A foot-powered balance bike delivers lessons for the body that training wheels can’t teach, and these are the best of the best for toddlers.
We all started with the basics before tackling a mountain bike trail’s curves and aggressive terrain. These kids’ balance bikes, also called glider bikes or strider bikes, help a wide range of kids quickly learn to ride.
Choosing the right ride for your toddler takes some time. You’ll need to make decisions between air tires or foam tires, aluminum frame or steel, hand brakes or fully free, and the list goes on. Fortunately, we’ve done a lot of the legwork for you, so cruise straight down to the buyer’s guide and FAQ to help the big decisions feel a bit easier.
We’ve got the right balance bike for toddlers of all sizes and abilities on the list. Scroll and look around, and check out the bikes we ranked:
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Best Under 18 Months
- Best Trike to Bike
- Best Pedal Conversion
- Best for the Planet
- Best Ultralight
Balance bikes are the next big move in teaching kids to ride a bike, but there’s a lot more to it than just buying the bike. After picking out the bike, check out our article on How to Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike to learn how to teach your child to use a balance bike.
The Best Balance Bikes of 2022
Best Overall: Woom 1
The Woom 1 ($199) was made with all the safety features mom and dad need to feel comfortable and happy sending their kid soaring down the pavement. The steering limiter developed by Woom prevents accidental overturning for added safety.
When you look at the specs on this bike, it’s built to the standards of top-tier bike manufacturers. A lightweight aluminum frame is crafted with a low entry and long wheelbase to make this bike easy to step into and comfortable to ride. The mini V-brake is adapted specifically for children, and the ultralight “SOOPA DOOPA HOOPS” aluminum rims point toward safety and comfort for all toddlers.
Overall, there are many reasons why this balance bike takes the “best of the best” spot. Even with a smaller seat adjustment range, you can still put this down as the absolute best for beginners. While it could use an even longer seat post to adjust for bigger youngsters, it will allow for enough adjustability to grow to fit your child for several years.
- Age range: 1.5-3.5 yrs.
- Seat height: 10-14 in.
- Has a brake
- Super lightweight
- Great for beginners
- Seat post has a relatively narrow height range
Runner-Up: Strider 12
Honestly, the Strider 12 ($110) only sits at the number-two spot because there can’t be two number ones. This one will stay in the family for generations and is perfect for a multi-child home.
The Strider 12 has a durable steel frame bike with foam tires that will never go flat, built-in footrests, and a fully adjustable seat post and handlebar that doesn’t require a single tool. This is one of the most low-maintenance bikes you can find, making it one of our favorite picks for parents that already have a lot to manage.
The Strider bikes have a great range of accessories to add to their balance bikes. Strap it into the Strider Rocking Base and have your toddler practice their balance before ever approaching the pavement. While the bike doesn’t come with a hand brake, you can buy a brake to add when your toddler is ready.
The one thing we wish this bike could give us is an easy way to slow down the kids who, in true Ricky Bobby fashion, like to go fast. If some brakes were incorporated into this design, we’d be forced to move it up in our ranking of the best balance bikes.
- Age range: 18 mo. to 5 yrs.
- Seat height: 11-19 in.
- All-around solid bike
- Works with the Strider Rocking Base
- No-tool assembly
- No brakes
Best Budget: Chillafish Charlie
Kids can outgrow their bikes quickly. It’s one of the things they do best. If you’re disinterested in spending more than $100 on something that will end up gathering dust in the garage a few years down the line, the Chillafish Charlie balance bike ($50) is the perfect pick. It even manages to do so without sacrificing every last bit of quality.
This budget balance bike features no-puncture tires and an extremely lightweight design. On top of that, there’s a carrying handle incorporated for all the moms and dads who are forced to haul the bike back to the car once their toddler tires out.
There’s not much fluff to the Charlie rider. It’s simply designed and does exactly what it’s made to do, no more, no less. Chillafish pushes a stylistic design that can be customized with stickers, which is a unique and creative touch.
All in all, this is an awesome and affordable balance bike. The only other thing we’d like to see is a bit more range in the seat height so kids don’t outgrow it so fast.
- Age range: 18-48 mo.
- Seat height: 11-14.5 in.
- Incredibly affordable
- Simple design
- Small range of seat height
Best for Under 18 Months: Retrospec Cricket
The Retrospec Cricket ($50) is made to turn your youngster into the balance bike toddler of the neighborhood. The design is simple and accommodating for kids between one and 2 years. Retrospec claims that the Cricket helps develop bilateral coordination without any dangers of rickety training wheels or high seats.
