What size bike is best for YOUR child?

What size bike will my child need and be most successful with? This is one of the top questions we hear when someone is buying a balance bike or a first pedal bike for their child.

And it's a good question to ask!

Balance bikes do not come “one size fits all” and it's important to get the right bike size to make sure your child can get on and ride it right away!

Kids also come in all different sizes. We have seen 2 year olds the size/height of a 4 year old, and we have seen very tiny 6 year olds still needing the 12” balance bike.

There is a balance bike for every sized child! But if your child is very tall or on the small side, it will be even more important to measure them before choosing what size bike.

Check out our special page "balance bike: 1 yr old" for some tips for the youngest of riders!  Can a 1 year old really ride a bike?! (yes!)

Side Bar: Pedal Bike Sizing

As far as choosing a bike with pedals, there are similar concerns and mistakes made – mostly due to bike shops sizing kids onto pedal bikes that are really too big to LEARN ON – like putting a tall 3 ½ year old on a 16” pedal bike with training wheels.

When learning for the first time, we recommend starting on a smaller sized pedal bike. Even if it's only used a month or two (or even a week!)

It will be a snap to learn if your child has full control of the bike and it doesn't look like they are trying to drive a bus!

Once a child learns to ride and can easily manage a pedal bike, they can upgrade to larger one that will give them more leg room and speed.

We will dedicate an entire page to pedal bike sizing shortly! For a brief comment, most kids 43” tall or under will probably need to learn on a 12” pedal bike. Kids 44” - 49” tall can successfully learn on a 16” bike before moving onto a 20”.  

For now, lets return to what size bike in the balance bike selection!

Balance Bike Size

We will devote an entire page to several age groups with pictures, videos, and specific bike models, to give you a good idea of how kids in that age range fit each bike size.  See below for links to those pages.

However, not all kids fit into their age's size! So please read on to get some helpful hints on measuring your child which will help you move forward to best decide what size bike they need.

One of the most important things to do is measure if in doubt!

  • measure child's inseam (floor to crotch with shoes on!)
  • measure child's height
  • consider bike handlebar start height and range
  • consider child's developmental age

Child's Inseam

Measure your child's inseam with shoes on if possible from floor to top of inseam (crotch).

The starting seat height on the bike you choose should be at LEAST this length or preferably 1/2 inch longer.

It is imperative that your child can stand flat footed over the seat saddle and walk forward. If the starting seat height is too high for their inseam, they will feel off balance and not have a successful start.

Of course your child can be in the mid range of the bike as well and that is fine!

If they are at the end range of a bike, explore some more to see if a larger balance bike would fit better.

A very interesting thing we have learned over the years is that very young kids (under 3 yrs) who are tall for their age - even VERY tall for their age, still have short inseams (short legs!) It takes until close to 4 years old for their legs to grow into their height!

The opposite issue goes for older kids who are short. They have long legs and long arms. So they may be in the 12" bike range for height, but their inseam is over the top range of most 12" balance bikes.

So for the younger tall kids, you usually go for a smaller bike size because they will be sitting lower in the saddle. For short older kids will long inseams - if they have reached a certain height- they go up to the 16" balance bikes.

So for children who are tall or short for their age, it will be more important to take their height AND inseam into consideration before deciding what size bike to get.

Child's Height

The second helpful measurement in deciding what size bike is your child's height.

This is more important if you are considering the larger 12" bikes or going up to the 16" balance bike.

Kids nearing 40" tall should consider a larger 12" balance bike like the Scoot by Ridgeback, Mini Glider, Kazam, or Kinderbike Morph or Early Rider Evolution.

This can be tricky though for very tall 2 and 3 years olds. You may be thinking about how tall they will be in 6 months or next year at this time and want to stretch this bike as long as possible.

And that's OK but settle for something in the middle. Make sure they can be flat footed while sitting on the saddle on day one.

Most kids can ride a pedal bike within 1 year of getting a balance bike if they are tall enough to reach the pedals! So don't get too worried about more than 1 year from now when considering what size bike.

Kids who are 43" or taller should look at 16" models as options (see below in age categories).  There are three 16 inch bikes on the market as of 2013:  The Tykes Bykes 16" which is the smallest 16" bike,  the 16" Go Glider Bike, and the Super Strider 16 (the largest).

Handlebars and Range

Handlebar range and starting height vary with balance bikes. Some have fixed handlebars - usually the wooden bikes. Some have higher starting range which is best suited for the older toddler age 3 and up.

Once you have the seat range down, double check your choice against handlebar range for your child's size/age.

Kids around 2 yrs old usually have a hard time managing high handlebars. A low starting range (adjustable) or fixed handlebar is easiest for the littlest riders.

On the flip end, taller kids over 3 1/2 years tend to benefit from the taller handlebars because they need that extra room from the seat to the handlebar grips (sometimes referred to as the "cockpit" area).

Sometimes the fixed low handlebars can be problematic for taller preschoolers because they become hunched over once they get to a certain height.

One thing we liked about the Early Rider Wooden bikes is that the handlebars are fixed, but they curve upward, giving the little extra room that taller preschoolers need. This is an unusual but welcomed feature for the wooden balance bike arena

Last words of advice

When trying to decide on what size bike look at different age groups below to see where your child falls - check out videos and pictures of kids on the bikes!

Envision your child in that same scene. We will try and post different sized kids on each bike so you can see the range if offers. Feel free to post a question or contact us if you still are not sure

Click the age group below to find out more specifics about each age range!

Bikes by Age

Kids between 1 and 2 yrs old

This page is dedicated to kids turning 2 or younger and features the smallest and lightest bikes currently on the market.  Yes, it is surprising, but kids under 2 can ride balance bikes (and at a fast clip!) before they would ever even fit on a tricycle!  These tots are usually pedal biking between their 3rd and 4th birthday

Kids between 2 and 3 yrs old

These kids are usually very ready to starting riding and often try to jump on bikes with training wheels but are too small.  Skipping a tricycle at this age and getting them a balance bike instead will get them pedal biking within a year or less and they will have so much more freedom zipping around everywhere they go!

Kids between 3 and 4 years old

Turning 3 is the proto-type median age for most balance bike manufactures.  This is also the year before a child will start pedal biking so perfect time to get that practice in for balance and coordination and you will definitely get to skip the training wheels! You will have the largest selection to choose from in this age range for average sized kids.

Kids between 4 - 5 years

Hide the pedal bike with training wheels and get a balance bike to gain the confidence and skills needed to jump on that pedal bike and take off by their 5th bday.  You haven't missed the boat by buying a balance bike for your 4 year old and there are many bikes to choose from that will fit this age range!

Older Kids from 5 - 10 years

We love getting school age kids off training wheels and practicing on a balance bike.  The skills click so fast.  They can master balance and steering in unison in a very short amount of time and it's money well spent when you see the confidence and happiness of your child finally pedal biking with ease.   Choose from 3 different brands of 16" Balance bikes for kids 5 yrs up to 10 years old.

Return from What Size Bike to Home Page

Go from What Size Bike to Main Bike Review Page