Best Budget 16″ Kids Bike, Under $200

Diamondback Mini Viper vs. RoyalBaby Freestyle vs. Torker Throttle


Your little one has learned to zoom confidently around the neighborhood or your favorite trail on a balance bike, and now that they’ve grown a few inches, you think they’re ready for pedals. You can’t wait to share the delight of cruising on a bicycle—and you’re anxious to see just how easily your child will transition from balance bike to pedal bike.

Perhaps, like I did, at this point you headed to a big-box store just to see what kind of bikes were offered there. Perhaps this trip was a bit of a downer as you realized that big-box bikes are clunky, garish, crippled with training wheels, and most certainly did not seem to be an easy transition from a balance bike.

Disappointed, you turned later that evening to the great solver of all life’s dilemmas, the Internet, and one way or another found your way to Two Wheeling Tots. You felt giddy to learn just how many quality bikes exist that are thoughtfully designed just for kids, but the price tags on those bikes were like a bucket of cold water on the fire of your excitement. Will your budget limit your confident balancer to graduate to a bedazzled Barbie boat of a bike?

Thank goodness, the answer is no!

After many reader requests, we spent quite a bit of time with three of Amazon’s most popular 16” kids’ bikes under $200, and we have some good news that doesn’t require stepping foot inside a big-box store. While these bikes don’t have the upgraded features of more-expensive bikes (such as threadless headsets and high-end components), they’re decent bikes that won’t blow a hole in your wallet.

Torker Throttle Mountain Bike

$187 on Amazon (Currently not available)

Suitable for either the road or a gentle trail, the Torker Throttle Mountain Bike offers a good mix of upright comfort and a forward riding angle for good control.

Torker Throttle Mountain Bike

A favorite among our testers, the Torker is lightweight, coming in at a reasonable (for the price) 18.2 lbs. It has a comfortable seat, large pedals, a somewhat flimsy-feeling partial chain guard, and a rear coaster brake. Adjusting the seat requires a hex wrench.

Torker Throttle chain guard and seat

Compared to WalMart’s 16” Next Rocket, the Torker has a wider wheelbase, lower step-over height, and lower, more-forward handlebars for better control. The seat height ranges from 21”–25”.

Torker Throttle vs Next Rocket

Diamondback Mini Viper BMX

$110 on Amazon
The Diamondback Mini Viper BMX shares many of the same components with the Torker Throttle (both are owned by the same parent company), but with a few significant differences.

Diamondback MiniViper Kids Bike

Like the Torker, the Mini Viper has only a rear coaster brake, but it’s significantly heaver at 20.8 lbs. Aside from a heavier frame, the biggest difference between the two is the shape of the handlebars. As the name suggests, the MiniViper has more BMX-style geometry. Its more-upright handlebars were not a problem for our experienced pedalers, but could be more challenging for a new rider. Torker’s handlebars are narrower and lower than the Diamondback’s. The seat height ranges from 20”–24”.

Diamondback MiniViper vs Torker Throttle

Still, with a long wheelbase, lower step-over height, and straight handlebars (rather than angled in), the MiniViper is a huge step up from WalMart’s Next Rocket.

Diamondback MiniViper vs Next Rocket

RoyalBaby BMX Freestyle

$115 on Amazon
In the bike world, there is a direct correlation between weight and price—the lighter the bike, the more expensive it is—and that’s true here. It may be the least expensive of the three bikes we tested, but the RoyalBaby is a veritable tank, weighing in at a whopping 21.8 lbs. Perhaps it was this extra mass, its strangely plastic seat, its fat tires, or it’s narrower wheelbase, but whatever the reason, the RoyalBaby was the least-preferred by our testers.

RoyalBaby BMX Freestyle Kids Bike

In addition to a rear coaster, brake the RoyalBaby has a front hand brake. The brake lever is stiff and harder to engage than on nicer bikes, and frankly, kids don’t use it much (nor should they use it exclusively, as that’s a risk for flying over the handlebars). Its seat is unlike any I’ve seen before, made of a slightly squishy plastic and with a handle on the back, presumably for an adult to hang on to (but my back hurts just thinking about it!).

RoyalBaby Kids Bike seat and brake

It has a fully-enclosed chain guard and, unlike the Torker or Diamondback, a convenient quick-release seat post. The tires are extra wide, almost twice as wide as those on most kids’ bikes. This might add some extra stability for a new pedaler, but also may have been one of the reasons our testers preferred to leave it in the garage. Still, the geometry of the RoyalBaby is demonstrably better than the Next Rocket, with more-forward handlebars and a lower step-over height. The Freestyle also comes in 12″, 14″ and 18″ versions.

