Kids’ Pedal Bikes: How to Choose

From Size to Brakes to Gears, We Guide You Through the Features that Really Matter

Bikes, like kids, come in all shapes and sizes.  Some bikes are better for petite or timid kids, while others are better for taller or more aggressive riders.  Over the years we’ve reviewed almost 100 different bikes and concluded that there is no such thing as “the best” kid’s bike, but there are bikes that are best for various types of kids or budgets.  Here are 7 main criteria that will help you choose the perfect bike for your son or daughter of any ability or age:  1) Size 2) Weight 3) Geometry (frame shape) 4) Brakes 5) Gearing 6) Bike Width and 7) Price.

What to look for when shopping for a kid's bike: seat height, tires, weight, brakes, geometry, gearing, budget

1. Size

Size is the most important feature to get right when buying your child a new bike.  If a bike is too big or too small, it’s going to be difficult and potentially dangerous for your child to ride. Bikes in the US are sized by the diameter of their tires: 12″ to 24″ tires are most commonly used on kids’ bikes. Standover height should also be considered along with tire size, but seat height (compared to inseam) is by far the most accurate measurement for buying a bike with a proper fit.

What Size Bike Does My Child Need?

Kids’ Bike Sizing Guide

12″ 2-3 15″ – 17″  ByK E-250, Cleary Gecko, CNOC 14 Sm  3T 36″ – 38.5″
14″ 3-4 16″ – 20″  WOOM2, Ramones 14,  CNOC 14 Lg.  3T – 4T 38.5″ – 41.5″
16″ (1st bike) 4-5 18″ – 22″  WOOM3, CNOC 16, Early Rider Belter  4T – 5 41″ – 43″
16″ (2nd bike) 4-5 17″ – 20″ Sprinter 16Priority Start F/W, Ramones 16  4T – 5 39″ – 45″
20″ 5-8 19″ – 25″  Guardian 20″, ByK E-450, WOOM4  6 – 8 44″ – 54″
24″ 8-11 23″ – 26″ WOOM5, Guardian 24″, BEINN 24  10 – 12 51″ – 59″
26″ 10+ 25″+  Islabikes BEINN 26  12+ 56″+
INSEAM NOTE: If a kid’s 1st bike is a 16″ bike, their feet need to almost fully touch the ground.  If it’s their 2nd, then touching with tippy toes is best.


Kids’ bikes are categorized by tire size (the diameter of the tire).  Most brands make models in 12″, 16″, 20″ and 24″ tires, while smaller brands and some big-box companies sell a 14″ bike. Most balance bikes come with 12″ tires, so by the time kids are ready to transition to a pedal bike, they are usually ready for a 14″ or a 16″ pedal bike, versus a 12″.

Kids' Bike sizes by tire size showing 12 inch, 14 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch, and 24 inch. WOOM Bikes series.
Kids bike tire sizes, WOOM bikes series shown.

The overall size of the bike, however, is not solely determined by tire size, which is why a vast range of ages can ride the same size tire.  The height of a child (and their inseam measurement) is also a major factor.


While tire size is the most common indicator of overall size for kids’ bikes, the seat height is the most accurate indicator of how a bike will fit your child. Due to differences in frame design, bikes with the same size tire can fit a child very differently. The WOOM3 and Next Rocket are both 16″ bikes, yet there is a 4″ difference in their minimum seat heights. Most bike manufacturers do not state the minimum and maximum seat height of their bikes, so those measurements can be hard to come by. The seat heights of many bikes, however, can be found on our Kids’ Bikes Comparison Charts.

Two bikes with 16" tires, but very different in size. WOOM3 and NEXT Rocket.
Two bikes with 16″ tires, but very different in size. WOOM3 and NEXT Rocket.

First Pedal Bike:  A child’s first pedal bike needs to fit differently than his subsequent bikes. All kids just learning how to balance and/or pedal a bike need to be able to stop the bike with their feet. This applies to kids transitioning from a balance bike, a tricycle, or a bike with training wheels.  As a result, a child’s inseam should match the minimum seat height on the bike so both of his feet can easily touch the ground (not just tippy toes).  Even if a child can easily pedal and ride a bike with the training wheels on, the bike is still too big for him if he can’t touch the ground with both of his feet.

First Pedal Bike Proper Fit should have rider with full foot touching the ground, not with tippy toes only touching ground. Showing Yedoo Too Too, ByK e-250 and Hot Wheels 12".
Bikes shown from right to left: Yedoo Too Too, ByK E-250 and the Hot Wheels 12″

Here are a few additional seat height considerations based on your child’s ability:
a) Kids who are have mastered a hand brake on their balance bike may be able to ride a bike that has a minimum seat height of 1″ to 1.5″ taller than their inseam.  If they can confidently brake with their hand, they only need to be able to touch the ground with their tippy toes.
b) Timid or less coordinated kids are always better off starting on a bike on which they can place their full foot on the ground.
c) More aggressive or eager balance bike graduates generally don’t have a problem riding a bike with a minimum seat height 1″ to 1.5″ taller than their inseam.

In all cases, never put a child on a bike that they cannot stop!  Kids transitioning from balance bikes cannot rely on a coaster brake (back pedal brake) to stop until they have mastered pedaling, which can take time.

2nd Pedal Bike and BeyondHaving mastered the use of brakes, a child should no longer be depending on his feet to stop. A child should be standing on his tippy toes when seated on the seat in order to allow for proper leg extension when pedaling.  If they can place their entire foot on the ground, they can’t get proper extension on the pedal, causing each pedal stroke to be much more inefficient.

Proper fit for a non-beginning kid's bike should have rider with tippy toes only touching the ground, not full foot touching the ground. Showing Pello Reddi, Specialized HotRock and WOOM5.
Bikes shown from right to left: Pello Reddi, Specialized Hotrock and the WOOM5.


When purchasing a bike, especially a 20″ or 24″ kids’ bike when the child’s inseam is always less than the minimum seat height, it is also important to take note of a bike’s standover height.  The standover height is the height required to stand over the top tube of the bike (the top tube of the frame that connects the front of the frame to the back). When standing over the bike (not on the seat) there should be an inch or two of clearance.  The gap helps prevent injury if the child slips forward off the seat during a fall.  Most top tubes of kids’ bikes are slanted downwards for this reason.  For really aggressive riders, it also allows for more clearance when leaning into a turn.  The “standover” height is a common measurement provided by both big and small bike manufacturers.

For safety, a child rider must be able to clear the top tube of the bike by several inches. Showing WOOM5 and Islabikes.
The WOOM5 and the Islabike Creig 26 shown.


Measuring Your Child: The easiest way to measure a child’s inseam is with a hardbound book. Without shoes on, have the child stand against a wall, squeeze the book between their legs, and then slowly raise the book up until it hits their crotch. Level the book with the floor, then measure the distance between the top of the book to the ground.

Diagram of how to measure the inseam of a child for proper bike fit.

2.  Weight

Most adults ride bikes that are about 20% of their total weight, while kids’ bikes are usually around 50% of their weight!  Ideally, a child’s bike should be less than 40% of their weight, but often this is not possible.  When choosing the right bike for your child, seek out the lightest bike you can find in your price range.

Weight, however, should never be looked at in isolation.  Many cheap big-box-store bikes are similar in weight to higher-end bikes, but weigh less due to their too-small frames and lack of hand brakes.  Decreasing the weight on a child’s bike is a priority for well-designed bikes, so higher-end kids’ bike companies proudly display their bikes’ weights, while most major bike companies refrain from publishing them.

Bike weight comparison of WOOM3, RoyalBaby BMX, and Razor DSX as good and bad examples of good weight and too heavy.
Bikes from left to right: WOOM3, RoyalBaby BMX 16 and Razor DSX

3. Geometry

A child’s body position on the bike plays a large role in how well they can ride the bike.  Like cars, bikes with a high center-of-gravity and a short wheelbase (distance wheel to wheel) are going to lose their balance and tip over more easily.  When designed correctly, bikes with a longer wheelbase provide more stability and control for the rider. Handlebar placement contributes to the overall maneuverability of the bike and comfort of the rider.


For beginning riders, bikes with a lower overall center-of-gravity tend to be easier for kids to balance and maintain balancing (especially since they often ride at slower speeds).  These bikes generally have lower minimum seat heights and longer frames (wheelbases) than other bikes with the same tire size.   The easiest way to determine the difference in wheelbases between two kids’ bikes is to look at the amount of space between the seat and the handlebars (called the cockpit of a bike). The Huffy Rocket 12″ has a significantly shorter wheelbase and smaller cockpit than the Islabikes CNOC 14 Large.

Huffy Rock It and Islabikes CNOC 14 are examples of bad and good kids' bike geometry
Bikes from left to right: Huffy Rock It and Islabikes CNOC 14 Lg.


A smaller cockpit provides less room for the rider and can cause kids’ knees to hit the handlebars when turning.  The shape of the handlebars can also minimize the cockpit and significantly affect the maneuverability of a bike. Tall handlebars that sweep back, often found on big-box-store bikes, limit the rider’s space and prevent them from applying more force on the handlebars.  This is especially important for beginning riders. Being able to lean in towards their handlebars helps them get in a better position to begin pedaling as well as get more leverage on the handlebars.

On the contrary, handlebars that are too low place beginning riders in a really aggressive position, which can cause them to tire out more easily as well as put strain on their neck.  For more adventurous riders, a more aggressive position can be beneficial, but for the average young child rider, a mid-rise handlebar is ideal. For experienced older riders, the shape of the handlebars best for them depends on the type of riding they want to do, but for the average rider, low-rise to mid-rise is best.

Examples of low-rise handle bars, mid-rise handlebars, and low-rise handlebars. Showing Cleary Hedgehog, Islabikes CNOC 16, Huffy Rock It.
Bikes from left to right: Cleary Hedgehog, Islabikes CNOC 16 and Huffy Rock It

4. Brakes

A child’s bike is only as good as its brakes. All bikes are required to have brakes, but the overall quality and performance of brakes vary greatly.  High-end bikes generally have responsive dual handbrakes that are easy to activate, while lower-end bikes generally only have a coaster brake.  The pros and cons of various systems are outlined below, but before you place a child on a bike, it is essential that they know how to stop it.


Coaster brakes (back-pedal brakes) are the standard on most 12″ to 16″ bikes as they are cheaper and essentially maintenance free, but they can be a headache for kids learning how to pedal.  Kids naturally pedal backward on a bike when they start to lose their balance, or when riding uphill. On a freewheel bike (a bike without a coaster), backpedaling helps kids regain their balance and allows them to keep riding.

On a bike with a coaster brake, backpedaling causes unexpected stops, leading to falls and also delaying a child from mastering pedaling.  For experienced riders, coaster brakes can cause them to lose all their momentum when riding uphill.  As a result, we recommend freewheel bikes for beginning and experienced riders, BUT they can be expensive and hard to come by.  In fact, coaster brakes are required by the CPSC on most 12″ and 14″ kids’ bikes, but not on 16″ and up.

Coaster Brakes on are found on most kids' bikes. Trek Superfly 16 and Specialized Hotrock 16 shown.
Trek Superfly 16 and Specialized Hotrock 16 shown.



Around the age of 3.5, kids have enough hand-eye coordination to use a properly designed hand brake. Hand brakes are generally more efficient and much more intuitive than coaster brakes, but they aren’t without their downfalls.  Hand brakes do require maintenance and the vast majority of hand brakes on kids’ bikes, especially those on lower-end bikes, are poorly designed.

Hard to reach and hard to activate, most of these brakes are not designed for kids’ smaller and weaker hands. To test whether a hand brake is easy to use, pull the brake lever with your pinky finger.  If the brake is hard to activate with your pinky, it is likely poorly-designed and will be a challenge for your child to use.  Kids should NOT have to slam on their brakes to stop.

On the contrary, well-designed brakes are very responsive and when activated, easily stop a bike with minimal efforts by the child.  Designed with small reach levers, that are much closer to the handlebar grips than standard levers; well-designed brakes are easier to activate and easier to pull.  In fact, when riding a high-end bike for the first time, we highly recommend having kids walk the bike before riding it to help get a feel for the proper amount of pressure needed to stop the bike (which is usually much less than they anticipate).

It is also important to note whether the hand brakes activate the front or rear tire.  While unlikely on small 12″ to 16″ bikes, kids on larger 20″ and 24″ bikes can endo (fly over the handlebars) if they brake only on the front tire. Upon doing so, the front tire of their bike will quickly stop, causing the rear tire to come off the ground, creating the potential to go flying over the handlebars. In the U.S., it is standard for the right-hand brake to activate the rear tire and the left brake the front.  As a result, it is vital to teach kids to brake with BOTH their hands or with just their right.

Hand Brakes on kids' bikes have easy-reach levers or standard levers. Easy-reach preferred. Pello Romper and ByK E-250 shown.
Pello Romper (first two images) and the ByK E-250 shown.


To prevent potential injuries from braking (going over the handlebars), Guardian Bikes created a unique SureStop system that allows both front and rear brakes to be activated with one pull on the right brake lever.  Currently only available on 20″ and 24″ bikes, more information about their unique system can also be found in our Guardian 20″ bike review. WOOM bikes also developed a clever solution for improving safety.  Young kids often get confused between their left and right, so WOOM bikes made their right-hand brake lever green to remind kids which brake lever to use.  To prevent the possibility of endos, Pello Bikes only includes a rear hand brake, as well as a coaster, on their 14″ and 16″ models (read our Pello bike review).

Specialty handbrakes available on WOOM (green hand brakes) and Guardian bikes (SureStop System)
WOOM3 and the Guardian 20″ shown.

5. Gearing (Gain Ratio)

The gain ratio of a bike determines how easy it is to start pedaling a bike as well as how fast you can get going on the bike.  Gain ratios are only a concern for single-speed bikes. Bikes with gears, generally only on 20″ and up, have multiple gears to choose from. Single-speed bikes, essentially all 12″ to 16″ bikes, only have one.

Gain ratio is number calculated using the wheel size, crank arm length (the pedal arm length), and the number of teeth on the front and rear cogs.  A high gain ratio requires more effort to get started but allows the bike to travel further with every pedal (like a high gear on an adult bike).  A low gain ratio requires less effort to get the bike started but requires more “pedal spinning” to get the bike going (like a low gear on an adult bike). Then older and/or stronger a child, the higher the gain ratio they will be comfortable riding.

The differences between the gain ratios of kids’ bikes is slight, but does make a difference in the ride-ability of a bike. Lower gain ratios, like a 3.02 on the WOOM3, are better for timid kids or those who plan on riding up hills.  Higher gain ratios, like a 4.5 on the Dimensions 16, are best for eager kids who are ready to muscle their way up hills or quickly gain speed on flat surfaces.  Gain Ratios are NOT provided by any bike manufacturer, but we have calculated many for you and have them listed on our Kids’ Bikes Comparison Charts.

Gain ratios on single-speed kids' bikes. Low Gain Ratio for Cleary Hedgehog, Mid Gain Ratio for WOOM3, and High Gain Ratio for Dimensions 16.
Cleary Hedgehog, WOOM3 and Dimensions 16 shown.

6.  Bike Width (Q-factor)

The Q-factor of a bike is the distance between the inside edges of the pedals.  If the pedals on a bike are far apart, kids have to splay their legs out to pedal, which is inefficient and often uncomfortable. When pedals are close together, kids can pedal without splay, providing an easier and more efficient pedal stroke. The smaller or younger a child is, the more important the Q-factor is.

