Wooden balance bikes have a classic, retro vibe that many parents love. Other parents choose wood over metal because wood is an eco-friendly, sustainable and biodegradable resource. Whatever reason you prefer a wooden balance bike, there are certainly some great bikes out there. Here are the top 5 bikes you should consider.
If you’re also interested in balance bikes with metal frames, check out – 10 Best Balance Bikes.
Wooden Balance Bike Comparison
|Toddler Bike||Why We Love It||Seat Height Range||MSRP|
|Early Rider||Best Overall||11.6" - 15"||$179|
|Wishbone 2 in 1||Most Room for Growth||11" - 18"||$199|
|Prince Lionheart||Best Bang for Your Buck||14.8" - 17"||$85|
|Kinderfeets Retro||Most Fun Designs||13" - 16"||$89|
|Kiddimoto Kurve||Honorable Mention||14.5" - 15.5"||$110|
|Lawless Bikes||Best Custom Luxury||Varies||Varies|
Our Favorite Wooden Balance Bikes
SIZE: 11.6″ – 15″ seat height, 7 lbs. (Lite)
FITS KIDS: In pants sized 24-months to 3T
FEATURES: Air tires, faux leather saddle, and adjustable turning limiter
Faux leather saddle, bronze bolts, heat-treated artwork, and true air tires with metal spokes, the Early Rider balance bikes are true beauties. They’re also the best-performing balance bikes on our list, as well as the most durable. Treated with marine-grade glue for maximum weather resistance, they offer excellent weather protection.
While steering on many wooden balance bikes can be a bit stiff, the Early Rider balance bikes perform almost on par with a standard balance bike. Their air tires sit on an aluminum wheelset complete with aluminum hubs, hollow aluminum axles, and sealed cartridge bearings. What does that mean? Basically super smooth-rolling wheels for minimum rolling resistance.
We particularly love the Early Rider’s “two-step steering system”. For beginning riders, its steering range can be limited to avoid overcorrections which often lead to falls. The steering range can then be opened up to its full range once a child has gained experience and confidence on their bike.
If you’re concerned about the weight of the bike, get the Lite which weighs 7 lbs. vs. the Classic’s 9 lbs.
- Decent seat height range for a wooden bike
- Weather-treated wood for better durability
- 12″ air tires provide great cushioning for added comfort
- The Lite is the lightest wooden balance bike we can find! (just 7 lbs!)
- Two-step steering limiter prevents falls when learning and then opens up for 180-degree steering later
- Short handlebar grips (not a lot of space for kids hands)
Most Room for Growth
SIZE: 11″ – 18″ seat height, 8.4 lbs.
FITS KIDS: In 18 months – 4T pants
FEATURES: Air tires, 7″ of seat height adjustability, turning limiter
FULL REVIEW: Wishbone Recycled 3 in 1
From a quality perspective, the Wishbone 2 in 1 is vastly superior to most wooden balance bikes. And with 7″ of seat height adjustability, it also allows for the most room for growth. While more expensive than other bikes on this list, its quality and ability to adjust as your little one grows make it a worthy investment.
Be aware that although the seat height can be raised to 18″, this requires the frame of the bike to be flipped, which actually results in the bike becoming shorter front to back. For most kids, the shorter wheelbase won’t be a problem, but for really tall kids it can lead to the bike being slightly less stable.
- 7″ of seat height adjustability
- Air tires for better cushioning and traction
- Turning limiter restricts maneuverability
Best Bang for your Buck
SIZE: 14.8″ – 17″ seat height, 9.9 lbs.
FITS KIDS: In 3T and 4T pants
FEATURES: Rubber tires that won’t go flat
With solid rubber tires that will never go flat, the Prince Lionheart offers the traction and some of the cushioning of air tires at a more affordable price. Significantly cheaper than other wooden balance bikes with true air tires, if your child will be sticking to paved trails and occasionally packed dirt, the Prince Lionheart is a bang for your buck option!
As the largest wooden balance bike available, it’s best for kids who are at least solidly in 3T pants. Just remember that because it only has a little over 2″ of seat height adjustment, it doesn’t offer much room for growth.
- Larger frame and higher seat height make it the best option for older pre-schoolers
- Rubber tires for great traction and some cushioning
- Just a little over 2″ of seat height adjustability
- Steering radius is very limited
Most Fun Designs
SIZE: 13″ – 16″ seat height, 8 lbs.
