Guardian’s new balance balance has a lot to offer for little riders ready to begin their adventures on two wheels. Combining top-notch components and high quality construction with colorful, kid-friendly frame designs, the Guardian balance bike is a cute and quality balance bike for older toddlers in at least 2T pants.
To get a true picture of how the Guardian balance bike compares to other high-end balance bikes in its price range, we put it to the test with multiple riders of various skill levels and ages. From skate parks to living rooms (balance bikes are great indoors when it’s below freezing outside!), the Guardian quickly impressed our testers and their parents.
In this review, we’ll cover what size child it’s best for, how its SureStop brakes performed, as well as how it compares to our other favorite balance bikes.
Guardian Balance Bike Overview
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Toddlers in 2T and 3T pants who will be riding mainly on pavement
SEAT HEIGHT: 12.5″ – 16″
WEIGHT: 8.5 lb.
BRAKES: SureStop brakes (one lever activates front and rear brakes)
FRAME: Aluminum Alloy
TURNING LIMITER: Yes (removable)
- Dialed-in, kid-friendly geometry for a fun and natural ride
- Air tires for great traction and cushioning
- SureStop brakes – front and rear brake activated with a single hand lever
- Removable turning limiter
- Comes in boy, girl, and gender-neutral designs
- Comes with valve extenders to make tire pumping easier
- Handlebar can’t be raised for taller riders
- Low maximum seat height compared to other bikes
Guardian Balance Bike Review – Results of our Test Rides
We’ve tested over a hundred balance bikes, and were particularly excited to get our hands on the new balance bike from Guardian Bikes. We put it to the test with 6 different toddlers who varied in size, age, and balance bike riding ability – from very beginner to skilled and confident. With every rider, squeals of excitement were standard as our testers loved the smooth and speedy ride of the Guardian.
Sizing – What size child fits on the Guardian Balance Bike?
The Guardian balance bike has a seat height ranging from 12.5″ to 16″, and our testing showed it to be the best fit for toddlers in size 2T and 3T pants.
Kids wearing 18mo or 24mo pants were too short for the bike (their legs weren’t long enough for their full foot to touch the ground while sitting on the saddle). Toddlers in 2T and 3T were a great fit on the bike. Taller kids in 4T were able to ride the Guardian, but the seat post was maxed out, and the bike didn’t offer additional room for growth.
Fit of Guardian Balance Bike by Pant Size
While pants sizes provide a great estimate, knowing your child’s inseam is the best way to ensure a proper fit. (Watch this video to see how to measure inseam for a bike.) The Guardian balance bike is a best buy for kids with an inseam of 12.5″ – 14″.
What is the relationship between seat height and a child’s inseam?
When riding a balance bike, the seat should be set 0.5″ – 1″ lower than the child’s inseam. This allows them to sit on the seat and have a slight knee bend when their feet are flat on the ground, as seen here.
However, when first getting acclimated to a balance bike, a child will stand and walk for a time. During this time, the seat can be a little taller, about 0″ – 0.5″ below inseam.
How long will my child fit on the Guardian Balance Bike?
Kids typically fit on a balance bike for around 2 years, but it can vary greatly depending on a child’s growth rate. Guardian’s site suggests a height fit from 33″ – 40″, but our tester in 4T pants who was just over the max recommended height was able to happily ride the bike.
If your child is on the taller end, be aware that the max seat height of 16″ on the Guardian does limit its room for growth. The Saracen Freewheel and the Yedoo Too Too both have minimum seat heights similar to the Guardian, but have more room for growth with 18″ maximum seat heights.
What comes after the Guardian Balance Bike?
Once your child outgrows their balance bike, they are almost always ready for a pedal bike! Most kids go straight from a 12″ balance bike to a 14″ or 16″ pedal bike. The beauty of a learning to balance on a balance bike means that your child will never have to use training wheels on their first pedal bike! Balance bike graduates usually pick up pedaling a bike within a day or two and are off and riding on their own.
After having the Guardian balance bike, we’re quite sure you will fall in love with their brand (and for good reason!), but be aware that they are not currently producing the Guardian 14″ pedal bike. As a result, if you want to stick with Guardian, you will have to transition your balance bike graduate to Guardian’s 16″ pedal bike.
