Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bike?
You probably had a real bicycle and your parents attached training wheels – except people have now realized training wheels aren’t the best way to teach you how to ride.
Riding a bike is about keeping your balance by moving forward but training wheels actually prevent a kid from experiencing this, encouraging them to rely on the extra wheels instead.
Another option is a balance bike. These teach kids how to balance themselves just by pushing themselves forwards with their feet so there’s no need to think about pedaling – and many believe this is a much faster and more efficient way to teach them to ride a bike.
Here is our guide to choosing the best balance bike for your toddler so he or she can learn how to ride quickly and safely – all while having a whole lot of fun!
We are impressed by almost everything about the Woom balance bike. It is so well designed, and it looks like they really had kids in mind when they were creating it. The bike is super-lightweight so it’s easy for kids to control and steer, and it has a low seat with a low center of gravity.
One nice feature of this bike is the very low frame which makes it easy for young kids to step in and out of it. The high handlebars with oversteer limiter help kids feel confident while they learn to steer safely. The simple brake will be very easy for them to understand.
One slightly frustrating negative about this bike is that the adjustable seat isn’t quite adjustable enough – which may end up limiting its lifespan. Other than that, the price tag might be a little high for some – but you expect to pay for the best quality.
- Safety features including steering limiter, high handlebars and simple to operate brake
- Low center of gravity
- Well-conceived and well-designed product
We Didn’t Like:
- Can’t raise the bike seat high enough for larger kids
This model is lightweight and comfortable, and we also really appreciated the bike’s padded handlebars for extra safety. This is the ‘sport’ version which is more adjustable than the standard model, something that will increase the life-span of the bike.
We loved the bike’s cool retro style and your kids will look so cute nipping around on one of these. The lack of brakes means that kids can focus solely on the most important thing – balance – before they are ready to move onto anything else.
Our main issue with this balance bike is the lack of any oversteer protection. Kids will need to be taught not to steer too strongly at the beginning or they may end up learning the hard way with a couple of tumbles.
- Highly adjustable
- Lightweight, comfortable and easy to control
- Cool retro look
We Didn’t Like:
- No oversteer protection
- Perhaps not the best option for kids under two
Best budget pick
The most obvious advantage here is bike’s price – but that doesn’t mean this is a “cheap” bike, in terms of quality at least. We like the 12-inch air tires and the comfortable adjustable cushioned seat that will allow your little one to have hours of fun on this without getting a sore behind.
We also like the classic look and we thought the little bell was a cute touch too. It is easy to balance on, so kids will be able to learn quickly, and there are no brakes, so no confusing distractions for younger children.
Having said this is a good quality bike, this is, of course, relative to the price. It represents excellent value but is clearly not in the same league as top-of-the-range balance bikes. We also think that two years is the lower age limit for this and smaller children might find it too large.
- Great value for money
- Comfortable and easy to ride
- Cute bell
We Didn’t Like:
- Not of the same quality as the more highly-priced alternatives
- Not suitable for smaller children
Best looking balance bike
Everything about this bike is well-thought out and well made. It is super light, possibly the lightest on the market, and will be very easy for little kids to control. It is highly adjustable and is suitable for children of anything between 18 months and about five years.
The handlebars feature soft grips and the saddle is extra-comfy, meaning they will be able to play for hours on these. There are no brakes to confuse younger kids, and it also has integrated footrests for when they are confidently cruising along.
There’s very little we can find wrong with this bike. If there’s one complaint, it might be this: while this bike is ideal for younger kids and is easily adjustable as they grow, the lack of a brake might be a problem for older kids. This is only a small point, however – we love this great looking bike.
- Great looking with several color options
- Easily adjustable, don’t need tools
We Didn’t Like:
- No brake – good for younger kids but maybe not for older ones
- Quite expensive – but you pay for quality
Best wooden balance bike
If you want a wooden balance bike for your toddler, this would be the best option. It has a birch wood frame and features rubber hand grips and rubber 12-inch wheels. It is easy to adjust so you will get plenty of use out of it as your kids grow.
This bike is made of good quality materials and is well constructed so it should last a long time – even if it finds itself on the receiving end of a little rough treatment. Another point worth mentioning is that this is a company with an excellent reputation for customer service.
On the downside, perhaps for some at least, is the fact that the bike does not arrive fully assembled and you will need to spend a little time putting it together. Another minor gripe is that the bike saddle is not the most comfortable, although most kids probably won’t notice.
