At some point between the age of 3 and 8, your child's going to be ready for their first pedal bike. Either they've grown out of their balance bike or trike or they're just aching to pedal on 2 wheels – or both!

But which first bike should you buy? There are so many to choose from that it can all get a bit baffling, especially if you're not a cycling expert yourself.

The two most important things to bear in mind are that you need to pick the right bike for your child's height, and you need to choose a bike they can lift up by themselves. For more tips, scroll down to the Key questions to ask when you're choosing a pedal bike for your child section below.

We've taken a good long look at a whole load of first bikes, tested them, listened to our testers' feedback (from children who've ridden the bikes and the parents who've been with them) and whittled them down to the very best for you to choose from.

Best pedal bikes at a glance

  • Best lightweight high-end pedal bike: Woom 2, £320
  • Best pedal bike for low-maintenance whizziness: Forme Cubley 14", £289.99
  • Best durable high-end pedal bike: Frog 40, £415
  • Best bike with coaster brakes: CUBE Cubie 160 RT, £389
  • Best bike for comfort: Squish 14", £319.99
  • Best for town and urban cycling: Bobbin Gingersnap 16", £229
  • Best pedal bike for a retro style: Beehive Vintage Children's Bicycle, £174.99
  • Best balance-to-pedal bike for taller children: Strider 14x Sport Balance/Pedal Bike, £230
  • Best pedal bike for style and cute accessories: Raleigh Molli 14", £179
  • Best lightweight balance-to-pedal bike: LittleBig Balance Bike with Pedals Bundle, £235
  • Best lightweight pedal bike for smaller riders: Islabikes Cnoc, £399.99
  • Best mid-range all-terrain riding pedal bike: Ridgeback MX14, £199.99

Key questions to ask when you’re choosing a pedal bike for your child

Here are the key points you need to consider, according to experts at the national cycling charity Cycling UK. You can find the answer to many of these questions when you're looking online but you may prefer to visit a store for an in-person check. Then, if you've spotted a good price online and/or you'd prefer the bike to be delivered, rather than having to load it into a car, you can always go home and order it afterwards.

  • Is it the right size for your child now? Don’t buy a bigger-sized bike for your child to grow into; it's a sure-fire way to put your child off cycling. All the bikes we've recommended in this article have size charts on their brand websites that either take into account your child's inside leg measurement or their height: buy at the lower end of bike's recommended range – that way, you can raise the handlebars and the seat as your child gets taller. Ideally, also look for short cranks (they’re the arms that attach to the pedals): about 90mm to 100mm is great.
  • Can your child lift the bike up? Some steel-framed heavy bikes are harder for kids to ride, especially uphill. And, at some point, the bike will end up on the ground, possibly because your child has fallen off but probably because they've put it there. Either way, they’ll need to be able to stand the bike up themselves.
  • Are the gears and brakes easy to use? If you’re buying in store, test them using your little finger, or look out for models that have a rear brake that works by back-pedalling, as this comes more naturally to a beginner cyclist.
  • Is the ride nice and smooth? The wheels, bottom bracket and headset at the front of the bike should ideally use ball bearings (check the bike's specifications either online or in the shop) as these make for much easier and smoother riding.
  • Can your child try it before you buy it? If so, know that your child should be able to stand astride the frame with their feet flat on the floor, reach the pedals when seated, and hold the handlebar easily without stretching too much.
  • Ignore the girls' bikes/boys' bikes thing. There really isn't that much difference between them – apart from the colours, which, of course, your child may have a very firm opinion on.
  • Not sure about tyre width? Generally, slimmer tyres are better on smoother paths and thicker ones are great for off-road. If you're looking for a good all-rounder, bikes with wider tyres are the ones to go for.

What about balance bikes that you add pedals to, are they worth it?

Balance bikes (essentially bikes without pedals that your child can coast around on) are a great way to get children used to balancing, steering and gliding without having to worry about pedalling. And they do make the transition to pedals much easier. Companies such as LittleBig and Strider make balance bikes that you can add pedals to when your child's ready for the transition (included in our list of best bikes below); the only potential downside is that these bikes tend to suit taller and therefore older children, so you may need a different, smaller-size balance bike when your child is very young.

It's also possible to use a pedal bike as a balance bike, to begin with. Simply take the pedals off, and drop the saddle right down. Once your child has developed the confidence to glide along with their feet off the ground for more than 5 seconds, you can put the pedals back on, readjust the saddle height, and introduce peddling as the next step in the process.

