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Best balance bike 2021: Get your tot on two wheels with our pick of the best balance bikes

Joseph Delves Martha Alexander
18 Jun 2021
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It’s the quickest and safest way to get your kids comfortable on two wheels: here are the best balance bikes on the market

A balance bike is one of the best ways to introduce your child to cycling. Forget stabilisers, learning to ride on a balance bike is both safer and more fun, and makes for a seamless transition to pedalling unaided.

The appeal of balance bikes is that they do away with cumbersome pedals and cranks, allowing children as young as two to hop aboard. Kids can start by scooting along with both feet safely on the floor, and then quickly learn to balance and steer. Then, when the time comes to move up to a bike with pedals, they’ve already mastered the hard part. Riding a balance bike also provides all the regular benefits of early cycling, such as improved health and confidence – and there’s less need for you to push or carry your little one around.

READ NEXT: The best baby toys you can buy

Save £5 on a B’Twin Runride 500 balance bike

The Runride 500 is a good deal cheaper than most of the entries in this roundup, but that shouldn’t dissuade you. It’s an attractive, good quality balance bike that comes with a rear brake, and an ergonomically designed handle that’s easy for small hands to grasp. Right now, you can save £5 on this blue and pink model, down from £45.
Decathlon
Was £45
Now £40

Best balance bike: At a glance


How to choose the best balance bike for your child

As with adult bikes, there’s a large number of balance bikes to choose from, chiefly distinguished by size, components and features.

How much should I spend?

The cheapest balance bikes are really just ride-on toys. Spend more and you’ll find the moving parts rolling on proper bearings rather than cheap bushings. These will ride better, with a feel that’s closer to a grown-up bicycle, and last long enough to pass down from one sibling to the next. It’s worth spending at least £60 on the smallest models and £80 or more for larger ones.

In short, don’t neglect the importance of design, geometry and construction. Your child will appreciate a bike that looks good, fits their body and rides smoothly.

What size bike should I buy?

The ideal size depends on the age of your child. Small frames with 10in wheels are suitable for the very youngest children, starting at around 18 months; the more popular 12in and 14in sizes cover kids between two and six years of age.

Does it matter what the frame and wheels are made from?

The frame material mostly impacts overall weight: steel is heaviest while aluminium tends to be lighter but is more costly. Tyre material meanwhile affects performance and maintenance.

The cheapest balance bikes use hard plastic tyres, which are light but bumpy and prone to skidding. Solid EVA foam tyres give a smoother ride. Pneumatic (air-filled) tyres, as found on adult bikes, are the best for grip and comfort, but they’ll need occasional pumping and are prone to punctures.

Should I buy a balance bike with a brake?

While the normal way to stop a balance bike is simply to put one’s feet down on the ground, some models also come with a hand-operated brake. The main purpose of this is to prepare children for their first pedal bike. If you choose a bike with a brake, check that the lever is the right size for your child’s hands; the same applies to the saddle and handlebar grips.

READ NEXT: Keep an eye (or ear) on your little one with our pick of the best baby monitors

The best balance bikes to buy

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

Price: £70 | Buy now from Tweeks Cycles

The smallest of German brand Puky’s balance bikes, the LR M is as cute as a button. It has a cool retro-style paint job, with a choice of simple but bold colours, including blue, red and pink. It’s also fantastically durable and practical, with dinky foam wheels that will suit smaller riders and require no maintenance.

Despite its steel frame, the LR M weighs an easily portable 3.5kg, and Puky will even sell you a dedicated carry strap. The neatly-integrated deck makes stepping on a doddle and serves as a handy footrest once you’re gliding along. The supportive, scooped back saddle is ideally shaped for coasting, too, while the skinny grips have integrated bumpers at the end, so they’ll protect little hands in the event of a crash and save your paintwork at home.

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


2. Little Dutch Balance Bike: Best for vintage charm

Price: £100 | Buy now from Scandiborn

It’s hard to overstate just how gorgeous this Little Dutch bike is. The sleek steel frame comes in a variety of pastel shades, and the 12in wheels come with matching pastel-coloured rims and retro-looking cream tyres. Meanwhile, the matching brown grips and saddle do a lovely job of mimicking the classic leather bike accessories of yesteryear.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of substance to match the style. The bike is suitable for children aged three years old and up, and there’s enough adjustability to accommodate your little ones as they grow – saddle height is adjustable for a standover height from 36cm to 42cm, and you can swap around the spacers to raise or lower the handlebar height. There’s also a bell mounted to the handlebars as standard, which is good to see (and hear).

If you’re looking for a sturdy, affordable balance bike with lashings of vintage charm, this is a lovely option.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 2-5 years; Frame material: Steel; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 4.5kg; Additional features: Bell, ergonomic seat

Buy now from Scandiborn


3. Raleigh Team Burner Mini balance bike: Best balance bike for retro style

Price: £120 | Buy now from Amazon

If you grew up in the ’80s the Raleigh Burner was the bike to have. This balance bike version takes the features of the original and miniaturises them. Letting you vicariously relive your youth, and ensuring your kid grows up super-cool, it’s got the paint job, Skyway mag wheels and, crucially, period-correct tan-wall tyres. With 12-inch wheels to suit kids of toddling age and upwards, it makes do without a brake, while its braced handlebars sport a pad and grips featuring hand protectors. Although likely to be durable enough, some of its parts are perhaps a tad below the very best you might expect. Still, given its looks and nostalgia factor, we’re going to give it a thumbs-up.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 18 months to 4 years; Frame material: Aluminium; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 4.5kg; Additional features: Mag wheels

4. B'Twin Runride 500 balance bike: Best budget balance bike

Price: £45 | Buy now from Decathlon

Designed for children between two and four years old, this budget balance bike doesn’t scrimp on features. With an easy-to-activate rear brake, its solid tyres are both lighter and easier to maintain than their pneumatic counterparts – a quality enhanced by its plastic wheels. Despite a cost-conscious steel frame, it’s still not too heavy, making for easy handling for your tot, and stress-free carrying for you. Bright and colourful, it’s available from Decathlon in a choice of two designs: orange and black (pictured above), and blue and pink.