Petite kids and/or younger kids with smaller frames benefit the most from a narrow Q-factor. Many kids’ bikes have wide Q-factors because they are built with adult bike components, as they are readily available and cheaper to produce.  Due to the specialty parts required to create a kids’ bike with a narrow Q-factor, they are generally only found on higher-end brands such as Islabikes, WOOM, Pello and Frog.  We have yet to find a budget bike with a narrow Q-factor.  Q-factors are rarely provided by bike manufacturers, but we have many listed on our Pedal Bikes Comparison Charts.

The yellow arrow below shows the differences in Q-factors.  The Islabikes on the left has a narrow Q-factor of 5″ while the bike on the far right, the Schwinn 2-in-1 has a Q-factor of 7″.

Q Factor (or width of bike) examples. Islabikes CNOC 14 with small Q factor, Huffy Rock It with Mid Q Factor, and Schwinn 2-in-1 with large Q factor.
Islabikes CNOC 14, Huffy Rock It and Schwinn 2-in-1 shown.

7. Price (And Your Budget)

In the end, price (and your budget) is going to dictate your decision quite significantly. More expensive bikes are almost always going to perform better than cheaper bikes, BUT as long as it is safe, any bike is better than no bike.  Buy the best bike you can afford.  Do not be discouraged if you can’t afford the top rated bikes on this site, but also be patient with your child when learning to ride on a less-than-ideal bike.  More often than not, a bike’s geometry and design cause more delays in mastering a pedal bike than a child’s effort.

If your budget is tight, always consider buying used. The first kid’s bike we ever bought was an old Specialized Hotrock we got off of Craigslist for $30.  It took a lot of elbow grease to get it up and running, but once we did it lasted our kids for several years.  Also, be mindful that kids outgrow their bikes within a year or two, but purchasing a larger bike that they will grow into will likely only delay their ability to truly master and/or enjoy riding.

Examples of bikes on every budget. Next Rock, RoyalBaby BMX, ByK E-350, and WOOM3.
Bikes from left to right: Next Rocket, RoyalBaby BMX, ByK E-350 and WOOM3.


Which bike is best for you?

Now that you know what to look for, head over to our Kids’ Bike Finder or our Kids’ Bikes Comparison Charts for help finding the bike that best matches your desired features, your child’s age and size, and your budget.

Kid-specific bike manufacturers like WOOM, ByK and Islabikes typically have much better kids’ bikes than those found in local bike shops, but don’t hesitate to visit your local bike shop to compare for yourself.

What more info?

 International Bicycle Fund’s (IBF) Choosing a Child’s Bike is a great resource, as well as WOOM Bikes’ 7-Step Guide to Get Kids on Bikes.

  • Gene Koo

    Thank you for this! Been looking for something for my soon-to-be-4y/o, and probably a balance bike is the right way to start, but I am tempted to skip that and go straight to a “real” bike.

    Hate for a first comment to be nitpicky but I notice your son’s helmet strap is way too loose. I see a lot of kids riding with helmets where the chinstrap is not tight, and while that affords some protection the helmet is less likely to protect his head if he falls when the strap is that loose. A tighter fit is sometimes uncomfortable, but if he’s going to wear a helment he should at least wear it effectively.

    • Totally agree with you there and thanks for pointing it out (and please no apologize, especially when you are clearly right!). I completely agree that most kids wear their helmets way to loose, which can greatly limit the effectiveness of the helmet. In this case, he grabbed the first helmet in the garage, which is not the only he normally wears, and went off to ride. I obviously wasn’t paying as close as attention as I normally do, as I was trying to get some pictures in before it started to rain, but regardless, I was in the fault and thank you for the reminder.

      • brad

        I actually want to follow up on what Gene was saying. I have a 3.5 yo, who has never had a balance bike. Should we go skip the balance bike stage? Or is it a really good idea to get the balance bike first? Thanks!

        • For kids under 5, I highly recommend going with a pedal bike first. In most cases, using the balance bike will allow them to transition to a pedal bike MUCH sooner than using a pedal bike with or without training wheels. The main reason is that balance bike are much lighter, simpler and therefore, easier to use and balance on as compared to a pedal bike. As a result, kids learn to balance sooner and become more confident in their abilities than if they were to start off on a pedal bike. In addition, three year-olds are actually much more efficient at running versus pedaling and generally enjoy riding balance bikes more than pedal bikes.

          • brad

            Thanks, Natalie! Did you mean to say that you recommend kids under 5 should start with a balance bike? (You said pedal bike in the first sentence above, but I think you mean balance bike.)

          • Opps, yes, a highly recommend a BALANCE BIKE first. Thanks for catching that and sorry for the mistake.

          • Sharon

            Hi Natalie. Thanks so much for all this information. We have a 3.5 yr old daughter who had been on a strider bike for about a year and even though she can balance and can glide for short distances with both feet off the ground she often resists taking her strider bike outside and would rather take her tricycle. She has fallen off her strider a couple of times and I’m not sure if that’s the reason. Anyway, every time we see other girls riding on pink bikes with a basket or doll carrier, she asks for a similar bike. If I move her to a pedal bike, she will probably need training wheels – should I avoid training wheels at all cost? If she doesn’t have training wheels and falls, she may never want to get back on her bike? Should I just buy pink stickers for her green strider bike and add a basket and some streamer to it since the only ‘fancy’ bikes I’ve come across are the huffy ones – with all the princess accesories etc? I’m not sure if I should keep her on the strider or move to a pedal bike – how do you I know when she is ready to transition? We live in Toronto, Canada and I was going to sign her up for pedalheads and the instructor said that I should send her with a pedal bike with training wheels but that seems contrary to what I’m reading. Perhaps I could get a bike with training wheels and raise the training wheels off the ground? Being in Canada, I can’t buy many of the great bikes you recommend :(. Thanks so much for your help!

          • While I have found that balance bikes lead to a smoother and easier transition to a pedal bikes, every child is different and in the end, if she is much more comfortable with training wheels, then it is an option you should consider. The main problem with training wheels, is that often delay the transition to a pedal bike. When using training wheels, not only don’t learn to balance, they rarely use them as designed (to catch them when they tip over), and essentially always ride on them, even if it means not being upright. So what to do? I would keep trying with the Strider, but if she is really resisting, I would go ahead and get a pedal bike with a cute basket and remove the pedals and training wheels, and have her try to use it as a balance bike. This compromise could get her to try to balance the bike, but considering the bike will be much heavier, it will be more difficult for her to balance and control as compared to her Strider. In the end, I would go with what you think is best for her. If her balance bike truly isn’t working for her, then training wheels, along with that class, sounds like a good option.

          • Sally

            Hi Natalie. Thank you so much for creating a site with tons of great Information. I have a couple of questions for you. I have twin girls – 3yrs and 9 months old. One is 37 inches tall with 16″ inseam and the other is 38″ with 17.5″ inseam. They’ve both been on the ST-3 strider for the last year – but it seems too small now? – I’m not sure how to measure. Anyway, they can both stride for a few seconds with both feet off the ground and quite enjoy their striders but if these bikes are too small, I’m wondering if I should now move onto another balance bike that will accommodate taller kids or move on to a pedal bike. Whatever you recommend, can you also please recommend what brand of balance bike or pedal bike we should get them? We live in Canada, but happy to have the bikes shipped from the US. Your help is really appreciated! Thanks!

          • You’re right, the Striders certainly do look to small for older/taller riders, because they are! As long as they are riding with the extended seat post that is available for the ST-3, then I would probably stick with the Strider, unless they are starting to lose interest in the bikes because of their smaller size. While a better fitting balance bike will certainly help them become more efficient on their bikes, putting the money would have spend on another balance bike towards a higher-end pedal bike come the end of the summer, will probably benefit them more. Then again, I wouldn’t push them towards a pedal bike unless they show interest in them. For young kids, running is often more proficient than pedaling, so as long as they are enjoying their Striders, I would hold off for now. If they do shown signs of needed a larger balance bike and no interest in a pedal bike, then I would look into the KinderBike Laufrad

          • Sally

            Thanks so much Natalie! We have raised the seat on their ST3 striders as high as possible. What is the extended seat post? – is this a part that is separately available? We bought our ST3s off a family friend and they were already assembled and didn’t come with any separate parts. I think they would be interested in a pedal bike – they always talk about wanting a big girl bike. What pedal bike would you recommend for them given their height and inseam measurements? Thanks a million!

          • Sally

            Hi again Natalie. I just searched online for the extended seat post for strider and see that it is sold separately so I’ve ordered them. How do I know when they are ready for a pedal bike? They often ask for “big girl bikes” and even though they are not half as fast on the striders as my nephews were, I think they have good balance cause they can go a fair distance with both legs off the ground. What pedal bikes would you recommend for them – 38″ tall (17.5″ inseam) and 37″ tall (16 ” inseam) and would you attach the training wheels but raise them off the ground or just not have training wheels at all – and let them fall n learn? Thanks!

          • The extended seat post is essentially a longer seat post that allows the seat to be raised. Here it is listed on Strider’s site, so I assume you would be able to have it shipped to Canada if needs be, If they are interested in bikes, my favorite bikes for 3-year-olds are the Islabikes CNOC 14″ (which I don’t believe you can get in Canada), the WOOM3, which can be shipped as well as the ByK Bikes E-250 (which I don’t believe you can get there). The Specialized Hotrock 12″ is also an awesome bike that you should be able to find. Keep me posted!

          • Sally

            Thanks so much Natalie! Yes, I’ll keep you posted 🙂

  • Rachel

    What do you suggest in a 14″ pedal bike? I have an almost 4 yr old on the shorter side and this will be his first pedal bike after using a Strider since he was about 2.5.

  • Ivy

    I have a dilemma about the bike I want to buy for my soon-to-be 5 yr old. She did not want any part of her balance bike at age 2, 3, or 4. Belatedly, we realized that the bike, while excellent, was too small for her tall frame. She is 4 1/2 and 46 inches tall. There are no balance bikes that will fit her height. So, I think we’ve missed that boat. I am looking to buy a pedal bike for her but will probably require training wheels since she has never learned to balance on a bike. You recommend not to get a 16 inch bike with training wheels. Could you provide any other recommendations? I have not measured her inseam yet.

    • There are actually several different balance bikes available for taller/older kids so no worries. My favorite it the TykesBykes 16″, Another option would be to buy a 16″ pedal bike and remove the pedals and/or crank arms and have her use it as a balance bike until she is ready to transition to pedals. If you choose to take this route, you would want to ensure that you get a quality, lighter-weight bike as due to the extra parts needed on a pedal bike, they are generally a lot heavier and therefore more difficult to balance as compared to a balance bike.

      • Ivy

        Thank you for that suggestion. Would it be terrible to just go with the 16 inch pedal bike with training wheels route? I think she’s embarrassed using a balance bike when all her friends are riding bikes now.

        • The problem with training wheels is that it is going to delay her riding without training wheels for quite a while, especially is she is timid. Plus, kids are able to go a lot faster on a balance bike and are also able to go up and over hills, curbs or small obstacles that is simply not possible with training wheels. In the end, however, it is really up to your daughter. If she refuses to ride a balance bike, then training wheels it is!

  • Matt

    I have a 3.5 year old with a 18″ inseam and is 42″ tall who learned to ride on a balance bike (FirstBike), which she loves. I now want to get her a pedal bike for Christmas. I was leaning toward the Cnoc 16″ but given it’s lack of availability in the US, I don’t think I’ll go in that direction. I went to a local bike shop and they have the Specialized HotRock 16″. They also showed me a Raleigh MXR 16. She sat on both and seemed to fit well on them and enjoy them in the shop. Any suggestions between these two or any other recommendations that I’d be able to find in a local bike shop in Columbus, Ohio? Thanks!

    • Between the Raleigh and the Specialized, I would go with the lightest of the two. The bike shop should be easily able to weight them in their shop. Both bikes, however, do have a coaster brake, which will be problematic when she is learning how to pedal. While balance bike graduates can certainly learn to ride with on (my oldest kids both learn to ride on a Hotrock 16″ with a coaster), it is easier and much less frustrating for them without a coaster brake. Assuming your daughter mastered using the handbrake on the FirstBIKE as well, a bike with at least a rear hand brake and no coaster would be ideal. The Ridgeback MX16 is one to look at, It does not have a coaster brake and should be close in weight to the others. The Cleary Hedgehog is also lighterweight without a coaster brake, Lastly, the Spawn Cycles Banshee also fits the bill, If these three bikes aren’t in your budget, then I would go with these lighter of the two you looked at.

      • Matt

        Thanks for the recommendations! I was hoping to get something more unisex so I can pass on to my son when he gets older, would the
        MX-16 Boy’s 16″ Aluminum Pedal Bike in Gloss Silver by Ridgeback UK on be an equally good selection?

        • Absolutely. As far as I know, the two bikes are identical, except for color, but I would call weebikeshop to make sure. According to Ridgeback’s main site, however, the two bikes have the same top tube length, so they most likely have exactly the same geometry.

  • Guest

    I have a 5 1/2 yr old and we’re getting ready to buy him his first pedal bike. He does not have any experience with a balance bike and has only ridden a trike in the past. How difficult would it be to start with a pedal bike and no training wheels? I’d rather not invest in a balance bike at this point since I feel like he’d only use it for a short period of time.


  • Robyn

    I have a 5 1/2 yr old and we’re getting ready to buy him his first pedal bike. He does not have any experience with a balance bike and has only ridden a trike in the past. How difficult would it be to start with a pedal bike and no training wheels? I’d rather not invest in a balance bike at this point since I feel like he’d only use it for a short period of time.


    • I really depends on your son. If he is “athletic”, eager to ride a bike and willing to stick with it, then you could get a pedal bike, remove the pedals and have him ride it as a balance bike before you put the pedals back on. There are several problems with this method however. First, pedal bikes are A LOT heavier than balance bikes and as a result, are more difficult to balance. Secondly, the minimum seat height on pedal bikes are usually way too tall for a 5.5 year-old to stand over with their feet flat, plus when they are able to stand over them, they are generally very difficult to pedal (this article will help explain: So what to do? If he is on the hesitant side, I would certainly start with a balance bike and the resell it when he is done. Balance bike generally have high resale values, so you shouldn’t loose too much money there. If he is eager, then you will most likely have to spend some money purchasing a higher end pedal bike such as the Cleary Hedgehog, the Islabike CNOC 14 in order to ensure a low minimum seat height.

      • Robyn

        Thanks very much! After reading your comment I think we might go with the balance bike after all. The Tykesbykes or Scoot XL both seem like great options and now we just need to make a decision. Thanks again…..this site is an incredible source of info.

  • Adrienne

    Hi I was wondering what your take on the Norco 12″ bike is as a first pedal bike (I would take off the training wheels). My daughter has a 17″ inseam and has been doing well on the Strider for awhile.

    • If she is eager and ready to move up to a pedal bike, then yes, I would give the Norco 12″ a try. It is a heavier bike, but it is well made. If she is still loving her Strider, then I wouldn’t rush her and would probably wait until she is ready to fit onto a 14″ bike.

      • Adrienne

        Thanks so much for your reply. She really wants a pedal bike but maybe I can convince her to wait 🙂

  • Katya

    I’m looking to get my daughter her first pedal bike for her 4th birthday this May. She has had a FirstBike balance bike with hand brakes since age 2 and is quite proficient – able to coast down gradual hills with her feet up most of the ride. I have a couple questions about what bike would be ideal for her, assuming cost is not an issue.

    1) I’m a little between 14″ and 16″ for her. Her current inseam is right at 16″, and I assume she’ll grow a little bit over the next 3-4 months. I, of course, love the idea of buying something that she can grow into and ultimately have more use out of, but hate the idea of getting her something that she immediately gets frustrated with if it is too big for her. We have other children, and are trying to incorporate them into this decision as well. Ideally it’d be great to only need to buy 1 bike every couple years. Do you think a 14″ bike will last until she’s 6 years old, or is that stretching it? I don’t want to get a 14″ if it means needing to buy a 16″ when she’s 5 or 6.

