You Must Read This Before Buying a Bike For Your 3 Year Old

Bikes: My top picks

Today was going to be my first time riding a bike. My dad had just finished attaching the training wheels.

He helped me onto the seat and I put my feet eagerly onto the pedals. As I started off, slowly at first, moving along the sidewalk on a beautiful warm and sunny day. I thought I’m doing it! I’m riding a bike!

I remember feeling so proud. Feeling the rush of my very first bike ride.

I can’t remember much of what happened next, but my dad said I made an unexpected turn to my right, my front wheel dropped off the curb and I soon followed it. I do remember, quite vividly, the nasty scrape across the right side of my cheek. It took a while until I felt confident enough to ride that bike again.

You probably learned to ride a bike using training wheels, just like me. But …

I would never recommend using training wheels to learn to ride a bike ever again.

I now know that using a balance bike as your child’s first bike is a far safer method to teach your toddler how to ride a bike and it actually allows them to learn faster.


MY TOP PICK | BIKE FOR A TODDLER 2-3 YEARS OLD

  • Your toddler will learn much faster, easier and with less painful falls with a balance bike. Of all the balance bikes I researched and bought, the Strider Sport Balance Bike was my favorite. Because it is tough, well made, specially designed for toddlers, and the best value by far.

Balance bikes are a different way of learning the skills needed to ride a pedal bike. Probably like me, you started with training wheels and then one day took them off.

As you know from the story I told in the first paragraph. The first time I rode a bike without training wheels. It didn’t go well. That’s because it’s a big jump to have to balance on your own after using training wheels.

The training wheels didn’t allow me to develop my balance skills. I eventually learned to ride that bike and balance correctly, but with a few more falls. (Thankfully none as bad as my first).

I didn’t have to make that big leap in skill between training wheels one day and gone the next. And neither does your toddler. I could have learned all my balancing skills safely on a balance bike first. But we didn’t have balance bikes when I was young. At least I can help my kids and you can help yours to learn the joys of riding a bike without the pain of learning.

Balance Bike
An amazing Balance Bike in action! Notice, no pedals!

THE BEST BALANCE BIKES YOU CAN BUY FOR YOUR 2-3 YEAR OLD TODDLER

Carry on reading the slides below now to check out my favorite overall balance bike.

THE BEST OVERALL BALANCE BIKE

Strider Sport
Strider Sport Balance Bike.

WHY YOUR TODDLER WILL LOVE IT
The Strider Sport Balance Bike has a great design. It’s safe and easy to ride. The tough materials will make sure it lasts. It is everything you want in a balance bike for a 3 year old.

It makes you smile when your 3 year old toddler is happily zooming along the sidewalk. Getting plenty of exercise and having fun while they are at it.

The Strider Sport is the best balance bike for most toddlers. It’s amazing just how much joy your first bike can bring. You remember the first time you rode a bike? That sense of freedom, confidence, and excitement.

I guess that is why so many people grow up and continue to enjoy riding their bike for the rest of their lives.

Strider where the first company to develop the way of teaching kids to ride using a balance bike and they still make one of the best. They aren’t exaggerating by saying they “Revolutionized the way kids learn to ride”.

The Strider bike is suitable from ages 18 months to 5 years old. It’s amazing to think that kids who are still in diapers can be happily riding around without any training wheels on! That’s the amazing leap forward that balance bikes have given us to help your child learn to ride their bike.

The Strider bike also grows with your child. Both the seat and the handlebars are adjustable. This means as your child gets older you can just raise the seat and handlebars to keep the bike comfortable. The steel frame makes the bike lightweight at 6.7lbs (3 kg), making it easy for them to handle and for you to carry. It also has mini grips so their tiny hands can control the handlebars with ease. The tires are puncture-proof, so there will be no messing around changing them. Check out the current price of the Strider Sport on Amazon as sometimes it is on sale.

CONCLUSION
Pros: Best selling, strong, lightweight, comfortable and easy to ride design.
Cons: An aluminum frame would be even lighter.

BEST BALANCE BIKE FOR A BUDGET

Retrospec Cub
Retrospec Cub

WHY YOUR TODDLER WILL LOVE IT
The Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike is a bargain for the quality of the bike. It comes in plenty of different colors and is very well designed with an easy “step through frame”.

The Retrospec Cub is a great little confidence builder for your toddler. The step-through design (which is an even lower than normal frame height) and footrest make this bike easy and safe to ride.

It is also maintenance-free and needs minimal setup when bought. The Restrospec Cub also has air-free tires so you don’t have to mess about pumping them up when they inevitably go flat or you need to store the bike.

