Balance Bikes: How to Choose

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Balance Bikes: How to Choose


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

Balance bikes seem pretty simple, but it’s not a simple task to choose the best balance bike for your child. While essentially any balance bike can teach a toddler or child to balance, riding experiences vary widely as a result of differences in bike size, quality, and features. The 11 main criteria to help you choose the best balance bike for your son or daughter of any age and ability are: 1) size, 2) weight, 3) geometry, 4) tire type, 5) brakes, 6) turning limiters, 7) footrests, 8) bearings, 9) frame materials, 10) hand grips, and 11) bolts.
What to Look for When Shopping for a Balance BIke: Size, weight, seat height, tires, footrests, brakes, frame materials, turning limiter

1. Size

Size is by far the most important factor to get right when choosing a balance bike. While balance bikes are often marketed as “one-size-fits-all,” the reality is that the same bike will not properly fit an 18-month-old and a six-year-old. Tire size and seat height should both be considered when determining the right bike for your toddler or child.

Tire Size: Most balance bikes have 12″ tires, while 14″ and 16″ tires are popular for tall pre-schoolers and grade-schoolers. 10″ tires do exist for starter balance bikes but aren’t recommended because toddlers outgrow them so quickly.

size comparison of balance bikes with tire size 12 inches to 16 inches including Strider and Charger and Scoot

Seat Height: While tire size is an indicator of the overall size of a balance bike, the seat height is the most accurate indicator of how a bike will fit your child. To properly ride a balance bike, a child’s feet must be able to hit and push off of the ground while they are sitting comfortably on the bike. A properly fitted balance bike allows the seat height to be set 1″ to 1.5″ less than a child’s inseam (measured crotch to floor without shoes on).

Proper Seat Height Should Allow for a Slight Bend in the Knee

diagram of proper seat height for a balance bike
To allow room for growth, it is ideal to purchase a bike with a maximum seat height of at least 2″ above the child’s current inseam. Most balance bikes will fit a child for at least 2 to 3 years or until they move up to a regular kids’ bike.

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 showing how to measure a child's inseam

2. Weight

As a general rule, you don’t want a bike to weigh more than 30% of your child’s weight. A 10-pound bike can be difficult for a 25 lb. 2-year-old to maneuver around, but is a piece of cake for a 35 lb. 3.5-year-old. Generally, the more features that are added to a bike, the heavier a bike will get. Building a lightweight bike without eliminating features is possible, but requires high-end specialty components which significantly increase the cost of the bike.

Given that weight should have high priority when choosing a balance bike, parents may need to sacrifice some features in order to achieve the desired bike weight. Athletic kids usually can manage heavier bikes without concern and the extra features may be worth it. However, petite or less coordinated kids can struggle with heavier bikes, so it is recommended to adhere to the 30% rule.

comparison of weight of a child vs weight of balance bike showing that weight of bike should not be more than 30% of child's weight

Cruzee Saracen Scoot XL Dimensions 14

3. Geometry

When riding a balance bike, it’s about running and gliding. Kids naturally lean forward to run and need enough room to do so. Poorly-designed bikes, like the WeeRide, limit a child’s ability to lean in by creating minimal space between the seat post and the handlebars. Well-designed bikes, like the Cruzee, have ample room between the seat post and the handlebars, providing plenty of space for a child to extend their legs properly to run comfortably and naturally.

The position of the seat on the frame is also noteworthy. A well-designed balance bike has a small gap between the rear tire and the seat when it is set to its lowest position. A poorly-designed bike has a large gap between the rear tire and the seat, creating a high center-of-gravity for the rider, making the bike more difficult to balance and control. The Cruzee shown below has good geometry while the Weeride does not. WOOM1 and Strider balance bikes are additional examples of ideal geometry. Manufacturers typically don’t provide geometry measurements. Luckily, we’ve done the work for you! Be sure to read our full review on a bike for information on geometry.

detailed images and explanation of good geometry vs. bad geometry on balance bikes

4. Tires

The tires on a balance bike determine how smooth it will ride (cushioning) and whether it will maintain traction on various surfaces. There are five basic types of balance bike tires: air, foam, rubber, plastic and big apple.

Five Basic Types of Balance Bike Tires are air, rubber, foam, hard plastic, and Fat Boy

Air (pneumatic) tires provide the most cushion and traction and are the best all-around tires. Various treads are available on air tires, but for most riders, any tread will be sufficient. For more advanced riders, air tires with a knobby tread are ideal on all-terrain surfaces. To prevent flats in air tires, tire sealant is highly recommended (Read our page: How to Use Tire Sealant).

Air tires add about 3 to 4 lbs. to the weight of a bike (depending on the quality of the tire and rims), but the extra weight is worth the overall comfort and smoothness of the ride. For example, the Radio Flyer Glide and Go with Air Tires weighs 9.5 lbs., while the same bike with foam tires weighs 6.5 lbs.

EVA Foam tires are cheaper, lighter, and puncture-proof (will never go flat). They are as common as air tires, but provide limited traction and little, if any, cushioning. Because they are solid and have very little give, more experienced riders will be left to absorb almost all of the impact when going down a curb, over a jump, or on a rocky surface. Foam tires provide enough traction for riders on paved surfaces but can lose traction on all-terrain surfaces as well as on smooth surfaces like gym floors. The tread on foam tires is minimal and quickly wears away. Foam tires are found on Strider, Glide Bikes, and many lower-end bikes.

child on balance bike going over a curb shows how air tires provide better cushioning for the rider vs foam tires

Rubber tires are a puncture-proof tire that provides a small step up from foam tires in traction and cushioning. They are uncommon and only available on two bike models. Solid rubber tires – found on the FirstBIKE basic – provide the most traction of the puncture-proof tires, but offer no cushioning. Rubber honeycomb tires – found on the Burley MyKick – attempt to mimic the cushioning benefits of air tires by offering internal sealed air chambers. While better than foam, rubber tires don’t match air tires in traction or cushioning on any level.

Hard Plastic tires are the lightest of the bunch but are also the lowest in quality. They provide no traction or cushioning and are suitable for indoor use only. They are found on the yBIKE.

