A balance bike, pedal bike, and larger pedal bike all in one? That’s the concept behind the SmarTrike Xtend convertible balance bike.
Coming standard as a balance bike with an easy-to-install pedal kit and an extendable frame, the SmarTrike Xtend aims to save parents money by eliminating the need to buy a balance bike and a child’s first pedal bike.
While 2-in-1 (or 3-in-1) products rarely do all things equally well, the Xtend does a surprisingly good job as a balance bike and a pedal bike. While not without its flaws, for a convertible balance bike, the Xtend performs and fits quite well.
The ability to extend the frame as a child gets older, coupled with longer crank arms than you might normally see on a convertible balance bike, the Xtend is a unique and useful addition to the balance bike market.
SmarTrike Xtend Convertible Balance Bike
MSRP: $250 (pedal kit included, not sold separately)
BEST FOR: Parents who want a convertible balance bike that works well in balance and pedal bike modes.
SEAT HEIGHT: 15.25″ – 21.25″
WEIGHT: 14.8 lbs (balance bike), 17.9 lbs (pedal bike)
TIRES: 14″ Air
BRAKES: Front Disc, Rear Coaster
- Solid-quality, durable, extendable magnesium frame
- Longer frame and higher handlebars allow good fit for several years
- Frame and handlebar adjustments just need an Allen key
- Pedal assembly attaches to the bike in just minutes
- Air tires for better traction and cushioning
- Pedal bike mode better than some other convertible balance bikes
- Heavy for a balance bike
- Front-brake-only in balance bike mode can teach children improper braking technique
- Coaster brake in pedal mode can make learning to pedal more difficult
- Seat post height can be difficult to adjust
- Saddle prone to tearing
- Narrow pedals
SmarTrike Xtend Review – Results of Our Test Rides
How Does the SmarTrike Convertible Balance Bike Work?
The Smart Trike XTend is a balance bike, pedal bike, and larger pedal bike all in one.
When your child is ready to transition from balance bike to pedal bike, you take off the plastic rear cog cover, remove the gray footrest, and install the pedal kit. The installation process is incredibly easy and takes just about 5 minutes.
Foot Rest vs. Pedal Assembly
At this point, the bike stays the same size, the only difference is that you’ve added the pedal kit.
Balance Bike vs. Small Pedal Bike
As your child grows, you can extend the frame of the bike to extend the child’s reach, while also raising the handlebars as needed. While Smart Trike doesn’t market the XTend as a larger balance bike, it certainly could be so simply by extending the frame without the pedal kit attached.
Small Pedal Bikes vs. Extended Pedal Bike
Size and Age of Child
The purpose of a convertible balance bike is that it can be used for several years as your child grows in size and in ability. As a result, it has a larger appropriate age range than most balance bikes.
Smart Trike’s stated age range for the XTend is 3 – 6 years old. We tested the XTend with four different kids, ranging in age from 2.5 to 5 to see how this age range plays out in the real world. Our results indicate that the Xtend is still a great fit for an average 5 year old, but would be a stretch for a 6-year-old.
Balance Bike Sizing
Our 2 yr, 10 month tester is very tall (almost 39″). She is riding the balance bike about 1/4″ above its minimum seat height. She is an ideal fit in balance bike mode. The handlebars are bit high, keeping her body upright. This makes it a better option for timid or average riders. Aggressive riders would do better on a balance bike with lower handlebars.
Pedal Bike Sizing
Realistically, your child is going to be on their balance bike for 6 months to a year before they will be ready to tackle pedals. Here is our average 4-year-old tester, 40.25″ tall, on the XTend as a pedal bike.
You can see her with the standard frame (left), as well as with the frame extended (right). The standard frame keeps her a bit more upright, which is usually better for kids just learning to ride. The extended frame allows her to lean a little more forward, which will allow her to maneuver the bike more aggressively as she gains confidence.
On the taller range of the bike, check out our 5-year-old tester (44″). She has the frame extended, is maxed on on the seat post, and also maxed out on the handlebars. Even with feet flat on the ground, she’s still a surprisingly good fit, but will outgrow the Xtend within half a year.
Performance as a Balance Bike
The geometry of the SmarTrike Xtend places a child in a natural, upright position, with plenty of room in the cockpit move around comfortably. Our experienced 2.5-year-old rode around with ease throughout the neighborhood, and at the local track.
At 14.8 lbs, the SmarTrike Xtend is the heaviest 14″ balance bike we’ve tested. As a comparison, the Strider 14x weighs just 12.5 lbs, while the woom 1 Plus weighs 9.5 lbs. For our coordinated and confident 2.5 year old, this weight wasn’t much of an issue. She enjoyed riding and did great. That said, if we were to try to go long distances, she would certainly get tired much more quickly.
For new, timid, or petite riders, the weight could be an issue. Heavier bikes are harder to get started, harder to maneuver, and harder to pick up after the inevitable falls. If your child is not athletic or coordinated, or is particularly lightweight, they would most likely benefit from a lighter bike, like the woom 1 Plus.
Performance as a Pedal Bike
There are two other well-known convertible balance bikes, the Strider 14x and the Littlebig. While each convertible balance bike has its pros and cons, they all share one common factor. The pedal bike mode is generally a temporary solution because the bike functions much better as a balance bike than it does as a pedal bike. While both of the other bikes have the pedal bike kit as an optional upgrade, it comes standard with the Xtend.
