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10 of the best balance bikes

Which are the top balance bikes for toddlers and preschoolers? We've tested and rated loads of different ones to find the best, in a range of prices and styles

best balance bikes

A balance bike is like a training bike – without the training wheels. The idea is that, if your child can learn to balance and steer on 2 wheels first, then the move on to mastering a pedal bike is much, much easier because it’s only the pedalling and braking bits that they need to learn, rather than everything all at once. (Some balance bikes even have brakes, too.) So, when the time comes, your child will take to a pedal bike confidently and quickly – which will save everyone time, tears and scraped knees.

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Your child starts off sitting on the bike and pushing themselves along with their feet, learning to steer. Soon, as their balance improves, they’ll start to whizz along with both feet off the ground.

There’s a huge variety of balance bikes to choose from: some cheap and cheerful; others much more pricey and made to super-high specs. And some balance bikes also come with pedal attachments, so that you can turn it into a pedal bike later. We’ve tested loads of them – and come up with a top 10 list of really great balance bikes at a range of price points.

While price is, obviously, a key factor, do bear in mind that if you have several children, a more expensive balance bike may end up being great value for money if it can be passed down from sibling to sibling. And it’s also definitely worth considering some key technical details before you buy – see What to consider when choosing a balance bike for your child?, and How to get the right size balance bike for your child, below.

What to consider when choosing a balance bike for your child

  • Solid or air-filled tyres? Air-filled or pneumatic tyres make for a comfier, smoother ride but can puncture. Solid tyres – either plastic or rubber, often filled with foam – are a bit bumpier but cheaper and don’t puncture.
  • Brakes or no brakes? The higher-spec balance bikes tend to have brakes, scaled down to child size, either on both wheels or just on the rear wheel. Budget bikes tend not to have them. Opinion is divided on what’s best: balance bikes can be stopped perfectly well with feet but some argue that it’s good to learn about braking before you venture on to a bike with pedals – and better for your shoe leather. We’d say that, roughly speaking, a child probably doesn’t have the hand/eye coordination for using brakes until about 2.5 to 3.5 years.
  • How heavy is it? Most balance bikes are pretty lightweight, which is handy for a toddler trying to pick it up and a grown-up having to lug it home. But some are definitely lighter than others. And balance bikes that do other things, like turn into pedal bikes, tend to be on the heavier side.
  • How adjustable is it? Good adjustability means the balance bike’s likely to fit your child better and last longer, as they grow. Do check out our tips on How to get the right size balance bike for your child, below. Find out if the handlebars adjust as well as the seat – and how much they adjust by.

How to get the right-size balance bike for your child

There are no standard sizes for balance bikes, so pretty much every make and model is different – even if they have the exactly same size wheels. And, to make things even more complicated, manufacturers often detail different measurements in their technical specifications (as you’ll see from our list of the 10 best, below).

So, how do you reliably find the right-size balance bike for your child? You need to know your child’s inside leg (or inseam) measurement and you need to know the seat height of the balance bike. What you’re looking for is a seat height that’s 1.5cm to 2.5cm less than your child’s inside leg measurement and will, preferably, adjust higher as your child grows.

How do you measure your child’s inside leg? Stand them against the wall (shoes on) with their legs hip-width apart and place a hardback book, spine up, between their legs. Gently raise the book till the spine touches their crotch. Measure from the floor to the spine of the book – and that’s the inside leg measurement.

Here is our pick of the best balance bikes for toddlers and preschoolers

1. GOSWIFT Kinderkraft, £79.90

– Best for 3 years+

Age: 3 to 6 | Weight: 3.8kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Seat height: 33cm to 42cm | Max child weight: 35kg
Awards: Gold, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A lightweight 100% recyclable magnesium alloy balance bike with height-adjustable eco-leather saddle, handlebars with grips, large air-filled rubber tyres and spokeless wheels with ball bearings. The handlebars have a limiter, so you can’t oversteer, and a turn-to-sound loud bell. Comes in Yellow, Pink or Black. Some light self-assembly required.

Why we love it: It’s light and stylish and can be assembled in 10 minutes, with no tools. We like the super-comfy seat and the handlebar limiter that guards against over-enthusiastic steering and we – and our child testers – absolutely love the bell. Our child tester Finley, 3, declared it to be “super-awesome” and his mum Lauren said it’s “absolutely worth the money: the perfect size for the littler legs and a very comfortable seat. It’s a massive hit.”

