12 Best Balance Bikes for Kids of All Ages

Looking for the perfect balance bike for your little one? Look no further! Over the last decade, we’ve meticulously tested over 100 balance bikes with dozens of kids. Our dedication (or obsession🤷‍♀️) with balance bikes is unmatched, and no one has been testing and reviewing them longer than us.

With each balance bike tested, we’ve gained invaluable insights into what truly matters when selecting the ideal bike for your child. Whether you have a baby that’s barely walking, an eager 2-year-old, a timid 3-year-old, or an anxious kid of any age, the balance bikes we recommend below will offer the best start to their riding journey.

2 year old riding a red balance bike through a puddle

Balance Bikes by Age

Balance bikes vary in size and are not one-size-fits-all. Consider both the child’s age and the bike’s seat height for the best fit (seat height provided in Mini Reviews below).

Ages provided in the chart indicate the child’s approximate age when you buy the bike.

Baby Bikes - 9 to 12 months
YBike Pewi Best Overall $55
GOMO Sprout Budget Pick $29
Best for Young Toddlers - 18 months to 2 years old
woom 1 Best Overall $249
Retrospec Cub 2 Budget Pick $69
Best for Toddlers - 2 to 3 years old
Guardian Best Overall $149
Strider Sport Mid Price Pick $129
GOMO Budget Pick $55
Best for Preschoolers - 3 to 4 years old
woom 1 Plus Best Overall $299
Radio Flyer Glide & Go Budget Pick $65
Best for PreK - 4 - 6 years old
Strider 14x Best for Shorter Kids $209
Bixe 16 Best for Taller Kids $120

Top Picks Mini Reviews

**Click blue age group to jump down to a specific section**

1. Babies – 9 to 18 months old
2. Young Toddlers – 18 mo to 2 years
3. Toddlers – 2 to 3 years
4. Preschoolers – 3 to 4 years
5. Pre-K + – 4 to 6 years

Never heard of a balance bike? Let us introduce you! A balance bike, also known as a strider bike, glider bike, running bike, or toddler push bike, is a pedal-less bicycle with two wheels. Balance bikes are designed to teach children the art of balancing on two wheels, setting them on the path to independent riding.

NOTE: A “baby balance bike” is not a true balance bike because it has four wheels. It allows you to introduce the idea of sitting and propelling yourself forward with your feet at an even younger age. We often call these “pre-balance bikes”.


1. Balance bikes are NOT one-size-fits-all. Measure your child’s inseam and compare it to the seat height of the bike. Look for a bike with a minimum seat height that is equal to, or slightly less than, your child’s inseam.

2. Air tires are better than foam tires. Opt for air tires over foam tires for better cushioning and traction, especially if riding on surfaces other than pavement.

3. Hand brakes are not required, but highly recommended. Kids naturally learn to stop a balance bike with their feet. As they get older they can learn to use a hand brake, which helps them stop faster and saves money on buying new shoes! For older and more aggressive riders, a hand brake becomes more essential.

4. Jump down to our FAQ section at the end of the page to get answers to more frequently asked questions about balance bikes.

Visual learner? See all of our favorite balance bikes put to the test in our video review below.

Balance Bikes for Babies (1 Year Old)

With four wheels, these baby bikes aren’t true balance bikes (with exception to the Early Rider Velio), but they are ideal for littles ones ages 9 to 18 months. Young 1-year-olds need extra help with stability and don’t yet have the motor skills to take on a true balance bike with just two wheels.

We love these baby bikes because they teach kids to sit and push with their feet, just like a balance bike. We recommend transitioning to a two-wheel balance bike no later than at age 24 months.

