If you’re in search of the best toy for your 3-year old boy or girl, you cannot go wrong with an Original Big Wheel (the 16-Inch Tricycle or Trike).
Of the few memories I have from being a 3-year old, my Big Wheel is forever cemented as one of them. I don’t really remember any other toy I had at this age. I remember bombing it down my driveway and the joy it brought me doing that as if it were yesterday.
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The Original Big Wheel Is The Best Children’s Tricycle, Hands Down
Before the thought of the Original Big Wheel trike for toddlers came to mind, I was looking at shops around town for children’s tricycles for my son.
I was thinking to purchase one of those that has the handle on the back.
Or one of those 2-wheel pedal-less ones kids can push with their feet Flintstones-style. These ones weren’t around when I was a boy. I think we only had pedaled BMX bikes around back then in late 80’s/early 90’s.
All I knew at the start of my toddler tricycle search, was that I don’t like tricycles and wasn’t going to get one for my son.
So as I browsed these common, upright toddler trikes and tricycles at our town’s big box retail locations, something held me back.
This is the point when my own Big Wheel memories came back to me.
I instantly knew we needed one of these and nothing else.
Normal Tricycles Aren’t Safe For Rough Riding Toddlers
Low Riding Tricycles Are Safe
I’m not a fan of the common children’s tricycle because its design makes it prone to tip over.
It’s the same thing with 3-wheeler ATV’s compared to a quad or anything on 2-wheels. 3-wheelers are more prone to tip over for adult riders, too.
Looking at their Wikipedia page, the Big Wheels are officially called “low-riding tricycles.”
Unlike the rest of the 3-wheelers out there in the world, these big front wheel types don’t tip over very easily, if at all.
Low riding tricycles keep your child’s “center-of-gravity” (isn’t it all just buoyancy and density?) down low to the ground.
They’re very hard to flip over
Of all the times I watched my son ride down this bumpy slope that leads down into our nearby park, there was only a single-time that I watch him hit a patch of grass at a maxed-out big wheel toddler speed that rocked him and made him rock side to side a bit as he hit the smooth pavement this slope leads to. This was the only time that felt an oncoming crash on the Big Wheel.
Any other toddler tricycle would have tipped over and crashed on this specific slope-descent I describe, unless the kid got lucky or was a mini-Dave Mirra or Ryan Nyquist.
The Original Big Wheel Unboxing & Assembly
I looked online and was stoked to see they still make and sell the same one I was riding on in the late 80’s. And since we’re down in Mexico at the moment, I was even more stoked to see that Amazon ships them here, too!
Big box stores in the U.S. might have them available locally, but if not, Amazon does have them.
There are online retailers outside of Amazon that also sell them. Here’s a great selection of Original Big Wheels.
If you look on Amazon, there are a number of knock-off Big Wheels branded with modern Disney/Pixar children decals. If the Disney decals weren’t bad enough, they also have LED lights over the wheels and if you read the reviews they’re bad quality and cheaply made.
Additionally, the price of the original Big Wheel is around the same as these regular tricycles I’d been seeing at retail stores in town. So for the same price, I opted for the Big Wheel.
- Foot pedals and axels included
- Contains axels and pedals
- Original Big Wheel in original colors
There is also a Radio Flyer Big Wheel that looks like good quality if the Empire Toys big front wheel bike isn’t available for some reason.
Original Big Wheel Assembly Instructions
Originalbigwheelparts.com has a PDF you can find right here of the official instructions with images at each step.
Below are a few pictures during the assembly that might be helpful.
Overall, it’s very easy to put together and should take you around 15 to 30 minutes including the decal placements.
We gave our son a duty to identify the parts on the assembly instructions, spreading them all out before building, and then handing me each piece as I needed it. We then all put the Big Wheel decals/stickers on there together.
The Included Assembly Instructions Insert
Here is an image of the assembly instructions that came with ours.
Original Big Wheel Assembly Tips
Below are some tips based on my personal experience of putting it together.
Putting On The Back End Axle Caps
Take care when putting the axle caps on during this initial step. Getting the back wheel axle caps on was the trickiest part of the whole assembly.
It’s step-1 on the instructions pictured above.
To put the axle caps onto the shaft, you take a hammer, stone, or anything thats hard and semi-heavy, then you bring it down lightly over a wooden block, hitting the cap just hard enough to wedge it on tight.
You then slide the first wheel on, followed by the Big Wheel’s body or frame, and then the second back wheel last, onto the axle shaft.
The last step is locking them in place by capping the second steel axle cap onto the other end.
After getting the first cap on, the second one was easier.
This shallow little cap doesn’t seem like it’s something that would stick on there.
But yes, our son rides this thing like crazy and these axle caps stay on strong once hammered in place nice and firm.
Assembling The Big Wheel Fork
Another step worth mentioning from the Big Wheel assembly is the fork.
It’s got these two yellow block pieces that screw onto the back.
This is step-4 and step-5 of the Big Wheel assembly instructions insert I received.
I knocked out the little plugs on the first one (left).
But kept them in on the second block.
When putting them on the back of the tip of the fork, I realized it’s better to keep them in.
