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Best balance bikes: teach your pre-schooler to ride with confidence

Which are the best balance bikes to help toddlers to learn the cycling basics? Our testers put the UK's top balance bikes through their paces to bring you our pick of 2023's best models.

By Adele Jarrett-Kerr | Last updated May 24, 2023

a collage of 3 balance bikes Mumsnet Best

This article was update on 16th May 2023.

Balance bikes are small bicycles without pedals. They allow children as young as 18 months to learn to balance and steer by propelling the bike forward and lifting their feet up to glide when ready. Whether you’re looking for a garden toy, a nursery-run solution or something hard-wearing for off-road family trails, the choosing the best balance bike for your toddler will hugely impact their first experience of cycling.

As parents, we know the importance of getting kids outdoors - it helps burn off energy, builds their social and developmental skills and it's brilliant for mental health too. With the cost of living putting a squeeze on many of our budgets right now, we all want to know that we're investing our money wisely. That's why we've spent hours writing and researching our round-ups of Mumsnetters' favourite outdoor play equipment. From the best trampolines to the best paddling pools, we're on hand to help you make the most of your garden this summer.

But which balance bike is best? There are lots of different options out there from cheap and cheerful to high-spec and built-to-last. If you only have one child and know that you’ll only need a balance bike for a short time then a cheaper option might be best, but if you have more than one child it can be worth investing in something pricier that can be passed from child to child. A lot of balance bikes also have great resale value so that’s worth keeping in mind too.

Here at Mumsnet we know only too well how important safety is to parents, as well as price, looks, and longevity when it comes to things like bikes, and who better to get genuine information from than the parents in our community. So we’ve scoured the Mumsnet forums for authentic reviews and honest opinions on the best balance bikes to buy for toddlers. Partnering with parent tester Adele, a busy mum of three, we’ve put together our list of the best balance bikes available right now.

The best balance bikes for toddlers and pre-schoolers - at a glance:

  • Best overall balance bike: Vitus Nippy £34.99 | Buy now
  • Best budget balance bike: Peppa Pig Balance Bike £40 | Buy now
  • Best balance bike for a 2-year-old: Puky LR M 500 £74.64 | Buy now
  • Best balance bike for toddlers: Micro 2in1 Chopper £69.95 | Buy now
  • Best balance bike for active kids: Hoy Napier £78 | Buy now
  • Best balance bike for 3+ year-olds: Specialized Hotwalk £149 | Buy now
  • Best height-adjustable balance bike: Strider 12 Sport £97.99 | Buy now
  • Best quality balance bike: Frog Tadpole £260 | Buy now
  • Best balance bike for resale value: Islabikes Rothan £199 | Buy now
  • Best for easy carrying: Hornit AIRO £139 | Buy now

1. Best overall balance bike: Vitus Nippy

vitus nippy

Price on writing: £34.99 | Buy now from Wiggle

Key specs

Age range: 3+ | Weight: 1.9kg | Wheel size: 10 inch | Tyres: Airless

What we love

  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Great price
  • Similar quality to much more expensive bikes

What to know

  • No brakes

What Mumsnet users say

"I spent AGES looking into this and got in quite a tizzy because some cost upwards of a £100, so what do you get for that and is it worth it? Should I be getting pneumatic tyres for comfort? Should I get one with brakes so my pfb can allegedly more easily transition to a proper bike? In the end I spent about £40 on a Vitus Nippy and it's great. Incredibly light weight. Seems fine on any surface. Comes in a choice of colours. DS loves it." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user FoxtrotSkarloey)

"Vitus Nippy weighs just under a Strider and is a third of the price. We had a heavy balance bike and made no progress, swapped it for a Vitus Nippy and my son was doing huge ramps in the skate park the same day, and road a bike with pedals without needing any practice once he'd outgrown the Nippy. He absolutely loved that thing, even more than his pedal bike tbh." (Recommended by Mumsnetter user33323)

Our verdict

After much deliberation, we've chosen the Vitus Nippy as our best overall balance bike for 2023. The lightest of the bikes on our list, the Nippy is great quality where it matters, with tyres that can take any surface in their stride, a robust frame and lightweight construction for the times you'll inevitably need to carry it. 