GOMO Sprout Baby Balance Bike

Best on a Budget

14 month old and 24 month old riding Gomo Sprout baby balance bike

MSRP: $29
FITS KIDS: Babies and toddlers in size 12 months to 2T clothing
WEIGHT: 3 lbs.
FEATURES: Adjustable-height handlebars and seat, steering

With a low seat height combined with low handlebars, the GOMO Sprout is the smallest bike of the bunch and is best suited for the youngest and smallest early walkers. But it’s also the only baby bike on our list that has height-adjustable handlebars (about 4″) and saddle (about 3″), which makes it a better fit as your toddler grows.

As an added bonus, the Sprout is also available in a “flip frame” version. The GOMO Sprout Flip extends the life of the bike by flipping the frame over, which allows the seat height and handlebars to be raised even higher.


  • Handlebars and seat are height adjustable for a better fit as your child grows
  • Narrowish-set rear wheels offer great stability, but don’t interfere with a toddler’s stride
  • Low step through frame makes it easy to get on and off and move around
  • Soft, cushioned seat
  • Simple assembly takes just a few minutes


  • Because it’s so lightweight, it doesn’t stay grounded for older, heavier pre-schoolers who want to go fast


Easiest to Maneuver

toddler girl standing next to the pewi ybike ride on toy

MSRP: $55
FITS KIDS: Babies and toddlers in 12 months to 3T clothing
WEIGHT: 3.87 lbs.
FEATURES: 4 caster wheels, no steering (but multi-directional movement)

After months of watching our toddler and her friends ride various baby bikes, the Pewi emerged as our surprise favorite. It’s sooooo easy for a toddler to maneuver and the pure joy on their faces as they scoot around the house is easy proof that young ones love it!

The most unique among the bunch, the Pewi features small, caster-style wheels that allow a little rider to easily move in any direction. No super wide turns from twisting handlebars, or picking the bike up to turn it around, the caster wheels move in any direction like an office chair.


  • Smooth caster-style wheels make maneuvering in any direction a breeze
  • Super stable
  • Adorable design looks like a tiny person
  • Confident riders love how fast they can go


  • Speed of bike could be dangerous outdoors if not used with caution
  • Caster wheels move too fast for the “Walking Buddy” function with less-confident walkers
  • Somewhat detailed assembly required

Balance Bikes for Young Toddlers

18 months or 2 years old is a perfect time to start a toddler on their balance bike journey. Introducing a balance bike early will allow your toddler to learn to ride independently from the very start. With little ones, a lightweight bike is especially key!


Best Overall

young toddler riding woom 1 balance bike at the park

MSRP: $249
FITS KIDS: In 18-months pants to 3T. For a larger option, check out the WOOM 1 Plus.
SEAT HEIGHT: 10″ to 14″
FEATURES: Air tires, hand brake, quick release seat post, and turning limiter

Perfection from top to bottom, the woom 1 creates a smooth, easy ride for young or small toddlers getting an early start on their balance bike journey.  To keep young ones at ease, the woom’s handlebars place the rider in a natural, upright position with their weight centered over their hips. This helps toddlers feel less hesitant about balancing.

This, combined with a lightweight, extremely low step-through frame, a low minimum seat height, extra-cushioned air tires, and an easy-to-use handbrake, allows the woom 1 to effortlessly take your child from walking along the sidewalk to ripping down trails.  As an added bonus, the woom 1 is available in 5 colors!


  • Natural, upright body position and easy to balance
  • 12″ air tires provide great cushioning for added comfort
  • Low step-through frame makes it easy to get on and off
  • The lightest bike with air tires and a hand brake on the market (just 6.6 lbs!)
  • High-end components


  • Compared to other brands, doesn’t offer a great range of seat heights

Retrospec Cub 2

Best on a Budget

MSRP: $69
FITS KIDS: 18 months transitioning to 3T clothes
SEAT HEIGHT: 11.5″ – 15″
FEATURES: Puncture-proof foam tires, quick release seat post and handlebar height adjustments, long wheelbase
FULL REVIEW: Retrospec Cub

With a low minimum seat height of 11.5″, the Retrospec Cub 2 (not the older model Cub – big difference!) is a great balance bike for young toddlers itching to get started on their balance bike journey before their second birthday.

