As beautiful as it is functional, the Early Rider Belter is a modern marvel of bicycle engineering in a pint-size package. Designed for kids ages 3.5 to 6, the Belter is simply stunning. From its hand-brushed and lacquered aluminum frame to its carbon belt drive, the Belter leaves kids begging for more while their parents simply stare in awe. Fully loaded with 16″ air tires on aluminum rims, short-reach front and rear V-pull brakes (no coaster brake!) and a remarkable grease-free, maintenance-free belt drive, the Early Rider Belter weighs in at about 13.7 lbs., about 10 lbs. less than most lower-end 16″ bikes. With a minimum seat height of 19″, the Belter is the perfect first pedal bike for any balance bike graduate. Albiet pricey at $400, the lightweight frame and laid-back geometry of the Belter make learning to ride a breeze.
Carbon Belt Drive
While the brushed aluminum frame steals the show, the belt drive is the icing on the cake. In addition to being grease and maintenance-free, the belt essentially prevents any snags on clothing and, unlike a chain, will not stretch or easily slip off the gears.
Kids, however, love the smooth, jerk-free, quiet ride the belt provides.
Cranks, Saddle and Brakes
Other standout features of the Belter are the faux-leather, riveted saddle and the forged aluminum stem and thread less headset (not adjustable).
Another main draw to the Belter is the lack of a coaster brake. Required by the CPSC on all bikes with a minimum seat height of less than 16″, coaster brake often cause more harm than good for graduates of balance bikes who are accustom to hand brakes. While learning to pedal, many kids accidentally pedal backwards. On a bike with a coaster brake, pedaling backwards causes the bike to stop aburptly, causes them to lose all their momentum, while a bike without a coaster brake is much more forgiving and keeps moving forward. Instead of a coaster brake, the Belter and two short-reach, front and rear, V-pull brakes. While the brakes worked smoothly, the rear brake cable has very little clearance over the tires, which would only be an issue when biking in muddy conditions (as shown on the far right below). The front brake, as shown in the middle picture below, has plenty of clearance.
**Over time we have found that the handlebar grips can completely come off while riding, which led to one of our testers getting hurt (luckily not majorly). As a result, we highly recommend pulling on the grips on the bike, before each ride, to ensure they are securely adhered to the handlebar.**
Testing with Various Ages
We tested the early rider with two five-year-olds a newly four-year-old. Both five-year-olds loved the bike and found it much easier to ride than their other bikes.
The four-year-old, however, had never successfully ridden his 16″ without training wheels, but upon seeing the Belter, however, was eager to give it a try. Here’s what happened:
Lower-end bikes tend to have very poor geometry, which negatively effects the handling of a bike. The higher your center of gravity, the harder you have to work to maintain your balance. As shown in the pictures above, both lower-end bikes have the rider in a very upright position, thereby causing the rider to have to work harder to maintain their balance.
In addition to geometry, the heavier bikes are harder to gain and maintain balance on. Mr. B’s bike (boy in the video above) was previously riding the 16″ Avigo Extreme that weighs 23 lbs., which was almost half his body weight. As a result, after three months of trying, he still was not able to ride his bike. Upon giving him the Belter, however, he was quickly able to take off and ride.
The perfect bike for any balance bike graduate with an inseam of 19.5″ to 23″. While pricey, it is beautiful as it is functional and is worth every penny (if it is in your budget). Belter is sure to be the envy of the neighborhood.
Where to Purchase
The Early Rider is available on Amazon and WeeBikeShop. WeeBikeShop also sells a Premium Belter, which can be upgraded with knobby tires, Promax brakes, a colored stem cap, seat clamp and brake barrel as well as a bike light.
FTC Disclosure: An Early Rider Belter was provided by TikesBikes to help facilitate this review. Two Wheeling Tots is an affiliate of TikesBikes and all links provided to their site are affiliate links. We are, however, affiliate is several other bike retails and, therefore, have no financial gain from ranking one bike over another.