FITS KIDS: Transitioning out of 2T to size 4T pants
FEATURES: Foam tires, fun designs
If you want a wooden balance bike but you find the classic tan wood look is boring, Kinderfeets offers a bunch of super cute designs. From space rockets to super heroes and cupcakes, Kinderfeets is a great option for more gender-specific colors and designs.
- Adorable designs for boys and girls
- Foam tires never go flat and are maintenance-free
- Decent weight at 8 lbs.
- Foam tires offer less traction than air tires
SIZE: 14.5″ – 15.5″ seat height, 9.9 lbs.
FITS KIDS: In clothes size 4T
FEATURES: Foam tires, cute designs
Cute designs, but with only 1″ of seat height adjustability, the KiddiMoto will only properly fit your child for a limited amount of time. If your child is in 4T clothes and you think they’ll advance to a pedal bike quickly, the KiddiMoto is a good wooden balance bike option.
- Cute designs
- Foam tires won’t go flat
- Foam tires provide less traction and little cushioning
- Only 1″ of seat height adjustability
Best Custom Luxury
FITS KIDS: Customizable
FEATURES: Air tires, lightweight
These completely customized, hand-made bikes out of South Africa make us drool with envy. Definitely the most luxurious wooden balance bike that money can buy, if you want the Rolls-Royce of balance bikes, check these guys out on Facebook! And get on their wait list now, because it might be a while.
How to Choose the Best Wooden Balance Bike
Wooden balance bikes look pretty sweet, but they definitely have some limitations that metal balance bikes don’t. Before you buy a wooden balance bike, it’s important for you to understand how they are different from metal balance bikes.
Size – One size does not fit all
In general, wooden balance bikes don’t have the same range of seat height adjustability as a metal balance bike with a standard seat post. Adjusting the seat height on a wooden balance bike also requires some time and patience. Far from a quick release, the seat requires removing two bolts, realigning the seat post with the frame and then reinserting the bolts. While this process, seems easy in theory, at times it can be quite a challenge.
Wooden balance bikes also generally provide a much narrower range for seat height, typically ranging from about 1″ to 4″. On the other hand, metal balance bikes usually range from 4″ to 8″. As a result, while kids can ride a wooden balance bike for the same amount of time as a metal balance bike, they will likely have to ride the bike with the seat height much lower than is ideal as they grow.
Weight – The lighter the better
A bike shouldn’t weigh more than 30% of your child’s weight. More athletic kids are generally less bothered by weight than timid riders, but as a general rule, try to stick to a bike under 9 lbs.
Wooden balance bikes tend to be heavier than metal balance bikes, although depending on the bike this is not always the case. The lightest wooden balance bike we know of is 7 lbs, while the lightest aluminum balance bike we’ve tested is 4.4 lbs.
Performance – How do they ride?
Due to their construction, most wooden balance bikes have some variation of a turning limiter. Turning limiters restrict the degree at which the handlebars can rotate. While some metal balance bikes feature turning limiters, they don’t restrict the turning radius nearly as much as a wooden balance bike’s limiter does.
Turning Radius with Turning Limiters: Metal vs Wooden Balance Bike
For younger riders, turning limiters can be beneficial as they can prevent kids from oversteering and jackknifing the bike. As kids get older and more experienced, however, turning limiters can become more problematic as they can prevent kids from intentionally taking tight turns.
The unique design of the Early Rider balances bikes, however, allow them to function more like a metal balance bike. They can be completely “opened up” to allow for the handlebars to rotate 180-degrees around the handlebars.
While this is a concern with any bike, wooden balance bikes are more susceptible to wear and tear than metal bikes. Wood can crack, rot, and warp, and can even snap in half. While many wooden balance bikes are coated with lacquer to “weather-proof” them, it’s always advisable to store them indoors.
Early Rider wooden balance bikes are specially treated and are the most durable of those that we’ve tested.
There are two common types of balance bike tires: foam and air. Foam tires will never go flat, but have no cushioning and little traction. Air tires are more expensive and a little heavier, but provide great cushioning and traction for a more comfortable ride for adventurous kids.
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 pedal bike. Wooden balance bike do not have handbrakes.
Related Balance Bike Articles
10 Best Baby and Toddler Bike Helmets: We put over 20 helmets to the test!
Balance Bike to Pedal Bike Transition: How to know when your child is ready to graduate to a pedal bike.
Best Balance Bikes for Kids 4+: The best balance bikes for older preschoolers