Built with room for growth, including height-adjustable handlebars, the Cub 2 will quickly and comfortably get your little one cruising the town.

If your little one is a style icon, the Cub 2 is also a top pick as it comes in 8 trendy and modern color designs. For those aggressive riders who are ready to tackle jumps or varied terrains, the Cub 2 is also available in a Plus model which features air tires, a rust-free aluminum frame, and a handbrake.


  • Long wheelbase allows for a great fit at the low and high end of the seat height range
  • Tool-free height adjustments on the seat and handlebars
  • Plush padded seat
  • Footrest with grip paper for kids who want it, but tucked out the way for those who don’t
  • Available in 8 different fun and modern colors


  • Foam tires don’t provide as much traction as air tires (Upgraded Cub Plus has air tires)
  • Quick-release clamps don’t hold as tight as we prefer

Balance Bikes for Toddlers – 2 to 3 years

These bikes are a little bigger that our smallest choices, and are sized to fit toddlers in at least 24 months pants. While toddlers won’t be able to use the handbrake until they are about 2.5, that feature is hugely beneficial as they get older and ride more aggressively.

Guardian Balance Bike

Best Overall

2 year old riding Guardian balance bike at the skatepark

MSRP: $149
FITS KIDS: Toddlers in clothes sized 2T to transitioning to 4T
SEAT HEIGHT: 12.5″ to 16″
FEATURES: Air tires, hand brake, and turning limiter
FULL REVIEW: Guardian Balance Bike

With several fun, colorful designs to choose from as well as air tires, a handbrake, and a lightweight aluminum frame, there is a lot to love about the Guardian Balance bike. With a taller minimum and maximum seat height than the woom 1, the Guardian provides exceptional quality, but more room for growth for tall or older toddlers.

The Guardian balance bike features Guardian’s proprietary SureStop braking system, which allows the rear and front rim brakes to be activated by pulling just one brake lever. During our tests, the Guardian provided plenty of top-notch stopping power to keep our little testers safe, but not offer significantly more than other high-end balance bikes with quality hand brakes.

As a result, while the Guardian balance bike is a stand-out option, the SureStop brakes shouldn’t play a major role in your purchasing decision if you’re comparing it to a balance bike with a high-quality single handbrake. (But the cute designs, top-notch customer service, and high-quality build should!)


  • High-quality build, backed by Guardian’s solid customer service
  • Air tires for traction and cushioning
  • Easy to reach and easy to pull handbrake
  • Super easy assembly with guided stickers to help
  • Bikes are assembled and packaged in the US!
  • Fun, colorful designs that kids love!


  • Slightly heavier than the woom 1 (but also larger)

Strider Classic and Strider Sport

Best Mid Priced

toddler riding a green Strider balance bike

MSRP: $109 (Strider Classic) $129 (Strider Sport)
FITS KIDS: 18 months to 4-years-old (Strider Classic only recommended until 3-years-old due to shorter seat post)
SEAT HEIGHT: 11″ to 19″ (Sport), 11″ to 16″ (Classic)
FEATURES: Foam tires, foot rest
FULL REVIEW: Strider Sport

Built on a well-designed frame, the Strider balancing bike is easily adaptable to fit a wide range of ages. With an extended seat post and adjustable-height handlebars, we’ve had the best luck with Strider at accommodating kids of various sizes. For a decent price point, the Strider is a quality bike that fits light kids, heavy kids, tall kids, short kids – you generally can’t go wrong with a Strider.

The primary difference between the Strider Classic and the Strider Sport is maximum seat height. The Strider Classic has a seat height range of 11″ to 16″. The Strider Sport comes with a second, longer seat post to extend the seat range to 11″ to 19″. Adding that extra seat post is more expensive, but handy for older toddlers as they grow.


