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Published Feb. 18, 2021

Buying your child’s first bike is an exciting time for you and them. It’s a rite of passage — a sign that they’re growing up and ready to take on the challenge and freedom that riding a bike represents. It’s a way for them to start to assert some independence, but it’s also a great social tool and the ideal way to get kids outside and enjoy nature.

That’s why it’s so important to choose the best bike for your child, one that will be reliable and durable and will suit their physical abilities and skillsets. You need a bike that’s sized right that they’ll be able to grow with, but isn’t so big that they won’t be able to safely ride it. Choosing your child’s first bike can be daunting, but Car Bibles has got you covered with our comprehensive and informative product review and buying guide. Learn all you need to know to get your child rolling on two wheels.

The Best Starter Bikes

In terms of best quality, reliability, functionality, and price, the Schwinn Balance Toddler Bike is our top pick for the best starter bike. It’s the ideal way for your child to start learning how to ride a two-wheeler, with a big kid look, but no pedals. This bike is constructed from a lightweight steel frame design that is easy and intuitive for beginners to get the hang of.

It comes in different colors, so your child can choose their favorite. It’s designed with 12-inch air-filled tires that are ideal for accommodating riders between the ages of 2-4, or 28-38 inches in height, making this a bike that will last until your child is ready for pedaling. The handlebar limiter is easy for kids to steer and control and the tool-free adjustable seat post allows you to get your child ideally situated in seconds. There is some concern about the long term durability of the bicycle’s seat strength.

Key Features
  • Sturdy steel frame in different color options
  • 12-inch air-filled tires
  • Handlebar limiter for safe and controlled steering
  • Pedal-free push-bike design
Specification
  • Brand Schwinn
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 10 pounds
PROS

A safe way for kids to start practicing balancing on a bike

Rugged handlebar grips allow kids to hold securely

Floor-to-floor design improves children’s coordination and confidence

CONS

Handlebars are not adjustable

Some concern over durability of the seat

Kids tend to outgrow this bike quickly

For a lightweight, durable, and reliable starter bike that won’t break the bank, consider the CO-Z Kids Balance Bike. This bike features a no-pedal step-through frame that is easy for kids to use and control. The frame is constructed from a single piece of super lightweight high-carbon steel alloy that is free of welds and provides superior strength. It’s designed for kids ages 2-5 years old who weigh up to 66 pounds.

The cushioned seat is adjustable between 16.1-19.6 inches and the handlebar height is also adjustable between 20-23.6 inches to grow with your child. The seat is also equipped with a hand grip to allow you to help your child balance. This bike features authentic air-filled rubber tires that have a rugged tread that’s perfect for shock absorption and reliable traction. A one-year warranty is a nice touch. One thing to note is that this model does feature a handlebar limiter, but that many users report it’s less reliable than some other models.

Key Features
  • High-carbon steel alloy single piece frame
  • Fully adjustable seat and handlebars
  • Step-through, pedal-free design
  • Suitable for children between the ages of 2 and 5
Specification
  • Brand CO-Z
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 9 pounds
PROS

rows with your child and will last longer than some other models

Super lightweight and easy for kids to push

One-year warranty

CONS

Limited color options

The handlebar limiter is not as reliable as some other models.

Concern that the handlebars are too loose and are harder for smaller children to control

The Strider 14x Sport Balance Bike is a top-of-the-line, high-quality balance bike that will last your child for quite a long time with its optional available pedal conversion kit. The pedal conversion kit allows this bike to grow with your child and can more easily transition them to using pedals than if you were to buy a brand new bike that they’re unfamiliar with.

The lightweight frame is constructed from durable dent-, rust-, and scratch-resistant steel and features an easy step-through design with convenient footrests so your child can learn to coast. This bike also comes equipped with a fully adjustable seat height for an inseam that measures between 16-23 inches, making it ideal for kids ages 3 to 7 years old, with a maximum rider weight of 80 pounds. It also features Strider’s custom performance saddle, which is durable and comfortable. The only drawback to this excellent starter bike is its price tag, especially when you add in the additional cost of the pedal conversion kit.

Key Features
  • Steel step-through frame with foot rests
  • Suitable for kids ages 3-7
  • Maximum rider weight of 80 pounds
  • Can separately purchase a pedal conversion kit
Specification
  • Brand Strider
  • Model 14x Sport
  • Weight 12.5 pounds
PROS

Can grow with your child to last them a long time

Fully adjustable handlebars and seat height

Multiple color options

CONS

Pricey

Pedal conversion kit is not included and must be purchased separately

Converting to pedals can be time-consuming

The Joystar Paris Girl’s Bike with Training Wheels gets an honorable mention for being a highly rated, sturdy, and fun starter bike that comes in multiple size options. The rugged and durable high-tensile steel frame is rust-, scratch-, and dent-resistant and comes in available height options of 12, 14, 16, or 18 inches to suit children ages 2-9, or 32-59 inches in height, making this one of the most versatile options on our list.

All of the sizes feature built-in pedal brakes, and the 16 and 18-inch models come with a sturdy hand brake. This bike also features the traditional training wheel set-up as opposed to the balance bike format that doesn’t come with pedals, so it will grow with your child for years. A full chain guard protects the chain from rust and debris and keeps little fingers and clothing from getting caught. The downside to this bike is that it does require more assembly than some other models and it’s a little on the pricey side.

Key Features
  • Steel frame available in multiple height options
  • Lifetime warranty on the bike frame
  • Chain guard for added protection
  • Additional hand brake included on 16 and 18-inch models
Specification
  • Brand Joystar
  • Model Paris
  • Weight 19 pounds
PROS

Traditional bike design makes children feel like a “big kid”

Removable training wheels allow the bike to grow with your child

Fun basket on the front for carrying items

CONS

Requires more assembly than some other models

No good unisex or boyish design options

Pricier and heavier than some models

We love the Banana LT Balance Bike for its straightforward, simplistic design and its ultra-competitive price point. This balance bike features a unique banana-shaped step-through frame that is constructed from ultra-lightweight carbon steel and at only 6.4 pounds, is one of the lightest bikes on our list. It’s suitable for children 2-5 years old with its adjustable seat and handlebar heights.

The maximum rider weight of this model is 55 pounds. This starter bike also comes equipped with a super comfy, padded seat that can be adjusted between 12.2-15.7 inches. The puncture-proof EVA wheels are extra durable and will hold up to some serious wear and tear, although it should be noted that they’re not as grippy as traditional air-filled tires in wet conditions. There is also no handlebar limiter to prevent the handlebars from rotating a full 360 degrees.

Key Features
  • Durable and lightweight carbon steel frame construction
  • Adjustable handlebars and seat height
  • Maximum weight capacity of 55 pounds
  • Designed for children ages 2-5
Specification
  • Brand Banana Bike
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 6.4 pounds
PROS

EVA wheels are puncture-proof

Ultra-lightweight

Highly affordable

CONS

No foot rest for coasting

EVA wheels aren’t as grippy as air-filled tires in wet conditions

If you’re looking for an option that’s suitable for very young riders, TheCroco Lightweight Balance Bike is the ideal choice. It’s designed to be used by children 18 months to 5 years old. This particular model features a super durable and incredibly lightweight aluminum frame that is very easy for little ones to maneuver and handle. It also includes a durable handlebar pad and fun bell so kids can be heard and seen.

The handlebars can be fully adjusted between 20-25 inches, and the well-padded seat is adjustable between 11.5-17.5 inches, both with easy to use quick-release levers. This bike will grow with your toddler until they’re ready for a traditional pedal bike. It’s also available in several fun color options. The tires are made from rugged puncture-proof EVA plastic. We also love that assembly takes under five minutes and is completely tool-free. We don’t love that the handlebars don’t come with a limiter to prevent accidental full rotation by smaller users.

Key Features
  • Super lightweight aluminum step-through frame
  • Suitable for children 18 months to 5 years of age
  • Maximum rider weight of 50 pounds
  • Fully adjustable seat and handlebars with quick-release levers
Specification
  • Brand TheCroco
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 4.3 pounds
PROS

One of the most lightweight books on the market

Suitable for very young toddlers

Available in several color options

CONS

No foot rests

EVA wheels provide less traction in wet weather

No handlebar limiter

The RoyalBaby Kids Bike is a great “big kids” starter bike with all the bells and whistles that will make your child feel mature. It’s available in plenty of sizes and colors so you can be sure to get the perfect one for your son or daughter. The 12-, 14-, and 16-inch models come equipped with traditional removable training wheels, and the 18- and 20-inch models are suitable for bigger kids. All sizes come equipped with both a rear coaster brake and front caliper hand brakes for added safety. We also love that the seats on the 12-, 14-, and 16-inch models come with convenient handholds so that parents can help steer newer, less certain riders.

The 12-, 14-, and 16-inch models are nicely equipped with protective chain guards to prevent little fingers and clothing from getting caught, as well as fun water bottles and holders that kids love. The 18-inch model also has a water bottle accessory and the 20-inch model comes equipped with funky, removable fenders on the front and rear tires. This model does require more assembly than other options and is quite heavy compared to many of the other bikes on our list.

Key Features
  • Sturdy steel frame construction
  • Available in a wide variety of colors and size options
  • Traditional training wheels included on 12-, 14-, and 16-inch models
  • Kickstand included on 18- and 20-inch models
Specification
  • Brand RoyalBaby
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 19-31 pounds
PROS

Includes front and rear brakes on all models

Training wheel models come with a sturdy handhold on the seat back

Will grow with your child and last a long time

CONS

Assembly required

Heavier than other options

Pricier than some other models

Best Starter Bikes Buying Guide & FAQ

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The choice to purchase a starter bike for your child opens up a whole list of options that many of us didn’t even know existed until we start delving into the daunting task of selecting just the right bike for our little one. With so many advances in material construction, design, and purpose, it’s hard to know what the best option for your child’s first bike will be.

In the following buying guide, we will outline exactly what you need to know so that you can confidently select the ideal bike, one that your child will be sure to love.

Benefits of a Starter Bike

A good starter bike will help to improve your child’s coordination and confidence by allowing them to practice balancing on two wheels, pushing the bike along with their feet or pedals, and learning how to stop the bike. These actions help develop and hone fine motor skills, like hand-eye coordination. This further helps prepare them for a smoother transition into a full-size bicycle.

Little boy is riding a balance bike on the lake shore
Starter bikes are a great way to improve your child’s coordination, balance, and confidence

Starter bikes also help to improve your child’s overall muscle strength and stamina, since they have to use all their muscles to control and move the bike. When used with the proper safety equipment, a sturdy starter bike is an efficient, fun, and safe way to get your kids exercising without them even realizing it. 

Riding a bike is a key social activity for younger kids that not only gets them out of the house and away from the TV, but also encourages them to interact with their peers in a fun, mutually beneficial way. Many children love the sense of freedom and maturity they derive from riding their bikes with their friends, whether it’s at the park or on a quiet cul-de-sac or dead-end street in their neighborhood. Fostering this independence and physical capability at a young age can be great for a child’s self-esteem.

  • Children will love feeling like a “big kid” on a two-wheeled bicycle.
  • Starter bikes are a great way to improve your child’s coordination, balance, and confidence.
  • Starter bikes offer an ideal, low-impact, and fun form of exercise that encourages kids to get outdoors and interact with nature and friends.

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Types of Starter Bikes

There are two basic types of starter bikes for children that you can choose from. Each type is very distinctive and offers various pros and cons. Which type is best for your child can only truly be determined by you, and should be based on a combination of not only what your personal preference is, but also the physical capability of your child and their comfort level.

Balance Bikes

This type of bike has become an increasingly popular option for small toddlers and youngsters who are just starting to get the hang of managing a bike. With this type of bike, there are two wheels in tandem with an adjustable seat and handlebar that may or may not adjust, just as with a regular bike. The difference is that there are no pedals to have to contend with and the child merely pushes the bike along with his or her feet.

This type of bike is much less complicated to try to figure out and helps toddlers learn the fundamentals of balancing on two wheels before adding in more factors, like pedaling and braking. The downside is that children tend to grow out of this type of bike quickly and require an upgrade relatively soon unless the balance bike comes with a pedal conversion kit that you can purchase to install when your child is ready.

Traditional Pedal Bikes

This type of bike is the traditional bicycle, only smaller and usually equipped with training wheels attached to the rear suspension for added balance and support. Children are drawn to this type of bike because it is just like an adult’s “real” bike and functions just like your bike does. 

This type of bike tends to last longer than the balance bike because as your child’s skill set improves, you can remove the training wheels and adjust the seat and handlebars to fit your child as they grow. 

The downside is that there are more moving parts to master all at once, not only balancing, but braking, pedaling, and speed control. It can be overwhelming for some children and make them less inclined to want to try biking as often.

Looking for the best motorcycle for your child? See our best recommendations explained in details.

What to Look for When Buying a Starter Bike

There are several features to look for when buying a starter bike for your child that will guarantee you’re getting a safe, reliable, durable, and fun bike that your child will be sure to love and want to use frequently.

Solid, Lightweight, Low Frame

You need a frame that’s not only durable enough to withstand some major wear and tear (because let’s face it, kids are rough on stuff), but also light enough to be easily handled by your child. The frame needs to be low enough for them to easily step over without getting tripped up on. Construction materials like aluminum and steel or metal alloys are durable and lightweight enough for most kids to handle with ease. When measuring whether the frame height is appropriate, your child should be able to straddle the frame and have both feet touching flat on the ground while sitting on the seat of the bike.

Wide Wheels

Newer riders benefit from wheels that are of a smaller diameter and have a wider rim and tire. This helps the bike to balance more on its own so that all of the balancing responsibility is not on the child. You want to look for deep and substantial treads that provide a good grip on wet roads and can help your child stop quickly. Some bikes come equipped with puncture-proof EVA plastic wheels, which are great for long-term durability, but less reliable than traditional air-filled tires when it comes to gripping and traction.

Adjustable Seat and handlebars

This feature is important so that you can be sure to fit the bike to your child’s exact height and size. This will help improve the ease of riding and balancing on the bike. As well, having an adjustable seat and handlebars also ensures that your child won’t outgrow the bike in a few months, but will be able to use it much longer.

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Litlle girl is happy with her balance bike
Once your child can walk independently with few falls or accidents and can hold onto the handlebars, they’re ready to try biking

Best Starter Bikes FAQs:

In case you still have some burning questions regarding how to choose the best starter bike for your son or daughter, we’ve taken the liberty of scouring the internet for the most frequently asked questions on the topic. Here are our answers that will help you glean further clarity.

Q: What bike should a beginner get?

Balance bikes are a great option for younger children who are brand new to biking. With fewer moving parts and logistics to worry about, young kids can improve their balance, coordination, fine motor skills, and thus their confidence quite rapidly. That being said, no one knows your child as you do, so only you know if they’re better suited to a balance bike or could handle the added difficulty of a pedal bike. 

Q: At what age should I start my child on a bike?

Once your child can walk independently with few falls or accidents and can hold onto the handlebars, they’re ready to try biking. Some balance bikes can accommodate toddlers as young as 18 months. There’s no set age, it’s all based on your child’s physical capabilities. Some children start riding a bike at two, while others may start closer to three or four. 

Q: What are the most important skills for learning how to ride a bike?

By far the most important skill for being able to competently ride a bike is balance. Having two wheels in tandem is a much different sensation than having two feet side by side. Learning the nuances of lateral stability will be fundamental on which all of your child’s other bike riding skills will be built.

Our Top Pick

Now that you’re well-versed in the world of starter bikes, you can see why we chose the Schwinn Balance Toddler Bike as our top pick for the best starter bike. This bike is constructed from a lightweight steel frame design that is easy and intuitive for beginners to get the hang of. It’s designed with 12-inch air-filled tires that are ideal for accommodating riders between the ages of 2-4, or 28-38 inches in height, making this a bike that will last until your child is ready for pedaling. The handlebar limiter is easy for kids to steer and control.

Sources:

  1. Balance Bike – Wikipedia

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