Best 20″ Boys’ Bikes on a Budget
Comparing Three of the Most Popular 20″ Boys’ Bikes Under $100
While the best 20” boys’ bikes will run you anywhere from $280 – $500, we realize that some people think it’s crazy to spend that much on a kid’s bike! So if you’re a parent that wants a simple, cheap bike that your son can ride around the neighborhood and that won’t cost you more than $100, we’re here to help you get the most for your money!
Now, we don’t want to harp on how much better a $300 boy’s bike is, but we do just want to make sure that you know what you’re giving up when you decide to go for a bike under $100 – just to set expectations.
Size is the most important feature to get right when choosing a bike for your child. Unfortunately, one of the primary difficulties with bikes under $100 is that they aren’t built in the right proportions for a child.
Seat Height: While kids may be able to ride comfortably once on a bike, they can have trouble getting on and off because the seat is actually too tall for them. 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. Unfortunately, budget manufacturers rarely publish their seat height specs, so you’re often just making a lucky guess. Luckily we’ve done these measurements for you so you can buy online with confidence!
Standover Height: Of even greater concern is standover height – whether or not there is room between the top tube of the bike and a child’s crotch when straddling the bike in front of the seat. If the child’s inseam is not more than 1″ greater than the bike’s standover height, sliding forward on the bike in a crash can cause a child’s crotch to forcefully hit the the top tube. So while our 6-year-old tester could comfortably ride all three bikes we tested, not a single one had sufficient standover height clearance to be safe.
Seat Heights and Standover Height
Adjustability: All of these models require a wrench to adjust the seat height. Be careful not to pinch the seat as you adjust the wrench up and down – this will cause tearing!
Ideally, a bike should weigh less than 40% of a child’s weight. (For reference, most adults ride bikes that are no more than 20% of their weight!). Cheaper bikes traditionally have heavy steel frames which make a 40% threshold very difficult to accomplish. All of the bikes we tested were pretty heavy, although it’s not abnormal for kids’ bikes to be about 50% of a child’s weight. The worst offender here is the Kent Chaos, which is a beast in the weight department.
Geometry and Handlebars
This may sound silly and obvious, but a kid needs room to ride a bike. Too often super value bikes don’t provide enough space between the handlebars and the bike seat (wheelbase measurement), so a child’s body gets crammed together as a result. It’s uncomfortable, and it makes it much more difficult to pedal efficiently and to control the bike.
Both Huffy and Dynacraft are a little cramped but aren’t the worst offenders we’ve seen by far. The Kent Chaos, however, gets a gold star here! With a 993 mm wheelbase, kids have room to spread out for an efficient, comfy ride.
The positioning of the handlebars can also make quite a difference. When the handlebars are too high, it limits overall control and maneuverability.
By the time a child is on a 20” bike, they are waaaaay past the point where there should be coaster brakes on their bike. Reality is, coaster brakes are far cheaper than hand brakes and are pretty typical of any kid’s bike under $200. The Kent Chaos is a rare exception in this category. Not only does the Chaos have dual hand brakes and no coaster brake, the hand brakes actually function pretty well and our 8-year-old tester had no problem engaging them! Go Chaos!! You do need to be cautious, however, with kids with smaller hands. Our 6-year-old tester was able to engage the brakes without a safety issue, but it was a little more of an effort for him to do so.
Since your child is sitting most of the time they are on their bike, a comfy saddle can go a long way! The saddle on the Kent Chaos is the widest, softest and most comfortable, with the Dynacraft not too far behind. The Huffy saddle is longer and more narrow, which bothered our 8-year-old tester.
Bikes under $100 are easy on the pocket book, but not always the easiest and safest to ride. The Kent Chaos is your best bet for a boy’s bike in this price range. If you’re interested in checking out mid and high-end bikes, read our Kids’ Bikes Comparison Charts and Recommendations page.
By: Carrie Wren
Last Updated: April 7, 2017