With hundreds of kids’ bikes on the market, finding the perfect bike for your toddler or pre-schooler can quickly get confusing. Kids 12 inch and 14 inch bikes are the best size bikes for 3-year-olds, but they vary greatly in cost, size and features.
Although younger kids can fit on a 12 inch bike, we have found that pedal bikes are usually too heavy for them to properly handle and a lightweight balance bike is better suited for their size. On the flip-side, some 3-year-olds maybe tall enough to fit on a 16″ bike. If you are unsure, be sure to check out our kids bike sizes article.
To help you narrow your search for a 12 or 14 inch bike for a girl or boy, we’ve outlined our top bikes below, why we love them, and why you will too!
The Best 12 and 14 Inch Bikes Rundown
- woom 2 – Best Overall, $359
- Guardian Ethos 14 – Best Safety Innovation, $249
- REI Co-Op REV 12 – Best on a Budget, $159
- Joey 2.5– Best Bike with Training Wheels and a Push Bar, $239
- Prevelo Alpha One – Best for Adventurous Riders, $359
- Pello Romper – Best for All-Terrain Riders, $339
- Cleary Gecko – Best for the Smallest Riders, $310
- Spawn Yoji – Best for Little Groms, $379
- Specialized Riprock – Best Bike Shop Bike, $220
- Strider 14x – Balance Bike/Pedal Bike in One, $200
- Schwinn Elm/Koen – Budget Honorable Mention, $130
Want to see these bikes in action? See all these bikes in action in our Best 12 and 14 inch bikes video below!
Quick Tips about Bikes for 3 year olds
- 12 and 14 inch bikes are pretty small and are typically fit most 3 year olds. If your child is 4 or 5, they are most likely a better fit on a 16 inch bike.
- Balance bikes teach kids how to balance a bike MUCH faster and easier than a bike with training wheels. To be honest, most 3 and even 4-year-olds would be better off on a balance bike than on a kids 12 inch pedal bike. Consider getting a balance bike (like the Strider) BEFORE you buy a bike with training wheels.
- Higher-end bikes are lighter, better-quality, and are generally much easier to ride than lower-end bikes. More affordable bikes are generally much heavier and more difficult for kids to ride. Unless you are willing to spend over $200, the budget bikes listed below are your best bet.
- For those on a budget, also keep in mind that for the same price you can generally get a much better-designed balance bike than a pedal bike. In fact, balance bikes are becoming much more popular than 12 inch bikes for kids learning how to ride a bike. See our Top 10 Balance Bikes page.
- The seat height of the bike is the best way to determine a proper fit.
- For new pedal bike riders: a child’s inseam should match the seat height of the bike. This ensures they can stop the bike with their feet flat on the ground.
- For experienced pedal bike riders and for kids using training wheels: a child’s inseam should be about 2 inches LESS than the bike’s seat height. This allows for proper leg extension when pedaling. Kids will need to rely on the bike’s brakes (pedal brake or handbrake) to stop.
Best 14 Inch Overall
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 16″ to 19″.
WEIGHT: 11.2 lb.
TRAINING WHEELS: Not provided.
TIRE SIZE: 14 inch
FULL REVIEW: woom 2
Easy and intuitive, the woom 2 is the perfect first pedal bike for balance bike graduates. At just over 11 pounds, it’s the LIGHTEST 12 or 14 inch bike on the market, which has a HUGE effect on a child’s ability to manage a bike. It also has a smart combination of top-end components, bike geometry, and brake design that work in unison to create a natural, fun, riding environment.
The woom 2’s unique geometry centers the child’s weight over their hips (just like when standing), and keeps a child in a comfortable, upright position. This allows the bike and the child’s body to work together in a natural and easy process.
- Natural upright body position and easy to balance
- The lightest pedal bike on the market (just 11.2 lb.)
- High-end components
- Green right-hand lever to promote safe braking
- Optional freewheel kit (gets rid of coaster brake)
- Available in five colors
- Too upright for very aggressive riders
Best Safety Innovation
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 15.5″ – 19.25″
WEIGHT: 16.5 lbs.
TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible, purchased separately
TIRE SIZE: 14″
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES: SureStop braking system, kid-friendly geometry, easy to balance, no coaster brake
FULL REVIEW: Guardian Ethos 14″
While there are a ton of things to love about Guardian Bikes, the proprietary SureStop braking system is what really sets them apart from the competition. SureStop brakes have a single brake lever on the right hand that activates both the rear and front brake! Yep, with just one brake lever, you get all the stopping power you need! And as the cherry on top, the Guardian 14 does not have a coaster (back pedal) brake, which is a big benefit for little ones first learning to pedal.
SureStop not only makes braking faster, but safer because it helps kids internalize proper braking technique from the get-go. As kids get older and ride much faster, braking with the front brake only (usually found on the left hand) can cause them to endo (flip over the handlebars). SureStop trains kids to rely on their right hand for braking.
While the single right-hand brake lever simplifies braking for all Guardian bikes (sold up to size 24″), this simplified system is an even bigger bonus on a 14″ bike. Two brake levers can be a lot for little ones to manage. We’ve found it very difficult to explain to 2 and 3 year olds the importance of braking with your right brake lever first, and never just with the left. With only one brake lever to manage, the SureStop braking system is a HUGE win for the littlest riders.
- SureStop braking system for faster and safer braking
- Only one brake lever required to engage front and rear brakes – easier to manage for young riders
- Child-friendly bike geometry places child in natural and comfortable upright position
- No coaster brake! (Back pedal brakes can make it harder to learn to ride a bike)
- Fun color combinations
- A bit heavier than other (more expensive) bikes on this list
Best 12 Inch Bike on a Budget
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 18″ to 21″. With training wheels, fits inseams from 16″ to 19″.
WEIGHT: 15.8 lb. (without training wheels)
TRAINING WHEELS: Comes with training wheels.
TIRE SIZE: 12 inch
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES: Sturdy build, upright positioning, fun and colorful designs.
FULL REVIEW: REI Co-op Cycles REV 12
A respected name in the outdoors industry, REI’s 12 inch bike boasts a well-built frame and solid quality components. The Co-Op Cyles REV bikes are a good choice for families who plan on riding shorter distances around the neighborhood, but don’t come without some trade-offs for the price.
Because of its smaller cockpit with a higher minimum seat height, the REV 12 bikes are best suited for use with training wheels because smaller kids can ride the bike and only need to touch the ground with their toes. While the REI REV is the best quality and most affordable 12 inch option for balance bike graduates, they will outgrow it rather quickly.
- Sturdy build can take a beating
- Great quality for the price
- Available in a variety of colors with beautiful matte finish
- Coaster brake with no handbrake
- Cramped cockpit (space between saddle and handlebars)
- Lower handlebars are a little awkward
- Tiny pedals and grips
Best Bike with Training Wheels and a Push Bar
FITS KIDS: With inseams from 15.5″ to 18″. With training wheels, inseams from 16.5″ – 18.25″
WEIGHT: 14.8 lb. (without training wheels)
TRAINING WHEELS: Comes with training wheels for kids and a push bar for parents.
TIRE SIZE: 14 inch
FULL REVIEW: Joey 2.5
With a long wheelbase, a lightweight build, and no coaster brake, the Joey 2.5 is a great starter bike for its price. Fun and easy to ride, the Joey can easily help your little one transition from balance bike to pedal bike.
If you didn’t go the balance bike route, the Joey 2.5 is a great choice because it comes with training wheels and a push bar to help get your child started. With less than 2” of seat height adjustment, however, room for growth on the Joey 2.5 is minimal.
- Longer wheelbase for increased stability
- Upright geometry for easier balancing
- Push bar and training wheels both included
- Lightweight for its price range
- NO coaster brake! (back pedal brake)
- Only 1.75″ of seat height adjustments
- Lower-quality, single-pivot brakes versus v-pull
Best 14 Inch for Adventurous Riders
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 15.6″ to 17.5″.
WEIGHT: 14.4 lb.
TRAINING WHEELS: Not provided.
TIRE SIZE: 14 inch
FULL REVIEW: Prevelo Alpha One
The Prevelo Alpha One is one impressive and tiny bike for the smallest and most eager balance bike graduates. With high-end components, sophisticated, yet kid-specific design, and durability to last through several kids, you’ll be wishing you were small enough to ride it.