Big Apple, also known as “Fat Boy” tires, are wide profile air tires with extra traction and cushioning to accommodate confident kids that enjoy jumps or tricks at the skate park. Be prepared to pay more for these higher quality tires. Found on LikeaBike Jumper, Early Rider, and the FirstBIKE Limited.

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5. Brakes

When riding a balance bike, the main source of stopping will always be the rider’s feet, but hand brakes can help to prevent injury, save kids’ shoes and better prepare a child to ride a bike. Around the age of 3.5, pre-schoolers have enough hand/eye coordination to use a hand brake. Once learned, kids tend to use their hand brake in conjunction with their feet for faster, safer stopping. Once mastered on a balance bike, they don’t need to relearn this skill on a regular bike. Toddlers should not be encouraged to use a hand brake, but if you plan on your toddler riding a balance bike for several years, it may be wise to invest in a bike with a hand brake.

The design of hand brakes varies greatly. Higher-end bikes, such as the WOOM1, have short-reach brakes which allow the small hands of pre-schoolers to reach the brake with greater ease. Lower-end bikes generally do not have brakes at all, like the Schwinn, or use standard reach levers. These levers require the hand to stretch farther, making them more challenging to use. If you have a chance to test out a bike in person, try to activate the brake with your pinky finger, which simulates the strength of a child’s hand. If it is easy for you to compress with your pinky, it will also be easy for them, and vice versa. Lastly, for increased safety, all brakes should be on the rear tire and activated with the right hand.

Child on balance bike activating a hand brake with standard reach brake lever and same child activating a hand brake with short-reach levers

6. Turning Limiters

Turning limiters block the handlebar and front wheel from completing a full revolution, preventing sharp turns and keeping the brake cable from getting twisted. Proponents claim they are safer, while detractors claim they prevent kids from learning proper steering while they are young and still riding at slow speeds. While there are pros and cons to turning limiters, the overall effect most limiters have on riding is minor, and their presence shouldn’t be a determining factor in your purchase. Poorly designed limiters that greatly reduce the turning radius of the bike should be avoided, while elastic limiters (found on the WOOM1 and LikeaBike Jumper), are desirable as they provide gentle correction and are removable.

good and bad examples of turning limiters on balance bike


7. Footrests

The majority of balance bikes do not have footrests because they are not needed. When gliding on a balance bike, kids instinctively hold their feet up to glide. In fact, in our seven years of testing bikes, we have never had a chid ask where to put their feet, but lots of parents ask that question! A properly designed footrest usually doesn’t hurt to have around, but for some kids, footrests can be a crutch as they feel they have to use them and spend more time worrying about their feet than balancing and steering.

Unfortunately, poorly designed footrests are common and interfere with a child’s stride, causing them to hit the back of their calf on the footrest while riding. An example of a poorly designed footrest is found on the Schwinn (see below). Typically, a properly designed footrest is for a child’s heels rather than toes, which doesn’t interfere with their stride, found on Strider (see below).

good and bad examples of footrests on a balance bike with poorly designed Schwinn footrests sticking out and interfering with a child's stride

8. Bearings

The bearings of a bike determine how fast and how smoothly a tire spins around the axle. Sealed bearings have a rubber seal around them that prevents water, dirt, and dust from entering the bearings. As a result, a bike with sealed bearings experiences less friction when spinning. Less friction means that your child will enjoy a smoother ride while exerting less effort on their balance bike. Sealed bearings are considered to be a higher-end feature and result in a higher price tag. When choosing the features for your ideal balance bike, sealed bearings are a “nice-to-have,” rather than required.

Sealed bearings are part of a sealed hub, so a bike stating it has a sealed hub has sealed bearings as well. The video below demonstrates how this plays out in real life. Both bikes are made by the same manufacturer, Ridgeback, and are the same size balance bike. The bike in the front (Dimensions 14) has sealed bearings while the bike in the back (Scoot XL) does not. The Dimensions 14 tire spins longer and easier.


9. Frame Materials

Balance bikes come in metal alloys, wood, and composite frames, with metal being the most common. Aluminum alloy 6061 is the cream-of-the-crop in bike frames, while wood is the most problematic. Composite is extremely durable, but the frame is prone to flexing with taller/heavier kids 4 or 5-year-olds.

Metal bikes come in steel or aluminum alloys which play a contributing factor in the total weight and weight capacity of the bike. Aluminum alloy 6061 is lightweight, strong, rust-proof, and is used in higher-end bikes, such as WOOM, Islabikes, and Scoot. Steel frames are common on less expensive models, but create a heavier bike and are prone to rust. If bikes don’t specifically state they are made of aluminum, they will be made of steel.

Wood bikes can be more environmentally friendly but are less adjustable than metal bikes. Higher-end wood frames (ex: Early Riders) can last for years if properly taken care of, while cheap, lower-end wood bikes (ex: Smart Gear), tend to fall apart fairly quickly.

Composite frames are a glass fiber reinforced nylon composite found only on FirstBIKE. They offer a lightweight frame with a high weight capacity, without the concerns of rust or chipping paint. Composite frames, however, can bend or flex when in use by an older or taller rider, but most kids transition to a pedal bike before the flexing becomes an issue.

10. Grips

While seemingly minor, handlebar grips will most likely be one of the first safety features used on the balance bike. A rubber grip with a knobby end protects kids’ hands when the handlebars run into a wall, trees, etc., and also protects their hands from hitting the ground during falls. All balance bikes have grips, and most have grips with protective bumpers. Because this is an easy and common way to keep your child safe, be cautious before buying any bike without protective bumpers.

Handlebar grip with knobby end on Boot Scoot Zoomer balance bike

11. Recessed, Rounded and Covered Bolts

With time, exposed bolts become scratched and can scratch kids’ inner legs while striding or during falls. This is particularly problematic with smaller-framed toddlers. Covered, rounded, and recessed bolts prevent or minimize the possibility of scratches. Exposed bolts are the most common and are found on most balance bikes, including Strider. Recessed bolts are found on the FirstBIKE and Cruzee and rounded on the Islabike Rothan.

different types of bolts on balance bikes are exposed, covered, rounded, recessed composite, and recessed wood

Which bike is best for you?

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

And for help teaching your child to ride their new balance bike, read our How to Teach a Child to Ride a Balance Bike page.