Royalbaby BMX Freestyle vs Next Rocket

Comparisons

These pictures show the differences in riding position for the different bikes.
Torker-Diamondback-Royalbaby comparison

Budget bikes comparisons weight

Bottom Line

For under $200, we (and our testers) prefer the Torker Throttle for its lower weight and middle-of-the-road riding position. The Diamondback Mini Viper pulls in second place,weighing more than we’d like for a 16” bike, but otherwise decent all around. The RoyalBaby Freestyle has some weird features that mostly just add bulk to an already heavy frame, but it’s still better than most big-box bikes because of its preferable riding position.

Where to Purchase

All three bikes are available on Amazon, Torker Throttle ($187 – sold out), Diamondback Mini Viper ($119) and Royal Baby 16″ Freestyle ($115).  The Torker also comes in a girl’s “Wildflower” version for $155.


FTC Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this review that of Two Wheeling Tots LLS. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is not an affiliate of RoyalBaby, Diamondback or Torker bikes, but is an affiliate of Amazon.  All bikes used in this review were purchased through Amazon by Two Wheeling Tots.

  • Jen Martin

    I’ve been reaching a ton of your website to decide which 16 in bike to get for my almost 4 year old for his birthday. He has mastered the balance bike and we go to the skate park a lot so I want something that will be a good bike for him without breaking our budget by too much. I noticed a newer bike on the market, the Vilano bmx bike on amazon for about $90 dollars. 29.5 wheelbase, high/upright/ and wide handlebars, and good seat range/step over height. Not sure of the weight, and the tires seem wider like the royal baby. Do you have any opinions on this bike? Just trying to get all my options on the table. Right now the throttle is sold out online and all the local shops by me that carry it are out of business. So it looks like the Diamondback is the best bet, but I’m interested in the Vilano if you have any thoughts. Thanks!

    • The Diamondback is probably your best bet. The Vilano does have a longer wheelbase than a lot of the bikes I have reviewed, but the seat is pushed forward more on the bike as compared to other bikes. A shorter distance between the seat and the handlebar makes for a smaller “cockpit” which is less than ideal for new riders.

  • Catherine Y

    Hi, I am looking for a budget bike for my almost 4 yr old who is 38 inches tall with a 15inch in seam. He is good on his tricycle and wants to get a real bike. We are opting to skip a balance bike as he wants to have the peddles. The Diamondback 16 inch seems a bit tall for him with the 20 in seat height. I am debating on either the 12 or 14 inch royal baby. Any suggestion or is there other budget bikes I should be looking at? Thanks!

    • It depends on whether or not you are going to use training wheels. If you are, then I would go with the 14″, if you plan on having him use it as a balance bike first (with no pedals or training wheels), then I would go with the 12″.

      • Catherine Y

        Great! Thanks a lot for the advice! We do plan on keeping the training wheels so 14″ it is then!

  • Manisha

    Hi, it looks like the mini viper has been discontinued and replaced by the mini venom. The price on Amazon is great. Do you recommend this one as well? I’m not a fan of the gimmicky styling but better than licensed characters.

    • Good to know, I will have to buy one to test it out. Based on the picture, I do like the overall shape of the frame and the improved handlebar shape, but I am not a fan of the plastic rims. They are generally only used on small bikes as the larger the tire, the more likely they will get warped. Since the bike is selling for $112 right now, I think it might be worth a shot as there really aren’t any other decent bikes in that price range.

  • angiern2004

    What about the rest of the Royalbaby line? Was looking at the Stargirl or the other girly ones. Not sure how they rate, they seem to be left out of your reviews. The Torker Wildflower seems nice, but I can’t find it in stock anywhere.

    • I was able to see RoyalBaby’s full lineup at a trade show and they are ALL very heavy with shorter wheelbases. Another option to consider is the bike*star line of bikes, but they are also heavy. Lastly, I would consider Raleigh’s 16″ bike if you are looking to spend under $200, http://amzn.to/2gjKvAH. It is still missing some features I would like to see, like a hand brake, but it is lighter than the other brands, http://amzn.to/2gjKvAH.

  • angiern2004

    With a 3 year old child that is 40″ tall, 17″ inseam, but wears size 4-5 (not T size, but little girls sizes, past toddler sizes), should I get a 14″ or 16″ bike? So confused!!!

    • If it is her first pedal bike, I would go with a 14″. If she is an experienced rider or is very ambitious, then I would go for a smaller 16″.

  • Joe

    Question about tire pressure on the Royal Baby Freestyle. The sidewall says inflate to 40 psi, but that seems really high. I have it at around 20-25 right now and the tire is extremely firm. I can’t imagine adding another 15 psi. Just wondering if you checked yours and experienced the same thing?

    • I no longer have the RoyalBaby so I can’t check for you, but 40 psi is pretty standard for a 16″ bike, so I would stick to what the tire says. I did check a bunch of other 16″ bike I have and they all ranged between 35 and 50.