  • Adjustable to to fit ages 18 months to 4 years old!
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • Foam tires never go flat and are maintenance-free
  • Adjustable-height handlebars for a better fit as kids grow


  • Foam tires provide minimal traction and no cushioning – not ideal for non-paved surfaces
  • Exposed bolts can potentially scratch legs
  • No hand brake but almost the same price as the Guardian

GOMO Balance Bike

Best on a Budget

boy riding a green and black gomo balance bike

MSRP: $54
FITS KIDS: Kids in 2T to size 4T clothes (13″ – 19″ inseam)
SEAT HEIGHT: 12″ to 17″
FEATURES: Saddle and handlebar height adjustment, quick-release for easy adjustments

Offering a natural, upright riding position as well as an extended wheelbase, the GOMO offers comfort and performance at a budget-friendly price.  The GOMO’s puncture-proof, foam tires aren’t ideal for traction on dirt, but around town, you’ll never have to worry about getting a flat.

With a seat height range of 12″ to 17″ and 3″ of handlebar height adjustability, the GOMO provides more room for growth than most, as well as quick-release collars for easy adjustments on the fly.  The GOMO is available in several bright colors to suit your little one’s preference.

For more budget balance bike options, check out our 10 Best Balance Bikes Under $100 list.


  • Great quality for the price
  • Extended wheelbase allows for more room for growth
  • Quick-release seat post and handlebar clamps
  • 4″ of seat height and 3″ of handlebar height adjustability
  • Tucked-away footrest for those who need it
  • Available in three bright colors


  • Foam tires provide less traction and little cushioning
  • Plastic rims provide less stability

Balance Bikes for Preschoolers – 3 to 4 years

For riders who are starting their balance bike journey a little later, you’re looking for a longer wheelbase to give them more room to stretch out on the bike, as well as wider handlebars for more stable maneuvering. A handbrake is also highly recommended at this age, as older kids can reach much higher speeds.

WOOM 1 Plus

Best Overall

young girl in a pink shirt riding a yellow woom 1 plus balance bike

MSRP: $299
FITS KIDS: Fits kids in 3T to 5 pants
SEAT HEIGHT: 14.8″ to 18.7″
FEATURES: Air tires, dual handbrakes, turning limiter

One of our favorite balance bikes made bigger, the woom 1 Plus has all the benefits of the popular woom 1, but for kids ages 3 to 5. It’s the perfect bike for timid kids starting off their balance bike journey as preschoolers versus toddlers.

With comfortable, upright body positioning, large 14″ air tires, a removable “surfboard” footrest and turning limiter, and DUAL hand brakes (a rare find in balance bikes), the woom 1 Plus is the ultimate confidence-building, larger balance bike.

Keep in mind that with its taller handlebars, the woom 1 Plus is best for timid and casual neighborhood riders. Kids who will likely be tackling pump tracks won’t be able to lean in far enough to get aggressive.


  • Larger frame and 14″ tires provide plenty of room for growth
  • Lightweight and nimble
  • Removable turning limiter
  • Removable footrest
  • Dual hand brakes for optimal stopping power


  • Taller handlebars less ideal for aggressive and adventurous riders

Radio Flyer Glide & Go Classic

Budget Pick

young girl riding a radio flyer balance bike

MSRP: $65
FITS KIDS: Kids in 3T and 4T pants
SEAT HEIGHT: 14.2″ – 18.5″
FEATURES: Foam tires, basic build
FULL REVIEW: Radio Flyer Balance Bike

Note: Our top pick here is actually the Banana Bike GT, which has been out of stocks for several months. The Radio Flyer Glide & Go Classic is our back-up option.

As one of the few larger balance bikes on the market, the Radio Flyer Glide & Go has a longer wheelbase so growing kids won’t be cramped, and a seat post that boasts over 4″ of seat height range. This bike is an uncommon size that offers plenty of room for growth for older toddlers and preschoolers… at a very affordable price point.