With lower-set handlebars than most other bikes on this list, the Alpha Zero is a solid choice for aggressive balance bike riders ready to tackle pedals. The lower handlebars allow for more of the child’s weight to be over the handlebars, which helps the aggressive rider to better maneuver and control the bike.
- Lower rise handlebars make shifting weight around a breeze for adventurous riders
- Responsive, easy-pull, dual-hand brakes
- Low center-of-gravity for better balance
- Top quality components
- Lightweight, low step-through frame
Coaster brake (can be removed with a freewheel kit)
Best 14 Inch for All-Terrain Timid Riders
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 17.5″ – 21.75″
WEIGHT: 15 lb.
TRAINING WHEELS: Not provided.
TIRE SIZE: 14 inch
FULL REVIEW: Pello Romper
From Kenda tires and Tektro brakes to Cane Creek headsets and lightweight aluminum frames, Pello Bikes ooze quality while excelling on paved bike trails and single-track dirt trails. On paved rides, little ones can happily keep up with the older kids in the pack, while on single-track, the knobby tires provide much-needed grip for rocky trails.
With a minimum seat height about 1.5 – 2” taller than our other favorite bikes on this list, the Pello Romper will be a better fit for kids transitioning to a pedal bike around 3 or 3.5 years old.
- Thick and knobby Kenda air tires are perfect for all-terrain riding
- Low-rise handlebars allow for easier balance and increased control on trails
- For ultimate responsiveness in steering, built with a sealed cartridge bearing Cane Creek headset
- High gearing allows kids to gain more speed with each pedal stroke
- Larger frame and higher handlebars allow for more room for growth for taller or larger-framed kids
- Coaster brake can be removed with Pello’s $20 freewheel kit
Bigger tires add weight – may be an issue for some riders
Best 12 Inch Small Bike for Tiny Riders
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 15″ to 19″. Best for balance bikes graduates still in size 3T/4T clothes.
WEIGHT: 13 lb.
TRAINING WHEELS: Not provided.
TIRE SIZE: 12 inch
FULL REVIEW: Cleary Gecko
The smallest bike on our list, the Cleary Gecko is the best bike for the smallest and youngest of balance bike graduates. With a low minimum seat height, the Gecko is a great option for little 2 or 3-year-olds already eager to tackle the world on a pedal bike.
The Gecko’s flat handlebars result in a more aggressive body position best suited for adventurous balance bike graduates. Cleary does offer an optional high-rise handlebar if the flat handlebars are too aggressive for your little one.
Available with or without a coaster brake (back pedal brake), both models come with dual-hand brakes. As an added bonus, the rear tire can be flipped to allow for two different gearing options.
- Very low minimum seat height accommodates little riders
- Easy-reach, easy-pull dual-hand brakes
- Reversible tire to allow for two gearing options
- Flat handlebars minimize room for growth
Best 14 Inch Bike for Little Groms
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 16.5″ to 18″.
WEIGHT: 14.25 lbs.
TIRE SIZE: 14 inch
TRAINING WHEELS: Not provided.
FULL REVIEW: Spawn Yoji 14
Have a future shredder on your hands? The Spawn Yoji is for you!
Fine-tuned from top-to-bottom for the true young trail rider, the Yoji 14 inch bike has a unique trifecta of knobby all-terrain tires, no coaster brake, and a lightweight build. An amazing first ride, the Yoji will seamlessly take young riders from wobbly beginners to confident basic trail riders.
Mid-rise handlebars provide a body position comfortable enough to learn to pedal, but aggressive enough to tackle those trails. And with pretty sweet components, Spawn bikes are a mountain bike parent’s dream come true.
- Semi upright body positioning perfect for transition from beginning to adventurous riding
- Knobby, all-terrain tires for riding in various conditions
- Freewheel, no coaster brake
- Top quality construction
- Available in 5 colors
- Purchase of additional seat post required
- Complicated and time-consuming (or professional) assembly required
Best 12 Inch Bike Shop Bike
FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 17″ to 19″. With training wheels, fits inseams 15″ to 17″.
