The 8 best balance bikes for toddlers

best balance bike

Balance bikes allow toddlers to learn the cycling basics so that, when the time comes to get pedalling, no training wheels are needed. First introductions matter, so we spent four months researching and testing the best balance bikes around to help you set your child up for a lifelong love of cycling.

Balance bikes are toddler-sized 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 right bike will hugely impact your toddler's first experience of cycling.

But which balance bike is best? Here, we narrow down the top-performing products that should cover most families’ needs.

Read our balance bike reviews | What you need to know about balance bikes | How we tested and why you should trust us

How we chose the products to test

We commissioned journalist and mum of three Adele Jarrett-Kerr to research, test and write about the bikes that excite parents and experts the most.

Adele’s older children (five and eight) both used balance bikes lightly but never really got into the concept. Eventually, they learned to ride pedal bikes with their parents straining to support them – a method she’s been keen to avoid with her youngest child who was two-and-a-half years old when testing began.

This meant that she was personally invested in finding the bikes that would take a toddler from scooting to confidently balancing with relative ease.

She spoke to parents both online and offline, trawled the Mumsnet forums, looked at other review sites and consulted Victoria Hazael of Cycling UK, a charity devoted to helping people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities get into cycling.

After 12 hours of research, Adele longlisted 35 much-loved balance bikes which she eventually narrowed down to a shortlist of 13. These included bikes with wooden, aluminium and steel frames, and with either pneumatic wheels or wheels made of EVA foam.

Some of the products were long established, others were relative newcomers and all ranged in style, price and adjustability.

How real-life comparative testing makes Mumsnet reviews unique

Adele tested each balance bike with her two-and-a-half-year-old toddler. Her five-year-old also tried the bikes where the age range allowed to give a sense of how the bikes performed on both ends of the age spectrum.

She took her toddler out with each bike for a total of at least 120 minutes spread across multiple cycling sessions, testing them on paved surfaces, on a cycle trail and in a skatepark.

Tests involved everything from observing how easily her child operated the bike to looking at its geometry, testing the brake (if it had one) and dropping it on a hard surface to see if it damaged easily.

Each product was put through its paces with the same child, in the same settings and under the same conditions to encourage consistent testing – a hallmark of all our reviews.

Adele took extensive notes, compared each product and later brought back the bikes tested earlier in the process for further testing when her toddler became more proficient at riding.

Each bike was then scored on the following areas: safety and stability, assembly, ease of use, cleanliness, aesthetics, day-to-day performance and value for money.

And we have our winners. Having thoroughly investigated what’s out there and pushed the limits of our selections, here are the eight best balance bikes that'll give toddlers the best start to life on two wheels.

1. Islabikes Rothan: Best Balance Bike 2019

“My very small three-year-old loved it and has now progressed to riding a pedal bike smoothly.”

1. Islabikes Rothan: Best Balance Bike 2019

Exceptionally light so that toddlers can focus their efforts on balance, the Islabikes Rothan takes the top spot as our best balance bike for 2019. 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.

Great for families with

  • Smaller toddlers
  • More room in their budget

Pros

  • A breeze to carry
  • Straightforward design without weighty extras
  • Performs brilliantly on all types of terrain
  • Sturdy but not at all bulky
  • Smaller frame allows for easy on and off
  • Saddle height extends to 42cm (47cm with long seatpost)
  • Grippy, puncture-resistant tyres
  • Thoughtful instructions that don’t assume buyer’s technical knowledge
  • Holds its value brilliantly when reselling

Cons

  • Limited age span
  • Allen key needed to adjust the saddle height
  • Relatively expensive

Product information

  • 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
  • RRP: £170
  • Comes with a spare inner tube

Read the full review

View on Islabikes

2. Frog Bikes Tadpole: Best Balance Bike for a 3-Year-Old 2019

“This bike operates beautifully. I’d be happy to take an adult version of it out cycling alongside my daughter.”

2. Frog Bikes Tadpole: Best Balance Bike for a 3-Year-Old 2019

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.

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.

