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Balance bikes are a fantastic introduction to riding a bike as they can be used at a much younger age than bikes with pedals and stabilisers. Balance bikes emphasise practicing balance before pedals, which is arguable a better way to learn how to ride a full bike sooner.
There are a few good balance bikes for 2 year olds and up on the market and here’s a rundown of what we found to be the best out of the lot of them.
Balance bikes for toddlers reviews
Banana Bike LT
It’s quite easy to look at the cost of a balance bike to determine how good they are, but it simply isn’t the case. A balance bike should be fun but ultimately the gateway to a pedal bike. Therefore, the best balance bike should be comfortable, easy to use and adjustable. The Banana bike ticks all of these boxes and available at a very reasonable price. Let’s take a look.
First of all, the banana frame doesn’t get in the way as they propel themselves forward and the lower angle doesn’t get touched if they come off their seat. The lower bar also makes it easier for your toddler to step on to the bike to begin with – and a little less daunting.
The tyres are made with foam which has plenty of grip but can be worn down with very regular use. They are a little small which is fantastic at age 2 but it does limit the speed at age 4. Sadly, replacing them isn’t worth the hassle so this isn’t going to be a bike which will stay in the family like an heirloom. But, it should last for 2-3 children.
The handlebar is higher than the seat as a default which keeps your toddler’s back straight as they use it. Both the seat and the handlebar are adjustable, as you’d expect. The low seat makes it suitable for age 2, 3 and 4. Just in time for a pedal bike.
Ultimately, this is a bike which is subtle in its design but it works. A toddler should be able to get to grips with it easily and quickly and the adjustments can keep them interested for a few years.
BIKESTAR Safety Lightweight Kids First Running Balance Bike with brakes
Quite possibly the ultimate balance bike if money was no object. This balance bike has got it all, to be honest, and then some. For some it might be too much but for others it’s the perfect gift for their perfect little boy or girl.
First, the saddle. Impressively comfortable with a slight angle to handle the weight of the toddler. Made with fake leather and water resistant. Perfect for sunny days and rainy days. The seat is fully adjustable with an Allen key as you’d expect.
The frame is solid and thick which can handle toddlers age 3 and 4 with ease. There’s a slight bend to make it easy to get on and so that it doesn’t get in the way during a balance biking session.
The tyres are proper air tyres with a similar feeling to a proper pedal bike, this can help them to get used to what their inevitable bike will feel like. They have alloy spokes and really look the real deal. This will definitely make your toddler feel like they’re part of the gang which will definitely make them more keen to learn to balance.
Lastly, possibly the pièce de résistance is that the bike has a brake lever which works the rear break. This means they don’t need to use their feet to slow down and stop. They work a treat as long as it’s not yanked too quickly when they’re going too fast.
It’s hard to imagine a balance bike with more features than this, it could be impossible. Therefore, we think this is the best balance bike when money is no object. Important to remember, all balance bikes will end up getting to the same goal but this is just a flashier way to do it.
Birtech Balance Bike
Every product review list we publish has a budget option and here it is. This budget balance bike still has all the bells and whistles you’d expect other than the brake. The aluminium frame has a square angled frame to get on and off easily and the seat has a slight curve which makes it quite comfortable.
This bike is excellent value for money and to be honest it will do the job just as well as the rest, what it does lack is just what you’d expect from a budget balance bike which is overall polish and precision engineering. It’s a bit heavier, somewhat clunkier but it has one of the lowest price and significantly cheaper than the best balance bikes on the UK market.
The Hornit AIRO is a rather niche balance bike as it incorporates a lot of professional tech from an adult bike with pedals to be enjoyed by young riders. For starters the frame is made with magnesium alloy which is super lightweight and hard wearing resulting in a balance bike that weighs just 2.95kg. The magnesium alloy is also somewhat bendy which makes tight turns a little easier to take.
Perhaps its biggest strength is the gripped footrest and tapered central bar which makes free wheeling more comfortable, if you read our guide on how to get a child to learn how to balance then this is a pretty nifty addition. Moreover, the wheels are air filled which gives the same feedback as a pedal bike which can make the transition from one to the other more smooth.
The seat height and handlebar can all be adjusted with three bolts only for quick assembly but it does lack a quick release seat post, something most of the balance bikes we’ve reviewed also do, to be fair. Suitable for kids age range of 18 months (very low, we love this) to 5 years old. Quite a large range which makes it a great investment.
AIRO believe these are the best balance bikes for toddlers and we don’t disagree. It is a brilliant balance bike with six colours to choose from. Riding this is so much more fun than one with training wheels. The only point is that it is quite expensive and one of the most expensive on the market – but, does the product validate this cost? Yes it does.
