How do you choose a balance bike?

by Dave on May 4, 2010

Seat height on Strider PREbike is 11 inches up to 19 inches with XL post purchase!

This question comes up often and I know people have poured over internet based information about balance bikes trying to decide on which one!    That is actually good because there are some important differences you should consider between the different bikes to make sure it will fit your child!

There are more and more balance bikes on the market making it confusing to decide.   I have been fitting children on balance bikes for 2 years now and have a fairly solid grasp on some of the important fundamentals on choosing a balance bike.

The starting factor is the age of the child and the size of the child. I say age and size because some 2 year olds are the size of 4 yr olds and visa versa.      If we use clothing size – based on height – then that is another easy way to determine a child’s size – and average (50 percentile) 2 year old wears a 2T,   an average 3 yr old a 3T and so forth.   For the  younger the child (turning 3 or younger),  you want a lighter bike as they will developmentally be able to manage the bike better.   Children turning 3 and under will usually not use a handbrake and it may get in the way of their focus.     We have found that the wooden bikes are heavier and a bit bulkier and best managed by kids turning 3 and older.   If your child is 2 1/2 or younger, the Strider PREbike will be your best bet.   The strider bike also amazingly has an XL post which takes the seat height up to one of the highest seat levels of all balance bikes.   So the Strider bike will cross many age groups and easily be handed down to very young siblings or other family members.

The second big factor is the inseam length of the child from floor to crotch.   The child needs to be able to stand flat footed over the bike and walk forward.   Balance bikes start at 11 inches from the ground and some start as high as 14 – 15 inches from the ground.     Based on our experience at Kids Balance Bikes, the average 18 month old has an 11 inch seam…  the average child turning 2 is around 12 inches,   the average child turning 3 is around 13.5 inches.    After that, children’s legs start to grow and catch up with the rest of their bodies and the average child turning 4 can have an inseam up to 16 inches or more (or less).  That’s why is  best to measure if you are going with a bike with a higher starting seat height – to make sure it will fit right off the bat.     If your child’s inseam is equal or longer than the highest seat height on the bike you are looking at – then you may want to check out another balance bike that will fit, or see if an XL seat post (metal bikes only) would be an option.

One other factor to consider is the ability of the child.   If your child is timid and has not had any bike experience and is in the mid range age for the bikes (age 3 – 3 1/2 is about the mid range for all the balance bike) then go with a lighter bike with the least “bells and whistles” such as the Strider bike or the Smart Gear or Skuut.   Handbrakes, kickstands, and platforms may distract from the simplicity these bikes can offer.   The main goal of these bikes is to learn balance, and coordination and have fun biking.

One last thing is a comment on the 16 inch balance bikes.   Glide Bikes currently has a great, light 16 inch balance bike as well as Like a Bike (currently wooden).    Like a Bike is also coming out with a 16 inch metal balance bike this year.   It is important to not get a 16 inch balance bike before your child is ready.  Many bike shops fit kids as young as 3 1/2 or 4 on a 16 inch pedal bike with training wheels.   This should not be the case with a balance bike!   Based on our experience, your child should be 45 inches tall to begin on the 16 inch bikes and be able to manage them comfortably!     You don’t want the handlebars way up at their eye level – this will make it difficult to balance which is the opposite of what you want.

Please contact us with any questions on balance bike sizing at www.kidsbalancebikes.com

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca May 30, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Thank you for this post! I have been reading about balance bikes on the internet with the intent of purchasing one for my 2.5 year old daughter and it is so hard to know which is best for her when I can’t see them all in person! It really is helpful to read the opinion of someone who is familiar with multiple brands of bikes. THANKS!!

Catey February 17, 2013 at 10:23 am

THANK YOU!!! My almost 4 year old daughter is 45.5 inches tall and has an inseam (floor to crotch) of 18″.
No wonder she couldn’t use her friend’s hand me downs. Thank you for your help here!

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