Is it worth buying an expensive bike if my child will outgrow it quickly?

If you want to spend less, some single-speed pedal bikes are great for children to learn on, but very cheap bikes won't have the features that make a bike easy to ride.

It's also worth knowing that good-quality bikes have a great resale value. Check on eBay before you buy to see what you will be able to sell your choice for when your child outgrows it in a few years' time.

Alternatively, you could consider renting a quality kids' bicycle for a monthly fee that you can then swap to a bigger bike when your child has outgrown it. Bike Club, which operates across the UK, has a large range of first pedal bikes, including Frog, Squish, Woom and Forme bikes, that can be rented for as little as 6 months and then exchanged. There are also smaller, local bike hire schemes that offer children's bicycles for hire.

And don’t forget about bike safety, which includes making sure your child always wears a helmet on their bike. We’ve found the best bike helmets for kids here. Happy cycling!

Here's our pick of the best first bikes for 3 to 8 year olds, as tested by parents and children...

1. Woom 2, £320

– Best lightweight high-end pedal bike

Woom 2 bike with child tester Ezra

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Weight: 5kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

This bike would make a great first pedal bike for a child aged 3-5 years and with an inside leg measurement of 39-50cm. At only 5kg, it is one of the lightest bikes of this size available and its feather weight makes it easy for even the smallest children in the age and height range to handle or pick back up by themselves.

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The quality of every element of the bike is impressive, from the chainguard to the kickstand, and from the bell to the slim tyres, which are robust and have a deep tread for extra grip. Colour-coded brakes help new riders remember which side to squeeze first and the reach adjustment on the brake levers doesn't require tools to alter, which makes fine-tuning a doddle. The saddle is squishy and soft. There’s a good amount of height adjustment, plus altering the handlebar position is easy, all of which helps you to find the perfect fit which is key for the youngest riders.

Putting it together from the box isn’t too challenging as the instructions are thorough and easy to follow (and include a link to a video which is helpful). All parts are clearly labelled (pedals and cranks have 'left'/'right' stickers on them) which speeds things up and should hopefully prevent any mechanical disasters early on!

Even the pedal platforms are really well shaped and bigger and more supportive than on other bikes aimed at this age group This makes a real difference, especially when riding in very flexible trainers (which can uncomfortably bend around smaller pedals). Overall, it’s a great lightweight bike with loads of useful adjustments to make your child feel comfortable on two wheels.

"I really like the pedals and the stand! It's nice having a big boy bike and I like the bell," declared our child tester, Ezra, 3, after he’d taken the Woom 2 for a spin. His dad, Robin, was thoroughly impressed by the bike, and said, “The finish and attention to detail are what really stand out here; things like quality branded tyres (Schwalbe), plenty of standover height which really helps with those shaky, feet-off moments if struggling for balance, and brakes that are easy to reach, can be adjusted and are light enough to operate with small hands. An easy to operate kickstand is another great touch and has been used constantly. It helps to maintain the nice finish of the bike as it's being stood up rather than dropped on the floor.”

Pros: High quality, colour-coded brakes, lightweight
Cons: Pricey

Available from: The Little Bike Company

2. Forme Cubley 14", £289.99

– Best for low-maintenance whizziness

Forme Cubley 14 bike with child tester Anie

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Weight: 6.13kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes
Awards: Joint Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

Designed to be as lightweight as possible, this smart looking bike can be used as a balance bike to make it easy for children to transition to a pedal bike as they grow and learn to ride. It’s also light enough to not be annoying to carry to the park. It has a nice springy saddle that our testers found very comfortable and includes a bell and mudguard. The handlebars are easy to turn so children can manoeuvre. It was also easy to set up: “We simply screwed on the pedals and tightened the handle bars. We were good to go in under 5 minutes,” said Sofia, mum of child tester Matilda, 4.

While it is expensive, it is also available via Bike Club, which allows for easy exchange once your child is ready for the next size and is designed to be a more sustainable option.

Our child tester, Áine, 4, pictured, was impressed and said: “I love my new big girl bike!” and mum, Sinead, was also pleased to see her progress with it. “She has gone from using it as a balance bike to wanting to use the pedals within 2 weeks, which I’m amazed at! I don’t think that would have happened with a heavier bike,” she said.

Matilda also loved the bike and called it “a supersonic bike that can help me cycle on my own”.