Yvolution Y Velo Toddler Balance Bike
This one was reviewed and chosen because it tries something different and is the highest rated balance bike with over 2,300 reviews on Amazon and other retailers making it one of the most risk free purchases for those cautious parents looking for the best balance bikes for toddlers.
The most glaring feature of this bike is that there are two rear training wheels which gives a little bit of a hand in keeping them balanced but stopping short of being proper training wheels and hindering their independence. The double training wheels can be reduced later on to become solo and acting like a proper balance bike. The wheel size is the same as the other balance bikes which makes it ideal for toddlers 18 months to 5 years old.
However, the wheels are solid tyres which are a bit slick and not great on anything rough or bumpy or even slick. Sadly, they are not the best tyres out there on the market despite the configuration being an unique selling point for them. But, out of 2,300 reviews no one seemed to complain about slipping or falling off.
The seat height starts off low but can be adjusted without an Allen key which is a minor bonus. Same goes for the handlebars. The central bar is the opposite of a banana but our son did not struggle to get on off and neither did it seem to get in his way.
Overall, we thought this bike was OK and the double wheel system a little bit of a gimmick but the thousands of positive reviews do not agree with us. If you’re after a well reviewed bike and happy to take our review with a pinch of salt then this is perhaps the best balance bike for toddlers. Read more from the manufacturer here.
Balance Bike For Toddler buying guide
What is a balance bike?
Simply put, a balance bike is a bike without the pedals, drivetrain, chains or a free wheel. It is used by placing feet on the floor and using their legs for forward momentum but the rest of the bike is the same as usual – it has handlebars, lightweight metal frame, two tires and a seat.
Bikes without pedals have been in existence for quite a bit of time, first being reported in 1817 and called a “dandy bike”. However, they weren’t commercialised or popularised until the late 1990’s by German designer Rolf Mertens.
Younger toddlers can use balance bikes because they do not need as much strength to propel themselves when compared to peddling. This makes them more accessible and helps younger children become more active as they can cover more distance using less energy with a balance bike against simply walking and running.
Will they learn to ride a bike quicker with a balance bike?
It is commonly accepted that children will eventually learn how to ride a full bike quicker when they have been practicing with a balance bike when compared to a bike with stabilisers. This is because balance bicycles emphasis balance and coordination which are arguably two of the greatest obstacles to learning how to ride a full bike.
The problem with stabilisers is that they take away the challenge of riding a bike and can make children dependent on them, creating bad habits. Their balancing muscles aren’t tested and they experience a false sense of security that all they need to do is just peddle.
After mastering a balance bike, learning how to handle turns and managing speed all that’s left is peddling. The rest they already know.
What’s wrong with stabilisers?
There’s nothing wrong with stabilisers to teach a child to ride a bike, but they do it in a different way and order. A balance bike for your child teaches them about balanced and how to lean into corners first; essentially how to keep the balance bike upright and not falling over. But, it doesn’t teach them to pedal – that comes later. However, many could argue that the pedalling is the easy bit. A disadvantage of balance bikes over bikes with stabilisers is that they can outgrow them sooner than bikes with training stabilisers.
Stabilisers, however, are designed to keep the bike upright so that the child focusses on just the pedalling. This is safer and arguably more fun and less taxing. But, it can be a bit of a shock when the stabilisers are taken away and the pedalling seems useless. But, a big advantage is that a bike with stabilisers can be used for much longer and a longer investment.
Worth considering both of the above points before buying a balance bike.
What age should a child have a balance bike?
For balance bikes to be used effectively, children should be confident and established walkers as a bare minimum. Balance bikes do take some strength to operate so toddlers who are still getting to grips with walking and running may struggle. With this in mind, toddlers age 2 and up are likely to get the best out of a balancing bicycle.
Balance bikes are adjustable and can grow with your child by raising the seat and the handlebars so they will get a fair bit of use out of them before an upgrade is needed or they move on to proper pedal bikes.
How to teach a child to use a balance bike
If your child has never used any kind of ride-on such as a car or rocking horse then a steel frame bike with foam tyres may look alien to them. They will need some guidance to get going. With that in mind, this is a timely reminder to never let your child play with an age inappropriate toy. Follow the recommended ages for your chosen lightweight aluminium balance and steer bicycle which is usually at least 2.
A child does need a certain level of strength and balance for this activity to be successful, otherwise it can be frustrating for all. Now that’s out of the way, it’s time for Step 1, grab your Allen key.