Suitable from age 3, available in seven colours and with an adjustable saddle, this bike will help your child learn to ride with confidence, without breaking the bank. The Vitus Nippy is currently discounted at Wiggle, so grab an absolute bargain before it goes back up to the (still very reasonable) £44.99. 

2. Best budget balance bike: Peppa Pig Balance Bike

peppa pig balance bike

Price on writing: £40 | Buy now from Halfords

Key specs

Age range: 1-5 years | Weight: 2kg | Wheel size: 10 inch | Tyres: Airless

What we love

  • Features a well-loved character
  • Bright, appealing colours
  • Bargain price

What to know

  • No breaks
  • Children might grow out of the character 

What Mumsnet users say

"Balance bike is a hit here too. We just picked up a £20 peppa pig one in the toy store. It has been used every day for over a year and still going strong." (Tried and tested by Mumsnetter onetwothreeadventure)

Our verdict

Many Mumsnetters say that because balance bikes are used for a relatively short time, it's not worth spending lots of money on one. A cheap and cheerful bike featuring a character your little one loves, like this Peppa Pig bike, is perfect for learning the skill of balancing on two wheels. 

You'll find plenty of character balance bikes under £50 - from Frozen to Cars to Paw Patrol and many more

3. Best balance bike for a 2-year-old: Puky LR M 500

Puky LR M Balance Bike

Price on writing: £74.64 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age range: 2+ | Weight: 3kg | Wheel size: 8.4inch | Tyres: Airless

What we love

  • Low seat
  • Ergonomic saddle 
  • Safety grips
  • Footboard

What to know

  • No brakes

What Mumsnet users say

"Puky bikes are amazing (really well made, German bikes). My kids have all started out on Pukys and Ridgebacks." (Recommended by Mumsnetter TheVanguardSix)

"Our Puky bike has been brilliant, both dc have ridden it since just after 2 years old." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Her0utdoors)

Our verdict#

German company Puky make balance bikes with lots of safety and comfort features, which is why Mumsnetters love them. The handlebars have soft grips, and the wheels and steering are ball-bearing operated for a smooth ride. This model is available in pink or blue and retails at under £100. 

You can easily adjust the height of the saddle and handlebars, and the bike itself sits low to the ground, making it easy and comfortable for little ones. There's a footboard too - great for kids who don't feel comfortable with their legs out as they glide. 

4. Best balance bike for toddlers: Micro 2in1 Chopper

micro 2in1 chopper

Price on writing: £69.95 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age range: 2-5 years | Weight: 2.88kg | Wheel size: 12 inch | Tyres: Airless

What we love

  • Trusted brand
  • Stabiliser feature
  • Replacement parts available
  • Lightweight

What to know

  • Looks and feels less like a bicycle than other balance bikes

What Mumsnet users say

"Micro Balance Bike, worth every penny." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user goingtotown)

Our verdict

If you're looking for a balance bike with a little extra support for your toddler as they learn, the Micro 2in1 Chopper is perfect. With a choice of 2 small or 1 standard-sized wheel at the back, this bike will help your child transition from a trike to a balance bike and beyond with confidence.

Known and loved by Mumsnetters for their scooters, Micro is a trusted brand that makes high-quality, innovative products. Thanks to this, you'll be able to replace parts if it gets broken, or sell on the Chopper once your child grows out of it. 

5. Best balance bike for active kids: Hoy Napier 2020

hoy napier

Price on writing: £78 | Buy now from Evans Cycles

Key specs

Age range: Two to four years old (85 to 110cm tall with an inside leg of 40cm minimum) | Weight: 3.8kg | Wheel size: 12 inch | Tyres: Pneumatic

What we love

  • Relatively lightweight
  • Really sturdy
  • Stylish BMX aesthetic

What to know

  • No brakes
  • Handle bar height can’t be adjusted

Our verdict

The Hoy Napier is the stuff of a toddler’s Olympics dreams with its sleek, minimalist BMX design, chunky wheels and small aluminium frame. Available in red, blue, and yellow this is a great looking balance bike that will see most children through from the age of two to four.

