For better or worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to learn new skills. Some of us filled the role of virtual homeschooling teacher, others of us mastered bread making, while many of us have used this quarantine to teach our kids how to bike. With summer right around the corner, now’s the perfect time to check to see if your kid need a bike upgrade. We’ve done the research on the best kids bikes and tricycles with our own kids as the testers so we know what works and what doesn’t. From kids mountain bikes to kids dirt bikes to the beginner balance bikes, read on for our kid-tested picks for the best of the best.
Best Tricycles for Kids and Bikes for Babies (Start ‘Em Young!)
Best Bike for Babies: Strider 2-in-1 Rocking Bike
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.
Best Splurge: Bentley 6-In-1 Stroller Tricycle
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 kids tricycle 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 a forward and 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.
Best Tricycle to Grow Into: EZ Fold 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike
If you're more bargain than Bentley, Radio Flyer's EZ Fold 4-in-1 tricycle 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 finally a classic tricycle. The set of wheels 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.
Best Classic Tricycle: Radio Flyer Classic Red Tricycle
We're Red Tricycle after all so our list wouldn't be complete without Radio Flyer's classic red tricycle. We've hauled these bad boys around to events, let our kids ride them around our neighborhoods and have even been known to take a spin ourselves. The steel construction makes these tricycles extra durable (believe us—some of ours have taken a beating and are still wheeling around in prime condition). Most of all, we love that classic look won't ever go out of style.
For ages 2-4
Best Balance Bikes for Kids
Best High-Performance Balance Bike: Trek Kickster
Balance is everything when you're learning how to ride, and Kickster is the perfect teaching tool for toddlers who are mastering this important skill. This kids' balance bike doesn't have pedals so balance is the only focus, plus it features a handle so you can support your little one while they get the hang of things. We love that the seat is adjustable so that it works well for taller toddlers too!
Best Bike with Modern Geometry: Mongoose Title Tot
Little rippers start here. The road to awesome is paved with confidence-building fun when kids learn to ride on the Title Tot by Mongoose. The smallest member of the Title BMX race series, the Title Tot is designed to help young kids learn to ride by putting the focus on balance and gliding before they graduate to a pedal bike—eliminating the need for training wheels. But don’t let its tiny size fool you, this balance bike has got it all: a lightweight aluminum frame, air filled tires for grip and control, and even a ball bearing headset and wheel hubs for quality performance. Plus, the quick-adjust seat makes it easy to adjust the height for growing kids. Let the wild ride begin with the Title Tot by Mongoose.
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. Available in black, blue, green and pink.
For kids ages 1½ to 5 years.
Best Balance Bike with Real Brakes: Woom 1
There's a reason you see so many Woom 1 bikes on the sidewalks with beginner riders: it perfectly fits the smallest riders who may still be learning to work on their motor skills. The bike is easy for the littlest toddlers (ages 1.5 to 3 years old) to jump on and glide, ensuring that they're able to learn to ride and balance with confidence. The bike even comes with real rear brakes, which are specially-designed for small hands to operate so kiddo can learn how to safely bring her bike to a halt. Our Editorial Director counts herself a big fan of this model—her toddler now rides with confidence thanks to the stability and design of the Woom 1 (you'll catch her sprinting behind struggling to keep up).
For kids ages 1.5 to 3 years old.
Best First Bike: Specialized Hotwalk
If we want to inspire the next generation of riders, kids deserve better bikes. That’s why Specialized took the same tech behind their world championship-winning bikes and combined it with proportional design to build the ultimate balance bike. The Hotwalk features an A1 Premium Aluminum frame, along with Rhythm Lite Airless tires designed to be fast rolling while maintaining enough grip for dirt.
Ages 18 months to 4 years
Cost: $175. Hotwalk Carbon available for $1,000.
