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Kids seem to be born with a fascination with wheels and a desire to zoom. Thus, by the time they turn three, they want a bike.
But three-year-olds can still be pretty clumsy. And you want to find a bike that help them learn to balance and find stability.
The best balance and pedal bikes for three-year-olds are lightweight, durable, stable, have good geometry, and are easy to maneuver. Examples include:
- Banana LT
- REI Rev 1
- Woomb 1
- Cleary Gecko
- Guardian Ethos
- Joey 2.5
- Woomb 2
- And more...
As a parent of two kids, I'm aware of how much consideration goes into selecting a bike for a child. We have to think about our budget, but on the other hand, we can't afford it to break after only two weeks of use. We want safety and need the bike to perform well so our kids don't get frustrated and stop riding.
I've gone through the latest models and looked to the experts to weigh their pros and cons. I've found a spread that meets a range of budgets and styles, including the top balance bikes for three-year-olds and those with peddles.
5 Best Balance Bikes For Your 3 Year Old
Many kids are not ready for a proper peddle bike at three. Balance bikes have grown in popularity as an alternative to tricycles and training wheels (stabilizers). Tricycles build up leg strength but don't teach balance. Balance bikes have advantages over training wheels, too, including:
- Closer to the ground
- Builds confidence and self-esteem
- Provides more natural steering than you get with training wheels
- Works on rough terrain (training wheels are rubbish at this one)
1. Banana LT Balance Bike For 3 Year Olds
The Banana LT Balance Bike is an excellent budget-friendly option. It is well designed, with a long wheelbase that provides stability. The swooping banana also makes it easier for a child to get on and off, reducing the risk of catching a foot.
Another gift is the twin sealed bearings, which provide ultra-smooth steering. Plastic is the norm for this price range, which compromises the movement. An incredible feature that gives its riders more control and balance. The handlebars are also spaced wider than a standard balance bike, adding stability and control.
The LT's seat height ranges from 12.2 - 15.7in, along with adjustable handlebars. In addition, it has foam tires, eliminating the worry of flats.
The Banana GT Balance Bike has air tires for parents that want extra grip and control, especially on unpaved surfaces. Air tires also provide more cushion to the ride. But you will have a slightly heavier bike, at a higher price, and, of course, have to deal with punctures when they arise. Although filling air tires with gel is a great workaround for that issue.
Neither model comes with brakes. This is typical for this price range and not a must. But it does mean a longer stopping time.
Bottom line: while the Banana models are not perfect, you will struggle to find better at these prices.
2. KaZam v2e Balance Bike For 3 Year Olds
The KaZam v2e sets itself apart with its scooter-like step in the steel frame. The middle bar swoops down and provides a footrest exactly where you find them in motorized scooters for adults.
Kids love the footrest for comfort, style, and, for the more athletic ones, stunt antics. This is unusual, as most balance bikes with a footrest positioned it so poorly it is useless.
The handlebars adjust, which is a hard find in this price range. However, while the seat adjusts, it is minimal. Thus, larger three-year-olds might grow out of this one pretty quickly. Although the handlebar adjustment does help extend its lifespan.
The back of the KaZam is set a tad wide. While this provides stability, it will cause stride issues for petite three-year-olds. Thankfully, this is a "problem" the kid will grow out of fairly quickly.
The v2e has foam tires, making it easier on parents. However, the grip in these is less than even other foam tires in this price range. There is an air tire version, the KaZam v2s. However, it weighs 10lbs, which is a lot for a 3-year-old to handle.
The KaZam Pro Alloy is their lighter air tire option. However, the alloy frame increases the cost to the point where parents might start looking at mid-range offerings that have greater durability. Then again, its useable footrest feature is fun.
3. REI Co-op Cycles Rev 12 Balance Bike For 3 Year Olds
The REI Co-op Cycles Rev is a durable option. Its aluminum frame can hold up to 60lbs. Its welds are properly made, giving it sustainability. This bike will almost certainly hold up for the entire child's use and probably any siblings that follow.
The durability is reflected in the price, costing you more than the budget-friendly options. However, it is far more affordable than the fancier models. Thus, unlike the high-end offerings, REI doesn't have handbrakes, and the bike still has 9lbs of heft.
But REI has spared no expense in their rubber air tires. As a result, they have excellent traction, regardless if the kid is riding indoors, on concrete, or the trail.
Another surprising feature at this price is shock absorption, which is very useful if you want to bring this with you on hikes. While it isn't a big plus on smooth surfaces for basic riding, it is for your stunt artists in the making.
The shock absorption allows the little tykes to try bunny hops and make coming off small ramps a less jarring experience. (My kids were relatively fearless in this regard, but maybe yours have more sense.)