Great for families with

  • A three-year-old (or a taller toddler aged two and a half)
  • Plans to go off road together

Pros

  • Relatively lightweight despite large wheels and a long wheelbase
  • Good amount of cushioning for off-road trails
  • Wide range of fun colours and patterns to choose from
  • Comfy padding on handles and seat
  • Easy to adjust on the fly with no tools needed
  • 42cm-wide handlebar
  • Relatively high resale value

Cons

  • Broad saddle which could be tricky for positioning at first
  • No protective bulbs on the handles
  • Slightly heavier than some of the other products we tested
  • Handlebar height tricky to adjust

Product information

  • Age range: Suitable for two and three year olds (average inside leg 31cm)
  • Weight: 4.17kg
  • Wheel size: 12 inch
  • Tyres: Pneumatic
  • RRP: £215
  • Comes with a set of tools, reflectors and a bell

Read the full review

View on Rutland Cycling

3. Hoy Napier 2020: Best Balance Bike for a 2-Year-Old 2019

“Eventually my two-year-old took to challenging her older sisters to a race, which was a sure sign that she’d got comfortable with the Hoy Napier.”

3. Hoy Napier 2020: Best Balance Bike for a 2-Year-Old 2019

The Hoy Napier 2020 is the stuff of a toddler’s Olympics dreams with its sleek, minimalist BMX design, chunky wheels and small frame.

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.

Great for families with

  • Taller toddlers
  • Serious cycling ambitions

Pros

  • Relatively lightweight
  • Tyres suited to every surface
  • Stylish BMX aesthetic
  • No frills design built for balance and speed
  • Spans the projected two to four age range reasonably comfortably
  • Designed for easier guiding while learning to ride
  • Unbelievably sturdy
  • More affordable than many comparable bikes

Cons

  • Limited choice of colours – red, blue and yellow
  • No brake, which could be problematic for an older rider
  • No quick release for adjusting the saddle height

Product information

  • 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
  • RRP: £90

Read the full review

View on Evans Cycles

4. Strider 12 Sport: Best Lightweight Balance Bike 2019

“My DS has dyspraxia and really struggled to ride other balance bikes. We put him on the Strider and he picked it up really quickly!”

4. Strider 12 Sport: Best Lightweight Balance Bike 2019

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 and a handy footrest for your child once they learn to coast.

Great for families with

  • More than one child who might be sharing the bike with a sibling
  • School-age children – this bike is best suited to paved surfaces and is great for the school run

Pros

  • Super lightweight for carrying and scooting
  • Speedy and simple to adjust on the go, with a broad range of adjustments available
  • Long age range, potentially from 18 months to five years
  • Puncture-proof foam tyres that won’t need any maintenance
  • A choice of two padded seats included to suit your toddler’s size

Cons

  • Foam tyres not ideal for rough surfaces
  • No handbrake or steering limiter
  • Requires full assembly

Product information

  • 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
  • Maximum seat load: 27kg
  • Tyres: EVA polymer
  • RRP: £88

Read the full review

View on Amazon

5. Carrera Coast: Best Budget Balance Bike 2019

“I’d be satisfied with this bike. It would more than adequately prepare a child to move on to a pedal bike.”

5. Carrera Coast: Best Budget Balance Bike 2019

The Carrera Coast is a well built balance bike with a price tag that won't make you flinch.

Its mountain bike aesthetic, mainly the large wheels and sturdy steel rims, means it tackles off-road trails with ease. Yet, it also boasts a quick-release saddle adjuster, high-quality Tektro handbrake and relatively lightweight frame which differentiates it from other bikes of a similar budget-friendly price.

Great for families with

  • Less room in their budget
  • Limited technical knowledge

Pros

  • Relatively comfortable to carry
  • Covers the three to five age range realistically
  • Bright colours for high visibility
  • Long wheelbase makes it stable
  • In-store set-up

Cons

  • Saddle doesn’t dip to aid positioning
  • Handle grips and saddle are both a bit hard

Product information

  • Age range: Three to five years
  • Weight: 3.9kg
  • Wheel size: 12 inch
  • Tyres: Pneumatic
  • RRP: £85

Read the full review

View on Amazon

6. Early Rider Classic

“Our Early Rider was fantastic – sturdy but light, big wheels and could get up to a good speed.”

6. Early Rider Classic

The Early Rider Classic is, quite simply, a work of art with a beautiful wooden frame, tyres that glide seamlessly over a variety of surfaces and large wheels designed for effortless cycling, encouraging young riders to eventually pick up some pace.

It didn’t quite make our top five because of its weight. 4.25kg could make this bike tricky for smaller toddlers just getting the hang of things to operate. But, all in all, it's a highly functional balance bike with great geometry and responsive steering – once you’ve taken the steering limiter off, that is.

