What You Will Get Here
- Why Get Your Toddler A Bike?
- Toddler bike – Buyer’s Guide
- Our Top 10 Product List
- Editor’s Choice: Strider - 12 Sport Balance Bike
- Top Balance Bike: Schwinn Balance Bike
- Budget Choice: Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike
- Great for Adventurous Riders: Dynacraft Magna Gravel Blaster
- A List of 6 Other Products We Reviewed
- Other Tested Products
- Safety Tips
Why Get Your Toddler A Bike?
Learning to ride a bike is a childhood rite of passage that most adults remember learning how to do. These days, most adults remember learning to ride from around aged five to aged eight. So, why should you bite the bullet early and get your toddler a bike?
The earlier a child starts to try to ride a bike, the easier it will be throughout their life. Children who learn as toddlers grasp the aspects of balancing, pedaling, cruising and braking with much more ease than those who wait until a later age. When my second son came along, I had learned from the mistakes I made with my first and I got him a balance bike. He ended up being able to ride a proper bike without stabilizing training wheels at a much earlier age than his peers.
Even if it’s not really your family’s thing, there are lots of other reasons why bikes for toddlers are a great idea. They get kids outdoors, build their confidence and provide an opportunity for exercise, which is crucial in a society where there are increasing numbers of obese children. Balance bikes particularly help to boost gross motor skills, which is something that all very young children need to develop.
Toddler bike – Buyer’s Guide
So, before you start to look at our recommendations, let’s have a closer look at what you should be considering in terms of the bike’s features.
1. Indoor Use Vs Outdoor Use
Toddlers spend lots of time on ride-on toys inside as well as outside, but it really depends on your circumstances as to which they will benefit from more. You can get ride-ons with foamy or rubberized wheels for indoor use so they won’t mark your floors like plastic wheels could. Plastic wheels might be slippery too.
If outside is your preference, then you should opt for a real bike rather than a ride-on toy style which ha tires that have air in them. Plastic wheels are not a great choice for outdoor bikes. Think about the terrain on which they will ride – grit, dirt, pavements, gravel – and then choose your bike and its wheels accordingly!
2. Toy vs Bike
Toy bikes such as ride-on toys are suitable for toddlers aged between 12 and 18 months. These children might not be fully walking and therefore having a ride-on toy can be a lot of fun. Usually, these toys have three or four wheels which gives toddlers a change to learn how to scoot around. They’re also great if your child is a little bit too small for a balance bike.
3. Size and Fit
Two- to three-year-olds generally need a bike that measures 12 or 14 inches. This will mean that they can continue to ride the bike even when they are a little bit older. If you’re looking for a bike for a child that is already four years old, you need one that’s 16” so that there’s more growing room.
However, you should also consider the fact that 12” or 14” bikes should be considered only for children who can already manage with a balance bike. If your child hasn’t used one before, they will need some training wheels. Having said that, using a balance bike is a much better choice.
Whilst we are outlining sizes, it is important to mention that not all 12 or 14” bikes will be suitable for all children. You should get your child to try out the bikes if at all possible so that you can choose one that will be a good fit for them.
4. Geometry and Readiness
If you’re wondering when your child is ready for a bike, well, the answer is pretty much as soon as they can walk! As we’ve mentioned, even the smallest of toddlers at around one year old may show a willing interest in riding a bicycle or a ride-on. Once they reach 18 months, a balance bike is ideal. But, at such a young age, finding one that fits them can be a challenge. You child’s inside leg measurements should be as tall as the seat post height set to its lowest setting at a minimum to make sure they can ride comfortably. As with anything, some toddlers will be right in there and pick it up straight away. For others, it may take a while but just keep on offering until they show readiness.
If possible, the bike you choose for your toddler should not weight in excess of 40% of their own body weight. If you are learning to balance and pedal a bike at the same time, if the bike is heavy it makes it so much more difficult. Also, if the child were to fall off, getting back up again from under a heavy bike is also a lot more discouraging.
The good thing about having a bike with 12” tires is that they’re suitable for young riders, even those who have only just turned two and a half. If a child has used a balance bike previously, they should be ready for a pedal pike with 12” earlier than many other kids.
However, if your child is over 3 and a half years old then a 14” wheel size would be better as the larger wheels make it easier to get over any pavement obstacles such as gravel, cracks or bumps.
As mentioned, a ride-on toy is a first step toward independent bike riding, right from when a child is around one year in age. Getting a good ride-on toy (perhaps as a first birthday present) can really excite your child and make them excited about starting to ride a real bike in the future.
Balance bikes are great for toddlers from around 18 months old until they are confident enough to try riding a real pedal bike. Balance bikes don’t have pedals and rely on the child themselves to propel themselves along with their feet, learning to balance as they do so. They let kids pick up the skills they are going to need to ride a pedal bike later on. Usually, those that have learned to ride a balance bike then don’t need training wheel on their first pedal bike, which is really encouraging for riders and parents alike.
One popular choice for toddlers are tricycles. Big-wheels or tricycles are great fun for toddlers to using in your back yard but actually don’t really teach many skills that are required for later cycling. If you do opt for a trike, getting a balance bike alongside it is recommended. You can, however, get some tricycles that convert to balance bikes too!
A pedal bike is a last step up to free cycling for children. Pedal bikes come with training wheels, but these often stop the development of natural balance skills at this age. These bikes are usually heavier than balance bikes which can make the transition to them a little difficult for young kids. If you want to go for a pedal bike, I would recommend removing the pedals and cranks to start off with, so that your child can learn how to balance first as they would do on a balance bike.
Once they’ve mastered it, switch the pedals back on and see them go! You’ll soon know if they are ready or not.
8. Frame design
Most littler bikes are not very well designed. They tend to have short wheelbases, which means that children are often squished on without too much room between the seat and the handlebars. This can affect the child learning to ride in a negative way.
A bike that is properly designed needs to have a longer wheelbase to give the rider more space which will allow them to maneuver the bike more easily and be more stable, making the whole learning-to-ride process a heck of a lot easier. The child also ends up in a more upright position, meaning that they are more comfortable when they start out riding a bike.
CPSC standards mean that all 12” and 14” bikes need to have back pedal brakes, also known as coaster breaks. This can be tricky to master when you are learning to ride. Children automatically start to pedal backwards when they need to regain their balance which means that they can fall thus losing motivation.
A child who has the coordination to ride a bike usually has the coordination to use the brakes too. You should be looking for bikes that have both handbrakes and coaster brakes.
As mentioned, air-filled tires made from rubber are the best option generally. Mountain bike style tires are also better for little ones as they tend to cushion any bumps in the road a little better.
The majority of children’s bikes have a single speed. Some will have different gear combos. There will be some that are easier to ride up hill whereas others will be better suited to flats. You should be able to compare the cog sizes of different bikes so you can work out what is the right option for you and your child.
You need to choose a model of bike that your toddler will get the most use from. Look out for bikes that have slidable seats on rails as well as adjustable height for the handle bars so that you can really customize the fit. You could also look at the length of the crank to make sure that it will suit your child’s size. You need to have a bike that has a narrow stance as children generally have hips that are much narrower than those of an adult.
Usually, parents are a little reluctant to buy a first bike that costs more than around $50 to $100. Of course, you can easily get a bike for this price, it is wise to choose a good quality bike for your toddler following our recommendations rather than on price alone. This is what I did, and I regret it immensely.