You’ve seen them tearing down sidewalks and swerving around mailboxes: toddlers on two wheels. Balance bikes — also know as gliders and striders — offer toddlers and older kids a developmentally rich mix of confidence-building independence and outside play, letting young kids build up their body strength while also honing their gross motor skills. Plus, they’re just hella fun. A kids’ balance bike is much more than a prelude to a two-wheel bike with pedals, although it is that. It’s a great way for children to learn the basics of cycling, while also having a sense of control because their feet stay on the ground.
When choosing a balance bike, keep a few things in mind. Pay attention to tire size and seat height: Your kid should be able to touch the ground and comfortably push off when seated. As for tires, 12-inch tires are most common, followed by 14-inch tires, for bigger kids. The bike should weigh no more than one-third of what your child weighs, so they can maneuver it easily. Most of the balance bikes below feature air tires, which provide more cushioning and traction than most foam tires. Here are the top models to get your kid up to speed… at their own pace. Before you know it, they’ll be hooked and asking for a mountain bike.
The Best Kids’ Balance Bikes, Striders and Gliders
You can't beat this thing for ease of use: It doesn’t have pedals or a chain, and the air-free tires won't deflate. It weighs nine pounds. It has adjustable seat posts and handlebars, and fits kids from age 2 until age 5.
A beautiful balance bike, this one weighs 10 pounds, has an adjustable seat and handlebars, and 12 inch wheels. It even comes with a detachable Parisian-style wicker basket, for any quick outings to the farmer's market. It's suitable for kids ages 3-5.
The pneumatic air-filled tires on this balance bike are extra-wide, giving your child a solid foundation from which to start out and making him or her feel more balanced. The Joovy Bicycoo is a durable and cool-looking balance balance bike for kids 18 months and older. The frame is made of aluminum, so it's both solid and lightweight. The seat is height adjustable and the bike itself weighs only 8.75 pounds.
A solid starter balance bike, this one has 12-inch wheels and air-filled tires. It has an adjustable seat height and adjustable handlebars, so it will grow with your child. It's designed for kids ages 2 to 4; this bike weighs 14 pounds, so it's on the heavier side.
The seat and handlebar heights on this lightweight balance bike adjust to accommodate kids up to 20 inches in height. The Strider is ideal for kids as young as 18 months old, because it weighs just over six pounds. You can add future upgrades like a foot brake or heavy-duty tires.
At just over 4 pounds, the Croco is one of the lightest balance bikes out there, and a cinch to put together, no tools needed. The quick-release seat and handlebars mean it's also easy to make adjustments on the go. The rear stays (connecting the back wheel to the frame) are surfaced with grip tape, forming the perfect perch for a kid's feet once they build up the confidence to gain a little speed.
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