    2) Since she’s already accustomed to a hand brake, is it best to consider bikes without coaster brakes like Spawn Cycles or the Cleary Hedgehog? The Hedgehog size chart seems different than a lot of the other size charts. For example, the 16″ size chart for both Isla Bikes and Spawn say a minimum inseam of 16.5″, but the Hedgehog says 18″. Is there really a big difference in the geometry?

    Any other bike suggestions that you have that I may not be thinking of?

    • Glad to help and hear that you are truly looking for the best four daughter. First off, I completely agree with you that you don’t want to get a bike that will be too big for her. Many parents often get a bike too big for their child from the get-go (because they don’t want their kids to grow out of it too soon), which often leads to a child being uncomfortable and scared of their “big bike”. In most cases, kids outgrow their bikes every 2 years, so if may last her until she is 6, but it really depends on how fast she grows. As for the the hand brake, I would absolutely try to get a bike without a coaster brake as it will only be a burden, especially since she is already proficient with a hand brake.

      As for the bikes you mentioned, I would pick the lightest bike that has a minimum seat height that most closely matches your daughter inseam. The Spawn, Ridgeback and Clearly bikes all do not have coaster brakes, but there are some other differences between them. Not knowing your daughter’s inseam, I would go with the Spawn, the Cleary and then the Ridgeback. Their are some differences in geometry, but they are all much better than big-box-store bikes. Another bike I would highly recommend looking into is the WOOM2, We just go the WOOM2 and the WOOM3 to test out and so far, they are amazing. Similar to the Islabikes, they are designed from top to bottom specifically for kids, plus, they have the option to remove the coaster brake. If you purchase directly from WOOM, they also have a buy back policy, called Upcycle, which will allow you to return the bike to them within two years, and they will in turn give you 40% off the purchase of your next bike. Considering you have younger kids, that may not be selling point for you, but their bikes are certainly worth looking into.

      Hope that helps. If you have any additional questions, just ask!

  • PKL

    Any thoughts on the REI bikes? Diamondback Mini Impression? Novara Firefly? I cannot seem to find a weight on these bikes. Any thoughts would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    • While hands-down better than the Walmart bikes, they are still on the heavier side and a bit clunky. Our first pedal bike we purchased for our oldest was a Novara (the 20″ though), and is was a great bike for what we paid for it, BUT after getting on a Islabikes, she won’t touch it. So in the end, I always recommend finding the best bike in your budget and REI bikes, while not the best, are better than most, especially since they come with an amazing warranty. Between the Diamondback Mini and the Firefly, I would go with the Viper as raiser handlebars are usually easier for early riders.

  • CK

    Thanks for such a great resource. Our daughter turns 4 in July. She is tall for her age, about 41.5 inches with a 17.75 inch inseam.

    Up until this morning, she’d been riding a push bike exclusively. But today she saw her friend, who lives next door, riding a Specialized 12″ Hotrock and wanted to give it a try. To our surprise, she was riding by herself after about 15 minutes. So we went down to the bike shop to get her a bike. They had the 12″ and 16″ Hotrock, but for whatever reason, neither felt quite right for her in the parking lot. I came home and started doing some research and found this site.

    Now we’re trying to decide between a 16″ Cleary Hedgehog, or the 14″ or 16″ Islabike. Cleary’s website says the Hedgehog is good for riders with 17–22″ inseam, and the Islabikes site says their 16″ bike is good for riders with 16.5–20.5″ inseam, and 41″ minimum height. Our daughter is within both of those ranges. But elsewhere on this site you suggest that the bike should have a minimum seat height that is roughly equivalent to the child’s inseam. That would put our daughter on a 14″ Islabike instead, since it’s minimum seat height is 18.5″. I am not sure what the minimum seat height of the Hedgehog is. So what is the better choice for her? She won’t be able to try either of these bikes, so it’s hard to know.

    The second consideration is brakes. She doesn’t have handbrakes on her push bike, so she’s not familiar with them at all. I wonder if it’s safe for her to go straight from a push bike to a bike with handbrakes? Has anyone successfully made this transition with their child?


    • CK

      Just saw your reply to Katya below. I checked out the WOOM2 and that seems perfect! Addresses my concerns with the Cleary and Islabikes (lower minimum seat height and has both coaster and hand brakes, with removable coaster), and has the added bonus of the Upcycle program. Thanks for the heads up!

      • Awesome, glad you saw that. They are amazing bikes. I have attached some pics that show the difference between the Clearly, the Woom and the Islabikes. You will clearly see that the WOOM bike have a much more upright position that the others. While I previously found this to be a poor position for kids (due the increased center of gravity), after testing out these bike, it’s quite clear that WOOM is onto something and I will have to rewrite some info on my site. Essentially they found that kids are much more comfortable on a bike when their body weight is centered over the seat. To compensate for the high-center of gravity of the rider, they extended the wheelbase and made the center of gravity of the bike much lower (hence the drop down frame). In the end, all of our testers loved the WOOM, even over other higher-end bikes.

        • CK

          Very glad to hear this as I just ordered a Woom 2 last night! Our daughter will probably outgrow it in a year or 18 months, but with the Upcycle program I’m less concerned about that. Thanks again!

    • Kathy

      Just scrolled down and saw the most recent discussion about Woom bikes! My son is tall, about 47 inches, with an 18.5 inch inseam. We got a Woom 3. As he is still getting the feel for it, we have the seat at the lowest setting and his feet are flat on the ground. It is very light weight. He could even pick up the shipped box off our front porch when it arrived. We got the Upcycle membership and look forward to many years of Woom riding.

  • Kathy

    I have read the information on this page about two dozen times in the past few months as we were trying to select a good bike for my (just turned) 5 yr old son’s first pedal bike. I really appreciate all the pictures and information that helped us know what to look for since hubby and I are just neighborhood/backyard/camping bike riders. My son had out grown his Strider bike and I didn’t know where to go next. With a hint/lead in the comment section we went with a Woom bike. In LOVE! By day two of riding he is peddling, steering, and (some) braking on a bike that fits him well. Thank you for taking the time to put all this information online and for making it so that casual bike riders can understand.

    • Kathy

      Just scrolled down and saw the most recent discussion about Woom bikes! My son is tall, about 47 inches, with an 18.5 inch inseam. We got a Woom 3. As he is still getting the feel for it, we have the seat at the lowest setting and his feet are flat on the ground. It is very light weight. He could even pick up the shipped box off our front porch when it arrived. We got the Upcycle membership and look forward to many years of Woom riding.

      • Isn’t is amazing how much better quality the WOOM bikes are as compared to the standard kids bike? Plus, with the Upcycle program, you are set for years to come. Congrats!!

    • Yeah, I’m so glad you can across WOOM bikes and that this site could be of help. All of our testers here LOVE them as well, amazing bikes!

  • Jessica Hart
  • Jessica Hart

    Could you please review with pros and cons please?

    • As soon as they bikes are available to ship to the US, I will be receiving one for a review, but currently they are not yet released here. In fact, they actually just had their warehouse of bikes burn down, so there aren’t too many available anywhere. From what I have seen online and through several email exchanges from the designer, I can say that they littlebig is certainly the best designed convertible bike I have seen. With it’s low step-through frame and 14″ wheels, it should be a great fit for balancing biking toddlers as well as pedal biking preschoolers.

      • Jessica Hart

        Hi Natalie, just an FYI they have been shipping to the US. My friend just got one for her son. Glad to hear that they are on your radar and well-viewed! 🙂

        • Well, then I need to get on that to make sure I get one :)! Actually, I guess I should have clarified that, as soon as they are available from a US distributor I will be getting one. Since the bikes are still in their first trial run, he is waiting to release them to distributors in other market, but as you pointed out, they are shipping directly to other countries. If possible, I would love to hear how your friend likes hers. As I mentioned before, they seem like a great bike, but until you actually have a chance too see it in person, it’s hard to say. Thanks for the giving me the heads up!!

  • James Brockman

    Another point that was really driven home in a recent visit to a sporting-goods store… My twins have their dad’s short inseam – they’re 3.5 years old, wear 3T shirts, but still fit into 18-24mo pants and have a 14.5″ inseam. I tried them on a couple of “cheapo” 12″ bikes, and everything here is absolutely right. The two biggest problems I saw were
    First, (and this echoes the video posted elsewhere on the site) the geometry is such that if a rider’s legs are the right length for the pedals, their toes barely touch the ground. So the bike is great as long as the child never stops riding.
    Secondly, and this is related to the first problem: Even on a grown-up bike, an optimal seat position may put your hips too high for your toes to adequately touch the ground (the fabulous Electra “flat-footed” bikes being an exception). So grown-up cyclists learn that when you need to stop, you slide forward and straddle the top tube, one foot on a pedal and the other on the ground. (example here – some image from an article about a charity ride)!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_630/image.jpg This is easy and natural with something like the Hotrock 12, but literally impossible with the Huffy. Even if the top tube weren’t too high, there’s no room between the nose of the saddle and the handlebars. If you look at the gap between seat and bars, there’s scant room there. Everything about the Huffy and its ilk, sadly, seems to point toward a bike that’s made to be ridden with training wheels.
    Edit: I see that you discussed this point in the section on slightly-bigger bikes, and agree that a bike where you can pedal efficiently AND put your feet down is ideal for younger riders.

    • Good points! I never thought about how when I stop on a bike (especially when clipped in) I automatically move forward off my seat to touch the ground (as it just becomes habit). With kids bikes, however, the short top tube would prevent them from doing so.

      It’s also very timely that you brought up the Electra flat-footed bikes as another reader had mentioned them this week. Like the Specialized 12″ the bottom bracket is placed significantly forward on the bike in relation to the saddle, which allows for the “flat feet”. Unfortunately, kids bikes don’t have enough space to offset the saddle and the bottom brackets as much, but it certainly something more bike companies should consider integrating into kids bike. Thanks for pointing that out, good stuff.

  • Kristie Chevitanondr

    I just found your site and was excited to read to find good information for younger kids riding bikes. She started off on a balance bike and we did buy our her the cheap 12″ bike and she is riding it, but seeing as she has become obsessed with riding I want to make sure we give her the best opportunity for improving and enjoying riding. We don’t have a huge budget (I like the Woom but it is probably beyond what we can afford), and I’m not sure which bike would be good for her petite stature. She is 4 and is 38″ tall and 30lbs. I plan on checking her inseam tomorrow. I’ve attached a video of her on her current bike in case that helps.

  • Brooke

    Have you tested any Trek bikes? We visited the local Trek store and my daughter liked one of the bikes (although not as much as the one with Palace Pets all over it). The store had no info on the bikes and I’m really disappointed to have found no weights listed on their website.

    We’ve been conflicted on whether to buy a nicer or cheap bike for the kids 5th birthday. I’ve decieded based on the weight difference alone I think we need to go with a better bike. My daughter is 36lbs (compared to her 44lb twin brother) today and the difference really seems like it could be the difference in a broken leg or not in a fall.

    • I admit, that I have not been impressed with Trek’s line of kids bikes. From what I have seen, their kids bikes are not as good as quality as Specialized or Cannondales, so I would recommend looking at some different brands. Plus, sadly, most bike shops are not very knowledgable about the particulars of kids bikes, so expect the same at other shops as well. Plus, most major brands (included those listed), will not post the weights of their bikes as small changes in components could change that weight (lame excuse if you ask me), but any good bike shop should be more than happy to weigh the bike for you in shop. Considering your daughters lightweight, you are right in that you should try to go for a lighter weight bike, but unfortunately, they are all pricey!

      • Brooke

        Thanks! I did find a comment someone made on a forum that a 16″ Trek bike weighed 21lbs which is exactly the same as a big box store bike. Unfortunately when I went to visit my local bike shop I found it to now be a Trek bike shop. I sure wish some of those bikes were available in some b&m stores!

        • Your right, often times bigger brand name bikes, like Trek and Specialized can weight as much as cheap bikes, but their geometry and components are so much better that they are worth the additional expense. Sadly, due to the nature of the bike business, most of these smaller brand bikes will never show up in b&m stores as all the big name bikes won’t allow it…

          • Sally

            Hi Natalie,

            Which one do you prefer between the byK bike e-250 and the specialized hotrock 12″. Both have coaster brakes which I realize may be tricky for balance bike graduates but we can’t afford the WOOM or islabike. Thanks a lot!

          • While it hasn’t got much use so far, I really like the ByK 250 as it is small enough for my 3yo in 3T to stand over while still having 14″ wheels. Kids who are ready to ride pedal bikes generally outgrow 12″ bikes REALLY fast, so knowing that they will have more time on the 14″ makes it a better buy in my eyes. The ByK is also weighs about 5 oz. less than the Hotrock, which isn’t a lot, but is significant considering it has larger wheels.

          • Sally

            Thanks Natalie. In a previous reply, you had recommended the byK e-250 for my daughters. I’m on their website and wondering if I should buy the byK 350 instead. At 38″ tall (96.5cm) would she be OK on the 350 (95-117cm) or should I stick with the 250 (85 -102cm)? I’d like the bikes to last longer but don’t want to buy something that’s not the right size. Thanks a lot!

          • It depends. If she is proficient with a handbrake and is eager to learn, then she might be okay on the taller e-350, but is she is not, then she would be better on the e-250.

  • spamtasticus

    I read your site and found it invaluable for selecting my 3yo daughter’s first bike. I bought and received her islabike 14 and she loves it and was riding within 1 hr. The problem lies in the fact that the seat did quite a bit of damage to the soft tissue in her vulva. In researching this phenomenon I foud it to be very common in women riders. Although there seems to be a few saddle makers addressing this with seats made to suit the female anatomy, I found none in the size needed for my daughter. Do you know of any seat that may help or any other solution? I was amazed that Islabikes, who apparently put a tremendous amount of effort and development into their design did not account for 50% of their customer’s incompatible anatomy.

    • Ugh, I’m so sorry, that is awful! If you have not brought this up to Islabikes, I would be sure to do so. I have heard of other complaints about the seat, but not of any injuries. As you pointed out, however, this certainly isn’t an isolated incident. So what to do? With a saddle, fit can be challenge as everyone is different, but with kids it’s even more difficult as there aren’t very many on the market. First, make sure she gets the rest she need from her bike, poor girl :(. Second, I would go to a local bike shop to see what they have in stock and have her try then out. (Bring our bike along.) Another option is the Serfas Youth Gel as it appears to have good reviews and has a the deep grove to protect soft tissues, found here on Amazon, Please keep me posted as experiences like yours are invaluable in helping me help others.

  • kniknak

    What should be the first bike if I don’t like hotrock? Which one is smallest one for 2y8m boy with 14″ inseam and 38″ height. He rides strider for an year and he’s good at it

    • The Cleary Gecko would fit him if you got a smaller seat post, but I would probably wait until he fits the ByK E-250 (which has a coaster brake) or the WOOM2. Our review of the ByK is almost done, but this comparison pics should help.

      • kniknak

        Thank you!
        If I have to choose between Gecko, Cnoc 14, Woom 2 and e-250 what is order by size of seat height/inseam?
        I do realy like gecko and E-250 (especially). But I live in Europe and there’s a big challenge to find dealer and it could be too expensive to pay taxes and shipping

        • Essentially, the provided measurements just make sure the bike isn’t too big or too small for your son. With a 14″ inseam, he would be best on the ByK as the minimum seat height of 15.7″ will allow him to touch the ground while on the seat. Ideally, they should be able to touch the ground with their whole foot so that they will be able to stop with their feet like they are accustomed to, but that isn’t also possible. I do know that ByK bikes do ship to Europe, but you are right in that they will probably be pricey. Besides the WOOM (which will be too big), another bike I would consider is the Frog,, but it also looks to be too tall for your son.

