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The Raleigh Balance Banana Bike is well thought out and practical, but on the heavier side and more difficult for smaller children to mount than others.
With its 12-inch wheels, the Banana balance bike is aimed at smaller children. It's designed to be a mini-me of Raleigh's iconic Team Banana bikes from the late 80s, with its yellow front, black rear, and little flourishes of red and blue where the paints meet. It's a fun design that makes the bike instantly recognisable.
If you're interested in the Raleigh but would like to see more options, check out our guide to the best balance bikes.
The frame is made from aluminium 6061, the fork high tensile steel, with few components beyond a handlebar, saddle and wheels.
It came fully assembled in the box, so all I needed to do was adjust the seatpost slightly, through a traditional hex key clamp. In total it took less than two minutes, including getting my two-year-old to sit on it.
She didn't find it as easy to get on as she did the step-through frame of the Specialized Hotwalk, but once she understood that she needed to lift her leg a little higher it wasn't too tricky.
The bike has an adjusted geometry to help children balance better, with a lowered and extended rear triangle to help with stability. The chainstays (can you still call them that with no chain?) are flared from the seat tube, which firstly allows the tyres to be wider but also keeps feet away from the wheels. This worked well, and my daughter managed to avoid running over her own feet, which was nice.
Up front Raleigh has included some well-designed grips with large buffers on the ends, something that's very useful when toddlers inevitably tip over sideways. At one point my daughter decided to see what would happen if she had no feet on the floor, and these prevented her from hurting her hands when the bar hit the floor. A simple feature, but one that shows Raleigh has thought about the needs of toddlers.
Another useful feature is that there are stoppers on the turning circle of the handlebar, so it cannot be turned to 90 degrees, which would inevitably cause crashes, frustration, and tantrums. The bar still turns easily enough to be able to navigate around obstacles.
The wheels are robust, with nice thick spokes that aren't easily bent or damaged – essential when you're dealing with toddlers who don't really understand the concept of 'careful'. They also roll well enough that toddlers can easily push themselves along, but not so much that you're terrified of them building up too much speed.
The treaded tyres are grippy enough for most conditions, but the tread is pretty tightly packed, and mud often got stuck in there and was difficult to get out. They also use inner tubes, which seem fairly robust but aren't as convenient as airless options.
As you may have heard, kids grow, and luckily there is a fair amount of adjustability in the Banana balance bike, both in the height of the bar and the height of the saddle. Raleigh has a guide on its website to kids' bike sizes – for a 12in wheel bike it gives a minimum rider height of 88cm and a maximum of 107cm, min and max inside leg lengths of 33 and 41cm, and an age range of two to three.
The Banana weighs 4.7kg, which isn't the heaviest we have tested, but is up there. The weight of a balance bike isn't about getting up steep hills it's about ease of use for a toddler. For example, they aren't generally left leaning up against something, they will be left lying on the floor, and will need to be picked up by small arms. They also need to be controlled by small hands – much easier when they are lighter.
Its rrp of £99 is good compared with others on the market. The Hornit Airo that features in our road.cc Recommends is £40 more with a similar frame design but it's considerably lighter at 2.9kg.
The Specialized Hotwalk mentioned earlier is 4.2kg and has more features, such as airless tyres and a stepthrough frame, but costs £50 more.
You can spend less though – the Halfords Indi gets our vote for best budget balance bike, costing just £30.
Overall, this little balance bike from Raleigh has a fun design for both toddlers and nostalgic adults alike, and there are some good practical elements, such as the large buffers on the grips and the steering stops to prevent accidents. It weighs more than others, and the frame design isn't as good as some for smaller children, but at £99 it's good value for money.
Well priced and fun to ride, with some smart practical design choices, but heavier than others
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Make and model: Raleigh Balance Banana Bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Steel High Rise Bar, 480mm Wide
Steel 16h, Nutted - Silver
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Raleigh says: "Made for tiny adventures. Inspired by a Raleigh road icon, this adorable mini Banana balance bike is the perfect way to introduce your kids to the world of cycling. By developing their core strength and establishing a centre of gravity, these pedal-free bikes help little'uns master the basics of balancing, making it easier for them to progress to the real thing."
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Well designed for ease of use, but not as easy for small children to mount as others.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Aluminium 6061 frame, high tensile steel fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It is elongated to help with stability.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Loads of adjustability to change it as your child grows.
They spin well enough to make it easy enough to push, but not so much that toddlers can build up too much speed.
Grippy enough for most uses, but tight tread retains mud that is difficult to remove.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? My daughter did.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Mostly very well: the Hornit Airo is £40 more with a similar frame design but a considerably lighter weight at 2.9kg. The Specialized Hotwalk is 4.2kg and has more features, such as airless tyres and a stepthrough frame, but costs £50 more. But the Halfords Indi is a bargain at just £30.
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a well-priced and fun balance bike with some well-thought-out features. The bumpers at the end of the grips and limited steerer are both examples of practical decisions that make the bike easier to use. It isn't the lightest at 4.7kg and the tread can be a pain to get mud from, but these are fairly minor points. Overall, for the money, I think it's very good.
I usually ride: CAAD13 My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,
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George is the host of the road.cc podcast and has been writing for road.cc since 2014. He has reviewed everything from a saddle with a shark fin through to a set of glasses with a HUD and everything in between.
Although, ironically, spending more time writing and talking about cycling than on the bike nowadays, he still manages to do a couple of decent rides every week on his ever changing number of bikes.
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A strategically heavy balance bike that is great for smaller children and those looking for durability – but change the bell
Well designed balance bike of impressive quality, and surprisingly light – ideal for beginners
High quality and usefully light kids' bike that's fun and confidence inspiring
Superb introduction to life on two wheels – well made, looks the part and is fun to ride
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