Not only does this bike help introduce kids to biking, but it also does it with a high level of safety. The wheels are rounded, so they aren’t a danger to tiny legs, they don’t scratch your kitchen floors, and they don’t let the bike move super fast.
While the Cricket looks great on paper, it’s a single size that will be quickly outgrown. An adjustable seat would significantly improve the design and allow your toddler to ride past 2 years.
Also, are we meant to ignore the warning about toxic lead at the bottom of the page? That being said, if you want to get a balance bike before your kid is tall enough for the others, this is the one.
- Age range: 12-24 mo.
- Seat height: N/A
- Great size for beginner riders at a young age
- Four-wheel balanced safety
- Gentle edges and scratchless wheels
- Toddlers grow fast, and the Cricket doesn’t
Best Trike to Bike: Wishbone 3in1
The Wishbone 3in1 ($250) is potentially the most unique choice on our list. It pairs well with a VW minivan that your family lives out of and the Instagram page that may fund the fun and adventurous lifestyle that it takes you on. Style aside, the 3in1 is still a fantastic choice for beginner riders to learn on — and continue progressing forward with — as they age.
The tricycle design is easily converted over to a two-wheel version, meaning that it adapts easily as your toddler gains confidence and competence. The wooden materials come from sustainable sources, making fixes and adjustments doable without an engineering degree.
The sleek wooden frame design incorporates a steering limiter and adjustable seat. The frame can switch from low to high rise, almost doubling the seat height range. There’s not much to say against this bike until you check the price tag. It’s an investment but may last a long time in the family.
- Age range: 1-5 yrs.
- Seat height: 11-18 in.
- Trike and bike mode
- Wide age range
- Sustainable and safe build
- High price tag
Best Pedal Conversion: Strider 14x
When you can’t control how quickly your kid grows up, there are still some things in your life you can control. One of those things is choosing a good balance bike to grow up with and have around for a long time. That bike is the Strider 14x ($150).
Not only does the Strider 14x have a wide range in both age and seat height, but it also comes along with the ability to convert it to a pedal bike when the time comes. It’s made to teach and help young riders to start and continue shredding.
The bike is naturally a bit bigger than the rest, so if you’re looking to start young, you may need to add another bike into the picture as well. Otherwise, the Strider 14x has the potential to stay around for the long haul.
- Age range: 3-7 yrs.
- Seat height: 16-23 in.
- Sprocket assembly converts to pedal bike
- Wide range of size adjustment
- Too big for tiny beginners
Best for the Planet: Kinderfeets Wood Balance Bike
Worried about all the rubber and metal you’re throwing away every time you buy something new? The Kinderfeets Wood Balance Bike ($99) is on the market to help ease the environmental mind by creating a quality pedal-less bike with sustainable bamboo and fully biodegradable tires.
Put it up against other bikes on this list, and you’ll see a lot of similarities. There’s a step-through frame for little ones, tires that don’t need air, a fully adjustable seat and handlebars, a steering limiter, and all the other bells and whistles you want.
The only complaint we’ve found is with difficulty adjusting the bike’s sizes and the potential for the bike to fall apart. So, you may need to be competent in using tools and feel comfortable doing a bit more tinkering to keep this balance bike in working form.
- Age range: 2-6 yrs.
- Seat height: 12-15 in.
- Fully sustainable materials
- Turning limiter
- Customizable chalkboard finish
- More difficult to adjust
Best Ultralight Bike: TheCroco Balance Bike
Lugging around a toddler’s heavy toys is one of the least fun parts of parenting. TheCroco Balance Bike ($70) takes that away and brings an ultralight balance bike into the picture. The aluminum frame and EVA foam tires are perfect for parents who want their kids to carry their own bikes.
On top of the standard features, TheCroco has sealed ball bearings that prevent tires from starting to wobble over time and protect it from the elements. Most ultralight gear tends to be fast to break, but on TheCroco, the aluminum will never rust and the tires won’t go flat. Essentially, this bike will be a challenge to break by even the rowdiest of kids.
The main issue with this bike is that it’s on the smaller side. Even though the seat height range is expected, the frame is smaller than most. This can make it a bit wonky for kids to crouch into position as they grow. Nevertheless, there’s no real competition for TheCroco if you’re looking to slim down on some weight.
- Age range: 1.5-5 yrs.
- Seat height: 11.5-16 in.
- Ultralight at 4.3 lbs.
- Tool-free adjustment
- EVA polymer tires don’t go flat
- Reportedly a bit small
The Best Balance Bikes of 2022: How to Choose
What Is a Balance Bike?