Available at: Kinderkraft, Pramworld and Uberkids

2. QPLAY Spark balance bike, £49.99

– Best for 2 years+

Age: 2 to 4 | Weight: 3.9kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Rubber/foam (EVA polymer) | Seat height: 32cm to 37.5cm | Max child weight: 30kg
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A lightweight balance bike with a height-adjustable sponge saddle, height-adjustable handlebars with grips, steering limiter, large solid rubber tyres and LED lights on the wheels that flash as you pedal. Comes in pin, blue, green and red. Some light self-assembly required.

Why we love it: This stylish balance bike has a low saddle starting position, making it a good choice for 2-year-olds and smaller 3-year-olds, especially as it has a steering limiter, too. But it’s the light-up wheels that make it stand out from the crowd – and, as one of our child testers Arthur, 2, said make it feel “very cool” to ride. Jayne, mum of Zara, another of our child testers, who’s just turned 3, said: “Zara struggles with the other balance bike we have but she was successful with this one: it was very easy for her to use and she was super proud of herself. I was genuinely shocked this was £49.99, as it looks and feels comparable to the much more expensive brands.” As for Zara? “I love it! My magic wheels shine when I go super fast!”

Available at: Smyths Toys

3. Hornit AIRO, £139

– Best for a lightweight smooth ride

Age: 18 months to 5 years | Weight: 2.95kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Seat height: 29cm to 44cm | Inside leg: 30cm to 48cm | Max child weight: 30kg
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Awards 2021

What it is: A very lightweight magnesium-alloy toddler balance bike with height-adjustable saddle, handlebars with grips, grip-taped footrests, padded stem cover, thick air-filled tyres and wheels with sealed bearings. Comes with lifetime warranty (on frame and forks) in Orca White, Hot Chilli Red, Hammer Yellow and Candy Floss Pink.

Why we love it: It’s incredibly light, very well made and looks great. Its thick, pneumatic tyres make it a nice, smooth, bump-absorbing ride. We like the moulded footrests and the padded seat and stem. And it’s great that it comes almost fully assembled – all you’ll need to do is tighten the screws (allen key provided) and top up the air in the tyres.

Available from: Amazon and Hornit

4. Strider 12 Sport, £119.99

– Best for easy height adjustment

Age: 12 months to 5 years | Weight: 3kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Rubber/foam (EVA polymer) | Seat height: 28cm to 48cm | Inside leg: 30cm to 51cm | Max child weight: 27kg
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A toddler to preschooler steel-frame balance bike with a height-adjustable padded seat, height-adjustable handlebars with safety grips, footrests with grip tape and puncture-proof rubber tyres. Comes in Black, Blue, Green, Pink, Red and Yellow.

Why we love it: It’s a well-balanced bike with a seat that goes nice and low, and thin, child-friendly handles. The bike in the box will fit a child up to 3.5 years but there’s an additional long seatpost included, if you want to extend its life for another 1.5 years or so. We also like the footrests and the quick-release clamps for tool-free handlebar and seat adjustment. Our child testers found it fun and comfortable to ride, although, as Finn, 2, pointed out the foam tyres mean “it’s a bit bumpy over big bumps”.

Available from: Strider

5. Pinto by Black Mountain, £399

– Best for longevity

Age: 3+ | Weight: 5.7kg | Brakes: Yes | Wheels: 14in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Seat height: 42cm to 54cm | Child height: 90cm to 109 cm

What it is: An aluminium-frame toddler balance bike that converts to a small pedal bike and then a larger pedal bike. Features a ‘growing’ frame and gear system, rubber belt drive, front and rear brakes with easy-pull brake levers, and height-adjustable seat. Comes with pedals, in Neon Green, Sky Blue, Orange and Purple.

Why we love it: It’s very expensive but it’s super high-quality and you are effectively getting a balance bike and 2 sizes of pedal bike in one. The saddle sits nicely low on the frame and the large wheels are tough and roll well, but (because of its conversion potential) it is a bit heavier than other balance bikes. It arrives all set up as a balance bike; changing from balance bike to pedal bike and, particularly, from the small-size pedal bike to the bigger size is not difficult (the instructions are clear and tools are included) but does take time, a certain amount of jiggling and some bike-tinkering confidence.