The wide grab rail allows adults to easily hold on if they want to guide a toddler just getting to grips with balance bike life. It’s also a useful feature when you inevitably end up carrying the thing. Speaking of, it’s relatively lightweight so not too difficult to carry round the park but still incredibly sturdy which is reassuring for parents of fearless toddlers. There are no brakes on this balance bike but there is a stopper in the handlebars so the bike can’t be oversteered which is really useful for new riders.

You can read journalist and parent Adele’s full Hoy Napier review.

6. Best balance bike for age 3+: Specialized Hotwalk

specialized hotwalk

Price on writing: £149 | Buy now from Specialized

Key specs

Age range: 18 months - 4 years | Weight: Not stated | Wheel size: 12 inch | Tyres: Airless

What we love

  • Great quality bike
  • Available in 4 cool colourways
  • Made by bicycle experts

What to know

  • No brakes

What Mumsnet users say

"Specialized bikes. Quite pricy but v light weight and good quality." (Recommended by Mumsnetter CaraDuneRedux)

Our verdict

Specialized say the Hotwalk is designed for "less crashes and more smiles" to help kids get on two wheels with confidence. The bike has a low standover and 12" wheels, so it's a great size for a 3 or 4 year old to get their bearings. 

Using the same technology and expert know-how they apply to their range of adult bikes, Specialized have designed a fun, user-friendly and high-performance bike. The standard Hotwalk retails at £149, and they've also developed what might just be the ultimate balance bike - the £999 Hotwalk Carbon. Eye-wateringly expensive toddler bikes aside, we think the Hotwalk is a great bike for parents looking to purchase a high-quality alternative to the Islabikes Rothan or Frog Tadpole

7. Best height-adjustable balance bike: Strider 12 Sport

strider 12 sport

Price on writing: £129.99 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Age range: 18 months (with an inside leg of 30.5cm) to five years (with an inside leg of 50.8cm) | Weight: 2.9kg | Wheel size: 12 inch | Tyres: EVA polymer

What we love

  • Super lightweight
  • Quick and easy to adjust on the go
  • Comfortable footrest 

What to know

  • Foam rubber tyres aren’t idea for rough surfaces

What Mumsnet users say

“We had a strider and it was brilliant. Also amazing customer service when we needed some help.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user SpanielPlusToddler)

Our verdict

One of the lightest bikes on the market, the Strider 12 Sport is the ultimate no-fuss option. Capable of being hooked onto the back of even the smallest of lightweight buggies, you may also find that you soon ditch said buggy because the Strider's weight and size allow toddlers as young as 18 months to get going quickly.

Special features include quick-release adjusters on the seat and handlebars to make adapting the bike as your child grows really simple. There’s also a handy footrest for your child once they learn to coast and puncture-proof foam tyres that won’t need any maintenance. The Strider is designed for toddlers of 18 months all the way up to kids of 5 years so you’ll get a lot of use out of it before it gets outgrown.

Here's our full, in-depth Strider 12 Sport review.

8. Best quality balance bike: Frog Bikes Tadpole

frog bikes tadpole

Price on writing: £260 | Buy now from Frog Bikes

Key specs

Age range: Suitable for two and three year olds (average inside leg 31cm) | Weight: 4.17kg | Wheel size: 12 inch | Tyres: Pneumatic

What we love

  • Easy to adjust without tools
  • Comfy padding on handles and seat
  • Decent resell value

What to know

  • Heavier than other options

What Mumsnet users say

"Highly recommend Frog bikes. Nice and light which is what they need. We’ve had quite a few now as the children have grown. My son had a fantastic lightweight plastic balance bike first of all but I can’t remember the brand. Then we discovered Frog bikes and have had those ever since." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Jerble)

Our verdict

The Frog Bikes Tadpole combines a sturdy frame with chunky wheels and a long wheelbase – all while boasting a relatively light design, which is no mean feat. These attributes make the Tadpole ideal as a trail bike but light enough for older toddlers, especially as its tyres are well-cushioned for bumpy surfaces. The reflectors and bell are also great features to teach little ones about safety and being seen and heard while out riding a bike.

