It’s one of life’s biggest moments: learning to ride a bike. And when it comes to giving your pre-schooler his or her first set of wheels, you want it to be a smooth journey.
That can mean a balance bike (which allows kids to skip over training wheels, learning how to balance and ride on the pedal-free bike and then graduate straight to a two-wheeler) or a bike with stabilisers.
To help make your decision as easy as, well, riding a bike, we’ve hand-picked the best starter wheels.
Rothan Balance Bike, Islabikes, £179.99
Islabikes are known for their quality - which you pay for. Nevertheless, they have great resale value (check out the competitive prices for second-hand bikes on eBay here). My little girl was given an Islabike balance bike for Christmas - and loved it. By four, she was using pedals.
Chicco Red Balance Bike, Amazon, £25.95
The Chicco Red Balance Bike is affordable and super-light. You can adjust the sea from 33cm to 38cm, and it’s suitable for children from 2-5 years. It’s a bit on the heavy side to lug about, but you cannot beat it on price.
This mid-range option from Decathlon lets your child ride in style from the get-go. The stabilisers can be removed when your little one gains in confidence and it is suitable for children aged 3 to 4 and a half (that’s 90cm to 105cm tall).
Perfect for building a child’s confidence on two wheels, and designed for 2-4 year olds, the B’Twin RunRide 520 Cruiser balance bike makes learning to balance and brake easy and fun. It’s suitable for kids between 85–105cm tall and it comes with a saddle and handlebars that can be adjusted as your child grows - as well as a ‘Stop Easy’ braking system for small hands.
The Royalbaby has a whole host of options and sizes: from 12″ to 16″, and it comes in six different colours, too. With extra-strong pneumatic tyres, adjustable handlebars, and heavy-duty removable/adjustable stabilisers for different stages of learning.
One little boy at my son’s nursery zooms so fast along the road on his balance bike to get there that his parents have to run at top speed after him. His mum tells me he’s riding the Early Rider wooden balance bike. Wooden bikes can be slightly heavier, making them more of a pain to carry around, but if this three-year-old’s smiling, gleeful face is anything to go by, it’s a worthy investment.
This starter bike is so popular that my local cycling centre uses it to teach children how to ride. It has a performance footrest, and a padded seat designed to suit the small hips of young children. It caters for kids from 18 months to 5 years, and it ‘grows up’ with your child. And it’s so light that your child will be able to pick it up, too.
Frog bikes - like Islabikes - are at the pricier end of the spectrum, but still worth the investment. Their resale value is solid (check them out here on eBay), and they’re long-lasting, too - which means they’re often passed down within families. The Tadpole balance bike is suited to 2 and 3 year olds with an average inside leg of 31cm, and the wheels are 12″. It’s lightweight and sturdy and has a safety lock to prevent oversteering. There’s also a quick-release seat post for easy height adjustment as your child grows and becomes more confident. A bell is included.
The Wiggins Pau Balance Bike weighs 3.6kg - making it super-lightweight and easy to carry. It also features a “pinch free” brake lever to protect small fingers; and there’s a carrying handle for when tiredness sets in. Plus, we think it looks very, very cool.
The Puky is a cross between a first bike and a scooter making it very easy to ride - and this one is suitable for ages 2+. It can feel heavier than equivalent balance bikes on the market (and 2-year-olds are notorious for getting tired and wandering off without their wheels), but it is a good quality family favourite that can be passed down to younger siblings.