          • kniknak

            Is Cnoc 14″ such big as woom 2? It seems that they are only appropriate options for me
            Have you aver heard about BMW kidsbike? It’s another good option (as it seems) for european buyers

          • The CNOC 4’s minimum seat height is 18.5″, so it is bigger than the WOOM2. In Europe it is also available without a coaster brake and has two hand brakes. The BMW bike has a seat height of 15″-18″, so it is smaller than both of them, but weights 17.5 lb. with the pedals, making it heavier than both. For a child with an inseam of 15″, I think the BMX will not only be too heavy, they will outgrow the bike relatively quickly since the inseam has a max of 18″.

  • urge

    Can you put 14 Inch tires on a 16 Inch bike? My petite daughter can easily ride a 16 inch bike, but she can barely touch the ground with her tippy toes on the forward part of the angled down seat. Makes it tougher to get started and stopped. Thought smaller tires for awhile would work until she grew another inch or two. Is that possible and if so, any suggestions on where to go to buy the full set of 14 inch tires.

    • Interesting idea, but no it wouldn’t work. The crank arm on a 16″ bike are longer than those on a 14″ bike, so the pedals would hit the ground on a 16″ bike that had 14″ wheels on it. You could swap out the crank arms as well, but the price you would put into changing the 16″ would probably buy you a 14″ bike.

  • Ann

    I’m having a hard time deciding b/w a Zoom 4 and Islabike Beinn 20″ large. My 6 yo nephew is around skinny, 115cm tall, w/ a 20″ inseam. He’s is still riding the used Trek Jet 16 I got for him 3 summers ago. He’s not bothered by the heavy weight. Most of the riding will be on paved bike paths/sidewalks. He likes to ride fast, but the Trek bike is a slowpoke. Will he fit in any of those 2 bikes now or should I wait until next year for a newer model?

    • Compared to the Trek, the WOOM and the Islabikes are both going to feel really light and efficient for him. If he plans on going on longer bike rides (several miles), then I would go with the Islabikes. If he mainly rides shorter distances and prefers to ride fast, then I would go with the WOOM. Both bikes can be used for either purpose, but the gearing and tires on the bikes are designed for different types of riders.

      • Ann

        Without seeing the bikes in person, it’s hard to choose. He’s a casual rider. When he does ride, it’s usually 10-11 miles round trip on the paved bike path (some sections have small loose gravel). The other times are less than 1 mile to the neighborhood playground. He likes to take off fast if he sees another kid on a bike. He pedals so hard but the Trek doesn’t seem to move. I’m not familiar with the technical aspects of the bikes. I like the Woom styling more. Which do you feel fits him more? Woom 4 or Beinn Large?

        • If he is an aggressive rider and like to race other kids, then I would go with the WOOM. The WOOM would do just fine on longer rides, even on paved roads. If he mainly does long rides, then I would go with the Islabikes, but if he is aggressive and mainly does shorter rides, I would go with the WOOM.

  • Naomi

    I came across this bike and wondered if you had any thoughts as it certainly seems light enough! My 3.5year old son is stepping up from his strider and can currently ride a 16″ pedal bike (side walk find) that weighs more than him and he can’t touch the ground. He is pretty tiny at 37″ tall but is definitely an aggressive rider (I can no longer keep up with him running at a full sprint after only 2 days!) who loves trail riding. While a lil shredder would be awesome our budget certainly does not extend that far. I’m looking forward to your review on the byk350x2i as it is definitely one we are considering. Being based in Australia I am finding our options limited as I love the aggressive stance of the Cleary bikes. Thanks in advance!–bike

    • I have never heard of torpedo7, so thanks bringing them to my attention. That link sent me to the basic site, but I assume you are looking at the Spin Boy’s 14″ if his 16″ is too big for him. At 7.6 kg (16 lb.), it is on the lighter side, so worth a look. It also claims to have a lower center-of-gravity and for that price, might be a worth a shot. The two reviews listed also seem good. If you do go for it, please let me know as I would love to hear how it works out!

      Lastly, while I was planning on reviewing the E-350, they only sent me the E-250, so as of now, I wouldn’t be reviewing the 350 as well. Here is my link to the 250 review,

  • Brock

    Our daughter will be turning 3 in early Sept & has been talking about getting a bicycle for her birthday for months. We went to 3 different local bikes shops as well as REI to try some out today. She tried several balance bikes & just kept saying “I don’t like this” & would get scared when it fell over. By nature, she is a VERY cautious & timid little gal & gets scared very easily. With that being said, I don’t think she’d enjoy a balance bike at all. So, we’ve decided to go with a 12″ pedal bike but can’t decide on which one. My husband obviously really liked the Specialized bike (he has a Specialized mountain bike) for her but I don’t think it’s in our budget. Do you have any thoughts on the GIANT Lil Pudd’n 12 inch bike? She also tried the REI Novara Firefly & Diamondback Viper…we liked the Viper best out of those 2 but it doesn’t come in pink. 😉 But the Giant Lil Pudd’n does. Anyway, any thoughts or reviews would be great as I couldn’t find any. Thank you!!

    • You daughter’s experience with balance bike is actually pretty typical. Most kids really don’t like them the first go round, plus, unless you tried the Strider (which is available in many stores), the balance bikes found at local bike shops are pretty heavy compared to the various bikes available online. If you prefer to go with a 12″ bike, the Specialized is my favorite, but it is pricey. Between those other options I would go with Giant Adore 12″ (MSRP $180) if that is an option over the Novara and the Viper as they are both pretty heavy.

  • Liana

    We got our son a bmw kids bike. However, before that he was used to riding his tricycle. He doesn’t like using the balancing bike he wants to have pedals. I know this defeats the purpose but I spent so much money on that bike, Is there a way to add training wheels to the BMW Kids bike?

    He is 3.5years old

    • Most kids don’t like balance bikes at first, so I wouldn’t give up hope yet. If possible, I would try to get him around kids riding bikes as inspiration. If he will standover it, have him walk the bike around. Most kids walk the bike around for quite a while, so don’t expect him to sit down and ride off on it. In fact, it took my youngest almost six-months to get it. As for the BMW bike, from what I can tell online, it doesn’t appear to come with mounts for training wheels.

  • Andrew Johns

    Great site. I really liked your points about the ratio of the bike’s weight to the child’s weight.

    My daughter is 5, but she is on the small size. She is 40 inches tall, but weighs only 30 lbs. Her inseam is 18 inches.

    She has been riding a FirstBike for a couple of years and balances well. She has asked for a pedal bike. I am struggling to find the best bike because of her light weight. I looked at Woom2, but is more than 50% of her body weight.

    Any suggestions?

    • Thanks and sorry for the delay in responding. At only 30 lbs. she is pretty light. I would look at the Islabike CNOC 14″ as it only weighs 12.4 lbs. It minimum seat height is 18.5″, so while it may be slightly tall, she will still be able to get both feet on the ground. My 3yo weighs 32 lb. and can easily ride (or coast on) the 15 lb. Cleary Gecko (he doesn’t yet pedal), so I think she should be okay with the 12.4 Islabike. Of course every child is different, but seeing as she is a champ on her FirstBIKE, I think she will do fine on Islabike. If you prefer the WOOM2 for it’s more upright body position, then I wouldn’t hesitate to go that route either, as for some kids, the more naturally upright body position is just as important as weight. Generally more hesitant or timid kids perfer the WOOM, while those who are lighter-weight, but are eager to ride, prefer the Islabikes.

  • Arthur Warner

    My 4.5 year old son is also on the small size, with inseam 15″. What pedal bike can I get him that would still allow him to comfortably touch the ground?

    He owns a balance bike that I bought him last year, a simple one without brakes. He loves it. The problem is he’s about worn out the tops of his sneakers, since he insists on braking with his toes, instead of his soles!

    For the sake of his sneakers, I’d really like to get him a pedal bike, but according to these charts, he’s not going to fit any of them yet.

    • The Cleary Gecko is available and has a minimum seat height of 15″, but I would go with the ByK 250 instead as we’ve found it to be more comfortable geometry for beginning riders. It has a minimum seat height of 15.7″, so it might be slightly too big, but his toes will be able to touch the ground. Plus, it comes with a push bar that will allow you to help him get stabilized on the bike.

  • Brooke Elliott

    Hi Natalie, thanks for the great site. I have been reading over lots of information on your site recently as we are about to embark on our daughter’s first pedal bike, yay! She is 3.5yrs, about ~96cm tall and 13kg. She has been riding a balance bike for about a year and can glide a couple of meters and steer well. I’ve read about some of the smaller bikes available but haven’t been able to find many of them within Australia except for the Byk and Torpedo7 bikes. I have gone and looked at the Byk-250 and 350 but found the hand brakes were too far away for my daughter to reach. I haven’t been able to find any Torpedo7 bikes (–bike) to try out. I also haven’t been able to find any information about them (Torpedo7) on your site and was just wondering if you have any experience with them, or perhaps whether there are any other bikes that you are aware of within Australia that might suit my daughter?
    Happy cycling and thanks in advance 🙂

    • Ginny

      I see this thread is a year old but hope my input may help someone else. Amazing site by the way. Helped me choose the right bike for my 3.5 year old daughter.

      I also live in Australia and came across the Torpedo7 (Spin), ByK e250 and also a Fisher Price 14″ model, all of which fit your description of lighter weight, 14″ wheels with seat set low for lower center of mass.

      I tried my daughter on all three in store. She has an inseam of 16.5″ and could touch the ground with almost flat feet on all 3 bikes. After a little more research I came across the same bike as the Torpedo7 branded as Flight and Biomechanix available in larger sporting department stores and a large chain toystore.

      I had seen a few ByK e250’s for sale second hand for $100 but they were not in convenient locations for viewing. New, the cheapest I saw the ByK for was $249. The Fisher Price was $299 (on sale for $250) and the Torpedo7 (Flight and Biomechanix) retail for $170 – $200 but we’re on sale for $130.

      I went for the Flight and couldn’t be happier. It’s a great fit. My daughter can touch the ground and pedal with ease. It is an alloy so not too heavy. My only complaint is that the brake is a little stiff for her strength. She is doing well with the coaster brake though.

      Before riding this bike, my daughter had been on a Torpedo7 balance bike and then (before I found your blog) we had her on a 14″ bike she couldn’t touch the ground on. While she was able to ride it, we had to run after her to catch her for the dismount!

      Thank you for your great information, without it our daughter would not be on the right bike – her dismounts were getting pretty creative though!

      • Wow, thanks for letting my know about the Torpedo7! I have seen the bike online and it seems like a great bike for the cost, but it’s hard to say without seeing it in person. We are hoping to add an “Australia” section to the site sometime next year, so your first hand account of the Torpedo is very helpful. Thanks again!

  • Brooke Elliott

    Hi Natalie, thanks for the great site! I’m looking for a first pedal bike for my daughter, she is 3.5yrs, ~1m tall and about 13kg. I have looked into some of the bikes you have mentioned for the younger rider but havent been able to find many stocked in Australia, so far I’ve only come across the Byk and Torpedo7 bikes. I wasn’t sure about the brakes on the Byk and also came across the Torpedo7 spin bike 16″ which is a bit more affordable. I have looked around on your site and couldn’t find anything about this bike (T7)on your site and was just wondering if you have any experience with it or may be able to offer some insights on the bike specifics (–bike). Any assistance would be greatly appreciated or suggestions for other bikes available in Australia for her size too?
    Thank you in advance,

  • Divya Singh

    Hi Natalie,

    this a great website with tons of info on toddler bikes.We are considering to buy a balance bike for our son who is 3 years 3 months old and wears 3T clothes.His height is 39 inches and inseam is 14.5(I hope i measured it right).

    We will be riding the bike mostly on side walks and in parks on grass.We dont want a bike that is too heavy.We need to have a turn limiter and want something that will last long enough because my son is tall ( I dont want him to outgrow his bike too soon).We would prefer not to have air tyres but those are not deal breakers.I have read tons of reviews online and with so much of information I am a little confused now 🙁

    We live in the northeast and get heavy snow here.We really liked all the features of firstbike .But the price is a little bit of a stretch(my price range is $80 to $150).Does firstbike has ski option?we would love to have that option.

    What are other options that will suit our needs?

    • Sounds like the perfect bike for you would be the FirstBIKE Basic, It has solid rubber tires with an good tread, which won’t go flat, but offer much more traction than foam tires. Plus, the FirstBIKE does offer a ski option, so he could use it in winter as a sled, which our kids have loved. Hope that helps!

      • Divya Singh

        Thank you so much for the reply Natalie!I have been reading tons of reviews online and some parents complained about firstbike that the seat is kind of tilted downwards, a little, which makes the child uncomfortable because he tends to slide off the seat.Have you heard about any such complains?
        Any inputs will be appreciated.

        • Humm, I have not as the seat of the FirstBIKE is U-shaped to prevent kids from falling off. I have never heard of a kid slipping of their seat, as in addition to being U-shaped, it is also made of a gel-type material that is a little tacky. In fact, the one concern I have with the FirstBIKE seat is that the shape and texture of it make it hard to get on and off the bike for really little ones.

  • Those are the only two brands that I know of in Australia. Another recently introduced me to Torpedo7 and they look like pretty good bikes for their price. From just the picture, it’s hard to see whether the brake levers are close to the grips or not. As for the ByK, the brake are adjustable, so they can be brought in a little, but not much. Since both bikes have a coaster brake and weigh about the same, I would go for the one that fits the best. You want the bikes minimum seat height to be about the height of your daughters inseam starting out. Torpedo doesn’t have their seat heights listed on their site, so I would email them to find out before you decide which bike to get.

  • Becky

    THANK YOU!!! This was so helpful as we researched the best “big girl” bike as an upgrade from our Strider. We received the Islabike Cnoc today & my daughter has already mastered the handbrake–will be adding peddles tomorrow! I was amazed at how light-weight it is–my daughter is easily able to pick it up & maneuver it. Super sturdy build & very attractive—couldn’t be more pleased (oh & we received it in under a week)!

    • Yeah! Isn’t is amazing how much better the Islabikes are as compared to a regular kids bike? I was blown away myself when I saw the difference, which is why I continue to do what I do :). Glad she loves it and thanks for the feedback!

  • Andrea Humble

    My son just turned 4,so we bought him a bike with training wheels for his bday. He has been riding a tricycle for 1.5 years now and really outgrew it several mos ago. We went to our local bike shop and ended up buying the Redline Raid 16. It was $250, so a good investment. Getting it home, it feels a bit heavy and so now I’m worrying we made a bad decision. It seems like a great bike otherwise. Though his inseem is 16″ and I’m fearful the bike is a little too big based on charts I’m seeing online…though he can reach the pedals just fine. I have seen very few reviews online on this particular bike. What are your thoughts on this bike, fit and weight. He is thin at 39 lbs and I believe the bike weighs 21.5 lbs.

    Also, completely different issue. He is typically fearless. We have tried having him ride the bike twice now and be cries in fear and wants off. This is very unusual. We’ve yet to get him to pedal it. Any thoughts…advice? I’m really wishing we had done the balance bike instead of tricycle, but we had a hand me down tricycle and he took to it very well so we just went with that.