The Radio Flyer Glide & Go is missing two key features we typically recommend for older riders: larger 14″ wheels and a handbrake. But at this budget price point, you’re not going to find those features! If you’re not up for spending hundreds of dollars on a balance bike, you’ll need to be okay settling for a more basic bike with basic features and less durability.

Be aware that the Radio Flyer Air Ride balance bike has a different design and a lower minimum and maximum seat height, so it fits a smaller rider.


  • Longer wheelbase for greater stability
  • Quick release seat post clamp
  • Great geometry for the price
  • Flat axle bolts
  • Handlebars can be raised as a child grows


  • No handbrake
  • Saddle prone to ripping
  • Basic quality isn’t very durable
  • Very basic handlebar and stem feel “toy like”

Ridgeback Scoot

Lots of Room for Growth!

girl riding a red scoot balance bike

MSRP: $289
FITS KIDS: Kids in 3T to 5T pants
SEAT HEIGHT: 14″ to 20″
FEATURES: Extra cushioning air tires, hand brake, quality construction
FULL REVIEW: Ridgeback Scoot

The Ridgeback Scoot is a top-quality balance bike featuring all the upgraded components you could ask for: air tires, handbrake, quick release seat post, and kid-shaped saddle. While not cheap, its durable quality is a solid investment and can easily be passed down to other siblings.

A little heavier than other options on our list, the Scoot is less ideal for petite or timid kids, but is a dynamite bike for confident, athletic, or eager little ones.


  • Air tires and hand brake
  • Wide, stable handlebars
  • Long wheelbase for stability and longevity
  • High quality and durable
  • 6″ of seat height adjustability


  • Too big/heavy for petite riders
  • Exposed bolts

Best Balance Bikes for PreK – 4 to 6 years

Is a four-year-old too old for a balance bike? No way! Is a six-year-old too old for a balance bike? Also no way! Balance bikes are so much fun to ride, and are a far better experience than a pedal bike with training wheels.

For these larger balance bikes, along with bigger 14″ wheels, you also want a longer wheelbase and wider handlebars for the best fit and maximum stability.

Strider 14x

Best Overall Ages 4 to 5

boy riding a yellow strider 14x

MSRP: $209
FITS KIDS: While the manufacturer recommends from ages 3 to 7, based on our testing, we recommend only from ages 4 to 5, or with inseams ranging from 17″ to 20″ in balance bike mode and 16″ to 20″ in pedal bike mode.
SEAT HEIGHT: 15″ to 22″
FULL REVIEW: Strider 14x Convertible Balance Bike

The Strider 14x has gained fame for being a larger balance bike that converts to a pedal bike. No need for training wheels, once a child has learned to balance while in balance bike mode, simply put on the pedals and within a couple of minutes they’ll be pedaling away! Once your child outgrows the pedal bike mode, they will be ready for a 16″ bike.

Based on our testing, the pedal bike mode of the Strider 14x is a very temporary solution, and a child will need a true 16″ pedal bike pretty quickly. As a result, we don’t generally recommend the optional pedal kit, but do like the Strider 14x as a larger balance bike.


  • Starts as a balance bike and easily converts to a pedal bike
  • Larger frame and wheel size fit kids from ages 3 to 5
  • Comfortable, upright body positioning promotes confidence for beginners
  • Cushioned, ergonomic seat


  • No hand brake, coaster brake in pedal mode
  • Very short crank arms in pedal mode – difficult for kids over age 5 to ride

Ridgeback Scoot XL

Best Overall Taller Kids – Ages 4+

pre schooler riding yellow Scoot XL balance bike down a ramp at the skatepark

MSRP: $299
FITS KIDS: In size 4T to 7 pants
SEAT HEIGHT: 16″ – 21.5″
FEATURES: Air tires, hand brake, quality construction
FULL REVIEW: Ridgeback Scoot XL

The Ridgeback Scoot XL is the bigger brother of the Ridgeback Scoot. These two bikes are almost identical, except for their size. The larger, taller frame of the Scoot XL is better scaled for taller kids. The adjustable handlebar height is also a bonus for kids who need to ride the Scoot XL until they are 6 or 7 years old.


