It can be difficult to work out what the best balance bikes for kids out there are, especially with so many different brands to choose from.
If you’re caught up choosing between Frog Bikes, Islabikes and everything in between when choosing the best balance bikes for your children, don’t worry. We’ve all been there! So we’ve asked some experts on bikes for kids to share their knowledge on choosing the best balance bikes to get your child on the road to loving life on two wheels.
Biking is great fun for kids and keeps them fit, healthy and away from screens for a little while. Children are most easily influenced between the ages of 1 and 6, the first early years of their life, according to parenting expert Dr Sears. A balance bike can help you get your child interested in riding a bike from as young as 18 months and instil a love of cycling from an early age.
What is a balance bike?
Balance bikes are like 2-legged scooters with a seat, so your toddler will find them easier to get moving than a pedal bike and they’ll feel like a ‘big kid’ once they see how easy it is to balance on one. These light, mini bikes are perfect for the school run too so you’ll get lots of use out of one. Balance bikes:
- Are simple to use: There are no tricky pedals or complicated brakes to master
- Are easy to control: Toddlers can only go as fast as their ability and strength allows
- Promote confidence and improve toddlers’ coordination and balance so they won’t need stabilisers
- Teach new skills: Balance bikes are designed to help young children learn to balance and steer
- Promote road sense: A balance bike rider will learn respect for pedestrians and cars, plus learn to spot dangers early on.
What age is a balance bike for?
Some children start using a balance bike from as young as 18 months, however Pim Coopmans of Co & Co, the manufacturers of Trybike Balance Bikes, says it’s more about a child’s ability and development stage, rather than a set age, that’s important.
“A child must have mastered basic levels of co-ordination before they can use a balance bike”, Pim says.
David Sheppard, Bike Buying Manager at Evans Cycles agrees saying: “Balance bikes are generally designed for kids aged 2-3 but realistically as soon as your kids are confident walkers then they’ll be able to get onto a balance bike.
“Even if the child doesn’t seem particularly interested in the bike when you first get it, just having it around the house will let them get used to the idea of scooting around so that they’ll quickly pick it up when they’re ready.”
Can you remove the pedals of a normal bike to make a balance bike?
It is absolutely possible to remove the pedals of a regular kids bike and make it a balance bike. There are plenty of parents who do this – but there are a few things to consider before you do.
“There’s plenty of kids – and some adults – who don’t learn to ride until later on, but the principal remains the same,” David says. “Just take the pedals off and drop the saddle down so the rider can reach the floor with flat feet, then once they’ve got the hang of balancing you can put the pedals back and away you go.”
However, Pim warns that when removing pedals from a normal bike to try and create a balance bike you risk putting your child on a bike that is too big for their size or where the seat is way too high for them to be properly in control: “It very much depends on the construction of the frame and the seat height but pedal bikes require a higher seat height whereas with a balance bike the seat needs to be closer to the ground so a child can control the movement with their feet.
“You want to start with a balance bike as early as possible, and on a normal bike a child would need to be 4+ years to be able to reach the ground.”
Can you add pedals to a balance bike for when kids get older?
There are some brands that design balance bikes with the idea in mind that pedals can be added for when kids get older or more confident cycling. However, these are generally not classed as the best balance bikes for kids and here’s why.
David explains, “Whilst there are some bikes on the market that will let you convert a balance bike into a pedal bike, they generally add a little more weight and cost to the bike. We’d recommend sticking with just a balance bike at first then moving onto a purpose made pedal bike.”
Are balance bikes any good?
As Bike Buying Manager at Evans Cycles, David can confirm that balance bikes are indeed ‘good’ – and his many customers think so too!
“They’re great – we’ve seen kids go from balance bikes to an unaided pedal cycle in literally 15 minutes. Stabilisers vs balance bikes are a very personal choice, and we sell plenty of both, but by getting used to the idea of balancing and stabilising the bike early, kids will typically progress faster when they’ve learned on a balance bike.”
Pim also says that one of the main benefits of balance bikes is the number of skills your child will learn and practice while riding one.
