Author Topic: Bike for a Toddler  (Read 444 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Bike for a Toddler
« on: November 19, 2018, 10:34:49 AM »
Hello all,
I have a 3.5 year old and I would love to buy him a bike for the Holidays for him to learn how to use as the weather gets nicer next year.
Unfortunately I don't know his height offhand, but was wondering if you all had any suggestions for how to go about selecting a good starter bike?
He has a lot of tricycle experience, but we never had one of those gliders for him. This would just be for riding around the neighborhood, paved path type places.

So apart from all your general experiences, do you all have opinions on:

Training wheels or just dive right in to learning without?

Price? Should I spend a lot (I see ones that around under 100, between 1-200, OVER 300!!) or treat it like something he will outgrow quickly and save the big bucks higher quality for when he gets a little older?

12" vs 14" wheels?

Anyone have any problem in the past from getting it from a big box sporting goods or department store, or online like amazon?

Anything else I am not thinking about?

Thank you all in advance!


  • Senior Mustachian
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Re: Bike for a Toddler
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2018, 10:52:32 AM »
Don't spend money on this . . . your kid isn't going to ride for long on the bike.  (I actually found a very small bike that someone was throwing out for my son.)  Just make sure that your kid can put both feet on the ground while seated in the saddle to learn.  Then take the pedals off the bike and let your kid get used to scooting around for a while to develop balance.  Once he seems to be getting the hang of that, let him start going down some shallow hills and lifting his feet while he does so.  Once he's comfy with that, put the pedals back on the bike and help him to start riding on his own.

After doing this, my son was riding a bike without training wheels at 4 years old.  The problem was that all of his friends were using training wheels, so at 4 1/2 he demanded some for his bike or wouldn't ride it any more.  So, now he's riding with training wheels . . .



  • Stubble
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Re: Bike for a Toddler
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2018, 11:45:17 AM »
Yes, yes I do have opinions ;-D.

Or mostly observations that among the few dozen kids we know around learning-to-ride-bikes age, the ones who have done well have:

 - been put on balance bikes (or 'gliders') first.
 - have then had bikes which are proper bikes (ie properly scaled down adult bikes) without training wheels. They are generally higher end ones, but not many were bought new and most of them will be worth about the same once outgrown and resold.

Meanwhile most of the ones who have had training wheel equipped, cartoon character themed lumps of vaguely bike shaped pig iron are still riding them.

There are, of course confounding variables in play. The former group of kids are also largely the ones who see their parents riding places, who have been carried on bikes, who have been given the opportunity to ride most times they leave the house, not just every couple of weekends on an hours trip to the park.

Buying something now for use in the spring seems a bit risky given how fast kids that age stretch out. My #1 is big for age, but he went from the right size for 14" at 3yo to a 20" from the same manufacturer by 4 and a bit.

If you're saying that because you're somewhere that's likely to be under snow all winter, then I'd probably delay purchasing.

Otherwise, I would suggest buying a balance bike/'glider' now, and using it as much as possible - whenever you walk anywhere in your neighbourhood.  I've seen a few people go down the route of taking pedals off a 14" bike, but a balance bike will be way, way lighter and they'll learn faster. They're also cheaper.

Buy a pedal bike that's the right size when they are ready to pedal.


  • Stubble
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Re: Bike for a Toddler
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2018, 01:26:15 PM »
agree with above poster-- balance bike all the way.  You can improvise one by simply removing the pedals from a regular bike.  the rest of the process goes so much easier if the child learns the balance part first.

for the bike with pedals-- start with a 12".  Even if you child is tall, go with the 12 in. initially as the process goes faster with less frustration (both for you and the child) with a smaller bike.  Because there is a high chance the child won't be using the 12in bike for long,  buy something cheap-- both 12in balance bikes and regular bikes are easily found at thrift stores and craigslist (ours cost $10). Free is even better!

My son went through 4 bikes the year he learned to ride-- all bikes were used--  here was his generally timeline (he's 85% for height).

sept-age 4- start preschool-- 12in. balance bike (used)
feb- age 4-  learned to ride 12in. pedal bike (used)     
april- age 4-  16in bike (used).
sept- age 5- start kindergarten - 20in (used)               


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Bike for a Toddler
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2018, 05:23:50 PM »
We went with a balance bike first also. My son wasn't that excited about it, and I was disappointed that he hardly ever used it. A couple months before his 4th birthday he started riding it more and was gliding pretty well, so we got him a real bike for his birthday. It was a $150 bike new but I think I paid $50 or $75 on craigslist. It came with training wheels but they weren't installed, so I decided to let him try it without and if he didn't pick it up we could add them later. He was riding his first day! He did crash quite a bit, but he kept getting back up. I was amazed, I remember taking much longer to learn as a kid, but I had training wheels.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Bike for a Toddler
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2018, 05:47:58 AM »
My just turned 3 year old got a balance bike a few months ago (hand me down, $20 Strider brand) and it was an instant huge hit. She can now glide well after a few months. Also it's light if mom and dad need to carry it. Highly recommend.

If it's snowy (and I'm looking at snow out the window now) maybe consider skis or a sled for Christmas?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Bike for a Toddler
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2018, 10:50:40 AM »
Thank you all for your advice and suggestions!

I think we are going to wait on the bike until after the holidays, and then shoot to A. Find a used bike, and B. Start with the pedals off for him to learn how to glide. My hope is to get him started as we head into the spring, that way when the nice weather rolls around he will be up and running! And then maybe revisit a slightly nicer bike (or a bike in general if we do end up starting with the glider) or accessories or something for his birthday in the summer.

Thanks all, have a great thanksgiving!