WEIGHT: 15 lb. (without training wheels)
TRAINING WHEELS: Comes with training wheels, which are the highest quality we’ve seen.
TIRE SIZE: 12 inch
FULL REVIEW: Specialized Riprock (formerly Hotrock)
Our only recommended 12″ bike found in local bike shops, the Specialized Riprock (formerly Hotrock) is uniquely designed to help young riders learn to pedal by placing the pedals slightly more forward than other bikes. This helps prevent accidental backwards pedaling, which is quite common with young riders.
With solid and durable components and wider tires for increased stability, the Riprock is a great quality bike for the price. The Riprock’s lack of hand brakes and heavier weight than the WOOM and other high-end bikes are reflected in its lower price tag.
- Forward-positioned pedals make learning to pedal easier
- Available in local bike shops
- High-quality training wheels (if you need them)
- Wide 2.3″ tires increase stability
- Coaster brake and no hand brake
- Minimal seat height range leaves little room for growth
Best 14 Inch Bang for Your Buck
FITS KIDS: Transitioning out of 2T to 4T
WEIGHT: 16.1 lbs.
TIRE SIZE: 14 inch
FULL REVIEW: Park Cycles 14″
Hailing out of Canada, Park Cycles is a new and growing kids bike brand gaining a lot of excitement with parents.
With a mission to provide great kids bikes at affordable prices, Park Cycles bikes are an insane bang for your buck. The Park Cycles 14” features kid-friendly geometry and a low center of gravity similar to our other favorite bikes on this list…and is also lightweight, coming in at 16 lbs!
Park Cycles keeps costs down by featuring more basic components, but those components are still kid-friendly and are much better quality than anything you’ll find at a big-box-store. If you’re a family on a budget, but are serious about getting your young rider started off on the right foot, Park Cycles is a fantastic option.
- Kid-friendly build at a parent-friendly price
- Natural, upright body position optimal for kids learning to ride a pedal bike
- Lightweight aluminum frame
- Tektro dual hand brakes
- No coaster brake!!
- Wide, knobby tires for varied terrains
- Available in several fun colors
- Grips are basic and hard
- Pedals don’t have much bite for traction
- Assembly a bit tricky for some parents
Best Balance Bike/Pedal Bike in One
FITS KIDS: While the manufacturer recommends from ages 3 to 7, based on our testing, we recommend only from ages 3 to 5, or with inseams ranging from 15″ to 20″ in balance bike mode and 14″ to 20″ in pedal bike mode.
WEIGHT: 12.5 lb.
TIRE SIZE: 14 inch
FULL REVIEW: Strider 14x Convertible Balance Bike
A great option for preschoolers who have yet to master a balance bike, the Strider 14x is a balance bike that converts to a 14 inch pedal bike. No need for training wheels, once a child has learned to balance while in balance bike mode, simply put on the pedals and within a couple of minutes they’ll be pedaling away, no help needed! Once your child outgrows the pedal bike mode, they will be ready for a 16″ bike.
Due to taller handlebars, the Strider is best for taller 3-year-olds and up. The longer reach between the seat and the handlebars is a bit too much for toddlers, who are much better off on the standard Strider 12″ Sport. Based on our experience, the Strider is ideal for kids in size 5 clothes or less.
For other convertible balance bikes, check out our Balance Bikes with Pedals list.
