older riders.
The Flexible Frame
The one major drawback we’ve seen with the FirstBIKE over the years is its poor performance with older, heavier and/or taller riders in size five clothes and up. The extra weight and stress on the frame and seat post cause significant flexing which negatively affects the handling of the bike. In attempts to document the flexing, we had our five-year-old tester, who also our main tester of the bike two-years-ago, take his old FirstBIKE for a ride. From the get-go, he complained that the rear tire was wobbling, which made it difficult and uncomfortable for him to ride. The flexing was visually apparent, but hard to capture in stills. As a result, we strapped a GoPro to the rear of the bike to and filmed him as he rode. The video shows significant flexing and will be posted here shortly.
As a result of the flexing, we do not recommend the FirstBIKE for kids older than three as they could potentially outgrow the bike before they are ready to transition to a pedal bike. Kids who start riding the FirstBIKE at or before the age of three should be ready to transition to a pedal bike before they have issue with flexing.
FirstBIKE in Action:
An exceptional bike for toddlers aged 18-months to three. Unmatched in safety features and durability, the FirstBIKE is sure to be a well loved by toddlers and parents alike. Due to the flexing of the frame, we do not recommend the FirstBIKE for taller or heavier kids older aged three and up. Other bikes to consider for taller kids are the Yedoo Too Too and the Ridgeback Scoot.
MSRP: $129 to $199
Where to Buy:
The entire line of FirstBIKE as well as their accessories are available at WeeBikeShop. All their bikes are shipped for free and monthly coupon codes are available and listed in sidebar above. If you have any questions in regards to FirstBIKE or any of their products, feel free to give them a call at (401) 654-0029.
For Canadian residents
FirstBIKE is now available online at Scamper Gear.
For European Readers
FTC Disclosure: Two Wheeling Tots received a FirstBIKE Cross from WeeBikeShop and a FirstBIKE Street from FirstBIKE.us to help facilitate this review. No monetary compensation was provided for the review and all opinions are that of Two Wheeling Tots. Two Wheeling Tots is not an affiliate of FirstBIKE, but is an affiliate of WeeBikeShop and Amazon.