When it comes to kids’ bikes, there are almost as many options for little bikers as there are for their grown-up counterparts. So how do you choose the right wheels for your tot? Read on to help find the best bike for your child—no matter your preferred style, terrain, or price point.
Best Bike for Babies: Strider Sport Baby Bundle
Can't wait to get your little rider on wheels? This bundle gives you a Strider Bike—and a place to prop it—so your tot can climb on and test his balance by simply rocking back and forth. He'll feel like he's really riding and will be that much closer to the real thing. Then, when he's ready, just pop the bike out and hit the road.
For kids ages 6 months to 5 years.
Available at Amazon.
Best Splurge: Bentley 6-In-1 Stroller Trike
For trendsetting tots (er, parents) who like to roll in style, this trike will be on every Fancy Nancy's wish list. Designed in collaboration with Bentley Motors (the wheels are an exact replica of the Bentley Continental GT, and the trike is available in the same colors as the cars), this luxurious stroller trike can accommodate your child from babyhood and beyond. And before you scoff at the outrageous price tag, consider that this little gizmo is at once forward & backward facing stroller, a push trike and a pedal trike—with a few phases in between. It's pricey ... but it'll last you five years.
For kids ages 6 months to 5 years.
Available at Bentley Trike
Best Trike to Grow Into: EZ Fold 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike
If you're more bargain than Bentley, Radio Flyer's new EZ Fold 4-in-1 trike will do the job just fine. It starts as a push stroller and easily transforms to become a push trike, learn-to-ride trike and a classic tricycle. The trike also features a removable wrap-around tray with a cup holder, a rear storage bucket, an adjustable canopy, and a three-point harness for safety.
For kids ages 9 months to 5 years.
Available at Radio Flyer
Best Trike for Carrying Stuff: Cargotrike by Kinderfeets
When Kinderfeets (a play on the Dutch word for “child’s bike”) added its Tiny Tot push bike to its collection of wooden, pedal-free, foot-pegged training bikes, it was designed to get one-year-olds up and riding. And the 2-in-1 convertible tricycle/balance bike did just that. Now, with the Cargotrike, Kinderfeets has gone a step further with two front wheels and a cargo bin—the perfect combination for toddlers with places to go and any number of things they’re determined to take with them! Not to mention the pride they will feel helping to pack up the necessities for a ride to the park or playground. It’s also designed to get riders as young as one up and on the go. Available in grey, red, blue and pink.
For kids ages 12 months to 5 years.
Available at Kinderfeets.
Best Budget Balance Bike: Joystar
For a cool-looking balance bike that doesn't break the bank, the Joystar is a perfect fit. Featuring an adjustable seat and handlebars plus a footrest that sits where the feet would be if the rider were pedaling, this budget bike helps newbie riders find their center of gravity and get gliding right away. It also has air-free tires so you never have to worry about filling up.
For kids ages 1½ to 5 years.
Buy it on Amazon.
Best Convertible Scooter: Swagtron 4-In-1 Scooter & Trike
It's a scooter! It's a bike! It's ... both! Swagtron's K6 4-in-1 scooter has a simple-to-use modular design capable of switching between two and three-wheeled versions of both a balance bike and stand-up kick scooter. It's perfect for growing with kids as their balance and skills increase. With the simple click of a button, the seat of the balance bike rotates to become the deck of a stand-up scooter. Use two rear wheels in either mode for greater stability or swap out for a single wheel. The single wheel features a heel brake for use in scooter mode, just like the big kids.
For kids ages 2 years to 5 years.
Available on Amazon.
Best Ride-Along Trailer: Kazoo by Burley
This single-speed trailer-cycle offers a great way for kids to get comfortable both with pedaling and with speed, all while remaining safely attached. Burley’s double-locking mechanism, aluminum ball-bearing guided hitch (it pivots), and rear bike rack ensures a secure connection and ride. And both the seat and handlebar adjust as your tandem tot grows. Gotta love the safety flag, too. Talk about a fun way to get around town!
For kids ages 4 to 10 years (with a recommended 2-1 adult weight-to-child ratio).
