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Best balance bikes for kids learning to ride

Forget stabilisers, a balance bike is the perfect tool to help kids get comfortable on two wheels

Joseph Delves
21 Dec 2021

Balance bikes are a safe way to get your kids up to speed with cycling. Learning how to ride on a balance bike is not only more fun, but it'll allow for a smooth transition when it comes time to pedal without support.

Doing away with finicky pedals and cranks, a balance bike enables children as young as two the chance to get cycling. Kids start by scooting along using both feet on the floor, allowing them time to develop the ability to balance and steer. Once this is mastered, the hard part is done, and they'll be ready to ride a traditional pedal bike with confidence.

A balance bike also offers all the benefits of cycling, including positive effects on health and confidence, plus it'll give you a break as you won't need to push or carry your young ones around.

How to buy the best balance bike for your child

What size bike should I buy?

Similar to adult bikes, the ideal size of balance bike you'll want will depend on the size of your child – there's no one-size-fits-all.

Small 10-inch wheels are designed for very young children, starting at around 18 months, while 12-inch and 14-inch sizes will cover kids aged between two and six years.

Should I buy a balance bike with a brake?

Balance bikes are designed to be stopped by simply putting one's feet onto the ground, but some models do still come with traditional bicycle brakes.

These are mainly useful for preparing a child for their first pedal bike, but aren't strictly necessary unless you live on a steep slope (and really, you shouldn't be letting your progeny careen down hills at this point anyway). In any case, the choice and the responsibility lies with the parent.

Do I need a bike with a deck?

Some balance bikes come with an integrated deck that is perfect for your child to rest their feet on once they're fully comfortable balancing.

While a footrest is certainly a useful feature, it's by no means a required one, and for many kids once they’re advanced enough to make use of the deck they'll be ready to move onto a traditional bike anyway.

The best balance bikes to buy...

1. Hornit Airo: The lightest balance bike

The Hornit Airo was designed with a light weight in mind, to give your kids the easiest ride possible while keeping it comfortable and durable. The only lighter bikes you'll find have plastic wheels and foam tyres.

It's made with grippy footrests contoured into the frame and has aluminium rims, making freewheeling extra comfortable.

It also has an adjustable seat so there's room for growth and is available with a lifetime warranty so it's the only one you'll ever need.

Hornit Airo key specs

    • Wheel size: 12.5-inch
    • Suggested age: 1.5-5 years 
    • Frame material: Magnesium alloy 
    • Tyre type: Pneumatic 
    • Weight: 2.95kg 
    • Additional features: Grip taped footrests, padded stem, adjustable saddle height

2. Puky LR M: The best-value balance bike

Not only is the Puky LR M utterly adorable, and sporting a very stylish paint job, it's also fantastically durable and practical.

Its lightweight, puncture-free foam wheels are perfect for younger riders and won't require maintenance. Even though the frame is made of steel, the LR M is extremely portable and weighs only 3.5kg. Puky also offers a dedicated carry strap for an additional cost to make carrying the bike around even easier.

The integrated deck makes stepping on a breeze, and the skinny grips have bumpers designed to protect small hands, as well as your furniture, in the event of a crash.

Puky LR M key specs

    • Wheel size: <10in
    • Suggested age: 2 years+
    • Frame material: Steel
    • Tyre type: Foam
    • Weight: 3.5kg
    • Additional features: Handlebar pad

3. Islabikes Rothan: The best-quality balance bike

Considering the reputation of Islabikes for producing some of the best kids' bikes around, it's no surprise that the Rothan is arguably the best balance bike on the market.

It doesn't come cheap, but the parts list wouldn't look out of place on a quality adult bike. The Rothan features sealed bearing hubs, lightweight wheels which are paired with slim pneumatic tyres, and ergonomically designed grips and saddle.

The result of extensive research and development, the Rothan is a grown-up balance bike designed for little ones.

Islabikes Rothan key specs

      • Wheel size: 12-inch
      • Suggested age: 2 years+
      • Frame material: Aluminium
      • Tyre type: Pneumatic
      • Weight: 3.2kg
      • Additional features: Brake, sealed bearings
      • Buy now from Islabikes (£199)

4. Hoozar Cruz 12: The most fully-featured balance bike

Hoozar’s 12-inch balance bikes pack in a serious set of features while keeping their overall weight and cost low. Despite including both a rear brake and footrest, the entire bike weighs a claimed 3.2kg; easy for its rider to handle and easy for you to carry should they get tired.

Based around an aluminium frame, this features a steering limiter to help keep things on an even keel. Also guarding against accidents are padding on the stem and bumpers on the ends of the handlebar.

Rolling on conventional pneumatic tyres, they will require occasional topping up, however, they’re far more grippy and comfortable than solid options. Suited to riders with an inside leg measurement of 30-46cm, a quick-release seatpost clamp makes adjusting the saddle easy.

Hoozar Cruz 12 key specs

Wheel size: 12-inch
Suggested age: 18 months+
Frame material: Aluminium
Tyre type: Pneumatic
Weight: 3.2kg
Additional features: Stem pad
Buy now from Hoozar (£137)

5. Frog Tadpole Plus: A great alternative for larger learners

One of the more sizeable balance bikes on the market, the Tadpole Plus boasts 14in-diameter wheels making it ideal for bigger kids.

