Early Rider Balance Bikes

If you’ve got a cool kid, who’s always looking for new adventures, then why not get them a cool bike? Even if their adventures are limited to your driveway or the neighborhood in which you live; they can ride in cool style on an Early Rider. They’re a British company. But, there is a clear influence from Harley Davidson’s Captain America chopper made famous in the movie Easy Rider. Early Rider’s entire line of bicycles are some of the cleanest and coolest designs we’ve seen. All of their bikes, from their toddler balance bikes to high-performance pedal-driven youth bikes, are designed for kids and feature distinctive lines with an almost steampunk aesthetic.

The Early Rider website doesn’t tell us much about themselves. They were founded in 2005 and began building bikes out of a garden shed. The company’s goal is to “design products that make life and the thrill of adventure easy for young children to embrace in style.” Normally, when company information is so very limited, we don’t include their products here on CoolOutdoorToys.com. But, as we saw more and more highly favorable reviews from families all over the world, we decided to take a closer look.

Many of Early Rider’s bikes can be customized. They already have a cool steampunk sort of vibe about them and we love the look of their bikes. But, families can, depending on the model, upgrade to differently colored handgrips, stems, headsets and seat posts. And, you can also upgrade the handlebars.

The customizations vary in price from changing the handgrips to a different color ($18.20) to changing the composition of the handlebars ($157). Unfortunately, Early Rider’s customization tool does not show you what the upgrades would look like on or off a bicycle.

Like the lack of information on the individual customization options, we found Early Rider doesn’t provide the level of detail we would like on sizing. For example, they identify “standing height” but don’t list the actual seat height or the range of heights their seats can be adjusted to.

That said, from everything we’ve researched, these are high-quality, well-built, durable little bikes that should last through several children. We found very few actual complaints, none of which related to construction, durability or overall craftsmanship. Like all of the toddler-sized balance bikes, some families complained the bikes didn’t fit their children. And, there is a bit of an issue with the wood tone of one of their wooden models. (More on that later.)

An interesting detail that Early Rider shares about each of their riding toys, not provided by the other manufacturers, relates to surface/environmental ride-ability of each bike model. They rate each bike based upon their suitability for use in urban areas (sidewalk and concrete), trails and “adventure.”

Early Rider Warranty

Early Rider offers a 1-year warranty on parts. They do, however, suggest contacting them if you have a problem even after a year has passed and they’ll try to help families get their “bike back on the road.”

Some Assembly Required

Like most children’s riding toys, some assembly is required. The instructions include clear and precise photos (and text) which explain proper assembly. Copies of the manuals are on their website. And, unlike the other riding toys we’ve researched, families are not even mentioning assembly as an issue.

Early Rider Wooden Balance Bikes

Their wooden models utilize their trademarked SuperPly construction process which meets the British Standard specification for marine plywood produced with untreated tropical hardwood veneers. They use weatherproof marine birch ply that is FSC approved with aluminum wheelsets. All that science and tech speak means is that these bikes are super sturdy and well made. And, you don’t have to look too hard to see the “Easy Rider” influence in their frame and saddle styles.

When we’ve researched other wooden riding toys, particularly ones that are used outdoors, we often saw families complaining about the wood not holding up well to inclement weather. Granted, it’s likely a number of those families left the toys outside and unprotected. But, while we’ve seen a number of families suggesting to store the Early Rider wooden toys inside, we didn’t find any complaints of the wood failing. In fact, for the most part, the only complaints specific to their wooden models were about the wood finish color on the Bonsai.

Feature Comparison

Each of the Early Rider wooden balance bikes has their own distinct look. However, many of the components are the same or offer similar functionality. All of them come with 4-position adjustable faux leather seats. Each model has a laminated grade A birch veneer, WBP grade frame however the Bonsai model is transverse laminated on both the frame and the fork.

Lite Classic Bonsai
Standover Height 30cm 31cm 33cm
Recommended Age 1.5 to 3 years 2 to 4.5 years 1.5 to 3.5 years
Weight 3.25kg 4.25kg 3.75kg”
Tires Innova 12.5” x 1.75” (both tires) Innova 14” x 1.75” (front tire)
Innova 12.5” x 3” (rear tire)
Innova 12.5” x 1.75” (both tires)

Early Rider Lite

The Early Rider Lite is the lightest and smallest of their balance bikes. Weighing in at only 3.25kg/7.17 pounds; it’s slightly heavier than Strider’s 12” steel and aluminum balance bikes which do not have pneumatic tires like the Early Rider. (Strider does not offer a wooden balance bike.) However, the Lite weighs less than the Radio Flyer Classic Glide & Go Wooden Balance Bike, which does have pneumatic tires.

Early Rider does not provide a maximum weight capacity for their bikes on their website but an American distributor said the Lite is “tested for children up to 100 lbs.”

Early Rider’s website rates the Lite a 5/5 for urban areas, 3.5/5 for adventure and 3/5 for trail riding.

Bronze, flat-head screws and bolts will prevent scratches and scrapes. The handlebars have padded grips with a bulbous end to protect both little hands and your home’s interior. The birchwood frame is finished in a natural color – stylishly and neatly avoiding the whole color preferences or gender stereotypes issue. It does, however, feature a heat branded flame detail on the frame and an embroidered faux leather seat.