  • 14″ wheels – perfect for older kids
  • Wide, stable handlebars
  • Long wheelbase for stability and longevity
  • High quality and durable
  • 6″ of seat height adjustability


  • Too heavy for lighter weight kids
  • Exposed bolts

Bixe 16

Budget Pick

1st grader riding larger Bixe 16 balance bike

MSRP: $120
FITS KIDS: Grade school kids, in size 6 to 8 pants
FEATURES: Air tires, lightweight

The Bixe 16 serves a fantastic purpose for kids who are too old or big for a traditional balance bike. If your child is already in kindergarten or 1st grade but is still struggling to learn to ride a bike… Bixe 16 to the rescue! With larger wheels and a larger frame, the Bixe 16 is designed to help ease the transition to a pedal bike for timid kids.

While not the best quality bike on our list, it’s a perfect temporary solution to get your kid confident enough on two wheels before you add in the complexity of pedals. It’s also a unique longer-term solution for special needs kids who may prefer to stay on a balance bike.


  • One of few 16″ balance bikes available
  • Lightweight
  • Air tires
  • Most affordable 16″ option


  • No hand brake

Other Balance Bikes to Keep on Your Radar!

Yedoo Too Too

High Quality, Fun Color Options

20 month old riding blue and while sailor Yedoo TooToo balance bike

MSRP: $199
FITS KIDS: Toddlers in clothes sized 24 mo to 4T
SEAT HEIGHT: 12.5″ to 16.5″ (or max 19.5″ with optional extended seat post)
FEATURES: Air tires, hand brake, and turning limiter
FULL REVIEW: Yedoo Too Too

Beyond offering a lot of super cute colors and designs, the Too Too is a nimble, lightweight bike that is an exceptional buy.  The Too Too comes with cushioning air tires, a true headset with height adjustability, a handbrake, and angled tire valves that make pumping those small tires up much easier.


  • A lightweight balance bike with air tires and a hand brake (just 8.2 lbs!)
  • Angled tire valves for easier inflating
  • Wide handlebars for more stability and less twitchy steering than previous models
  • 7″ seat height range with optional extended seat post
  • Narrow, padded saddle perfectly sized for little bums


  • Exposed bolts can potentially scratch legs
  • Steering can be a little twitchy

Frog Tadpole

Fun Colors, Exceptional Quality

young child riding red Frog Tadpole balance bike down hill

MSRP: $290
FITS KIDS: 2T/3T – 4T pants
SEAT HEIGHT: 13.3″ – 16.5″
FEATURES: Tektro handbrake, Kenda air tires, quick release seat post
FULL REVIEW: Frog Tadpole (or for larger riders, the Frog Tadpole Plus)

The Frog Tadpole provides a unique combination of top-notch performance, rugged durability, fun playful colors, and design options. With a long wheelbase for added stability, Kenda air tires for added traction, and a Tektro handbrake for added stopping power, the Frog is a great choice for aggressive kids who will one day want to hit the pump tracks and dirt trails.

The Tadpole rides smooth and steady over paved surfaces, and is confidence inspiring for beginning riders as well.

The Frog wins the day in the design department, offering 8 different colors and patterns to appeal to a wide range of preferences.


  • Built with high-end components for top-notch durability and performance
  • Quality Tektro handbrake
  • Saddle can be adjusted forward or backward to accommodate torso length
  • Long wheelbase for added stability
  • Comfortable padded saddle
  • Available in a wide range of colors and designs


  • Smaller seat height range
  • Pricey

Balance Bike FAQ’s

We’ve tested and reviewed balance bikes for the past 15 years, and have had hundreds of parents ask us questions about them. Here are the answers to what we believe are the most important questions for those just starting on their balance bike journey.