It made screwing them on fit tighter and it felt stronger vs the ones that I knocked them out of.
End of the day it didn’t make much of a difference.
Both sides are still on and going strong.
The only other step worth mentioning is the pedals.
If you read the reviews, these have the possibility of being hammered on too strong and possibly breaking.
For this reason at first I hadn’t banged on there good enough and they scraped the ground on his hard left and right turns.
I ended up hammering them in really good to ensure they cleared the ground when turning all the way left or right. And while the cheaper knock off big wheel front bikes might have broken by doing this (saw that on a review of those), the Empire Toys pedals withstood the semi-strong hammering just fine.
Life without a smart phone has one major disadvantage. Quick picture and video snaps are no longer available.
I have to get my boy riding this thing on video and then post it here on this article.
My brother just gave me his old mirrorless camera that is small and is supposed takes pictures as good or better than my Nikon D7100 which I always keep shelved for casual outings like going to the park with the Big Wheel.
I’m just getting started with the mirrorless so I will start taking more pictures and hopefully get my boy riding it so I can upload it on here in the future.
An Original Big Wheel 1970’s Commercial!
Turns out they came out in 1968 and were iconic childhood tricycles of the 70’s.
I found this 70’s TV commercial on them. This one was made by “Marx”. Louis Marx and Company was the original maker of the Big Wheel.
This Louis Marx and Company one from the 1970’s looks even better with the compartment on the saddle and the hand break.
Now knowing that it’s still being made and is available in 2022 from Empire Toys, we ordered the one you see in our pictures, and our son is riding it daily inside and out. It becomes the center of attention on some days at the park here in Mexico, as most kids here have the taller tricycles. It’s all the big box shops here have.
The Big Wheel has even helped my son learn about sharing by letting others go for a ride when they want to.
He’s even started being a protector of certain riders who are getting bullied off by other kids wanting a ride.
Original Big Wheel Alternatives
Are There Alternatives To The Empire Toys Big Wheel?
The Empire Wheels Big Wheel Tricycle handles great.
I cannot vouch for the plethora of cheap knock-offs, however there are a few quality Big Wheel alternatives out there. I’m not talking tricycles. I mean alternative low-riding tricycles.
One good quality toddler tricycle I found I noted down as worth purchasing is made by Radio Flyer.
I was going to get this one if I couldn’t find the Big Wheel when we were in Mexico:
- Chopper-style 3-wheel tricycle complete with a racing-inspired aesthetic; Recommended ages: 3 to 7 years old
- Big 16-inch performance-grip front wheel for a thrilling and exhilarating ride; Rear Wheels: 7 inches
- Adjustable seat that grows with your child for extended use, providing comfort and versatility for years of enjoyment
- Chrome handlebars not only add to the tricycle’s sleek design but also contribute a touch of timeless sophistication; Features ergonomically crafted hand grips that provide added comfort, making long rides a breeze for your child
- Impressive maximum weight capacity of 65 pounds for stability and durability; Dimensions (L x W x H): 35.43 x 25.41 x 20.67 inches; Weight: 12.35 pounds
What I like about the Radio Flyer one is that rubber strip along the front wheel. That would do well in many situations where the Big Wheel tends to slip and slide with it’s plastic wheels.
They roughen up and catch on surfaces easier over time, but the Big Wheel will never do good on tiled or smooth surfaced floors unless you modified it yourself for indoor use. There are better ways, but we had some success with strips of double sided tape.
They Also Make Smaller-Sized Original Big Wheels For Juniors
If your young toddler is still too small for the 16″ Big Wheel, there is good news!
They make them with smaller front wheels.
These junior trikes from Empire Toys come in small and mid-sized versions with front wheel sizes of 8.5″ and 11.”
An Adult Version?
I just came across this, and it’s must share.. an adult big wheel!
I see they’re popular amongst adults, too.
Looking into it, they’re called drift trikes and they’re quite popular.
I had no idea.
After destroying my knees downhill mountain-biking throughout my 20’s, I have completely unplugged from the passion unfortunately. I still love 2-wheels though and now I will consider these drifters.
They look like fun and hard to crash. Something even more important in adulthood.
I will be riding one of these adult big wheels one day!
The Best Toy For A 3 or 4-Year Old Boy Or Girl
When it comes to the toy of all toys, one that gets them outside in the sun and that gets them interacting with other children at the park, the Original Toddler Big Wheel trike was a great choice. Great enough to write this feedback on it.
We don’t do too many toys. And we also limit screen time. So if you also are looking to get your toddler rolling outside more, the Big Wheel is a perfect toy. It’s more than a toy. It’s an introduction to a way of life…
If it’s one from Empire Toys, it will remain perfect until they’re ready for a BMX bike.
As you’re assembling it, you will think, this thing is supposed to hold up?
It’s all plastic, but once you’ve assembled it proper and sturdy, without leaving anything too loose or over-tightening anything during assembly, it really does hold up.
If you look at the reviews on knock-off Big Wheels, many people end up having issues. The knock-offs entice with their decals, but the original ones come with themes too, like this Original Batman Big Wheel, for example.
Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API