    • Finding the best bike for your child can be tricky. The Redline Raid is a great bike, but if your son can only touch the pedals and not the ground, then it is probably too big. Technically, a child doesn’t need to be able to touch the ground in order to ride a bike, BUT for kids just learning to ride, they are generally much more comfortable and willing to ride a bike if they can. If he can’t touch the ground and he hasn’t had any experience on a balance bike, then I would probably put away the Redline for a while and if possible, have him try a balance bike for a while. If he can touch the ground with his whole foot, then I would remove the pedal and have him ride it like a balance bike. If you do take one of the balance bike routes, hide the tricycle (so he won’t automatically drop the bike for the tricycle) and be prepared for him to hate it at first. It is very rare for kids to sit on a balance bike and ride off on it the first day. Kids generally make slow progress, but with enough exposure, eventually pick it up. If either of those aren’t an option, then I would let him ride the Redline with training wheels until he is more confident on the bike.

  • aguilhon

    I really don’t get the rationale behind the “false economy of cheap bike”. Why do yo multiply the investment by the average age of kids riding w/o training wheels ? It’s not like you make the investment each years

    • You’re right, it’s a weird comparison that needs to be redone. The two are multiplied together to show that while bike shop bikes are more expensive, they generally allow kids to ride a bike sooner. As a result, kids ride their bikes as at sooner age and get more use out of their bikes, therefore making the bikes “cheaper” when spread out of the years it is ridden. I agree, it’s weird and I’m sure there’s a better way I can make that point.

  • Katy Hughey

    Hello, and thank you for all the work that went into compiling this amazing information. We have a just turned four year old and will be getting him his first bike. He is quite large for his age and outgrew any balance bikes before he was old enough to use one so we’re going straight to a bike. I admit to feeling quite overwhelmed with all this information. He is 44 1/4 inches tall and 51pounds. He has very good balance and is quite good on his scooter, if that makes a difference. Do you have one or two bikes you would specifically recommend to help narrow my choices? Thank you again for all this info.

    • Glad to help. If he has never balanced on a bike before, then a lightweight bike is going to be essential as it will be easier for him to learn to balance on. Learning to balance on a scooter is very different from balancing on a bike, so he won’t be able to pick up and go on a bike. It is also very important to focus the minimum seat height of the bike. When learning to balance, he will need to be able to put his feet squarely on the ground. Generally, the “perfect” size bikes for experienced kids is if they can touch the ground with their tippy toes, so a bike that he can put his feet squarely on the ground is going to be slightly too small for him from the get-go. If you expect him to pickup balancing quickly, this won’t be an issue, however, if he takes a while to learn to balance, then he could be almost too big for the bike by the time he is ready to pedal it. My favorite light weight bikes are the WOOM’s and the Islabikes. They are both great and I would go with the bike that has the minimum seat height that more closely matches his inseam.

      • Katy Hughey

        Thank you for this quick, detailed and thoughtful reply! He’s played on other people’s balance bikes and tooled around on one at the bike store last year and he’s quite good on them. Both the bikes you recommend look wonderful. We’ll have a chat with Santa about them! 😉 Thank you again! Happy holidays!

  • Louise

    This is a great article. Thanks Natalie, there is some great and eye opening information here.
    I live in the UK. We are looking to buy a Bike for Christmas for our 4 yr old daughter. She has never ridden a balance bike or a tricycle (for any sustained period of time) and we’re looking at Frog bikes for her. It seems to me they are similar to the Islabikes. Do you know anything about them? She is 110cm tall and weighs about 36-37lbs. We tried her on the Frog 48 (16inch) and she could just about put her feet flat on the floor. Reading your article, it sounds like this was the correct size for her, but the guy in the shop felt it was too small for her. Please help…..I’m so confused!

    • The only Frog bike I have seen is their balance bike, which is great, so I assume their pedal bikes are just as amazing. As for size, I completely see why you are confused. Technically, when fitting a child on a pedal bike, the perfect fit is when a child can only touch the ground on with their tippy toes. This allows for the optimum knee extension when pedaling. This is due to the gap between the pedal on the down stroke and the ground. When pedaling, you want the knee to have a slight bend it in when it is on the pedal. If the foot can touch the ground all the way, then the child will have too much knee bend when their foot is on the pedal. So, in order to get the most time out of the bike, retailers are taught that having kids on their tippy toes is best (which technically is correct). With kids new to pedal bikes, however, they are often not comfortable being on their tippy toes and more importantly, cannot stop with their feet, which is why being able to touch the ground with entire foot is ideal (and safer) when shopping for their first pedal bike. Most kids who ride their bike without being able to touch the ground are either on training wheels, are pros on a balance bike and eager to ride a pedal or they have a very poor experience with the bike and don’t master it until they can comfortably touch the ground. The downside to starting with a bike that they can touch the ground on, is that they will outgrow it faster, BUT they will likely master biking faster and happier than if they started out on a larger bike. In the end, however, it really depends on your daughter. If she is comfortable on the larger bike and eager to ride, I would take that route. If she is more timid and hesitant, I would go with a bike in which she can touch the ground.

      • Louise

        Thank you so much. That is very helpful advice, and much appreciated.
        As she can’t yet pedal, I suspect the one to go for would probably be the slightly smaller one, as I think the Frog 52 will just be too big for her!
        PS I looked online at the Islabikes last night. I didn’t realise it was a British company. I’m going to look into these too.

        • Yes, they are! If you get a chance, I highly recommend looking at them as well. They are more expensive than Frog, but are more fined tuned for kids (well as far as I can tell).

  • Alexandra Dalton

    Hi! I am so grateful to have discovered your site and for all the work you put into it. Based on your recommendations, I purchased 12″ TykesBykes balance bikes for my twin daughters two years ago. They have outgrown them, and I’m looking to move up to pedal bikes. My inclination is for the for TykesBykes 16″ Sprinter, but I’m wondering whether I ought to consider the 20″ Sprinter. My daughters will be 5 this month. One of them is rather tall at about 43″ and 40 lbs. The other is about 41″ and 37 lbs. They wear mostly size 5 clothing, with some size 6. They are extremely capable on both balance bikes and scooters. I don’t want them to be frustrated by a bike that is too big and heavy (the minimum seat height on the 20″ is only an inch higher than the 16″, but it’s about 5 lbs. heavier), but if I am going to invest in a well-designed bike, I would prefer not to have to replace it in a year or two. I know you haven’t reviewed the 20″ TykesBykes, but was wondering whether you had any experience with it or general thoughts. Thanks so much!

    • You’re in luck as I just got the 20″ in this week and had a chance to take it out for some rides this week. It is much bigger than the 16″ and I think it is going to be way to big for your girls. Here is a picture of my 8-year-old daughter in size 10 clothes riding it as a reference for size. My newly 7-year-old in size 8 clothes rode it as well as he had the seat pretty low on the bike. In size 6 clothes, it is going to be a stretch for them to fit on it, so I would go with the 16″.

      • Alexandra Dalton

        Thanks so much, Natalie, and great timing! I agree, the 20″ will be far too big. Do you have a sense of the size or age at which a child will outgrow the 16″? I noticed the seat goes higher (26″) than on some other bikes, but it’s hard for me to guess what age, height, or clothing size that might correspond to.

        • It depends on the child, but generally before they are in size 8 clothes. Since kids grow so fast, they only usually get about two years on a bike before they need to size up.

          • Alexandra Dalton

            Good to know, thanks. I’ll look forward to checking your latest reviews in 2017. 🙂

  • Jess

    Our local bike shop put my 4.5 (almost 5) year old on an 18″ Haro. I don’t see many 18″ mentioned on here. Should I stick with a 16? The 18 looked HUGE on her but they said I should get her on the biggest bike that fits her. She could straddle the top bar. I’m thinking maybe the 16″ Specialized instead if I can find it in stock (a little late on the Christmas shopping!)

    • Jess

      I have been digger further and realized the Haro also weighs significantly more than most of the other bikes! The only other option I can find locally is a Specialized or a Trek Mystic (different model than you have on here and the reviews on the Trek site are mixed). I’m tempted to give her a pic of a bike for Christmas and order one of your top recommended ones! She’s been on a balance bike for a long time and has it down. She’s also been out on the third wheel with me and is doing great pedaling!

      • Fitting a first bike can be a challenge. Technically, the bike shop is right in that they should be able to straddle the top bar and you want to get them the biggest bike possible, but those rules don’t always apply to first time riders. When moving up from a balance bike, your daughter is going to be comfortable being able to start and stop with her feet. If you put her on a bike right away in which she can no longer use her feet to stop, it is going to make her uncomfortable and potentially cause her some harm as she may not be able to stop. In addition, essentially any kids pedal bike you find at a bike store will most likely only have a coaster brake (back-pedal brake). Kids transitioning from balance bikes typically struggle with coaster brakes as they are used to using a forward motion to start and stop and switching to a backwards motion is very confusing. As a result, they generally do much better with hand brakes. Therefore, a bike in which they can touch the ground with their feet and one that has a hand brake is generally best for balance bike graduates. With this setup, kids generally take to pedal bikes much easier and much faster than if they can’t touch the ground with their feet. The downside is that they will outgrow the bike sooner if they can touch the ground versus barely being able to touch the ground. So in the end, it’s really up to you as the parent. If you feel that your daughter is eager to transition to a pedal bike and won’t be intimidated by the larger size of the bike AND if you believe she will safely be able to stop the bike, then I would go for the largest bike possible. If not, then I would stick to a bike that allows her to touch the ground and has a hand brake (and preferably no coaster brake). Hope that makes sense!

  • Deborah Holton

    Im looking for a specialized bike for a 13 yo boy who has a upper right limb deficiency. (Right arm ends below elbow).
    Now he is getting taller we are finding it harder for him to find a bike he can ride safely. We are looking for a bike with back brakes to make things easier for him. Hope someone can help.

    • I’d love to help track something down for you. So are you just looking for a bike with a coaster brake so that he can brake with his feet? Is he able to steer with one hand or does he need some modifications to the handlebar as well? Do you happen to know if he fits on an adult size bike yet? If so, there are certainly some more options out there. Let me know, thanks!

  • Alejandro Guzman

    Hello, Hope all is well I am looking for a good starting bike for my son. He is turning 4 soon, and he is 3 feet and 2 inches. Just wanted to see what you recommend for him. I live in the Unites states so byk bikes are pricey when it comes to shipping. Please help. Thank you

    • Byk actually has a US distributor now and are available here: Let me know if that doesn’t work out for you and I’ll try again :).

      • Alejandro Guzman

        Thank you soo much!!! Let me know how I can help this site stay up. I love the helpful information it provides parents!

        • You’re welcome, glad to help! Any referrals would be great, but no worries, as long as I still have the time and energy, this site is going anywhere 🙂

  • Caryn Brighten Knoechel

    Hi there, I am looking to buy my son his first pedal bike for his fourth birthday this May since he has completely mastered his Strider balance bike. He is on the taller side at just under 42 inches now. I was thinking that a 16″ size would be the best fit for him. I live in Canada, but could order a bike from the US and pick it up across the border. Do you have any recommendations for me? Anything available in Canada? Or will I need to order from the US? I was looking at the Islabikes CNOC 16, Woom 3 16″ and the Priority Start F/W initially. Thanks for your help.

    • All three of those bikes are great, but there are pros and cons to each. The Priority Start is the best of the three for aggressive riders as the body position of the rider is much more forward. The WOOM 3 is the most upright, which is best for more timid riders or may be more hesitant. The coaster brake on the WOOM can be swapped out, while the Priority doesn’t have one. Lastly, the CNOC only has a coaster (although I hear a non-coaster version will be available soon), but is the lightest of the three. So which is best? It really depends on your son. Aggressive and eager to rider, I would go with Priority. More timid, but will likely want to ride faster once he does master the bike, then the WOOM. Slightly hesitant, but less likely to want to become a speed-racer, then I would go with the Islabikes. In the end, however, they are all great bikes!!

      • Caryn Brighten Knoechel

        Natalie, thanks for all of your helpful insight! I was just wondering how the Early Rider Belter 16 ” compares to the above three bikes? My son had a chance to try one out and seemed to really like it. Thanks!

        • Ahh, sorry for not getting back to you sooner. The Belter is a great bike, but when given the choice between the Islabike, WOOM and Early Rider, almost all the kids preferred the WOOM, simply because it allows kids to ride faster. On it’s own, kids love the Belter, but the metal pedals were problematic at times as kids often scratched their shins on them.

          • Caryn Brighten Knoechel

            Thanks Natalie. As an update, we ended up going with the Belter because I found a store that carried it locally and he had actually tried it out. It worked out wonderfully! He was riding it no problem by the end of the day, and going pretty darn fast too. Now he calls his Strider bike his baby brother’s bike.

          • Awesome. Glad you found it locally! That is rare 🙂

      • SeattleBikeLover

        The CNOC has both coaster brakes and a hand brake! 🙂 Ours has a hand brake & we bought it a few years ago.

  • Lori Davis-Hexberg

    I am looking at the priority bikes for my 4 year old son. He is 41″ tall with a 16.5″ inseam. He is more timid by nature, but is pretty aggressive while riding his balance bike. I am just wondering which would be a better pedal bike for him, the Priority Start C/B or the Priority Start F/W. I would love to hear your input.

    • Sorry for my delay in getting back to you, things have been crazy here. If he is aggressive on his balance bike, then I would go with the F/W. The more aggressive position shouldn’t be a problem for him, plus the lack of a coaster brake will be beneficial in helping him to learn to pedal. The C/B is best for kids who plan on using training wheels, not kids who are graduating from a balance bike. In the end, I think he would do fine on either though, but the F/W will allow him to go up and over jumps, curbs or hill easier.

  • Verlee

    Hi Natalie! Thanks for this fantastic site – so thrilled that I found it! I just ordered an Islabike Rothan for my petite 3yo based on your advice, and I’ll definitely be sending some friends your way. 😊

    I was hoping you could help me sort out which bike would be best for my son with autism and some other special/medical needs. He turned 8 in February is definitely ready for a peddle bike. He’s been riding a Tykes Byke 16″ balance bike since he was 6.5, and he now zooms down huge hills on it with great delight! Prior to that he had a 14″ big box bike with training wheels that he couldn’t even move. He is very active and loves to ride fast, as long as he feels safe and in control. From what I can tell, he should be in a 20″. (He’s small for his age). Here are his specs:

    Age: 8
    Height: 50″
    Inseam: 21″
    Pant Size: 6/7
    Weight: 53lbs.

    He has issues with body awareness (sensing where his body is in space and how it’s interacting with the bike) as well as anxiety, so feeling secure and like he can easily manage the bike will be a really major factor. If he feels unsafe he can panic quickly and have trouble trying again, but once he feels confident, he will probably be blazing. He also has some sensory over-sensitivity, so seat and handle comfort will be really important, and if any of the bikes has an especially strong odor that doesn’t dissipate quickly (e.g. lacquer or rubber tire smell), that would be a problem. The biggest issue may be that multitasking is a huge challenge with autism, so he is likely to have difficulty with balancing, peddling, steering, braking multiple hand and/or foot brakes, shifting, and watching where he’s going all at once. He does best when he can add one new skill at a time until he masters it.

    Do you think that managing the 20″ and learning to peddle at the same time will be too challenging? Or will the larger size help since it fits him better? I’ve noticed that most of the highly rated 20″ bikes have multiple gears; is that something he can just ignore until he’s ready to use it? Is it necessary to use both hand brakes? Right now he’s used to braking with one hand only on the Tykes Byke.

    I’ve been looking at the Islabike 20″ large, the WOOM4, and the Guardian single speed. The Guardian seems to have some good features for him, but I’m concerned about the weight and higher center of gravity, and you give it a somewhat lower rating than the Isla & WOOM?

    The other thing is, his 5yo brother (44″ tall, 17″ inseam, 5T) should be ready for 16″ peddle bike very soon. So I’m wondering if a good option would be to get my 8yo a 16″ WOOM or Isla, and then quickly pass it down to his brother once he learns to peddle and brake with confidence, and then move him to the 20″?