- Cute retro look
- Good quality materials and construction
- Less expensive than some metal options
We Didn’t Like:
- Needs to be assembled when you take it from the box
- Uncomfortable saddle
- Wood is less durable than metal
Best pre-balance bike
We love this bike’s innovative design. At one year, kids are still babies and certainly not old enough to play on a regular balance bike – but when this is in trike mode, even a toddler of that age will be able to try it. Once they become too old for a trike, it easily converts to two-wheel mode.
The high-quality and lightweight design is perfect for younger kids and the choice of vibrant colors means they are sure to love the bike you choose for them. Since younger kids are more likely to play indoors, the non-marking wheels will also be kind on your floors.
One small problem with this bike is the adjustability – the lowest position for the seat is only possible in three-wheel mode and the highest is only possible in two-wheel mode, which detracts a little from the adaptability. It’s not a huge problem, though, and this is still a great choice.
- Innovative design suitable for very young kids – and adapts as they grow
- Vibrant colors that younger kids will love
- Lightweight design
We Didn’t Like:
- Lowest position of seat only in three-wheel mode, highest only in two-wheel mode
- Plastic may not be as durable as a metal or wooden option
- May quickly become too small if your child grows quickly
Best safe rider
We like the design – it’s a balance bike for toddlers but it manages to look like a more grown-up bike and we’re sure lots of kids will appreciate that. It’s suitable for kids as young as two but it has a brake – so they can learn how to operate that from a young age.
We like the safety features – young kids can sometimes be a little over-ambitious and this bike is designed to make sure they don’t have to learn the hard way about going too fast or steering too hard. The removable foot peg is a nice touch, too, and gives them somewhere to put their feet.
For us, the main issue is the quality. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the bike, it is less well-made than some of the top end models available. This bike will be fine for a kid to learn on but probably won’t last for years and years.
- Slow speed for safety
- Steering limiter
- Removable foot peg
We Didn’t Like:
- Slightly lower quality than more expensive models
- Brake not the most efficient
- Slightly expensive for what it is
This is such a smart design. For younger children who are only just learning to walk, the trike mode is ideal – but as they grow older, you can change it to suit their size and ability. This bike will last from when they are very young right up to when they are ready for a real pedal bike.
It is also made from high-quality materials. It is mainly constructed from sustainably-forested birch and eucalyptus, and the wood gives it a classy retro look. The standard of manufacturing is very high, and the bike is easy to assemble. A great choice for all ages of toddler.
Perhaps one of the only negatives is the price. This is one of the most expensive balance bikes on the market and even though it is very well made and is certain to last many years, some people might balk at the idea of spending so much money on something for a preschooler.
- Highly versatile
- Highest-quality materials
- Classy retro look
We Didn’t Like:
- Pricey option
- Maybe a little heavy for the youngest kids
- Wood tends to suffer more than metal when subjected to rough treatment
One of the things we liked about this bike was the big wheels and rubber tires – it’s ideal for riding on all kinds of terrain, including grass and gravel and it’s a great option for someone with energetic and adventurous kids. It also has a shock-absorbing frame to protect fragile spines from jolts.
It has a steering limiter to help your child falling off from oversteering and the brake is well-designed, so they will quickly be able to learn how to use it to stop. The saddle is a good shape to stop kids toppling off and it’s adjustable, so you kids will get a few good years’ use from this bike.
Only a couple of negative points about this one. First, the saddle is great at keeping kids in place – but it does make it a little harder to get on and off than other bikes. Second, the saddle is also a little tricky to adjust. Only minor issues, though. Overall a worthy choice.
- Tough design
- Great for adventurous kids, good for off-road riding
- Shock absorbing frame
We Didn’t Like:
- Hard to get on and off
- Saddle tricky to adjust
Quick Start Buyers Guide
What is a balance bike?
Believe it or not, balance bikes have been around for longer than regular bicycles! Invented in the early 1800s, the original balance bike, known as the dandy horse, was a kind of bicycle with no pedals that the (adult) rider propelled forward with a kind of striding motion.
At some point, much more recently, somebody realized that this is actually a great way for young kids to learn how to ride a bike. Unlike attaching training wheels to a regular bike with pedals and brakes to confuse them, all a toddler needs to think about is moving forward and staying up.
