Early Rider Belter

Early Rider Belter

 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.

belter pics

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.

belter gear

Kids, however, love the smooth, jerk-free, quiet ride the belt provides.

Cranks, Saddle and Brakes

Designed to grow with your child, the Belter has three inches for growth on the seat post (19″ to 22″ seat heights) and two mounting positions for the pedals on the crank arm.  Each pedal is also spins freely on ball-bearings, but the raised plastic grips on the pedals were prone to scratching legs.
Belter pedals

Other standout features of the Belter are the faux-leather, riveted saddle and the forged aluminum stem and thread less headset (not adjustable).

early rider other

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.

belter brakes

**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.

belter various ages

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:

How could one bike much such a difference?  Two main features of the Belter make it easier to ride as compared to other bikes, its laid-back geometry and lightweight.
belter comparison
 

 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.

early rider comparis

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.

belter weight

 

Bottom Line

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.

 

      • Buttmonki

        We live in Dubai, any idea how the belt will cope with the high temperatures in our garage (where bike will be stored)? It gets to around 100-120 degrees F in there. As well as sun exposure of course (although I hope to ensure the bike is always put away when not used).

        • Good question. I honestly have no idea how the belt on the bike would withstand the sun and heat. The rest of the bike would be fine, but the belt could breakdown in the sun. To be sure, I would try to contact Early Rider to see if they know of any potential issues.

        • Elodie Mas

          Did you found a good bike shop in Dubai for bay a bike for kids ? I live also in dubai and i’d like to by a Belter 20 Earlyrider.

      • Nancy Olson Salisbury

        Hi! I just found out about your website and am in awe. Thank you for providing such great info on kids’ bikes! My 6-year-old has just graduated from his balance bike (I made the mistake of starting him out on a crappy kid’s bike with training wheels, and he never wanted to ride it), and I want to get him a good first pedal bike. I love the Belter 20 but worry it is too small for my son. Axel is 46″ (116.84 cm) tall and has a 21-inch (53.34 cm) inseam. The next size up in Early Rider is too big (the 20). What do you think? I could pass it on to his sister (4) as soon as he outgrows it, but I’m also interested in getting her one of these right now. Is the Belter 20 ok for the 6 year old, or should I get him the Islabike? By their sizing, he should be on the Bein Small, I think. Thank you! –Nancy

      • Nancy Olson Salisbury

        Hi! I just found out about your website and am in awe. Thank you for providing such great info on kids’ bikes! My 6-year-old has just graduated from his balance bike (I made the mistake of starting him out on a crappy kid’s bike with training wheels, and he never wanted to ride it), and I want to get him a good first pedal bike. I love the Belter 20 but worry it is too small for my son. Axel is 46″ (116.84 cm) tall and has a 21-inch (53.34 cm) inseam. The next size up in Early Rider is too big (the 20). What do you think? I could pass it on to his sister (4) as soon as he outgrows it, but I’m also interested in getting her one of these right now. Is the Belter 20 ok for the 6 year old, or should I get him the Islabike? By their sizing, he should be on the Bein Small, I think. Thank you! –Nancy

      • Ian

        Thanks for the review. Based on this and some of the other information on your site, we chose the Belter for our 3.5 year after she had mastered her strider. She was riding the Belter unassisted within 3-days. We are very pleased.

        • Awesome! Glad you love it. Isn’t it a beautiful bike. I love just spinning the pedals and watching the belt drive in action, but watching your daughter ride off on it must have been even better. 🙂

      • Wendy

        Thank you so much for this amazing site, it is incredible how thorough and up to date it is! Your pedal bike comparison chart is just unbeatable, what a resource!

        I’m wondering if you know what the Belter gear ratio is? And maybe if they’ve hopefully fixed the issue of that rear brake cable practically rubbing the rear wheel for the 2016 model?

        • Glad to help and sorry for my delay in getting back to you! The comparison charts are always a work in progress as things are always changing, but I try my best to keep it up to date. For the Belter, I don’t know the gear ratio, but I would say that it is certainly lower than the WOOM and probably about the same as the Islabike. For the rear brake, honestly, I am not sure, but based on pictures on Early Rider’s website, it still looks pretty close.

          • Wendy

            No worries, thanks for the info on the ratio. It is so surprising to me how little info I can find (aside from your site) on the specs of these very expensive kids’ bikes. I think lower will be better for my Kid Skidoo, we have a lot of hills, and Islabikes was a near competitor for our dollar vote. We ended up ordering the Belter from REI because of all the incentives they offer and their excellent return policy, so I’ll take some pics of the rear brake and post them here when I get it. Thanks again for the intel!

