Getting a bike is a rite of passage for any toddler. But the modern-day dilemma – banana bike vs tricycle – has some parents stumped when it comes to shopping.
3-year-olds are ready for something more independent that will make them feel like a big kid.
For many 3-year-olds, a banana bike offers a quick transition into independent pedaling. Some smaller or timid preschoolers will feel more comfortable on a tricycle or a bike with training wheels.
I have listed several two-wheel bikes my family used and loved as well as some other parent-approved options I researched. I have also included a few tricycle and ride-along options in my recommendations.
|Top 6 Best Bikes for 3-Year-Olds||Why It's Best||Mom Rating|
|Strider Sport Balance Bike||Lightweight, durable, adjustable||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Schwinn Skip 1 Balance Bike||Durable, nice footrest, air-filled tires||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Royalbaby BMX Freestyle Kids Bike||Easy assembly, fun accessories, hand brake||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Joystar Kids Bike with Training Wheels||Parent handle on seat, color options, custom decal||♥♥♥♥♥|
|High Bounce Extra Tall Tricycle||Taller than most, adjustable seat||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer and Stroll Trike||Removable handle for parent help, storage space||♥♥♥♥♥|
Best Bikes for 3- Year-Olds
Strider – 12 Sport Balance Bike
The Strider – 12 Sport Balance Bike, Ages 18 Months to 5 Years is one of several Strider brand options. It is built to last through several kids’ use, and the Sport version easily adjusts to fit toddlers up to kindergarteners.
It is very lightweight (only 3 lbs), so your 3-year-old can easily handle it and it’s easy for you to lift to put it away. The tires can’t go flat, and no tools are needed to adjust the Sport or Pro versions.
The price for a Strider may be higher than small bikes with training wheels, but the ease of use and the frustration you will avoid in later years is well worth it!
The Strider bike was invented by a dad who wanted to help his 2-year-old learn balance. Our oldest daughter got very good at riding the classic version of this bike, and she made the transition to riding a pedal bike without training wheels very quickly.
Schwinn Skip Toddler Balance Bike
Our family also used and enjoyed the Schwinn Skip Toddler Balance Bike. My son and youngest daughter both used the Skip 1 version, and it was still in good shape when we recently gave it to another family, so it holds up very well.
The Schwinn is recommended for ages 2 to 4, and it has air-filled tires, more like a regular bike. The seat height is easy to adjust as your child grows.
Some parents did report pieces breaking during assembly or soon after, but this bike comes with a limited warranty, so those issues should be fixed by Schwinn. This bike is a little heavier than some other balance bikes, but some parents preferred that.
Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike No Pedal Bicycle
The Retrospec Cub Kids Balance Bike No Pedal Bicycle is an option that comes in many colors so you are sure to find an option your child will love. The tires are air-free, so you will never go out to ride and find they are flat.
This bike is designed for ages 20 months to 5 years with adjustable seat and handlebars. Parents say the tires work on a variety of surfaces.
There is some assembly required. Some parents said their bikes arrived with parts missing or they didn’t fit together well. A few also said they couldn’t tighten the seat fully, so that is something to carefully check before your child goes riding.
woom 1 Balance Bike 12″
The woom 1 Balance Bike 12″, Ages 18 Months to 3.5 Years will teach your 3-year-old balance and use of a hand brake, which is another important safety skill. Steering is also somewhat restricted to discourage swerving.
The drawback to this balance bike is that is may not grow with your child as well. It is listed as being for 18 months to 3.5 years, or 32 to 39 inches tall.
But if your 3-year-old is on the short side (or you are starting earlier), this may be a good option. Parents say it is well built and the brake gives them peace of mind when their children tackle going downhill. Woom USA offers kids bikes from this size up to 10-14-year-olds.
Tour de France Wood Running/Balance Bike, 12 inch Wheels
The Tour de France balance bike‘s frame is made of wood rather than metal. It is currently only available in a natural wood color with yellow details.