Pros: Lightweight, comfortable saddle, easy to set up, lots of colour options
Cons: Pricey

Available from: Bike Club and Pedal Cycles

3. Frog 40, £415

Best durable high-end bike

Frog 40 bike with child tester Finley

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Weight: 6.46kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes
Joint Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

As you would expect from Frog (and from the price tag!), this bike is exceptionally well made, very lightweight and yet very sturdy. It comes with all the accessories you could need – reflectors, mudguard, front and back reflectors, chain guard and bell. You can use it as a balance bike then, when your child gets more confident, you can add the pedals. It has a lovely bright framework with a choice of colours, including multicoloured spots, and it comes with scratch plasters, so you can protect the paintwork. A solid investment, this bike wowed all our testers and they thought it would stand the test of time.

Tanya, mum of child tester Anya, 3 was really impressed with the bike’s considerate features: “The bike has 14" wheels, with larger robust and knobbly tyres, making it easier to ride over obstacles such as ruts, kerbs and branches – all of which were successfully defeated by my daughter. Unlike with her bike with stabilisers, where she was constantly yelling ‘I'm stuck in a rut, mummy!’. I will also be very pleased when she starts riding it to preschool. We should arrive on time for once!”

Child tester Finley, 4, pictured, said: “This bike is really cool! I love the blue colour and love going fast down big hills. It is so much fun!” His mum Hannah says: “Finley laughs and giggles every time he uses the bike – it's an absolute hit, especially compared to the one that's been growing cobwebs in the shed for a few months!”

Pros: Durable, sturdy and lightweight, robust tyres
Cons: Pricey

Available from: Frog, Certini and North Bikes

4. CUBE Cubie 160 RT Bike, £389

– Best bike with coaster brakes

CUBE Cubie 160 RT bike with child tester Samuel

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Weight: 7.4kg | Wheel size: 16in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: Coaster and rim brakes
Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

This classy-looking, lightweight bike has a quick-release lever saddle-height adjuster, and some unusual top-range features including a completely enclosed ‘chainlooper’ chain guard that’s fixed directly on the chain. It also has a rear coaster brake (standard in many EU countries, and engaged by backpedalling). “I love my new bike,” said our child tester Samuel, 5. “It’s easy to pedal. My old bike was hard but this is easy.”

Samuel’s mum Sarah was also impressed. “It rides so smoothly and the quality just shines through,” she said. “This is the kind of bike that would stand the test of time and last through multiple children.” Sarah also loved the coaster brake. “I initially was apprehensive but it seems to come naturally to my son. He finds it much easier than trying to squeeze the handlebar brakes with his hands.” Suitable for children with a minimum inside leg of 41cm to 49cm. Comes with stabilisers and a bell. Choose from Black and Green, Grey and Red, and Rose and Coral.

Pros: Smooth ride, durable, colour options
Cons: Pricey

Available from: Balfe's Bikes, On Yer Bike and Leisure Lakes

5. Squish 14" bike, £319.99

– Best bike for comfort

Squish 14 bike with child tester Mia Susannah

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Weight: 5.83kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Alloy | Stabilisers: No| Brakes: V-brakes

This snazzy first bike ticks a lot of boxes, from the children-specific geometry that means the handlebars and brake levers are in easy reach of the rider to the super lightweight alloy frame (one of the lightest on the market). The bike has a fully enclosed chain guard to prevent fingers and clothes getting caught in the greasy metal, a quick-release seat post so the padded saddle can be height adjusted without tools, and treated wheel rims that help increase braking power. It’s fun and easy to ride and has decent components, making it worth the price. Yes, it is a lot of money compared to many other first bikes on the market, but it’s not the most expensive and we think it will last for years and be adored by your little rider.

The bike is available in 3 different colours - orange (which our child tester Mia Susannah, 4, pictured, loved), purple and blue - and the paintwork definitely adds to the overall appeal. There’s a carry handle at the back of the saddle but you’d struggle to pick the bike up using it as it’s not deep enough to get a good grip.

Our child tester, Toby, 4, absolutely loved riding the Squish, according to his mum, Jessica. She said, “He looked so happy and the bike looked like it was built for him as every aspect of the bike made it easier to ride: the brake levers seemed closer to the seat so were easier to reach and this meant he used them more; the seat felt comfortable and the lightweight frame made pedalling enjoyable. Every single part of the bike shouts high quality and I truly believe this bike is made to last. Although you may only get a few years out of it for your child, the bike can definitely be passed along to someone else to enjoy and love. I can’t speak highly enough about the Squish.”

