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Get your young 'un started on two wheels the easy way
  • Push-along bikes make learning to ride easier

  • Prices range from about £25 to £150

  • Key features: adjustable saddle height, comfortable saddle and grips, brakes on models for older kids

  • Models with footrests let kids learn to coast

In the last decade or so, balance bikes have revolutionised the way kids learn to ride. Steerable toy bikes with no pedals, the design of balance bikes harks back to the original boneshakers of the early 19th century; it makes sense for kids to learn to ride the way the first adult cyclists did, pushing a bike along the floor in the era before pedals. By allowing a child to learn to balance and steer a bike without the complication of pedalling, balance bikes make a child's first experiences with bikes simple and fun.

Balance bikes are available at a wide range of prices. Some basic models — usually for the very youngest kids — don't have brakes but these days most have a rear wheel brake so junior's trainers don't get worn out stopping.

Balance bikes don't have many features but the important thing to look for is adjustable saddle height. You've got to be able to adjust the position as your youngster grows, until he or she is ready to move on to a bike with pedals. Most balance bikes have adjustable seats, but there are one or two where the designer hasn't quite thought things through. Manufacturers usually give the range of saddle height adjustment so you can get the right bike for your child.

A correctly fitted balance bike allows the child to stand with his or her feet flat on the floor, and the youngster has to be able to get on and off easily. That means the saddle height should be a couple of centimetres less than the kid's inside leg measurement.

Beyond that, there's the usual price/quality trade-off you see with adult bikes. More expensive balance bikes are lighter, with aluminium frames instead of steel, and have better bearings in the hubs and headset. That probably won't make much difference over the year or two your child will have the bike, but helps keep up the resale value, and improves longevity if you're planning to pass it down to kids #2 and #3.

The micro-scooter alternative

Balance bikes aren't the only way kids can learn two-wheeled balance. We've spoken to parents whose kids have gone straight from scooting to pedalling because their time on micro-scooters has equipped them with the right reflexes. Some kids just prefer scooters, and it's better to indulge any interest in being active than to try and indoctrinate them into cycling by forcing them to watch A Sunday In Hell over and over. If your kids love all sorts of wheeled toys there's no reason they can't have both, aside from your bank balance.

Halfords Indi Balance Bike – £24

halfords_indi_balance_bike.jpeg

halfords_indi_balance_bike.jpeg

This option from Halfords is recommended for tots aged 2 to 4. The Indi has a sturdy steel frame to withstand bumps and 10" wheels with solid tyres. The saddle height has a minimum of 35cm and max of 42cm, with 19mm handlebars that are perfect for diddy hands. The lack of a brake means it's for flat terrain only and there's no footrest for coasting, but it's very keenly priced.

Fun 4 Kids Tiny Bike — from £39.95

TinyBike.jpg

TinyBike.jpg

Balance bikes are usually aimed at rider from about three years old, but Fun 4 Kids say their Tiny Bike's 30cm saddle height will accommodate kids as young as two, so you can start getting your toddler on two wheels almost as soon as she can stand.

Junior also gets a footrest for coasting, an adult-style seatpost for fine adjustment of the saddle height and adjustable-height handlebar. The wheels are solid so tiny fingers can't get caught in them, but the tyres are solid rubber. Nevertheless, a very popular bike with Amazon shoppers.

Puky LRM — £57.19 | Puky LR1 — £68.62

Puky LR1.jpg

Puky LR1.jpg

German outfit Puky's range of balance bikes starts from as little as £59.99 with their LRM balance bike and they offer a whole range including models with pneumatic tyres, kickstands and brakes. All of them are light and extremely durable - they really are built to last with a tough powder coat finish, but that functionality isn't at the expense of fun.

The kids we know who've had them have really enjoyed using them and we'd go so far as to say they're a bit of a classic. Certainly if you want to give your child a fun start to a life of cycling £60 spent on the LRM is likely to be prove a very sound investment.

Puky's website has a very useful guide to help you choose the right balance bike for your sprog. Like most other kids' bikes it really comes down to size. 

Hoy Napier — £110

hoy-napier-balance-bike-blue-EV204723-5000-1.jpg

hoy-napier-balance-bike-blue-EV204723-5000-1.jpg

Another bike shop own brand, this time from Evans Cycles. The Napier is styled to look like the BMX bikes that multiple Olympic medallist Chris Hoy started his career on. It has a lightweight aluminium frame and 12-inch wheels.