Do you worry about your toddler gaining too much speed on their bikes? Well, on the Retrospec Cub their feet can reach the floor and the physical shape of the bike makes it hard to gain too much speed. Which is so important to stop them getting out of control and having a nasty fall.

A 3 year old can pick up and get using a balance bike like the Retrospec so easily as the riding style is so intuitive. The Retrospec Cub inspires that kind of confidence, it also teaches the important fundamentals of balance. Riding balance bikes help to strengthen a 3 year old’s muscles as they have to walk, steer, lean and push.

The company who makes the Retrospec Cub are Critical Cycles who actually also make adult bikes. They use the same manufacturing methods and materials in their kid’s bikes. So you know it will be well designed and durable. Check the price of the Restrospec Cub over at Amazon, it does vary quite a bit, it’s the cheapest place I’ve seen it.

CONCLUSION
Pros: Price, step-through design, footrests.
Cons: Weight.

BEST PREMIUM BALANCE BIKE

Cruzee Ultralight
Cruzee Ultralight

WHY YOUR TODDLER WILL LOVE IT
If you want the absolute best then look no further than the Cruzee Ultralite Balance Bike. The Cruzee is the lightest balance bike in the world. You or your child will be able to carry it with ease. Making it more fun and less cumbersome. But also one of the toughest and most durable.

The Cruzee is super lightweight for a children’s bike. It means that it is effortless to handle for your toddler. They will have more fun for longer as they won’t be lugging around a big heavy bike. It uses an ultra-light but strong aluminum frame. That also means it will stay rust-free forever.

Its design has enough adjustment in the handlebars and seat to provide years of use. I think that makes it a great investment for your kid, plenty of fun-filled days riding around the park or the neighborhood, watching the joy on their little faces.

The Cruzee also has plenty of little premium touches like low profile bolts (so your little one won’t catch their leg and be left with a nasty scrape), a super comfy seat and foam tires so flats aren’t going to be a problem. Here’s a link to Amazon so you can check out the current price of the Cruzee

CONCLUSION
Pros: Lightest balance bike in the world, excellent build quality, Aluminium frame, plenty of colors to choose from.
Cons: Price.

WHAT IS A BALANCE BIKE?

A balance bike is like a regular bike but without pedals. That means that a 2-3 year old can safely put their feet on the ground to push themselves around. When they feel comfortable, they can lift their feet and glide along happily.

The best part is that when they feel like they are losing their balance they can just put their feet down to steady themselves without any pedals in the way.

Balance bikes introduce the freedom of cycling at a much earlier age than usual. I find them great for trips out because now they can now keep up with you as you walk without the need for strollers or kid leashes!

Training wheels
Get rid of those training wheels. Get on a balance bike and learn some balance skills!

DITCH THE TRAINING WHEELS

Balance bikes are safer for a 3 year old to ride and they are much more fun, lighter in weight, and have fewer parts to go wrong. A good quality balance bike is simple and sturdy and will last for a long while. So it makes them great value too.

I would strongly suggest that you don’t buy a pedal bike for a 3 year old. Most cheap 12” bikes (the correct size for the majority of 3 year olds) are very poorly made.

The high cost of making a good quality and easy to ride pedal bike means that most parents naturally opt for a cheaper version. It makes sense right?

Well, the cheaper 12” pedal bikes cut corners on manufacturing, they have to, it keeps costs down. Unfortunately, this makes them uncomfortable, heavy and poorly made.

Training wheels help your 3 year old to stay upright on their new bike but they teach them absolutely nothing about balance.

Balance is the most important skill they need to learn when riding a bike. A balance bike teaches them all about the skill in balance needed to ride a regular pedal bike, but in a much safer way. It will allow them to have more fun and progress faster.

Balance bikes are also better value for money and lighter than most regular cheap pedal bikes of the same size.

By taking away the training wheels and pedals of their first bike you are actually giving their learning a boost.

CHOOSING AND SIZING A BALANCE BIKE FOR YOUR TODDLER

Confused about how to correctly size a balance bike?

The best way to size any bike is by using the seat height. You want the seat height to be around 15” to start with for a 3 year old. You can then extend the height upwards as they grow.

Balance bikes compared to pedal bikes are easy to size correctly.

It’s important to remember that you want your 3 year old to be able to put their feet flat on the ground when sitting on the bike. Make sure that they are touching the ground with more than just their tiptoes. This allows them full control over their speed and balance. It also allows them to use their feet to push the wheels over any difficult little bumps in the road that they come across.

