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The best balance bikes are loved, ridden and handed down to siblings and friends. They help children progress confidently to pedal bikes and can encourage a lifelong love of cycling. A poor choice of balance bike may rust or (worse still) lie unridden and unloved in a dark corner. Yet when it comes to choosing the best balance bike for your child the options can seem baffling. Sometimes it can really help to have a personal recommendation.
To help you, I asked the members of two cycling Facebook Groups which balance bikes their children used, whether they'd recommend them and why. In Part One of this article, I'm looking at the balance bikes that got the most recommendations. These balance bikes have been ridden and loved over the years, often by more than one child.
The balance bike recommended by most parents was the Puky Balance Bike. These have been going for years and get a thumbs up for their simplicity and robustness.
"We love our Puky. Currently on our second daughter, hoping to transition straight to pedals without stabilisers as we did with our eldest. A solid little bike that hasn't let us down!" - Emma
"Puky all the way! My little girl was riding an Islabike pedal bike by the time was just 3 years old thanks to the 2 Puky balance bikes we had bought her. My son likewise." - Louise
"My son had a Puky which had a brake which got him started riding. He's now 14, so this was a long time ago. We then had several other Pukys as they are very good." - Adam
We had so many recommendations for the Puky Balance Bike I couldn't fit them all in to this article, so I've decided to write a separate one - Why do parents love Puky Balance Bikes?
A close second when I asked the parents to recommend the best balance bikes were the Strider Balance Bikes. These bikes have long been a favourite amongst racers due to the Strider Balance Bike Series that runs each year.
"Strider Bike for the win! Ours has done over 600 miles with three children and still going strong. Lightweight, huge range of seat height and great quality. Only problem is you go through shoes like nobodies business as it doesn't have a brake! Our kids have sat on other balance bikes but are never as daredevil as when they were on their Strider Bike!" - Fiona
"My eldest (3) loves his Strider Balance Bike - it is the 'sport' version (pictured above) and is very light, although not the lightest on the market. It was a good price given it came with two seat posts to extend its lifespan. He's had no problem with the unrestricted handlebars and I doubt would use the brake offered on competitor brands (certainly not when he first had it aged 2). It's been brilliant off road in the woods and on pavement and he zooms around on it very happily. Another plus is that as the Strider doesn't have air tyres there is less maintenance and no risk of a puncture while out." - Louise
"I would recommend the basic Strider bike (pictured below) or something with similar geometry, no brakes and no steering limiter."
"We found the strider sport was great for a very short nearly 2 year old, as it was the only one that had a saddle that could go low enough and light enough. Once she was out of nappies though the seat was too uncomfortable (and still too short for the softer bigger saddle) but fortunately someone gave us an Islabikes Rothan (see below) which was much more comfy and having the brake did help with getting ready for a Frog pedal bike." - Heather
Strider Balance Bikes are available from Amazon
The Chicco Bullet is the best selling balance bike on Amazon, so there must be a lot of kids out there riding this bike! It gets recommended for it's light weight and being great value for money.
"We love our basic Chico bullet, now using it with our second child, very light frame and easy to master" - Correen
"Having had an Islabikes Rothan for our eldest, we went for the other end of the market, a Chicco Bullet, for P. Amazing bike. Super lightweight, tyres that don't go down. Having been on the Toddlebike, she was already a po when she got the Bullet (age 2) and was only on it a few months before being ready for pedals. So in summary, given my kids were only without pedals for a few months each I would definitely go with the Chicco which is more than good enough for this stage - save your money for getting a really good pedal bike when they're ready!" - Jo
I'm sure many of our readers would be surprised if an article about the best balance bikes didn't feature an Islabike. As has happened in the past, the Islabikes really split opinion with the parents. Some raved about it's light weight and the fact that unlike the Puky and Strider balance bikes it comes with a brake. Others firmly felt it was far too expensive, that young children don't need a brake, and money should be saved for the larger Islabikes in the ever growing range.