In this way, kids as young as 18 months can learn balance and coordination while increasing their confidence and independence in a safe way – and at the same time having a huge amount of fun.
Balance bike vs. regular with training wheels
What are the advantages of a balance bike? Well, as just stated, the first advantage is their simplicity. Balance bikes are very intuitive to ride, and toddlers tend to pick it up very quickly.
More than this, some people actually believe using training wheels slows down a child’s learning. The child learns to rely on the wheels to stay upright, even when they stop. On a balance bike, they quickly understand the concept that you stay up by moving forward.
This can be countered by progressively moving the training wheels further from the ground but at some point, you still need to remove them altogether and this can be a terrifying moment for a child. Do you still remember the day you removed your training wheels and how you felt?
In fact, the day you remove the training wheels can actually be quite a dangerous moment for a toddler. All of a sudden, the child needs to think about pedaling and braking and staying upright – and they may just end up pedaling faster and faster in panic until they crash into something.
If a child learns on a balance bike, this is much less likely to happen. They already have a feel for being on two wheels and know how to stop with their feet. The progression to a regular bicycle will be much more natural and less daunting after gaining experience on a balance bike first.
What to think about when looking for a balance bike
There are now many balance bikes on the market and it can be hard to choose the best one for your toddler. Here are a few of the most important considerations to take into account before you decide which one to buy:
The first thing to think about is the age of the toddler you are buying for. The best balance bikes are usually made for kids aged between about 18 months and five years, after which they will normally make the transition to a regular bicycle.
If you are buying for a very young child, you might consider a pre-balance bike. This is a kind of hybrid between a balance bike and a tricycle.
At a very young age, kids can’t be expected to balance by themselves – they’re only just learning how to walk – but a pre-balance bike allows them to feel the sensation of propelling themselves forward without the risk of falling over.
Other balance bikes are made for a range of ages. If you hope for your tot to get the maximum use from the balance bike, choose one that is suitable for a range of ages.
Size and shape
Choose a bike that has enough space for the young rider between the handlebars and the saddle. The child’s feet should be able to reach the ground so they can push themselves forward easily and stop safely when they need to.
A lower seating position gives a lower center of gravity and makes the bike easier to balance. If it is too heavy, it will be harder to control, steer or stop, so try to choose one that is not too heavy relative to your child’s weight.
If you choose a bike of the perfect size and weight, it will help your child quickly master the bike and they will quickly be able to walk, scoot, cruise and stop with ease.
One way to make sure your kid can use the bike for the longest amount of time is to buy an adjustable one. If you can raise the saddle, the bike will grow with your child, meaning he or she can continue to use it for several years.
Wood or metal?
Wooden balance bikes have a retro look that harks back to the original dandy horses of the 19th century and when you see you little guys charging around on them, they just look undeniably cute. However, if you have kids that tend to bash things up, wooden bikes might be more easily damaged.
A metal bike might be able to stand up to more rough treatment and some of them look pretty smart too, so in the end, this might just be a question of what style you prefer – and of course, which bike your child will enjoy riding the most.
Brakes or no brakes?
The question of whether to go with or without brakes is a tricky one. Brakes can make the bike safer as it’s easier to stop. But would younger children know how to use them? Is it something else for them to think about that might confuse them? Or is it valuable to learn early?
Our advice is this: for younger children, you don’t need brakes. They (probably) won’t be hurtling around fast enough to need them and they won’t understand how to work them anyway.
However, once they are a little older, four or five, for example, brakes can be useful. Kids can learn how they work and they will already have mastered them when they are ready to move onto full regular bicycles.
There are many great options out there and choosing the best balance bike can be a little daunting. The good news is that many of them are of very high quality and whichever one you choose, you can be sure your little one is going to love it.
Much of which one you finally choose will come down to personal taste – do you prefer the retro wooden look? Or perhaps you like something that looks more modern and up to date. When choosing a bike for a kid, the color is obviously very important too!
Whichever you choose, balance bikes are a great way for younger kids to learn to ride, and soon enough, you will see them progress to riding a proper grown-up bike – too soon, many parents might say!
Having looked at a number of balance bikes, there are many we like – but for us, with its versatility, durability, ease of use and range of available colors, without a doubt, the pick of the bunch is the Woom 1 Balance Bike and in our opinion, this is the one to go for.
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