On a pedal bike, this can sometimes be difficult to get the sizing right because of the smaller wheels.

The weight of a bike is very important. Children lack the strength to ride cheap heavy bikes.

You also have to remember that children of this age might not be riding their bike all the way to and from a destination. Maybe they might ride part of the way to school or just around the park when they get there. If that is the case then you will be the one carrying the bike back for them. That is another reason why a lighter bike is a much better investment.

IF YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SET ON USING TRAINING WHEELS

If all the information I have given you hasn’t convinced you to buy a balance bike to boost your child’s riding skills; or if you truly feel like their riding skills are at the level where they deserve their first real pedal bike. I have a recommendation for the best 12” pedal bike.

My top pick for a pedal bike:

  • The Cleary Gecko takes the construction of adult bikes and brings it to the best 12” pedal bike I have ever seen. The riding position is comfortable, the height and adjustability of the seat are spot on. The handlebars are low and wide, which means easier and less twitchy steering. Overall it is an exceptional first pedal bike.

The Cleary Gecko is the smallest 12” pedal bike available. It is great for advanced 3 year olds if you think they have outgrown their balance bike.

As I have previously mentioned, I would keep your 3 year old on a balance bike then move straight to something like the Gecko without the use of training wheels. If you use training wheels in their transition from a balance bike they might losing their newly developed balance skills.

As previously suggested above, the cost of a good quality 12” pedal bike is much higher than a good quality balance bike. The cost of construction for a child’s bike is surprisingly high for a manufacturer. That’s why you tend to find excellent quality but higher-priced bikes or low quality, cheaply manufactured and heavy cheap bikes and no in-between.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT YOUR TODDLER NEEDS

Riding a bike is a thrill for a 3 year old but it can also be dangerous. I’m sure everyone knows by now that a helmet is essential for anyone riding a bike no matter what age. But another essential that’s maybe less well known is a good pair of riding gloves.

I think that riding gloves are important because it is only a matter of time until your 3 year old has a fall and the first thing to normally to hit the ground is their delicate hands. I’ve seen some nasty cuts and grazes from children who weren’t wearing gloves.

Riding gloves are a great value buy and give them good protection for their hands. Picking bits of asphalt from a sore palm after a fall isn’t fun at all.

You may also want to buy elbow and knee pads if you are especially cautious over your 3 year old. I personally haven’t because I think it is too restrictive for their movement. I also think it takes too long a time to get them all set up and in the right places. Seeing as sometimes they just want to ride around for 10 minutes.

I understand why people would want to use them, in the end, it is your choice.

TODDLER CYCLING SAFETY EQUIPMENT – MY TOP PICKS

  • Helmet: We decided on this helmet (Amazon link). We thought it looked the best. When it arrived we found that it fit our toddlers well and I would definitely recommend it.
  • Gloves: This was an easy choice, there was a clear winner in terms of the best fit and quality I could find on Amazon. It was this pair (Amazon link) we ended up going for in the end. Love the designs from this company!
  • Elbow pads and Knee pads: We didn’t end up using them as I explained, but I think for the value and great reviews If I decided that in the future they did need some I would go for these (Amazon link).

BEST BIKE FOR A 3 YEAR OLD BOY

Since writing this article I have had many requests to suggest the best bike for a 3 year old boy. I think at this age girls and boys are similar in size and strength so my recommendations would be the same as I have already given. Although, in terms of looks, a little boy may prefer different colors and style.

MY TOP BIKE PICK FOR A 3 YEAR OLD BOY

The colors they do are Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow and Red.

SUMMARY

It was a big surprise to me that most professionals recommend starting your 3 year old off on a balance bike like the Strider Sport Balance Bike. I had learned with training wheels and that was the plan for my girls, but after listening to their professional advice. I changed my mind.

The evidence suggests that kids learn faster and easier using a balance bike and then graduating straight up to a small pedal bike (1).

It turns out they don’t need the help of training wheels. Training wheels can negatively affect how quickly a 3 year old can learn to ride a pedal bike.

Balance bikes are just brilliantly simple to ride and so intuitive for our little ones to get the hang of.

They are much safer than trying to teach our 3 year olds by using training wheels. Once I knew, I couldn’t give them a regular bike. I didn’t want them to have a bad fall like I’d had when learning.

I really wanted my kids to learn to ride at an early age. I know the enjoyment I had when I was younger riding around on my bike. I think that learning to ride a bike is an adventure. It’s being able to explore the places around you. It helped boost my confidence when I was younger. It gives kids a feeling of self-reliance, which at that age is hard to get from anything else.