Best beginner bike? – Reader Q&A

I am totally overwhelmed by bike options for my 3.5-year-old son. He outgrew his tricycle in minutes and now I’m wondering what to get next … balance bike or a regular bike with training wheels? Just want something he can enjoy this summer and that will work for his younger sister in a year or two. – Aleca


If your son is the type to really practice something until he masters it, you should look into a balance bike, like the Tyke Rider (at top) for these early stages. Our Publisher, Kristen swears by it– her oldest daughter used to dutifully practice on her balance bike which can even come indoors in bad weather.

If your son really likes to zoom around, he’s going to want to get speed, and he’ll get that with pedals on a regular two-wheeler with training wheels. For the very first two-wheeler that I knew my kids would outgrow in about 10 minutes, I got a secondhand 12″ but the kids hardly ever used it (we’re a tall family). When we moved up to a 16″, I went with a Trek bike seven years ago and it still is going strong. (hint: Find a gently-used pair of training wheels on Freecycle instead of buying them new)
Micro Kickboard G-Bike Balance Bike | Cool Mom Picks
NOTE: We have to rescind our long-time recommendation of the Gyrobike (FKA Gyrowheel for questionable business practices and problems with delivering product to their customers. Instead, we recommend the G-bike balance bike, above.
Mini Micro scooter for kids
While this isn’t a bike, I’ve found that another way to help young kids learn better balance and confidence on wheels is to grab a kid-friendly scooter like the Mini Kick scooter. I can’t be sure if this is just coincidence, but my son had one at a very early age, and he was also the youngest of my three to ditch training wheels—his balance is incredible and I think his time scootering around helped him feel more confident on his bike.
Hope this helps!


Senior Associate Editor Christina Refford loves homeschooling, running, cool kids’ music, and coffee. Not in that order.


  • Reply May 31, 2011


    We found that working on a gentle grass slope we could teach our son to ride without training wheels pretty fast. The balance bikes do the same thing. If I could go back and do it over again it would be balance bikes for sure!

    Those Swiss made scooters are great too. On our alley there are two boys (4 & 7) a few houses up and we call them the “scooter boys”. They are amazing on those scooters! They are like skateboards but way safer.

  • We absolutely love our Strider PREbike balance bike!

  • Reply May 31, 2011

    Lisa K.

    We just got our 3-year old a 12″ Trek with training wheels. She loves it (although still working on leg strength to get up those mini hills). She is petite, so we expect it will last her a good long while.

  • Reply June 2, 2011

    amy corinne

    We love our Strider PREbike balance bike too!

  • Reply June 3, 2011

    clueless lurker

    My petite 5 yo started with a Skuut, but if you don’t want to buy BOTH a balance bike and a regular pedal bike you can just take the pedals off a 12″ bike until the balance is there and then just put them back on.

  • Reply June 6, 2011


    We tried two balance bikes but BY FAR the best was the Like-A-Bike KOKUA. It’s expensive. But you might consider paying for it anyway (or having someone buy it for you in Germany, where it’s significantly less.)
    Why is the Kokua the benchmark? 1. It’s super light; kids can lift it up and over curbs and other obstacles, carry it up and down stairs and, in general, feel completely in control of and comfortable with their own bike; and, 2. it is so well engineered — the seat adjusts according to height (and it comes with two separate poles for smaller and larger children — that it even includes a suspension system under the seat. Plus (an extra bonus for kids) it goes a lot faster than any of the other bikes. The benefits are: a confident and happy cycling child who masters balancing quickly because the bike is so great. An added bonus for parents: they must learn very quickly about traffic signals, sidewalk etiquette and stopping at corners if they want to zip around. It’s quite the incentive. Our daughter started with the balance bike at 2 and now, at 4, recently acquired a scooter. Although she desperately wanted the 3-wheeled mini kick, she didn’t need it and we went directly to the RazorA. She picked it right up. A note of caution — taking the pedals off of a bicycle it not the same as having a balance bike. The knobby parts, even if you remove the pedal brackets, still abrade young ankles.

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