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: January 27, 2017

  • Lakme

    Hello Natalie, Thank you for providing such detailed reviews. My son just turned 4 last month, he is 40″ tall with 16″ inseam. I cannot decide on whether to get the regular scoot or scoot XL. We had tried 12″ balance bikes before with little success when he was 2 years old so I am a little wary about 12″ scoot being a little small for him .Thanks

    • Considering his age, I would go with the XL as long as his inseam is truly in 16″ (without shoes). My youngest is barely in 4T clothes and can ride in XL. It is slightly too big, but he can ride it. Then again, if your son is more timid, he might be more comfortable on the Scoot. If you happen to live in colder climate, I would get the XL for sure so as the guarantee he has plenty of room to grow into the bike come Spring and Summer.

  • Emily

    Our 3.5 year old has been riding the Strider for about a year now. We’re looking to upgrade to a bike with hand brakes. He really enjoys taking the bike on the trails as well as the street. Are the standard tires on the Ridgeback Scoot good for both the trails and the street or should we get the Black Jack tires?

    • The standard tires are good for basic riding on trails. My little guy had no issues taking the Scoot on pump tracks and dirt trails, but when going down single-track trails, he does much better on a bikes with knobby tires like the Black Jack. So if you plan on doing longer trail/single track rides, then I would upgrade, if you just riding on dirt trails off and on, then the standard will be fine.

  • Rokelle Layton Reeve

    Just wondering my daughter is 2.5 shes very tall 39 in, and is in 5t clothes. would you go with the scoot or scoot xl

    • Wow, 2.5 and in 5T clothes, that’s awesome! She could really go either way, if she is on the athletic side, I would go with the Scoot XL, if she is more hesitant I would go with the smaller Scoot.

  • Loren

    Hi Natalie! I am conflicted. My 3.5 year old is a little guy. Not quite 30 lbs yet. His height is average. He is very coordinated and athletic which brings me to my question..I cannot decide between the Too Too or the Scoot for him. Do you have a recommendation that you think would be best for him? Also thank you for all of the great info and charts! You are always my go to for bike info! It is incredibly appreciated! 🙂

    • Glad to help :). I think he would be great with either, but I would probably go with the Scoot as considering his age, it will provide more room for growth. The Scoot is longer, wider and taller than the Too Too and is much better for preschoolers.

  • Kimberly M. Brown

    This bike seems perfect for my 3year old. He’s about 41 pounds and roughly 40 in tall. Also looking at the Tykes charger. Thoughts?

    • Kimberly M. Brown

      Hmm. Just read about the XL. Not sure if we should go that route? My son is still in 4t bottoms but he wears 5t shorts and 5t tops. 5 t pants are still too long.

      • For a three year old, even though he is tall, I wouldn’t go with the Charger simply because it is a much bigger and heavier bike than the 12″ bikes. The Scoot would be my first pick for him, but if he is firmly in 4T pants, he will fit just fine on the Scoot XL. If he is on the athletic side and eager to ride, then I would go with the XL. It is bigger than the Scoot and will fit him, but it is more bike to handle, which can be intimidating for beginning riders. If he is the type to go for it, then he shouldn’t have any issues with the XL. As a reference my 3yo is barely in 4T pants, does just fine on both bikes, but he is also experienced, so the larger size doesn’t bother him.

  • Jaina

    My son just turned 2 at the end of October and he’s a pretty small guy – at his 2 year checkup he was 27 lbs, and is still in 24 month clothing (I think he’s around 33″ tall – he only started wearing 24 close to his birthday). We were thinking of getting him a balance bike for the holidays and I was originally targeting the Yedoo Too Too, but seeing as he will be 2.5 and probably in 2T clothes around the time he’d be actually using the bike (since it probably won’t be too usable until spring), this bike also caught my eye since it seems like maybe it has a longer life. I’m definitely concerned it might be too heavy for him though. Any thoughts, or other bikes you think might be good for him?

    • If he is a more aggressive rider and eager to learn, then the Ridgeback will work great for him once he is in 2T clothes. If he is more timid, I would go with the Too Too. My little guy above in 2T could fit on the Scoot and rode it just fine, but he was much more comfortable on his smaller Rothan, which is much closer in size to the Too Too.

      • Jaina

        Thank you. I think my instinct to go with the Too Too originally may have been the right one. This will actually be his first bike, so while I’m not sure of how eager/aggressive he will be, I’m thinking it will probably be better to have something lighter rather than something that could be a little out of his comfort zone. I wouldn’t want his first experience to discourage him. He would get at least 2 solid years with the bike I’d think and that sounds good.

        Also thanks so much for this site – it is amazing! And also replying to everyone who asks a question!

        • You’re welcome and I agree, a heavy bike from the get-go can really slow down a child’s progress. Lighter is better when learning.

  • Saskia

    I have an energetic 18-month old who is wearing 3T (almost 35 inches, 30 lbs). I want to get him a bike that will last a couple of years, but not be too big and heavy for him since he’s only 18 months old and his coordination skills are appropriate for his age. Based on your reviews, it seems like the Scoot is the way to go.

    • The Scoot is a big bike for an 18-month old! Based on his clothing size, he will fit the bike, but because of its size, it going to hard for him to maneuver at first. If you expect him to grow quickly, then the Scoot should be fine, but I would also look into the Too Too which is more manageable for his age. Another option is to wait a month or so until the Dimensions balance bike (which is essentially the same as the Scoot, but lighter and with some upgrades) is available. It will be more expensive than the Scoot though (not sure what the MSRP will be).

  • Jane

    okay need sizing help I have 2 kids who might want to ride it, First just turned four and inseam measures 15.5 ” Second child just turned six and their inseam measures 19″ which size would you suggest for each of them?

    • I assume they both need balance bikes? My top picks would be the Ridgeback Scoot or Saracen Freewheel for the four-year-old and the Ridgeback Scoot XL or the Stampede Bikes Charger 16″ for the six year old. Most balance bikes are really small for 4 and 6 year-olds, but all four of these are well suited for kids their age. Thanks!

  • Stephanie

    My 3.5 year old daughter is only 27 pounds with a 15 inch inseam. Would this bike be too heavy for her?