Find an Evans Cycles branch.

Ridgeback Scoot — £116.99

Ridgeback Scoot Lime.jpg

Ridgeback Scoot Lime.jpg

Another great little balance bike. We love the simple lines of this balance bike from the Ridgeback range. The frame is 6061 aluminium which keeps the weight down and there's a proper sealed-bearing headset, unlike the bushings you find in very cheap balance bikes.

There's a V-brake at the back to slow things down and the cable is even routed internally. Who doesn't appreciate clean lines on their bike?

Find a Ridgeback dealer 

Islabikes Rothan — £169.99 

Islabikes Rothin

Islabikes Rothin

At a claimed weight of just 3.5kg, the Rothan is a featherweight even among balance bikes. It's not cheap, but you're getting Islabikes' renowned attention to detail, with thoughtful touches like the micro reach aluminium brake lever that gives light action braking for tiny hands; small diameter handlebars; and dedicated low slung 'scoop' saddle.

The minimum inside leg is 30cm, so it should fit riders from about two years old.

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

14 comments

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Grizzerly [369 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

Balance bikes are absolutely the best thing for kids.   Training wheels or stabilisers are actually more hazardous once the child has any degree of momentum. 

 BTW. The first balance bike I ever saw was an 'Islabike', did Isla Rowntree invent them.

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TheHungryGhost [38 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

My eldest never liked the balance bike, so used stabalisers, and then a few hours of backbreaking running round the park holding the saddle. My youngest refused to use it as he wanted pedals like his brother, so went with the stabalisers again. However he just did not seem to get the concept of balance. Then had a brainwave and dug out the balance bike. Literally ten minutes later he was sorted and off on his big boy bike like a pro

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missionsystem [68 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

I'm selling a Rothan if anyone is interested!

http://road.cc/content/classified/233652-islabikes-rothan-balance-bike

 

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SingleSpeed [429 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

No Frog or Early rider? For a Road Site surely the drop handlebarred Road Runner would be up on the list?

 

I've also got a Frog Tadpole for sale - Devon - (Pointless Carbon fibre upgrades to Seatpost and Bars )

£80 

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Bikebikebike [387 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

Both my kids loved the Early Rider Lite (3.25 kgs).  Perfect for getting them started really young.

 

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2Loose [42 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

I can easily recommend the Toddlebike 2 for even younger kids around the house, my 20 month old loves scooting around on hers.

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Miller [115 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

The Puky is really excellent. The foot platform allows the child to get their feet up and coast along. My youngest loved his.

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rkemb [69 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

... and of course, any bike can be a balance bike if you just take the pedals off.

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PRSboy [227 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
rkemb wrote:

... and of course, any bike can be a balance bike if you just take the pedals off.

Although the cranks and chain etc in the way can make it hard for Junior to scoot along, plus many kids bikes are fixies so the cranks would still whizz around.

Avatar
Tjuice [257 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
PRSboy wrote:
rkemb wrote:

... and of course, any bike can be a balance bike if you just take the pedals off.

Although the cranks and chain etc in the way can make it hard for Junior to scoot along, plus many kids bikes are fixies so the cranks would still whizz around.

I'm guessing rkemb actually probably meant removing the cranks and bottom bracket too.

Which works well... judging by friends' experiences.  I took an altogether different route for my children and built this:

 

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giff77 [1306 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

And for the older kids there’s always this 

https://www.facebook.com/584154761/posts/10157626946779762/

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stenmeister [352 posts] 4 days ago
0 likes
rkemb wrote:

... and of course, any bike can be a balance bike if you just take the pedals off.

Or if you're freehub fails yes

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JMcL_Ireland [4 posts] 23 hours ago
0 likes

B'Twin Run Ride https://www.decathlon.co.uk/run-ride-500-kids-balance-bike-orange-black-... Gone a bit more expensive in the past couple of years but still great value. Ours has just passed on from child number 3 and is still in great nick. Some prefer to keep it simple with no brake, but our kids never had a problem with it

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stomec [51 posts] 22 hours ago
0 likes

https://www.littlebigbikes.com/ also worth a mention I think. Expensive, but clever design means they can be used over a wide age range with pedals and chain fitted later. My nephews have used and approved ages 2-5 so far.