For Off Roading: Giant Pre Balance Bike
Similar to the above, Giant's Pre Balance Bike is a hit amongst the balance biker toddler gangs of the preschool world. With the fatter tires than the above Woom 1 bike, we found this bike easy to learn how to ride (and great if you're taking your balance bike on dirt paths or to the bike park). The newest Giant model features a redesigned frame that gives the bike a more sporty feel. Little riders will also like the footrest feature and updated geometry that makes the bike adaptable to riders as they grow taller.
Best Two-Wheeler Bikes for Kids
Best First Pedal Bike: Gecko 12” by Cleary Bikes
The Gecko fits kids with inseams of 14” to 18”. First-time riders with an inseam of 15” plant their feet comfortably on the ground while sitting on the saddle. The Gecko is a lightweight, high-quality bike option. The freewheel version (shown here) weighs 13.5 pounds—lighter than similar bikes on the market. Recent upgrades to the Gecko include a smaller saddle for the littlest riders that features a handle tucked seamlessly beneath it. The Gecko also has a knobby tire, making it great for trail pursuits.
Lightweight was a priority for Cleary Bikes’ founders, who are parents who know well what it’s like to carry home a 40-pound kid—and a 40-pound bike— after a little rider has lost steam.
Cleary’s hand-made steel frames are super strong, meaning there is no weight limit on any of their bikes, including this Gecko, which comes in five colors. (Yes, Mom and Dad, you can ride the Gecko!) Built to last, these bikes are durable enough to last through multiple siblings, friends and neighbors. Cleary guarantees all its bikes with a lifetime warranty.
Gecko fits kids ages 2 to 4 years.
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 are 20" and 24" models.
For kids ages 3 to 8 years.
Price: $329 for the Start 16.
First Pedal Bike for All Terrain: Frog Bikes
The Frog First Pedal bike is the best bike for early balance bike graduates, helping them to build confidence in their cycling abilities. It can also act as a balance bike for a taller child by simply removing the pedals.
Price: $430 for the Frog 40
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 wheelbase (so kids' knees don't hit the handlebars) and reduced overall weight. It also features both a rear coaster brake and a front hand brake 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 wheelbase).
Price: starts at $154
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 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 AIROS version and an ETHOS model which is about $100 cheaper and comes in 14-, 16-, 20- and 24-inch rides (the 20-inch rides come in single-speed or geared options). For added safety, a certified mechanic sets up the bike, including a 34-step safety check. All that’s left to do is install handlebars and pedals and get riding.
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 3 years to 12 years, depending on the model.
Price: $239 and up.
Fun Style, Great Ride—Schwinn Krate EVO
This bike is made for fun! With a rear slick tire for epic skid stops, a front fork with suspension for jumping curbs and several color options to match each personality, the bike stands out in the 16” category. We especially love the banana seat for some retro fun!
Best Intro to Gears: Kids’ Sprocket 20” 7D
Learning how to use gears is easy with this modestly-priced (but still not cheap!) seven-speed bike from Electra. Featuring the company's patented Flat Foot Technology, the bike is designed to let kids plant their feet on the ground—without leaving the saddle or being forced to balance on their tippy toes—when stopping. The lightweight, aluminum frame has a unisex design, so boys and girls can focus on selecting their favorite color (there are four different choices) while its solid construction means it'll make a great hand-me-down for younger sibs. It also features puncture-resistant tires, and a dual position crank arm, which allows parents to adjust the pedals to grow with kids.
For kids ages 5 to 8.
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
Best Intro to Mountain Biking: Cleary Bikes 24” Scout
The Scout is the real deal of kids mountain bikes. When they’re ready to tackle trails, this 10-speed, purpose-built rig provides the ideal platform. The Scout is stable, lightweight and rips down flowy singletrack with ease.
Components were not overlooked; this bike features parts you’d commonly find on a well-equipped adult mountain bike. Disc brakes ensure precision stopping power, while the Suntor XCR Lo 24 Air fork provides a supple riding experience. The additional clearance of the Scout’s new shorter crankset makes rallying turns and hitting jumps even easier.
The Scout is built to take hits on and off the trails. It’s backed by Cleary’s lifetime warranty and can be handed down to future generations of riders.
