You can buy a brand-new tricycle that looks exactly like one you rode as a kid. But you probably don’t want to. After considering more than 30 of today’s tricycles and test-driving 11 of them with a dozen kids, we think most people should get the Joovy TriCyCoo 4.1. This grow-with-me tricycle offers significantly more versatility than competitors. It works as a stroller alternative for smaller kids who are still learning to pedal on their own, and allows a smooth, fast, fun ride for bigger kids, too.
The Joovy TriCyCoo 4.1 is far more versatile than the shiny-red metal trike or the ground-hugging plastic Big Wheel you had as a kid (modern replicas of which we also tested). The trike can be used as young as 9 months in the first of its four grow-with-me configurations, with a padded ring that circles the bike seat and your baby as well as a parent push bar that allows you to use it like a stroller. It also has a storage compartment, a cupholder, and a sunshade that is significantly bigger and more functional than those we found on other grow-with-me models. As your toddler grows, you remove the shade, the safety ring, and the push-bar, and the trike transitions to a big-kid mode where, rated for use with 4-year-olds up to 44 pounds, it continues to excel against competitors. With an average weight and one of the most stable designs we tried, the Joovy was easier to start, pedal, and maneuver than any of the other 10 top trikes we tested. It’s one of the more expensive tricycles out there, and it doesn’t include a bell, but with such a wide age range it’s still a good value for the price.
The Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer & Stroll isn’t as versatile as our pick for littler kids, because it doesn’t have a protective ring and straps to hold a baby in place and lacks a sunshade. We also found that it’s not quite as nimble to steer and easy to pedal as the TriCyCoo once kids are riding on their own. But the Radio Flyer trike is usually less expensive than the Joovy and is still a great option for a toddler who is learning to pedal; it’ll generally work well for kids ages 2 to 5. The high seat back on this trike helps provide the support new riders need to learn to pedal (it’s slightly higher than the Joovy’s) and the bike comes with an old-school bell for signaling parents to get out of the way.
Larger and heavier than other trikes we tested, the shiny, metal Schwinn Roadster has low-rider style, with chrome handlebars, festive tassels, a loud bell, and a wood platform in the back for an admiring friend to hitch a ride on. Beyond the glitz, we found that the Roadster provides a smooth, stable ride, especially compared with similar low-riders made of plastic (like the modern version of the beloved Big Wheel). The Roadster’s size and weight makes it better balanced than our pick, even in fast turns. Its steel construction is durable, with pneumatic tires that support weight up to 50 pounds.
The tricycle a kid learns to ride at school—and usually pedals well for the first time—is often an Angeles trike, a generally higher-quality tricycle than what most kids have at home. Even though the company sells more to institutions than directly to parents, you can buy an Angeles tricycle at retail. It comes at a higher price than our picks, but you can likely pass it on to other kids as well. Despite its heavier weight, we found that the smooth-riding Angeles was as easy to start and pedal as our pick. The preassembled bike is extremely stable, with spokeless wheels and a large banana seat that accommodates up to 70 pounds of weight, so it remains fun for bigger kids after they’ve outgrown our other picks.
Who this is for
Video: Kyle Fitzgerald.
A tricycle is a beloved toy for many families. Tricycles also teach important skills like steering and pedaling—both of which lay the foundation for eventually becoming a confident big-kid-bike rider.
Just about every kid will eventually learn to ride a tricycle, and have fun riding. But many modern tricycles also serve as a tool to transport toddlers too young to ride independently around the neighborhood—to the park, a friend’s house, or a local restaurant. These trikes come with a push bar and often a sunshade and security straps and/or belt as well. As a kid grows, these little-kid extras are stripped away, leaving a more typical trike.
Once a child is able to reach their feet to pedals—generally between ages 1 and 2—you can begin training. Pediatric physical therapist Rebecca Talmud suggests starting with a riding toy to practice climbing on and off, forward movement and steering and navigating around obstacles. She recommends parents focus on one skill at a time; taking on both steering and pedaling at once may overwhelm a toddler. That’s one reason why the parent-guided push-bar tricycles can be a good way to start out.