The tires are 12 inches and air-filled. The seat is adjustable using the pre-drilled holes, but the handlebars are not. That combination may mean this bike won’t grow with your child as well as others.
The lowest seat height is 16 inches off the ground. One common problem parents of 2-year-olds had is that that setting was still too high for their child. Some users drilled another hole to allow the seat to go lower. So if your child is on the short or young side and you are handy, you may be able to help it fit them.
The manufacturer says this bike weighs 13 lbs, which is heavy for a balance bike, so keep that in mind.
Parents say it is a sturdy bike, and the limited steering helps their child stay in control. The list price is also on the low side for balance bikes, so if your budget is limited, this may be a good bet.
Royalbaby RB14B-6O BMX Freestyle Kids Bike, 14-inch wheels
The Royalbaby RB14B-6O BMX Freestyle Kids Bike is a popular option that comes in 12 and 14-inch wheel sizes and several colors. It includes training wheels, but you don’t need to use them if your child is ready to balance. There is a handle in the back of the seat for you to hold to help your child learn to balance.
It comes with plenty of fun accessories your child will love, including a bell, a water bottle, and a water bottle holder. It has a front hand brake and a coaster (pedal backward) brake to give your child options as they learn.
Most of the bike is assembled when it arrives at your door, meaning your child will get to ride quickly. Many parents said the assembly was easy and the instructions gave tips on common adjustments that may be required.
However, some users said the water bottle leaked and the bike was heavy for their child to handle.
Schwinn Grit Steerable Boy’s Bicycle With Training Wheels, 12-Inch Wheels
The Schwinn Grit Steerable Boy’s Bicycle With Training Wheels, 12-Inch Wheels comes in Grit (orange) and Petunia (pink). The adult steering handle sets this bike apart, as it has three modes of use: adult pushing/steering, training wheels, two-wheel bike.
The bike comes with a water bottle and holder, but they are on the steering handle, so once your child outgrows that use, there isn’t a place to store the water bottle. There is also a bell, which your child is sure to love.
Schwinn lists the 12-inch size as being best for kids 28-28 inches tall. The seat and handlebars can easily be adjusted without tools when your child grows or two kids will be riding at different times.
Some users reported some parts didn’t last long, but Schwinn does offer a lifetime warranty on the bike.
Schwinn Elm Girls Bike for Toddlers and Kids, 12-Inch Wheels
The Schwinn Elm Girls Bike for Toddlers and Kids comes in a variety of sizes from balance bike to 12 to 20-inch wheels. The 12 and 14-inch pedal bikes come with training wheels and a front basket.
The 12-inch bike is recommended for ages 2-4 years and heights of 28-38 inches. The seat’s standover height is 14.5 inches. The 14 inch is for 3-4 years or 36-40 inches tall; seat height info was not available.
The seat also has a handle to make it easier for you to help your child balance as they start and to make it easier to lift if you store the bike on the garage wall or somewhere off the ground. There is a hand brake and rear coaster brake.
Many parents love this bike and found it to be good quality, but a few had problems with parts arriving damaged, including a few with cracked baskets. Schwinn does offer a lifetime warranty on the bike, though.
Schwinn Koen Boys Bike for Toddlers and Kids, 14-Inch Wheels
The Schwinn Koen Boys Bike for Toddlers and Kids is also available in 12 and 14-inch sizes, as well as up to 20 inches and a balance bike option. The 12 and 14-inch versions come with training wheels.
The 12-inch bike has a standover height of 14 inches and is recommended to kids 28-38 inches tall. The 14-inch bike has a standover height of 16 inches and is recommended for riders 36-40 inches tall. All pedal versions have a hand brake and rear coaster brake.
This model looks sportier with the number plate on the handlebars of the pedal versions, so if your child dreams of racing or doing BMX, they may love the look of this bike.
Many parents and kids love their Koen bikes, but a few said parts were damaged on arrival or after minimal use. Again, Schwinn offers a lifetime warranty for this bike.
