The best balance bikes can give a child a significant jump-start on their way to mastering cycling. As opposed to tricycles and training wheels that emphasize the pedaling action, a balance bike shows a child how to balance on two wheels while in motion.
A balance bike can train younger riders to balance and pedal on a regular pedal bike without the need for training wheels. These benefits are found in any balance bike; riding experiences will be very different depending on how the child interfaces with their bike. The best way to make this important match is to understand the most important criteria for choosing a balance bike.
Essential Criteria for Choosing the Best Balance Bikes
Although you will see many balance bikes labeled as “one-size-fits-all,” it is important to remember that kids come in different sizes. To get the size perfect, first look at the tire size and seat height.
Tire Size — The standard balance bike wheels are 10”, 12” or 14”. A tall preschooler will use a 14” tire. The small 10” tire is usually outgrown quickly and not very common. You can get a good idea of the approximate size of a bike by the wheel it uses. Most balance bikes will also state the age group they are intended for right in the description.
Seat Height —The seat height is more important because it directly affects the dynamics of movement. A child should be able to place their feet on the ground flat and comfortable with legs slightly bent while standing. Ideally, this will mean the seat is 1” or 1.5” (2.5cm -3.8cm) below the child’s inseam.
To maximize your investment, get a seat with a maximum height of 2.5 inches above your child’s inseam. This way they will continue to use it as they grow older and bigger.
The weight ratio of a rider to balance bike must be conducive to confidence and control. A smaller 25 pound two-year-old will not move a 10-pound bike as easily as a larger 49 pound 6-year-old. The best balance bike weight is about 30% of the child’s body weight. This will ensure your child is mobile and having fun, instead of being exhausted after only a few minutes.
There are two standard actions and positions applied to balance bike riding. The first is the forward-thrust running position that gains speed. The second is the backward-thrust gliding motion powered by momentum. Select a balanced bike that provides ample room between the handlebars and the seat post for unobstructed movement.
Another point is the center of gravity which affects the control and stability of the bike. The best balance bikes have hardly any space between the rear tire and saddle in the lowest position, only enough for the tire to move freely. A larger gap indicates a higher center of gravity which makes the bike unstable for a child.
Tires will determine how smooth the riding experience is. Most common options are pneumatic, EVA foam and hard plastic. The best balance bikes use pneumatic tires which provide superior cushioning and traction for a young rider, but they also go flat and will require the odd patch or two. The “Fat Boy” air tires are a unique design for the brave youngster with a future at the skate park.
EVA foam tires are cost-effective as they will never go flat, but the traction and cushioning are considerably reduced. While this may be OK for the playground and backyard, hitting a curb or moving on certain terrain types on these tires can be unpleasant. Hard plastic offers no traction or cushioning.
Best Balance Bike Reviews
The Strider Sports Balance Bike is the most popular balance bike in the world, and for a good reason. 12” EVA-polymer wheels provide stability and sufficient traction for a young adventurer getting a feel for two wheels. The simplistic design will require minimum maintenance as EVA foam never goes flat.
The sturdy design is also very lightweight, only 6.7 lbs. This means that even 25-pound children will be able to maneuver this bike with ease. The seat is designed to fit a small body and it also features an extra-long seat post to accommodate your growing child.
Small children with an adventurous streak will benefit from the confidence-building stability of the Strider Sports Balance Bike. With its lightweight frame and small EVA puncture-proof wheels, this option is perfect for the tiny tot. It’s also available in an attractive set of colors that suits every taste.
The Schwinn Balance Bike is a great size for smallish tots but has the quality and features that grow with your child. The “foot-to-floor” design allows for the rider to contact the floor for immediate control, but also provides a footrest for maximum gliding fun.
The 12” tires are relatively small for smaller riders but feature air-tubes and Schraeder valves for improved cushioning. Pneumatic tires provide the traction and support a heavier rider will need to continue using this bike. The adjustable handlebars and seat post will accommodate your child for several years.
Because kids tend to get bigger fast, an option that provides room to grow is always a smart choice. If it is also cost-effective, that’s two great selling points. If you know a growing kid with a knack for balance and adventure, this gift could be a life-changing gesture.
The KaZam “No-Pedal” Balance bike first made an appearance on the popular TV show “Shark Tank”– obviously someone liked the idea. The KaZam Balance Bike features an innovative design, with economical EVA-polymer wheels, which require zero maintenance and never go flat.
The unique step-in design provides a rubber footrest in the most natural position along the center bar. This position keeps the feet comfortable and free to engage the ground and control the bike. The footrest closely simulates the pedaling position of a regular bike, and a young rider can become more familiar with the balancing act.
Slightly heavier than the rest, this bike weighs 8 pounds; remember to factor in the weight ratio. The seat and handlebars can be adjusted to accommodate a growing child so that you can expect plenty of return on your investment. Another nice feature was the original geometry of this bike, which provides plenty of cockpit room and a low center of gravity.
The best balance bikes for young riders provide stability, simplicity, and durability, and the KaZam possesses all these qualities. If you are looking for a no-hassle introduction to cycling balance and motion, this is an excellent choice.
The Chicco Red Bullet Balance Bike features an attractive design and a classic “candy apple” red paint job that will be the envy of the block. An ergonomically designed frame improves stability and builds confidence in a young rider. The ergonomic design and comfortable saddle also protect little riders from the shocks and bumps the EVA tires may not fully absorb. Rubber handle bars protect the wrists in the same way.
The Red Bullet’s design also has that low center of gravity that keeps your child stable as they are growing. The spacious geometry that the best balance bikes usually have is one of the key selling points for this bike, which offers plenty of room for running and gliding positions. Furthermore, the seat height and handlebar height can be adjusted for the best fit as the months and years go by.
Lightweight materials (5.95 lbs.) and puncture-proof EVA tires make the Red Bullet by Chicco one of the best bikes. Youngsters will love the comfortable ride and the look of the shiny red speedster.
The Royal Baby Balance bike features some heavy-duty “big-kid” components that make it ideal for the more mature rider. A high-tensile steel frame and wheel system ensure the bike will endure — even for generations.
Smooth-rolling pneumatic tires provide hours of feathery gliding even for larger kids. Exceptionally tall toddlers will have plenty of room for movement in the jumbo-sized cockpit. A cushioned seat and oversized rubber grips on a T-style handlebar add to the luxurious riding experience. Feet can be rested on the rear-wheel framework on patches that offer grip.
The Royal Baby Balance Bike is the best choice for a child large enough to control a 13-pound bike. The seat features an easy-to-operate seat clamp for adjustability, but the handlebars can’t be adjusted.
A smaller child may find this balance bike too heavy. While the heavy-duty framework won’t require much maintenance, the simple pneumatics system is an excellent introduction to an important aspect of cycling.
Best Balance Bike Reviews
|PICTURE||NAME BALANCE BIKE||PRICE||RATING (1-5)|
|Strider Sport Balance Bike||$$$||4.8|
|Schwinn Balance Bike||$$||4.6|
|KaZam No Pedal Balance Bike||$||4.5|
|Chicco Red Bullet Balance Training Bike||$||4.5|
|Royal Baby Balance Bike||$$||4.3|