    We live in a very hilly area, and the bike will be used for neighborhood rides with friends, travel to the park .25-.5 miles, and some hilly dirt and gravel trails.

    That was a lot … Thanks for your help and thanks for this cool site!!!


    • Glad to help and I’m glad you found my site :). First off, sorry for the delay in getting back to you, things have been crazy around here! Starting off, the Rothan is amazing bike that I’m sure you and your daughter will both love.

      For your son, I’m so glad you reached out. My son’s are also on the spectrum, so I understand your concerns. They are high functioning, “Aspergers” on the old system, so as you know, they have a different set of challenges, but sensory issues as well as smells and the “feel” of the bike were vital for my kids, especially my youngest. He became obsessed with his Rothan, so much so that we called it his therapy bike. I took that bike everywhere! I learned to strap it to a backpack and just take it along. In order to get him to ride any other bike, it took a lot of talking and prepping ahead of time. Eventually he got more flexible so that I could use him to test out other bikes, but for year or so, I had to use other kids. Helmet have also always been an issue! There are several reviews in which you can see him crying with the helmets because of it :(. Luckily neighborhood kids are more flexible than him and are willing to try things out for me and I never wanted to push him too far.

      For your son, you certainly picked out the top three bikes I would consider. Considering him inseam, I would go for the Islabikes Beinn 20″ Small as the minimum seat height is 21.5″, which will allow him to put his feet fully on the ground (with shoes on). The minimum seat height of the WOOM4 is 23.2″, which is only going to allow him to touch with his tippy toes, which will likely scare him off. The Beinn 20″ Small is much smaller than most 20″ bikes. It is similar sized to most 16″ bikes. The larger wheel size and longer wheelbase will help him feel more secure than a 16″ bike.

      Then again, considering you are likely to need a 16″ soon, as you suggested, getting the WOOM3 16″ now and then move him up to a 20″ when he is ready would could work as well. While I think the small 20″ will be better for him once he learns to ride, the smaller WOOM3 may help him get comfortable on a pedal bike since it is smaller. I think either approach will work, it just really depends on how you think he will react. With my youngest, I know that he doesn’t transition from bike to bike very well, so for him I would probably go for the larger bike now to prevent a transition later. For my older son, he has much less trouble transitioning, so I would probably go with the smaller bike for him first.

      Hope that helps and doesn’t confuse you any more. Feel free to ask if you have any additional questions (and I should be able to answer in a more timely manner).

      • Verlee

        Thank you so much Natalie!!! We ASD mamas have to help each other out, right? 😉 . I called Islabikes to order the Beinn 20 Small, but they said that the Beinn 20 Large would be a better fit? Thoughts on that?

      • Verlee

        I think she said the minimum seat hight for the large is now 20.5″?

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  • If the minimum seat height of the large is 20.5″ then yes, that would be a better fit! And yes, as you know, it’s always helpful to hear from other ASD mom’s :). I have several friends close by with ASD kids and they have been extremely helpful!

  • Kris

    Hi! I am hoping to purchase a bike for my soon to be 5 year old daughter.

    • Humm, I’m not sure why the rest of your email isn’t showing up here, but I have it via email, so I’ll just answer here. For your daughter, it really depends on her inseam as 16″ and 20″ bike can vary greatly in size. In your price range, she will probably be better off on a 16″ and the 20″ with smaller frames are pretty pricy. Any of the bikes we compared here may work,, but the Torker Throttle is currently unavailable. Another option would be to look for a good quality used bike. A used 16″ Specialized or Giant would be a great choice if you could come across one.

  • Kris

    Hi! I’m hoping to purchase a bike for my soon-to-be 5 year-old daughter. She has a balance bike now, but we mostly ride through our neighborhood, which has fairly flat roads. She is 42″ tall. I am not sure what to do because while I want her on a 20″ bike because it is such an investment, I don’t want to overwhelm her. With her going from a balance bike, should I have her go straight to riding without training wheels? If so, intuition tells me to go with a 16″ bike. Or, do I go with a 20″ with training wheels? Is there any in either category that falls more near $150/max $200? Thank you!

  • Sask

    Do you have any advice on where to buy the kids bikes featured in your reviews in Canada? I have a tall 3-year-old girl, 101 cm, first time riding a bike (never bought a balance bike). It’s hard to find any of the brands on your site in Canada (not US with shipping to Canada) — only heavy, cheap bikes from Walmart, Canadian Tire.

  • Tina Stephens

    I’d say try a 16 inch without training wheels, my son went from pedal bike to Jet 16 , used on CL for 40 bucks, in one day. Never even old him training wheels existed. He was about 44 inches at the time.

    • Awesome, glad to hear. I love it went Craigslist bikes work out. Our two oldest had similar experiences with their first Craigslist bikes 🙂

  • francesca cini

    hi there,
    my son is 3 year olds and I would like to buy is first balance bike. which one would you recommend?
    i don’t want to spend too much as we live in London as summers are really short and I guess that next year he will need a normal bike with pedals?

    • There are a lot of different options out there for balance bike. Have you looked at our comparison charts yet? Being in London, many of the bike listed won’t be available, but the Islabike, WOOM and Frog all should be around. All three are great bikes, but there are pros and cons to each which we have outlined in our reviews of them (links to reviews on the comparison chart page linked to above).

  • David


    The article is very informative but I wonder if you could offer some thoughts on my situation. I have an almost 4 1/2 year old for whom I bought a Strider balance bike almost 2 years ago. Problem is, he’s a pretty timid kid when it comes to risk and I’ve never gotten him to do it for any length of time. He’s either been afraid of falling or just not interested. Instead, he’s been way more into his scooter. We ended up getting him a Royal Baby bike last year with training wheels that he loved, but the training wheels kept loosening so we sent it back. Now I want to get him another bike but am heeding all of the people who say don’t use training wheels.

    I need to both figure out the right bike and brand – he’s about 41-42″ tall with a 17″ inseam so a 16″ bike seems to be the right size – and how to approach teaching him. I’m wondering if I should remove both the regular pedals and training wheels so it has the same effect of a balance bike. My concern is he will once again resist learning it because of his fear and the fact that he’s already had a bike with training wheels so he knows they exist. You know how it is – once a kid knows something is possible they will want it.

    Any advice for me would be awesome. Thanks.

    • Kids can be tricky! With kids who are really timid, I’ve found that it is usually best to follow their lead, but with certainly some guidance. Is he currently interested in riding a pedal bike? If not, I would wait on a pedal bike and perhaps try the Strider again. Has he been around other kids on balance bikes before? I’ve found that seeing other kids ride them can be a huge help in helping preschoolers “get it”.

      If he wants nothing to do with the Strider, I would try a pedal bike with the pedals removed BUT only if you think he will pick up on pedaling relatively quickly. The problem is that if a child can sit on a bike seat and touch the ground with almost their full foot, then they will likely outgrow the bike very soon. As a result, if he takes several months to a year to master the pedal bike without the pedals, then he will quickly outgrow the bike once the pedals are on the bike. Plus, learning to balance on a pedal bike is more difficult than a balance bike because they are a lot heavier and have the crank arms in the way.

      If he is not interested in a pedal bike or his Strider, I would consider a larger balance bike, such as the Scoot, which is longer and wider than the Strider and will help him feel much more stable than the Strider. If he is interested in a pedal bike, I would look at WOOM’s line of bikes. They are pricey, but they are amazing for timid kids as they are designed to allow kids weight to be centered over their hips, like a scooter. As a result, timid kids feel much more comfortable and at east on WOOM’s as compared to other bikes.

      • David

        Thanks for the detailed response. To answer your question, as I mentioned in my post we did briefly have a pedal bike with training wheels that he loved so the answer is a definite yes – he is very interested in riding a pedal bike. That’s one of the reasons I’m concerned about his response to a bike with pedals removed – he’s already tasted what it’s like with training wheels.

        With regards to the balance bike he hasn’t seen a lot of kids riding them but a few. And I’ve shown him YouTube videos so he would get the idea. But no dice. (Btw isn’t he too big for it now?).

        We looked at the Woom as you mentioned but whoa they are pricey. Especially for a bike that will only last a couple years.

        It’s a good point you make about trying to learn to balance on a regular bike without the pedals. Hadn’t thought of that.

        About your other point – removing the pedals only if I think he will pick up pedaling quickly. I’m not sure I totally understand. He knows how to pedal from the 1st bike we had so I don’t think that should be an issue – the concern is whether he’ll even attempt to learn without the pedals to begin with.

        Seems I still have a lot to figure out.

        • Melissa Malejko

          Late response David, but I just read your comments. It’s been 3 months: what has your summer been like with the bike situation? There are a number of ways to teach a child to ride a bike, but from personal experience many kids learn better from someone other than their parent. If you can find someone to assist, I’m sure your son will be riding a pedal bike very quickly! I am a cycling instructor and teach people (ages 4 and up, including adults) to ride bikes: I use a technique which is pretty much the same as what you’ll find if you search “REI teach child to ride bike” (I use the same with adults). Balance needs to come first and training wheels don’t teach balance. Riding a bike with training wheels teaches a child that they don’t need to balance, while also “teaching” them steering which is incorrect for riding on a bike without them. Pedaling comes pretty naturally to most, though a bike with coaster brakes can pose a little additional challenge initially. I hope you’ve been able to get your son riding something this summer! If not, there’s still time to try! Good luck.

          • David

            Hi Melissa,

            I just happened to be checking back here when I found your comment just now. Didn’t know you had posted before.

            But thanks for so much for commenting. As it turns out, I never made a decision about what to do – though I did search Craigslist for a cheaper alternative – and we eventually shelved it.

            However, we are now on the verge of his 5th birthday so want to buy a bike and I’m back to trying to figure out what to do (we are in California so weather is not an issue). He is now almost 44″ with an 18″ inseam so I guess we’re still in the 16″ bike category. But as far as which bike to get and what strategy to use for how to teach him – taking off the pedals, etc. – I’m still unsure.

            As Natalie has said, if you turn a regular bike into a balance bike, by the time they figure it out and are ready for pedals they may need a bigger bike. Which is why a used bike may make he most sense.

            Regardless, I still don’t know how my son will react without pedals. It’s been long enough since he had the training wheels he may not have that sense memory anymore. But getting him to use a bike without wheels may still be a hurdle, considering his resistance to the Strider.

            I appreciate your advice about having someone else teach him – and if it comes to that I may have to consider it – but I’d at least like to give it a try myself before going down that road.

            Thx again for your input – any further advice is very welcome.


          • Melissa Malejko

            I disagree with Natalie on this: this year alone I ran 21 kids through Learn to Ride courses and 13 of them were successful in 3 hours or less. The vast majority of these kids did not need to move into a bigger bike immediately, with the exceptions of kids who had bought a bike a year or more prior to coming to me. Get your son a bike that fits him now but also leaves some room for growth: don’t stress too much about the seat because that is easy to change, but make sure that there’s room for knees at the handlebar end. He absolutely needs to be able to turn without having to move his knees out of the way of the handlebar! Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but we have 18″ bikes here, which is what I’d recommend given your son’s dimensions. Take him to a bike shop and have the staff size him to a bike – you don’t have to buy new, but get the professional help in finding a bike that fits (and learn why) and then you can shop for used bikes. I’ve taught kids who have never sat on a bike at all, kids who have ridden glide bikes well, kids who have literally just pulled training wheels off and it hardly makes a difference. Kids who are used to training wheels actually struggle the most because they think they know how to ride but don’t know how to balance. Search for the video how to teach your child to ride a bike from REI. Try to teach your son yourself. Don’t put pressure on him, it has to be fun. Take the bike without pedals on a path or reasonably smooth trail and just go. Pull your pedals off too and glide with him. Invite neighbours and friends to join you. I’d bet that he’ll be pedalling in a few hours or less. My daughter took 3 years (from age 2 until 4.5) to learn to ride with pedals, but had little exposure to other kids riding bikes. Our neighbour is 3.5 and riding with pedals – she has been riding her glide bike (and pedal-removed bike) around our street with many other kids riding since last year. Kids learn really fast, especially when they are playing, and seeing others doing it. Good luck! I’d love to hear what size of bike you get and how long it takes for him to learn.

          • David

            Thanks, Melissa. But can you just clarify something else so I understand completely – you are recommending an 18″ bike and taking off the pedals. Obviously, 18″ is much harder to come by down here, especially used ones. Quick look at Craigslist tells me that, but I can try (in fact, when I took him to a couple bike shops a few months ago he seemed to be in-between 16 and 20 even then).

            But I’m unclear on brakes – I thought having hand brakes would make it easier to learn once the pedals are put on. But even the used 16″ bikes I saw on craigslist (like the Torker) didn’t have hand brakes, nor did the one in the REI video. Can you weigh in on that?

            Thanks again for your help.

          • Melissa Malejko

            Yes, the 18″ is an in-between size. My daughter is riding a 20″ and her bike is too small, but it’s a huge jump to 24″ so I’m hesitating also. If you can find an 18″, that would work. If not, get the biggest 16″ you can find in your budget. I recommend being able to have feet flat on the ground, but hopefully there’s still some seat post height. Make sure he can turn both ways without hitting his knees on the handlebars. I don’t think I’d suggest going into a 20″ until it’s a good fit as it will be harder for him to control, which may make him less willing to try.
            Re: brakes: most kids bikes rely on coaster brakes because kids lack hand strength and coordination to run them. You’re unlikely to find hand brakes on a bike with no gears and unlikely to find gears on a bike smaller than 20″. Don’t stress about it: have a look at some videos of strider races – they’re little littles with no pedals or brakes and they do just fine. When he’s just learning, without pedals, he won’t be going very fast and can drag his feet to slow down. Keep in mind, and remind him frequently, that going faster makes balancing easier. Once he has pedals, then you can play red light-green light to get him used to using the coaster brakes. Again, don’t pressure him, so if he wants to walk down a hill, let him. My daughter had a pretty wicked crash going down a hill when she’d had pedals for about a month: I thought she was good with her brakes and told her to ride when she wanted to walk. 🙁 If you want, email me: search Safer Cycling Calgary

  • Liz

    Thank you so much for such an informative and helpful website! Your recommendations helped us find a great balance bike and helmet for our 3 year old’s birthday last month. (And a discount on the purchase as well.) Our six year old daughter has a birthday coming up in August and we promised we’d look for a new bike for her as well. She has a clunky but serviceable 16″ bike right now that was a hand-me-down but it doesn’t have a lot of life yet. Ideally, we would like to upgrade in size and quality so the bike will last her awhile and can be passed down to her siblings. My concern right now is that she’s in that murky in-between stage where the 16″ fits but won’t for much longer but the 20″ is still too big. The 18″ fits well but there doesn’t seem to be the same sort of selection as the 16″ and 20″ and not in our targeted price range (under $200). She is 46 inches tall and has a 20.5 inch inseam. Do you think we should try to find an 18″ that would work or get her a 20″ that would wait until she is big enough and just have her keep using her 16″ in the meantime? Kids grow so fast but it seems like the 20″ is still a year away whereas a new 16″ wouldn’t last the year. We’re just getting into bikes as a family and I really know nothing. I’d appreciate your considerably more educated opinion and recommendation. Thanks.

    • Being in between sizes can be a challenge. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of 18″ and a lot of them aren’t very well made. Fortunately, more and more bike companies are building bike on smaller frames, so she could fit on a 20″, but finding one in your budget may be an issue :(. First off, I would absolutely try to get her on the largest tire size possible. I wouldn’t get her a bike that “she will grow into”, but rather a bike that has plenty of room for her to grow. I would first measure her inseam and then check out the bikes listed on our comparison chart here:….okay, scratch that, they are all over $200 (I need to work on that). The ByK 450 ( would be an awesome bike, but it is $250.

