Highly Recommended for Age 18-months and up
Best in Class for Wood Bikes
The Early Rider Lite 12 is the smallest of the Early Rider models and weighs in at a mere 7 lb. while still maintaining a weight capacity of 100 lb.! Compared to the Classic, it has relatively the same minimum and maximum seat heights, but it weighs 3 lb. less, making it ideal for younger riders aged 20 months and up.
Early Rider is yet another European bike company that has recently made its way across the pond. Built by a dad who wanted a better bike for his son, the Early Rider was born in 2006. Unlike other wood balance bikes, Early Rider’s are made with marine-grade birch and are essentially impermeable to water. Not being a fan of wood bikes, I admit that I was a little hesitant to take the time to review them, but upon learning of their high-quality components and 125! lb. weight limit (on a wood bike?) I decided to give it a go. Straight out of the box, the Early Rider delivered, as it was even more beautiful in person than in the pictures. My son agreed and before we knew it, we were out the door.
Early Rider offers three different models to ensure a proper fit for all ages riders, the Lite 12, for 20 months and up, the Classic 12, for ages 2 to 4.5, and the Evo 14, for riders ages 3.5 to 5.5. For my 3.5 year old son, the Classic was not only a perfect fit, it was a perfect ride as well. From the get-go, the stylish “chopper” look of the bike was a hit amongst my testers (as well as the countless compliments and stares we got from people in the neighborhood). With 14″ tires in the front and 12″ in the back, the Early Rider Classic is not only eye-candy for biker fathers and eco-friendly mothers, it’s one sweet ride for the kids. With one small push, the sealed ball-bearings became evident and the bike quickly balanced and maintained its speed. The wide, “fat-boy” tires, additionally provided cushion during the ride as the bike smoothly rode over rocks and twigs with little loss of momentum.
Compared to the Kazam, which also has pneumatic tires on metal rims, the premium nature of the Early Rider’s wheels is quickly apparent. Not only are its tires wider, when spun side-by-side with the Kazam, the Early Rider’s wheels spun much smoother and longer (the bearing on the Kazam are not sealed). With all the additional weight provided by the metals rims, many manufactures often turn to plastic, but the wood frame of the Early Rider’s allow them to maintain a total weight of 10 lb. for the Classic. The wood however, is where many people (included myself prior to this review) get hung up on. Why would anyone choose wood over metal in a bike? My first fear of course was water damage. No one wants their kids bike be rendered unusable after a couple of trips through the sprinklers or after spending a night out in the rain. So I let the bike sit outside for a couple of weeks then gave it a nice good bath, to see if it in fact could hold up to the elements. Yep, the bike didn’t even flinch. With marine grade wood, it might just take an ocean and several years of weather to damage one of these frames. That being said however, preschoolers themselves are often a forces of nature themselves. With daily rides by multiple preschoolers, the bike was often thrown to the ground without much thought. Bikes were piled on top of it, kids jumped on and fought for it, and in the end the wood frame of the Early Rider did experience some minor flesh wounds.
Nothing major, but enough to make note. In fact, as compared to the metals bikes that were often chips and dinged during my reviews, I felt that the wood frame held up just fine. The foam grips of the bike however, would probably be the first thing to go. Although better quality than the Joovy foam grips, they are still foam, a little smaller than I would like, but like most small features, they kids didn’t seem to mind them.
The faux-leather saddle (seat) of the Early Rider, could potentially not withstand the elements with time, but we saw no sign of wear and in general, the kids enjoyed the small cushion provided by the saddle.
For extra style, the seat and handlebar grips also come in pink or blue.
The recessed bolts along the bike were a selling point for concerned parents.
Finally, the removable turning limiter is an added bonus for safety. The limiter works by merely adjusting the amount of contact the fork has with the frame of the bike. When on, two felt pads act as bumpers between the fork and the frame, thereby limiting mobility. When off (included allen wrench required), the fork is free to rotates around the frame.
Overall, the Early Rider is a high-quality bike that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for a high-quality bike that looks as great as it rides.
Where to Purchase
The Early Rider Lite is available on Amazon:Early Rider Lite Run Bike, Pink