Finding the Best Balance Bike for Your Child

balance-bikeIf you can find the best balance bike for your child, she’ll be riding along with the big kids in no time at all. A balance bike is a two-wheeled bicycle without any pedals. The child walks it at first, and when she gets a bit braver, she glides along with her feet in the air, balancing on the two wheels.

The idea behind these bikes is that when it comes to learning to ride a bicycle, it’s not the pedaling that’s the hard part. It’s the balance.

Bikes with training wheels let your child ride around quickly, but when you take off the training wheels, there’s still a learning curve involved.

strider balance bikeWith a balance bike, the child learns the hard part first, so transitioning to a regular bike with pedals becomes a lot easier. It’s the best toddler bike to start with.

Some Great Brands

Strider 12 ClassicVilano RipperSchwinnRadio FlyerSkuutClassic

These days, there are several brands of balance bikes to choose from.

Stider is undoubtedly one of the most popular, and it’s the brand we ultimately went with for our little girl due to its small size.

The famous Radio Flyer brand also has a balance bike model in the classic red color.

If you’re interested in the wooden bikes, consider the Classic Balance Bike by Smart Gear or the model produced by Scuut.

Balance Bike Height

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when looking at balance bikes for your child is the seat height from the ground. In order to comfortably ride the bike, your child needs to be able to put his feet flat on the ground. Measure your child’s inseam from the crotch to the ground and compare that with the seat height.

Wooden balance bikes like the tend to have higher seats than the metal bikes and may not be a good fit for young children. My daughter was 18 months old and short for her age when she started on a balance bike, so this was a big concern for us. The Strider Classic allowed us to go low enough to accommodate her small size.

It’s important to note that balance bikes don’t come with brakes. They rely on the child using his feet to stop the bike. This makes getting the right height especially important. If your child can only use the bike by standing on his toes, it will be more difficult to stop. For this reason, especially, make sure that you purchase a bike that he can use with his feet flat.

Balance Bike Wheels

Balance bikes either have hard plastic wheels or rubber wheels filled with air. In my experience, the plastic wheels are more common because it reduces the overall weight of the bike. In theory, these plastic wheels could break or crack from repeated use, but this hasn’t been a problem for us after two years of average use on the driveway or at the park. However, if your child will be riding over rocky terrain, there may be more serious damage to these types of plastic tires.

The rubber wheels might be a better choice for your family if your child is likely to be riding on the dirt or somewhere that would require more traction. The rubber wheels have grooves that give them better grip. Consider this style if you live near an unpaved road or might be taking the bike to a BMX race track along with an older sibling.

Balance Bike Weight

Little ones aren’t particularly strong, so the weight of the balance bike should be something you consider. Ideally, you’ll want a bike that’s lightweight, so that your toddler or preschooler can easily move it from place to place and pick it up when she’s ready to go.

Additionally, even the most coordinated of young riders is going to have the occasional fall, which means that the bike is undoubtedly going to land on her at least once. A lighter bike is less likely to hurt her and it will be easier for her to push off if it falls on her.

Carefully compare the weight of the bikes you’re considering. The metal-frame bikes would seem to be more lightweight than the wooden varieties, and this is certainly true of the Strider, which comes in at less than nine pounds. However, it isn’t always the case.

For example, the wooden Skuut balance bike weighs almost 10 pounds, but the metal-frame Schwinn bike weighs almost 14 pounds.

Colors and Styles

Despite all of your research, your child is likely to care more about what the bike looks like than all of the other features. Metal-frame bikes certainly offer the most variety. They look most like traditional bikes, so your child will feel like he’s one of the big kids. They also come in a variety of colors, from pink to blue to green.

Wooden varieties have a more natural look, though, and that might be a better fit for your family’s lifestyle. If you can, allow your child to have some input. You may be surprised by the one he picks.

Aside from the overall look, the placement, and availability of a foot rest varies from bike to bike. You’ll find that some balance bikes, like the Vilano Ripper, have a foot rest situated in the middle. Others, like the Strider models, have a smaller footrest located in the back. Most of the wooden varieties don’t have a foot rest at all. Each of these has its own benefits. It’s all about what feels most comfortable for your child.

No matter which type you decide is the best balance bike for your family, your child is sure to be delighted. Remember to be safe, though. The bikes may seem too little to cause serious damage, but you still want to make sure your child is protected. A quality helmet will keep her little head safe from the usual bumps that will occur as she learns to ride.