Step 1 – Sitting position
The first step is to get your child to sit on the bike with their fleet flat on the floor. Their feet must be flat on the floor even when seated otherwise they won’t be able to push themselves forward. Work the adjustable saddle so that there is a slight bend in their legs and not straight.
Step 2 – Handlebar position
There is some leeway with the handlebar position, however, it needs to be at a height where their back is straight when they are sat down with feet on the floor. It should not be out of reach (obviously) and close enough that they can fully turn the steering wheel to the point the steering limiter stops them. Ensure that there IS a steering limiter.
Step 3 – Get them to walk
Before they can be flying around the local park they need to get comfortable, straddle the bike and walk a bit. A lightbulb moment for our son when he was first practicing on his balance bike was when he realised it became easier to use when he kept his bum on the seat. Keeping their bum on the seat lets lets their little legs get more drive on the floor and push forwards. So our recommendation here is to get them into the habit of keeping their bum on the seat and trying to walk (straddle).
Don’t rush on this step. We are firm believers that getting your child to want to ride their quality balance bike will get the results much quicker.
Step 5 – Get them to stride
Our son didn’t need encouraging at this point. Once he knew to keep his bum down the striding came naturally. This is where they are starting to get some speed. The trick here is patience, let them practice the walking, get stronger, and get more confidence. A top secret tip for us here is to prey on young children’s desire to keep up with older kids and take them to places where other children on balance bikes can be seen and let them watch.
Alternatively, whip out your own pedal bike and show them how to stride!
Make adjustments to the saddle and handlebars if you think they need more or less heigh on either.
Step – 6 Balancing on their own
One of the final steps to teaching your toddler how to balance and using their bikes to their full capabilities and take their feet on the floor as they move. For us, our son started experimenting and trying this all on his own without intervention. Whenever he did this, we would lavish praise on him for trying to encourage him to keep doing it.
Learning how to take their feet from the floor and balance on their own is crucial to making the transition to pedal bikes easier.
Our best tip for this, and it can be a little exhausting (for you), is to ask them to raise their feet while you push them along on their bike. You’re bringing the forward motion but they are learning how to balance. This can be pretty fun so your child will want to do it for themselves to replicate that experience.
Step 7 – Stay consistent
From here on in it’s just about staying consistent, encouraging your child to want to get out as much as possible. Make a point of asking them if they want to ride their bike, or take the bike with you when going to the park etc so that it’s always there if they fancy it.
There’s nothing more you can do at this point and in time they will get it and be on their way to learning a lifelong skill! Once you learn how to ride a bike it never leaves you. “Just like riding a bike!” as they say!
Balance Bikes for Toddlers FAQs
Is a balance bike for your child a good idea?
Yes, practicing on a bike is a lifelong skill that promotes healthy exercise and getting out of the house. We can’t see a single negative to getting a bike for your child other than to be vigilant with them when they’re near roads where cars drive.
When can a child use balance bikes?
Balance bikes are suitable for kids from around the age of 18 months. Or, whenever they are established and confident walkers and have their feet flat with slight bend in their knees. Adjust the saddle height if you need to – the best balance bikes all have an adjustable saddle. Kids need a certain level of strength to be able to propel themselves forward otherwise it will be a little useless.
It can be difficult to find helmets for smaller heads on very young kids.
Do kids need to wear a helmet when riding on balance bikes?
Yes, absolutely. Your child may be close to the floor on balance bikes but that doesn’t mean they can’t hurt their heads. More importantly, crash helmets can also protect them from hurting themselves when impacted by others and no just when they fall down themselves.
Do balance bikes need a brake?
Not many balance bikes have a brake lever, front brake or a rear brake. They never go too fast on balance bikes unless they’re over 3 and typically they will have learned to slow/stop themselves with their own feet. Also, a brake can be dangerous as they can press it too hard and propel themselves forward and over the handlebar. However, we have listed a model with a brake if you are insistent on having one.
What kind of wheels do the best balance bikes for toddlers need?
The best tyres are air tyres overall, but they are not necessary for entry level bikes for a younger child. Most entry level bikes will have puncture proof foam tyres which are more than adequate for early years. Some may come with solid tyres which can be a little slippy. Puncture resistant air tyres offer the best grip, comfort and are close to the same feel of the pedal bike they will probably use but they command a higher price for that privilege.
What frame does the best balance bikes have?
Pretty much all the bikes we’ve reviewed used an aluminium frame with the exception of one which was magnesium. The standard aluminium frame on kids bikes is very strong and sturdy and impossible to break.