Parents can limit the turning radius of the front axel for novice riders or remove the restrictor to provide free motion.

Early Rider Classic

The Classic; both in styling and design. Weighing in at slightly more than their Lite model; this balance bike was built with easy style and greater stability. A marginally longer wheel base and slackened head tube helps young riders to stay on line. The shorter, but wider, rear tire helps keep the seat low, the center of gravity low and makes it easier to ride. Parents can also limit the turning radius of the front axel for novice riders or remove the restrictor to provide free motion.

Early Rider’s website rates the Classic a 5/5 for urban areas, 3.5/5 for adventure and 3/5 for trail riding.

The Classic is also made with flat-head screws and bolts and padded handgrips. The faux leather saddle and heat branded flame decoration are the same as the ones found on the Lite.

Early Rider Bonsai

Of the three wooden balance bikes being sold by Early Rider, the Bonsai is our choice for coolness and durability. While all three models have held up against what most families have thrown at it, the aluminum headset, aluminum seat post (rather than wood) and Ritchey bar and stem make this model even more durable. And, the single sided rear swing arm requires less raw materials and reduces the overall weight of the bike.

The saddle is brown faux leather with riveted detailing. Quite stylish in a retro/Steampunk/classic ride sorta way.

The company’s rideability scores for this model are: urban 5/5, adventure 3.5/5 and trail 3/5.

One thing we found is there’s a bit of a discrepancy between the bike being shown on Amazon and the actual bike people are receiving. The photo, which accompanies the listing on Amazon, is showing the same light-colored birch that was used for the Lite and Classic models. However, the company’s website is showing a rich, dark brown birch wood frame. We like the dark one better. And, despite the product photo, based upon reviews, it appears orders on Amazon are being fulfilled with the darker wood. Either way, this wooden balance bike, is super cool outdoor toy with a unique style of its own.

Aluminum Balance Bikes by Early Rider

Early Rider also makes three balance bikes with aluminum frames. All three feature a classic aluminum diamond frame with forged drop outs, aluminum wheelsets, aluminum hubs, aluminum forks and hollow aluminum axels. Like the Bonsai, these models feature a Ritchey bar and stem for better performance and control. And, the soft touch Early Rider mushroom grips are comfortable for little hands and help protect them from spills.

Early Rider leaves the aluminum simply hand brushed and clear coated. They want you to easily see the quality of their tubing and workmanship. We like the simple silver look. It allows them to help hold down costs by not having to make “girl’s” and “boy’s” versions or versions featuring the current “hot” cartoon characters. They’re definitely a cool outdoor toy. And, without the extras, it makes it easier for families to pass down these bikes from child to child.

Alley Runner 12 Trail 14 Trail 14+*
Minimum Seat Height 35 cm 38 cm 40cm
Recommended Age 2 to 4.5 years 3 to 5 years 3 to 5 years
Weight** 3.4kg 3.8kg 4.0kg”
Tires Innova 12.5” x 1.75” (both tires) Innova-2603 14” x 1.75” (front tire)
Innova-5102 14” x 1.75” (rear tire)
Innova 14” x 2.4” (both tires)

We found slight weight discrepancies between Amazon UK, Amazon US and the Early Rider Website but they were generally only a kilogram or less. More than likely caused by slight variations in the materials/customizations.

** The Trail XL is the original name for the Trail 14+ and the 2 “models” appear to be identical.

Alley Runner 12

This is the smallest of the three Early Rider aluminum framed balance bikes. It comes equipped with 12 inch wheels but the frame is sized large enough to accommodate 14 inch wheels. We didn’t find rider weight guidelines for this bike but we found several reviews of parents giving them a spin and not seeing any sagging or structural damage from doing so.

The company rates this bike as a 5/5 for urban riding, 4.5/5 for adventure and 4/5 for trail riding.

The Alley Runner can be hard to find. We saw one reseller offering it for $310 over list price. If you’re needing a 12 inch bike, their wooden models would be our first choice.

Trail 14 Balance Bike

Measuring only a few centimeters taller than the Alley Runner, the Trail 14 is our choice for a smaller-sized child and families wanting a more adventure-ready balance bike. With knobby tires and 14 inch wheels, this bike is perfect for rugged terrain or gravel-topped surfaces. It’s rated 5/5 for the trail, 5/5 for adventure and 4/5 for urban.

You can purchase this bike from the manufacturer for $199 with riser handlebars. But, on occasion, you’ll find a customized version, with drop bars at a discounted price. Do keep in mind though that drop bars, are generally better for urban and track biking but may strain growing wrists if your child will spend a great deal of time trail or adventure riding.

Early Rider Trail 14+

The Trail 14+ is the new name of the Trail XL. No matter what name it bears, this bike is designed to stand up to virtually anything your child could throw at it. Rated 5/5 for trail riding, 4/5 for adventure and 3/5 for urban; this is our bike of choice for kids who will be off-roading.

It’s got the same silver, lightweight aluminum frameset and faux-leather riveted saddle. But, the knobby 14” Innova tires are a generous 2.4 inches – perfect for grabbing loose terrain and soaking up the bumps.

You’ll need to visit the Early Rider website to order this model.

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