- Starts as a balance bike and easily converts to a pedal bike
- Larger frame and tire size fit kids from ages 3 to 5
- Comfortable, upright body positioning promotes confidence for beginners
- Cushioned, ergonomic seat
- No hand brake, coaster brake in pedal mode
- Very short crank arms in pedal mode – difficult for kids over age 5 to ride
Comparison Chart: 12 and 14 inch Kids Bikes
|Bike Weight||Min Seat Height||Max Seat Height|
|Freewheel Option||Training Wheels||Gain Ratio||Frame Material|
Multi-Use: Paved and Dirt Trails
|14.4 lb.||15.6"||17.5"||Yes||Not compatible||3.7||Aluminum|
|11.2 lb.||16"||19"||Yes||Not compatible||3.7||Aluminum|
|14.25 lb.||16.5"||18"||Standard||Not compatible||3.67||Aluminum|
|16.1 lb.||16.75"||19.75"||$215||Standard||Not compatible||3.11||Aluminum|
|13 lb.||15"||19"||Yes||Not compatible||2.97||Steel|
Neighborhood and Paved Trails
|Guardian Ethos 14||16.2 lb.||15.5"||19.25"||$249||Standard||Not compatible||Steel|
|REI Co-Op REV 12||15.8 lbs.||17.88"||21.25"||$159||No||Yes||Aluminum|
|LittleBig||14.5. lb.||18.5"||21"||$240||Yes||Not compatible||3.9||Aluminum|
|12.5 lb.||15"||22"||No||Not compatible||Steel|
Diamondback Micro Viper
How to Choose the Best Bike for 3-Year-Olds
For a more detailed discussion about how to choose the perfect kid’s bike, check out our kids bike buying guide. If you’re looking for something quick, here’s a short summary of the most important things to look for to find the best bike for your 3-year-old.
Size – 12 and 14 inch bikes vary greatly in size!
12 and 14 inch bikes are generally the best fit for 2 and 3-year-olds, who may continue to ride the bike while they are 4-years-old. If your boy or girl is already 4, a 16″ bike should also be considered to allow for more room for growth.
Within the 12/14 inch wheel size, the seat height range of bikes vary greatly. Some 14 inch bikes even have lower seat height ranges than 12 inch bikes! Comparing your child’s inseam to the bike’s seat height is the best way to ensure a great fit.
For example, the minimum seat height of the green 14 inch bike on the left is over 3.5” taller than the minimum seat height of the silver 14 inch bike on the right.
Because this will be your child’s first pedal bike, the seat height should be set at or slightly under their inseam to allow them to have their feet flat on the ground when sitting on the saddle. Set this way, a child can stop the bike with their feet, like they are used to on a balance bike.
This gives them confidence that they won’t fall over and is an added measure of safety as they learn to balance and pedal at the same time. It’s also necessary to help them learn to start the bike on their own.
As time moves on and your brave 3-year-old masters pedaling, the seat height can be raised so that they are only touching the ground with their tip toes. This allows for better leg extension while pedaling.
Geometry – The Problem with 12 Inch Bikes
While 14 inch bikes and 12 inch bikes are generally made for the same size child, making an exceptional 12 inch bike is extremely hard, if not impossible. Because 12 inch wheels are so small, there are several design issues that just can’t be solved. As a result, essentially all kid-specific bike manufacturers make 14 inch bikes instead of 12 inch bikes.
Small Wheels Lead to Cramped Pedal Stroke
The biggest problem lies in the fact that the center axle of 12 inch wheels are much closer to the ground than on larger wheels. In order to make room for the crank arms and pedals, the bottom bracket (where the crank arm attaches to the frame), has to be moved up on the bike.
While this makes room for the pedals on the downswing, you lose over an inch of space on the upswing, creating a cramped leg position. With less space for the upswing, the child’s knees are at a much sharper and much less efficient angle to apply maximum force on the downswing.
Moving up to 14 inch wheels makes a huge difference. As you can see above on the 14″ orange bike, the extra inch of space for the crank arms and bottom bracket allows for more space on the upswing. The child’s knee is much less forward on the bike, making the downward pedal stroke significantly less angled and therefore much more efficient.
Higher Minimum Seat Height is Too Tall
To compensate for higher pedals, bike manufacturers often raise the minimum seat height of a 12″ bike, but that only causes more issues.
With a high minimum seat height, kids are often perched really high on top of the frame, which creates a high center of gravity on the bike and makes it harder to balance.
They also usually can’t touch the ground when sitting on the saddle, or if they can, it’s only with their tip toes. New riders need feet flat on the ground for confidence and safety.
Short Wheelbases Create a Cramped Ride
12 inch bikes also suffer from short wheelbases (the distance between the axles of the bike’s wheels). This causes kids to be scrunched on the bike, with little room between the handlebars and the seat.
Short wheelbases negatively affect kids riding with or without training wheels in several ways.
- It prevents a child from being able to properly shift their weight around during a turn or even just to help them maintain balance.