The 24” Scout fits riders 50”-57” inches tall, with inseam measurements of 21.5”-26.5”.
Buy it here (currently sold out but you can sign up to be notified when they're available again)
Cool Kid on the Block—Mongoose Axios
The Axios series is a great option for ripping around the neighborhood. The frame geometry is based on BMX race frames so it’s engineered for speed. The single-speed drivetrain ensures you spend less time adjusting parts and more time having fun.
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).
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 AlphaZero balance bike, for instance, all the way through to the AlphaFour 24-inch bike.
Ages 18 months to 11 years, depending on the model.
Price: $199 & up
For Tweens & Teens
Sweet Ride: sixthreezero AroundtheBlock NEW
Available in a bunch of cool colors, you'll love the look of this cruiser bike that will take your teen from home to school and back. It’s easy to ride, worn-in comfy and designed for stable, vibration free rides. It comes with a rear rack and wider saddle for a more comfortable seat.
Coolest Looks: Schwinn Brookline Cruiser
We love the retro styling of this Schwinn cruiser: It's got the look of bikes long gone, but the safety technology of today's industry standards. The 7-speed twist shifters provide precise gear changes, while the front and rear alloy V-brakes provide secure, reliable stops. Plus, the tool-free adjustable seat post and premium stitched spring saddle make it easy to find your perfect fit and a comfortable ride.
Ages 7 and up
Most Unique Bikes for Kids and Families
Best All-Terrain Bikes: Trek Bikes Precaliber
Trek Bikes wants your kids to enjoy biking just as much as you do, so they put the same amount of dedication and know-how into their bikes as they do to their adult bikes. This matters because learning to ride on a well-designed bike is both easier and more enjoyable, and when your little one loves riding as a kid they'll love riding forever. Each one of their kids’ bikes is made with durable, high-quality materials and assembled by a professional mechanic so you can focus on having fun with your little ones for years to come.
Trek's Precaliber offers a range of sizes (from 12”-24” wheels) and price points that fit just about any kid’s needs. Precaliber is perfect for beginners, neighborhood riding or just getting out and having a blast on two wheels!
Plus the benefit you get with every Trek kids' bike: Lifetime warranty, high-quality build and assembly, and their awesome trade up program to provide parents a great value for when their kid grows out of their bike. When you buy a kids’ bike at a participating Trek retail location, you can bring it back within three years and get up to 50% of the bike’s original purchase price in credit toward the purchase of a new one.
Ages 3 years to 12 years.
Price: starts at $209
Best Ride-Along Trailer: Kazoo by Burley
This 7-speed trailer-cycle offers a great way for kids to get comfortable both with pedaling and with speed, all while remaining safely attached. It features a versatile 7-speed rapid-fire style thumb shifter, adjusts easily for growing children and offers superior stability with Burley’s patented aluminum ball-bearing guided hitch. 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).
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. Frozen fans: there's even a special version just for you!
For kids ages 7 years to 12 years.
Family Cargo Bikes
If you are looking for a bike that transports you, the kids, groceries and maybe even the dog too, a cargo bike might be the perfect purchase. Many have electric assist so it's smooth sailing for the parent pedaling, and there are tons of configurations that can definitely fit your family.
If you want to roll down the road or up hills with the greatest of ease, consider a smooth riding electric bike to gently push you along. Electric bikes are great for many reasons including reducing fossil fuels, making it easier to ride long distances or up hills and effortlessly hauling extra weight. Pretty much every kind of bike has been made into an electric version which makes the joy of electric cycling accessible to so many people in so many ways.
Whatever bike you buy, follow these guidelines for finding the right bike size for your little cyclist.
Don’t see your favorite kids bike or tricycle on our list? Send an email to our editor (Editor AT redtri.com) and let us know what we missed!
—Kate Loweth, Erin Lem, Melissa Heckscher & Jennifer Massoni Pardini
All products were listed at this price upon publication.