We've tested seven of the most popular kids balance bikes to see how they stack up against each other, focusing on the key elements that make a good balance bike: weight, seat height, frame and tyre material, safety, colours and price. In addition to those factors, we've made mentioned ease of build, extra features and the all important kid vote.
For the test we gathered seven bikes and seven kids to see which was their favourite and which performed the best.
To get a further insight into what you should be looking for when buying a balance bike, check out our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Balance Bike
The Giant Pre has a simplistic frame design making it easy to put together and reduces the risk of something going wrong. The seat can be easily adjusted by hand so once it is built there is little need for any mechanical work, just pump up the tyres and away you go. Interesting to note that the valve on the tyres comes out at an angle making it easier to pump up than others on the test.
The low standover height suggests this is a good bike for smaller children but weighing just over 4kg, isn't suited to children under 15kg. The Pre is one of only three bikes on the test to weigh over 4kg, suggesting it is on the heavy side and better suited to bigger children.
During the test the Pre was a favourite amongst the older boys thanks largely to the 'Boy's Blue' colour scheme. The maximum seat height of 43cm is consistent with other balance bikes in the group test, except for those with an additional longer seat post.
The 12" pneumatic tyres had no trouble handling varied terrain and had plenty of speed thanks to the standard tyre tread pattern which is similar to an adult road bike. From a safety point of view the exposed bolts on the rear wheel appear to be the only potential hazard, it would be great if they were recessed like the front.
Seat height (*taken from the ground to the top of the seat): 31cm minimum / 43cm maximum
Frame material: aluminium frame and plastic fork
Tyre material: pneumatic tyres
AU RRP: $199 / US RRP: $130
Available colours: Boy's Blue, Red, Girl's Blue, Purple.
Specialized Hot Walk
The Specialized Hot Walk had some great features: extra padded seat, foot rests and knobby tread tyres, but did have a few shortcomings.
For starters the Hot Walk was the second heaviest in the group test weighing 4.24kg. In order to come in under the recommended 25% of the child's weight, children would need to be almost 17kg, at which point they are probably looking at a bigger bike or at least one with a higher maximum seat height.
Another potential issue is that an Allen Key is required to adjust the seat height. This was a bit tedious during the group test as we had to change the seat height frequently. Obviously parents won't be adjusting the seat height as regularly as we did but it is still something to consider. Some may see this as an advantage of having the extra security of tightening the seat by tools rather than just by hand.
A great feature of the Hot Walk is the foot rests. The older, more confident children enjoyed this, and it was only one of two bikes to feature them as standard. It would be great to see covered or recessed bolts on the front and rear wheels to improve safety in case of falls.
Seat height*: 33cm minimum / 42cm maximum
Frame material: steel fork, aluminium frame
Tyre material: pneumatic tyres
AU RRP: $199 / US RRP: $175
Available colours: black, blue, pink
Cruzee OvO Ultralite
The OvO Ultralite from Cruzee ticks a lot of boxes and is a contender for top honours. It's simple, lightweight, provides over 20cm of seat height adjustment and comes in a huge variety of colours.
The standout feature of the Cruzee is the weight. It is the lightest bike in the test by almost a kg and is the only bike to weigh in under 2kg. Cruzee claim the OvO is 'the lightest balance bike in the world'.
In addition to that, it is one of only two bikes that come with a longer seat post providing an extra 11cm of maximum seat height. The seat height is easily adjustable by hand and starts at a relatively low 32cm, perfect for smaller children. There is also a huge range of colour choices to keep the kids happy too.
The Cruzee was one of the easiest to build despite not coming with instructions. These are available online but assembly is so easy you won't need them.
The tyres are made from foam which is potentially the only downside to this great bike. Although the foam tyres are much lighter they don't offer as much comfort or grip as pneumatic tyres and will wear far quicker.
Seat height*: 32cm minimum / 43cm maximum (+a further 11cm with longer seat post)
Frame material: Aluminium
Tyre material: Foam
AU RRP: $169.99 / US RRP: $149.99
Available colours: Red, Green, Pink, Blue, Black, White, Yellow, Orange and Purple
The Strider Sport is another simplistic design that boosts some outstanding features. The Strider Sport has the lowest stand over height of all the bikes tested and coupled with the low 2.92kg weight is the perfect choice for children starting out on their bike journey. The great news for parents is that the Strider has plenty of growth in it. The standard seat height increases to 42cm, with a further 6cm available thanks to the longer seat post included as standard.
The Strider is one of only two bikes tested to have foot rests and only one of two weighing under 3kg. On our group test the bright pink colour appealed to the girls more so than the boys, but there are seven other colours to choose from to keep everyone happy.
As with many of the other bikes, covering the front and rear wheel bolts would greatly improve safety.