As it is sold through REI, they offer free adjustments to the balance bike during its first year, just like any other bicycle they sell. But this doesn't include any part replacements or additions.
4. Strider Sport Balance Bike For 3 Year Olds
Strider is the first name that comes to mind when balance bikes are mentioned. They have a significant range, but the Strider Sport has the most expansive growth span, only matched by the pro, but is cheaper. In addition, the inseam height adjusts from 12in to 20in. This makes it an excellent choice, especially if this is your first kid and you're planning to have more.
The weight of the Sport is excellent for its price, only 6.7lbs, making it lighter than some slightly more expensive options. The bike's weight can greatly affect some children's enjoyment. However, the lightweight doesn't compromise its robustness. It can still handle up to 60lbs.
While its footrest isn't the most useable on the list, it is functional. Even better, it is designed to stay out of your child's way, so it will not interfere with pushing, maneuvering, or balance. In addition, Strider's balance bikes handle well, making them a pleasure for kids to steer. Finally, this bike performs, which is what parents and kids want.
Strider also sells accessories that make customizing their bikes fun. For example, the company sells a Snow Ski Set to convert the bike for snow-filled excitement.
5. Woomb 1 Balance Bike For 3 Year Olds
The Woomb 1 Balance Bike is inarguably the best of the six, and kids adore it. However, it is also the most expensive, built for performance and longevity. Even so, many parents, understandably, don't want to spend this at the pre-peddle stage.
Woomb handles like a dream and has a rear handbrake to allow quick stops. Its air tires have exceptional grip and can handle a variety of terrain. Its frame provides easy step-through, and the wider set handlebars provide extra balance and control. You are not going to find better.
However, Woomb does come with one crucial drawback: it's small. They've aimed it at hardcore bicycling families and assume you want to start your kid cycling just after taking their first steps. Thus, by around three, Woomb thinks your kid will want peddles.
My eldest child would have been too big for this bike at three. However, my youngest was a tiny thing but incredibly sporty and daring. This would have fit her perfectly, both in size and go-go.
8 Best Peddle Bikes For 3 Year Olds
Some three-year-olds want a "real bike." If it doesn't have peddles, they'll lose their minds and won't sit their bums on anything else. Then there are the overachievers who mastered balance bikes at two and are ready. Lastly, some parents (me) don't want to buy a balance bike, only to turn around six months later and get peddles.
Whatever the reason, here are 8 great "real bikes" that come small enough for 3-year-olds.
1. Cleary Gecko Bike For 3 Year Olds
Locating another peddle bike as small as Cleary Geko with handbrakes will be an incredible challenge. So if you have a 3-year-old on the more petite end of the growth chart, the Gecko is worth a look. Plus, it is a durable bike that should be able to last for your child and more.
Geko assumes that any kid ready to peddle at this heigh is a sporty go-go. Thus, they've angled the frame, so the rider is tilted forward, in a more aggressive position. Kids on this will be able to achieve speed and launch themselves off their tiny stunt ramps and add plenty of grey hair to their caregivers' heads.
2. Guardian Ethos Bike For 3 Year Olds
The Guardian Ethos has made safety a priority. They use a single SureStop handbrake. This revolutionary design works the brakes on both tires correctly by using just the right hand.
As a parent who has had a kid flip over the handlebars due to incorrect braking, this is a feature I would have loved to have had. Kids get confused (hey, so do some adults) and slam on the left, and there they go, off to the Emergency Room.
Guardian extends its safety features to the wheelbase, which is wider for extra balance. In addition, their hybrid tires are made to grip a variety of terrain, which is handy because no 3-year-old considers these details while zooming around.
The Guardian frame is also designed for preschooler proportions, not simply shrinking an adult bike. Thus, it is a comfortable fit for their body shape.
3. Joey 2.5 Bike For 3 Year Olds
Joey 2.5 is a great mid-price choice for parents who want to skip balance bikes and use training wheels without coaster brakes. Coaster brakes make it harder to catch balance because you can't backpedal to regain stability. On the flip side, you need to teach kids how to work the handbrakes before they accidentally pull a catapult with their left hand.
But this bike not only allows training wheels but has a push bar, which is a huge blessing to all parents' backs. Instead of leaning over to grab the seat, you can assist using the push bar. Once the kid no longer needs your help, the bar can be removed. Thus, a great "first bike" for a 3-year-old that still has some learning to do.
4. Prevelo Alphaone Bike For 3 Year Olds
Prevelo's Alphaone is an excellent alternative for parents that like the sound of the Geko, but their kid is too big. This has a slightly forward geometry, although not as aggressive as the Geko's. But the angle is enough that it allows little go-getters to gain speed and have fun on the ramps.
