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Tricycles are affordable but not without problems

It's time to purchase your child's first set of wheels. They've never ridden a bike before, so why not start with the basics. Tricycles are a great way to teach your child the mechanics of pedaling and steering. They will need to learn to control their motion using their legs and direct it with their arms. This is a tried and true introduction to the world of cycling.

The Schwinn Roadster Tricycle (Est. $70) is an easy-to-assemble tricycle with a low center of gravity to help prevent tipping on tight turns. Because of its recumbent position, with the pedals out in front of the body, some youngsters may find learning to pedal more difficult than they would on a more traditionally styled trike like the Radio Flyer Classic Dual Deck Tricycle (Est. $60) . This can be a difficult concept for a child just starting to learn the basics of pedaling.

Although highly rated, some parents do cite some issues with both the Radio Flyer Classic Dual Deck and the Schwinn Roadster Tricycle. The handlebars of the Radio Flyer have been known to loosen, causing them to lose alignment with the front wheel. This can be frustrating and dangerous for a young rider and can render the bike unusable. We also read reports of the Schwinn being shipped with leaky or faulty inner tubes, and some owners complain that replacements are difficult to find.

Overall, reviews indicate that the Schwinn Roadster Tricycle is the better of the two tricycles, which is why we name it our Best Reviewed pick.

Balance bikes lack pedals, teach kids how to stay upright

Balance bikes are a good alternative to tricycles. Unlike trikes, balance bikes have two wheels and lack pedals; instead, young riders scoot themselves along with their feet. This allows them to learn how to balance on two wheels without the fear of falling over. Although balance bikes can be fitted with training wheels, parents say many children can skip them.

The main differences among most balance bikes are their materials -- frames can be made from wood, metal or composite materials. Wooden bikes tend to warp over time, making them more difficult to use. Metal bikes will rust, which can be both undesirable aesthetically as well as possibly. Composite frames, like the FirstBIKE's (Est. $160) , are virtually indestructible as well as weatherproof. It's okay to forget this one out on the lawn during a few thunderstorms, and it's safe to wash it with soap and water.

The FirstBIKE (Est. $160) is our top choice, while the Strider ST-4 PREbike (Est. $100) is the runner-up. One major difference between the two is that the PREbike has limited steering. When going too fast or turning too sharply, young riders may lose control by oversteering the bike. The FirstBIKE comes equipped with a steering limiter to prevent this from happening. Some parents argue that a lack of limited steering is not necessarily a bad thing, as it teaches your child to think more carefully about their actions when riding.

The Strider ST-4 PREbike is made from steel. While steel can be durable, it is prone to rust. Before you decide on a balance bike, you need to decide if a balance bike is the right choice for you and your child. Some of the more timid kids have a difficult time adapting to balance bikes and are more comfortable taking their time on three wheels. But as far as balance bikes go, you will be hard-pressed to find a better choice than the FirstBIKE.

Regardless of the model you choose, parents say, a child should wear a helmet and be supervised while riding.

Strider ST-4 (TM) Toddler Pre-Bikes - Yellow / One Size
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New: $109.00   
Average Customer Review:  
Radio Flyer Classic Red Dual Deck Tricycle
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New: $89.99 $55.53   
In Stock.
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