The 9 Best Big Wheels
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in February of 2015. We've picked out the best big wheels on the market today based on their prices, safety, and features. Originally introduced in the 1970s, these low-riding tricycles have a nostalgic appeal for many parents and are still a fun alternative to standard trikes for boys and girls. Just as with any ride-on toys, though, it is important that children always wear protective gear and are well supervised. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 22, 2020:
Big wheels aren't as popular now as they were in their heyday of the 70s and 80s, when there were far fewer options for parents shopping for affordable, low-to-the-ground trikes. Today's models fall into two basic categories: cheaply-made, rough-riding, plastic big wheels and upgraded designs with much better durability and performance - and higher price tags.
In the former category, don't expect too much. These budget-friendly vehicles aren't exactly built to last, but they're colorful and fun - perfect for entry-level presents for younger kids. We've added a few of these, including the Disney Princess Heart Strong and the Frozen 2 Cruiser. The Fisher-Price Harley Davidson also falls into this category, although if you're a big wheel purist, you may disagree with its inclusion. But it gets high marks for its authentic roadster details. The Fisher-Price DC Super Friends and the Fisher-Price Nickelodeon Paw Patrol Trike are both no longer available and have been removed.
For upgraded designs that older kids can race, the Razor RipRider 360 and the Razor FlashRider 360 continue to set the bar. But their ability to corner and drift means that you have to sacrifice stability and safety, which was the whole reason that the big wheel was invented in the first place.
Overall, the hands-down winner is the Radio Flyer Deluxe 474A, because it strikes a balance between maneuverability and classic design - and it's made with high-quality, metal parts. It's also available in a pink version, which comes with a triangle flag to fly behind you.
We've also updated the information for several items, including the Toy Story Junior, the Fisher-Price Barbie Tough, and the Razor RipRider 360. Finally, there's a new listing under Special Honors for those who are really yearning for their childhood days.
December 22, 2019:
If your child is too young for a bicycle, or perhaps simply wants a fun alternative, these big wheels are a good option. They have a three-wheel design and low center of gravity, so no balancing is required. Despite this, children should still always wear a helmet any time they ride, and protective knee and elbow pads shouldn't be ruled out either.
While the majority of the models on this list could easily be used by kids as young as two or three years old, there are two notable exceptions to that — the Razor FlashRider 360 and Razor RipRider 360. The free-moving rear coasters on these make for a very wild ride, with a lot of high-speed spin-outs and drifting, so they are best suited to kids at least six years of age, and will continue to be fun for many up until their preteen years.
The Original Big Wheel 48727 is about as classic as they come, looking very much like the one you probably had as a child. Not only will it most likely promote a sense of nostalgia in you, but it should also create those very same kinds of memories for your children. However, if you want something a little more high tech for your kid, you'll want to check out the Fisher-Price Nickelodeon Paw Patrol Trike, which features fun lights and sound effects. Be aware though, that the volume isn't adjustable, so it could get annoying after a while if you are just trying to enjoy a peaceful day at the park while your tot is riding around.
When it comes to build quality, the Radio Flyer Deluxe 474A ranks near the top, with its real chrome handlebars and cushioned grips. Also, you can buy replacement parts for it if the wheels or pedals wear out over time.
While it is debatable if the Fisher-Price DC Super Friends, Fisher-Price Nickelodeon Paw Patrol Trike, and Fisher-Price Barbie Tough can really be classified as big wheels, we feel their design is close enough that they warranted a space on this list. However, if you are dead set on that classic design, you may want to steer clear of these.
High Roller Adult Size Big Wheel Feel the sweet freedom once again of having a big wheel at your command and the horizon as your destination - or at least the end of your street. Complete with handlebar tassels, a bell, and an adjustable seat, this ride will bring back your glory days. You can customize its paint job and graphics. highrollerusa.com
A Rolling Rite Of Passage
These tend to be pricier than their plastic cousins, but they ought to last a lot longer, as well.
