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Guardian Bikes with SureStop Braking System Review

Lightweight, colorful, fun, and most importantly, safe, Guardian Bikes is a new line of kids’ bikes that are sure to impress both kids and parents alike. Built with lightweight frames with a low center-of-gravity, they offer a comfortable and smooth ride. But it’s their unique SureStop braking technology that makes them truly stand out as a strong candidate for the “safest kid’s bike” on the market.

Child riding Guardian 20" 6-speed bike

FTC Disclosure: Two Wheeling Tots is an affiliate of Guardian Bikes and all links to Guardian Bikes and Amazon are affiliate links.  Two Wheeling Tots, however, is also an affiliate of many different bike manufacturers and retailers and strives to give unbiased reviews on all products we recommend.

Guardian Bikes Overview


Guardian Bikes are currently available in 20″ and 24″ tires and typically fit kids ages 5 to 10 years old.  The 20″ line is available in single-speed or as a 6-speed, while the 24″ in only available as a 7-speed.

Guardian Bike Models

BEST FOR:

Single-speed 20″ideal for everyday rides around the neighborhood or for longer bike rides with little change in elevation.

6-speed 20″ and 7-speed 24″: best for more experienced riders or for those who plan on riding in hilly areas.

SureStop braking is not recommended for advanced mountain bike riders who need to be able to engage the rear brake independently from the front.

Guardian Bikes Pros & Cons

Braking System


With most bikes, we generally address sizing first, but with Guardian Bikes, their braking system deserves the top spot!  Without the ability to quickly and efficiently stop, a bike is unsafe at any speed.  Guardian Bikes’ SureStop braking system allows a child to brake easier and faster, by activating both the rear and front brake with ONE brake lever.  By simply pulling on the right-hand lever, the rear brake is activated, which then activates the front brake.

Guardian Bikes SureStop Braking Technology

Graphic showing three steps to Guardian's SureStop braking system. Step One: Child activates brake lever, Step Two: Rear Brake Engages, Step Three: Rear brake activates front brake.
The benefit of this system is that the bike stops faster, and safer as it prevents a child from ONLY braking with the front brake which can cause them to fly over the handlebars if they are riding fast enough. But can kids really fly over the handlebars?  YES!  Throughout the years, we’ve witnessed kids accidentally engage the brake on their front tire too forcefully, which has resulted in them going over the handlebars. This is particularly problematic with responsive brakes on high-end bikes, which require very little effort to activate. If a child accidentally brakes hard with their left hand (which engages the front tire on bikes) versus their right (which engages the back), flying over the bike is certainly a possibility.  With one brake lever activating both the front and rear brakes, SureStop eliminates this possibility.

Guardian has just one brake lever to activate front and rear brakes while standard braking systems have two levers, one for the front brake and one for the rear brake.

When put to the test, all three of our testers LOVED Guardian’s braking system from the get-go.  One five-year-old tester, who is not yet experienced enough to brake with the left hand properly, loved being able to stop faster with the SureStop system. Her other bike, a WOOM4 has very responsive brakes, but while she was learning to use hand brakes she had been instructed to only brake with her right hand (rear brake).  Another five-year-old tester was previously only familiar with using coaster brakes and loved being able to stop so quickly on the Guardian. Lastly, our seven-year-old, who is more experienced, enjoyed the simplicity of the Guardian. While she knows how to appropriately brake with dual levers, she preferred only having to brake with one.

With both brakes always engaging, all riders were able to stop faster on the Guardian. The SureStop braking system was developed and patented by Guardian Bikes and is the ONLY line of kids’ bikes to include the system. View the video below to see the system in action!

SureStop in Action!

Brake reach: As is typical with most braking systems, activating brake levers can be challenging for young riders with small hands.  In our testing, this was only a concern for the Guardian 20″ 6-speed.  For our smallest five-year-old tester with hands less than 4.5″ long (from the bottom of palm to top of middle finger), reaching the brake lever required a considerable stretch.  He was able to activate the brake, but it wasn’t ideal.  The main concern was NOT the brake lever, as it is easily adjusted with the included Allen wrench, but rather the grip shift.  A knob on the inside of the shifter was too wide for him to put his hand over, and as a result, he had to activate the lever from an angle.  Braking was not an issue for our testers with hands longer than 4.5″.  The Guardian 20″ single speed does not have the grip shift, so it isn’t a problem.  The Guardian 24″ has a smaller grip shift that smaller hands were able to activate.  Future runs on Guardian’s 20″ 6-speed bikes will all have the smaller grip shift found on the 24″.

Brake Lever Reach on Guardian 20″ 6-speed

The Guardian 20" 6-speed brake lever can be difficult for kids with very small hands (less than 4.5" long) to activate.