This FAQ relates to 2-wheeled balance bikes only, not three or four-wheeled baby bikes or “pre-balance bikes”.

What is the best age for a balance bike?

Group of four young girls on balance bikes at the skatepark

To get the most use out of a balance bike, the best age to start a child is between 18 months and 2.5 years. Starting them young will not only allow them to happily ride their bike independently for all of their toddler years, it will also allow them to move up to a pedal bike by age 3 or 4.

That said, there are balance bikes made for all sizes of toddlers, pre-schoolers, and grade schoolers, so it’s basically never too late to start. Remember… a balance bike will almost always be a better option than a tricycle or training wheels. If your child is at an age when you would consider either of these options, consider a balance bike instead!

Unlike tricycles and training wheels, toddlers can hop on a balance bike and start walking and scooting around from day one. They never come with push bars for adults to assist the child, as there is no use for them; one of the greatest advantages of a balance bike is that very young kids can ride them all on their own.

How many years do kids ride them?

Two brothers on the same Strider balance bike. One is 18 months, the other is 5.

Kids generally ride balance bikes for 1 to 2.5 years, depending on the age they start, their athletic ability, and their developmental readiness.

A child that starts at 18-months-old may take several months to sit and run confidently on their balance bike, but then spend the next year or two dominating the world on those two wheels.

Your average 2-year-old or 2.5-year-old will grasp the process more quickly, but may still spend another year or two enjoying the ride.

Remember… while a balance bike certainly prepares a child for a pedal bike, that’s not their only purpose. They are a ton of fun. There should be no rush to put a child on a pedal bike just because they are 3 or 4, or even 5 years old!

Less coordinated kids generally stay on a balance bike longer because it’s a simple little machine that’s easy and fun for them to maneuver. Don’t force the complexity of pedals onto a child that isn’t ready and who is still enjoying their balance bike!

What are the main benefits of a balance bike?

There are five main benefits of balance bikes over other types of bikes for toddlers. Balance bikes…

  1. Fit kids much better than tricycles or bikes with training wheels
  2. Move easily and safely over uneven surfaces
  3. Are light and easy to ride – kids can ride much farther
  4. Provide years of fun and independent riding before a child transitions to a pedal bike
  5. Eliminate the need for training wheels – balance bike graduates usually learn to ride a pedal bike in about 5 to 10 minutes, DRAMA FREE.

How do they compare to training wheels?

Training wheels significantly delay a child’s ability and desire to ride a bike. Balance bikes teach toddlers and kids how to ride while balanced, whereas training wheels teach how to ride while unbalanced.  

Bikes with training wheels tilt to one side, creating a false sense of balance.  In order to ride without the training wheels, a child must “unlearn” how to ride unbalanced and then learn how to ride while balanced.

Toddler riding a balance bike that fits great. Same toddler riding a 12" bike with training wheels that is very tall and fits awkwardly.

On a balance bike, proper balancing techniques are learned from day one.  One other thing to consider is that balance bikes are just more fun and much easier to ride than a bike with training wheels.

You can learn more about the pitfalls of training wheels on our page: Training Wheels: 10 Common Questions Parents Ask.

Are they better than a tricycle?

Balance bikes are much safer and more practical than tricycles.  With three wheels, tricycles are slow, awkward to maneuver, and easily tip on uneven or angled surfaces.  On a balance bike, children are focused on balancing, rather than pedaling.  As a result, they are more prepared for an unexpected loss in balance and are much less likely to fall.

Toddler riding a balance bike, different toddler riding a tricycle with his mom's help

Toddlers can also walk or run for several miles on a balance bike, but can rarely make it to the end of a block on a tricycle.  Tricycles are simply too inefficient for kids to ride long distances, which is why they often come with handles for parents to push.

You can read more about the debate between balance bikes and tricycles on our page: Balance Bikes vs Tricycles.

How do you ride one?

