The 10 Best Balance Bikes

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If your child is not quite ready for a big kid's bicycle but is hankering for a little independence, it's time to invest in one of these balance bikes. They not only help develop coordination, steering skills and stability, but also provide your kiddo with just the right amount of mobility and freedom to gain confidence before taking that next step. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best balance bike on Amazon.

10. Vilano Push

9. Schwinn 12-Inch

8. Chicco Red Bullet

7. Joovy Bicycoo

6. Radio Flyer Glide and Go

5. YBike YBIK004

4. YeDoo TooToo 12

3. Strider 12 Sport

2. Kazam v2e

1. Cruzee UltraLite

Walk Before You Ride

It's experiences like this that make it so much easier for kids to transition to a bike with training wheels, and then a bike without them.

If you ride a bicycle, there's a good chance that you learned the way thousands, if not millions of children have learned over the past few decades, and that's by training wheels. You may recall that training wheels are smaller wheels that attach to the back portion of a bike frame so that they flank and provide balance to the bike's back wheel.

Training wheels are great in that they give your kids an opportunity to get a feel for pedaling a bike before they have to also learn how to balance it. The big problem with that method, however, is that the balancing act is often the hardest part, and as soon as a lot of kids feel that the security of the training wheels has been taken away they panic. Falling off of a bike hurts, so their fear is justified.

What a balance bike does is enter the scene before the larger bike with training wheels is even a thought. These balance bikes are essentially small, two-wheeled bikes without any pedals or gears. They're built low enough to the ground that a child can use his or her feet to move it along, while still getting a feel for the biking experience.

At first, this may seem silly. How could the experience of walking a bike along actually help teach you how to balance it? Well, balance and speed share a fascinating relationship. It turns out that the faster you ride, the easier it is to balance on a bicycle, or even a motorcycle. That's why it's important to run along side your child on his or her first attempt to ride a pedaled bike without training wheels, so they can build up speed before you let go.

When (and I mean when) your little one eventually builds up enough speed on his or her balance bike–going down a hill, for example–, two things will happen. First, the speed will necessitate that the kid picks his or her feet up off of the ground, as the bike will be moving too quickly for their legs to keep up. Second, once those feet come off the ground, the bike, moving quickly enough to do so, will balance itself.

It's experiences like this that make it so much easier for kids to transition to a bike with training wheels, and then a bike without them. By that time, they'll be so comfortable on a bike, and so experienced with the ease in balancing one, that they'll ride off into the sunset without you.

Minor Variations

I've always found the simplicity of a bicycle very appealing. Even with a dozen gears added to the frame, there's an elegance to the streamlined nature of bikes, to the way in which they're all essentially the same machine. Sure, some of them are easier to ride up hills or get up to higher speeds, but the mechanics of a bike never really change.

For starters–and this might be the most important variable in your choice–, you'll want to take a look at the style of the bike.

As you evaluate the balance bikes on our list, you'll notice that the similarities among them far outnumber their differences. Still, there are some perhaps unexpected particulars for you to consider when making your selection.

For starters–and this might be the most important variable in your choice–, you'll want to take a look at the style of the bike. This includes color, and if you follow the price links to a given bike, you'll see that several of them come in multiple colors. It also includes the nuances of its shape. While some of these bikes have their seats placed in more of a low-rider position, others feel more like mountain bikes or road bikes.

Next, you're going to want to look at the tire material. Some of these bikes boast actual rubber tires complete with inflatable tubes. This type tends to be more durable, and is significantly easier to maintenance than its plastic counterpart, but it also demands more upkeep, like making sure the tires are inflated and fixing flats.

Finally, check the weight of each bike. When your little one gets tired, it's up to you to carry the thing around, and a few pounds in this department can make all the difference, especially if you've got the bike in one arm and your kid in the other.

A Dandy Of A Time

One of the reasons that it took a while for the bicycle to catch on as a popular means of transportation or as an instrument of leisure is that, until its invention, human beings hadn't been asked to balance anything of its kind. The only comparable experience to riding a bike at that point in history was riding a horse, and horses either balanced themselves or they were taken out behind the shed, never to return.

In 1818, Baron Karl Drais invented something called the dandy horse, which was, for all intents and purposes, a balance bike for adults. It was a full-sized bicycle without pedals or gears. It had a hinged front wheel to allow for additional steering, but it didn't have any brakes.

Use of the dandy horse is one of the things that prepared the populace for the explosion of the bicycle in the middle of the 19th century, but its design faded well into the background until the balance bikes we now use for our kids came back into style over the past few decades.

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Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on May 10, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously at the keyboard or, perhaps, enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

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