Available from: Black Mountain

6. Vitus Smoothy, £89.99

– Easiest to carry

Age: 3+ | Weight: 3.2kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Seat height: 32cm to 44cm | Inside leg: 30cm to 43cm

What it is: A lightweight magnesium-cast balance bike, with height-adjustable scoop saddle, height-adjustable handlebars (with grips), wide air tyres, footrests and a carrying handle set in the frame. Comes in Blue, Mint, Red, Silver and White.

Why we love it: It’s light and nippy-looking with nice wide handlebars – and we love the really well designed carry handle. The seat is cleverly styled and has a good range of height adjustment for the price, and we’re impressed with the pneumatic tyres – at this price point, you usually get solid plastic or foam ones.

Available from: Wiggle and Chain Reaction

7. Frog Tadpole, £190

– Best toddler option with brakes 

Age: 2+ | Weight: 4.17kg | Brakes: Yes | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Inside leg: 34cm to 39cm

What it is: An aluminium-frame toddler balance bike with height-adjustable saddle, Tektro rear brake, pneumatic tyres and locking headset. Comes with a bell in Electric Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, and Spotty White and USA designs. Also available in other sizes: Mini for 18months+ and Plus for 3 to 4.

Why we love it: It’s nicely put together and a really quite zippy, well cushioned ride. It’s not built to span a big age range, which might limit its appeal if you’re looking for longevity but does mean it ‘fits’ a 2-year-old really well. It also has brakes, which you might see as a real plus. We like the quick-release seat post and the long wheelbase – and, icing on the toddler cake, the little bell.

Available from: Frog Bikes and The Little Bike Company

8. Islabikes Rothan, £199.99

– Best for design and stability

islabikes

Age: 2 to 4 | Weight: 3.1kg | Brakes: Yes | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Child height: from 88cm | Inside leg: 30cm to 42cm | Max child weight: 20kg

What it is: A toddler to preschooler aluminium balance bike featuring a height-adjustable saddle with scooped seat, micro-reach brake lever, narrow handlebars with super-thin grips, steering limiter and grippy, puncture-resistant air tyres. Comes in Orange Gloss, Pink Satin and Teal Satin.

Why we love it: It’s so well built: a remarkably stable ride while still being pretty light. The stepover is nice and low, the light-action brake levers are small enough for little hands to wrap round easily, and the comfy, scooped saddle definitely helps keep a small bottom centred. It’s pretty much ready to go out of the box – you’ll just need to twist the handlebars and fix them in place (tools included).

Available from: Islabikes

9. Puky LRM Balance Bike, £69.99

– Best for sturdiness and saddle shape

Age: 2+ | Weight: 3.5kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 8.4in | Tyre type: Rubber/foam (EVA polymer) | Child height: 85cm to 110cm | Inside leg: 30cm to 43cm) | Max child weight: 25kg

What it is: A toddler balance bike with a step-through, scratch-resistant frame, foot platform, adjustable, ergonomically shaped saddle, adjustable handlebars with safety grips and crash pads, ball-bearing wheels and steering, and soft foam tyres. Comes in Red, Blue, Pink, Yellow, Pink and Green.

Why we love it: It’s super-sturdy with a low, step-through frame and soft, grippy tyres. We like the large foot platform and the banana shape of the saddle that stops your child sliding forward as they ride. Made by a German firm with a great reputation for quality kids’ balance bikes (they do bigger balance bikes, too), this is a great choice if you’re looking for a robust modestly-priced balance bike for a child under 3.

Available from: Amazon, Uber Kids and Kids Bike Shop

10. Micro 2 in 1 Chopper Balance Bike, £124.95

– Best for gently learning to balance 

Age: 2 to 5 | Weight: 2.45kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 8in | Tyres: Solid rubber | Seat height: 35cm to 46.5cm | Max child weight: 20kg
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Awards 2021

What it is: A very lightweight, aluminium-frame toddler to preschooler balance bike with front suspension, front mud guard, puncture-free wheels, height-adjustable seat, height-adjustable chopper handlebars. Comes with a stability wheel attachment, so your child can start off on 3 wheels, rather than 2. You can also buy a trailer attachment, too. Choose from Blue, Aqua or Pink.

Why we love it: It’s very light and easy to adjust and has a lovely retro look. And we really like the training-wheels attachment. It’s great that the seat adjusts with clamps (no tools needed) but be warned that in its very lowest position the black knob at the end of the seat post is very close to the ground. This, plus the small wheels with their smooth solid tyres, makes riding over rough ground pretty tricky. A lovely ride but for city pavements only.

Available from: Micro and Amazon

About the author Helen Brown

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she’s also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

Pictures: Product websites

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