    • Ivan of WeeBikeShop gave a great answer above, which you should make sure to read. Essentially, yes being only 27 lb. it could be too heavy for her. If she is on the “athletic” side and is eager to learn, she could do fine on the Scoot, but if she is timid, I believe she would be better off on the lightweight Too Too or Dimensions as Ivan mentioned above.

  • Hi Stephanie,
    The best way to answer your question is to explain the criteria we use here in our showroom when assessing a child’s needs. Here’s the formula we use: Child’s weight divided by 3 = Maximum weight of their first balance bike.
    In other words, we prefer a 3:1 ratio in Child Weight:Bike Weight. There are a few exceptions of course. Some children are lean and tall, but very athletic and coordinated at a young age. We use some discretion in these situations.
    Your daughter is 27 pounds and the scoot is 11 pounds. The ratio is too small, it’s only 2.45 to 1.
    If you were to select something like the Dimension 12 (also by Ridgeback, same bike but with all-premium alloy components and tires) the ratio would be 3:1 because the Dimension 12 weighs just under 9 pounds. Another option is the TooToo by Yedoo, which weighs only 8.4 pounds.
    The flip side of this coin is that we also try to fit children with the largest balance bike possible because the larger/heavier the balance bike, the more it will perform like a real bike (and less like a toy), and this will make the transition to a much heavier pedal bike in the future feel much more natural and eliminate the need for a 2nd [larger] balance bike in between Balance Bike 1 and Pedal bike 1.
    When choosing a balance bike that is extremely light weight, consider how you would feel about riding a moped for 1-2 years and then buying yourself a new Harley Davidson. The transition from a 200 pound moped to an 800 pound Harley.
    Ideally, your child’s first pedal bike should not weigh more than 2x the weight of the balance bike they used for training.

  • Hal Egan

    Thank you Natalie for providing such a wonderful site. I’ve been doing a ton of research. My 3 1/3 year old weighs in at 35 lbs but is only 35″ tall with an inseam right about 14″. He’s between 3T and 4T clothing. Though open to others I’m considering either the Dimension 12 or the Saracen. My concern with the Saracen is he will outgrow it too soon. I’d like to get at least this and next summer out of it. My concern with the Dimension is that it may be too large for him. From what I understand it’s better to buy a bike that fits now not in the future. Also I’ve heard no real reviews of either. You’ve briefly commented favorably on both. I’m guessing the Dimension will fit like a Scoot but be much lighter. This will be his first bike so that’s why I’m considering the Dimension over the Scoot. Perhaps I’m overemphasizing light weight and a Scoot would be fine. Would love to hear your thoughts on the Saracen and Dimension(Price not a concern). Would love to hear from Ivan as well since he deals with both.

    • For his first bike, you can’t go wrong with the Dimensions. It is large enough to last him a year or two and is also lightweight to help him get started. Being over 30 lb., he would probably be fine on the Scoot, but if he is hesitant at all, the lightweight Dimensions will be beneficial. The Big Apple tires (or Black Jack if your headed off road) are another benefit of the Dimensions. The Big Apple provide additional cushioning while the knobby Black Jack’s are amazing off-road. I’ll pass along your question to Ivan to see if he can provide some input as well as he is the US distributor for both of the bikes.

      • Hal Egan

        Thanks Natalie. A quick follow up. With his inseam just reaching 14″ you think he’ll be ok on the Dimension? The extra inch on the Saracen is tempting but I just don’t want it to be too small for him by next summer. Also how much shorter is the length/wheelbase of the Saracen? Thank you again for everything.

    • Hi Hal,
      The Freewheel by Saracen starts out a little bit lower than the Scoot (13″ instead of 14″, but this only means the seat will be raised around 1″ or so. From there, the seat can be raised another 5″ so it’s possible to use this bike until age 5-6 if needed. A review of the Freewheel is in process but it’s not expected to have any earth shaking revelations in comparison to the Scoot. It comes from the same production facility as the Scoot, shares most of it’s components, and the Saracen brand itself is world renowned in professional mountain biking and downhill competitions. World Champion medals have been won on Saracen bikes. Buy it with confidence.
      The Dimension 12 is another new product we are proud to offer. It can be purchased from us or from any of our carefully screened authorized dealers. The Dimension also comes from the same production facility that builds the Scoot and the Freewheel. It’s a Ridgeback UK product, which is a company producing bikes for over 30 years. This isn’t their first rodeo, they know what they’re doing. That said, you are correct, the geometry of the Dimension 12 is equal to the Scoot. The primary differences are: Premium Schwalbe tires (two choices), aluminum-alloy handlebars, threadless stem, threadless headset and seat post, plus alloy wheel hubs with sealed bearings that rival the ones used in professional racing wheels. The rims are also powder coated black for a distinctive look. Overall the Dimension 12 weighs exactly 9 pounds (a touch under with the bell removed) whereas the Scoot weighs 11.3 pounds. Both frames are 6061 aluminum, both forks are heat treated high tensile steel, as they should be to withstand the excessive trauma that forks must be capable of supporting. One other thing about the Dimension is the color- on the carton it’s described as “scotch-brite” meaning that the raw aluminum is buffed out by hand to give it a DeLorean-like finish. Color options are limited to the seat clamp, brake barrel at the hand lever and the optional BrakeLight.
      The most succinct way to describe the difference between Scoot and Dimension is the former is a VW and the latter is an AUDI. Both are great, but one is more refined.

      • Hal Egan

        Thank you for all the information. Sounds like both are going to be very well made and will serve him well. I will be placing an order for one in a day or two. Thanks again.

  • Erika

    I have an almost 3.5 yo (3.5 in a few days) that has a strider and her 18 mo brother is just starting to get interested in using it. The 3.5 yo has just just gotten into using the strider for more than a few minutes. I’d like for them to each have a bike that we can use for walks and paved trails. I think the 3.5 yo is 38 inches tall and 30 lbs. in between 3T/4T clothes. I was thinking about the scoot for her but when I saw the comments about the 3:1 weight ratios being important I wondered if it would be too heavy for her. Do you think the Saracen would be the better option or since she has used a balance bike some she’d be ok with the scoot?

