Even little kids benefit from high quality bikes

The Magic of Balance Bikes

The best mountain bikes for kids 1 to 3 years old are hands down balance bikes.  They help make the learning process faster, easier, safer, and most importanly, more fun.

The first Balance Bike was brought to life in Germany over 200 years ago.  It was called a Laufmachine which translates to Walk Machine.  The bicycle continued to evolve over 2 centuries, leaving this design all but forgotten.  However, in the early 21st century, the Germans resurrected the idea for children, this time using the term Laufrad, or Walking Bike. The concept is genius in its simplicity alone, but has only in the last 5 years been more widely adopted and termed Balance Bike in English (glider bike, strider bike, or kick bike are also used). 

The Magic is how a balance bike becomes an extension of the child. They seemlessy go from walking to balancing to riding a bike, with far fewer tears, if any at all.  The kids just love it.

In 2007, Tracy Anderson of Bike Austria wanted to get his 2 year old on a balance bike  after seeing one while competing in the TransAlp Challenge on mountain bike.  Frustrated at the lack of availability in the USA, he was forced to remove the pedals from a 12″ pedal bike.  Fast forward 13  years and we have the likes of the Specialized Hotwalk for $1000.

The best balance bikes for kids are not necessarily the most expensive.  Below you will find our selection of the best balance bikes that offer solid construction, dependable handling and low weight.  Lower end models suffer from poor bearing quality, greatly reducing the light an easy movement that makes these bikes so great.

Times have undoubtedly changed and there is no longer a need for a child to ever start riding a tricycle or use training wheels, which also require far more energy to ride. Toddlers as young as 18 months old can handle a two-wheeled balance bike naturally without any instruction within hours of sitting upon one. Most children achieve the basic balance and riding skill to ride pedal-bikes before their 4th birthday.  Here is our selection of the Best Mountain Bikes for Kids 3-6 years old.  These bikes will also work for most 2 year olds, for those that quickly master the balance bike.

With over a decade of teaching kids how to ride bikes, Bike Austria’s rule of thumb is this:

Pro Tip: As soon as your child can coast for 10 meters (30 feet) on level ground with their balance bike, they can learn to ride a pedal bike within hours.

Best Balance Bike Size

Best Balance Bikes

Balance bikes are the best first step to help your little rider develop the coordination to balance and steer without having to think about pedaling. The best balance bike size and seat height are correct when the child can sit completely on the seat with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Measure your child’s inseam length to determine minimum seat height. Then choose a balance bike with the largest diameter wheels that will accommodate your child.

The correct size balance bike gives your kid full control of his or her feet, allowing them to quickly push off, brake, slow down, and balance all with the shoe soles. This gives kids a true sense of security and removes the scariness of a potential fall.  Pro Tip: Only allow kids to ride with good closed-toe shoes, as with any bike, to minimize the risk of foot injuries.

If you plan on taking your child in hilly terrain or anything with a moderate descent, a rear brake is strongly recommended.  Children as young as 2-years old can quickly understand and grasp the concept of the bike’s brakes and this adds greatly to safety.

The First Ride

Best Bikes for Kids 1-3 years old

Fist and foremost, a flat location is required for the first and every ride until the child has learned to brake and control speed with the soles of their shoes.  Pro Tip: There is absolutely no braking power in dragging the toes of the shoe, which quickly ruins them.

Once your child can control their speed, it’s time to tackle some hills. The best starting hills are just 3-4 meters (10-15 feet) high with a straight flat roll out at the bottom.  Your child will let you know what he or she is ready for.  

You are now well on your way to the next great stage of life with a family.  Having one of the best balance bikes for kids will launch their passion for cycling from the very start and create many great memories.

The Best Balance Bikes

We have selected three of the best balance bikes to fit every child’s needs.

The Rebel Kidz is a solidly built classic looking bike at a reasonable price.  It is best for families that will be doing shorter excursions with their child around town or in the park.

Early Rider is the leader in quality kids’ bikes of all sizes.  Their stylish Bonsai 12″ Balance Bike is one our all-time favorites.  Lightweight with excellent bearings makes for minimal rolling resistance.  It is perfect for those longer outings on bike paths for example.

The Early Rider Big Foot is arguably the single best balance bike available and certainly so for any parents that mountain bike.  The high-quality construction and lightweight that Early Rider is famous for, paired with knobby tires and a rear brake make a a do-it-all balance bike.

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