Raleigh Bikes Kids MXR 12 Bike
The Raleigh Bikes Kids MXR 12 Bike is a solid, basic two-wheeler. There are a couple of color choices, but only 12, 16 or 20-inch sizes. The 12-inch model is recommended for 2- to 4-year-olds or kids 35 to 42 inches tall. The standover height is almost 14 inches.
The bike has a rear coaster brake only, so no hand brake. This may make it simpler for you to have fewer parts to adjust and maintain.
Many parents found it easy to assemble, though some thought it was heavy for a preschooler to handle.
JOYSTAR 14 Inch Kids Bike with Training Wheel
The JOYSTAR Unisex Child Bicycle with Training Wheel comes in 12, 14, and 16-inch wheel sizes with training wheels. There are a few colors to choose from as well.
They recommend the 12-inch bike for 2-4 years, 33-41 inches tall or a 14-17 inch inseam. The 14-inch bike is recommended for 3-5 years, 35-47 inches tall or a 16-20 inch inseam.
The 12 and 14-inch versions use only a foot (coaster) brake, and they come with a bell. Your kids will love the bell, and there is less to maintain with only one type of brake.
The other aspect your child will love is that this bike comes with letters for a decal they can design themselves before putting it on their bike. This will make the bike uniquely theirs.
You will also like the limited lifetime warranty that covers the bike. Some parents found the assembly a little tricky but suggested the instructions on the Amazon listing were more helpful than the ones that came with the bike. Watch out for handlebars that are upside down on arrival; you may need to fix that.
Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer & Stroll Trike
I like the Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer & Stroll Trike as a step between a stroller and an independent tricycle. Parents can push and steer the trike to still have some control over where the child goes. But the handle can come off when the child no longer needs help.
The tricycle is for ages 2-5, and it has plastic wheels and seats. There is a storage bin in the back for all the treasures your child may find and want to bring along.
This was a great trike for going for walks that might have been too long for our toddler to keep up pedaling. Though it was a little hard to go uphill with, our family still got a lot of use out of this trike. We also had a classic Radio Flyer Tricycle that held up well.
Some issues to watch out for during assembly: Some parents report the instructions for assembling the back wheels are poorly written. There are an inside and an outside to them, and once they are assembled, you can’t take them apart to fix. And some trikes have arrived missing a key piece for the front wheel, so check carefully before you begin assembly.
High Bounce Extra Tall Tricycle
The High Bounce Extra Tall Tricycle is built 2.5 inches taller than standard tricycles, and the seat adjusts to fit kids up to 6 years old.
If your child won’t be ready for a two-wheel bike for a few years, this looks like a great option. Some colors come with a steering handle for an adult, and some are just the normal tricycle, so you have options. The ones with the steering handle also have a seat belt and storage space.
The metal frame is triangle shaped to give your child extra stability as they enjoy learning to pedal.
Some parents say the colors of the bike they received are quite different from the photo, so keep that in mind if you or your child are set on a specific shade. A few parents also said the assembly instructions are difficult to follow.
But if you can persevere through assembly, this tricycle should give your child years of use.
Fisher-Price Harley-Davidson Tough Trike
The Fisher-Price Harley-Davidson Tough Trike [Amazon Exclusive] is a cool option if your 3-year-old is into motorcycles. It is listed for ages 2-5, but many parents report it was too big for their 2-year-old.
It has big pedals and a wheel configuration designed to stay stable. There is storage under the seat, which may pop off with rough handling, but it is easy to snap back on.
Parents say the trike holds up after a lot of use and their kids really enjoy riding it. There are some other color/style options for this trike as well, including Barbie and Thomas the Train.
Swagtron K6 Toddler Scooter, Convertible 4-in-1 Ride-On Balance Trike & Training Bike
The Swagtron K6 Toddler Scooter, Convertible 4-in-1 Ride-On Balance Trike & Training Bike is designed for ages 2-5 to use in multiple ways. It can be a tricycle, balance bike, three-wheel scooter, or kick scooter.