    • Since she already knows how to ride and is at least 30 lb., I think she would be fine on the Scoot. If she is hesitant or timid at all, the lighter Saracen may be better, but if she isn’t, then I think she would do fine on the Scoot.

  • Ernest

    I have a 4.5 year old girl. She is 3’4″ and 31 lbs. with about 14.5-15″ inseam. She is fairly cautious but great on a scooter. She has a 1.5 year old younger brother who is getting comfortable on a Woom1, so now she wants a balance bike of her own. Hopefully she will be pedaling soon. What would you recommend? Thank you!

    • Awesome. I love that she is being inspired by your younger sister :). For her age and size, I would go with the Scoot or the Saracen. The Saracen is lighter, but the Scoot is slightly taller and also comes in more colors. If she is a fan of a particular color, I would go with the Scoot, if not, probably the lighter Saracen.

      • Ernest

        Thank you for the recommendation. I am leaning toward the Scoot. What are your thoughts on the Radio Flyer? Its lighter and less than half the cost.

        • The Radio Flyer is not tested to meet bicycle safety standards, it would be broken into many pieces during such testing. The Scoot and Saracen and Dimension are all built in a bicycle factory that produces 1,000,000+ bicycles per year and tested for compliance with bike safety standards. The testing consists of about 8 different attempts to destroy the bike with anywhere from 300-450 lbs of force. There really is no comparison. You get what you pay for with the Radio Flyer: a toy masquerading as a bike with a weight limit, no brakes and poor geometry. The cost to produce Radio Flyer in China is somewhere around $15-16. Also, the handlebars are a unitized construction with zero forward extension. Not only does this result in very poor handling/steering feedback to the rider, it’s also one of the most obvious distinctions between a toy bike and a real bike. The marketing of balance bikes has become fiercely competitive, and the big brands know that most Americans are not aware of the differences in safety testing protocol used for bikes versus those used for toys. If it looks like a bike, there is no law prohibiting them from calling it a “bike”. Lots of toy awards can only mean one thing.. you’re getting a toy. Now you know, it’s your call..

          • Ernest

            I purchased the Scoot from Weebikeshop and it has been a huge success. My daughter balances on it like a champ and we will probably be transitioning to pedals within the year. Thanks for the advice!

          • Awesome, glad to hear 🙂

        • As Ivan mentioned below, there is a substantial difference between the two. If the Scoot is in your budget, I would absolutely go for it. Yes, the Radio Flyer is lighter, but it also has a lot of plastic components that don’t function as smoothly. For a 4.5 year-old, the Scoot is going to be much more comfortable for her to ride and much easier to maneuver. In addition, at 31 lb., she shouldn’t have any issues on the Scoot, plus, the additional weight, as well as the true bike build, will much better prepare her for moving up to a pedal bike than the Radio Flyer.

  • Jessica Ng

    Hi Natalie,

    Your bike reviews are so detailed and helpful! Thank you!! We have a very tall 3.5 yr old who is 42 inches and 42 lbs. She wears between a 4T and 5T in pants and is somewhat cautious. Judging from your reviews, would the Scoot or Saracen be a good fit for her? Which would you recommend or should we go to a larger bike like the Scoot XL?

    • Hi Jessica,
      If she has an inseam crotch to floor of 16″ or more, the Scoot XL or the Dimension XL is your bike. If it falls under 16″ (doubtful) then the Scoot is your best bet. Use a hardcover book to simulate a bike seat and pass one edge against the wall to square it up. Measure floor to binding. Most parent under-measure, not accounting for padding of the seat, softness of rubber tires, or compression of soft tissue (this is why the textbook helps to remove the guesswork).

    • I would go with the Scoot or the Scoot XL, not the Saracen. If she is just starting out on a balance bike, the extra room the XL provide will greatly benefit her, especially if you live in a colder climate where she won’t be able to ride year-round. Being extra cautious, she probably won’t be ready to transition to a pedal bike by the end of fall (or before it gets too cold), so she will likely ride it again come Spring. As a result, you want to make sure she has plenty of room to grow into the bike. My son it is 4 and in 4T clothes (too small for 5T) and has much more room on the XL than the others. Here a comparison picture of him on all three.

      • Jessica Ng

        Thank you Ivan and Natalie for your replies! Another option that we are toying with is the woom 2 and leaving the pedals off to begin with. More expensive but would be able to use it for much longer. Good or bad idea?

        • If she was just about ready to transition to a pedal bike, then that would be a great choice, but since she is just starting, I wouldn’t recommend that path. The main reason is that by the time she is ready to use the WOOM2 as a pedal bike, she is likely going to be too big for it. My son above can already fit on the WOOM3 and your daughter sounds like she is taller than him. Being cautious, the lighter, simplified balance bike is probably going to be the best route for her. The good news is that balance bikes generally have a great resale value :).

          • Jessica Ng

            That is really great advice. I will hold off on the woom 2 and consider the scoot vs scoot XL. I still have to measure her inseam which should help with the decision. Either we go with the scoot XL and she can grow with it or go with the scoot and hope that she’ll catch on before she outgrows it. We have baby #2 on the way so the scoot would be more ideal as a hand me down to get the second started sooner I think. Never thought his bike buying thing would be so complex…especially for my tall child!! So thankful for your guidance.

          • I know, bikes can be tricky. Well, let me rephrase that, buying a bike is easy, but finding the best bike can be tricky!

  • Mario

    Hi Natalie,
    My son will be turning 3 yrs old in 4 months (Sept.) and wears between 3T & 4T clothes. Pretty tall for his age. I was set on the Scoot and now I’m second guessing myself with the Scoot XL. Any thoughts?

    • If he is in 4T clothes and is just now starting to ride a balance bike, I would go with the XL as it is going to provide him the most room for growth, especially if you live in a colder climate were he won’t be able to ride year round. If he is really lightweight or more timid, then I would consider the Scoot or the Dimensions XL (the aluminum version of the Scoot XL).

  • Jackie

    Thanks for your great reviews! They are so helpful. My daughter just turned 4 – average height, but she has shortish legs and a long torso. Inseam is 16″ She has been wearing 4T leggings for awhile but until very recently 4T pants were too long for her. She is neither especially athletic nor timid. She has had very little experience with bikes other than trikes. In Chicago – we have a short season, so I don’t expect her to learn in a year. Scoot, or Scoot XL?

