Kids 12 and 14 Inch Bikes: The 10 Best Bikes for 3 Year Olds

With hundreds of kids’ bikes on the market, finding the perfect bike for your 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!

3 year old riding prevelo alpha one at skate park

The Best 12 and 14 Inch Bikes Rundown

BikeWhy We Love ItMSRP
Best for Neighborhood and Paved Trails
woom 2Best Overall$359
Guardian Ethos 14Best Safety Innovation$269
Joey 2.5Best Bike with Training Wheels and a Push Bar$239
Trek Precaliber 12 Best Bike Shop Bike$239
Best Multi-use: Paved or Dirt Trails
Prevelo Alpha OneBest for the Youngest Adventurous Riders$359
Pello RomperBest for Taller Adventurous Riders$339
Best on a Budget
Decathlon Btwin 100 14Best Super Budget$149
REI Co-Op REV 12Budget Honorable Mention$199
Park Cycles 14Best for Multi-Terrain$225
Strider 14x Balance Bike/Pedal Bike in One$200

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

  1. 12 and 14 inch bikes are pretty small and are typically fit most 3 year olds. If your child is older than 3, they are most likely a better fit on a 16 inch bike.
  2. Balance bikes teach kids how to balance a bike MUCH faster and easier than a bike with training wheels. Most 3-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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

woom 2

3 year old girl riding blue woom 2 14 inch bike at the skatepark

MSRP: $359

FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 16″ to 19″.

WEIGHT: 11.2 lb.

TRAINING WHEELS: Not provided.

TIRE SIZE14 inch


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

Guardian Ethos 14

3 year old riding Guardian Ethos 14 inch girls bike through splash pad

MSRP: $269

FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 15.5″ – 19.25″

WEIGHT: 16.5 lbs.

TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible, purchased separately


OUR FAVORITE FEATURES: SureStop braking system, kid-friendly geometry, easy to balance, no coaster brake

FULL REVIEW: Guardian Ethos 14″

**SPECIAL OFFER – Buy 2 Guardian Bikes (any size), get $50 off!**

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 Bike with Training Wheels and a Push Bar

Joey 2.5

young boy riding a blue joey 2.4 14 inch kids bike

MSRP: $239

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 WHEELSComes with training wheels for kids and a push bar for parents.

TIRE SIZE: 14 inch


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 12 Inch Bike Shop Bike

Trek Precaliber

3 year old riding Trek Precaliber 12 with her feet high up in the air

MSRP: $239

FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 15″ to 17.5″. 

WEIGHT: 14.3 lb. (without training wheels)

TRAINING WHEELS: Comes with training wheels, which attach via a knob – no tools required!

TIRE SIZE: 12 inch

FULL REVIEW: Trek Precaliber 12

Our favorite 12″ bike found in local bike shops, the Trek Precaliber boasts similar geometry to the high-end bikes on this list. It also has one of the lowest minimum seat heights, which makes it a great choice for kids transitioning to a pedal bike early.

While other bikes seem like “clown bikes” as kids get taller and older, our 40.5″ tall three-year-old rode the Precaliber 12 at its maximum seat height and still looked comfortable and natural.

With solid and durable components and wider tires for increased stability, the Precaliber 12 is a great quality bike for the price.  The Precaliber’s coaster brake and lack of hand brakes is reflected in its lower price tag.


  • Kid-friendly geometry offers plenty of space for growth and easy maneuvering
  • Very lightweight for its price point
  • 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

Best 14 Inch for Young Adventurous Riders

Prevelo Alpha One

3 year old standing on her pedal, getting out of the saddle on the Prevelo Alpha One 14" kids bike

MSRP: $359

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 Taller Adventurous Riders 

Pello Romper 14

3 year old boy riding up a jump on the 14 inch Pello Romper kids bike

MSRP: $339

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 on a Super Budget

Decathlon Btwin 100 14

3 year old girl standing up on the pedals while riding the Btwin 14

MSRP: $149

FITS KIDS: With inseams from 16.5″ to 19″

WEIGHT: 16.3 lb. (without training wheels)


TIRE SIZE: 14 inch

FULL REVIEW: Btwin Kids Bike

We especially appreciate the clever hand brake that has great stopping power. Usually hand brakes at this price point don’t really work and are just for show. The Btwin’s hand brake is easy to use, easy to adjust, and works really well.

The Btwin 100 is an incredible bang for your buck! It’s the only 12 or 14 inch “big box store” bike we’ve found that’s sized appropriately for young riders, and is a natural, easy riding experience. While Huffy, Royalbaby, and Schwinn are much better known, this bike is a much better ride for just $149.