There are three steps to changing the wheels between modes, and it requires only a screwdriver. So you won’t want to change it each time your child goes out to play, but when they are ready for the next mode, it isn’t a complicated process to change the bike.
While many parents love this bike, a couple reported that it broke relatively quickly. So keep in mind how hard your child might be on the plastic parts when buying.
If your child loves the scooter mode and is interested in trying skateboarding, check out our recommendations for skateboards for kids of all ages.
WeeRide Kangaroo Seat
The WeeRide Kangaroo Seat is installed between an adult bike seat and its handlebars, so your child is centered and in sight for your entire ride. There is a 5-point harness to ensure your child stays in the seat. This is a good option for ages 1-4, up to 33 lbs.
Though it sounds like it may be an awkward setup, most parents report that it works very well in practice. This is a good option for ages 1-4, up to 33 lbs.
The WeeRide Co-Pilot is a good option for a slightly older child with some bike riding experience. It is recommended for ages 4-9, and we have used it for one summer with our preschooler so far.
The child has pedals and a handlebar to use while they ride. While they can pedal and help the parent a bit, they don’t have to pedal. Their feet can stay still while the parent continues to power the ride.
It is heavy to tow along, but my husband can do it. He can’t see her without looking back, but she holds on to her handlebars and hasn’t had any falls. It allows us to take longer family rides than our daughter’s 14-inch bike can keep up with.
Types of Bikes for 3-Year-Olds
At first, a child may propel the bike just by sitting on it and walking their feet, but as they get the hang of it, they will start to coast and learn how to keep their balance without worrying about pedals just yet. They can get moving pretty quickly once they master it.
For even more balance bike ideas, check out top balance bike recommendations.
Maybe your 3-year-old has mastered the balance bike and is ready for a pedal bike just his or her size with the training wheels removed. Or you are more comfortable starting her or him out with training wheels, just like you probably learned.
Here are some traditional pedal bike options for preschoolers. While they all come with training wheels, they don’t need to be used if your child can already balance.
Tricycles and combination bikes
Tricycles are a classic bike option for a 3-year-old, and they got used in my family as well. There are also options offering different modes of use to perhaps last your child a few years.
We have an article chock full of tricycles for toddlers.
If you like to take longer bike rides than your 3-year-old can keep up with, there are ways to bring them along for the fun. These options attach to an adult bike. Some are bike seats for your child, while some allow your child to tandem ride with you.
How We Selected Bikes For 3-Year-Olds
Balance bikes got priority
My personal experience with balance bikes led me to focus on them as the best option for toddlers and preschoolers. My kids used them from ages 2 to 5 and transitioned quite easily to pedal bikes without training wheels.
Balance bikes are the best way to get your 3-year-old started riding bikes and skip the training wheels when transitioning to a pedal bike. We started all three of our kids on balance bikes in the preschool years (or earlier), and the youngest moved up to a pedal bike with no training wheels very easily a few weeks before her fourth birthday.
I had never even heard of balance bikes as a new mom, but luckily my husband had. Instead of weeks or months of frustration when training wheels were removed, we had a few days of work to get each child comfortable pedaling a traditional two-wheeler.
Good for boys and girls
Many of these bikes are neutral colors or available in a variety of colors to suit your child’s likes and personality.
The bikes my family has used stood the test of time (and at least two kids’ use). The others held up well for other parents. No one wants to spend the money on a bike that won’t last the summer. Many of these will be outgrown before they are worn out.
The balance and two-wheel bikes are all adjustable in the seat and/or handlebars to help customize them for your child and ensure your child can keep using them as he or she grows.
Fun for kids
All of these options will be so fun for your child to get an early taste of bike riding on. From the freedom to ride to fun colors and features like bells, baskets, and water bottles, these bikes will encourage your child to be active.
Options for every family
Not every 3-year-old has the same capabilities, so some tricycle and parent-powered options were included to cover most families’ needs.