“It will teach your child a crucial skill which will set them up for life – balance. Learned early, this can enhance confidence when it comes to cycling unsupported.
Agreeing with David, Pim also thinks that balance bikes have the upper hand on bikes with stabilisers thanks to their versatility: “Balance bikes can be used anywhere and will roll on any surface, inside or outside. Training wheels will often inhibit children’s progress and cause frustration when used on surfaces such as gravel, grass and carpet.”
What you should look for in a balance bike when buying one for your child
David advises that when it comes to the best balance bikes for kids, quality is so important and although that often has a cost attached, it’s worth it:
“Where possible buy for build quality – it may be more expensive in the short term, but it’ll last longer as a hand-me-down and hold its resale value much better.”
He also says that when comparing good quality brands, weight should be something you take into consideration:
“Weight is by far the biggest factor. The lighter the bike the easier it will be for the child to control and to learn on. Let’s face it, you’re also likely to spend a fair portion of time carrying the bike so the lighter the better. After that going for something with pneumatic tyres over solid wheels will be more comfortable and let your kids enjoy cycling more.
Teaching kids to ride a balance bike safely
It’s important that when your kids are riding their bikes that they are well protected in case they fall off. Here’s what you need to think about when it comes to keeping your kids safe when they’re cycling:
- Protect their head: Bike helmets aren’t law, but are strongly recommended by many organisations, especially for children
- Kids should be seen: Your child’s bike should have reflectors and lights.
- Look after their bike: Keep bikes clean and oiled, keep wheels pumped up and make sure the brakes work. You can also take children’s bikes into your local bike shop for a service. it is generally recommended that you get bikes serviced ever 12 months – and this goes for kids’ bikes as well as adult’s.
David also highlights the importance of holding on to your child – not the bike – when they are first learning as a way of safely letting them get a feel for being in control of the bike:
“Firstly, make sure the bike is setup correctly for the rider, the aim is to move the saddle up or down so that their feet are flat on the floor when they’re sat in the saddle. Then always try to hold your child rather than the bike when they’re first starting.
“Hold them under the armpits so you can support their weight but not interfere with their control of the bike. That way you can gradually give them less and less support as they get used to the bike before letting them go completely.
“Finally let them play – kids often learn best from watching other kids so if they’ve got older siblings or friends who can already ride, organise a ride in the park and they’ll be off in no time.”
The best balance bikes for kids
Age suitability: 18 months +
Why is this balance bike so good? Designed specifically with kids in mind, Frog Bikes have a lightweight but sturdy frame and are top quality bikes – so you’ll be able to pass this bike on through the family or sell it on in the future for a good price.
Age suitability: 18 months +
Why is this balance bike so good? Super lightweight, this bike is easy for both kids to ride and adults to carry when the little ones get tired – a huge bonus! The seat and handlebars are adjustable, so the bike can grow with your child and the lightweight wheels are made especially to resist punctures.
Age suitability: 2 – 5 years
Why is this balance bike so good? Pneumatic tyres, easy grip foam handles and dual steering system all make this light balance bike a great introduction to the concept of cycling for little ones.
Age suitability: 3 years +
Why is this balance bike so good? Obvious style notes aside, this balance bike is fitted with inflatable tyres that absorb any harsh bumps along the way, the adjustable seat can be adjusted in line with their growth spurts, from 40 to 46cm. The colour and basket at the front will appeal to small children, encouraging them to want to interact with the bike and get them excited about cycling.
Age suitability: 2 years +
Why is this balance bike so good? This super light bike features a micro-reach brake lever, designed to be easy to use for tiny hands and an introduction to the concept of braking to help with the transition to a pedal bike
Age suitability: 2 years +
Why is this balance bike so good? Great value for money, this balance bike claims to be the lightest on the market and has an adjustable seat and bars to allow the bike to grow with your child.
Age suitability: 18 months +
Why is this balance bike so good? Lightweight aluminium tubes, a saddle with a grab-rail for easy carrying and a stopper in the headset to stop kids over steering.