            • I completely agree. Finding specs for these bikes is a challenge! Too often they have tons of specs listed that don’t even matter. I’ve tried over and over to get many of these companies to put the specs parents need up, but so far no luck. Then again, I guess that helps me out in some ways :). Glad to hear you found a bike. The Belter is awesome and so is REI, so you really can’t go wrong. Plus, if you could send a picture of the rear brake, that would be awesome. Thanks!

              • Wendy

                I don’t know if there is any change, but the clearance seems fine for us, about 1/2″ to the casing– not a lot, but it should be okay. The bike showed up with one of the wheels out of true though, so that’s a little odd. It is very squirrelly in the front fork compared to the lumbering old 24 lb beast of a Schwinn he had been riding, but it’s great to see him be able to take off all on his own.

              • That’s a great to hear. Would you mind it I added your photo to the review to show readers the change? As for the tires, due to shipping, most tires come out of true. It’s a problem with all bike companies, which is why many brands won’t ship direct, just to a bike shop were they can fix it. For the squirreliness, I image that is due to him trying to manage the heavier Schwinn. With time he should be able to adjust to the lighter Belter, which should eliminate the wobbles.

              • Wendy

                Sorry for the late reply, you are certainly welcome to use the photos, I really appreciate all the info and use we’ve had from your site! 🙂

                My son is having a great time on it and we’ve been taking it to the pump track and on some of our mtb trails, so I’d like to change out the pedals from the relatively slick little pedals to some grippy/studded but still kid-sized pedals, any recommendations you can make there? (Googling actually led me back here, and then I saw your request, sorry that my spam folder must have eaten the notification.) It’s a 9/16″ and REI and the next cycle shop we tried couldn’t help us. :-/

              • Welcome back and thanks for letting my know about the pics, plus no worries as I miss too many emails due to my spam filter. For the pedals, I agree that they are too small and slick! My son is now riding our belter and I really wish it had larger, plastic pedals. For the pedals, here are some 9/16″ I found on Chain Reaction, http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/us/en/wellgo-b109-plastic-pedals/rp-prod70423.

              • Wendy

                Those look pretty perfect, thanks! We got the glow in the dark ones. 😉 And to justify the shipping, bought new knobby tires that will hopefully still clear that cable– the tires on it are slick 16×1.5 and we lose some traction braking downhill on the trail. He took an amazing skidder the other day that made me very glad we’d invested in a full face helmet. He and the bike traveled separate paths along the ground for (relatively) quite a long while (when I replay it on the Mommy slo-mo) and he was spitting pine duff out of his mouth that had been scooped up by the face guard when I got to him. He was fine after a hug and got mad at me for taking pictures of the flight pattern marks on the trail.

                Anyway, hopefully the knobbies will fit. I can’t help but look at the pics of their new trail version released in April and see that the brake cable looks like it barely clears it, so perhaps they have 1.75″ on those too, despite the “exclusivity.”

              • Ha, gotta love that Mommy slow mo! Plus, no worries, I can’t tell you how many times people have given me dirty looks of taking a picture of my kid after a fall before I run up to them. In my defense, they have never crashed that hard ;). Anyway, glad to hear that you guys are out riding together though. Let me know about the knobby’s if you get a chance.

        • Patrik Henriksson

          Hi! Can’t say for the newer models, but on the older (my son’s is a 2014) the brake cable tire clearance makes it impossible to mount a somewhat beefier tire. BUT the grown-up version of the brakes, Tektro M530, costs 10-15 USD, and takes a couple of minutes to mount if you’ve got some experience with this stuff. Those brakes will give 2 cm more clearance. The bike is awesome, and I wouldn’t not buying just because of the rear brake clearance issue! Just my two cents…

          • Great tip on the upgraded brake, thanks for sharing and glad to hear you are loving the bike! As shown below, the newer version has improved clearance, but for those with the older model, here’s the brake Patrik mentioned, http://amzn.to/2bX8HH0.

      • Glen

        Just purchased the belter 16 bike for my 3 yr old as his first pedal bike, after having ridden a like a bike jumper balance bike for the last 6 months. Today was his first attempt at ridding and within a mater of minutes had mastered the brakes and was pedalling confidently by him self. The design, build quality and weight of the belter is amazing. Thanks for your reviews Natalie, they have steered us in the right direction again 🙂

        • Awesome, glad to hear. My youngest is now tall enough to ride the Belter and I am once again amazed how great it is!

      • Jesse M Lamon

        Thank you for the great reviews. I learned a lot about kids bikes. The Belter is working out great for my 4-year old. It is a beautiful little bike, and light! One problem they are trying to fix right now is the wheels coming trued up better. Wee Bike Shop goes through each bike and sets them up but told me that they have been talking to Early Rider about sending the wheels better trued and also using better packing in the shipping box. The rear brake on mine didn’t have the issue of being close to the tire like others mentioned. I am wondering what kind of bike stand are you using for the Belter in the first picture and in the video. I would like to get a stand that my son can park his bike in.

        • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, this comment must have gotten lost in the mix. WeeBike was right in that tires often get out of true during delivery. Packaging can help, but it will always be an issue. I have also heard from others that the rear brake spacing has been fixed. I have some pictures that I plan on updating this review with. Lastly, I can’t recall the brand of the stand used in the pictures, but I can tell you that it is a terrible stand! I only use it for pictures since the bikes don’t have the stay in place for very long. I have yet to find a good small stand that I would recommend for children’s bikes, but I am always on the lookout!

      • AJ

        I really like the belt drive on the Early Rider (16″) but I’m torn on the difference in geometries between the Belter and the Woom 3. Our daughter is 4 yo and is sized perfectly for the 16″ bikes. She has been riding a balance bike for 1.5 years and does really well with it. She doesn’t drop off curbs but she has learned to lean the bike and carve turns. I do think the Belter would work well now when she will have the seat in a low position, but I wonder how it will fit as she gets taller and has to adjust the seat higher which will put more weight on her hands/wrist. Any thoughts between the Woom’s more upright positioning vs the lower Belter and which most kids prefer most?

        • Based on our tests, most kids prefer the more upright positioning of the WOOM3. If she enjoys leaning into turns and you expect her to ride any trails, I would go with the Belter. If you plan to mostly ride around the neighborhood, I would go with the WOOM3.

      • jdreitman

        Hey there. Really love your blog and appreciate all the effort you’re putting into this. I have a 5 year old little girl with an inseam of 20.25″. What would be your top 3 picks for a top quality bike for her? She’s just started riding without training wheels on a 13.5″ bike and is having very little issues with it. She’s definetely ready for the next step. Thanks in advance!

        • Awesome, glad to hear she is riding. My top three would really depend on what type of riding she would be doing. The WOOM3 is great for comfort, but not ideal for any real trail riding. The Islabikes is another amazing bike that excels at street riding. My Ultimate 16″ Pedal Bike comparison should help you sort through your options as well as my top picks, http://www.twowheelingtots.com/ultimate-16-inch-kids-bikes-comparison/. Let me know if you have any questions.

      • Stevie George

        Hi,
        I am seeking a bike for my 3yr old who currently enjoys riding tracks, trails and skate parks with me. He has been riding his 12″ Strider alongside me, and i think he is definitely up to peddles.
        I have been seriously looking at the belter however would like to check it out before I buy due to sizing etc.
        Living in ACT in Australia, and can’t even seem to find a stockist. Can you provide any information at all?
        Kind regards and many thanks

      • My son has had this bike for 2.5 years and it has been wonderful for him. At 5 he was able to ride 24 miles during one day trip, which I attribute to the bike’s light weight. The belt drive has required zero maintenance as well.

        We did swap out the pedals on this bike for slightly larger ones. We found the included pedals a bit too small and they didn’t provide enough traction.

        I’m now in the market for a 20″ bike for my son (who’s about to turn 6) and my daughter will be inheriting the 16″ Belter. Is there a chance you can review the 20″ model?

        • Glad to hear you’ve loved the Belter, 24 miles is impressive! It is a great bike, but I agree that the pedals are really small. I have not yet had a chance to see the Belter 20″ in person, but it is on our list for potential bike reviews come late Spring as it is still to cold here for kid bike reviews.

          There are actually three different version of the Belter 20″. If you are looking for a bike to use around town, the Urban would be a good choice as it has the 3-speed autoshift. Shifting is a challenge for young riders and takes time to master, the autoshifter is an easy fix, but with only three gears, it can be limiting. The Trail 3 and the Trail 3R have knobby tires and are best for trail riding. If you plan on trails, I would go with either of those over the WOOM4 or the Islabikes.

          Between the WOOM4 and the Islabikes, I would go with the Islabikes if you are planning on doing more paved trail riding and the WOOM4 if you want more of an all-around bike as it has slightly larger tires. The Islabikes is also geared lower than the WOOM4, so it would be better around any hills.

      • ifeito

        Emma is 4, after one year using her balance bike he got on her Belter 16″ and didn’t even take one attempt and she was off pedaling on her own. All her friends have bikes with stabilizers and not one of them can ride on their own. I cannot tell you how proud we are and how happy we are for getting her the Belter.

        I’m also starting to look at the Belter 20″ for a couple of years down the line.

        • Awesome, glad to hear. We are planning reviewing the Belter 20″ Urban this summer:)