  • Frame design offers plenty of room for kids to comfortably maneuver the bike
  • Cleverly designed handbrake is easy for kids to use and simple for parents to adjust
  • Cute characters – lions, unicorns, fish, etc. (some designs are $199 vs. $149)
  • Training wheels come standard


  • Rear coaster brake (but standard at this price point)
  • Seat height adjustment requires a wrench to loosen the bolt

Best 12 Inch Bike Honorable Mention

REI Co-op Cycles REV 12

Young child riding Co-Op Cycles 12 inch kids bike at the skatepark

MSRP: $199

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 14 Inch Bike Bang for Your Buck

Park Cycles 14

3 year old riding Park Cycles 14 inch bike on a paved trail

MSRP: $225

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

Strider 14x

young boy doing tricks on Strider 14x

MSRP: $190

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 preschoolers, 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

Best 14 Inch for Little Groms

Spawn Yoji 14 Inch

3 year old riding down a ramp at the skatepark on the Spawn Yoji 14 inch bike

MSRP: $385

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 Small Bike for Tiny Riders

Cleary Gecko

boy on Cleary Gecko 12 bike

MSRP: $310

FITS KIDS: With inseams ranging from 15″ to 19″.  Best for balance bikes graduates still in size 3T/4T clothes.

WEIGHT: 15 lb.

TRAINING WHEELS: Not provided.

TIRE SIZE: 12 inch

FULL REVIEW: Cleary Gecko

The smallest bike on our list, the Cleary Gecko is a good choice for the smallest of riders.  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.

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.

The Gecko’s geometry can be quite challenging for some riders as it positions the rider in a really strectched out position that most kids don’t prefer. As a result, we only recommend the Gecko for the smallest of riders who have no hesitancy about getting starter. If your child is hesitant or not ready, we recommend waiting a month or so until they are tall enough to fit on a Prevelo Alpha or Trek Precaliber.


  • Very low minimum seat height accommodates little riders
  • Easy-reach, easy-pull dual-hand brakes
  • Reversible tire to allow for two gearing options


  • Stretched out geometry makes for a very aggressive body position

Comparison Chart: 12 and 14 inch Kids Bikes

BikeMSRPWeightMin Seat HeightMax Seat HeightFreewheel OptionTraining WheelsGain Ratio
Multi-Use: Paved and Dirt Trails
Prevelo Alpha One$35914.4 lb.15.6"17.5"YesNo3.7
woom 2$35911.2 lb.16"19"YesNo3.7
Spawn Yoji 14"$44014.3 lb.16.5"18"StandardNo3.67
Park Cycles 14$22516.1 lb.16.75"19.75"StandardNo3.11
Pello Romper 14$33915 lb.17.5"21.75"YesNo3.57
Cleary Gecko$33015 lb.15"17.8"YesNo2.97
Neighborhood and Paved Trails
Guardian Ethos 14$26916.2 lb.15.5"19.25"StandardNo
REI Co-Op REV 12$19915.8 lb17.88"21.25"NoYes
LittleBig$28014.5 lb18.5"21"YesNo3.9
Royalbaby H2$24015.2 lb.18.25"20"StandardYes
Royalbaby Freestyle 14$13621.7 lb.19.25"22"NoYes
ByK E-250$23914.4 lb.15.7"18.1"NoYes2.45
Btwin 100 14$14916.3 lb.17.25"20.5"NoYes
Specialized Riprock$23017 lb.15.5"18.5"NoYes4
Trek Precaliber$23914.3 lb.15.25"18.75"NoYes
Joey 2.5$21014.8 lb.16.5"18.25"StandardYes
Strider 14x$19912.5 lb.15"22"NoNo
Raleigh Jazzi/MXR 12$15016.9 lb.17"20.5"NoYes
Schwinn Elm/Koen$130NoYes

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 as they grow through the next year. If your boy or girl is older than 3, 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.

14 inch Royal Baby Bike next to a 14 inch Prevelo bike

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.

3 year old on Raleigh Jazzi 12 inch bike. One image sitting on seat with feet flat on the ground, the other she's on her tip toes.

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.

Side by side image of the rear of a 12 inch bike and a 14 inch bike. Shows the raised bottom bracket on the 12 inch in relation to the rear axle.

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.

Side by side image of child's leg at the top swing of their pedal stroke on a 12 inch bike and a 14 inch bike. The child's leg is cramped on the 12 inch bike.

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.

Side by side image of a 3 year old riding a 12 inch bike and a 14 inch bike. Her center of gravity is much higher on the 12 inch bike.

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. 

3 year old riding the REI Co-Op Cycles REV 12 inch bike, showing she has no knee room. Compared to the same child riding a nicer 14 inch bike, which has a ton of knee room by comparison.

Short wheelbases negatively affect kids riding with or without training wheels in several ways.

  1. It prevents a child from being able to properly shift their weight around during a turn or even just to help them maintain balance.
  2. 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.
  3. 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??

3 year old riding woom 2 14 inch bike at the 9th Street BMX bike park in Austin

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!

3 year old fits well on Cruzee balance bike, but looks perched on top of the Raleigh MXR 12 inch bike with training wheels

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 woomStrider, Prevelo and Cleary.

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!

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