Balance bikes are designed to provide toddlers with a way to develop balance and comfort on a bike before their feet ever leave the ground. With the pedals removed, kids go back to the age of the Flintstones and are fully foot-powered. This gives them far more control and a slow introduction to the use of muscles they may not have been using before.
Using a balance bike to learn how to ride allows for a gradual and close-to-the-ground method of learning to ride. If a toddler wants to get on the local mountain bike trails, starting here will be best for their future confidence.
Even for what seems to be a simple beginner’s toy for toddlers, there’s still a lot that goes into picking the right one.
One of the best places to start is looking straight at the age range. This will quickly tell you if your toddler is even in the running for a particular bike. The age range for balance bikes happens to align with one of the time periods where kids are growing the fastest and needing a new pair of pants every other day.
Looking at the age range will narrow the playing field quickly and easily. For example, the Strider 14x will be a great fit even for 5-year-olds in higher percentiles for size, while TheCroco Balance Bike might not be.
There aren’t many huge differences in the age ranges, as most of the balance bikes on this list are adjustable. There are a few exceptions, like the Retrospec Cricket. This four-wheeler is made for tiny tots under 24 months, and that may be pushing it.
All kids are different, and there can be major size differences between two kids born on the same day, so there are a few more aspects to consider.
The seat height will be one of the best indicators for fit on a balance bike. Unlike with age range, you can easily measure this before making a purchase and make a more informed decision.
A balance bike with a wide range in seat height will be the most likely to grow along with your kid. In general, you’re looking at starting at 10 inches to about a 19-inch maximum height.
It’s essential to keep in mind that seat height isn’t the only aspect of the bike that will influence how comfortable your toddler feels on it. The bike’s geometry needs to be built to keep a kid upright or very slightly leaning forward. A short distance between the handlebars and seat post will result in a rider that looks like they’re trying to get into the fetal position.
The most accurate way to figure out if a bike will fit your child is to pull out the measuring tape. Most bike manufacturers will recommend a bike based on inseam measurements. It’s an easy measurement to take quickly or even find on the label of a pair of pants. This will give you the best information to determine whether a bike will fit properly.
While it’s nearly impossible to adjust the length between the handlebars and the seat, some bikes manage to make adjustments in other ways. The frame of the Wishbone 3in1 can be flipped upside down to shift the step-in height. This can dramatically change the bike’s fit and access for younger ages.
Another place to look for size adjustability is in the handlebars. Most balance bikes are equipped with a steerer tube that can shift the height of the handlebars.
The more you raise the seat height and keep the handlebars the same, the further forward you’ll start to hunch. This can lead to knees knocking into the handlebars, unstable positioning, and a general hatred of riding.
For kids, comfort is one of the best ways to trick them into liking something. If your toddler isn’t comfy on the bike they’re learning on, they may not want to keep trying.
Larger balance bikes are a good choice if your kid is above the average height but aren’t typically necessary. The largest bike on our list, the Strider 14x, has a 14-inch wheel size, which can be a bit too much for younger kids to handle.
We’d recommend starting with the smaller bikes and then adjusting them to their max. Then you can move on to one of the larger balance bikes that can be fitted with pedals when your child is ready.
The final aspect of sizing is the step-in or stand-over height. A low step-in height allows younger and shorter kids to stand on the bike comfortably. They should never be sitting on the bike’s main tube.
No matter the age or size of your child, they should be able to stand with their feet flat on the ground when straddling the bike’s main tube. This will let them slowly move toward bringing their legs up off the ground and feeling more comfortable with the bike in general, even if that means just walking with their hands on the handlebars.
A 12-inch balance bike (like the Strider 12) has a step-in height of about 7 to 8 inches. That’s an excellent fit for average 2-year-olds.
Not only does a lower step-in height help access, but it also lowers the center of gravity. The lower the center of gravity, the more stable the rider.
Weight and Frame Material
We’ve hit on the fact that parents can get stuck carrying gear for their kids all the time. Maybe you’re into getting the extra workout, but it’s probably more likely that you don’t want to haul a 30-pound block of steel around unnecessarily.
Thankfully, bike technology dramatically improved with time, even in balance bikes for toddlers. Steel is still the most common material, but aluminum bikes are becoming more commonplace and tend to be a cheaper option.
In general, you don’t want the bike to weigh any more than a third of your child’s body weight. The kid-to-bike ratio helps determine one of the most important parts of riding a bike: being able to stop. A heavier bike will naturally move faster and take more force to slow down.
If you’re going for a bike without a break and are incredibly worried about the stopping capacity of your child’s legs, an aluminum frame will help take a lot of tension off your anxiety-riddled brain.
