No crazy graphics or clunky fenders, but rather pure biking goodness in a pint-size package. Why You Should Never Buy a 12″ Bike! (with a few exceptions)Designed and developed by a father in California, Cleary Bikes is a new line of kids bikes designed to meet the needs of the youngest riders. With great emphasis placed on weight and geometry, every aspect of Cleary Bikes is fine tuned to ensure proper stability and responsive handling throughout their line of bikes, which range from a 12″ balance bike to a 20″ pedal bike. Not yet having a bike to try out, a local reader was gracious enough to stop by to give us a chance to see their daughter’s new 16″ Cleary Bikes Hedgehog in action. After having a challenging time on her lower-end 12″ pedal bike, our reader set out to find a better bike for her daughter and soon came across Cleary Bikes. In addition to upgrading to a lighter-weight bike with kid-friendly geometry, she knew she needed a bike without the momentum-crushing, back pedal coaster brake, previously limiting her daughter’s progression. One of the few 16″ without a coaster brake, she knew the Hedgehog was the perfect bike for her daughter.
Her daughter agreed. Within two days of having her bike, she happily and eagerly followed her mom on a nine-mile bike ride and begging for more upon completion. Quite the feat, especially since her previously record on her older bike was a long and painful two miles.
Working with her daughter, instead of against, our reader raved about the Hedgehog’s efficiency. From starting to stopping, the Hedgehog seemed to be in-sync with her daughter’s body as she easily leaned in and out of turns without much thought. Even with the Hedgehog being slightly too big for her (done intentionally as the bike won’t get much use during the upcoming cold winter months), she was was much more comfortable on the Hedgehog than on the smallerand heavier 16″ Next Rocket (Walmart’s $50 16″ bike). Unlike the Hedgehog, she was unable to start or stop the Next on her own.
While only 3 lb. lighter, the difference in the geometry of the two bikes was a huge contributor to the Hedgehog’s performance. Compared to the Next, the Hedgehog’s longer wheelbase and flat handlebars creates a much lower-center of gravity for its riders, thereby increasing stability and maneuverability.
The easy-pull hand brakes of the Cleary were also easily engaged by our tester. Having to reply solely on her hands (she refused to use a coaster brake after a bad experience with her 12″ bike), the brakes were quick and responsive, even when used at higher speeds. Note of caution: kids should always be instructed to mainly use the brake on the back tire (generally the right hand brake) to stop and NOT just the front brake, which can cause a child to be thrown over the handlebars. The front brake, should only be used in conjunction with the back brake.
A slim race-style saddle, an internally-routed brake cable, a solid three-piece crank and a threadless headset are just a few more of Cleary Bikes’ quality upgrades not typically found on kids bikes.
Compared to other bikes, the Hedgehog bikes offer the complete package of proper geometry, high quality and light weight without the cumbersome coaster brake. In addition, the extra-long seat posts (standard on all the bikes), allows for up to 5″ of seat height adjust.
Lastly, although similar in may ways, the angled crank arms of the Cleary are intentionally used to allow for a wider, more athletic stance, which they found to be more stable. During her short testing period, our tester rode both the Islabikes 14″ CNOC and the Cleary Hedgehog and performed equally well on both.
Update: Since we published this review, we have had the chance to compare the Hedgehog to additional lightweight 16″ bikes and found the geometry of the Hedgehog to be too aggressive for the average rider. When compared with the the WOOM3 and the Early Rider, the Cleary requires the rider to sit much more forward on the bike. While good for really adventurous riders who plan on hitting trails, when given the choice, all of our riders preferred the bikes with the more upright body position. When an upright position is paired with a lower-bottom bracket, allows kids to sit in a more natural position while still maintaining a low center-of-gravity on the bike.
Bottom Line: Pure biking goodness in a pint-size package, Cleary Bikes are the perfect single-speed bikes for aggressive young riders. For the average rider, the geometry is not ideal.
Where to Purchase: The entire line of Cleary Bikes is currently available through their website.