While it may be a bit heavy for a child who has just turned two, the Frog Tadpole comes into its own from around age three. Like the Islabikes Rothan, it’s purposefully designed to suit a specific age range and performs well on all surfaces. The comfy padding on the handles and seat makes the bike great for longer rides and the brake handle is easy for little hands to reach to slow down and stop with confidence. The Tadpole is on the pricey side but it is the closest you can get to a ‘proper’ bike as a balance bike and the resale value is really good.

Want to know more? Read our full Frog Tadpole review.

9. Best balance bike for resale value: Islabikes Rothan

islabikes rothan

Price on writing: £199.99 | Buy now from Islabikes

Key specs

Age range: Suitable from two years old with a minimum inside leg of 30cm and approximate height of 88cm | Weight: 3.2kg | Wheel size: 12 inch | Tyres: Pneumatic

What we love

  • Light and easy to carry
  • Sturdy with great grippy tyres
  • Great on all types of terrain
  • Holds its value well for reselling

What to know

  • Relatively expensive
  • Allen key needed to adjust seat height

What Mumsnet users say

“We had a Rothan and thought it was great. I sold it for a good price afterwards too.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user BreakingUpWithMyPhone)

Our verdict

Exceptionally light so that toddlers can focus their efforts on balance, the Islabikes Rothan takes the top spot as our best balance bike. From its unique tyres to narrow handles, every aspect of this bike has been scaled down to proportion, suiting a two-year-old’s dimensions and developmental ability perfectly.

The Rothan is built for comfort with a special 'scoop' saddle that prevents sliding about. It also features wide handlebars spaced to match a toddler’s shoulders and an easy-to-reach handbrake, which is handy for helping toddlers get used to operating a brake right from the get-go. Smooth to steer and easy to use, the Islabikes Rothan should help any new cyclist get moving and balancing in no time. While the £200-odd price tag is one of the highest on our list, many Mumsnetters advise buying Islabikes secondhand, or investing in a new one and selling the Rothan once your child's grown out of it, then putting the money towards one in the next stage up. 

Read our reporter Adele’s full review of the Islabike Rothan balance bike

10. Best balance bike for easy carrying - Hornit AIRO

hornit airo

Price on writing: £139 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age range: Suitable from 18 months to 5 years old | Weight: 2.95kg | Wheel size: 12 inch | Tyres: Pneumatic

What we love

  • Super lightweight frame
  • 6 vibrant colours to choose from
  • Grip-taped footrests for comfortable freewheeling

What to know

  • Allen key needed to adjust seat

What Mumsnet users say

“We have a Hornit balance bike for DS and he absolutely adores it. I do too because it’s super super light for when I inevitably have to end up carrying it sometimes.” (Loved by Mumsnet user Rainallnight)

Our verdict

Sleek and incredibly lightweight, the Hornit AIRO is super portable and easy to carry when your child wants to take a break from riding. With air-filled tyres for a smoother ride and contoured foot rests for comfy freewheeling your toddler will be away in no time with this balance bike.

Available in a choice of six bright, funky colours, the Hornit AIRO looks great and thanks to the height-adjustable seat it’ll last your child for years. There’s even a lifetime warranty available for the bike so it’s a great choice for families who want to be able to pass it on from one child to the next.

Intrigued? Read more in our full Hornit AIRO review.

child on balance bike

What is a balance bike?

A balance bike is a kids' bike with no cranks or pedals. It allows a child to ride on two wheels without pedals so that they can learn to balance before moving on to full pedal cycling.

What age is best for a balance bike?

Children can start using balance bikes when they’re as young as 18 months old. They tend to last up to the age of three or four, sometimes even five.

Are balance bikes worth it?

While some people would argue that it’s better to dive straight into a standard bike with stabilizers, we think that balance bikes are absolutely worth it and a great place to start learning bike riding skills.