A bike like TheCroco is a fantastic ultralight option. In addition to the aluminum frame, it has foam tires that weigh a third of what normal tires can weigh.
Tires and Wheels
We’re seeing more and more improvement in the tires and wheels of balance bikes these days. Certain bikes, like TheCroco, have sealed wheel bearings and EVA foam tires that prevent wobble.
Foam tires are naturally less durable but require little to no maintenance. They’re also designed to not leave marks all over your kitchen floor while your toddler races around your feet before dinner.
While the wheels of a balance bike are getting less punishment than those of a downhill mountain bike, they’re still important to any kid’s safety and enjoyment. A poorly made set of wheels will have ball bearings that rust out quickly and seize up on the rider.
The biggest factor to look at with wheels is size. A 12-inch wheel will suffice for most riders until they’re about 6 years old. For toddlers that are a bit bigger, a 14-inch wheel, like that on the Strider 14x, will help provide the right balance.
If you find a bike with wheels smaller than 12 inches, it’s best to stay away. Smaller wheel sizes can result in more wobble than the gyroscopic balancing force that the kids are learning to balance.
While most kids will be OK stopping with their feet, brakes can be a good choice for those that tend to push the limits or live in hillier neighborhoods.
Hand brakes are the most popular system found on any current style of bike. The best brake system that you’ll find is a linear-pull hand brake, commonly called a V-brake (copyrighted by Shimano), triggered with your hands on the handlebars. Having the brake system hooked up to the rear wheel is best for learning and safety.
The brakes should be set to fully stop when you pull the lever with a single finger. Otherwise, it may be too difficult to engage for a youngster.
Strider offers a foot-actuated brake that can be added to almost any of their bikes, which is an excellent option for additional safety. It also helps teach about using coaster brakes, which are common on pedal bikes everywhere.
It can be best to start without brakes unless the balance bike comes with a hand brake installed. Starting without brakes will encourage slow movement and let the toddler learn how to control the bike, rather than simply stopping it.
Easy Assembly and Maintenance
Fixing a bike can mean spending more time on YouTube than having fun with your little one. With so many moving parts, bikes can be complicated machines to fix on your own. Luckily, balance bikes have significantly fewer pieces to put together and fix on the go.
Due to shipping sizes, many balance bikes will need some simple assembly upon arrival at your house. The best balance bikes come along with an easy-to-understand instruction manual. Remember, you didn’t buy this bike at IKEA, so it should take less than half an hour to get rolling.
Woom and Strider include simple instructions to put the bike together once you get it. Just about any bike that doesn’t require any tools will only need to be puzzle-pieced together and sent on its way. In an ideal world, you won’t need to do a single thing. Just get the bike and go.
Thanks to a relatively low number of moving parts, there’s not too much to maintain on balance bikes. You can often find great bikes that don’t even require pumping up the tires. Most maintenance should be checking tires, adjusting height, and ensuring that your child hasn’t outgrown the bike.
There’s a lot to be added to a balance bike to make it safer or just make them unique. Many of the bikes on our list offer customizable stickers and encourage creative design. This is fantastic for young kids to give them a sense of ownership over the bike and make them even more invested in hopping on and riding.
The Kinderfeet Wood Balance Bike comes along with a chalkboard finish that will let your kid’s creativity shine through and be adjusted whenever they want.
Aside from creativity, plenty of accessories can be added for safety. A shrill bell attached to the handlebars is a great way to keep track of your kid and teach them to alert others of their presence on the sidewalks. Reflective tape for bike frames and tires is another safety measure to help expand the hours that your kids can ride their bikes.
Strider offers both the foot-actuated brake and the rocking base that can be used with some of their models. The rocker helps introduce a youngster to the bike above a carpeted floor rather than the pavement.
Many bikes also offer footrests that are typically built-in but sometimes need to be added. A pedal-free bike can often be fun to ride with your legs in the air, but something to rest your feet flat on will help further encourage comfort with balancing a bike.
Why You Should Trust Us
No, we didn’t go out and test every balance bike as a staff initiative, but we did do a deep dive into the pools of balance bike information. To find the best of the best, we’ve looked at just about every model of balance bike you can find on the market and put them up against user and expert reviews.
We looked at what the parents had to say about how their children reacted to the bikes and how they helped them grow. More importantly, we searched for what went wrong. When issues seemed to be more than having received a lemon, we dug deeper to see what caused the problems.
This list results from a long journey through the internet, staring at a screen far too much, and listening to people with first-hand experience with the bikes. They’ve all been carefully picked to highlight the best of the best.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Age Is Best for a Balance Bike?