 

Sizing and Fit


Seat Height:

  • Guardian Bikes fit kids aged 5 to 10 years old.
  • Kids comfortable riding on a pedal bike (without training wheels) can typically ride a bike with a minimum seat height that is 2 to 4″ greater than their inseam.
  • 20″ Guardian: Kids in at least size 5 clothing and with an inseam of at least 20″ can fit on either 20″ Guardian model.
  • 24″ Guardian: Kids in at least size 8 clothing and an inseam of at least 22″ will fit on the Guardian 24″.

 

Showing size difference between Guardian 20" bike and Guardian 24" bike.

Weight: Ideally, a bike should weigh less than 40% of a child’s weight, but that is often hard to achieve for kids. (For reference, most adults ride bikes that are no more than 20% of their weight!).  Compared to similarly priced bikes, Guardian Bikes are several pounds lighter.  Higher-end brands are lighter but do not come with Guardian’s SureStop braking system, and come with a heftier price tag.  Guardian Bikes also weigh more than  higher-end brands due to their double walled, high-spoke-count wheels.  Built to withstand anything kids can throw at them (even stairs!), Guardian’s durable wheels are sure to stay true.

Guardian Bikes Height and Weight Comparisons

 

Wheelbase: The wheelbase of a bike is the distance between the bike’s axles.  Guardian Bikes have a longer wheelbase than most brands, which allows for a more stable ride, but creates a longer distance between the seat and handlebars. Stretching out over the bike forces kids to lean forward more on the bike.  For the average child rider, this stretch was NOT a problem and likely not noticeable.  For timid riders, however, a more upright body position, as shown on the Pello below, is preferable.  If needed, the handlebars on the Guardian can be replaced with taller bars, to help create a more upright position for really timid riders.

Wheelbase length affects body angle of rider. Guardian Bikes has a long wheelbase, causing the rider to lean forward.

 

Gearing


The Guardian 20″ geared bike has 6 speeds and the the 24″ has 7 speeds.  For average hills, our testers found the gear range more than enough.  For one tester, who lives in a neighborhood with steep hills, the Guardian 20″6-speed wasn’t quite geared low enough but was fine on family bike rides around town.

Quality & Assembly


Guardian Bikes are much more than an impressive set of brakes.  Built to last for generations, Guardian bikes are built with quality Shimano components, a lightweight aluminum frame with smooth welds and a durable threadless headset.  In addition, in order to ensure quality and ease of assembly, every Guardian Bike is checked, tuned, and re-packaged by Guardian’s own mechanics in California BEFORE they are shipped out to customers.  Bikes are NEVER shipped straight from the factory to the consumer. Both bikes we received from Guardian were easily assembled in less than 15 minutes and required no additional tuning once assembled.

Collage of features on Guardian bikes: threadless headset, Shimano Grip shifter with view window, kickstand, and quality, smooth welds.

Bottom Line


Safe, lightweight and fun to ride, Guardian’s line of bikes is simply amazing. Whether cruising the neighborhood or enjoying extended family bike rides, your child will be in good hands with a Guardian.

Where to Purchase


The complete line of Guardian Bikes is available directly through Guardian Bikes. A few models are available through Amazon.
View on Guardian Bikes
View on Amazon

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By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: April 12, 2017

  • Liz Meier Merritt

    Thanks so much for your thorough and helpful reviews. We are moving our twin girls up from Islabikes Cnoc 14s (Large) to Guardian 20″, but I have no idea whether to do the single speed or 6 speed. My girls are 5, started riding their Cnoc 14s the day they got them, a few months before they were 4. They are good little riders and I would really like to have their next bikes for longer. Can most 5 year olds handle a geared bike (are the Guardians fairly easy to shift)? We live near Boulder, CO, so plenty of hill opportunities. Thanks!

    • Shifting can be hard to 5-year-olds but certainly doable. If you go on longer rides, especially around hill, I would go for the geared bike. At first, you may have to stop and shift for them, but with time they will get it. The Guardian’s do have a grip shift which is generally easily for younger kids to use.

  • TXMomma

    Hi, you guys helped me a while ago choose the Stampede 16″ for my 5yo and he loved it and is now ready for a pedal bike. Thanks for that!! He’s on the smaller side and he’s more of a timid rider who falls over easily when he stops (on the heavier bikes like his brother’s schwinn and his friends cannondale trail). He’s got about a 19.5-20″ inseam. He’s a smaller skinny 5yo who wears 5T pants. Do you recommend this guardian bike for him or is it too big? On the cannondale trail 20″, he can touch the ground with his tippy toes just barely when seated, but he loses his balance easily when stopping. Any recs?? Thanks in advance!