Pros: Durable, comfortable seat, lightweight frame
Cons: Pricey

Available from: TGC, North Bikes, Team Cycles and Bike Club

6. Bobbin Gingersnap 16", £229

– Best for town and urban cycling

Bobbin Gingersnap 16 bike with child tester Indie Rose

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 5+ | Weight: 9kg | Wheel size: 16in | Frame: Steel | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: Caliper brakes

The Gingersnap 16in is a mini-me version of Bobbin’s adult bikes, from the heritage-style frame to the range of classy pastel colours. The brown saddle and handlebar grips add to the vintage vibe, and it comes with a shiny old-school ‘ding-dong’ bell. Like Bobbin’s entry-level balance bike, the Gingersnap 16in comes with a wicker basket on the front.

Our child tester Indie, 6, said it was better to pedal than her other bike and didn’t fall over. “I like that it’s got a basket and I love the colour,” she said. Indie’s mum Paige was impressed with how sturdy the bike was. She said: “This is the first time my 6-year-old has gotten on a bike and confidently pedalled off on stabilisers without asking for someone to hold on to her.” Better suited to school runs and trips to the park, rather than muddy off-road cycling, it's a great-looking bike made to last.

Available in Blossom Pink, Duck Egg Blue, Cerise, Yellow and Pastel Mint.

Pros: Stylish, more affordable, colour options, retro style
Cons: May not be everyone's taste

Available from: Bobbin Bikes, Amazon and My Shiny Shop

7. Beehive Vintage Children's Bicycle, £174.99

– Best for retro style

Beehive Toys Blue 16 Vintage Bicycle with child tester Ted

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 5+ | Weight: 9kg | Wheel size: 16in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: Caliper and drum

This retro-styled aluminium-frame bike comes with adjustable seat and handlebars, bell, reflectors, front and rear brakes and stabilisers. Also available in pink.

It looks great, has a great twist-and-turn bell and it'll fit your child for a good few years: the seat easily adjusts from 52cm to 60cm and the handlebars from 65cm to 73cm (from the floor). Katherine, mum to our child tester Ted, 7, said, "We are delighted with this bike. It's considerably cheaper than some better-known brands but good quality and sturdy, with a comfortable saddle, nicely positioned handlebars, and easy-to-reach brake levers. It also has lower gears than many children's bikes, so it's much easier to make those initial pedal strokes and build up momentum: Ted had found other bikes too heavy to pedal but he rode away confidently on this and did four laps of the road!"

Pros: Affordable, lower gears, lightweight frame
Cons: Limited colours

Available from: Amazon and Beehive Toys

8. Strider 14x Sport Balance/Pedal Bike, £230

– Best balance-to-pedal bike for taller children

Strider - 14x Sport Balance Bike

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Weight: 5.7kg (6.9kg with pedals) | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Steel | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: Caliper and drum

This balance bike turns into a pedal bike with a special accessory kit (sold separately for an extra £64.99) that includes pedals, cranks, chain and a chainguard. The bike has rubber tyres with all-terrain tread, removable footrest, adjustable handlebars and padded seat, front and rear brakes. It also comes in a choice of blue, green, pink and orange.

It's a larger version of the hugely popular Strider 12X Sport balance bike and the same simple design and upright riding position make it intuitive for children to balance and steer with their feet off the ground, while the increased wheel and frame size make it ideal for older or taller children – and suitable for adding the pedal kit to when your child is ready. Our child testers loved this bike's pedals – which are half-width and make pedalling much easier, although one parent did note that the bike has more drag once the pedals are added. We also love the adjustable handlebar and seatpost, which has a quick-release lever and can extend by a good 17cm.

Pros: All-terrain tread, colour options, larger version
Cons: May be too big for younger children

Available from: Amazon, SkateHut and Halfords

9. Raleigh Molli 14", £179

– Best for style and cute accessories

Raleigh Molli 14 with child tester Matilda

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 5+ | Weight: 9kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: V-brakes

The prettiest of traditional bikes, with an upright riding position complete with a wicker front basket, tan saddle and matching handlebar grips. Features purple paintwork, high-rise handlebars, adjustable brake levers, and non-slip pedals with rubber grips. Comes with removable stabilisers, mud guards, colour-coordinated full chain guard and Molli soft toy dog. Also available in 12in (pink) and 16in (aqua).

