The Best Balance Bike Under $75: Chicco Red Bullet vs. Radio Flyer vs. Vilano
What is the best balance bike for under $75? Whether you are on a budget or simply don’t feel that balance bikes are worth investing in (if so please read Why Balance Bikes are Worth the Hype), any balance bike is better than no balance bike at all. To determine the best budget bike, we purchased three popular budget bikes, the Chicco Red Bullet, the Radio Flyer Glide & Go and the “Vilano” balance bike. Each bike has numerous 4 and 5-star reviews on Amazon, so we set out to determine which, if any, are worthy of their five stars.
Upon assembly, it came quite apparently how small the Chicco Red Bullet is. Although it is clearly labeled 3+ on the box, the Radio Flyer is labeled 2.5 – 5 years and is much bigger than the Chicco.
In addition to its small size, the geometry of the Chicco is also vastly different than the others. The handlebars of the Chicco are highly centered on the front wheel, and it has a very short wheelbase compared to the Vilano and Radio Flyer. As expected, the poor geometry of the Chicco (notice how upright both testers are in the pictures below) did not bode well with our testers as they found the bike more difficult to handle and twitchy as compared to the others.
As a point of reference, the Radio Flyer seat range is 14.5″ to 18″, the Vilano is 15.5″ to 17.7″ and the Chicco is 13″ to 15″.
Wheels & Tires
Along with its small frame, the Chicco also has 10″ tires as compared to 12″ tires on the Radio Flyer and the Vilano (as shown in the pictures above). While larger wheels are used on bikes to increase speed and for leverage over obstacles, on kids bikes larger tires allow for a greater clearance and proper geometry (increased vertical space to extend reach and decrease center of gravity). The lack of space on the Chicco is quite clear when compared to the other budget bikes.
All three bikes had foam tires, and while their tread varied, they performed equally well on paved surfaces. Like all foam tires (even those on the $100 Strider), they were more prone to losing traction on off-road surfaces as compared to air tires.
Seat Post Adjust
The Radio Flyer comes standard with a desirable quick-release seat post clamp while the others do not.
While all three bikes had minor scratches and dings, after a few weeks of use the saddle of the Radio Flyer and Chicco began to tear. Although cosmetic, it was a little disappointing to the bikes begin to show wear so quickly. The bell of the Vilano also fell apart before we could even put it on. The bell on the Radio Flyer, however, it quite durable, but is also REALLY loud.
For $50, there is simply no benefit to the Chicco Bullet over the others. While is does have the lowest minimum seat height of 13″ (as compared to Radio Flyers’ 14″ and Vilano’s 15.5″) if your son or daughter has an inseam less than 15″, then I would recommend the Banana Bike, which has a minimum seat height of just over 12″ and extends to 16″ and sells for $55 on Amazon.
Between the Radio Flyer and the Vilano, both are good bikes that will certainly provide hours of learning fun for your son or daughter. Between the two, I prefer the Radio Flyer, but if your child is not a fan or red, the Vilano is a great second choice that comes in 7 different colors, including pink and purple. The Radio Flyer also now comes with air tires, which will provide much more traction and cushion than the foam model. Due to the high risk of flats, we highly recommend using tire sealant (link to instructions on how to use it) on bikes with air tires.
What’s the best bike for my child?
- Radio Flyer w/air tires: Best All-around Budget Bike, Seat Height 14.5″ – 18″
- Radio Flyer w/foam tires: Best Maintenance Free Budget Bike, Seat Height 14.5″ – 18″
- Vilano Balance Bike, $60: Best Mid-sized Budget Balance Bike, Seat Height 15.5″ – 17.7″
- Banana Balance Bike, $55: Best Small Budget Bike, Seat Height 12.2″ – 15.75″ (full review not completed)
- The Chicco Red Bullet, $50: Not Recommended, Seat Height 13″ to 15″
Want more options?
Compare the top-selling balance bikes in all price ranges on our Balance Bikes: Ratings & Comparison Charts page.
By: Natalie Martins
Last Updated: January 21, 2017