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Buying a balance bike or pedal bike and what to look out for

Buying a balance bike

The size – A child’s feet must be able to push off the ground while they are sitting comfortably on the saddle. Check the seat can go high or low enough.

Frame size – A child must be able to run comfortably whilst sitting on the saddle so check there is ample space between the seat and handlebars.

Tyres – Air-filled tyres provide the most cushion and traction.

Brakes – Feet will always be the main source of stopping on a balance bike but brakes can help to stop quicker, reduce damage to shoes and teach the skill of stopping correctly to better prepare children for the pedal bike.

Footrests – Not essential as children will just lift their legs up to glide. But it may help them learn where their feet should go, as they progress towards pedalling.

Weight – A heavy balance bike is a real disadvantage for a small child as the bike can be one third to half of their body weight! A good balance bike would be no more than 4kg.   

Cost – How much do I need to spend? A good quality balance bike is an investment in their enjoyment and an active life. Prices vary for a balance bike from under £50 to over £100 and it can be hard to know if more money means a better bike for your child.

Weight, fit and simplicity are the three important considerations:

  • If it is too heavy it is not a pleasure to ride (an adult can testify to that too!).
  • It must fit well so be careful about the shape of the frame and handlebars and make sure the child isn’t too cramped when sitting in the saddle. Have a look at the happy riders in all our Ready Set Ride activities videos and use these as a guide.
  • A balance bike doesn’t need anything fancy; a simple frame, straightforward handlebars and possibly a rear brake. Handlebar streamers and a hooter are fun though, and can be added by you and your child!  

Buying a pedal bike

The size – A child should be able to sit comfortably on the saddle with only the balls of their feet on the ground. Check the seat can go high or low enough.

Frame size – A child must be able to pedal comfortably whilst sitting on the saddle without their knees hitting the handlebars or knocking their chest or arms, so check there is ample space between the seat and handlebars.

Tyres – Air-filled tyres provide the most cushion and traction.

Brakes – A pedal bike needs two working brakes; one at the front one at the back. Learning to use the brakes effectively is a really important part of learning to pedal.

Weight – A heavy bike is a real disadvantage for a small child as the bike can be one third to half of their body weight! A good children’s bike for 4-6 year olds would be no more than 6kg including the pedals.   

Growing room – It is tempting to buy a bigger bike so that it will last longer but just like hand-me-down clothes with sleeves rolled up and a belt, all it will do is make it harder for your child to learn to pedal, be in control and develop their skills. A good quality children’s bike will holds its resale value well if looked after and kept clean and of course can be passed to siblings, friends and relatives to get more children cycling in future.

Cost – How much do I need to spend? A good quality children’s bike is an investment in their enjoyment and an active life. Prices vary for a pedal bike for a 4-6 year old from under £100 to over £250 and it can be hard to know if more money means a better bike for your child.

Weight, fit and simplicity are the three important considerations:

  • If it is too heavy it is not a pleasure to ride (an adult can testify to that too!).
  • It must fit well so be careful about the shape of the frame and handlebars and make sure the child isn’t too cramped when sitting in the saddle. Have a look at the happy riders in all our Ready Set Ride activities videos and use these as a guide.
  • A first pedal bike doesn’t need anything fancy; a simple frame, no gears and straightforward handlebars. Handlebar streamers and a hooter are fun though, and can be added by you and your child!