    • I would absolutley go for the XL, especially since you have a shorter riding season and since she has a longer torso. The XL is actually a larger frame as well as larger tires than the Scoot, so it is going to provide more room for her torso as the bike is actually longer. As far as size, my little guy is in 4T pants (barely) and fits on the bike with the seat slighty up from the bottom, so your daughter would likely fit on it without any problems. Plus, sorry for my delay in getting back to you, the end of the school year is getting crazy!

      • Jackie

        Thanks so much for your advice. We got her the XL – at first she wasn’t thrilled with it, then we lowered the seat so a friend could try it. When she tried it with the lowered seat it was perfect. She learned to balance very quickly after that.

        • Awesome, glad to hear. It is a great bike!

  • Laura

    I’m trying to decide between the Ridgeback Scoot and the Frog Tadpole. My son is 2.5 years old, 37″ tall with 14.5″ inseam and a beefy 36lb build. He will be riding primarily on grass and a paved driveway. Which bike would you recommend?

    • Both are great bikes, but they have their differences. The Frog is a better for more adventurous riding (trails, jumps etc.), while the Scoot is essentially a great all-around bike. The main difference is that the Scoot offers a lot more room for growth, so if you live in a climate where your child won’t be able to ride for a good portion of the year, I would go for the Scoot as it provides more room for growth, if not, then I would go for the Frog.

  • Todd Neely

    Hi Natalie, my daughter is a few days shy of her 2nd birthday and has 11.5″ inseam, and a 2 mo old sister. I have been reading the reviews and other posts but I’m still torn between the Scoot and the Woom 1. The Woom 1 sounds like the best option for now but in 6 months she’d likely be set for the Scoot which could then last quite a bit longer. So I question if I should just wait 6mo and go for the Scoot or get the Woom 1 with the idea that by the time she outgrew it she could be ready for a pedal bike. Thoughts? BTW – We live in CO and can ride pretty much all year. Thanks for all the work you’ve done to help everyone out.

    • The Scoot and the WOOM1 are very different in size with the WOOM1 being one of the smallest and the Scoot being on the larger end. Considering you have a 2mo daughter to pass the bike down to, I would go with the WOOM1. Younger siblings generally start riding younger than their siblings and she will likely want to start ridings years before she will fit on the Scoot. She will likely be able to fit on the WOOM1 as soon as she is ready, as early as 18 months. For your daughter, considering she can ride year round, she will likely be able to ride the WOOM1 until she is ready to transition to a pedal bike. My 4yo can still ride on the WOOM1 (although it is too small for him) and can also ride on 16″ bikes. As soon as he transitioned into 4T pants, the WOOM became too small for him, but he still rides it for fun, he just has to hold his legs up higher, which he doesn’t seem to mind too much.

  • David

    Hi Natalie – thank you for this wonderful site!
    My son is 2.5 but pretty tall at 38″ with a 14.5″ inseam (with his regular shoes), and he’s 33 lbs. This will be his first bike. We were initially looking at the FirstBike but given we do get snow in the winter (Ohio) and his height I was worried he would outgrow it. Do you think the Scoot will be too big for him? He’s overall a cautious kid but it would be nice to get something he doesn’t outgrow either!

    • You are right in that he is right on the edge. Considering your winters come earlier than most and he is cautious, I would go with the lighterweight Saracen now. It is the same size as the Scoot, but lighter. He will likely only walk on the bike for now and may need encouragement to keep going, but once winter passes, he will likely be a great fit on it and be ready to roll for years to come. If you prefer to have him comfortable and ready to go from the beginning (a valid concern considering he is cautious), then I would look at the Yedoo Too Too as well as the Charger 12.

      • David

        thank you!!!

  • econjon

    Hi Natalie,

    Our son is nearly 3. He’s 38lbs and 39″. He’s never had a bike but is very active and not hesitant. Also we’ve got a newborn boy and would love to pass the bike along. We’re thinking:

    1) Too Too
    2) Scoot
    3) Saracen (but when will we get it?)

    Thank you!!

    • If you plan on passing it down, I wouldn’t recommend the Scoot. It would fit your 3yo perfectly, but younger siblings tend to want to ride earlier than their older siblings and the Scoot is too big for little ones. Between the two, considering your son’s size, I would go with the Saracen first and then the Too Too. The Saracen are back in stock, so you should be able to get it within a week (depending where you live of course).

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for your site – it’s very helpful.
    We are looking for a balance bike for our son for Christmas. He’ll be 2yr & 7 months then. Currently, he is average height, approx 11″ inseam, and on the light side. He has an 8 yr old brother – so no hand-me-down balance bike and no one to pass it on to. We live in Australia and he can ride it year round on footpaths, skate parks and on grass, etc. I was looking at the FirstBike though I’m put off by it flexing, but I liked it’s sealed wheel bearings, lowering kit, air tyres and hand brake . A friend recommended the cruzee – I like it’s good seat height range and how light it is. They also said their son rides it on the beach. I also read your review of the ridgeback scoot and I liked it too. I thought we couldn’t get the scoot in Australia but my hubby just said the local bike shop stock it. How important are air tyres and hand brakes? How important are limiters? What would you recommend?

    • Rebecca

      Also, if we got the Cruzee – how would he go transitioning from such a light bike to a pedal bike when he’s ready?

      • The Scoot is going to be too big for him as the minimum seat height is 14″. Between the Cruzee and the FirstBIKE, is really depends on what you are looking for. The foam tires on the Cruzee make the tires puncture proof, but they don’t provide any cushioning for the rider. It also doesn’t have a handbrake. The FirstBIKE is available with air tires and a handbrake, both of which I highly recommend for most riders. The FirstBIKE does flex, but generally not until around the age of 5, when the bike is probably too small for them. Heavier riders may experience flexing sooner.

        As for turning limiters, the are pros and cons. For most kids, I don’t believe they are necessary. Turning too sharp is a problem that causes kids to crash, but I have found it is better for kids to learn how to properly steer a bike while on a balance bike when they can’t ride as fast, versus on a pedal bike were they are more likely to get hurt. That being said, I have watch many kids transition from bike with turning limiters to pedal bikes without a problem. From what I have seen, the main advantage of a turning limiter is to prevent the brake cable from being wrapped around the stem of the bike (from twisting the handlebars).