      So what to do? Finding a 20″ under $200 there is also going to be an issue. Here are some I found online in your price range, the problem is that they don’t list the minimum seat height, so it’s hard to know if it will fit her. Besides calling the companies up and hoping they have specs on the bike (they rarely do), its really going to be a game of chance in many ways. Sorry I can’t help you more, but hopefully these will be a start. The Torker 20″ (we loved their 16″ version, If you live near an REI, I would go try out this bike, At $199, it looks like a great deal. This GT is also looking awesome for $200, Out of all of those, I would go for the GT, especially if I had a Performance Bike shop near me where they would assembly it for me :).

      • Liz

        Thanks for such a quick response! This is a great place to start from and if we combine this as a birthday/Christmas present (which we may do since she’s still a little small for the 20″ right now), we can probably go up a little in our budget to get a better bike. I had been eyeing the ByK as well. Luckily, there is a Performance Bike shop near us so I will definitely be dropping in soon to get their advice and try some of their bikes.

        • They more bikes you try out the better :). I will say that the bikes at Performance will fit very differently than the ByK. They are likely to be tall and shorter than the ByK, but if you do find one in your budget that she feels comfortable on, I would go for it. I would make sure that they weigh the bike for you before you buy it as well. Weight is almost just as important that fit.

  • Sandra Jin

    Hi! My son is almost 4 and he loves riding and has been riding his Thomas the train plastic tricycle for two years now. His birthday is coming and I want to get him a real bike! Should I start with a balancing bike? Or go straight to a pedal bike with training wheels? Which one would you recommend if money was no object? He is about 40 inches tall with 17 in inseam! Thank you so much in advance!

  • Julie

    Hi, I have a daughter who is interested in a road bike. She’s 53 inches tall. It seems like her cheap 20 inch bike might be to cramped. Her inseam is 24 inches. Do you think if we go with the 24 inch it will be too big?

    • It depends on the bike. Kids who are experienced riders and don’t need to depend on their feet to stop can ride a bike with a minimum seat height that is 2″ to 2.5″ above their inseam. The larger the shoes size, the more length they have on their tippy toes to get started, which is why there is a range. With a 24″ inseam, she will easily fit on the Islabikes BEINN 24, which has a minimum seat height of 25.5″. It is an amazing bike that my daughter loved riding and it a perfect bike for road riding as it has narrower tires than other brands. Other than the BEINN, most 24″ bikes are going to be too big for her as the minimum seat heights are usually around 28″.

  • Lee-ann Mosna

    Hi, I am looking at buying my almost 4 year old a new bike. He has been riding two wheels for over a year and is confident on the bike. He rides mostly on hills and spends a lot of his riding time on rough mountain bike tracks. I am wondering what bike you would recommend, please.

    • There are many options to choose from and it really depends on his inseam as well as your budget. Have you checked out our pedal bikes charts yet, as they should help narrow down your choices, Being 4yo, he is likely going to be ready for a 16″ bike. If he is mountain biking, I would recommend the Commencal Ramones 16 as well as the Stampede Bikes Sprinter 16. The Norco Samuari is also a great bike to consider that is sold at Norco dealers. Of the three, the Commencal is was favored our testers as it is lightweight and fast, but the Sprinter is a great bike for its price. It it wider than many other bikes, so if your son has a narrower frame, I would also consider the Pello Revo (which has a coaster brake, not ideal for mountain riding).

  • Gina Infante

    Hi there,
    So I have skimmed a lot of these questions but most of the questions are for younger child. Here is my question… my 9 yo son is finally showing some interest in riding a bike. He is open to suggestions so we have started our research. Your site is great!

    He is a “petite” but determined 9 year old (50″ in height, 52lbs, and his inseam is about 22″). We have three boys so we are on a budget and once his brothers see him zooming around, they will probably want a bike too 🙂 What are your thoughts on sizes (he seems to be in-between sizes)?
    Any help would be appreciated!
    Thank you!

    • Glad to help! If he hasn’t learned to balance a bike yet, I would start with a balance bike, which could then be passed down. The Stampede Bikes Charger 16 would be a good choice for a balance bike. If he has learned to balance a bike, or if you think he will be able to learn to ride a bike without training wheels, i would go through our comparison charts to help find a bike that will fit in your budget. You can find the charts here: The ByK 350 or 450 (depending on his inseam) is a great bike for beginning riders and are reasonably priced, so I would consider them. If you are looking to spend under $200 it will be a challenge, so I would also consider buying. In the end, I would buy the lightest bike you could afford, especially if he is petite.

      • Melissa Malejko

        As a cycling instructor, who teaches people to bike, and a very frugal person in general, I would *not* recommend a glide bike for anyone over the age of 3. Nor do I recommend training wheels, which do not teach balance. Unscrew the pedals, tape a ball of scrunched up newspaper over the end of the crank as a “cushion” and you’ve made a glide bike: I do this with adults and kids and have over 70% success in only 3 hours. I’ve only had 1 (of about 8) kids in the 8-10 yr old range who was not successful in 3 hours – no point in wasting money on a glide bike, imo!

        • Glad to hear that you have had great success teaching people to ride, I love it! I would absolutely agree that kids in the 8-10 range are better off taking off the pedals. Larger bikes, whether it be a 16″ or a 20″ work great with the pedals removed and older kids generally have physical ability to learn balance much quicker than younger kids.

          The main problem with this method is that by the time you add on the pedals, the bike is already too small for them. To use the bike as a balance bike, they need to be be able to touch the ground with their entire foot to feel secure and be able to stop the bike. To get the most efficient power from each pedal, you only want to be able to touch the ground with your tippy toes when seating on the bike. If they used the bike as a balance bike first and then added the pedals to ride, to efficiently (and comfortably) ride the bike they will have to raise the seat several inches, which will likely be close to the maximum seat height of the bike. As a result, they will likely have to buy another bike within a year or so. If they started on a balance bike first, they could then buy a bike that properly fits them from day one.

          In the end, there are pro and cons to both methods. Does everyone need a balance bike, no, but to “never” recommend to kids older than 3 is short sighted in my opinion.

          • Melissa Malejko

            Again, I disagree. Personal experience (over 100 Learn to Ride participants in the last 5 years, my own child and experience with many kids) has shown that a) flat feet on the ground for using a glide bike is not necessary and b) kids do just fine with “too much” bend in their knees while riding. Generally, kids aren’t going big distances, climbing mountains, etc and while it is more comfortable to have less bend in the knee, they don’t really suffer an apparent lack of power. Remember that kids are also much more used to having their knees bent and because of their flexibility it doesn’t affect their knees. The majority of kids aren’t going to be riding long distances anyways, and certainly they wouldn’t be on a glide bike. The OP here has a 9 year old: the perfect age to master a bike with pedals quickly – and an age where growth slows enough to be likely to stay on a bike for more than a year or two – as a beginner, he will be more comfortable with more foot on the ground and will not suffer with an inch “too much” bend in his knees while he masters the bike.

          • If she only had a nine year old, I wouldn’t have only recommended taking off the pedals, but since she has younger siblings who would be interested in riding, I recommended the balance bike so as the younger siblings could use it as well, so it wouldn’t go to waste. I also agree that the needs of a child rider, including the amount of bend in their knees is different but parents, but since she wants to get the maximum use out of a bike for her son as well as younger siblings who can use the balance bike, I suggest using the balance bike first. In the end, there really isn’t one perfect way to teach a child to ride a bike. I have had my share of amazing experiences teaching, as have you, but in the end, we are on the same team :).

  • rodgers

    Hey Natalie; great information here; General question here; We have (just turned 4) yo triplets and for whatever reason we never have been on any form of balance bike; I want to get them all new bikes and was wondering what your thoughts are on older kids going to real bike first or balance bike first. it seems a lot of the posters here with kids our age played with balance bikes for a few years between 2-4 before transitioning to real bikes. Our kids are pretty tall for age and 35-40 pounds (couldnt tell you inseam) but they all have long legs.

    Some of our closest friends reccomended getting pedal bike and taking pedals off to make it a balance bike and then put them back on when ready. Would you reccomend that with the woom or islabikes you highly reccomended for our age range? Price not an issue and we are willing to get the best for all three Thanks for any advice

    • Melissa Malejko

      I am a cycling instructor and teach people ages 4 and up how to ride bikes. I also taught my own daughter how to ride and I absolutely would recommend skipping a balance bike and just taking off the pedals on a bike that fits with a little room to grow (probably a 16″). I would recommend getting a bike with a rear hand brake over one with just coaster brake as without pedals the coaster brake is useless. Take a wad of newspaper and tape it over the end of the pedal crank to “cushion” it a little in case your kids smack their leg into the end of it as my daughter did. I put my daughter on a glide bike when she was 2, moved her to a pedal bike without pedals at 3, and she refused pedals until 4.5 – she was tough! I use this technique for all kids and adults too and have more than 70% success in only 3 hours! Kids aged 4-6 are the least likely to learn because most of them have “bike shaped toys” which are really heavy, but with this technique, the kid is still on a bike just not pedaling. Hope that helps.

      • Koen Creemers

        Thats why we bought the BMW Kidsbike, perfect for learning.

        • rodgers

          Koen do you mind me asking how old your kids are for that bike? Didnt see that bike reviewed here

          • Koen Creemers

            My son is 42.5 inch with an inseam of 17.7 inch. He just turned 4 years we bought the bike for balancing when he was 2years and 9months. Hope this helps…

        • I have heard great things about the BMX kids bike, but haven’t had a chance to review it. The only downside I know about the bike is that it the maximum seat height is pretty short, have you by chance experienced that?

          • Koen Creemers

            The maximum seat height really is a downside, my son is 42.5 inch with an inseam of 17.7 inch. He just turned 4 years and started peddling a week after his birthday. The seat is currently 0.5 inch above the limiter (so the seat is actually set higher then it’s allowed to be). He can place his feet flat on the ground, so he really needs a new bike. I’m currently thinking of buying a cheap 16″ from decathlon (but I do not know if it is any good?) and for his 5th birthday maybe the Islabike 20″ (cnoc or bein, don’t really know yet, any advice?). You should really try to review it, I would look forward to see this review in comparison with the Islabike 14″. Kind regards Koen

          • Thanks for the feedback. I will add the BMW bike to the list for potential reviews. Like yourself, I have heard many owners say that they don’t get much use out of the pedal bike portion of the bike because the seat is so low, but other wise it is great. With a 17.7″ inseam, even a small 20″ might be too big. The smallest 20″ is the Islabikes CNOC 20, which has a minimum seat height of 20″, which would barely allow your son to touch the ground. Since he is likely used to touching the ground with his feet, that would likely be a big jump for him. I would instead go for a larger 16″ now, such as the Pello Revo or the Stampede Bike Sprinter.

      • Glad you are finding success in helping kids to ride. We need more instructors like you 🙂

        I would disagree that balance bikes are worth skipping. Every child is different, but I do believe that balance bike aren’t simply a means-to-an-end, helping them to transition to a pedal bike is just as added bonus. Watching the smiles and confidence that balance bikes provide, regardless of the age, is priceless. The point of a balance bike is not to rush kids to pedal bikes (not that you are), but to rather allow kids of all ages to enjoy the simpleness and independence a balance bike provides. From ages 2 to 8, the smiles I have seen as a result of mastering a jump, gaining the confidence to go down a curb or simply keeping up with their parents or siblings while on a balance bike is heartwarming. Plus, nothing beats the excitement of watching your child hop on a pedal bike and ride away on their own, no help needed! If a child who is transitioning from a balance bike to a pedal bike needs a lot of help, then more than likely they are simply not ready. Give them time and when they are ready, they will hop on a pedal bike and take off. Of course, every child is different, so parents need to be mindful of what is best for their child, but in my opinion “absolutely…skipping balance bikes” is short sited.

        • Joe

          I realize this thread is a little old, hopefully you will receive a notification for the update. It may make sense to “skip” a balance bike and go straight to a 16″ bike without pedals if you get a late start on the balance bike. Most are only 12″. We waited to get our son on a bike until he turned 5, which made a 12″ balance bike obsolete. We bought a used 16″ Specialized Hotrock for $75 and took the pedals off. Within a month or so he was begging to have the pedals put on, at which point he instantly took off with no help from dad. He’s turning 6 this month and is riding about 7 miles with dad. I strongly agree that having a lightweight, high quality bike makes a huge difference over a cheap, heavy big box store bike. My advice to anyone not wanting to pay ~$200 or more for a kids bike would be to swallow your pride and buy used. A high quality bike makes a world of difference.

          • Couldn’t agree with you more! For older kids, taking off the pedals is usually the best way to go. For some more hesitant or lightweight kids, balance bikes make more since as they are lighter and easier to balance on. The Spec Hotrock is a great bike to learn on, but many parents assume that they can use a Walmart pedal bike as a balance bike, when as you pointed out, just simply isn’t the same! Of course, some rock star kids do great on Walmart bikes as well, but as you said, higher-end used is the way to go when on a budget. Our oldest two kids learned to ride on a $40 Craigslist 16″ Hotrock 🙂

    • As Melissa mentioned, at age 4, taking the pedals off a bike is certainly an option worth considering, but there are pros and cons to that method. Having no experience balancing a bike at all, it could take a while for them to learn how to balance the bike without the pedals. Even if they only take 3 hours however, once the pedals are attached to the bike, they will likely outgrow the bike sooner than you would like. A properly fitted balance bike requires kids to be able to place their entire foot on the ground, a properly fitted pedal bike only allows you to touch with your tippy toes. As are result, if you child uses the pedal bike as a balance bike for a while and then you add the pedals, you have already lost about 2 inches of growth on the bike. If you expect your kids to pick up balancing quick, then YES, this method does work and both the Islabikes and the WOOM would be a great choices for them. If however, they don’t pick up balancing right away, then they could potentially only get a year actually pedaling out of the bike before they outgrow it.

      In the end, it’s really depends on how quickly you expect your kids to pick up balancing. If they are eager to learn (especially watching neighbor kids), then I would remove the pedals. If you expect them to be more timid, I would go with a balance bike now and then move up to a pedal bike when they are ready (which is usually when they ask for one on their own accord). If you live in a colder climate where you won’t be able to ride until Spring, I would also hold off on a pedal bike so as to ensure you buy them one that properly fits them from day one.

  • SD

    Hello, I am from Vancouver Canada and am interested in a bike for my son’s 5th birthday. He is 44″ tall and has an 18.5 inseam. Our son has been riding a balance bike for 2 years comfortably. He is not an aggressive rider at all but certainly enjoys it and is very eager to for a new bike. This will be his first pedal bike so we want something he can easily transition to that won’t be difficult to learn on and use. We would love to purchase one of your exceptionally reviewed bikes and don’t mind international shipping charges but seem limited in our choices based on where we live. Would love your suggestions. Thanks!

    • Glad to help! With a 18.5″ inseam, he would be able to fit on a small 20″ or a regular 16″. On a 20″ he will likely only be able to touch the ground on with his tippy toes, which is ideal for the sizing of a bike, but can be challenging when just starting off. Being used to starting and stopping with his feet on his balance bike, he will likely feel most comfortable being able to do so on a pedal bike, plus, if he is not used to stopping with a hand brake, he will only be able to stop the bike with his feet. As a result, unless he is really eager to ride and not easily intimidated, I would go for a larger 16″ pedal bike. The WOOM3 would be a great starter bike as it is really easy to ride (upright, comfortable positioning) and the minimum seat height is 18.8″, which would allow him to touch the ground. I am not sure if they will ship to Canada though, so you would have to call them and ask (they do have amazing customer service). The Banshee is would also be a great bike and is built by Spawn, a Canadian company. The Banshee, however it really built for all-terrain riding. Still a great bike, but if your son is only riding around the neighborhood, he will likely find the WOOM3 an easier bike to get started on. Another great option to consider is the Commencal Ramones 16, also a Canadian company. A great lightweight bike, without a coaster, but it is wider than the other two, so I wouldn’t recommend it if your son has a smaller frame.