Best Sized Bikes for 3-Year-Olds
Manufacturers often list bike sizes by the diameter of the tires on the bike. These can range from 10 to 20 inches for a kids’ bike. Though this gives you an idea of the size of the bike, the frame sizes and seat heights on 12-inch bikes may be very different.
The best way to really know if a bike will fit your child is to take it for a test drive. When your child is first starting out on a balance or two-wheel pedal bike, they should be able to sit on the seat and have both feet flat on the ground. This will help them feel comfortable and in control (and be able to stop a balance bike with no brakes).
As they gain mastery of riding, it will be best if they sit on the seat and have just their toes touching the ground. Also, your child should have their leg extended nearly all the way when at the bottom of rotation of the pedal. If their knees come up close to the handlebars, the bike is too small for them.
Using child’s measurements as a guide
When you can’t sit on the bike to give it a try first, knowing your child’s height and/or inseam length will help you find a probable fit. Many bike manufacturers give a recommended height range for a specific bike. You can also look for information on the range of seat heights and compare to your child’s inseam (find out how to measure an inseam here).
In general, a 12-inch bike will fit kids with inseams of 14-17 inches. A 14-inch bike will fit kids with inseams of 16-20 inches. But checking a specific bike’s seat height range or standover height will be very helpful.
The standover height will tell you the distance between the top tube of the frame and the ground. You want a standover height of 1-2 inches lower than your child’s inseam.
FAQs About Bikes For 3-Year-Old
Does a 3-year-old need a bike helmet?
Yes! Every child riding a bike should have a properly fitting helmet. It can reduce your child’s risk of serious injury by 85%. Starting helmet use at a young age may prevent it from becoming a battle to get children to put them on when they are older.
Keep your young rider safe! Check out our favorite infant and toddler helmets.
What size bike is best for a 3-year-old?
The best way to be totally sure a bike is the right size for your child is to take it for a test drive.
But knowing your child’s height (and inseam) can help you make an educated guess. This Kids Bike Chart says a bike with 12-inch wheels is best for a child 2’10”-3’4″. A 14-inch bike would be best for a child 3’1″-3’7″.
Is a 3-year-old old enough to ride a bike?
Absolutely! If your child can walk and hold up a few pounds, he or she can start off on a balance bike.
Three-year-olds are also very capable of riding a tricycle. Introducing this fun form of exercise now can help your preschooler develop a life-long love of riding.
What is the best bike to start a toddler on?
While a tricycle or two-wheel bike may be the more traditional route, a balance bike is an excellent first bike for your toddler or preschooler. They don’t need to be able to balance it at first, just hold the handlebars and walk the bike along. As they get the feel for it, they will figure out the balance and be zipping around.
Are balance bikes better than training wheels?
Yes! Balance bikes are typically lighter than pedal bikes.
Training wheels don’t actually do much to teach balance; they just keep an unbalanced kid from toppling over as much.
Using a balance bike will teach your child how to coast and balance so that later they will just need to add in the pedaling to zoom off on a two-wheeler, no training wheels. They will have more freedom to move faster as they learn on the balance bike, and you will love how little time you have to spend helping them learn a regular pedal bike!
From my experience as a mom, I can say a balance bike is the best option for your 3-year-old. We used a Strider bike for our oldest child, and I highly recommend any of their balance bike options. They are lightweight, adjustable, and will hold up through several kids’ use. The Strider Sport version will grow with your child, likely until they are 5 years old and ready to move to a pedal bike.
For longer family rides where even an experienced balance bike rider can’t keep up, we have used and enjoyed the WeeRide Co-pilot to let our preschooler pedal without slowing us down. It’s better for kids 4 and older, but it made a huge difference in our family recreation time.
If your child needs the stability of a tricycle for a while, I recommend the High Bounce Extra Tall Tricycle. It is made to grow with your child up to age 6, so it should work for your family for years. You can get it with a steering handle and a seat belt if that would be helpful to your child.