  • Debbie

    Great site. Very informative and helpful. Buying bikes for my very active grandkids in Michigan, boy and girl. Both will be 3 in Nov. Boy is 30-35 lbs. Girl is 27-32 lbs. In seem for both is ~13.5″ barefoot. Costco has a cheap EZee Glider. Would you recommend that or buying a better bike like the Scoot, Yedoo Too Too (aluminum or steel), Saracen or Other? Only thought is at 3 and winter coming, they may not ride the bike very long before transitioning to a peddle bike..?? Kids don’t have to have same brand. Will probably ride pavement, grass, sand and dirt. Any recommendations or thoughts? Money is not a critical factor; safety and fun are. Also, do Blackjack tires make a big difference? Thank you for your help.

    • Glad to help! Being in Michigan, you are going to want a bike that will provide them plenty of room for growth. The EZee glider is a good bike, but small. They likely won’t get two years of use out of it. If you aren’t on a tight budget, I would go with the Saracen Freewheel for both, or if you wanted different color bikes, I would get a Scoot for the boy. Both of these bikes will surely fit them until they are ready to transition to a pedal bike. As for the BlackJack tires, they are amazing, but if they don’t plan on riding on all-terrain surfaces (mainly mountain biking trails) they probably won’t need them, but there certainly isn’t a downside to having them!

      • Debbie

        Thank you so much for the input! This site and your experience are invaluable to buying a bike. They will definitely want different colors so we will go down the Saracen and Scoot path. Looking forward to watching them go!
        Thanks again!

  • Amy Harr

    Hi Natalie, This is a great site. I was wondering…I have a 38″ 3 y.o. boy w/ 15″ inseam. New rider, sort of timid but sort of not. Can’t decide between Scoot, Scoot XL or Saracen? We live in Texas so can ride all year. Also have 1 y.o. boy twins that will be coming along behind big brother soon on bikes. One is heavier (22 lbs) & more adventurous & one is taller by 3/4″ (21 lbs), but slightly more timid than his twin but willing to try after he see it done. Would like to hand one of them the 3 y.o.’s bike when he moves up to pedal or maybe two new bikes? They all seem like good options though. Thanks!

    • Thanks and glad to help! Since the bike will be handed down to one of the twins, I would go with the Saracen, simply because it is the lightest. It will fit your older son just fine now and will be light enough for the twins when they are wanting to start. Plus, younger siblings tend to want to ride younger than their older siblings, so the smaller and lighter, the better.

  • Jessica Newman

    This site is awesome! I need a little help narrowing it down. Son is 2yrs 4mo old. 36.5 in and 30lb. He is a bit more on the timid side vs rough and tumble but not TOO timid but is general a clumsy kid. Torn between Saracen, Scoot, Yedoo, & Charger(scamper)… We are coming into winter soon so he prob wont start using it a lot more until he is about 2yr 8mo. I liked that yedoo and scamper have turn limiter but not sure if its that big of a deal… son is on the taller side but thin. Looking for the best option then 2nd best… also how comfortable/ergonomic is a good plus.. thanks!

    • Glad to help! Considering his size I would go with the Too Too first, followed by the Charger 12, the Saracen and the Scoot. If he happens to be solidly in 3T clothes, I would then go with the Saracen, Too Too, Charger and then the Scoot. Considering he won’t be riding much this winter, if he is on the edge, I would go with the Saracen.

  • Courtney

    This is a very informative site! I have a question on what balance bike is recommended. My son is 4 years 4 months and has a 17″ inseam (without shoes) and weighs 36lbs. His only bike experience is a plastic trike. He has a 9 month old sister. I was thinking the Scoot sounded like the best option as we camp a lot and want a bike he can use on the pathways. Plus in a year or so, he can get a pedal bike and his sister can use the scoot. Does this sound good or do you have a different recommendation? Thank you!

    • The Scoot sounds like a good option for your 4yo, but I would probably go with the Saracen instead. My only hesitation is that the Scoot is likely going to be too big for you daughter when she is ready to ride. Younger siblings generally start riding balance bike sooner than their older siblings, so the Scoot’s 14″ minimum seat height is going to be a challenge for her. The Saracen has a 13″ minimum seat height which will allow your daughter to ride it months before she would fit on the Scoot.

      • Courtney

        Thank you! After more consideration, I think my son may pick up the balance bike quickly and am concerned he will want a pedal bike. Would the Radio Flyer Glide and Go (Air Tires) be ok for his height (41″ tall, 17″ inseam)? My husband wants to go the pedal bike with pedals removed route, but I am concerned about weight and want to make sure he learns balance properly.

        • The maximum inseam on the Radio Flyer is 18″, so it will fit him just fine for now. The Radio Flyer is inexpensive, so it won’t brake the bank to try it out!

  • Nikki Quinn

    Hello! I need help in deciding what bike to get for my daughter. She just turned 3 but is in the 95th% for height, she is wearing 4t pants. I think she is about 33 pounds. Her inseam is about 16″ with sneakers on. I would like a bike with rubber/air tires and am willing to go up to $200. I would like for this to last her at least 2 years before getting a pedal bike and be able to hand it down to her younger brother who is currently 6 months old but also in the 95th% for both height and weight.

    She is very good on her trike and has tried a pedal bike once andid took to it quickly although if she doesn’t get the hang of something quickly she gets frustrated and gives up.

    I was debating on the 14″ scoot but think it might be too heavy. I was also looking at scoot 12″, scamper, public, laufrad, Saracen, either linus and boot scoot. Any suggestions to narrow down my search would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!!!!

    • Out of those you mentioned, the Saracen would be my top pick as it is larger enough while still being lightweight. My second choice would be the Scoot as it is the same size, but slightly heavier. If she is already in 4T pants she will outgrow the others you mentioned fairly quickly.