Runride isn’t just pretty, though. It’s been developed specifically to meet the ergonomic needs of its young riders. Among other features, this sees the brake lever brought closer into the handlebar, making it easier for small hands to grasp.

Key specs – Wheel size: 10in; Suggested age: 2-4 years; Frame material: Steel; Tyre type: Solid; Weight: 3.6kg; Additional features: Rear brake

Buy now from Decathlon


5. Strider Sport: Most versatile balance bike

Price: £110 | Buy now from Strider

Despite its steel frame, the Strider Sport weighs just 2.9kg, thanks to clever one-piece composite wheels and EVA foam tyres. While these don’t provide the cushioned ride of pneumatic alternatives, they’re tough and require zero maintenance – and, if you want, you can upgrade them later, as the rims will also accept conventional tyres and tubes.

Even out of the box, the Sport is exceptionally configurable. It comes with two seat posts of different lengths, designed to accommodate inside leg measurements of between 27cm and 48cm, so will suit growing children. Both saddle and handlebar height are easily adjustable too, using a tool-free quick-release system. There’s even a foot brake available as an upgrade, which can be retrofitted. An uncommonly small diameter handlebar allows for correspondingly narrow grips that are suited to little mitts, and the saddle is similarly designed to provide comfort and control for small hips.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 1.5-5 years; Frame material: Steel; Tyre type: Foam; Weight: 2.9kg; Additional features: Handlebar pad

Buy now from Strider


6. Kink Coast BMX Balance Bike: Best BMX balance bike

Price: £200 | Buy now from Tredz

Made by uber-cool company Kink, this bike isn’t a BMX-syle balance bike, it’s a small BMX without cranks. Based around a tough steel frame, this machine will happily survive trips to the track or skatepark and will ensure your kid is never tempted by a micro-scooter again.

As any enthusiast will see, the Coast takes all the features of a modern BMX and miniaturises them, from the bars and saddle to the stem and tyres, all of which are made by Kink’s in-house Mission label. But it’s not just the finishing kit, the bike’s geometry itself is also tweaked for trick riding.

Not cheap, it should at least hold its value if you want to sell it on later, plus it’s similarly priced to models from fellow BMX makers Subrosa and We the People.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 2-4 years; Frame material: Steel; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 5.5kg; Additional features: n/a

Buy now from Tredz


7. Mamatoyz Balance Bike: Best wooden bike

Price: £116 | Buy now from Amazon

If you love the idea of a wooden balance bike, then MamaToyz has just the ticket. This cute little ride looks like a miniature wooden motorbike, replete with cute headlight drawn on the front, and is suitable for children from 24 months and up.

There’s a little assembly required, but it’s not difficult to put together – and the process is a great opportunity to take in the brilliant design. The wooden pieces are nicely finished and clamp together nicely, and the puncture-proof, solid EVA tyres are a nice touch, too.

As a whole, this is a lovely looking bike – a mix between retro and racy – and the seat height is easy to adjust. It’s also light to lift and steer, and this allowed our three-year-old tester to ride it easily while focusing on his balance and steering.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 24 months+; Frame material: Wood; Tyre type: EVA; Weight: 3.5kg

8. Islabikes Rothan: Best-quality balance bike

Price: £200 | Buy now from Islabikes

Isla Bikes has a reputation as the leading premium kids’ bike manufacturer, and the Rothan is arguably the best balance bike around: while the price is high, the parts list wouldn’t look out of place on a quality adult bike. Sealed bearing hubs and lightweight wheels are paired with slim pneumatic tyres for easy rolling. The saddle and grips are ergonomic, while the micro-reach brake lever was created specifically to suit little hands.

There’s also an integrated steering limiter, which prevents the handlebars from spinning round and protects the rider if they have a tumble, as well as smooth wheel fixing nuts that will prevent scrapes. The Isla’s geometry is also the product of extensive research and experimentation. Available in four bright, two-tone colour schemes, the Rothan is a seriously grown-up balance bike.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 2 years+; Frame material: Aluminium; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 3.2kg; Additional features: Brake, Sealed bearings

Buy now from Islabikes


9. Kokua LikeaBike Jumper: Best balance bike for comfort and handling

Price: £180 | Buy now LikeaBike

If you take away a bike’s pedals, all your weight will fall on the saddle. It’s this fact that makes the suspension on the Kokua LikeaBike Jumper so useful. Ensuring a comfortable ride for its owner, it also improves the bike’s handling.

Made by folding-bike specialist Tern, the design itself is cleverly thought-out, with a pivot and integrated elastomer bumper providing the Kokua’s additional squish, and a steering limiter stopping the whole assembly ever swerving off course.

Finished with an A-head headset, integrated bar and stem, plus puncture-resistant Schwalbe big apple tyres, its 7005 aluminium construction keeps the overall weight down.

It’s supplied with two seat posts, which can be swapped to allow the bike to grow alongside its rider.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 2-4 years; Frame material: Aluminium; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 3.4kg; Additional features: Suspension, steering limiter

Buy now LikeaBike