Available at Burley.
Best First Pedal Bike: Gecko 12” by Cleary Bikes
Designed for both boys and girls, and ideally suited for 14-18-inch inseams (meaning first-time riders will have their feet comfortably on the ground when sitting), the Gecko is a lightweight, high-quality option. The freewheel version shown here weighs 15 pounds—lighter than most similar bikes on the market.
Lightness was a priority for Cleary Bikes’ founders, parents who knew well what it’s like to carry home a 40-pound kid—and a 40-pound bike—once a little rider has lost steam. Their hand-made steel frames are also super strong, meaning there is no upper weight limit on any of their bikes, including this here Gecko, which comes in five colors. Made and painted to last, these bikes are also durable enough to last through several siblings and a lifetime warranty.
For kids ages 3 to 5 years.
Available at Cleary Bikes.
Best First Pedal Bike (#2): Priority Start 16
This bike company was founded in New York City by a dad who wanted to shift his “priorities” from spending so much time in the office to sharing a long-time passion for cycling with his family. So he set out to make high-quality bicycles and deliver them directly to customers. The company’s Priority Start 16 is ideal for kids graduating from a balance bike. Designed with kids in mind, it is grease free and belt-driven (without the coaster brakes typical of other “big kid” bikes), while its frame is made of lightweight aluminum. And while it may seem like a high price tag, blogger Twowheelingtots rated it the "Best Bang for Your Buck" because of its solid "quality, lightweight build, and unique belt drive."
Training wheels ($29.99) and kickstand ($12.99) can also be purchased. For older kids, there's a 20" version—as well as a 24" model to be released this month.
For kids ages 3 to 8 years.
Price: $299 for the Start 16.
Available at Priority Bicycles.
Best First Pedal Bike on a Budget: Schwinn Koen
If you want to stick to big name bikes without exorbitant price tags, the Schwinn Koen is a great choice. The Koen features Schwinn's SmartStart technology, which means the bike is designed for kid-sized proportions—with the pedals closer together for an easy ride, a lengthened wheel base (so kids' knees don't hit the handlebars) and a reduced overall weight. It also features both a rear coaster break and a front hand break as well as a full coverage chain guard to protect little hands feet and clothing. Includes training wheels, a saddle handle for towing and storage, a number plate, and a limited lifetime warranty for as long as you own the bike.
For kids ages 3 years to 10 years. (Available in 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20-inch wheel base).
Available on Amazon.
Best for Safety: Guardian Bikes
You may recognize Guardian Bikes from Season 8 of Shark Tank, where they accepted a $500,000 contingent offer from Mark Cuban. The mission at the heart of the company has been to create the world’s safest children’s bikes. Their patented and award-winning SureStop™ Braking System does just that in order to avoid head-over-handlebars or front wheel skidding accidents that new riders can make. So how does SureStop work? It reduces stopping distance, distributes braking power to both wheels for better control and has an easy, single-lever system. We tested it out, and the bike does, indeed, stop a few seconds faster than other bikes, without giving us that scary feeling of propelling forward.
The bike has a lightweight aluminum frame, is available in its original version and an Ethos model which is about $100 cheaper and comes in 16, 20, and 24-inch rides (the 20-inch rides come in single speed or geared options). For added safety, a certified mechanic back in Irvine, CA sets up the bike, going through a 34-step safety check. All that’s left to do is install handlebars and pedals and get riding.
New for this year: Not sure what size to get your rider? Guardian's online RideSizer feature lets you enter your child's age and height and get a customized recommendation for which bike to choose—and how long it'll last your child.
For kids ages 5 years to 12 years depending on the model.
Price: $239 and up.
Available at Guardian Bikes
Best Intro to Gears: Kids’ Sprocket 20” 7D
Best Intro to Gears (Splurge): Woom 4
If your kid is ready to tackle hills and start shifting, this bike is worth the splurge. Featuring eight gears (with easy grip shifters), a lightweight frame, and Kenda off-road tires, it's great for exploring basic trails as well as doing all day rides around town. It also has a low minimum seat height, which means your little rider can get in the saddle earlier (if she's ready).