With the minimum seat height of the Guardian 16″ pedal bike at 18″ and the maximum seat height of the balance bike at 16″, it does leave a gap in their sizing. As a result, your young rider will need to ride the Guardian balance bike past its ideal fit range before they can move on. Luckily, kids grow fast so this transition time should go quickly.
Guardian Balance Bike Components Round-up
The Guardian Balance Bike is one of the best quality balance bikes on the market, with solid components that will last through several kids. With a sturdy aluminum frame, air tires, and durable paint (no stickers to peel off!), the Guardian offers great performance paired with exceptional durability.
Guardian’s SureStop Braking System
Guardian Bikes are known for their simplified and efficient brakes, called the SureStop braking system. We have tested and loved this system on Guardian’s pedal bikes, which is now available on a balance bike.
The beauty of Guardian’s SureStop braking system is that it only requires kids to pull one brake lever to activate the front and rear brakes. The system is fast, easy, and effective. (Learn more about the technical side of SureStop brakes here).
Having tested every size of Guardian bike, we can absolutely attest to the innovation of SureStop for pedal bikes. We have witnessed the system empower kids to stop faster and with more control on their pedal bikes.
SureStop Braking on a Balance Bike
How well does the SureStop system translate to a balance bike? While we love the SureStop system on pedal bikes, balance bike riders don’t travel as fast as pedal bike riders. As a result, we aren’t as convinced about the need for the stopping power of dual-hand brakes on a 12″ balance bike.
The SureStop brakes absolutely work great as the hand lever is easy to pull and the brakes have no issues stopping the bike.
Based on our (admittedly non-scientific) tests of watching our testers activate the brakes of various balance bikes, the Guardian balance bike didn’t seem to stop significantly faster than similarly sized balance bikes with a single hand brake stopping the rear wheel only.
We are continuing our testing to figure out why this may be the case (or if our bikes are just adjusted poorly), and will be sure to update our findings here. In the meantime, know that the rear brake of the Guardian Balance Bike provides plenty of stopping power for young riders!
Brake Cables Hitting Riders’ Legs
While our testers were not bothered by it, two of our testers sometimes hit the back of their leg on either the black brake cable or the side of the brake caliper arm. Two other testers, however, never hit the caliper arm, but did hit the rear black brake cable. In the end, while not ideal, we don’t believe it will be a significant problem for the vast majority of kids.
Lightweight Aluminum Frame
Air tires and hand brakes always add weight to a bike, but the Guardian balance bike is about the same weight or lighter than popular cheaper bikes that don’t have air tires or a handbrake. (i.e. GOMO weighs 8.5 pounds, Kazam weighs 8.4 pounds.)
While you certainly could buy a lighter balance bike for less Strider Sport ($110) weighs 6.7 pounds, Bixe 12 ($69) weighs 4.6 pounds), the benefits of air tires and a handbrake absolutely outweigh the weight benefit. The 8.5 pounds of the Guardian is a great weight for the height of the child it’s designed for.
While the woom 1 balance bike has air tires and a handbrake and is only 6.6 pounds, it is a smaller balance bike designed to start a child riding at a younger age. (Minimum seat height 10.1″ vs. the Guardian’s 12.5″.)
Air Tires Provide Traction and Cushioning
Balance bikes come with either air or foam tires. Foam tires are much more common because they are significantly cheaper. But air tires offer a superior experience.
The air tires of the Guardian balance bike offer cushioning and traction that you can’t get with foam tires. For the safest and most comfortable balance bike experience, air tires are the way to go. (Watch this video to see air vs. foam tires in action!)
The tires on the Guardian balance bike have a city style tread that makes for smooth rolling on pavement, but will also offer decent traction on dirt, grass, etc. If you plan on riding on dirt and gravel, however, a bike with knobby all-terrain tires, such as the Saracen Freewheel, will be better suited for the job.
As an added user-friendly bonus, this little bike comes with tire valve extenders to make filling those air tires soooo much easier.