Just a couple of decades ago, it seemed like there was an endless supply of iconic toys for children, games, and devices that had been passed down through the generations. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Lite Bright, Speak & Spell, and their ilk crossed all boundaries of social status and intelligence to bring kids together under uniform banners of fun. Now, they all just play on their phones.
There is one item, however, that cannot be replaced by fancy screens or battery-operated flashing noisemakers, and that's the big wheel.
Iconic doesn't even begin to describe the classic, timeless appeal of speed and adventure that the big wheel offers children. It's a toy that knows no gender, that heaps hours of joy on top of one another, and that can help keep our kids fit at a time when childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions.
It's a simple enough device, as well. Modeled after the low-rider bicycles and ape-hanger motorcycles of the 60s, the big wheel boasts an enlarged front tire and a relaxed leaned-back sitting position. The seat itself universally has a back support to it, and the riding position actually encourages good posture.
That larger front tire gives kids a great deal of control over the direction of the big wheel, and the two wheels in the back provide great balance to the tricycle. It takes a lot of mismanagement to topple one of these over on its side.
Most big wheels are made from tough ABS plastic, but a few incorporate lighter-weight metals that you see on fancier BMX bikes. These tend to be pricier than their plastic cousins, but they ought to last a lot longer, as well.
Riding In Style
My first big wheel wasn't a particularly high-quality model. It was made of extremely cheap plastic (this was the 1980s, after all), and the spokes that held the seat-back in place quickly snapped. It was also a hand-me-down from my older sister, and very clearly meant for girls, as it was branded after the popular Cabbage Patch dolls, with a white body, purple hardware, and a big, light green front wheel.
You can spend all the time you want evaluating the safety of these toys.
Needless to say, I was pretty embarrassed to ride that thing around the neighborhood, and by the time I was a little older and the male penchant for destruction made its way into my bones, I regularly and intentionally crashed her big wheel into a large wall of loose bricks until the front wheel chassis cracked. My big wheel days, from that moment on, were over.
The lesson here, in addition to a warning against ramming cheap plastic into brick walls, is that, ideally, a kid's big wheel should be his or her own.
You can spend all the time you want evaluating the safety of these toys. Some of them are clearly built to last longer than others, and a couple even come with more advanced braking systems than the classic skid (or my personal favorite: the jump-off-the-moving-bike method). Ultimately, though, it's your kid's eyes that will make or break this purchase.
More likely than not, this is going to be a present. At the very least, it's going to be a surprise, and you know that look in his or her eyes when the surprise you've planned fails miserably. There isn't much you can do to recover from that first moment of the reveal.
Luckily, if you've been paying even a little bit of attention, you know a thing or two about your tot, and that ought to be enough for you to narrow down our list to a few styles he or she will love. From there, you can dissect features and build quality for the perfect choice.
Back When Kids Could Be Cool
Few things scream cool among young kids like a good big wheel. Even today, as kids become more and more isolated in their digital worlds, there's an irresistible pull toward adventure among the youngest humans.
It was a fresh, nostalgic demographic, and the renaissance of the big wheel continues today.
In 1969, back when the cool kids were the ones who were the most adventurous (and not the ones who had the latest iPhone), Louis Marx of Louis Marx and Company introduced the first Big Wheel to that market. It was a trademark name, but it didn't take long for imitations to crop up and use the term big wheel as a category for their own brands.
The popularity of the toys soared through the 70s and 80s, as parents viewed them as ways not only to save money compared to a traditional bicycle or tricycle, but also as a way to keep kids safer than the bigger bikes they might have otherwise wanted.
The 1990s saw a significant dip in big wheel sales, as the majority of manufacturers either stopped or slowed their production, or they filed for bankruptcy.
By 2003, however, some forward (and backward) thinking business people saw an opportunity in the fact that most of the kids who owned big wheels in the 70s and 80s were having kids of their own. It was a fresh, nostalgic demographic, and the renaissance of the big wheel continues today.