      For the bike shop bikes, I wouldn’t bother with the Trek’s or Specialized as their bikes are not as easy to ride as the ones I mentioned. The Norco Samauri is a great bike, but our testers preferred the Commencal over the Norco.

      Hope that helps!

  • Maria Fernanda Lujan

    Hello all… Thanks for the information but still have some questions. I hope that you can help me.
    We are from Argentina currently in Bangkok and we want to buy a TREK for my 5 year old son. He is 47,24 inches tall and his inseam is 20,42 inches.

    In TREK, what model would you recommend for him?
    He is not strong rider yet and previously he had a simple local bike with the extra wheels, but he knows how to put the break and is confident enough to start riding without wheels now.

    Many thanks in advance

    • We’ve tested out both of Trek’s 16″ bikes and the Superfly 16 is much better than the Jet 16 model. Based on our testers response, the Superfly 16 isn’t their favorite amongst the rest of the 16″ we tried out, but in the Trek line, it is by far the best.

  • Koen


    Thank you for this very helpfull website.
    My 4year old son is about 110cm, learned to ride his bike on a BMW Kidsbike.
    He needs a new bike, but here in Belgium it is hard to find a good 16″, I can’t see any comments on the 16″ bike decathlon can provide.

    An opinion on that bike maybe or a good bike in europe?

    Thanks in advance…

    • Glad to help! WOOM’s line of bikes are from Austria (, so I assume you should be able to find them out there some where. WOOM bikes are very well made and well loved by our testers. Some other brands to consider is Islabikes and Frog bikes out of the UK. I have not tested out Frog bikes as they are not available here, but I have heard great things about them. Islabikes are also amazing bikes that are worth trying to track down.

  • Danielle Garcia

    Hi! I am looking for my sons next bike and I am overwhelmed by the choices! He is almost 4 and has been riding his cleary gecko the last year very well. He is 40 inches y’all with a 16.5 inch inseam. He wears 5t shirts and 4 T pants. He is a very aggressive little tot on the bike and desires to go faster than his little 12″ bike will allow. I am looking for something with hand brakes & maybe a couple of gears if they make them this small. Which bikes would you recommend? I am looking to buy one for Christmas so might be a tiny bit taller by then. Thank you so much!!

    • The Gecko is a small bike and it sounds like he is ready to move up to a 16″. Sadly, 16″ bikes are still single speed, so they don’t have gears. As a result, some bikes are geared lower to hill riding, while others are higher for flat riding. Most kids tent to do well with middle of the road gearing, but as a result they will either be stuck walking up hills or not have the ability to ride as fast on flat surfaces. The Gecko is geared really low, so essentially any 16″ bike will allow him to go faster. The 16″ Cleary is also geared low, so I would probably look at a different bike. On my comparison charts I have the gain ratios listed for many 16″ bikes, found here: I would look for a bike with a gain ratio around 3.5. For help figuring out the best 16″ bike for him, our Ultimate 16″ Bike Comparison will help:

      • Danielle Garcia

        Thank you for this information! I have been looking at a spawn banshee. I see it listed on the comparison chart but not sure it has been reviewed yet. Do you have any advice about this one?

        • disqus_sczPcxcfWQ

          Hey I’m actually in the same boat with our oldest (turning 5 next month). He’s been tearing it up on his 12″ Cleary Gecko but I want to start taking him to the trails etc next year. I like the Cleary bikes but for trail riding feel it’s worth investing in a bike with at least front suspension. My son is 41″ so definitely not big enough for a 20 inch bike (to ride safely IMO), but am thinking a 16″ bike won’t last more than a couple years (I suppose not an issue we can give it to his younger brother).

          Anyways, the Spawn Banshee seems like it might be the same as the Cleary 16″ bike, minus gearing ratio and the handlebar type (low vs high). A few other options just in case you haven’t come across them but are willing to spend a lot more (I am but still trying to convince my wife):

          -Spawn Kotori 20″ is around $1000. Nice dirt jumper with good components. Best price DJ I’ve seen let alone in this size
          -Lil Shredder Icon or Prodigy. These are most expensive and honestly a waste of money unless your kid is doing competitive downhill, but both of their bikes come in 16″ and 20″ frame options, with the 16″ from coming with 16″ or 20″ wheels. So in theory you can buy the 16″ frame with 16″ wheels and just upgrade to 20″ wheels when your kid is big enough. Problem is you will be spending $2000-$3000 for a kids bike lol
          -Propain Frechdax Start 16 is one I’m looking at more seriously as it’s somewhat affordable. Full suspension with solid components, coming in around $1600USD. I’m contacting them to understand if their system is like the Lil Shredder where I can buy the 16″ frame with 16″ tires and just move to 20″ tires in the future.

          • Thanks for your feedback! I was actually unaware that the Shredder system could change from a 16″ to a 20″, but you are right in that the bike is pricey. If you get your hand on any of the bikes you mentioned, I would love to hear how you like them. Thanks!

        • Not sure why I am just now seeing this, sorry! I haven’t had a chance to review any of the Spawn bikes yet, but I have only heard great things. The Banshee is bigger than the Gecko, so it will have more longevity, but it is geared pretty low, so it is best for all-terrain riders.

  • disqus_Jstu0tVmuA

    I CAN afford one of these bikes but I think it’s absolutely criminal that anyone would charge for, or spend 400$ on a toddler bike. There is NO way that’s justified under ANY circumstances. It’s offensive that toddler bikes over 100$ even exist. This is foolish and you should be ashamed that you’re selling these products.

    • There are bikes for every budget. I do not sell any bikes, I simply help parents find the best bike for the and their budget. The difference in quality between a $100 and a $400 kids bike are significant, but I strongly believe that any bike is better than no bike. I would also never pressure someone to buy a bike that is not in their budget, so I feel there is no harm in educating parents on the various options that are available to them.

    • Cranberriesfan

      Why is it “criminal” to spend money on a child’s bike? My kids spend hours on a daily basis using their bikes. And we hand down bikes from one child to the next. Yes, they last more than one season! We use them as real transportation; my oldest child goes on bike tours with his dad. In my opinion, that is money much better spent than on plastic toys that end up in a toy box or a landfill, or game consoles that become obsolete after a few years. Every child and every family is different, so please, consider that there are different strokes for different folks.

  • Imfionit

    Hi Natalie, My 4yr old is about to graduate from his balance bike (FirstBike) that he has been riding with easy for a year, to the ByK e-350 (ordered – waiting delivery in 3 weeks) where he can just about touch his toes to the ground. He has been balancing well on the FirstBike – should I give him a few days to get used to the pedal and then remove the training wheels or leave them on for longer? I am wary that it’ll be harder if he gets used to having them and then relying on them rather than relying on his balance… thanks.

  • Athina

    Thanks for the information really useful. I’m looking for bike for my grandson who will be 6 years old very soon. He is very strong athletic boy but never had a good bike and still can not ride on two wheels. A couple of bikes he had were cheap and nusty and were braking easily all the time. What can i buy him that is safe at around $150-250?

    • Michelle

      I’m not Natalie, but Depending on his inseam probably the stampede sprinter 16 or 20 in. We haven’t tried their pedal bikes, but the balance bikes are great and their pedal. Ike’s get great reviews too.

    • First, sorry for the delay, not sure what happened! I agree with Michelle that it depends on his inseam. The Sprinter 16 is a great bike for the price and would fall in your price range. Another bike to consider is the ByK 350. Its overall build is not as nice as the Sprinter, but it does have good geometry and is easy to ride.

  • ian mills

    my son is 5 1/2 and has outgrown his hotrock 12 inch but still rips it up in the woods and the park
    should i get him a 16 or 20 next, would you recommend gears for him?

    • Whether you get him a 16″ or a 20″ really depends on his size. I would measure his inseam and then compare it to the 16″ and 20″ bikes listed on our bike comparison charts, I assume he will be able to fit on a smaller 20″ such as a WOOM4 or the Islabikes BEINN 20″ Small. Since he is already a confident rider, he will be able to fit on a bike whose minimum seat height is 2″ greater than his inseam (he should only be able to touch the ground with his tippy toes). As for gears, it really depends on what type of riding you plan on doing together. If you plan on hitting single track or live in an area with a lot of hills, I would absolutely go with gears. If you don’t plan on riding on trails more aggressive than you already are and if he is doing just fine without gears, I would go for a single-speed (no gears). Gears are a life-saver when you need them, but if you never need them they can be a pain as they do require much more maintenance than a bike without gears.

  • Nicole M

    We are planning to get our 5 year old son his first pedal bike for Christmas. He is a very confident and fearless rider on his Scoot XL and is definitely ready to graduate. He is 44.5 inches tall with an 18 inch inseam. He wears a size 5T or 6. Will he outgrow a 16 inch too quickly? Is a 20 inch just too much bike for a first pedal bike? He will be riding mostly on paved streets in our very hilly neighborhood and he has no fear of speed. Ideally, we would like to spend less than $300 but the budget could be stretched if it is a bike that will fit him for several years. Would love a recommendation!

  • Eric Williams

    My son turned 5 in September and is pretty tall for his age. He’s 45.25 inches tall and has an inseam of 19.5 inches. I was thinking of getting either a Stampede Sprinter or a Priority First F/W, but looking at the size chart above, it looks like he’s already at the very upper range for size for those bikes. This would be a Christmas present, so, realistically, he wouldn’t use it much until next Spring, when he’ll be even taller. The other problem is that this will be his first bike. He has a balance bike, but he never used it all that much. Generally, he’s a very coordinated kid, and I don’t think it would take him long to learn to ride. Nevertheless, I’m nervous about getting a first bike larger than a Sprinter or Priority First, but I also don’t want to get a bike that he’ll outgrow in a matter of months. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Jen Di

      I’m just a mom but I have 8 year old twins and I’m really glad we purchased them 16 inch bikes at age 6. They were perfect for them through their 7th birthday, and really too small by their 8th. But the resale value on nicer bikes is decent. For reference they were 45 inches at age 6. I’m not sure which size Sprinter you’re referring to, but I’m guessing a 16? I’m pretty sure most 20 inch bikes will be too big for him. Hope this helps, I’m researching 20s now!

  • Jen DiMase


  • Jen Di

    Hi, I’m looking at 20 inch bikes with gears for my son and daughter, age 8. I am looking at the Norco on your charts, and also the Raleigh Lily and Liv Enchant. Can you please share your opinion on those bikes? It looks it like they have many of the same components but I’m not as familiar with the geometry and other factors. I really appreciate your advice!!

    • Sorry, it looks like this comment got lost in the mix. If it’s not too late, my preference between the three would be the Norco’s, BUT I would try out all three (if possible) to see which would be the best fit for them. While I don’t know the weighs of all three bikes, Norco’s line of child’s bikes are typically lighter than Raleighs and Liv, would will certainly benefits your kids.

  • Alena Bartakova

    Hello, first of all, thanks for a great website! My daughter will turn 2 in March, and since she is crazy about any vehicle, we thought of getting her her first bike. But here is the trouble: my husband doesn’t believe in balance bikes and thinks buying a real bike and removing the pedals will work as well. I am skeptical. What do you recommend? Our daughter is 80cm tall. Thanks!

    • There are several pros and cons to using a pedal bike without pedals to teach a child to balance. The main problem you will find is finding a pedal bike that is small enough for her to be able to touch the ground while sitting on the seat. Plus, if you are luckily enough to find a bike that will fit her, it will likely be pretty pricey and will be much heavier than a balance bike. Lastly, one she is ready to add the pedals back on, the bike will likely be too small for her. Even if the bike did still fit her properly, it won’t fit for long and you will be shopping for a pedal bike again.

      • Arun Ramachandran

        I thought the same as your husband and I wanted to save a few bucks. We removed the pedals on a regular bike, that we got from a friend but my son didn’t like to ride it. I never really figured out why he wouldn’t ride it, but I think that the heavy weight of the bike might have made it difficult for him to manage. The balance bike we bought today is much lighter than the 12 inch we plan on him learning to ride with. He finally learned when he was 4-5 and now is a very good cyclist. We are not gong to make the same mistake with our 2 year old. We just went to the local bike store and bought a trek balance bike. He got on it and started pushing around the store. We plan on letting him push it around the house for the next couple of months and I expect him to be ridding this spring. I wish we didn’t skimp on my first son.

        • Thanks for your input! It’s hard to notice how the weight and size of a bike affects your child’s riding, as parents far to often worry about the physical abilities of their child versus the performance of the bike. Glad you were able to figure it out for your older son 🙂

  • Joelle

    Hello – any suggestions for buying in Europe? My kid is turning 3 in April and already has an Early Rider balance bike he’s good at.

    • Your welcome, glad to help. I’m not 100% sure of all the options you have available to you in Spain, but if you could track down an Islabikes CNOC 14 Small, that would be a great first bike for a little guy ready to ride :). I believe the Frog line of bikes may also have a similiar bike as well.

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  • Kimberly

    My daughter is turning 6 in April. She is 48″ with a 22″ inseam. She is a very confident rider already and has been riding a 16 inch bike with no training wheels since she was 4. She needs a bigger bike. It seems like 20 inch would be the best fit for her. I am looking to spend $100 or less on a decent bike that she can enjoy for a couple of seasons. Where would you point me? Thanks!

    • We are actually currently reviewing the several 20″ bikes under $100. They are all BMX style bikes with coaster brakes. I’ll try to remember to come back and let you know our top pick. I will likely forget though, so don’t be afraid to remind me!

  • Monika

    Dear Natalie,
    First and foremost THANK YOU for what you do to help us parents maneuver through what can be a very foreign and confusing task! Your site is beyond amazing and I am using it as reference to purchase our son’s first bike. As much as I tried to avoid bothering you, as I know how busy you are, I need your help PLEASE because my son is a first time rider BUT he is very tall for his age so finding a bike for a tall first time rider has been confusing/difficult. Based on his inseam (20″) and his height(48″) he is suggested to get a 20″ bike however, this will be his first bike. Is ok for his first bike to be a 20″? The fact that he is tall is what is throwing me off 🙁

    Following, please find my son’s info:
    Age: 5
    Has fully mastered a balance bike.
    This will be his 1st bike.
    Inseam: 20″
    Height: 48″ (he is tall for his age)
    Clothing size: 6T

    Based on your site, I was going to go with what you suggested in your “Best 16″ Bikes for Timid/Beginning Riders” and get him either the WOOM 3 16″, Islabikes CNOC 16, or the Pello Revo. But then when I saw your “Kids’ Bike Sizing Guide” I got confused because based on his inseam (20″) and his height (48″) he’s suggested to get a 20″ bike such as the Guardian 20″, ByKE-450′ or WOOM4.
    Is a 20″ bike ok to get a first time rider or is it best to get a 16″….?

    I don’t know what to do?!
    Could u please tell me if it were one of your kids, what you’d get? And to make it easy for both of us (lol), cost is not a factor, so if you feel strongly about one bike in particular, please feel free to let me know which one and I can finally be done with this and my son can be a happy rider!…lol.
    I truly appreciate you and the fact we moms and dads can personally reach out to you like this. You have no idea how helpful and amazing you are!!!
    THANK YOU!!!!!Monika