  • Jennifer S

    Hi Natalie! Such a great site, thanks so much for the detailed reviews. Hoping you can help me narrow down my choices. Looking for a bike for an almost 3 yo girl — thin but tall (37″, 31 lbs, 4T). Ideally something lightweight with room to grown, and sturdy enough to pass down to her younger brother in a couple years. Which of these would you go with: Saracen, Too Too, Strider or Scoot? Thanks!

    • Considering she is already in 4T clothes, you are going to want a larger bike. The downside of that is your son won’t be able to use it for quite a while. Younger siblings tend to want to ride balance bike at a earlier age than their siblings. The Saracen and the Scoot would be the best size for your daughter, but would delay your son riding in until he around 2 to 2.5. The Too Too will still fit your daughter now, but it will be on the smaller side and she will outgrow it within a year. If your daughter is on the athletic side and will likely move up to a pedal bike sooner, rather than later, than the Strider would be a good option as it will fit her now (if you get the Sport model with the extended seat post), but also fit your son when he is ready. The Strider doesn’t have air tires or a hand brake, but will help to teach her balance.

  • Kathy Snow

    Kathy Snow
    Hello Natalie
    Thank you in advance for your advice!
    Im looking for a balance bike for my 2.5 yo grandson, who is on the tall side. He has a sister also on the tall side 14 months younger than he is. Im looking for a bike which could be passed down. My granddaughter will be 2 in October. Im thinking about the 12″ scoot or the 12″ Saracen. Any ideas which would be better they are the same price. What is the weight capacity of each, and does the Saracen really only reach to age 4 even though it has an extra seat extension?
    This is for Christmas, Im having a hard time making up my mind!

    • Hopefully I’m in time to help! The Scoot and the Saracen are very similiar in size, but the Saracen is lighter. If you grandkids are tall, I would consider the Saracen, but not the Scoot as it is pretty heavy for a 2 year-old. The Saracen also fits great with a 4yo as my 4yo in 4T had no problems riding it this past summer. Hope that helps!

  • Margie

    Hallo Natalie, following your suggestion we got a First Bike for my son and he is using it a lot since a year now. He has a 15,5 inches inseam and in March he will be 3 years old and he is 37,5 inches tall. He is getting a bit taller for the First Bike but he is not interested in pedaling yet. We often bike together in mtb tracks and he is quite a good rider downhill. We were thinking of a Scoot but we have difficulties finding it here in Italy. Would you suggest another brand or should we insist with a pedal one? Thanks a lot in advance!

    • Sam

      Hi Margie. I thought I would comment on finding a Scoot in Italy, since I am in the Netherlands and did some sleuthing to locate these balance bikes. Revolve Bike Shop in Ireland sells the Scoot and ships to Europe. Hope that helps!

      • Sam, thanks so much, I really appreciate it!

        • Sam

          Glad to help out when I can. And just to put it out there for others who might stumble upon this, the Revolve Bike Shop in Ireland will switch the handbrakes from the left to the right if requested.

    • If he is not interested in pedaling yet, I would stick to a balance bike, especially if you are trail riding. Even if he does learn to ride a pedal bike, he will be more confident on his balance bike for all-terrain riding. The Scoot would be a great choice as it has wider handlebars for better handling as well as a brake. Another option would be the Tadpole Plus from Frog, My last suggestion would be the Early Rider Ally XL as it has knobby tires, BUT it has narrow handlebars as no brake, so it isn’t ideal.

      • Margie

        Thank you very much Natalie and Sam for your suggestions! We are still doubting in buying a Scoot in Ireland as Sam suggested to use for a year or so or use all the seat height of the First Bike and save money to buy a good pedal bike.We would love to buy a Woom 2 but again we have found no dealers for Italy. It is such a shame our country does not produce good quality kids bike.I looked on Amazon and Ebay but I had no luck. I am sure we will do trail riding with it as we have lots of tracks here and no skate parks. Do you have any suggestions for finding a Woom in Europe or an alternative good first pedal bike? Thanks so much in advance!!!Margie

        • Sam

          If you go to Woom’s website, in the upper left hand corner there is an icon for Europe. If you click on it, it will take you to a German website that sells the Woom bikes. I just ordered some accessories from them myself. Best of luck!

        • I agree with Sam, try to order through WOOM directly or give them a call to see what they can do. WOOM is an Austrian company, so I assume they would have a way to get one to Italy.

  • Jamie

    Hi! What would you recommend for a 4 year old that is 39.5 inches tall, 16.25 inseam and weighs 36lbs? He has experience with a tricycle. We took him to a bike shop and he tried a balance bike but preferred the pedal since that is what he is use to. He rode the 16″ Hotrock but it seemed a bit big for him. I think 14″ would be a good fit but there aren’t too many options. We are trying to decide between a balance bike or pedal and which model would be best for his size and that will last a bit too. Thank you for your help!

    • If he hasn’t riding a balance bike yet, I would really try to start there. Balance bikes allow kids to learn how to balance, steer and stop a bike without any assistance. Bikes with training wheels do not, which is why kids have to relearn to ride once the training wheels are removed. If your son is adamant about getting a pedal bike, one option is to remove the pedals and have him learn to balance on the bike first. Once that is mastered, add the pedals and watch him ride away:). If you expect him to take sometime to actually learn how to balance, I wouldn’t recommend this method as he may outgrow the bike before you get a chance to put the pedals on. If that is the case, I would absolutely go with a balance bike first as they are generally cheaper than pedal bikes, but they are lighter, easier to control and in many ways, more fun for younger kids to ride.

      • Jamie

        Thank you so much! What balance bike would you recommend for his size? We remeasured him last night and he’s just under 40″ with a 17″ inseam. We have been looking at the Ridgeback Scoot 14″ or the Commencal Ramones 14″ for pedals. Is there another brand or size that would fit his proportions better? Thanks again! You’re website is just amazing and so helpful 🙂

        • Jamie

          He’s feeling pretty set on pedals so if you could recommend a pedal bike too that would be great. That way we can remove the pedals like you suggested until he gets the balance piece. Thanks!

  • Mali

    Hi! Which balance bike would you recommend for a 2 year old who is 39 inches tall and 38 pounds? Thanks for the advice!

    • It really depends on your budget and her inseam. Two bikes that do come to mind however, are the Saracen Freewheel, if she is larger framed and the Yedoo Too Too if she has a smaller frame.