“Trikes are really the first tool that give kids the sense of moving forward,” says Judy Wang, a physical therapist based in Los Angeles. They also help develop a child’s visual processing abilities while in motion. At age 1 to 2, kids can sit securely in a trike, and around 2½ to 3, on average, they are able to start pedaling on their own.
How we picked
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
We approached this guide with families in mind, focusing on tricycles that we think will get the most use over the longest time frame. Grow-with-me trikes that evolve with a child through several developmental stages obviously fit this bill well. We also looked at traditional three-wheelers, which are fun to use and help kids practice physical skills like pedaling and steering—skills that come in handy when transitioning to a bicycle.
After conducting preliminary interviews with physical therapists, talking with bike shop owners, polling parents from around the country, and reviewing the top choices of blogs like Babylist and the most popular and well-reviewed models on sites like Amazon, Target, and other top retailers, we researched more than 30 tricycle models and settled on a testing pool of 11 that were recommended, well-reviewed, and/or included the features parents said they wanted. We determined a great trike should:
Be made of quality materials: We wanted a trike that can be passed down from child to child, so the materials have to stand up to being roughed up a bit. We tested trikes made from steel, aluminum, and plastic, in varying compositions. The experts we talked with didn’t have a strong feeling on which materials worked the best, but they said to look for sturdy, durable trikes.
Be safe and easy to ride: The trike should have a wide wheelbase that provides stability and grips the roadway. Tires made from rubber or foam are softer, which can help cushion the ride; hard plastic tires can ride a little rougher and be slippery on the pavement. Any of these materials can be fine as long as the trike is stable. The seat should also ideally include some back support to help brace a child’s trunk, says physical therapist Rebecca Talmud. “This support will be important to ensure more effective forward motion and help a child build momentum when pedaling.” She also pointed out that a kid shouldn’t have to strain to reach the pedals.
Three wheelin’: Our tricycling tots pedal away with the trikes we tested in their big-kid modes.
Be fun: We wanted a trike that kids would find appealing and want to play with, ideally for many years. For some kids, the fun is all in the speed, for others extra pizzazz like a bell, basket, appealing colors and/or tassels may mean a lot. Storage for stuff kids might need—like a cupholder for a sippy cup, or a trunk or basket for toys and other essentials—was also a plus.
Have the ability to grow with a child: Though we didn’t consider it a requirement, we knew from our parent surveys that many people are looking for a versatile trike that can be used with the same child over a number of developmental stages. We sought a trike with a push bar that can propel a toddler who is still learning to pedal, and an ability to convert to a big-kid bike for independent riding by older kids.
Have a good price and value: Most of the models we considered cost between $50 and $100. A few are more expensive, but those come with longer warranties as well. To make decisions on overall value, we considered price alongside the trike’s warranty, how long they seemed like they’d last (based on our observations and the user reviews), as well as general features and abilities.
Our pick: The Joovy TriCyCoo
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
The Joovy TriCyCoo 4.1 is a versatile, stable, easy-to-use tricycle with the ability to safely and comfortably hold babies as young as 9 months and sturdily ferry big kids up to 4 years (or 44 pounds). Though it costs a bit more than the typical tricycle, we think it’s still a good value because it offers much more than most—including the possibility of up to four years of use with a single kid and a durable build that will let it survive long enough to become a hand-me-down.
