Getting ready for a balance bike? Before little ones are ready for pedal power, you might consider a balance bike for learning the ropes. We researched more than 20 contenders before choosing 12 top options for testing. We purchased each bike and tested them hands-on in our lab for ease of setup, ease of use, and quality. We have the details you need to find the right bike for your little one based on age, height, ability, and more.
$74.90 at Amazon
|$70 List||$165 List|
$169.99 at Amazon
$59.99 at Amazon
$74.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Quick-release adjustments, no-slip grip foot rest, lightweight||Rubber tires, adjustable width wheel, better stability||Good for taller kids, converts to a pedal bike, rubber wheels||Good quality, no tool assembly, lightweight||Good quality, tools included, super lightweight|
|Cons||Stiffer turning||Heavier||Heavy, could be too tall, expensive||Repeated tightening of handlebar||No quick release on handlebars|
|Bottom Line||Impressive option with better balanced wheels and sturdy construction that looks cool||Versatile option that transforms as your child gains confidence from a double rear wheel to single||Interesting option that grows with your child's ability if you add the available pedal conversion kit||Top quality, well-balanced bike with flashy colors and rubber hand grips for a reasonable price||Inexpensive and unadorned, basic bike that gets the job done|
|Rating Categories||Croco||Velo Toddler Bike||Strider Balance Bik...||Bixe Bike||Lava Sport Balance...|
|Ease of Use (40%)|
|Ease of Setup (20%)|
|Specs||Croco||Velo Toddler Bike||Strider Balance Bik...||Bixe Bike||Lava Sport Balance...|
|BabyGearLab Weight Measurement||4.6 lbs||7.7 lbs||12.3 lbs||4.6 lbs||4.5 lbs|
|Wheel Sizes Available||12"||9"||14"||12"||11"|
|BabyGearLab Wheel Measurement||10.9"||8.6"||13.3"||11"||10.7"|
|Bike Seat Height Range||11 - 15.5"||11 - 13.5"||14 - 21"||11 - 15.5"||12.2 - 15.7"|
|Suggested Age||18 months - 5 yrs||18 months - 4 yrs||3 yrs - 6 yrs||2 yrs - 5 yrs||Not Listed|
Best Overall Balance Bike
The Croco is an impressive balance bike with features kids and parents appreciate. This bike is easy to assemble with no tools required 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 alert others of where you are. We like the no-slip tape on the rear forks for resting tired feet while gliding and the lightweight aluminum frame little ones can pick up and carry by themselves.
This bike has stiffer turning than the competition. While this might be a problem for skilled riders who want to make quick turns, we think the stiffer turns could be helpful for nervous little ones to prevent unexpected twists or sharp turns that could lead to a tumble. This balance bike has a reasonable price and includes the features you want in a quality bike, making it one of our favorite.
Great for the Tightest Budgets
Lava Sport Balance Bike
With a shorter, lightweight frame, the Lava Sport Balance Bike is a cool set of wheels perfect for younger riders. This kids' balance bike is basic and gets by with a no-frills design, rubber grips, and a bolt cover for the handlebar collar. It has good-looking weld points and a near-perfect paint job indicating great attention to detail and better quality than some higher-priced competition.
There isn't much to dislike about this no-fuss bike. 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 easier. This adjustment is likely an infrequent need if a single rider uses the bike. The Lava is an impressive balance bike for a budget price, and we believe most families will find it gets little ones on the road to riding.
Best for Timid Toddlers
Velo Toddler Bike
The Velo Toddler Bike is a toddler-centric option with rubber tires and the ability to increase the difficulty level when your child is ready for a new challenge. We like the style of this unique bike, and little ones will think it's cool (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 somewhat heavy and might be more challenging for smaller or younger children to pick up alone, which is disappointing given the group they want to engage. That aside, we like the adjustability and the confidence this unique bike can give younger or reluctant riders. We think it could be a good transition option from the XJD Baby Bike when toddlers are ready for more fun and new challenges.
Best Transition Bike
Strider Balance Bike - Pedal
The Strider Balance Bike - Pedal converts to a pedal bike by purchasing a conversion kit, making it a unique selection in our review. This bike is taller than most competitors in our lineup and has metal wheels with air-filled rubber tires. This design makes it more akin to a "real bike." We suspect older children will enjoy the "big kid" look and feel. This Strider bike is one of the easiest to assemble, with an assembly time of around 3 minutes.
This product might be too much for younger riders and not enough for older riders. We suspect there is a sweet spot for this balance bike, and parents will like that it can convert to a pedal bike when kids are ready, but if you miss this window, you might end up buying a pedal bike instead of the pedal conversion kit. Overall, we think it can fit some goals but won't be the answer for everyone.
Why You Should Trust Us
We researched over 20 potential balance bike competitors for this review. We purchased and tested the top contenders to bring you a lineup worthy of BabyGearLab readers. This review includes test metrics like assembly, ease of use, quality, bike adjustment assessments, and more. We tested bikes side-by-side in our lab and in parks with tot testers to bring you the insider details on the bikes parents, and little ones loved. While they might all appear similar on the surface, we did discover minor but important differences that impact our level of satisfaction and child enthusiasm.
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 top contenders currently on the market for testing and analysis. Wendy Schmitz, Senior Review Editor and mother of two boys, conducted 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, Senior Review Analyst, took the analysis role 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, use, and quality, focusing on safety, fun, and longevity. While the balance bikes appear to offer similar features, functionality, and designs, we noticed differences in their construction, quality, usability, and more.