"We had an Islabike balance bike when A turned two. I would highly recommend these as they are nice and light so easy for a little one to pick up and comes with brakes so saves the shoes! The brake levers are the perfect size for little hands. A moved onto a pedal bike with ease soon after turning three. C at 20 months is bike obsessed and is desperate to get going on the balance bike but his legs aren't quite long enough yet." - Emma
"We had an Islabikes Rothan for our two, and the youngest had a Toddlebike to start with too. The balance bike made it easy to transition to a pedal bike, eldest three and a bit, youngest getting on for four." - Dominic
"We went for Islabike Rothan for E and were quite pleased at the time - low stepover, relatively light and given his time on a Toddlebike he took to it like a duck to water." - Jo
The Toddlebike is not strictly a balance bike, but as it was mentioned by so many parents I felt I should include it here. The Toddlebike is designed as a "pre-balance bike" for toddlers aged 18 months and over who are too small to ride a proper balance bike.
"The Toddlebike was really useful for when our youngest was too small for the Islabike Rothan" - Dominic
"We started with a Toddlebike at around 18 months of age, then graduated to a Puky, then pedals after that. I agree that Puky bikes are really robust and easy for them to ride and would heartily endorse the Toddlebike for tinies - it's so light it gives them a great intro." - Eilidh
The Toddlebike is available from Amazon
Like the Islabikes Rothan, the Frog Tadpole is the smallest offering in a long line of kids bikes and this one comes with a brake. If you start on a Tadpole then don't be surprised if you one day find yourself forking out for the Frog Road 70! The choice of colours and designs was one feature parents liked, plus the fact that there are three different sizes - the Tadpole Mini for ages 1-2 years, the Standard Tadpole (ages 2-3 years) and the Tadpole Plus, for ages 3-4 years.
"We have had the Frog Tadpole for a year and my daughter loves it. She got it at 3 and still uses it at just 4. she is a tall 4 year old at 110cm." - Rachel
"My son has the tadpole plus and its fab, a few months on it and at three he can cycle a normal bike without stabilisers. It's light, it looks the same as his sisters bike (minus pedals), it's training him to use a brake instead of feet to stop (very important), its ergonomics are fab and the tyres are great as they have a good grip so no slipping when going round corners fast. Love it!" - Claire
"The Frog tadpole is brilliant. The paint chipped quite quickly so the company replaced it and we've had no problems since. It's easy to ride, light but stable. He loves it. I have just bought a 43 for Christmas now he's 3 1/2". - Simon
As you'll see from the recommendations, the balance bikes recommended fall into two main camps. Those with solid wheels and no brakes (Puky, Strider and Chicco Bullet) are very simple for young riders to get the hang of. Due to the lack of additional components, they're also cheaper than the balance bikes with brakes and pneumatic tyres, plus there is no risk of a puncture.
The Islabikes Rothan and Frog Tadpole are both popular because they are from well respected quality kids bike brands. They can help children master the art of braking before they progress to pedals. Puky balance bikes are also available with pneumatic tyres and a rear brake on the more expensive models.
Finally, the Toddlebike is a great option for those aged 18 months plus who aren't quite ready to progress to a full balance bike.
In all cases, the best balance bikes featured are lightweight and very easy for young children to manoeuvre. They are well constructed to last the abuse that their riders will inflict, and come recommended by many different parents.
There is no right or wrong answer as to which is the best balance bike for your child. Your budget, brand preference and amount of use the bike will get should help you make the correct choice for your family.
Some of the best balance bikes available on Amazon:
Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links within this post on the best balance bikes use affiliate marketing, which means we get a small commission if you make a purchase. This helps us funds the ongoing hosting and maintenance of the website, and doesn't affect either the price you pay, or whether we recommend a product. Thanks for supporting Cycle Sprog by using these links when you buy your balance bike.
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This article was first written in November 2016 and updated in June 2018.
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