They can be used from as young as 18 months and teach toddlers how to balance and move on a bike without the added complication of using the pedals. They’ll also build their confidence and learn bike control which will make the transition to a full pedal bike almost seamless when they’re older.

What to consider when buying a balance bike

Weight: Lightweight is key. Even a kilogram of difference between bikes could represent a significant proportion of your child’s body weight, which could make the bike difficult to ride and negatively impact their first impression of cycling.

You want to make sure your bike doesn’t weigh more than 30 percent of your child’s bodyweight so that they're not forced to work too hard or forced to become frustrated. 3kg tends to be a good marker for most toddlers.

Also bear in mind that you’ll probably have to lift your child’s bike in and out of the car boot or, at the very least, carry it should they get tired, so you’ll thank yourself later for going that little bit lighter.

Size: Cycling UK advises that your child should be able to sit comfortably on the balance bike, knees slightly bent and feet flat on the floor.

You’ll want to check the size of the tyres to ensure that the bike you’re getting your 18-month-old isn’t better suited to a four-year-old. Most start at 12 inches and stop at 16, although you can find bigger or smaller models if needed.

We’d always advise that you take a close-up look at the bike you’re interested in at a local bicycle shop or high street retailer, if only to check that it fits your child.

You may also want to go for a balance bike with decent adjustability so it can grow with your child, ideally spanning two to three years. Some bikes allow both the seat and the handlebars to be fitted to size so you’ll also want to check how easy it is to adjust them.

Wheels: There are two common types: EVA foam or pneumatic rubber tyres with an inner tube.

EVA polymer wheels are better suited to smaller riders who tend to stick to pavements and are less likely to need servicing, while pneumatic tyres are generally more comfortable and have better traction on bumpy ground.

Steering: You want to be sure that the handlebar is responsive and unlikely to need a great shove to get turning. To help with this, look for ball bearings in the hubs of the balance bike’s wheels.

Brake: A handbrake is an optional choice on a balance bike as a child will instinctively use their feet to stop, at least at first.

However, many balance bikes do offer rear brakes, which could be helpful as kids develop into speedy riders much later on. This could also go a long way to aiding their confidence and also protecting their shoes.

Quality of build: Make sure that the bike you end up with is sturdy and finished to a high standard. This could indicate how well it’s built, how durable it is and how much maintenance it needs.

The saddle should also, ideally, be in a ‘scoop’ shape to deal with the amount of weight targeted towards the centre of the saddle and to aid positioning.

Cost: Balance bikes start at around £20 and go into the hundreds which means that you'll find a fairly decent bike for most budgets.

Consider how often your child is likely to use it, how long you'd want it to last and if it could be resold later or passed down to a younger sibling.

What’s the best balance bike to buy?

With an affordable price combined with great quality, not to mention super lightweight, we think the Vitus Nippy is the best balance bike to buy in 2023. Mumsnetters warn against spending lots on a balance bike as they're used for a relatively short time, and the Nippy hits the sweet spot between performance, quality and price.

If you're looking to invest in a bike you can sell on, the Islabikes Rothan is hard to beat.

How we choose our recommendations

Parent testers

We asked real parents to put some of the UK's top balance bikes through their paces, letting their young children try out each model and taking detailed notes on a number of points:

  • Assembly
  • Weight
  • Price
  • Safety features

Recommendations from real parents

Before recommending the best balance bikes for toddlers we spent time searching through our Mumsnet forums to find the balance bikes that come most highly recommended by the parents in our community.

Expert guidance

We always ensure our information represents the latest recommendations from experts so you can rely on it, and we research each product thoroughly to ensure it follows the latest expert advice and stands up to scrutiny. 

Consumer feedback

We also scour the internet, leaving no stone unturned to check out real reviews from customers who have bought the products themselves and given both positive and negative feedback. 

Finally, we cross-referenced all of the above information to find the best balance bikes for toddlers that had won the most accolades and recommendations across the board to bring you a selection of the best ones at various price points. We think there’s something here for everyone.

child on balance bike looking out at lake

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful reviews like this one.