The Lava Sport offers the best bang for the buck. This kids' balance bike scored well overall, and it is lightweight, nice quality, and sleek in appearance. Although we prefer bikes with tool-free adjustments on handlebars and bike seats, this option only has one tool-free quick-release clamp on its bike seat, and the handlebar requires a tool. Therefore, last-minute handlebar adjustments will have to wait unless you've packed the necessary tool. If you can look beyond this drawback, we think this balance bike deserves to kick off your toddler's two-wheeling journey. But, if you're willing to stretch your budget for extra convenience features, we think the Croco is a step up from the Lava, particularly regarding convenience. Like the Lava, the Croco is similar in weight, quality, and ease of assembly. However, the Croco has a quick-release clamp on the seat and handlebar and a no-slip grip on the rear forks in place of a footrest, possibly giving kids the best features and grownups the ease of use they desire. These thoughtful features are part of why this bike ranks so highly in our competition and why we believe it is a great value even though the price is somewhat higher.
Ease of Use
We believe the perfect kids' balance bike design will incorporate a list of convenient features, such as a kid-friendly weight, tires that grip, either a footrest or no-slip tape, innovations to aid the bike's stability for new riders, and quick-release clamps on the bike's seat and handlebars for tool-free adjustments.
With an 8 of 10 in this metric, the Croco ranks the highest among the competitors. It is lightweight, features no-slip tape for little feet to rest when coasting, and quick-release adjustments on the seat and handlebar for quick change-ups when switching riders. It has foam tires, and for most beginner riders, foam tires will be enough, especially if your kid's bike route consists of trotting around the neighborhood. However, foam tires do not offer the same grip on various surfaces as rubber tires, which might be a factor to consider if your adventures go beyond the pavement. Most balance bikes in our review have foam tires, except for the Strider Balance Bike - Pedal. This bike is designed for older kids (ages 3 - 6 years), and it weighs significantly more than others. This factor alone greatly influenced its score of 3 and lower rank in this metric.
The XJD Baby Bike also ranks low with a 3, somewhat by default due to its design. With 3-wheels, this option isn't a standard balance style bike, making it an excellent choice for toddlers who want a bike but aren't ready for balance. We like the wider wheels, low step-over design, and simple styling. But, with a design intended for younger riders and that you can't adjust the seat or handlebar height, it is a poor choice if your goal is longevity or a longer lifespan. Also, it is all plastic, and we don't think it's fit for outdoor or long-term use. All of these factors hurt its overall score in this metric. We recognize that it fits a niche in the world of balance bikes and only recommend it if you have an adventurous little one looking to be on the move with something other than a traditional walker and you don't mind indoor riding.
Regarding a footrest, this feature can be both a blessing and a hindrance, depending on skill level and child's age. Some kids like a place to rest their feet or stand upon when they get better at balancing, while others were frustrated by the footpad placement and kept banging their calves on it when running to get up to speed. The Lava, Schwinn Elm, Velo, and XJD Baby Bike feature no footrest or non-slip tape. But, the JOYSTAR Roller, JOYSTAR Marcher, GOMO, Strider Sport Bike, and Retrospec Cub do, with Retrospec having the most significant footrest design. One isn't better than the other; it's a personal choice. We suspect most kids will get used to whatever option they own and won't know the difference.
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, foam tires, and less comfort padding than you might expect. Overall attention to detail is also lacking, with wheels that wobble and some that spin slightly canted. While these are undesirable traits in a pedal bike, these 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.
Among the competition, the JOYSTAR bikes struggle the most in our side-by-side comparisons, mainly due to subpar construction, and, thus, they scored 3 of 10. While neither are so terrible that we would advise avoiding them, we believe the small things matter and add up. 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.
The Strider bikes rank the highest, scoring 7 of 10. These options 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.
And, shy of the top score is the Bixe Bike, Schwinn Elm, Lava, and Croco. These options also have impressive quality with near-perfect paint and no manufacturing flaws and offer slightly better padding in the seat, and experience less wobble in the wheels.
Ease of Setup
All of the bikes in our review require some degree of assembly, so prepare yourself. Luckily, none of them are hard, and we think the minimal parts and intuitive designs make them all a doable project for almost everyone, even those lacking assembly skills. With no pedals, no chains, and simple designs, you'll have your tot cruising before you know it.
Both the XJD Baby Bike and Retrospec Cub have strikingly swift assembly times among the competition. However, the Strider Balance Bike - Pedal beats these contenders with the quickest assembly time, and we consider it one of the easiest options to assemble. The Strider ranks the highest given this feat, scoring 9 of 10.
The GOMO Bike is relatively quick to construct, too, despite requiring a wrench, and the Bixe and Croco have a straightforward assembly, requiring no tools and including helpful instructions. We did have to re-tighten the handlebar's quick release on the Bixe more than once. Although it isn't hard, it did take more effort than it should, or we thought. The handlebar bell on the Croco increases the overall assembly time slightly, but you can skip the bell for quicker cruising and attach it later when your child is less excited.
The JOYSTAR Roller and JOYSTAR Marcher require more assembly than other contenders; therefore, they rank the lowest with 2 of 10 and 3 of 10 scores, respectively. You'll need to attach the forks, handlebar, seat, rear, and front wheels to the frame, 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 in. This sort of lack of attention to detail hurt the JOYSTARS for quality. The remaining competitors are similar, with seats, forks, or handlebars attaching to frames using the included wrenches.
Selecting the best balance bike for your little one's size, age, and ability can be easy if you know what to look for and what to expect before making a purchase. Using the information from our extensive hands-on testing of popular bikes, you can narrow your search and focus on the right option for your child from our roundup of great bikes. Whether you want the ultimate starter bike for your toddler or a super balance glider for your 3-year-old, there is a balance bike in our award winners and top competitors suitable for your child.
— Wendy Schmitz and BabyGearLab Review Team
Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.Learn More