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.
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.
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”.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.