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Best Budget 16″ Kids Bike, Under $200
What’s the best 16″ bike under $200?
Our exceptional rated 16″ bikes are amazing, but for many, so are the bikes’ $300+ price tags! Wanting to help every family find the best bike for their budget, we set out to find the best 16″ bikes under $200. Via online and physical stores we came up with seven candidates ranging from $50 to $179. All bikes had received positive reviews online and per our requirement, were free of unnecessary features such as shocks or strangely shaped frames, that only add burdensome weight to the bike. Our candidates: REI’s Co-op REV ($179), Raleigh MXR 16 ($149), Diamondback Mini-Venom ($140), Diamondback Mini-Viper ($139), Schwinn SmartStart Cosmo/Scorch ($129), RoyalBaby Classic ($100) and the Next Rocket/Flare ($50).
Our Top Picks
After testing all seven bikes on our 4, 5 and 6 year-old testers, three clear winners emerged. While these bikes are not as well-designed or as light as the bikes that take our top recommendations, they all perform impressively for their price tag and feature good basic geometry, a reasonable weight (under 25 lb.), and a durable build.
1. Raleigh MXR 16, Best Bang for Your Buck: MSRP $149, Well-built the MXR provides a smooth, comfortable ride and will surely last for years. With slightly lower-rise handlebars, it performs better for adventurous kids who are likely to go over small jumps or curbs. While not recommended for really aggressive riders (we have yet to find a bike under $200 that is suitable for aggressive riders), the MXR is our top pick for overall-quality as well as for adventurous riders on a budget.
2. Schwinn SmartStart Cosmo/Scorch, Best Budget Bike: MSRP $129, Easy-to-ride and easy-to-love the Schwinn SmartStart has a great low center-of-gravity which provides a comfortable and confidence building stable ride for beginning riders. Aggressive riders also enjoyed the SmartStart, but preferred the Raleigh. Schwinn overall quality leaves room for improvement, but is better than big-box store bikes. The SmartStart 16″ Series is available in several different model names including Cosmo, Scorch, Twilight and Jasmine.
3. Diamondback Mini-Viper, Best for Taller Kids: MSRP $139, With a higher handlebar, the Diamondback Mini-Viper is a great fit for taller riders or those with longer torsos, as it will keep them at a more comfortable upright position as the seat heights raises with the child’s growth. Diamondback’s handlebars are 2″ taller then the Schwinn’s and MXR’s. With a durable build and a mid-range weight, the Diamondback is a great bike for the price.
Top 16″ Budget Bikes Comparison Chart
What We Look for in a Budget Bike
Our ratings were based how easy it was for our testers to balance and maneuver the bike. Several different factors effect the overall performance of a bike, which we outline in more detail on our Pedal Bikes: How to Choose Page, but for 16″ budget bikes, our main criteria for performance were geometry, handlebar height, weight and quality.
How a bike positions a child while riding. For a 16″ bike the bottom bracket (where crank arms attach to the frame), should sit low to the ground to provide a lower center-of-gravity for the rider. A lower bottom bracket allows the rider to sit lower on the bike (sit closer to the wheels), which makes the bike easier to balance. The bottom bracket heights varied from 8″ to 9.5″ on the bikes we tested with the Schwinn SmartStart having the lowest bottom bracket height of 8″.
Bikes with a lower bottom bracket generally also allow the rider to center more of their weight over their hips (like when standing or walking) when riding the bike. By sitting lower on the bike, a child can sit more upright, which centers their weight on their hips. When sitting higher up on the bike the rider has to lean forward more to reach the handlebars, which shifts their weight away from their hips.
Along with the lowest bottom bracket, the Schwinn had the most upright positioning of the rider. For beginning and timid riders, an upright greatly increases their comfort and confidence on a bike. Since most kids on 16″ bikes are beginning riders, we gave preference to bikes with upright position for this comparison. For more skilled or adventurous riders, however, a more leaned forward position is generally better as it allows them to shift their weight when maneuvering the bike up and around jumps, curbs and hills.
The height and shape of a bike handlebars can greatly affect the overall maneuverability of the bike. If a handlebar is too low, too wide or too high, various problems can arise. When the bars are too low, the child must lean forward to reach the bars, which limits their comfort on the bike and can also minimize the space for the child’s legs when pedaling. When too high and/or swept back, the bars reached halfway up their chest which requires riders to bend their elbows too much, which limits their range of motion. Bars can also be too narrow or too wide, which can make the rider feel squished or stretched out on the bike.
The REI Co-Op REV, Diamondback Mini Venom and Next Rocket performance all suffered due to a lack of proper handlebar design. To be fair, many of these problems can also be affected by wheelbase length, but the wheelbase of these bikes were all pretty similar (well except for the really short Next Rocket).
Ideally, a child’s bike should weight no more than 30% of their own weight. This if often hard to achieve with budget bikes as they are made with heavier steel frames and lower-end components. At 18.3 lb., the Raleigh MXR is the lightest of our top picks. The Royalbaby Classic, which we do not recommend, was the heaviest at 24.5 lb. The REI’s Co-op REV was the lightest at 17.6 lb., but its lightweight couldn’t overcome its poor handlebar design.
Quality of Build
Kids bikes frames rarely fail, but their components (all the individual parts of a bike) often do. Like adult bikes, it is often the quality of these components that determines to overall cost of the bike. While determining quality is subjective, assembling the bike and feeling how well the parts go together and stay together is very indicative of their quality. We found the Raleigh MXR to have the best quality for the under $200 price point as the bike went together very smoothly with no rattles or noises made while pedaling.
By: Natalie Martins
Last Updated: January 20, 2017