Large wheels make this a bike that can really move quickly, but thankfully a quality brake and a wobble-preventing steering limiter are included.

The saddle is a tad oversized but the aluminium frame keeps the total weight reasonably low, making this an easy bike to carry even with its bigger size. The voluminous tyres are a nice touch as well.

Frog Tadpole Plus key specs

        • Wheel size: 14in
        • Suggested age: 3-4 years
        • Frame material: Aluminium
        • Tyre type: Pneumatic
        • Weight: 4.18kg
        • Additional features: Steering lock

6. Invert Lil Flex Balance Bike

If you want your little tot to be the coolest kid on the playground then this balance bike designed to look like a BMX is the perfect choice.

Its steel frame does make it a little heavier to manoeuvre – and for you to carry home after an afternoon of cycling. However, on the plus side it's bombproof, looks cool, and probably helps keep the cost down.

Very moody with its grey paint job and white decals, it'll be a hit both on the school run, and when taken down the local skatepark. Cheap yet robust, it's also likely to last long enough for several children to enjoy.

Invert Lil Flex key specs

        • Wheel size: 12-inch
        • Suggested age: 2-4 years
        • Frame material: Steel
        • Tyre type: Pneumatic
        • Weight: 6.3kg
        • Additional features: None

7. Hoy Napier balance bike

Another balance bike with a little BMX style, the Hoy Napier is primed for first steps with a lightweight aluminium frame, a stopper in the headset to prevent oversteering and a grab-rail on the saddle so it's easy to carry.

It's also been signed off by one of the most successful Olympians this country has ever produced who knows a thing or two about bikes.

Hoy Napier key specs

        • Wheel size: 12-inch
        • Frame material: Aluminium
        • Tyre type: Pneumatic
        • Weight: 3.8kg
        • Additional features: Grab rail on saddle, headset stopper

8. B'Twin Runride 500 balance bike

Don't let the budget price put you off, this balance bike is packed with features including an easy-to-activate rear brake and solid tyres that have the benefit of being easier to maintain than their pneumatic counterparts.

Even with its cost-cutting steel frame, the bike is light enough to give your child full control and carrying is equally comfortable.

The Runride is more than just a looker as well, the bike has been ergonomically designed to meet the demands of young riders. This has seen the brake lever brought closer to the handlebars, perfect for small hands to grab.

B'Twin Runride 500 key specs

        • Wheel size: 10-inch
        • Suggested age: 2-4 years
        • Frame material: Steel
        • Tyre type: Solid
        • Weight: 3.6kg
        • Additional features: Rear brake

9. Early Rider Big Foot

Thanks to its mammoth tyres and its high-quality design, this balance bike is completely ready for an off-road adventure.

With a wide assortment of parts, including easy-rolling wheels and an A-head headset, pedalheads will appreciate that no compromises have been made just because this bike is for little riders.

Given that the bike seems designed for rocky trails, it's good to see a rear brake included. For youngsters that like playing in the mud, this beast of a balance bike is the perfect choice.

Early Rider Big Foot key specs

      • Wheel size: 12-inch
      • Suggested age: 2-4 years
      • Frame material: Aluminium
      • Tyre type: Pneumatic
      • Weight: 4kg
      • Additional features: Steering limiter
      • Buy now from Early Rider (£189)

10. Kokua LikeaBike Jumper

Crafted by folding bike specialist Tern, the well thought-out design of the Kokua is what really stands out. The integrated elastomer bumper and steering limiter are both nice touches but it's the suspension that really sets this balance bike apart.

When you remove the pedals from a bike all the weight of the rider is naturally going to sit on the saddle, so the inclusion of suspension makes the Kokua more comfortable to ride and handle like a dream.

Other included features range from puncture-resistant tyres, an A-head headset and an aluminium frame that keeps the bike light – plus the supplied two seatposts make this a bike that your child will be able to continue to use even as they grow.

Kokua LikeaBike Jumper key specs

      • Wheel size: 12-inch
      • Suggested age: 2-4 years
      • Frame material: Aluminium
      • Tyres type: Pneumatic
      • Weight: 3.4kg
      • Additional features: Suspension, steering limiter
      • Buy now from Likeabike (£195)

11. Ridgeback Scoot

The Ridgeback Scoot is a balance bike for 2- to 4-year-olds. The aluminium frame is lightweight, making it easy for little legs to get going and to carry when those legs can't go any further. A grip under the saddle improves carrying comfort.

Unusually for a bike of this type, Ridgeback specs a back brake, so children can get used to its function before stepping up to a bike with pedals. It should make the jump from balance bike to proper bike easier without the need for stabilisers.

Ridgeback Scoot key specs

          • Wheel size: 12-inch
          • Suggested age: 2-4
          • Frame material: 6061 heat treated aluminium
          • Tyre type: Vee Tire Speedster 12×2.0-inch
          • Weight:4.9kg
          • Additional features: Rear V-brake

This guide includes contributions from the wider Cyclist team. Products appearing in our buyer's guides are independently selected by our editorial team. Cyclist may earn an affiliate commission if you make a purchase through a retailer link. Read our reviews policy here

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