There’s no “best age” for a kid to start riding on a balance bike. Some kids are ready at one year, while some might be ready at 2 or 3. Development is tricky, and only the parents genuinely know when their child is ready for jumping on a bike.
For the sake of giving an age, 18 months is the approximate sweet spot for starting to ride a balance bike. Anywhere after 18 months up until 3 years will be prime time to begin on the bike. After 3 years, you may want to look at buying a 14-inch bike, but the Strider 14x can accommodate that.
The best age is when they’re ready. If they’re running around the house at 18 months, go for it.
Which Balance Bike Is the Best?
We’ve picked the Woom 1 as the best balance bike of the year. It’s got everything you could want regarding safety features and doesn’t cost a fortune. It’s potentially the best bike for beginner riders up until they’re just over 3 years old.
As we mentioned, the Strider 12 just barely comes in at second place. There are many reasons why we could switch the Woom 1 and Strider 12, but we needed to choose the best. Strider is a well-reputed brand with a wide range of pedal-less bikes, and they even make some that can become pedal bikes down the line.
We stand by every choice on this list. Some are better for certain uses, some are better for the planet, and some are best for your wallet. It all depends on what you’re looking for, but the best balance bike for you is on this list.
Why Choose a Balance Bike? Do They Really Work?
Riding a bike is all about learning how to maintain balance with forward motion. This requires muscle development that training wheels don’t allow for. Balance bikes help develop those muscles and gain the confidence needed for a pedal bike.
Balance bikes aren’t for everyone, but they are an excellent fit for most athletically trending kids. Some kids naturally prefer a scooter or a four-wheeler, so it’s not always guaranteed that your child will take to a balance bike.
If your kid latches onto a balance bike, it is guaranteed to be the most direct route to learning how to ride a pedal bike. The balance bike makes the most difficult part of riding a bike familiar, so when the time comes to add pedals, they’ll tackle it with confidence.
Are Balance Bikes Better Than Training Bikes?
As of today, balance bikes are the new training bikes. They’re the new step toward learning how to pedal a bike and bombing down singletrack lines. Even if technical riding is far from the goal, balance bikes are widely regarded as being the best way to learn to ride and be fun to ride on their own.
Balance bikes are so much closer to the experience of riding a bike that they’re better than any other option to learn how to ride. The balance bike allows kids to become comfortable balancing on a moving bike and then introducing braking and pedaling.
Pedaling a bike is surprisingly one of the most natural parts of riding a bike. With the addition of pedals, moving your legs to go forward makes sense. Balancing upright is where the newest skills come into play, and that’s precisely what balance bikes help provide.
This slow movement through the process allows you to skip training wheels altogether. It’s the experts’ new favorite way of getting kids to learn how to ride.
What Should You Look For in the Best Balance Bikes?
Every brand will find a way to tell you that their bike is the best one for you and your toddler. If we listened to advertisements across the internet, we’d all be broke and surrounded by broken gear. It’s unwise to dive into purchasing anything without the proper research, which is likely why you’re here.
The main things you’ll want to check are seat height and other points of adjustability, the recommended age range, and the materials used to make the bike. Of course, a lot of us will look first at the price. Try your best to pull your eyes away from price and a bit further down the page.
While price can tell you something about the bike, it doesn’t give the full information. We also understand the desire to not spend too much on something that your kid will outgrow.
Look at the specifications first. If price is your biggest factor in choosing the bike, check out the best budget bike (Chillafish Charlie) first. Just remember that the cheaper the bike, the less likely it is to last as your family grows.
How Long Do Balance Bikes Last?
If you pick the right balance bike, you can see it ridden through generations of kids to come. Good balance bikes are built to last. So, while your child may outgrow the bike by 6 or 7 years old, the bike will be ready for your next toddler to use (if that’s in the picture).
We know how much kids love to leave things in the front yard, but some of the bikes on this list won’t last nearly as long if left out to the elements. The tires on the Kinderfeets Wood Balance Bike are fully decomposable, after all. Your bike likely won’t sit in the front yard long enough to deteriorate in front of your eyes, but it’s best to keep it in a cool, dry place.
Along with sustainable materials decomposing, steel frames will rust at the first sign of oxygen when paint chips off. Kids also aren’t well-known for treating their gear gently, so you can expect chipped paint.
A balance bike is meant to be used for years. It slowly develops the different muscles and confidence needed for a pedal bike, so they’re built to last that long.
However, part of the gear lasting years is proper upkeep and maintenance. So, following the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance and storage will increase the lifespan of the bike.