Best Balance Bike 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 going. 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 useful for little ones early on to prevent unexpected twists 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 that keep you tool-free when on-the-go. The Bixe is lightweight, easy for little ones to move, and has rubber grips on the handlebars.We had a little trouble with this bike's 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 competition with higher prices.
The Lava Sport is a cool little balance bike perfect for younger riders thanks to its shorter stature and light weight. This basic bike gets by with a o-frills design, rubber grips, and a bolt cover for the handlebar collar. The bike has good looking weld points and a near-perfect paint job indicating a high attention to detail and better quality than some of the higher priced competition.There isn't much to dislike about this no-fuss option. The only thing we'd change is to add a quick release adjustment to the handlebars to make on-the-go adjustments away from home possible. Though we do admit this is likely an infrequent need if the bike is used by a single rider. Overall, the Lava is an impressive bike for a wallet-friendly price, and we think most families will find it gets their little ones on the road to bike riding in style.
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 standard 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. It could be the perfect solution for generating early interest in all things bike.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 (our testers certainly did!). It has rubber handgrips, easy assembly (under 5 minutes), and is one of the few designed with younger toddlers in mind with its adjustable width.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 disappointing given the market they are trying to capture. 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 design 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 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 it can convert to a pedal bike when the time is right, but if you miss the sweet spot, you could find yourself buying a pedal bike instead of buying the pedal conversion kit. Overall, we think it can fit the goals for some but won't be the answer for all.
The Schwinn Elm is a step-thru design balance bik with a parents handle. This higher quality option looks good and we didn't see any manufacturing flaws on the bike we pruchased. Kids like the bright color and well-padded seat, and parents appreciated the plastic rear wheel bolt covers that prevent accidental leg scapres from overextended swinging legs looking for speed. This bike has rubber grips and a quick release seat adjustment.This bike has a tool only handlebar height adjustment which is frsutrating if you need to do away from home changes. However, given than some of the comeptition that is easier to adjust resulted in loose handlebars, we can see the trade-of might be worth the hassle. Overall, we like what Schwinn is offering in this basic bike that seems to keep litle ones and their parents in mind.
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 weighs more than 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. It neither stands out nor disappoints, and we think many kids will enjoy 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 cushion any unfortunate head bumps. This bike is easy to assemble with straightforward instructions and included wrench. It has quick-release adjustability of the handlebar and seat and includes 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 somewhat spendy, so it might be out of range for tight budgets. 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 quick to assemble and doesn't require any tools, which is great if you worry about assembly.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 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. Testers liked the bike, but it didn't hold the same level of appeal as some of the other options.In our tests, this bike feels lower quality in comparison to the competition, which hurts the overall rank. While not a horrible little bike, it merely has some downfalls. The Roller has more parts to assemble than most in this lineup, and it took us over 9 minutes to assemble, which is more 2-3 times the assembly time of the other contenders. Overall, we think there are better choices that offer more in our review.
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 more exceptional 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 test each bike for ease of setup, ease of use, and quality with a focus on safety, fun, and longevity. While the bikes appear to offer similar features, functionality, and designs, they are slightly different in their construction, materials, usability, and more.
Ease of Use
All of 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 younger toddlers, little ones with less balance, or 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 while balancing. 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 were frustrated by the foot pad placement and kept banged their calves on it when running to get up to speed. The Velo, Schwinn, and the Croco all lack a footrest. The GOMO and Strider 12" both have the foot pad. One isn't better than the other; it's 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. Our testers all favored different styles with no real definitive style winner.
For parents, the easiest bikes 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 will arise less frequently, potentially never if they move to a real bike before they get taller. However, if you have multiple children using the same bike, you'll be grateful for designs that allow for quick alterations that don't need tools. 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. These thoughtful features is part of why this bike ranks so highly in our competition.
Most balance bikes are not intended for the rough world of mountain biking, off-roading, or long-distance travel on asphalt, which means their quality is generally less than what you expect from a pedal bike. This reality means most bikes come with plastic wheels and less comfort padding than you might expect. An overall attention to detail is also lacking with wheels that somewhat wobble and some that spin slightly canted. While these are very undesirable traits in a pedal bike, these types of concerns are more easily overlooked in a balance bike as it doesn't affect the intended use or ability of little ones to use the bikes as they desire. However, this doesn't mean you should accept any old quality level, as some of the competition does put in more effort with better-quality features, materials, and construction.
The JoyStar bikes struggle the most in our side-by-side comparisons with the competition. Both bikes weigh more than the other contenders and have subpar construction. While neither is so terrible we would advise avoiding them, it is the small things that matter, and these options had balance problems in their spinning wheels and looser connections on the handlebar and seat posts, which resulted in some play in the handlebar. These bikes also require tools to make simple adjustments to the seat and handlebar heights instead of utilizing quick-release features. While not a deal-breaker, this tool-handy requirement is frustrating if you have one bike being used by different sized siblings who frequently share.
The Strider bikes offer better quality materials and attention to detail with the best seat padding in the group, giving them a definite edge over the Joystar options. The larger Strider also includes metal wheels and air-filled rubber tires more like a real bike, but it is bigger overall and not the right choice for younger or shorter children. The Schwinn Elm and the Lava also has impressive quality with near-perfect paint and no manufacturing flaws.
Our favorites for quality include the Bixe, Lava, Schwinn, and the Croco. These bikes are incredibly lighter weight, have quick-release adjustments (on one or both points), offer slightly better padding in the seat, and experience less wobble in the wheels.
Ease of Setup
All of these bikes require some level of assembly, so prepare yourself mentally for this task. Luckily for those parents who may be mechanically challenged, none of them are hard, and we think the minimal parts and intuitive designs in this group make them all a doable project for almost everyone. With no pedals, no chains, and straightforward designs, you'll have your little one up and cruising before you know it.
The Bixe and Croco are straightforward to assemble, requiring no tools and providing useful instructions. We did need to re-tighten the handlebar's quick release on the Bixe more than once, but it isn't challenging it just took more effort than we originally thought. The handlebar bell on the Croco increase the overall assembly time slightly, but if your time is short, you can skip the bell for quicker cruising and attach the bell later when your child is less excited. The Retrospec Cub also doesn't need tools to set up and is relatively intuitive. The Joystars both require the more assembly than the competition. You'll need to attach the forks, handlebar, seat, rear-wheel, and front wheel to the frame, which is essentially building the bike from scratch. The formed tubes where you mount the front and rear wheels on our bikes were too wide and we had to tighten the nut down significantly to pull them into place. It's this kind of lack of attention to detail, that hurt the Joystars in the quality department. The remaining competitors are all very similar with seats, forks, or handlebars attaching to frames using the included wrenches. Even the Strider Bike -Pedal with metal spokes and rubber wheels, and a more bike-like design, is easy enough. None require the same level of effort or knowledge as a traditional pedal bike might.
Choosing the best balance bike for your child's size, age, and ability can be a breeze if you know what to look for and what you can expect before you make your purchase. Using the information from our hands-on testing of the best 10 bikes, we believe you can narrow down your search and focus on the best choice for your child from this roundup of great options. Whether you are looking for the ultimate starter bike for your toddler or a super glider for your 3-year-old, there is a bike for you in our top ranking award winners and competitors.
— Wendy Schmitz and BabyGearLab Review Team