Great for families who

  • Value looks as well as function
  • Can afford to spend a bit more

Pros

  • Attractive – handcrafted from sustainably-sourced birch
  • Outstandingly stable, which makes it easy to achieve balance
  • Deep grooves offer great traction on the large, thick wheels
  • Handles are well-cushioned with soft EVA foam
  • Handmade in the UK

Cons

  • The steering limiter is, ironically, too limiting (though it can be removed)
  • It can only be adjusted to four notches
  • Heavy

Product information

  • Age range: Two to four years old
  • Weight: 4.25kg
  • Wheel size: 12 inch
  • Tyres: Pneumatic
  • RRP: £115
View on Amazon

7. Ridgeback Scoot

“My DS loves his Ridgeback Scoot and has used it from his second birthday. It has a brake too, which was one of the things I wanted this time around.”

7. Ridgeback Scoot

The Ridgeback Scoot features an extraordinarily long wheelbase which makes it remarkably stable for young riders learning to balance for the first time.

A hand grab on the saddle allow adults to easily assist children who need a little extra reassurance, while a quick-release saddle adjuster makes tweaking on the go a breeze.

Great for families with

  • Preschoolers aged three or over
  • Cycling trail plans

Pros

  • Lots of room for growth
  • Built for comfort and speed
  • Able to take on any surface
  • Includes a handbrake
  • Saddle height has a large adjustment range for longevity

Cons

  • Relatively heavy for a younger toddler to operate and for an adult to carry

Production information

  • Age range: Officially two to four but more realistically three to five
  • Weight: 4.9kg
  • Wheel size: 12 inch
  • Tyres: Pneumatic
  • RRP: £115
  • Comes with a bell
View on Cycle Republic

8. Micro 2-in-1 Balance Bike

“The Micro 2-in-1 switched easily between my two- and five-year-old many times over the course of an outing.”

8. Micro 2-in-1 Balance Bike

Great for mobility on a day-to-day basis, the Micro 2-in-1 is a grab-and-go balance bike that's so light you won’t mind carrying it alongside your bag or your toddler.

While its small wheels might not prepare a toddler for pedal bikes as adequately as we might like, if you’re looking for a two-wheel option that'll get you from A to B with a child in tow, then the Micro may well be the ideal choice.

Great for families with

  • Toddlers going for quick scoots between places

Pros

  • Incredibly lightweight and tiny to boot
  • There’s an option for the back wheel to be replaced with two wheels
  • Easy to adjust
  • Hard-wearing for heavy use

Cons

  • Suited to paved surfaces only
  • More of a scooting option than a serious balance bike on account of its small wheels
  • Very little seat cushioning

Product information

  • Age range: Two to five years old
  • Weight: 2.45kg
  • Wheel size: 12 inch
  • Maximum seat load: 20kg
  • Tyres: Foam
  • RRP: £110
View on Amazon
balance bike reviews

What you need to know about balance bikes

What is a balance bike?

A balance bike is a children’s 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 a balance bike for?

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.

Why buy a balance bike?

Many parents discover that confident balance bikers get the hang of pedalling far quicker than if they were using stabilisers, taking all the pain out of the process and setting them up to stick with cycling long-term.

Even older children struggling to make the transition can use balance bikes to gain the final push they need.

What to consider when buying a balance bike

1. 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.

2. Size – how big should a balance bike be?

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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. How much does a balance bike 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.

Read next: Balance bikes buyer's guide

balance bikes uk

How we tested and why you should trust us

By testing each product with the same family in the same locations, we are absolutely confident in our recommendations.

We put each product through its paces with a third-time mum and toddler to give honest feedback about day-to-day performance, durability and comfort.

All Mumsnet product reviews are written by real parents. We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust – brands can’t pay to be featured in our articles or win a Mumsnet Best award.

We spend hours researching, speaking to parents, analysing data and listening to experts before we test out the products on our shortlist.

Transparency is really important to us and that's why we're always upfront about how we tested the products we recommend. We won't always recommend the cheapest products, or the ones with the most extra features. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the one's we'd recommend to our own friends and family.

We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful and independent review pieces like this one. However, we never allow this to influence our coverage.

If you decided to buy something that we recommended as a result of our research and testing, we usually (not always) get paid affiliate commission from the retailer where you make a purchase. But, if you weren't impressed with the product and decided to return it, we wouldn't make a penny.

There's no incentive for us to be lazy with our research or in our testing process. There's no reason for us to respond to pressure from retailers or brands trying to promote new products. It's actually quite the opposite and we think it's a good system, one that keeps us focused on making parents lives' easier.

Read next: How we tested highchairs | What is Mumsnet Best?

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