Tricycles are becoming stroller alternatives, and many of the features of the TriCyCoo allow it to go beyond the abilities of a traditional trike. The plastic trike can convert to work for four different stages of development. The most useful are the first (with push bar, seat padding, snap-in five-point harness, infant ring, footrests) and the last (all extras removed, with the child pedaling and steering)
The Joovy’s parent push handle is adjustable, extending more than 5 inches from its lowest setting to its highest. The removable, machine-washable padding surrounding the plastic infant ring—it circles your baby’s waist, keeping them from falling off the trike—is comfy-seeming and keeps a baby from slipping, which happened with the other convertible tricycles we tested (the Joovy was the only grow-with-me model we tested that had padding). A five-point harness also ensures a baby stays safely put. The Joovy’s UPF 50 fabric sunshade has one more panel than the sunshade in the similar Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike, which makes it easier to keep both arms and legs protected when you’re using the trike in baby mode. The trike has an adjustable, padded seat with a tall seat back and an optional footrest for kids who haven’t yet learned to pedal.
Unlike some of the other convertible trikes we tested, converting the TriCyCoo from baby to big kid is a snap—it takes less than 15 seconds to remove or add the baby ring and push-bar handle. With the Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer & Stroll, our runner-up, this process was also short, though it’s because there is only a handlebar to remove. With the Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike, the process of converting from baby to big-kid mode took two minutes or more.
The TriCyCoo is quick and easy to convert to and from stroller mode.
My 3-year-old gave the trike high marks for its ease of starting and turning. At 10 inches, the front wheel is larger than that on many other convertible trikes, making it easier to roll over grass, gravel, and other rough surfaces. The Joovy’s performance was consistently smooth in our cornering tests. When a dozen kids were pedaling all our tester trikes around a track-shaped sidewalk in a local park, the Joovy was noticeably faster and smoother-looking than rival tricycles.
Like many of today’s trikes, the Joovy TriCyCoo has a storage bin in the back for treasures, and comes with a cupholder attached to the handlebars. It weighs 14 pounds, typical of plastic tricycles of this type but much lighter than more traditional metal models.
The trike took about 17 minutes to assemble—less than average for the 11 trikes we tested—and though it required an extra screwdriver, the instructions were straightforward.
The tricycle has a two-year warranty.
Runner-up: Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer & Stroll
Photo: Rozette Rago.
The Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer & Stroll isn’t as versatile as our pick for littler kids, because it doesn’t have a protective ring and straps to hold a baby in place. It also doesn’t ride quite as well for older kids, and isn’t quite as good as the Joovy at smoothness and ease of starting. It usually costs about $30 less than the Joovy, though, and is a solid option for a kid who is already learning to pedal that will see them through until they’re a confident triker (it’s designed for ages 2 to 5, with an upper weight limit of 49 pounds). Although it was the least stable of our four picks, we still found this tricycle easier and more stable to ride than most of the other trikes we tested, including three other Radio Flyer models.
Though the Deluxe Steer & Stroll won’t work like the Joovy for the youngest kids, it’s still a good option to use as a stroller alternative with older toddlers. The parent push handle extends as far as the Joovy’s, though unlike that trike’s push bar it is not adjustable. We found that this trike was just as easy for a parent to steer as the Joovy, and easier to steer with one hand. It’s also easier to steer than other push trikes we tested, including the Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike, a clearly inferior model that’s similar to the Joovy (and easily mistaken for the Deluxe Steer & Stroll).
One unusual advantage to the Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer & Stroll is that the pedals don’t move if the child isn’t pushing them—basically turning the pedals into footrests—which is helpful in preventing kids from getting their feet caught in the pedal churn when they just want to rest their feet. (The Joovy’s pedals rotate as the trike moves.)
Once you remove the parent push bar the Steer & Stroll becomes a basic trike that maneuvers well and has a classic bell as well as a storage bin for treasures.
Like the Joovy, the Deluxe Steer & Stroll has a 10-inch front wheel. But while the Joovy’s wheels are made of rubber, the Steer & Stroll’s use EVA foam, which Tom Schlegel, senior VP of product development at Radio Flyer, told us is more typical of stroller wheels and offers a softer ride at a lighter weight. The trike has a bell that was a hit with my 3-year-old son (the Joovy comes bell-less) and like our pick it has a storage compartment in back. The Radio Flyer’s storage space is covered, which keeps precious items from flying out (the Joovy’s compartment is open). The Deluxe Steer & Stroll weighs 14½ pounds, just a smidge more than the Joovy.