This bike is excellent for learning to pedal, as it isn't too heavy, even lighter than the Geko. Despite being on the lighter side for this kind of bike, it has a reputation for being durable, lasting kid after kid. So no quality is being lost with the lack of pounds.
The tires do well on various terrain, allowing a kid to transition from paved surfaces to a trail with no problem. Which, if you have an adventurous kid, is going to be something they do all the time.
The only real pain about this bike is having to buy the conversion kit to get rid of the coaster brakes. The type of preschooler that will enjoy a bike like this will just get annoyed by the coaster brakes. But it is a minor gripe and easily sorted.
5. Raleigh For 3 Year Olds
Raleigh split their first peddle bike into two offerings: Jazzi and MXR. The Jazzi is aimed at girls and the MXR at boys, although my daughter wouldn't have given the Jazzi a second glance. But for a budget bike, they are a great choice for parents wanting training wheels.
These bikes are a little heavier, so it will be harder to pedal until they've built up skill and muscle. But there are the training wheels to help them stay up as they get the hang of it. Also, it's actually on the lighter side for this price point.
The Jazzi has the easy step-through frame, whereas the MXR has the step-over. But both of them come with tires suited for sidewalks, streets, and paved driveways, not the trails. The geometry is relatively upright but doesn't perch the kid like other bikes in this price range. Just remember, this is a 12 in, so this is for 3-year-olds on the smaller side.
6. REI REV 12 Bike For 3 Year Olds
The Co-op REI Rev 12 is on the more affordable end of the mid-range bikes and is designed for the petite 3-year-old. It's well built, not too heavy, and has training wheels. This bike is designed for riding around town, not trails, and the tires reflect this.
It is difficult to find this kind of quality, durability, and light frame in this price range. However, the bike is not perfect.
To start, it is a coaster brake rather than handbrakes, which is a pity given we're out of the budget-bike prince range. Although, despite the coaster, kids can still freewheel, which is a clever bit of engineering. The pedals are also pretty small, even for a small bike. But some small people have tiny feet.
Lastly, the bike's geometry puts kids in a somewhat awkward position. However, 12in bikes, in general, are awkward because you are trying to fit a working peddle into an area with little clearance. This is why 14in bikes generally have better geometry than a 12in, even in the same line.
While this 12in bike isn't perfect, you will struggle to find better at this size without having to pay a good 100 dollars more. Of course, you can go cheaper, but the bike will not be as good as what REI is offering.
7. RoyalBaby Freestyle Bike For 3 Year Olds
The RoyalBaby Freestyle Bike is a budget choice with training wheels. There is a 12in option, but we don't recommend it, as any child that small can't handle a bike weighing over 20lbs. As it is, the 14in is nearly 22lbs, which is a challenge.
But most 14in bikes in this price range are heavy, and RoyalBaby is one of the top budget bikes. So it is loads better than many others you can find in box stores. But the real reason people pick this one over, say, the Raleigh, is the styling. It looks less "toy" and more like a miniature, sporty, "real" bike.
The other reason people choose RoyalBaby is because it has handbrakes, which are very hard to find in this price range. Previously, RoyalBaby had a weird dual system: coaster for the back and left hand for the front, which taught kids to favor their left hand (not good). Now with proper handbrakes, it makes this heavy bike easier to balance and pedal.
The training wheels on RoyalBaby are also better than most in this price range. The training wheels are less likely to bend or warp and are set wider than the norm, giving greater stability.
8. Woomb 2 Bike For 3 Year Olds
The Woomb 2 only weighs 12.3lbs, making it a breeze for kids to maneuver. The geometry keeps them at a comfortable upright position, which isn't aggressive or perched, making it perfect for all but the most daring riders. But because the bike is so light, kids can perform a ton on them and get going pretty fast.
A few less pounds might not seem like much as an adult, but when you are 3-years-old, a few pounds is a significant percentage of your body weight.
Woomb 2 also eliminates the need for training wheels by allowing the seat to be low so kids can hop along until they manage to find enough balance to pedal along.
The bike's dual brake system is essentially giving parents all the options. Given how much parents are paying, this makes sense. In addition, the coaster brakes can easily be removed and allow freewheeling.
In addition, the handbrakes are designed to help kids remember which to use first, but making the right one green. It's such a simple solution, and it works. Kids might mix up right and left, but green is the one to go-squeeze (and stop). After all, telling a kid "right hand" can be near useless at 3-years-old when they're multitasking. That's a skill that needs focus.
If the Woomb 2 fits your budget, you'll have a happy kid. It's an excellent bike.