Best Balance Bikes of 2020
The Croco is impressive with features kids and parents will like. This bike is easy to assemble with no tool and an assembly time under 5 minutes (faster if you skip the bell). It comes with quick-release adjustments on the rubber-grip handlebar and padded seat, and a bell to let others know where you are or where you're headed. We like the no-slip grip tape on the rear forks for resting weary feet while gliding and the lightweight aluminum frame that means little ones can carry it themselves.
This bike has stiffer turning, and while this could be a problem for younger riders or those who want to make quick turns, we think the stiffer turns could be good for little ones early on to prevent unexpected turns or sharp turns that could lead to a tumble. Overall, this bike sports a reasonable price for the group and has the features you want in a quality package making it our favorite bike in the group.
The Bixe Bike is the virtual twin of the Croco, so if you want the Croco and aren't sure about the price, this would be your go-to choice. The Bixe is different in styling and lacks a bell and the no-slip tape, but otherwise, you get the same level of quality and ease of use. This bike took about four and a half minutes to assemble, and no tools are required. You'll enjoy the on-the-fly quick-release adjustment of the seat and handlebars. The Bixe is lightweight, easy for little ones to move, and has rubber grips on the handlebars.
We had a little trouble with this bikes handlebar adjustment and had to make repeated efforts at tightening the mechanism. However, once we got it, it was good to go. In general, we think this bike is a good option for the price, and the quality beats the higher price of the competition.
The XJD Baby Bike is an excellent option for toddlers longing for a bike but aren't ready for a real balance option. This stable 3-wheel choice isn't a true balance style bike as it stands on its own, but it is more than a walker and allows toddlers their first taste of biking fun. We like the wider wheels, low step-over design, and simple styling.
The XJD is intended for younger riders making it a poor choice if longevity or a longer lifespan is your goal. It is also all plastic, and we don't think fit for outdoor or longterm use. However, this bike could have a place in your gear lineup if you have an adventurous little one looking to be on the move with something other than a traditional walker.
The Velo Toddler Bike is a toddler-centric bike with grippy rubber tires and the ability to increase the difficulty level when your little one is ready for a new challenge. We like the style of this unique ride and think little ones will think it's cool too. It has rubber handgrips, easy assembly (under 5 minutes)
This bike is on the heavier side and might be more of a challenge for smaller or younger children to pick up by themselves, which is a bummer since it is geared to that market. That aside, we like the adjustability and the confidence this unique bike can give to younger or less stable riders, and we think it could be a good transition option from the XDJ when toddlers are ready for more fun and new challenges.
The Strider Balance Bike - Pedal is a unique bike that converts to a pedal bike with the purchase of a conversion kit. This bike is taller than the competition and has metal wheels with air-filled rubber tires. This makes it more like a "real bike," and we suspect older kids will like the big kid feel. This Strider bike is one of the easiest to assemble with a time right around 3 minutes.
This bike might be too much for younger riders and not enough for older riders. We suspect there is a sweet spot for this bike and parents will like that they can convert it form a balance bike to a pedal bike, but if you miss the sweet spot, you may find yourself buying a pedal bike instead of converting this option. Overall, we think it can fit the goals for some but not for all.
The GOMO Bike is a stylish BMX inspired balance bike for sporty little ones who want to be like the big kids doing stunts. It is easy to assemble, even if it does require a wrench. This bike has a plastic footrest, rubber grips on the handlebar, and quick release latches on the seat and handlebar for rapid changes when switching up riders.
This bike is heavy compared to the competition, which could make it tough for smaller riders to manage. It also has more plastic parts, and we wonder how long the footrest will hold up compared to the metal competition. The GOMO is a straightforward bike, much like the competition that neither stands out nor disappoints, and we think many kids will be happy with the stylish design and kid-friendly features.
This smaller Strider Sport Bike is relatively lightweight, has thicker seat padding, and comes with a padded roller for the handlebar to help avoid any unfortunate head bumps. This bike is easy to assemble with straightforward instructions and included Allen wrench. It has quick-release adjustability of the handlebar and seat and rubber grips. This bike feels higher quality than some of the less expensive competition, and we suspect it will last through multiple children.
This bike is on the spendy side so that it might be out of range for those on a tight budget. However, if you have or plan to have multiple children, it is highly likely this one can be passed down to siblings to get more bang for your buck. Overall, this is a simple balance bike that does what it should but struggles to match the less expensive competition.
The Retrospec Cub has nostalgic styling that is sharp looking and appealing to parents and kids alike. This bike has rubber grip handles, walk-thru design, and a footrest.
This bike is more substantial than most and could be a challenge for younger riders. Also, while the white accents are nice looking and part of the appeal, they scuff easily, and ours got scuffed in short order. While we like the look and feel of this bike, it isn't the best in the group, and the higher ranking options will probably fulfill your goals better.
The JOYSTAR Roller is a lightweight bike with a footrest. It has rubber grips and a plastic footrest and fender combo. It comes with a plastic collar to protect little ones from the handlebar bolt, and the seat is a quick-release latch you'll appreciate for its ease of use.
This bike feels like lower quality when compared side-by-side with the competition, which hurt its overall rank. While not a terrible little bike, it simply has some downfalls. The Roller has more parts to assemble than most of the competition, and it took us over 9 minutes to assemble, which is more than twice and often three times the assembly time of the competition. Overall, we think there are better choices in this lineup that offer more.
The JOYSTAR Marcher is a simple bike with all the basics covered like a padded seat, rubber grips, and adjustable seat and handlebar heights. We like that this bike is super lightweight, so even younger riders can lift and carry it on their own. It comes in bright, fun colors, and our testers were drawn to it.
