The Next is arguable the most popular 16″ bike in the US. Often found for $50, parents often see the bike as a deal and purchase it without second thought. While any bike is better than no bike, almost any bike is better than the Next Rocket. Too short, too tall and just poorly designed, the Rocket is hard to ride, difficult to maneuver and as a result, has turned many kids off of biking all together. Then again, there are many kids who have mastered the Rocket, but when given a chance to ride a properly designed bike, they instantly ride faster, smoother and with a lot more confidence.
The main issue with the Rocket is its geometry. Compare to other 16″ bikes, the frame of the Rocket is considerably shorter. A shorter wheelbase negatively impacts handling as well as the ability to balance on the bike. In addition to being too short, the bike is also too tall. With a tall minimum seat height of 22.5″ and with riser handlebars, the Rocket forces its rider to sit high up on the frame in an upright position, which greatly increases the overall center of gravity of the rider. As a result, over the years we have used the Rocket as a “bad” example when reviewing other 16″ bikes. The difference is the Rocket’s geometry can clearly be seen by the position of the rider on the bike as well as side-by-side comparisons.
Next Rocket ($50) vs. RoyalBaby Freestyle ($86), Diamondback Mini Viper ($110), Torker Throttle ($187)
In addition to having a much shorter wheelbase, the handlebars on the Next are angled back towards the rider, bringing their hands closer to their body, which makes the bike harder to maneuver. All four of these bikes have coaster brakes and weigh between 19 and 21 lbs., so the main difference is their geometry.
When viewed side-by-side, the shorter wheelbase of the Next, is clearly evident.
Next Rocket vs. TykesBykes Sprinter ($259) and Islabikes CNOC 14 ($309)
Compared to higher-end bikes, the differences go beyond geometry to components and overall build. Pricier bikes are generally lighter with alloy frames instead of steel, have hand brakes, some do not have coaster brakes (generally a good thing) and they are also built with threadless headset (generally more durable and stable).
The Next Rocket comes in just shy of 19 lb. While not significant lighter than other 16″ bikes, it’s lack of features (no hand brake, threaded headset), plus the fact that it is a lot shorter than any other 16″ bike, is indicative of just how heavy the frame is.
Next in Action
As mentioned before, many kids have successfully learned to ride on the Next, but when given the chance on a better engineered bike, they generally always ride faster, smoother and for longer periods of time.
Buy the best bike you can afford as any bike is better than no bike. If you can only afford the Rocket, then go for it, but consider buying a higher-end bike used first. If you have some wiggle room in your budget, go for the RoyalBaby for $87, the Diamondback Mini Viper for $100 or the Torker Throttle for $187. For higher-end bikes, see our Pedal Bike Comparison Chart.