Based on our experience with the Strider 14x, we weren’t expecting to love the Xtend as a pedal bike. Like the Strider 14x, the Xtend has short crank arms and narrow pedals. The short crank arms (which attach the pedals to the frame of the bike) limit how fast a child can ride. Basically, there’s a lot of spinning of wheels for not a lot of distance.
Once a child grows confident, this will become more frustrating. That said, the crank arms of the Xtend are over a centimeter longer than the Strider 14x, allowing kids to get much better leverage on the pedals. While the Xtend isn’t perfect as a pedal bike, both our 4 and 5-year old testers fit quite naturally on it, and were able to ride sufficiently well.
Based on our testing, the Xtend does a better job as a pedal bike than the Strider 14x, and could be used as a long-term solution. It certainly won’t ride as well as a more expensive pedal bike like the woom 3 or Priority 16, but it does a pretty decent job. It’s also a significantly better fit than a cheap bike you will find at a big-box store.
Our one reco would be to buy new pedals – the standard pedals are very narrow. For long term riding, your child will benefit from a larger platform to rest their feet.
How to Extend the Frame
The frame of the bike is extended in a matter of seconds. With an Allen key, loosen the bolt on the frame. Pull to extend the frame. Re-tighten the bolt. That’s it! There are just two settings – standard frame and longer frame. You cannot set it “somewhere in the middle”.
How to Adjust the Handlebars
The handlebars adjust in two places. The height of the handlebars can be raised up to 1.75″ to accommodate much taller kids. This height is adjusted by loosening the bolt at the top of the handlebar stem, lifting the bars up, and re-tightening the bolt. Make sure than the handlebars and front wheel are aligned before you re-tighten!
For further adjustment, the handlebars can be rotated towards or away from the rider to extend or shorten the child’s reach to the handlebars.
How to Add the Pedal Assembly
The pedal assembly only takes 5 – 10 minutes to add to the SmarTrike. It secures to the frame in the same spot and with the same bolts as the foot rest.
With the bike upside down, you first remove the footrest. Then attach the chain to the chain ring, and slip the other end over the small gear on the back wheel. Nestling the pedal system onto the frame, you secure the pedaling kit to the frame with the three bolts used with the footrest.
As a last step, screw the pedals onto the crank arms. Voila! Super easy.
In balance bike mode, the Xtend has a single handbrake, which is a disc brake on the front wheel. When the pedal assembly is added, the rear wheel then has a coaster brake. So balance bike = front brake only. Pedal bike = front and rear brake.
While this set-up certainly works to keep your child safe, there are two issues. As a balance bike with a single brake, the brake lever is on the left hand because the left hand always corresponds to the front brake in the United States.
Almost all other balance bikes have their single brake lever on the right hand, attached to the rear wheel. This is because when braking with just one brake, it is safer to brake with the rear brake. Braking with the front brake only can cause the bike to lock up and throw a child over the handlebars (called an “endo”).
Realistically, a child on a balance bike usually won’t be going fast enough to endo, and this front disc brake also isn’t powerful enough to cause a child to endo. It slows the bike down rather than stops it. But children will be internalizing the motion of only braking with their left hand. When they transition to pedal bike mode, or to a 16″ pedal bike with dual hand brakes, this could be an issue if they have become accustomed to braking with their left hand only.
The second issue with the brakes is the coaster brake. A coaster brake activates when a child back pedals. When a child is learning to pedal a bike, they naturally pedal backwards. When the bike has a coaster brake, this back pedaling will cause the bike to stop, the child will lose their momentum, and is likely fall or crash.
While children certainly can learn to pedal a bike with a coaster brake, it is easier to learn without one. The Strider 14x also has a rear coaster brake in pedal bike mode, and no brake in balance bike mode. The LittleBig has dual handbrakes (no coaster brake) as a balance or pedal bike.
Wheels and Tires
With 14″ wheels, the Xtend has larger wheels than most balance bikes which have 12″ wheels. These larger wheels are appropriate for the Xtend’s frame size and seat height range, and will be a better riding experience for kids old enough and tall enough to ride the Xtend.
The air tires on the Xtend will provide the cushioning and traction necessary for a comfortable ride on a variety of terrains. With a very flat street tread, these tires are best suited for paved trails, but could handle hard packed dirt on occasion.
Saddle and Bolts
The SmarTrike Xtend’s saddle and bolts are basic quality and are both easily damaged. The saddle’s material can scuff and tear easily, while the bolts will get scratched and dented quickly as kids throw their bikes on the ground. In balance bike mode, scuffed bolts can scratch a child’s legs as they run and extend their legs behind them.
Neither of these issues are deal breakers, but for the price of the Xtend, we wish they had upgraded to a nicer saddle and flat bolts. We also wish they had included a quick-release on the seat post for easy height adjustments. To adjust the seat height, you need an Allen key. When the saddle is set low, the saddle’s shape interferes with the full rotation of the Allen key, as does the plastic chain guard once the pedal assembly is installed. It’s a bit inconvenient, but also not a deal breaker.
What’s the bottom line?
If your child is 3 or older and just starting their balance bike journey, there aren’t very many “larger” balance bikes on the market. The Xtend is one of few designed to accommodate these older riders. If you think your child will advance quickly on a balance bike and want pedals within 6 – 12 months, the SmartTrike Xtend convertible balance bike is a solid-quality, cost-effective choice. Keep in mind that you’ll have to teach your child proper hand braking technique when they advance to a 16″ bike.