This Joystar feels lower quality compared to the competition, and while there is nothing glaring amiss, it struggles to keep up with the better competition in this review. This bike requires a tool for handlebar adjustment, and it has more parts than the competition for assembly taking almost 7 minutes from start to finish. While we suspect kids could be happy with this bike, not knowing there are other options, we think parents will appreciate the finer attention to detail found in some of the competition.
Why You Should Trust Us
We at BabyGearLab have been designing and running the testing of baby gear since 2013. We've spent countless hours researching and testing products hands-on and side-by-side for everything from strollers and bike trailers to baby wipes and bottles. To find the best balance bikes on the market, we chose 10 top contenders for testing and analysis. Wendy Schmitz, Senior Review Editor, and mother of two boys lead the team with bike selection. Wendy knows a thing or two about balance bikes with more than a few in her garage still used by her boys who went straight from balance bikes to pedaling unassisted. Bob Wofford, the Senior Review Analyst, took the analysis lead on this review with the assembly of each bike and testing for things like quality, ease of setup, and ease of use. Our hands-on testing approach will give you the information you need to find the right bike for your little one.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested each bike for ease of setup, ease of use, and quality with a focus on safety, fun, and longevity. While many of the bikes offer similar features and designs, they are all a bit different in their construction, materials, usability, and more.
Ease of Use
The bikes are easy for little ones to use, but the Velo with two back wheels, and the XJD Baby Balance Bike are the best for toddlers, little ones with less balance or those tots who aren't sure about bikes and aren't as adventurous. Most of the bikes are about the same for ease of use as a rider, with the main differences being whether or not they have a footrest for placing feet when not getting the bike up to speed. The footrest is both a blessing and a hindrance depending on skill level and age. We found some kids like a place to rest there feet or to stand up on when they get better at balancing while others found the pad frustrating as they banged their calves on it when running to get up to speed. The Bixe and the Croco both lack the footrest. The GOMO and Strider 12" both have the footpad. One isn't better than the other; it's just a personal choice and one you won't be able to decide about until you use them. We suspect most kids will get used to whatever option they own and won't know the difference.
For parents, the easiest to use include those with quick release adjustments on the seat and handlebars, so you can easily make changes for height or ability. If you have only one child and one bike, this need for adjustment won't arise very often, potentially never if they move to a real bike before they get taller. But, if you have multiple children using the same bike, the ability to quickly make alterations can be key and prevent parent frustration or the need for keeping a tool on you. The JOYSTAR Marcher and the Retrospec Cub both have a quick-release on the seat and a footrest. The Bixe has quick-release and no footrest. The Croco also has a quick-release on the seat and handlebar with no-slip grip on the rear forks in place of a footrest, possibly giving kids the best of features and grownups the ease of use they desire.
Most balance bikes are not intended for the rough world of mountain biking, or long-distance travel on asphalt, which makes their quality in general lower than what you'll find on a regular pedal bike. This means most bikes come with plastic wheels and limited seat padding. They also have less attention to detail like wheels that roll somewhat untrue and some that have a wobble to them. While undesirable traits in a pedal bike, these issues are easily overlooked in the balance bike as it doesn't affect the intended use or ability of little ones to use the bikes as you hope. However, this doesn't mean you should accept any old bike, as some of the competition does offer better-quality features, materials, or construction.
The JoyStar bikes struggled the most in a side-by-side comparison with the competition as both bikes are somewhat heavier than their counterparts and have subpar construction. While neither bike is terrible, it is the small things that count, and these bikes had ore wobble in their spinning wheels and looser connections on the handlebar and seat posts, which resulted in some play in the handlebar during use. These options also feature adjustment points that require tools instead of quick-release features. While not a deal-breaker, it can be frustrating if you have one bike with different sized siblings who frequently share back and forth. The Strider bikes offer better quality materials and attention to detail in their bikes with the best seat padding in the group, making them a step up from the Joystar options. The larger Strider also includes metal wheels and air-filled rubber tires more like a real bike, but it is larger overall and not a good choice for younger or short children.
Our favorites for quality include the Bixe and the Croco bikes. Both options are extremely light, feature quick release adjustments, slightly more padding in the seat, and less wobble in the wheels.
Ease of Setup
There is no way around the fact that all of these bikes need to be assembled. However, luckily for the mechanically challenged, none of them are hard to assemble, and we think the minimal parts and intuitive designs make this kind of bike a doable option for just about everyone. With no pedals, no chains, and straightforward designs, you'll have your little one up and cruising in no time.
The Bixe and Croco are both super easy to put together with no tools required and clear instructions. We had to retighten the handlebars quick release on the Bixe a few times, but it isn't challenging or confusing. The bell on the Croco ups the time for assembly somewhat, but you can skip the bell if you want to get cruising quickly. The Retrospec Cub has a similar design with no tools necessary. The Joystars both require the most assembly in the group; you need to install the forks, handlebar, seat, rear-wheel, and front wheel. The formed tubes where you mount the front and rear wheels are too wide and require you to tighten down the nut to pull them into place. It's this kind of attention to detail or lack thereof that hurt these options in the quality metric. The remainder are all very similar with seats, forks or handlebars being added to frames with the included wrenches. Even the Strider Bike -Pedal with rubber spoked wheels, and a more bike like design is easy enough.
Finding a great balance bike for your child's size, age, and ability can be easy if you know what you're looking for and what you're getting before you buy. With our details on the top 10 choices, we think there is something for everyone in this roundup of great options. Whether you need a true starter option for your 18 months old, or a speedster for your 3-year-old, there is something for everyone in our award winners and top competitors.
— Wendy Schmitz and BabyGearLab Review Team