Our Top Picks for Baby Bikes or Ride-On Toys
What’s the best bike for a 1-year-old?
Forget the motorized toys and overly cute tricycles – the best bikes for 1-year-olds are ride-on toys that do two things: (1) teach a child to push with their feet (AKA, no pedals!), and (2) teach them to maintain their balance while sitting and moving. Basically, bikes that keep things simple and help prepare them for a balance bike! That’s why we call them “pre-balance” bikes!
We also consider important features like stability, steering ability, and seat height range to narrow down our list. Like any bike, size is key, but not every manufacturer provides seat height measurements! We purchased the bikes and did that for you, so no sad surprises when a delighted child opens a brand new bike and it doesn’t fit.
If your child is already 18 months and has an inseam of at least 11″, a balance bike may be a better option. Check out our list: 10 Best Balance Bikes.
Best for an Easy, Stable Ride
BEST FIT: Babies and toddlers in 12 months to 2T clothing
WEIGHT: 5.7 lbs.
FEATURES: 4 plastic/foam wheels, steering
FULL REVIEW: Hape Scoot Around
The Hape Scoot Around is one of those “just right” bikes for little babes still gaining confidence. It’s cute, functional, super stable, and moves easily for little legs, but not too fast to make them (and you!) nervous. Its steering function is smooth and easy, but also limited in range to prevent tight-turn tip-overs.
With two wheels in front and two wide-set wheels in back, it’s one of the most stable bikes we tested. With higher handlebars than the XJD Mini Trike, although it has the same seat height, it feels like a much bigger bike and will allow your little one to ride it longer as they grow.
- Two wheels in front and two wide-set wheels in back for maximum stability
- Smooth and easy steering
- Higher handlebars for a comfortable, upright body position and more room for growth
- Wheels roll with minimal effort and at just the right speed for little ones
- Detailed assembly required
- Only available in one color
Best for Easy Maneuvering
BEST FIT: Babies and toddlers in 12 months to 3T clothing
WEIGHT: 3.87 lbs.
FEATURES: 4 caster wheels, no steering (but multi-directional movement)
FULL REVIEW: YBIKE Pewi
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!
The benefit of the wheels is that kids don’t get stuck in a tight spot with limited ability to find a way out, and they’re super smooth for a fast and seamless ride. Be aware though, that the wheels are really fast. Although the Pewi can be used outside, we wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re in a large, open area (like a school ground black top) where there is no chance that your child could get into the street.
The Pewi is also designed to be a “walking buddy” push-toy for kids as young as 9 months. While in theory this is a really cool idea, the caster wheels cause the bike to move so quickly in front of the walking child that they can’t keep up unless they’re already a very confident walker or using it on thick carpet. Our confident walkers did love to push it around though!
- Smooth caster-style wheels make maneuvering a breeze
- Super stable
- Confident riders love how fast they can go
- Adorable design looks like a tiny person
- Available in four colors
- 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
Best for Confident Walkers
BEST FIT: Babies and toddlers in 12 – 24 month clothing
FEATURES: 3 rubber wheels, steering
FULL REVIEW: Chillafish Bunzi
With a single wheel in front and two close-set wheels in back, the Bunzi was the least stable of the bunch, but still popular with our little testers who didn’t seem to mind and never actually fell over. Because it’s less stable than the others, we recommend that you don’t have your child ride it until they are a confident walker.
In addition to being a cute and quality ride-on toy suitable for indoor or outdoor use, the Bunzi converts to a balance bike. As a ride-on toy, the seat height is set at 8.6″, while in balance bike mode, it’s set to 9.8″. There is no seat height “range” – there’s only one seat height for each mode.
While our little riders loved the Bunzi as a ride-on toy, we don’t love it as a balance bike because the seat height can’t be adjusted. Correct seat height is key for a child to be comfortable on a balance bike, so any balance bike with a fixed seat height has a very limited use. For our tester in 2T pants, the balance bike seat was already was too low for her to ride it like a true balance bike.
- Lightweight, high-quality ABS plastic frame
- Silent anti-skid TPE tires suitable for indoors or outdoors
- Grows with your child – converts from a ride-on toy to a balance bike
- Seat lifts up for under-seat storage
- Comes 100% assembled
- Available in four colors
- Least stable
- Balance bike has a set seat height – not adjustable
Best for the Youngest and Smallest Walkers
BEST FIT: Babies and toddlers in size 12 months to 24 months clothing
WEIGHT: 4.1 lbs.
FEATURES: 4 plastic wheels, steering
With a low seat height combined with low handlebars, the Mini Trike is the smallest bike of the bunch and is best suited for the youngest and smallest early walkers. While the manufacturer states that it fits 10 – 24 months, you’d need to have a pretty small kid for it to still be a good fit at 24 months. As a result, in order for your child to get the best use out of this bike, we recommend buying it as young as possible.
The Mini Trike was a great fit for our 10-month-old rider and our 15-month-old rider in size 12 month clothes, but our 10-month-old was still too young to ride it unassisted. Our 2.5-year-old in 2T clothes could ride it, but she was clearly too big to ride it comfortably.
In addition to being completely adorable, the Mini Trike features a lightweight, extremely low step-through frame that makes it easy for your little one to move around and get on and off. As an added bonus, the Mini Trike is available in 7 colors!
- Low center-of-gravity design for better stability
- Low step through frame makes it easy to get on and off
- Soft, cushioned seat
- Simple assembly takes just a few minutes
- Available in seven colors
- Very, very small – only a great fit for the smallest of riders
- Steering function is stiff
Best for Timid Kids
BEST FIT: Babies and toddlers in 12 month to 2T clothing (While it has the lowest seat height of the bikes on our list, it has a wide seat which requires kids to splay their legs quite a bit).
WEIGHT: 4.6 lbs.
FEATURES: 4 small wheels, NO steering
Radio Flyer excels at making adorable kid vehicles, and the Radio Flyer Retro Rocket is no exception. With a rocket nose that turns and clicks, to light-up launching buttons that also talk, the Retro Rocket will entertain your little one beyond a traditional ride. The Rocket also features a lift up seat with quite a large cargo area to carry dolls, blocks, sippy cups, and secret treasures. 🙂
While the quality on the Retro Rocket isn’t quite what we’d expect from Radio Flyer (pretty basic plastic and rub-on side stickers), it’s still a solid little ride-on toy and the most budget-friendly baby bike on our list.
- Super stable with four wide set wheels
- For timid riders, its lack of steering/turning keeps things simple
- Fun, light-up buttons with noises
- Comes 100% assembled
- Most budget-friendly
- Stickers on side aren’t the best quality and have bubbles in them
- Only moves forward and backwards, no ability to turn (can be a benefit for timid kids, but limits overall maneuverability)
Best at Teaching Balance
FITS KIDS: Toddlers ages 18-months to 3-years. Best for toddlers too timid to ride on a traditional balance bike.
FEATURES: Wide flat tires provide a good mix between true balancing and supported riding
FULL REVIEW: Toot Scoot
Is your child already a master walker and runner, but still too small for a true balance bike? If so, be sure to check out the TootScoot! As the largest pre-balance bike on our list, the TootScoot is a great option for true toddlers, rather than early walkers. We love that the TootScoot is shaped like and rides like a true balance bike, so the transition to a standard-sized balance bike is that much easier.
Its tires are much wider than a standard balance bike, allowing younger, but confident riders to learn balancing skills early. It has the added benefit of handlebar height adjustability and 3″ of seat height adjustability, so while more expensive than other ride-on toys, it will fit your child for a longer period of time.
- Wide, stable tires
- 3″ of seat height adjustability to grow with your rider
- Child will learn to balance more like a standard-sized balance bike
- Available in three colors
- Can be heavy for petite toddlers
- Too wide for really narrow frames
Balance Bikes: How to Choose: Everything you need to know to choose the perfect bike for your child
Balance Bikes: Product Filter Tool: To view, filter, and read reviews on over 50 balance bikes
How to Teach a Child to Ride a Balance Bike: For help teaching your child to ride their new balance bike