    • Glad to help and welcome back. The Guardian 20″ will be big for him, but doable. My son is also in 5T pants and I was able to get him to ride the Guardian 20″ for a little bit, but since it was so much bigger than his 16″ bikes, he wanted nothing to do with it. A friends son who is taller than my son and is in size 6, almost 7 pants, loved the bike and road it around like a champ. As a result, since your son is on the timid side, it would be best to go with a small 20″ or a larger 16″. The Pello Reddi would be a good choice as it has a smaller minimum inseam than the Guardian as well as a shorter wheelbase (but not too short!) which often works better for more timid riders.

  • Ashley

    Hi,
    Do you know what the gain ratio is for both the geared and single speed 20 inch guardians?

    • Great question. I really should get those up on the charts. Unfortunately Guardian doesn’t have the info needed to calculate the ratios listed on their site. I shoot them an email to see if I can get those calculated.

    • Got em! The single is 3.5, the geared’s range is 2.3 to 4.5.

  • HeadDoctor

    Our 7 year old has left hemi CP and we are getting him his first bike. what I’ve noticed when riding his cousins cheapo bikes that are 16 inch is that he definitely needs a 29 inch, that the coaster brakes are an impediment to his learning, and that wheel base is really important for him. His left leg being weaker makes it very hard for him to get going if his pedals are positioned such that he has to use the left foot to push off. I’m torn between the Guardian 20″ (single speed or geared?) for it’s sure stop system that would use his strong hand for his benefit or the pello for its steady ride for his newly minted skills and timidity. I assume both are compatible with training wheels while he learns to balance? What are your thoughts?

    • anon

      Training wheels do not actually teach children how to balance a bike. In fact, they teach the exact opposite skill – how to ride a bike that is *unbalanced*. A better option for your son, especially considering the extra difficulty of his CP, would be to use a larger balance bike. The advantage of a balance bike is that it will teach him to truly balance, which will make pedaling easier down the road, and that it can do much more than a bike with training wheels can do. He can take it off road, down curbs, to the skate park.

      Balance bikes to look into would be the Stampede Charger 16 (probably the XL version) or the Strider 16. Which one will fit will depend on his inseam – the Strider has a min seat height of 19.5″, and so he would need at least a 20″ inseam to ride it. I can’t find the min seat height of the Charger 16 XL, but based on the seatpost length compared to the regular version, I would say approx 18″.

    • anon

      Update – if you are going to go with training wheels, then the single speed Guardian would be the choice I would go for. You can use the basic Wald brand training wheels, I’ve seen an example. You do not want the geared – you cannot attach training wheels to a bike with a derailer.

    • I am really late to this party, sorry. I would agree that a balance bike would be better to teach him to actually ride. If a balance bike is hard for him to use do to the limitations on his left leg, a 20″ balance bike with training wheels would best. Pedaling allows him to keep up his momentum even if his left leg doesn’t apply much force to the pedals. For brakes, Guardian’s SureStop system would be amazing for him as it would allow him to stop faster with only using one brake lever instead of two.

      • HeadDoctor

        At this point we’re trying to balance being more like his peers, which for him means he wants pedals! It’s a social issue more than a learning issue. I think we’re a few years off from him learning to balance, and I fear he won’t be satisfied with a balance bike in the interim. His peers ride all over the college campus where we live.

        • anon

          then probably a single speed, like the 20in guardian, with training wheels would be best.

          as i noted previously, you cannot put training wheels on a multispeed bike with a derailer so the 6-speed is not appropriate.
          (to consider – if you have the money for it you could buy a balance bike in addition to the pedal bike, to allow him to practice balancing when he wants to. this might help get him off the training wheels sooner, and would also give him a bike to take where training wheels can’t go.)

  • Will

    I have a very tall 4 year old boy (over 48″ tall, over 56 lb, inseam 21″) who has been riding his original tiny balance bike for far too long. He balances great on it but it’s clearly too small for him and it’s time for a pedal bike. What we’re looking to do is balance the price of the bike with the ultimate quality we will get over the long term, but not overwhelm him with too much bike all at once. Based on his inseam, I think we should be looking pretty hard at the Guardian single speed 20″, but don’t want to rule out the 20″ 6 speed or even the 24″ 7 speed if he could grow into it. If there are other bikes as well that you think we should be considering, I’ma ll ears. Thanks.

    • anon

      At 4 years old, unless you have to contend with lots of hills in your area, I’d stick with a single speed bike. With his inseam he will be able to get the balls of his feet on the ground – although it’s suggested to get a bike a new learner can flat foot on, that’s not a requirement and unless he’s very timid he’ll do fine.

      I’d also look at the Cleary Owl and the Pello Reddi – they both have seat heights about an inch lower, which would let him get more of his feet on the ground. Actually, if that inseam measurement does not include shoes, he may be able to get nearly all of his feet on the ground.