Best Toddler Bike of 2018 & Buying Guide
In the bike world, it seems you’re never too young to start learning! Kids as young as 12 months can start joining their parents on rides via baby bike seats, and at just 18 months of age, children are old enough to start playing on wheeled toys. While they haven’t mastered pedaling yet, kids that young can enjoy balance bikes or push-trikes.
So which bike is the best for your toddler? It depends on quite a few factors, which we’ll discuss in our buyer’s guide. We’ll also look at some of our favorite options for parents to consider.
RoyalBaby BMX Freestyle
Schwinn Boys’ 12” Grit Bike with Parent Handle
Roadmaster 26″ Men’s Granite Peak Men’s Bike
Diggin Active Skuut Wooden Balance Bike
Critical Cycles Cub, No-Pedal Balance Bike
How old should my child be before getting their first bike? What if they don’t seem all that interested?
This depends on your child’s coordination and motor skills, as well as their interest level. Some kids just aren’t confident enough in their movements to learn, and others simply don’t want to—both of which are totally fine.
If your child has a developmental issue that’s holding them back (such as “pigeon toe,” a treatable deformity where a child’s feet turn inwards), consult his or her pediatrician. It might be that they really do want to ride a bike, but feel like they can’t.
For some children, the lack of interest stems from fear. They aren’t afraid of the bike, per se, but of falling off and getting hurt. To remedy this, let your child shop for their own safety gear, such as helmets and knee or elbow pads, reflectors, etc. They can also practice “crashes” in the grass, which will show them how to fall properly, how effective their safety gear is, and that crashes aren’t the end of the world, after all.
It also depends on what you consider their “first bike.” If you consider it a traditional pedal bike, then you might want to wait until the child is 2½ or 3, the “older toddler” age bracket. If you’re considering balance bikes or another form of push toy (one without pedals, that the child propels with his or her feet), you can start the learning as young as 12 to 18 months—provided he or she can walk with relative confidence.
What kind of bikes are available for this age group?
Toddlers are a tough age group as a whole, because they technically encompass kids from 12 months to 3 years—and, as we all know, the skill levels between a 1- and 3-year-old are dramatically different.
Most experts recommend balance bikes for all toddlers. These models have no pedals or drivetrains, but allow kids to focus on steering and balance; pedaling is taught later, when they’re ready for a traditional bicycle.
These bikes teach kids the fundamentals of riding early on; most who use them don’t even need training wheels when they move on to a regular bike.
There are also bike trailers, which look like kids’ bikes without the front wheels; instead, the front attaches to the back of parent’s bike. This allows the child to pedal and steer, but also takes out the element of balance. It’s a great option, though, for families who want to ride together, or for kids who aren’t quite confident on bikes by themselves yet.
I have an 18-month-old, a 3-year-old, and a 4-year-old. Can they share a bike?
In general, no. Kids have very different abilities at different ages, and vastly different heights, as well. That cute little plastic push-trike your 18-month-old loves is, developmentally, too young for an older child, while your 4-year-old might have outgrown the 3-year-old’s balance bike, and the 3-year-old can’t yet handle the 4-year-old’s traditional bike.
In other words, each of these ages will benefit most from their own bike, and one that’s sized properly for them. If price is an issue, remember that you can always go the route of hand-me-downs to save money later and make your investments last.
And if you’re just not sure where you could store all these little bikes, consider holding off for your youngest. In another year—or even now, with some adjustments—they’ll be ready for the balance bike, no extra purchases required.
Is it okay to get a larger bike, so my child can grow into it?
Despite this practice being very common, it’s not recommended. An improper fit means improper balance and control—factors that could delay your child’s learning process, and cause more falls, bumps, and bruises along the way.
Of course, no one likes the thought of buying a new bike every year if they don’t have to. Look for models that are highly adjustable, with moving seat posts and handlebars, so the bike can “grow with” your child—rather than your child growing into it.
Best Toddler Bike Reviews
1. RoyalBaby BMX Freestyle, Unisex Review
This sturdy model from RoyalBaby boasts thick, knobby tires (with custom RoyalBaby logo in the tread) for grass and gravel riding, as well as sidewalks and streets.
It’s adjustable, and comes in a variety of heights to suit any toddler (or older children). Best of all: no excessive logos or decals, and no sign of cartoon characters your child might outgrow in just a few weeks.
For a stylish trainer, consider this BMX-style bike from RoyalBaby. They’ve designed a bike that looks, essentially, like a tiny version of an adult bike, with all the features a child’s bike requires. The price is also very fair, and the fact that most kids will be able to ride theirs 2 to 3 years after purchase makes that price tag all the more attractive.
2. Critical Cycles Cub, No-Pedal Balance Bike (Unisex) Review
The balance bike craze has hit it big in the last five years, as child development experts realize the benefit of taking pedals out of the equation. Kids don’t have to focus on the motions, so they can put all their attention and effort on steering and balancing the bike, instead. This model from Critical Cycles is affordable, effective, and comes in six different color options your child will love.
This balance bike is a smart buy, in more ways than one! First, it’s affordable for any children’s bike. Second, it grows with your child and can last over 3 years, depending on the age they start riding. And finally, it can teach him or her the fundamentals of riding at a young age, without the added stress of pedaling. In fact, some kids are ready to upgrade to pedal-bikes in a year or less of balance bike use.
3. Schwinn Boys’ 12” Grit Bike with Parent Handle Review
This bike from Schwinn has a unique feature, one many parents will love: a removable handle that lets the parent push and steer the bike, as needed. When it’s removed, the bike is a standard 2-wheeler with training wheels, so you can take the assistance away as soon as your child is ready. It’s also a great substitute for traditional strollers.
While some parents don’t want to push their child’s bike along, others will find the handle incredibly convenient. We recommend this for kids who want to learn, but are a little fearful and would do best with Mom, Dad, or a grandparent following closely behind.
4. Diggin Active Skuut Wooden Balance Bike Review
As far as aesthetics go, the Active Skuut from Diggin is a Scandinavian dream. It’s made of a gorgeous natural wood with an interesting geometry, and simple red touches suitable for boys or girls of any age. But does it perform as well as it looks?
As much as we love the look (and the name) of the Skuut, as well as the company’s promise to plant a tree for every one it sells…we aren’t quite sold on the bike itself. It has an adjustable seat, but requires more work to adjust than other models. The wood frame is gorgeous, and could make a beautiful hand-me-down as time goes on, but might not hold up as long as steel or aluminum—especially if your kids tend to be rough with toys. Overall, we think it’s great for very young toddlers, and might even suit 18-month-olds well.
5. Roadmaster 26″ Men’s Granite Peak Men’s Bike (Black and Red) Review
The Mini Glider from Glide Bikes might be our favorite balance bike, or our favorite toddler bike altogether. Instead of footrests (some of which are too small and discourage kids from picking up their feet to test balance, and some of which are so large kids can’t glide properly), it has simple, non-obtrusive pegs.
This balance bike is simple, but also has features to accommodate more advanced riding as your child grows. We especially like the handbrake, which will train kids to use one before moving on to their first “real” bike. The geometry makes for a slow, comfortable ride any budding cyclist will enjoy.
Choosing the right bike for a toddler is difficult: there are hundreds of viable options out there, and each is as unique as your child. Start by assessing his or her skill level, your budget, and which method you’d prefer them to learn with. In time, the right choice will be all too easy to make.