Young child walking tentatively on a balance bike

There are four stages to learning how to ride a balance bike. While some kids need a little instruction, most kids intuitively move through these stage on their own. So you don’t really “teach” a child to ride a balance bike. These stages simply help parents to understand what this process should look like.

  1. Stand and walk
  2. Sit and walk
  3. Sit and run
  4. Run, glide, and explore!

Perhaps the most important take away is that kids move through these stages at very different rates. Depending on age, athletic ability, temperament, and desire, the amount of time a child takes to “master” a balance bike varies greatly. For a much more detailed look at these stages, check out our article How To Ride a Balance Bike.

Where do kids put their feet?

Balance bikes do not require a footrest. Kids naturally pick up their feet as they are gliding. In all our years of testing, we have rarely had a child ask where to put their feet on the bike, but A LOT of parents ask that question :-).

Young child riding his balance bike through a puddle

Can I use a regular bike as a balance bike?

For kids ages 5 and up, removing the pedals of a regular bike is a good and affordable option, but is unpractical for toddlers and preschoolers. Pedal bikes are much heavier than balance bikes, making them more difficult to learn to balance.  

It’s important to remember that balance bikes are more than simply the means to an end.  While balance bikes DO prepare kids to ride a bike, they also offer toddlers years of fun and independence BEFORE they are tall enough to fit on the smallest pedal bike.  

If you are considering taking the pedals off of a bike to use it as a balance bike, it’s best to do with older kids on 16″, 20″ or 24″ bikes. When a child is still small enough to fit on a 12″ or 14″ bike, even investing in a cheap balance bike would be a much better option. We discuss how to use a pedal bike as a balance bike here.

Crank arm with pedal attached, then crank arm with pedal removed.

My child won’t ride his balance bike… what’s wrong?

Every child has a will of their own, and sometimes they just refuse to do what you want! It often takes younger toddlers several months to be consistently interested.

For example, at 18 months, our toddler walked with her balance bike for about 2 weeks. And then for 5.5 months she wouldn’t touch it! Miraculously one day, she just picked it up and started going. We haven’t been able to stop her since!

If your child doesn’t seem interested, keep the bike around so they can see it and use it when they feel the time is right. Resist the temptation to pressure them. We’ve seen time and again that kids will be interested when they want to be interested.

It can also be helpful to take your child somewhere that they can see other kids riding balance bikes. When they see other kids doing it, they realize that it’s not that hard and they want to be in on the fun!

Toddler riding his balance bike at a pump track and on a dirt trail

Kids who have tricycles, scooters, or bikes with training wheels can be more resistant to ride a balance bike. Why? Balance bikes require a little more effort to learn but offer far greater rewards in return.  If you think this might be the problem, remove these other distractions and only offer up the balance bike as a possibility.

Best case scenario, we encourage parents to not introduce a tricycle, training wheels, or scooter until after a child has mastered a balance bike.

Can you add pedals to a balance bike?

You cannot add pedals to just any balance bike, but there are a few balance bikes that are designed to convert to pedal bikes. The Strider 14x and LittleBig bikes are the two most common examples. These convertible balance bikes have optional pedal kits that can be installed when your child has mastered their balance bike and is ready to tackle pedals. These pedal kits only work with these bikes.

What should I look for when buying a balance bike?

While balance bikes seem simple, there are actually quite a few features you need to consider to find the perfect balance bike for your child.

For example, what size is the best fit? (Remember, they are not one-size-fits-all!!) Do you need air tires or foam tires? How much does weight matter? Is one brand better than another? We cover all these features and more in our Balance Bike Sizing and Buying Guide.

Balance Bike Sizing and Buying Guide: A more detailed discussion on how balance bike sizes work, and how to get the best fit.


FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this review.  No monetary compensation was provided for this review, however, some of the reviewed products were supplied by the manufacturer or distributor to help facilitate this article. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC.  All content and images are copyrighted and should not be used or replicated in any way. View our Terms of Use.

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