The Steer & Stroll has an adjustable seat that you can move back to accommodate longer legs, just like you can on the Joovy trike. We found that the Steer & Stroll took a little bit longer to reach speed, and its center of gravity was a bit higher than the Joovy’s. The Radio Flyer was the least stable of our four picks, although it cornered fine at speed, and was more stable than competitors, with a ride that seemed softer over bumps than the Joovy. Our 3-year-old tester proclaimed the trike to be “completely awesome.”
It comes in one color: bright red. It took about 24 minutes to assemble (it was a little more complicated than our pick), and required extra tools, though the directions were straightforward. Radio Flyer products have a two-year warranty.
Also great: Schwinn Roadster
Photo: Rozette Rago.
For bigger kids, the Schwinn Roadster 12-inch Trike is a shiny, gorgeous tricycle that’s fast and fun to ride. It’s low to the ground, with more of a Big Wheel style than you typically see in a metal trike. Because it doesn’t have a push-bar option, it’s not nearly as versatile as our pick (or our runner-up) but if you’re buying a tricycle for a kid who is already 3 or older they may prefer the style of this more sophisticated-looking trike. The bike is rated to 50 pounds, 6 pounds more than the Joovy (many kids don’t hit 50 pounds until they’re 7 or 8 years old). In tests with bigger kids, though, we found that their knees were hitting the handlebars, even when the seat was pushed back all the way (if you’re looking for a big-kid trike and this is not big enough, our upgrade pick, which comes in three sizes, is your best bet).
Unlike our pick, the Schwinn Roadster has tires that are air-filled like a bicycle’s—meaning this three-wheeled baby can tear up some ground. Air-filled tires go faster and have more give than foam or rubber tires, though they do require occasional maintenance to keep filled. The tire nozzles seemed sturdy enough—similar to the ones on Schwinn bikes.
The Roadster features a shiny red and silver metal body, black tassels on the handlebars, a bell, and a wooden deck in back—a platform where a friend can hitch a ride. The molded plastic seat slides back on a track to be adjustable for bigger kids. The bike was one of the heaviest in our testing group at 17½ pounds, and has a low center of gravity, which allows the trike to handle corners well and prevents tips—although our upgrade pick was a bit more stable than even the Roadster. It took a little longer for my son to get moving on this trike than on the Joovy, but the ride was smooth once he got up to speed.
Double trouble: The Roadster’s rear platform makes it easy to give a friend a lift.
This tricycle has the largest footprint of any we tested. It wouldn’t be an issue for storing in most garages, but I found it was a challenge to navigate my narrow walkways with this trike (and without a push bar, in narrow spaces, you’re relying on your kid to steer precisely). The platform on the rear wheels is wider than the one on the Angeles, making this trike the easiest of any we tested for a second kid to stand on. It has a bell, but no storage.
We tested the Roadster side by side with two other Big Wheel-style tricycles, the Original Big Wheel and the Radio Flyer Big Flyer, which are both made of plastic. We preferred the Schwinn’s grippy tire to the Original Big Wheel’s plastic wheel, which felt not-that-durable and slipped all over the place—which, yes, is sort of the idea. The Schwinn Roadster was easier to ride uphill than the Radio Flyer Big Flyer, and the Schwinn clearly outperformed the rest of the low-rider pack when it comes to durability and rideability.
The tricycle took about 24 minutes to assemble, and required a screwdriver. It’s available in six vibrant colors. It has a limited warranty (PDF).
Upgrade pick: Angeles Midi
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.