Seat height*: 30cm minimum / 42cm maximum (+ a further 6cm with longer seat post)
Frame material: aluminium
Tyre material: foam
AU RRP: $169 / US RRP: $119.99
Available colours: Red, Green, White, Orange, Blue, Pink, Black and Yellow
FirstBIKE Limited Edition Blue
The Limited Edition FirstBIKE is the more expensive sibling of the 'Basic' FirstBIKE. The Basic retails for around $70 less than the Limited Edition and has a larger range of colours (five compared to two).
The FirstBIKE Limited Edition comes with two sticker theme options which were easy to put on and fun to experiment with (and that's from an adult's point of view). No doubt letting the kids customise their own ride will keep them amused for ages. The two sticker themes were checkered flag or bubbles, of course we chose the checked flag.
The FirstBIKE was one of the easiest bikes to build and most robust of all tested. The unique handlebar design and locking mechanism a standout that inspires confidence. The seat height is conveniently adjusted by hand but it can be a little fiddly until you get the hang of it.
It was one of only two bikes to come with a hand brake suggesting it is built for older children, a notion backed up by the relatively high minimum and maximum seat height.
This was the bike of choice for the older, more confident kids on the day of testing. The relatively high seat, sturdy construction and ability to generate good speed are three key factors. The only thing that could slow the boys down was a rear flat tyre, one of the pitfalls of having pneumatic tyres.
The Limited Edition FirstBIKE was a standout performer but was also the most expensive bike tested, so there's a decision to be made based on whether the additional cost is worth it.
Note: FirstBIKE offers a range of options including those with foam tyres and no brakes. A 'lowering kit' is also available in order to achieve a lower minimum seat height.
Seat height*: 36cm minimum / 48cm maximum
Frame material: plastic
Tyre material: pneumatic (foam available)
AU RRP: $219.95 / US RRP: $199.99
Available colours: limited edition Blue and Orange
Kiddimoto Kurve – Pastel Dotty
The undisputed favourite amongst the girls, the 'Pastel Dotty' version of the Kurve from Kiddimotto was the big winner in the style stakes. The classic wooden design and vibrant colourway won more hearts than any other bike in the group test.
The Kurve is recommended for children aged between 3-5 years and has a relatively tall minimum seat height at 38cm compared to most other models which start closer to 32-33cm. The amount of adjustability is also minimal compared to other bikes on the test, 5cm for the Kurve and typically between 8cm-12cm for others.
An Allen key is required for any adjustment and it's worth keeping an eye on any bolts that may have loosened while riding. We had to tighten a couple of bolts on the steerer that had worked loose while the kids were riding.
From a practical point of view the large bulges on the end of the grips were a great feature, as was the small handle that sits underneath the seat which allows an adult to hold onto the bike and push the child forward. The bolts on the wheels are also recessed, one of the only bikes on the test to do so, improving safety.
Seat height*: 38cm minimum / 43cm maximum
Frame material: wood
Tyre material: pneumatic
AU RRP: $119 / US RRP:
Available colours: Pastel Dotty, Skullz, Butterflies, Union Jack, Red Dotty, Police, Cherry, Splatz, Fire, Red Tyre, Flower, Evel Knievel
Kiddimoto Super Junior Max – Pastel Dotty
The Super Junior Max has the best name for a kids bike but struggles in a few key areas when compared to other bikes in the test. It is the heaviest bike we tested at 4.68kg, almost a full kg heavier than its wooden cousin the Kurve.
It also has limited seat adjustability only allowing for 6cm of adjustment, and the lowest maximum seat height of all the bikes tested. That would suggest it is for smaller children, but at 4.68kg, it's far too heavy for small children. As with many bikes on the group test the bolts on the wheels are exposed which not ideal.
If you can look past the weight and adjustability, the Super Junior Max does shine in a few areas. The pneumatic tyres are large and knobbly providing both comfort and security. The seat is well padded and includes a small handle for adults to hold onto and push or balance children. And it is one of only two bikes with a hand brake as standard.
Like two other bikes on this test, an Allen Key is required to adjust the seat height, which given the adjustment restrictions won't be required too often.
Similarly to the Kiddimotto Kurve, the Pastel Dotty colourway is a winner.
Seat height*: 35cm minimum / 41cm maximum
Frame material: steel
Tyre material: pneumatic
AU RRP: $159.95 / US RRP: TBC
Available colours: Pastel Dotty, Skulz, Union Jack
Once the kids had had their fun and the parents had cast a more practical eye over the bikes, there were three clear favourites: the Cruzee OvO Ultralite, FirstBIKE Limited Edition Blue and the Kiddimoto Kurve with the popular Pastel Dotty colourway.
From a practical point of view the Cruzee OvO Ultralite and FirstBIKE Limited Edition Blue come up trumps. The Cruzee is lightweight, simple and provided vast levels of adjustment. The FirstBIKE was robust, offered plenty of adjustment and seemed the bike most likely to stand up to the rigours that toddlers and young kids would put it through. The Kiddimoto Kurve won in the fashion stakes and is also the best budget buy, cheapest on the test by over $40.
All of the bikes performed admirably and if one thing was evident after the group test, it's that colour rules above all else for kids at this age.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Balance Bike to find out more.