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Best Overall: Cleary Bikes Gecko 12” 1 Speed
Though this bicycle is on the more expensive side, you can feel good about this purchase because it will go the distance. Customers note that kids as young as 3 years old have easily made the transition from balance bike to a two-wheeler thanks to this bicycle.
When first introducing kids to the art of biking, a discreet handle under the seat makes it easy for parents to help kids along until they’re ready to balance the bike themselves. Then, once kids have mastered the art of biking and are comfortable on two wheels, the light aluminum frame and wide 12-inch wheels on this model makes it easy for first-time riders to maneuver. The bicycle also comes with a freewheel and front and rear brakes—a feature that makes it easy for new riders to brake safely. Kids will love that the sleek bicycle looks like a “big kid” bike and comes in a number of bright, bold colors.
Best Budget: JOYSTAR Kids Bike for Girls & Boys
Although there are some cheaper models available, this bicycle is your best bet when it comes to budget models. It’s of very high quality and comparable to much more expensive models, but still relatively affordable—especially when you consider the fact that it’ll last for many years. The Joystar comes with training wheels to help keep very early riders stable, but they are easy to remove once your child has mastered the art of balancing on a two-wheel bicycle. The seat saddle also has a handle for parents to help with this transition. Additional safety features include wide, durable tires, a chain guard, and an easy-to-use foot brake.
Despite the price tag, the bike is made of a durable steel frame that can withstand bumps and heavy use. Still, the bicycle comes with a lifetime warranty—just in case.
Best Tricycle: Radio Flyer Fold 2 Go Trike
For tentative youngsters just getting acquainted with bicycles, you can’t go wrong with a simple tricycle. This three-wheeler is low to the ground and supremely stable, making it a great choice for the earliest riders—ideally kids ages 1.5 through 3 years old. At this age, it’s more about getting the kids used to sitting on a bicycle and pedaling, and this tricycle is perfect for just that.
Parents will love that the bike is very affordable, but comes fully assembled and ready to ride. The steel frame also folds for easy storage and portability—use it at home or tote in on vacation. The tricycle also has a covered bin, so your child can bring his or her favorite toys along for the ride.
Though inherently easy to maneuver, the tricycle does have some important safety features for extra security, including a low center-of-gravity, a controlled turning radius, and a safety latch to keep the tricycle secure.
Best with Training Wheels: Royalbaby Freestyle Kids Bike
Just because a bike has training wheels, doesn’t mean it’s lacking sophistication—this bicycle is a prime example. The sporty bicycle looks a lot like models manufactured for older kids but is perfectly suited for the younger set, thanks to the addition of the training wheels. This particular bicycle with training wheels is a step above other models because it is very substantial for a smoother, safer ride. It has a sturdy steel frame, a one-piece crank, a ball bearing drive shaft, a full chainguard, and steel wheels with wide grippy tires. It also comes with additional premium features, like a bell, a water bottle, training wheels, and a quick-release seat post that’s easy to adjust as your child grows.
Best Cruiser: Firmstrong Urban Single Speed Beach Cruiser Bicycle
If your family is more about leisurely rides than hitting the open road or the trails, this bicycle is a great option for young riders. It’s a relatively basic model, but very attractive—and perfectly sufficient for smooth, easy rides.
Though the white-wall balloon tires glide easily over the pavement, the trade-off is that they don’t handle gravel very well and have a tendency to veer off course when cruising on bumpy terrain. If you’re simply cruising from the house to the beach or over to a neighbor’s house for a playdate, that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
In fact, kids using the bicycle for these purposes will find it makes for a very comfortable ride, thanks to a cushioned oversized seat with dual springs and an easy-to-operate pedal-backward coaster brake.
Best Balance Bike: Strider Sport Balance Bike
A balance bike is one of the best ways to teach a youngster to ride a bike. Though it may look intimidating without training wheels, many parents swear it makes the transition from tricycle to bicycle an easy one. This is because a balance bike teaches kids the fundamentals of balance and body control, but is small enough that kids can still put their feet on the ground.
Because a balance bike is a transitional bike, you probably won’t want to spend too much money on it. This model is a great compromise between affordability and functionality. It’s manufactured by an extremely well-known company in the biking world and has features comparable to much more expensive models. The bike has a durable steel frame that weighs less than seven pounds, a comfortable padded seat, thin grips that are easy for small children to hold on to, and puncture-proof foam tires. Still, it’s important to note that some customers don’t like the maintenance-free tires—they say they are more prone to slipping on some smoother terrain.