Chris Dixon

The Best Balance Bike

Our pick

Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

The best balance bike for most kids

The Strider 12 Sport is strong, lightweight, a cinch to assemble, and the most adjustable option for kids age 18 months to 5 years.

Buying Options

$110 from Backcountry
$110 from Amazon

The Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike hides prodigious design beneath a veneer of simplicity. It is the most popular balance bike on the market, and we understand why: easy assembly, a wide range of size adjustability, light weight (6.7 pounds), and a low, 8-inch stand-over height for easier balance. Of all of the bikes here, its design feels the most, well, mini-me-friendly with kid-narrow handlebars and toddler-size grips. Its seat post has the widest height adjustability range of any bike we tested (9 inches!). Its simple design includes an ultra-light, maintenance-free nylon bushing headset (the pivot point that lets the handlebar turn), very lightweight plastic wheels, pleasantly grippy foam rubber tires that never need inflating, and footrests, which is a nice feature when a kid starts to try tricks like bunny hops, or just want to rest their feet on a gradual downhill. We also liked the full-length handlebar pad, for when bunny hops go awry. The 12 Sport comes brake-free, but Strider offers an add-on foot brake for hilly terrain.

Advertisement

Runner-up

REI Co-op Cycles REV 12 Kids' Balance Bike

REI Co-op Cycles REV 12 Kids’ Balance Bike

A durable bike that’s great for indoors too

This aluminum-framed balance bike costs more than our top pick and is less adjustable, but it comes with shock-absorbing and indoor-friendly rubber air-filled tires.

Buying Options

$140* from REI

*At the time of publishing, the price was $0.

If our top pick is sold out, or if you want the cushioning and traction of rubber tires, particularly for indoor riding, REI’s Co-op Cycles REV 12 Kids’ Balance Bike is an excellent choice. While its air tires, alloy wheels, and standard ball-bearing headset make it, at 9 pounds, heavier than the Strider Sport, the REV 12 also features thoughtful kid-specific design elements like a low top tube (same as the Strider 12 Sport at 8 inches) and a seat height that is adjustable by 5 inches, which while still good is 4 inches fewer than the Strider. The slightly spendier Co-op lacks some size adjustability compared with the Strider 12 Sport, particularly at the handlebars, but some of our testers preferred the stability of slightly wider handlebars and the speed they could generate with its fat, rubber tires. The REV 12 also gets high marks for a really easy assembly. The clean welds, flawless paint job, and precisely fitted componentry create a bike as high in quality as REI’s famous customer support.

Budget pick

Banana Bike LT V2

Banana Bike LT V2

A light, affordable, low-rise option for low-rise humans

Though not as polished as the Strider or Co-op, this lightweight, low-slung bike will get most kids up and happily gliding along—and won’t bust the budget.

Buying Options

$58 from Amazon

Our experts agreed: Spend less than $110 on a balance bike, and you’ll have to make some trade-offs. While the steel-framed Banana Bike LT V2 offers what we consider two of the most important features for beginning kids—low stand-over height and light weight—at a very affordable price, it took longer than 45 minutes to get it truly dialed out of the box. But, the frame is well-engineered, and the range of height adjustability for the handlebars is substantial and adequate for the seat (about 3 inches). The Banana’s foam tires work fine on paved and carpeted surfaces, but were quite slippy on kitchen linoleum and hardwood floors (unlike our top pick and runner-up). I needed to loosen its wheels with a pair of wrenches (which is a bummer, as the bike comes with only one wrench) because their spin was slow, while its bike-standard ball bearing headset arrived over-tightened, making turns of the handlebar notchy. The bike is nonetheless handsome and it performs well—once mom or dad (or a local bike shop) gets it good to roll.

Also great

Strider 14x Sport Balance Bike

Strider 14x Sport Balance Bike

A game-changing balance bike that converts to a pedal bike

Slightly bigger with easy-to-install pedals, the Strider 14x Sport can also be used as your kid’s first pedal bike, making this an all-in-one solid investment.

Buying Options

$157* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $150.

The Strider 14x Sport represents a tiny segment of balance bikes that can be outfitted with a sprocket assembly that quickly converts them into solid, no-compromises pedal bikes. While we loved both the Strider 14x Sport and its nearest competition, the LittleBig 3-in-1 (currently not shipping to the US), the Strider is lower in price and has a wider range of size adjustability. Geometry-wise, the 14x, which has 14-inch wheels (unlike the rest of the balance bikes we tested, which had 12-inch wheels), the Sport is meant for kids in their mid to high 3s up to age 7. It features an appropriately low step-in height of 10 inches, a long, stable 28½-inch wheelbase, and a remarkable seat height range of 15 to 22 inches. Our favorite feature: the smart half-width pedals that let kids put their feet down to stop without the possibility of being whacked by the pedal, and won’t scrape during sharp cornering. Pair all that with a handlebar stem that can be raised nearly 4 inches, and you have an incredibly versatile bike, size-wise.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

The best balance bike for most kids

The Strider 12 Sport is strong, lightweight, a cinch to assemble, and the most adjustable option for kids age 18 months to 5 years.

Buying Options

$110 from Backcountry
$110 from Amazon

Runner-up

REI Co-op Cycles REV 12 Kids' Balance Bike

REI Co-op Cycles REV 12 Kids’ Balance Bike

A durable bike that’s great for indoors too

This aluminum-framed balance bike costs more than our top pick and is less adjustable, but it comes with shock-absorbing and indoor-friendly rubber air-filled tires.

Buying Options

$140* from REI

*At the time of publishing, the price was $0.

Budget pick

Banana Bike LT V2

Banana Bike LT V2

A light, affordable, low-rise option for low-rise humans

Though not as polished as the Strider or Co-op, this lightweight, low-slung bike will get most kids up and happily gliding along—and won’t bust the budget.

Buying Options

$58 from Amazon

Also great

Strider 14x Sport Balance Bike

Strider 14x Sport Balance Bike

A game-changing balance bike that converts to a pedal bike

Slightly bigger with easy-to-install pedals, the Strider 14x Sport can also be used as your kid’s first pedal bike, making this an all-in-one solid investment.

Buying Options

$157* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $150.

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *