by | Mar 19, 2021 | Outdoor Fun, Z

Last Updated: Oct 18, 2021 @ 1:27 pm.

We tested 9 balance bikes with actual toddlers to determine which ones were the best bets for 2 year olds . . . and the most fun! We looked at ease of assembly and compared safety features. Here are the best bets.

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Best Balance Bike Overall

Yes, real air tires! Affordable!
We loved this affordable yet good quality balance bike. Classic look and smooth ride. Nice feature: you can adjust the seat height without tools. Caveat: air tires require more maintenance than foam ones.
$99.99 ($0.45 / oz)

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Best Balance Bike Overall: Schwinn Toddler Balance Bike

The verdict is in: balance bikes are the best (and fun) way to teach a kid how to ride a bike. These pedal-free bikes teach balance skills, going from walking to running to gliding.

After testing 9 balance bikes, we think the best overall is the Schwinn Toddler Balance Bike—it scored the tops in our testing by actual toddlers. Here’s an overview:

What We Liked

• BMX styling with metal spoke wheels and rubber air tires = fun! This bike can absorb more bumps than bikes with foam tires.

• Easy to assemble.

• Seat can be adjusted without tools.

• Nice footrest. That’s often missing on other models. A footrest makes gliding more fun.

• 8 colors included color keyed accents on rims on some versions—our testers thought this looked the coolest of all the choices tested.

What Needs Work

• Air tires = more hassle. Kids love the smoother ride from air tires, but parents know these tires can go flat. You may have to have a portable pump handy . . . or be prepared to replace a flat.

• Handlebar isn’t adjustable. You see this feature on slightly more expensive balance bikes and that is helpful for growing kiddos. Yes, the seat is adjustable—but it would be nice if the handlebars were also adjustable!

• Heavy. This bike weighs 10.5 lbs., so it may not be the best choice for younger/smaller riders. However, our two year old testers of average height just loved it.

• Durability could be better. We see scattered reports from our readers that this bike can break—specifically the seat adjustment handle breaks too easily, in our opinion.

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Best Splurge

Top quality bike
Strider is like the Apple of balance bikes—well designed and beloved. Our testers loved how fun this bike is. Foam filled tires mean no flats. Easy assembly.
$109.99

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Best Splurge: Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

When we test products in the real world, we always wonder: do the most popular brand names really perform best? Sometimes brand names disappoint. But not in this category! Our test of balance bikes with actual kids confirmed what many parents tell us: Strider is the top dog.

When it comes to two year olds, we thought the Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike was the best bet for most folks. Here’s why:

What We Liked

• Easy assembly and quality parts. Example: we loved that quick release clamp that adjusts the seat.

• No air tires = no flats. This Strider bike has puncture-proof foam wheels and plastic rims—no broken spokes and no flat tires.

• Simple seat adjustment lets you dial in just the right height for growing kids. Works for kids up to 60 lbs.

• 7 colors with gender neutral options.

What Needs Work

• Foam tires not the best for bumpy sidewalks. And foam tires aren’t as durable. On the upside, there is no maintenance (refilling air tires or dealing with flats is no fun).

• Ground clearance issues. The post goes through the frame—so when the seat is in its lowest position, the post hangs down near the ground. That could cause an issue on gravel or rocky trials.

• Foot rest is rather small.

• Wheels can slip on wet pavement. That’s a problem with foam tires—air tires made of rubber are more grippy.

• Pricey. On the upside, however, this brand is so well known there is probably resale value if you take care of the bike.

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Easiest to Assemble

Took just 15 minutes to assemble
We loved the 2 available sizes and our testers raved about the comfort, footrest and adjustable handlebar. Foam tires, however, not as smooth as air tires.
$52.99

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Easiest to Assemble: JOYSTAR 10/12 Inch Kids Balance Bike

This bike came in two sizes—10″ or 12″ wheels. That’s nice since a 10″ bike is better for younger riders. Older kids (3 and up) might prefer the 12″. We also found this bike to be among the easiest we assembled. Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Step through frame is great for smaller riders.

• Lightweight.

• Foam tires = no flats. If you have smoother sidewalks, these foam tires work well.

What’s Needs Work

• Wheels can be slippery on wet surfaces. That’s because these wheels had less knobby tread compared to others we tested. We didn’t think this was a major negative, but just an FYI.

• Limited color choices.

• Quality control issues. The bike we tested was fine, but we see some reports that a few parents had assembly issues (stripped screws, broken tires, etc). If you are giving this as a gift, you may want to assemble it ahead of time to make sure there aren’t any issues.

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Best For Smaller Kiddos

Easier to step on to
Shorter kids loved how easy this one was to use, with its lower center of gravity. Lightweight yet sturdy. Loved comfy seat. Caveat: foam tires are puncture free, but not as smooth ride.
$59.99

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Best For Smaller Kiddos: Banana bike LT

This bike’s unique swooping shape was judged easier for smaller kids to mount in our testing. The frame dips down so kids can step through, which our shorter testers found better than other bikes we tested. The lower center of gravity also made it fun to ride. 

Here’s a rundown:

What We Liked

 Foam tires = no flats. While the ride isn’t as smooth as air tires, the fact you don’t have to deal with flat tires is a major plus. If you have smooth sidewalks or streets, you may not miss the air tires.

• Adjustable seat moves up from 12″ to 15.7″—that means this bike will grow with your child.

• Lightweight yet sturdy. This bike weighs just 6.4 lbs. That’s much less than the 14 lb. Schwinn Skip we discussed earlier.

• Comfy seat and hand grips.

What Needs Work

• No foot rest. When gliding, our testers said it was nice to have somewhere to rest your feet. This bike lacks that feature.

• Foam tires are plastic coated. That bothered some folks who prefer air tires.

• Only 3 colors. Besides the standard blue and pink, there is only one gender neutral option (green).

• Assembly frustrated some folks. We didn’t have an issue, but we see reports that some parents were frustrated by poorly made parts or misaligned screw holes.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing baby and toddler gear since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward safety, ease of use and affordability.

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