12″ tires are notoriously difficult to pump because there is such little room to fit a tire pump head between the wheel spokes. Guardian’s removable tire valve extenders allow you to attach the pump head to the valve outside of the spokes.
Turning Limiter is Removable
Removable turning limiters on the balance bikes limits the range of motion of the handlebars, which offers two potential benefits:
- Prevents a child from getting the handlebars twisted and trying to ride with them backward. (This actually happens quite frequently with young children on small bikes.) Twisting the handlebars too far can also stretch the brake cables.
- Limiting how far a child can turn the bars to the left or right can prevent them from jack-knifing and crashing. This is generally most helpful with young riders who are still learning to steer and who are more likely to make sudden jerking movements.
The turning limiter on the Guardian is able to stretch enough for the handlebars to lie completely flat at the time of a crash. Considering kids often fall on top of the handlebars, it is essential that the handlebars of a bike have the ability to lie flat.
Some argue that turning limiters actually prevent a child from learning the nuances of steering at a time when they are low to the ground and the consequences of crashing would be less drastic. The benefit of removable turning limiters is that they can easily be removed if you don’t want your child to use it.
Saddle and Bolts
The soft saddle is comfortable for little bums and is kid-sized to prevent a child from having to splay their legs out to run. The seat collar is a quick release so the saddle can be raised easily as a child grows.
The axle bolts are flattened to prevent them from sticking out and scratching kids’ running legs.
Most balance bikes have a pretty straightforward assembly, but Guardian aims to make straightforward even easier. To help simplify the assembly process, Guardian has provided a step-by-step assembly video walking you through every part.
We highly recommend watching the video prior to assembling the bike. Be sure to watch all the way through Step 6 to understand why the front brake does not engage when you pull the brake lever.
The bike can be assembled in less than 10 minutes and is made easier by colored stickers to aid in proper alignment.
Guardian Balance Bike Comparison
Compared to other balance bikes, the Guardian is one of the highest quality, and also offers colorful designs that kids love. Although Guardian Bikes’ main differentiator has always been its SureStop dual-hand brakes, we don’t believe they should be the main selling point of this balance bike (as discussed above). The Guardian balance bike’s size, weight, and price, however, do make for some tough competition for other bikes.
|Guardian||woom 1||Yedoo Too Too||Saracen|
|Seat Height||12.5″ – 16″||10.4″ – 14.4″||12″ – 18″||13″ – 18″|
|Weight||8.5 lb.||6.6 lb.||8 lb.||10 lb.|
Although the woom 1 is significantly lighter than the Guardian balance bike, it is also significantly smaller. With a minimum seat height of 10.4″, the woom 1 fits kids in as small as 18 month pants, but most kids that size simply aren’t coordinated enough to use a balance bike.
With a 14.4″ maximum seat height, many kids will outgrow the woom 1 before they are ready to transition to a pedal bike. The Guardian, however, is larger and provides more room for growth.
18mo Tester on woom 1 (great fit) and Guardian (too tall)
Compared to similarly-sized balance bikes like the Yedoo Too Too and the Saracen Freewheel, the Guardian faces some tougher competition, but many parents may prefer the Guardian due to its exceptional customer service and their fun color schemes.
For those young riders who plan on riding on dirt or gravel, the knobby tires on Saracen Freewheel do make it a better choice.
Guardian Balance Bike – Bottom Line
From cruising down the hallway during the winter or blasting down sidewalks in the summer, the Guardian Balance Bike is sure to take your little one on endless adventures. Perfectly sized for older toddlers (in 2T to 4T pants) who are ready to take on the challenge of two wheels, the Guardian offers cushioning tires, plenty of braking power, and a splash of fun color that kids love. As a cherry on top, Guardian’s balance bike comes backed by Guardian’s phenomenal customer service that will have your back with any questions or concerns.
To see our list of favorite balance bikes for all ages, check out our 12 Best Balance Bikes list.
**NOTE: Guardian’s very first balance bike came with the brake caliper mounted below the chainstay. We found this placement to be problematic for young testers, as they hit the back of their ankles on the brake caliper. As a result, we did not recommend that first version. Guardian has since flipped the brake placement to above the chainstay which has eliminated the problem.