As one of the larger balance bikes available, the Radio Flyer balance bike is great for kids getting a later start. Read the review below for all the reasons this little red bike is a great bang for your buck!
Radio Flyer Balance Bike
BEST FOR: Kids in 3T or 4T pants
SEAT HEIGHT: 14.2″ – 18.5″
WEIGHT: 8.4 lb.
TURNING LIMITER: No
- Longer wheelbase for greater stability
- Air tires at a great price
- Quick release seat post clamp
- Great geometry and build for the price
- Flat axle bolts
- No handbrake
- Saddle prone to ripping
- Basic quality isn’t very durable
Radio Flyer Balance Bike Full Review
The Radio Flyer balance bike (Glide & Go) is a nostalgic nod to our own childhood. It brings back fond memories of red wagons, and a time when balance bikes didn’t even exist! Like those red wagons of the past, the Radio Flyer balance bike is a fun (but modern!) way to get your child outside and moving through the neighborhood.
One of our favorite balance bikes under $100, the Radio Flyer Glide & Go balance bike comes in two different versions – one with air tires, the other with foam. While the air tire version is slightly more expensive, both can often be found on sale for under $60!
What really sets the Radio Flyer balance bike apart is its slightly larger size. With a taller seat post, it’s the only budget balance bike designed to fit kids from 3 to 5 years old. (If you’re looking for a balance bike for a taller 5, 6, or 7-year-old, check out the much larger Bixe 16.)
Balance bikes actually vary quite a bit in size. The Radio Flyer Glide & Go has a seat height range of 14.2″ – 18.5″, making it one of the largest budget balance bikes on the market. Toddlers and kids in 3T and 4T pants (transitioning to size 5) are generally the best fit for the Radio Flyer.
As a comparison with other budget balance bikes, the seat height range of the very popular Banana Bike GT is shorter at 12.5″ – 17″, and is a great fit for kids in 2T to 3T pants. The larger Bixe 16 balance bike has a seat height range of 18.25″ – 22.4″, and is better suited for kids in size 5 pants and up.
With over 4″ of seat height range, the Glide & Go allows for plenty of room for growth, and is a great option for budget-minded families with kids getting a slightly late start on their balance bike journey.
In the collage below, our 2-year-old tester is in 3T pants, out 3-year-old tester in also in 3T pants, and our 4-year-old tester in in 4T/5 pants.
2, 3, and 4-Year-Olds on Radio Flyer Balance Bike
With a wheelbase of just about 22.5″ (measurement between the front and rear axle of the bike), this balance bike is also sufficiently long to provide enough room in the cockpit for kids to lean in to run and get adventurous.
The Radio Flyer balance bike comes in two different options – one with standard foam tires, and the other with air. We tested the Glide & Go Air model. While the air model has an MSRP of $70 compared to the foam model’s $50, we highly recommend going with air tires if you can spring for the extra $20. (These bikes are often on sale, so it may end up being cheaper anyways!)
Air tires provide more traction and cushioning than foam tires. Traction and cushioning allow a child to safely and comfortably explore various terrains – from sidewalks to dirt paths and even off the beaten trail. The cushioning is noticeable particularly if your child is adventurous and loves to ride off curbs, but even makes a difference on cracks in the sidewalk.
While air tires on budget balance bikes are becoming more common, most of them are air tires on metal rims with metal spokes. (For example the Banana Bike GT and the Swagtron K3.) The Radio Flyer balance bike is one of the rare bikes to have air tires on plastic rims. Plastic rims, however, are less durable than metal, and more likely to bend or crack over time.
Radio Flyer’s Tires and Flat Bolts vs. Strider’s Rounded Bolts
One feature about the Radio Flyer’s wheels that we really appreciate is its flat axle bolts. Most budget balance bikes have exposed or rounded bolts that stick out and easily get scratched. They can then end up scratching little legs.
The Radio Flyer balance bike’s flat bolts are much less likely to get scratched during falls, and because they lay so flush against the bike, are much less likely to come into contact with a child’s legs as they extend their stride to run.
While the frame of the Radio Flyer Glide & Go is steel, rather than a more lightweight aluminum, the bike is still relatively lightweight. Coming in at 8.4 lbs., it’s just slightly heavier than the Banana Bike GT’s 8.1 lbs.
That said, because the Radio Flyer is designed for a slightly older child, this weight should not be an issue. Our very tall 2-year-old (who is technically still too short for this bike as she has to push off the ground with her tip toes rather than her whole foot), weighs 31 lbs. and was very easily able to maneuver the Radio Flyer around.
At 16″ wide, the handlebars of the Radio Flyer are wider than most budget bikes. Wider handlebars provide a more stable base, making it easier to balance. They also help prevent “twitchy” steering from young kids who tend to jerk the handlebars quite a bit.
The handlebars adhere to the bike via a single-point-of-contact clamp. Placed underneath a red piece of plastic on the stem of the bike, the clamp is a bit hard to access and tighten, but manageable. The clamp, however, cannot hold the handlebars as tight as a traditional headset found on bikes, so the handlebars will come out of alignment quite frequently after any sort of fall. Just be aware of this and be ready to twist them back into place.
Overall, the handlebar and headset set up is not as precisely designed or tightly built as almost every other balance bike we’ve tested. While this didn’t seem to affect our experienced and adventurous testers, it does speak to the other lower quality of the bike.
Saddle and Seat Post
The padded seat is covered in soft vinyl. Unfortunately, this vinyl is prone to tearing, which is one of the major downsides to the Radio Flyer.
The seat post features a quick-release clamp that makes it much faster and easier to adjust the height of the saddle on the fly. No tools required!
While the seat can be lowered to just over 14″ in height, the shape of the saddle and the placement of the seat post clamp prevent you from tightening it all the way in its lowest position. The quick-release lever is too close to the seat in this situation, and if you were to close the clamp, you’d actually tear the seat.
If you want to use the bike with its seat in its lowest position, the seat cannot be tightened all the way, and the saddle will shift to the left or right periodically. Not ideal, for sure, but also a manageable problem considering the low price point. If you raise the seat about 1/4″, this is not an issue.
Grips and Bell
The toddler-sized grips a firm, hard rubber. They aren’t as soft as most grips but also aren’t a hard plastic like we’ve seen on some budget bikes. The bell is a super fun accent that kids realllllly love.
While the Radio Flyer Glide & Go is a solid and adorable little balance bike, there are several other budget balance bikes that are stiff competition. Based on overall quality of construction, our budget bike of choice for most toddlers is the Swagtron K3 (minimum seat height 12.25″).
However, because the Radio Flyer is a larger budget balance bike (minimum seat height 14.2″), it’s our top budget recommendation for slightly older and larger kids in pre-school and Pre-K.
Budget balance bikes certainly fill a need in the marketplace, but what do you get when you pay over $100 for a balance bike? Higher-quality components, a hand brake, a more sophisticated design, and increased durability. It’s important to note that the Radio Flyer balance bike is only rated up to 50 lbs., which is standard for toys, while higher-end balance bikes are rated to bike standards at over 100 lbs.
Commonly found on sale for under $60, the Radio Flyer balance bike (with air tires) is our top budget balance bike recommendation for 3 and 4-year-olds. While it won’t last for generations, it’s well-designed and easy to ride.
We tested out over 10 different balance bikes under $100 for quality and performance and the Radio Flyer made our list! View our full list: The 10 Best Budget Balance Bikes.