Note: If you're reluctant to fork over the cash for this relatively high-priced set of wheels, just remember that TwoWheelingTots (in our opinion the best kids' bike blogger around) called this bike "the cream of the crop" and the "best all-around 20" bike" it tested.
For kids ages 6 years to 9 years
Available at US Woom Bikes
Coolest Looks: Schwinn's Fair Lady
We love the retro styling of this Schwinn newbie: It's got the looks of bikes long gone (it's a replica of the classic Sting Ray!), but the safety technology of today's industry standards. The bike features Schwinn's signature "Smart Start" technology, which means that everything from the pedal width (it now matches the width of a child's hips) to the seats and handlebars are designed to make riding a bike easier, safer and more comfortable for kids. To make things simple for new riders, the bike has a single speed drive train and an intuitive rear coaster brake.
For kids ages 6 years to 9 years
Available on Amazon.
Best All-Terrain Bikes: Trek Bikes
One of the biggest quandaries about buying a bike for your kid is finding one that fits her perfectly. With Trek bikes, not only are kids getting a quality road or mountain bike; they're also getting a bike that is made to precisely fit their proportions. Trek’s “Dialed Fit Design” means that all of its youth bikes’ components—the saddles, grips, handlebars, pedals, brake levers and cranks—are designed to fit the appropriate age rider for that model. In addition, some Trek kids’ bikes even come with adjustable crank length to fit a child’s growing legs and extend the bike’s lifespan.
Parents will love the integrated seat handle (with the 12 and 16" models) that makes the bike an easier load to carry when kids are too tired to ride (it also helps when you need to balance your wobbly new cyclist). Another plus: The 12 and 16" models come with training wheels that don't require tools to adjust.
Ages 3 years to 12 years.
Price: $169.99 & up.
Available at Trek Bikes.
Best Recumbent Bike: Mobo Triton Cruiser
A recumbent bike isn't the first thing a kid would think of for their new set of wheels, but this zippy little three-wheeler will have parents wanting to hop in the saddle, too (There's one for you, too, Mom and Dad!). Part go-cart, part bicycle, the Mobo cruiser lets kids sit back and pedal away. Voted a "Best Gift for Kids" by the Today Show, the Triton uses a rear-wheel steering system (you steer with your hands using levers on either side of the bike) and a single-speed gear. It's ideal for cruising sidewalks and bike paths as opposed to tackling steep hills or trails. And, with an adjustable frame to fit heights up to 5’2”, it'll last your kids into their teens.
For kids ages 7 years to 12 years. (There's a mini version for kids ages 3 to 7 being released in the fall!)
Available at Mobo Cruiser
Best Bike to Grow On: Prevelo Bikes
For Prevelo founder Jacob Rheuban, a father of two (and Red Tricycle Spoke contributor!), bikes and kids should add up to fun, ease, and confidence. So 100% of Prevelo Bikes are engineered for kids, including positioning kids closer to the ground (for a confidence boost), short crank arms (for a comfortable ride with that lower saddle height), durable yet lightweight frame (think: steel and aluminum), rounded axle bolts (to avoid leg scrapes), third-party chemical testing (no phthalates or lead here!) and handbrake levers that are kid-sized (the reach is adjustable too). Prevelo has bikes that are good on the streets and bikes that are meant for the trails (the Zulu line is bona fide mountain bikes).
And because that kid-sized engineering is so key, the company offers a cool Factory Trade-Up Club ($69 for a lifetime membership), allowing you to move on to another model while getting 40% back from the purchase price of your previous Prevelo. You can trade up from the Alpha Zero balance bike, for instance, all the way through to the Alpha Four 24-inch bike.
Ages 18 months to 11 years, depending on the model.
Price: $199 & up.
Available at Prevelo Bikes.
—Melissa Heckscher with Jennifer Massoni Pardini
Editor’s Note: Whatever bike you buy, follow these guidelines for finding the right bike size for your little cyclist.
All products were listed at this price upon publication.