Lot’s of kids out there are late bloomers when it comes to learning to ride a bike. You’ll be delighted to know that there are several balance bikes for bigger kids. A market once dominated by 12″ toddler balance bikes, there are now many bikes available with 14-inch and 16-inch wheels. When we discuss age appropriate bike sizes for kids, we are generally making our recommendations based upon the child being of average height and weight for their age. As you know, that is not always the norm; so we strongly suggest you take the child’s size and coordination into consideration when using our buying tips.
In addition to a balance bike needing to be larger to fit the child; there are many features that we feel are a must for kids ages 4 and up. The needs of a 3 year old are quite different than that of a 5 year old in addition to the difference in height, coordination and ability. For general information on balance bikes see our Ultimate Guide to Balance Bikes.
Must Have Features on Balance Bikes for Bigger Kids
When shopping for a balance bike for older kids, there are certain features that are a must. Features that were previously okay for your toddler may not be the best for your child as they grow older. Bikes in this age range need to have the following features: hand brakes, air-filled pneumatic tires, size appropriate wheels that are 14 or 16 inch in diameter. We will also discuss further how the bikes weight, geometry and frame material come into play.
Hand brakes on bikes for kids this age are non-negotiable. Children at this age are stronger and more daring which means they ride faster and need help stopping quickly. Toddlers are still able to use their feet to slow down because they aren’t moving quite as fast and their smaller bodies are easier to stop when in motion. By the time children approach 3 years of age, they have enough coordination to use a brake and need a brake to stop. Our favorite brakes are the v-style brakes with child easy reach levers for effortless and effective braking. You will even see some balance bikes with internal cable routing like on the Ridgeback Scoot.
On toddler bikes we are okay with eva foam tires because they are lightweight and are not required to perform as much as on bikes for older kids. By the time your 4 or 5 year old is using a larger balance bike, the improvements to ride and traction that are provide by air-filled tires come into play. There are no EVA foam tires that can perform or provide the same amount of traction as an air-filled tire.
Size Appropriate Wheels
Balance bikes for 4 and 5 year old kids generally are 14″ and 16″ size wheels. That’s not to say that a bike with 12″ wheels won’t work; it just means the child may outgrow it quickly or they may not be in the preferred rider position. Pay close attention to larger wheeled balance bikes and how they correlate to the seat height.
1. Ridgeback Scoot XL
If you have read any of my other blog posts you are going to see a trend. You are going to see that i recommend the Ridgeback Scoot a lot. That’s because it is such a great bike with such great features and best of all; its available in 2 sizes. The Scoot XL features 14″ wheels that allow a seat height range of 16″ – 22″, this fits kids ages 4 to 8 years. A lightweight aluminum frame, rear v-brake, sealed bearings and a great design make this a perfect balance bike for older kids. This should be the last balance bike a kid needs prior to transitioning to a 16″ or 18″ pedal bike.
Strider is well-known throughout the world with their best-selling Strider 12″ balance bike. The new 14x is based on the similar low center of gravity frame design the 12 inch uses and adds 14″ alloy wheels with air-filled tires and the new easy-ride pedal kit. The 14x is truly a 2-in-1 balance bike that converts to a pedal bike. The only downfall to this bike is that there is not any type of braking system when the bike is in the balance stage. Once the bike is converted to the pedal version the pedal kit includes a coaster brake. Another great feature of this bike is its weight; a mere 12 lbs!
3. Stampede Charger 16
Stampede Bikes, formerly known as Tykes Bykes, are a newer bike company that strive to build high performance, lightweight bikes. The Charger is size appropriately for children ages 4-7 as well as some taller 3 year old kids. You will find the Charger has a lightweight aluminum frame, alloy wheels and internal cable routing to the rear caliper brakes. The quick-release seat clamp adjusts the saddle from 16″ – 25″. We love the Charger because it has larger 16″ wheels for bigger kids, yet has a low center of gravity for great maneuverability and comfort. The new 2018 Stampede Charger now has front brakes.