Freedom is a set of wheels, and for children ages two to four seeking adventure and independence, it takes a toddler bike. Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage and an invaluable skill, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To keep the number of skinned knees and elbows to the bare minimum, the best toddler bikes make it easier. That may mean no pedals and all balance (commonly referred to as balance bikes), those with training wheels and a traditional build, coaster brakes, and even trikes or quads. Regardless of your choice, the best toddler bikes make it easy to learn balance while give kids the freedom to explore.
For biking safety tips, we consulted with Dr. Benjamin D. Hoffman, the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. He advises parents to look closely at the manufacturers’ recommendations for age and weight limits to know “who can use it and how it’s supposed to be used.”
Striders and balance bikes take pedals, cranks and chains out of the equation, letting kids walk and coast on two wheels, as they refine their sense of balance. Trikes offer maximum stability, letting kids explore and gain physical confidence until they’re ready to transition to two wheels. And pedal bikes with training wheels gives toddlers the chance to feel at home on a geared bike before making the leap to the real thing. Whether you choose striders, trikes, or bikes, however, the objectives are the same: to get outside as a family, to give toddlers the confidence they need to explore, and to let them practice navigating the world on a set of wheels that are safe, balanced, and adaptable.
Little kids should also be supervised, and everyone — but everyone — should wear a helmet while biking. Seattle Children’s Hospital advises that a helmet should sit level on your child’s head and rest low on the forehead, with about one to two finger-widths’ above the eyebrows. The straps should be even, form a Y under each earlobe, and fit snugly but loose enough that your child can breathe.
The Best Bikes, Striders and Trikes for Toddlers
The original balance bike remains one of our favorites for young children learning to ride. It builds confidence for them, and it's easy maintenance for you, with no chains to slip or tires to go flat (its solid foam tires are foolproof). It's also adjustable, with inseams of 12-17 inches all usable, allowing you to get some real mileage from this model should your child take a few seasons to transition to a traditional bike.
When your toddler hits the upper ages, he or she will want to take some chances, and the Carbide allows it. This BMX racing-style bike still has plenty of safety, including a coasting brake and covered chain. But its removeable training wheels and hand brake provide transitionary details for real bikes down the road.
For all those whose garage is getting a little tight, we like this balance bike option, which folds down for easier storage. The ergonomic handlebars, a la your favorite road bike, are pretty cool, too. Airless tires, a metal frame, and an adjustable seat to move as your child grows rounds out the package.
Ready to take your child over the finish, the Krate EVO is an update of a classic '70s racing style. It's built around a steel frame for durability and includes removable training wheels. The rear coaster brake is intuitive, while the stable geometry helps your son or daughter build confidence.
This is great learning bike for toddlers, with a genius for adaptability. Retrospec’s Cub balance bike lets kids practice walking and coasting, until they’re ready to graduate — someday — to a big kid’s pedal bike. Once they’re comfortable balancing the bike, they can gain some speed and tuck their feet up on the metal footrest positioned just in front of the back tire, refining their balance at higher speeds before making that crucial transition. With a steel frame and hard, foam tires that make flats obsolete, this is also one tough bike. Good for kids 20 months to 5 years old, with adjustable seat posts and handlebars.
This easy-to-use starter bike has air-filled 12 inch wheels for a soft, smooth ride, and an adjustable seat and handlebars. At only 14 pounds, it's lightweight and very simple for smaller kids to maneuver. The steel frame is low enough to the ground that kids can easy push themselves forward and find their center of gravity.
Yes, this toddler bike is a design marvel. It's also smart. First off, at 10.5 pounds, it's lightweight. Second, it transitions from push-trike to three-wheeler to balance bike. It’s made from kiln-dried, preservative-free plantation birch. The seat adjusts from 11 to 18 inches, so it grows with your kid from ages 1 to 5.
Let's start with the best part of this bike: It comes fully assembled, and it seamlessly grows with your child through the toddler years. It goes from push mode to tricycle mode to ride-on bike mode. It's suitable for kids ages 10 months to 3 years old. And it collapses for easy storage.
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