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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

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.

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

1. Hornit AIRO, £129

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 – Toddler and kids bike, MadeForMums Awards 2021

What it is: A 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

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. Find out if the handlebars adjust as well as the seat – and how much they adjust by.

2. Pinto by Black Mountain, £349

Age: 2.5 to 5 | 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

3. Vitus Smoothy, £89.99

Age: Not specified (but we’d say 2 to 4) | 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

4. Frog Tadpole, £190

Age: 2 to 3 | Weight: 4.17kg | Brakes: Yes | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Inside leg: 31cm (minimum)

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. 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

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 all sorts of different measurements in their technical specifications (as you’ll see from our not always like-for-like descriptions of the top 10 balance bikes we’ve chosen here).

So, how do you 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.

5. Chicco Red Bullet, £36.99

Age: 2 to 5 | Weight: 2.7kg | Brakes: No | Wheels: 11in | Tyre type: Solid rubber | Seat height: 33cm to 38cm | Inside leg: 35cm to 43cm | Max child weight: 25kg

What it is: A lightweight metal-framed toddler balance bike with a height-adjustable seat, chopper-style height-adjustable handlebars and solid, ridged tyres. Also comes in Pink Arrow.

Why we love it: It’s amazing quality for the price and is impressively robust for such a lightweight, low-frills balance bike. Although both the seat and the handlebars are adjustable, the frame is quite small – we think it’s a bit of a stretch to say this would still fit a 4 or 5 year old. A great buy if you’re watching the pennies and want rather save up for a great pedal bike later.

Available from: Amazon

6. Islabikes Rothan, £199.99

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 pre-schooler 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

7. Puky LRM Balance Bike, £69.99

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 budget balance bike for a child under 3.

Available from: Amazon, Uber Kids and Kids Bike Shop

7. Strider 12 Sport, £119.99

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

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 quick-release clamps for tool-free handlebar and seat adjustment.

Available from: Strider

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

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 (joint) – Toddler and kids bike, MadeForMums Awards 2021

What it is: A 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

10. Trybike, £140

Age: 15 months to 6 years | Weight: 5.2kg (6.3kg as a trike) | Brakes: No | Wheels: 12in | Tyres: Pneumatic | Seat height: 30cm to 45m | Max child weight: 35kg

What it is: A steel toddler trike that converts to a toddler/preschooler to schoolage balance bike. Features height-adjustable seat, height-adjustable handlebars, adjustable control disk for the back wheel, footrest platform, extra-wide pneumatic tyres, and a 2-height front wheel. Comes in Matt Grey, White, Vintage Green, Vintage Pink, Vintage Blue and Vintage Red. Wicker basket available separately.

Why we love it: This one’s certainly a headturner – with its beautiful vintage styling. It’s a super-smooth ride and it’s very sturdily built – we’re impressed that you can (easily) adjust the height of the wheels, as well as the saddle and handlebars. It will definitely last your child years. It is heavy, though, and it does take a good hour to assemble.

Available from: Trybike, Kidly and Hippychick

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