- With the child sitting upright they are often not able to lean forward very much. As a result, there is less weight on the front tire, which makes the bike less stable and much more “squirrelly” when riding. This is especially problematic on bikes with low set handlebars like the blue bike shown above.
- On some bikes, turning can be a challenge as the handlebars can hit the child’s knees when turning.
The properly-designed 14 inch bikes we do recommend have longer wheelbases which provide more space for the child rider. This increases stability and maneuverability, and makes the bikes easier to ride.
Weight – Lighter is better
Ideally, your child’s bike shouldn’t weigh more than 40% of their body weight. Learning to pedal and balance at the same time can be challenging, but even more so if your child has to work extra hard to keep a heavy bike upright. Getting up from a fall is also far more discouraging when your bike weighs a ton!
For example, the Royal Baby 14″ bike weighs 21.7 lbs, while the woom 2 (14 inch) only weighs 11.2 lbs. That’s almost TEN extra pounds of bike! Which bike do you think will be easier for your 3-year-old to maneuver??
Brakes – Try to avoid coaster brakes
Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) are required by CPSC standards on all kids 12 inch and 14 inch bikes in the US, but they can make it much more difficult to learn to pedal while balancing a bike. Because a child naturally pedals backward to regain balance, coaster brakes become problematic as they cause kids to brake accidentally, which can lead to falls and lost motivation. Even once they have mastered balancing, preventing the child’s natural inclination to pedal backward to regain balance puts the child at a disadvantage.
If a child is coordinated enough to be riding a bike without training wheels, they are most likely also coordinated enough to use a hand brake. The best 12/14 inch bikes come with a coaster brake and handbrakes.
Many higher-end 14 inch bikes also offer an optional “freewheel kit” that allows you to swap out the back tire and remove the coaster brake on your own. These bikes are then coaster-brake-free and rely on the much better handbrake system to stop the bike.
Boys vs Girls 14 Inch Bikes – Does gender matter?
Functionally, kids bikes are gender neutral. That means a boy or a girl can ride the same bike. Most of our favorite bike brands don’t even market bikes to boys or girls. All of their bikes are the same, but offered in an array of colors to appeal to different kids.
That said, many parents want a traditional 12 inch or 14 inch girls bike. If you want that “to die for girly bike”, take a look at the Guardian Ethos 14 girls bike or the Raleigh Jazzi 12 inch girls bike. You can also find lots of fun ideas to accessorize a girls bike here.
For a full look at all of our favorite bikes that are available in feminine colors and designs, check out our 10 Best Bikes for Girls list.
Small Bikes with Training Wheels
While many of us learned to ride a bike with training wheels, there’s a better way these days! We highly discourage training wheels, and instead encourage you to look at balance bikes instead. To learn more about why balance bikes are so much better than training wheels, check out our post all about it!
We only recommend 12 and 14 inch pedal bikes for young riders who have already mastered a balance bike. If you have a 2 or 3-year-old that has never used a balance bike, they will almost certainly need training wheels to ride a 12 inch pedal bike.
Additionally, most small bikes that come with training wheels are incredibly difficult to ride. They are awkwardly shaped, heavy, and very tall for their intended rider. Our skilled young bike testers struggle every time we put them on a bike with training wheels.
Price – Good bikes don’t come cheap
Many parents are hesitant to pay more than $50 – $100 on a child’s first real bike. While you certainly can go to Walmart and pick up a bike at that price, we strongly urge you to choose a bike from this list instead. While your child may just be a 3-year-old, the extra cost of a high-quality bike is so worth it! A child just learning to ride a bike is especially in need of a lightweight, quality bike that’s easy to ride.
Why trust us?
We have seen and tested out every bike on this list and have a garage storage problem to prove it :)! Unlike other website, we don’t just build lists, we actually test each product with our own kids. With 10 years of bike testing under our belt, we’ve personally met and consulted with many top brands in the industry including woom, Strider, Prevelo and Cleary.
Related Kids Bikes Articles
10 Best Girl Bikes: Looking for a high-performance bike in pink, purple, or cute designs? Check out our list!
Training Wheels: 10 Frequently Asked Questions: Training wheels make learning to ride a bike harder. Find out why!