Angeles tricycles are a common sight at many daycares, public schools, kids museums, and community centers. These simple, all-metal, industrial-strength trikes are built to last not just through two or three kids in a family, but through two or three hundred kids over many years—even decades. The Angeles Midi, intended for kids 3 to 6 and rated up to a whopping 70 pounds, is the midsize version of the company’s Myrider trike line—the Mini is for kids 3 to 4 and the Maxi for kids 4 to 8. (Angeles also makes really fun, unusual trikes like the Chariot and the Taxi Trike.)
If you’re shopping for tricycles for a daycare, this is clearly the best brand for you. But is it overkill to keep one of these trikes at home? Maybe, but if you’re looking for something that is absolutely durable, close to maintenance-free, and easy and fun to ride past the time your kids would outgrow our other picks, you may decide an Angeles is worth the investment, which is considerable. The Midi, one of Angeles’s simpler and less expensive models, usually costs about $160.
The nearly indestructible Angeles Midi doesn’t adjust in any way, though its banana seat allows kids to push back and stretch their legs as they grow.
These trikes arrive fully assembled, which is the first sign they are a different breed of quality. At 28 pounds, the Midi was by far the heaviest of all the trikes we tested, and user reviews and years of seeing these tricycles in action at schools and other public places tell us they’re also by far the most durable. “Quality and safety come before everything else,” David Curry, the VP of merchandising and product development at Angeles Corporation told us. “If you were to buy one of these trikes, your grandkids would still be riding that same trike.” As proof, Angeles has one of its own trikes from the early 1960s—the company purchased it back from a customer for its 50th anniversary—and it’s still rideable.
My son learned to pedal on an Angeles trike at his preschool, and when the yellow tricycle arrived at our house, he immediately hopped on, ready to go. Despite its heft, the Midi gives a very smooth ride and is easy to start pedaling. Going uphill, the Angeles ties with the Joovy for ease of use, even though it weighs nearly twice as much. The spokeless wheels move smoothly and the rubber tires, though narrow, seem to glide easily. I sometimes helped my son out with a little foot-push when he was trying to get going, but once he got started he had no problems. When we did the cornering tests at speed on the Angeles, the wheels didn’t budge from the ground. The trike is the hardest to tip because of its weight and welded steel frame design—the Midi feels more like the body of a high-quality bicycle than a toy. Caveat on that weight: The Angeles is also harder to stop when going fast downhill, and none of the tricycles we tested have brakes.
The banana-shaped bike seat doesn’t adjust, though its ample length allows kids to comfortably push back and stretch their legs as they grow. The Midi is designed for kids 3 to 6 and can accommodate riders up to 70 pounds, which includes many 7- and 8-year-olds, too. We found that bigger kids could more comfortably ride the Midi than the other picks, which you could say is a good reason the higher price tag is worth it.
The spokeless wheels require no maintenance, they have no parts sticking out, and nothing can get caught in them. The tires are rubber. It doesn’t have storage and doesn’t come with a bell (or tassels). Angeles tricycles have a five-year warranty—by far the longest of any trike we tested.
We compared several grow-with-me models, including the popular Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike (left), which is most similar to our pick, the Joovy TriCyCoo (right).
The Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike has many of the features we were looking for in a convertible trike—but a few flaws too. The adjustable sunshade has two panels, compared with the Joovy’s three, which we found makes a big difference in how much toddler you can keep in the shade. The plastic seat that holds a baby in place is more slippery than the Joovy’s seat, and my 1-year-old was sliding all over the place, even when strapped in. Finally, the wheels are smaller than those on some of the other convertible trikes like the Joovy or even the same company’s Steer & Stroll, making getting over bumps in the sidewalk challenging. The 4-in-1 we tested is the newest model, replacing an older version that doesn’t have a footrest and has a slightly different infant ring and handle design.
Photo: Rozette Rago.
The SmarTrike Lollipop 3 in 1 Baby Trike is designed for babies starting at 10 months up to kids 3 years, a narrower age range than other convertible trikes. My 1-year-old was able to sit comfortably in the seat—unlike the Joovy and Radio Flyer this trike has no straps—but he kept sliding forward onto his crotch and standing on the foot rests. On the other hand, the SmarTrike has a completely independent push-steering system, so even if a kid is jerking the steering column to the left, you can still turn right. In the older-kid configuration the trike seemed a little small and underpowered compared with the other convertibles we tested.
