From the time they learn to crawl, little ones have a need for speed (and more than enough energy to exert it, mind you). They go from inch worming around your living room carpet to scurrying around your living space as fast as their little legs will take them, right before your eyes. Then they feast theirs on all the different vehicles zipping past your house and beg for their own set of wheels to take them faster still. But not every child is skilled in stability, so if you’re thinking about buying a bike for your toddler, consider splurging on one of the best balance bikes for kids over your standard trike.
Balance bikes, or glider bikes, are bicycles that help kiddos as young as 18 months to about 5 years old establish an equilibrium. Without pedals or cranks to guide them, children navigate balance, speed and steering pretty much on their own, which definitely serves as a confidence boost down the road. They’ll essentially push the bike with their own body weight and glide along their path.
But don’t worry, your precious cargo won’t be without protection, as most balance bikes come with brakes and are lower to the ground so when things get rocky (figuratively and literally), your little one can come to a full stop with their feet. It’s an even safer alternative to the tricycle you’ve been eyeing, so if you’re curious, here are a few of the best balance bikes for your little speed demon.
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1. Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike
Even if your child hasn’t mastered stability just yet, parents agree you’ll feel at ease trading in your child’s tricycle and training wheels for the Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike. Its sleek aesthetic reflects the smooth ride your child will experience every time they hop back on: With features like a foot-to-floor design and a step-thru frame, kids as young as 20 months old will establish a sense of balance quickly and feel confident in themselves on the road (err, sidewalk). Just don’t freak at the whole no pedals thing — that’s on purpose. Sans training wheels or foot pedals, but with less distance between their heels and the ground, your tiny cyclist will learn to control their speed, avoid falls and minimize the risk of injury.
2. Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike
If your little one was born to ride, Strider’s balance bike can help them find their bearings as young as 18 months. This sporty bicycle is a sweet ride that grows with your child. The seat and handlebar heights are adjustable and can accommodate your little one from their early toddler years to 5 years old, or 12- to 20-inch inseam. The best part? No tools are required to make those transitions. The 12 Sport is also an investment toy: It lasts years of riding and is eligible for Strider upgrades like a foot brake or heavy-duty tires when your child starts venturing off the sidewalk and onto rocky trails.
3. Schwinn Elm Bike for Toddlers and Kids
We love this vibrant balance bike from Schwinn. Partially because it’s pretty, but mostly because colors like hot pink, teal and purple with red accents make this sweet ride easy to spot when your little one’s cruising down the sidewalk. Designed for children 2 to 4 years old (or 28 to 38 inches tall), this balance bike features a lighter frame, cranks and pedals, gears, narrow pedal positions, and smaller grips and seats for young riders. The saddle, seat post and slack seat tube are all adjustable, and the bike also features rear and front brakes for optimal safety.