It has a nice low step-through frame (making it easier for small bodies to get on and off the saddle) and excellent brakes. Be warned that the white tyres won't be white for long, though, and it is quite a heavy ride, so your child might find it a bit of a struggle on an incline! Our child tester, Matilda, 6, was a big fan of the cute toy dog that comes sitting in the basket, saying, "I want to ride this bike every day!" Although it's at the higher end price-wise for a first bike, Matilda's mum Cali felt the quality speaks for itself and "it’s definitely a case of you get what you pay for".

Pros: Traditional style, wicker basket and toy dog included, low step frame
Cons: White tyres get dirty quickly, heavy bike

Available from: Raleigh, Halfords, and Evans Cycles

10. LittleBig Balance Bike with Pedals Bundle, £235

– Best lightweight balance-to-pedal bike

LittleBig Balance Bike with Pedals Bundle

Age suitability: 2+ | Best for age: 3+ | Weight: 5.1kg / 6.6kg with pedals | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes

This is a very clever bike that converts from an adjustable balance bike with front and rear brakes (both the saddle height and the handlebar reach increase) to a pedal bike, using the LittleBig Pedal Kit (included in this bundle). Suitable for children with a minimum inside leg of 37cm (in 'little balance bike' mode) up to 51cm (in 'big pedal bike' mode). Comes in red, green, blue and pink.

"This bike has amazing play potential. It is a very sturdy, well-made bike. All the parts are of great quality and it looks very flashy!" shared parent tester Emma who tested this bike with her 3-year-old.

Parent tester Gino said, "The initial set up of the bike (as a balance bike) was super easy but the adaptation to a pedal bike took a little more effort."

It's great quality, very well balanced and nice and solid, without being too heavy. It might be a bit big for the smallest riders but once they fit, it should last your child several years. Once they are confident balancing and gliding, you can simply add the pedals – no need to buy a whole new bike. And it looks very cool, too.

Pros: Converts from balance to pedal bike, colour options, great quality
Cons: Not so easy to set up

Available from: LittleBig Bikes

11. Islabikes Cnoc, £399.99

– Best lightweight bike for smaller riders

Islabikes Cnoc

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Weight: From 5.2kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes

An alloy-framed bike that comes in 4 sizes: 14in (small; minimum inside leg 34cm), 14in (large; minimum inside leg 38cm), 16in (inside leg 42cm) and 20in (47cm). It’s lightweight (5.2kg for the small 14in version), has chromoly forks, front and back mini V-brakes, ‘micro-reach’ brake levers, and a fully enclosed free-floating chain guard. Comes in orange, pink and teal.

We like the proper mudguards and how the nicely narrow handlebars are designed to be higher than the saddle – putting the rider in a more upright position that's easier if you're only little. The light-action fingertip braking means even the smallest hands can control the bike’s speed and the cranks are short for less wobbling. This is a carefully thought-out starter bike.

Pros: Stylish, lightweight, easy-to-ride, good handling
Cons: Pricey, limited colours

Available from: Islabikes

12. Ridgeback MX14, £199.99

– Best for mid-range all-terrain riding

Ridgeback MX14

Age suitability: 3 to 5 | Best for age: 4+ | Weight: 8.27kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium-alloy | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: V-brakes

This kid-size mountain bike has high-tensile steel forks, off-road tyres and reach-adjustable brakes. It features a coordinating chain guard and is designed to fit children from 100 to 110cm tall. Comes in black, yellow and red.

We like how easily adjustable the brakes are for small hands – they can be pulled with just two fingers. It's not super-light but certainly isn’t the heaviest starter bike featured here and the rugged frame will hold up on paths and pavements. A decent, reliable, good-looking buy.

Pros: Off-road tyres, colour options, reach-adjustable brakes
Cons: Quite pricey

Available from: Ridgeback

About our author

Gabrielle Nathan has been working as a journalist for nearly 20 years. She began writing about parenting and family travel while pregnant with her first child in 2012.

A keen cyclist, Gabrielle loves pedalling around London, where she lives with her husband and 3 children. Since convincing her husband to ditch his Travelcard in favour of a bicycle, Gabrielle has bestowed a love of cycling on her 2 boys, who both now cycle to school. She’s currenlty working on her little girl, who is getting to grips with a balance bike. 

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Gabrielle NathanContributor

Gabrielle Nathan has been a journalist for 20 years, writing lifestyle features for publications including Red, Women’s Health, Wildflower and Condé Nast Traveller. She has been writing about parenting since 2012, the year she became a mum.