Photo: Rozette Rago.
The Fisher-Price Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Tough Trike was a surprising amount of fun. Even though it’s small and low to the ground, my son enjoyed the trike’s big pedals, fat wheels and super-large underseat storage container. However, we found that the plastic wheels ride really rough, especially on hard surfaces and bumps. The trike also didn’t adjust in any way, which means it would be usable for only around a year or two before a child would outgrow it. Fisher-Price also makes a version of this trike that’s “Barbie Tough” and one themed to Thomas the Train.
Photo: Rozette Rago
The shiny, steel Radio Flyer Classic Red Tricycle is a well-made trike for age 2½ up to about 4 or a small 5. The design replicates that of tricycles from decades ago, though in fact Radio Flyer only started making trikes in 1999 (the company is best known for its red wagons). Nonetheless, this sturdy, metal tricycle has serious nostalgia appeal. We found that the controlled turning radius made this trike harder to tip than some of the others. But it lacks a back support, adjusts only a bit to accommodate taller riders, and is very heavy at 21¼ pounds. In our tests, the Classic Red was harder to ride than the Joovy or any of our other picks.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
The High Bounce Extra Tall Tricycle gets high marks from parents of long-legged tots. Made of aluminum, it’s lighter (11.9 pounds) and the seat is 2½ inches higher than the Joovy’s or the Radio Flyer Steer & Stroll’s. Like the seats on those bikes, the High Bounce’s seat moves forward and backward to accommodate growing kids. In our riding tests, we found it would tip more easily than some of the low-center-of-gravity trikes like the Schwinn or heavy trikes like the Angeles, and it doesn’t have the versatility or quite the rideability of the Joovy or the Steer & Stroll. The handlebar grips felt rougher on young hands than the grips on other trikes. The High Bounce comes in a cool lime green or blue and is recommended for ages 3 to 6.
Photo: Rozette Rago
Many of today’s parents (and grandparents!) may have fond memories of rolling down the driveway—and perhaps over homemade jumps, definitely helmet-free—on an Original Big Wheel. From the creepy steadicam shot in The Shining to TV ads from the 1970s, the Big Wheel is an iconic American toy. Sadly, we found today’s Original Big Wheel to be a flimsy memory of what it once was. The actual original Big Wheel was manufactured in Pennsylvania by a company called Marx, which went out of business in the 1980s. Today’s Big Wheel (the name was sold) is lightweight, the plastic feels flimsy, and the wheels slip a ton. It was difficult for my son to get started on the trike, and he soon lost interest. I lost interest even sooner when it took a whopping 54 minutes to assemble, mostly due to the number of decals on the body of the trike. Like its namesake, the modern Big Wheel is better for bigger kids: It accommodates those up to 70 pounds and 8 years old—the oldest age of any trike tested. And it’s still awesome at skidding out.
Photo: Rozette Rago
The Radio Flyer Big Flyer is a better version of the big-wheel-style trike, and is meant for kids ages 3 to 7. It has more heft and seems sturdier than today’s Big Wheel brand. Older kids will likely enjoy the speed and easy turns of a lightweight, low-slung trike, but my 3-year-old son had some trouble getting the 16-inch front wheel to move. When it comes to a low-rider-style trike, overall we think the Schwinn Roadster provides a better ride.
- clinical specialist in pediatric physical therapy, phone interview, June 15, 2017 ,
- pediatric physical therapist, email interview, June 15, 2017 ,
- senior manager of design at Fisher-Price, phone interview, July 19, 2017 ,
- VP of product development, Radio Flyer, phone interview, August 2, 2017 ,
- VP of merchandising and product development, Angeles Corporation, phone interview, August 9, 2017 ,