9 Best Cheap Kids Bikes

Find a good kid’s bike without breaking the bank

What’s the best cheap kids bikes around for under $250?  Our top-recommended kids bikes are incredible little machines, but for many, their $300+ price tags are a bit daunting! For those parents looking for a more budget-friendly option, we have a solution for you!

Over the years, we’ve personally tested over 25 different cheap boys bikes and girls bikes. While these bikes are not as well-designed or as light as the bikes that take our top recommendations, they all perform impressively for their price tag and feature good basic geometry, a reasonable weight (well under 25 lb.), and a durable build.

Best Cheap Kids Bikes

BIKEWhy We Love ItSizes AvailableMSRP (12")
REI Co-Op REVBest Overall12", 16", 20"$159
Raleigh MXRBoys: Best Neighborhood Bike12", 16", 20"$150
Raleigh JazziGirls: Best Neighborhood Bike12", 16", 20"$150
Schwinn KoenBoys: Best Super Budget12", 14", 16", 18", 20"$118
Schwinn ElmGirls: Best Super Budget12", 14", 16", 18", 20"$118
Diamondback Mini ViperBest BMX Style12", 16", 20"$105
Raleigh RowdyBoys: Best for Aggressive Riders16", 20", 24"$260
Raleigh LilyGirls: Best for Aggressive Riders16", 20", 24"$230
Guardian EthosBest "Stretch Buy"16", 20", 24"$259

 


REI Co-op REV

Best Overall


MSRP: $159 – $209

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: The lightest weight and highest quality budget bike on the list!

In addition to being the lightest bike on our list, the REI Co-op line is very well made and if you do have any issues, it comes backed with REI’s amazing no-hassle return policy!  Although REI will ship their bikes direct to you, if you do happen to live near an REI store, assembly of the bike as well your first six-months of service are included with your purchase.

The 12 and 16-inch REV models come with training wheels for beginning riders but are lightweight and easy to ride without them.  All three models also come with a coaster brake, however, the 20-inch model also comes with a hand brake for the rear tire.

 


Raleigh MXR

Best Neighborhood Bike: Boys


MSRP: $150 – $190

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Sturdy and lighter-weight build allows average to aggressive riders to get adventurous on the MXR.

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh MXR 16, Raleigh MXR 20

Well-built with durable components, the MXR provides a smooth, comfortable ride and will surely last for years. With slightly lower-rise handlebars, it performs better for adventurous kids who are likely to go over small jumps or curbs. While not recommended for really aggressive riders (check out the Raleigh Rowdy!), the MXR has excellent quality for a budget bike, and is a solid option for adventurous riders on a budget.

 


Raleigh Jazzi

Best Neighborhood Bike: Girls


MSRP: $150 – $190

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Well-built and durable, the Jazzi is easy to ride and is also adorable.

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh Jazzi 16, Raleigh Jazzi 20

The Jazzi is Raleigh’s girl version of the MXR. The geometry is vastly different, with a swooped frame that is typically associated with girls’ bikes. It still performs just as well as the MXR, but comes in girly colors with ice cream sprinkles that our testers have gone GAGA for!

Our tester who previously rode a cheaper Royalbaby bike, immediately abandoned her old bike and has been rocking the Jazzi ever since.  An older tester who couldn’t learn to ride before she hopped on the Jazzi, was confidently riding down the street in just one day.

 


Schwinn Koen

Best Super Budget: Boys Bike


MSRP: $118 – $170

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 14 inch, 16 inch, 18 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child.

FULL REVIEW: Schwinn SmartStart

Easy-to-ride and easy-to-love, the Schwinn Koen has a low center-of-gravity which provides a comfortable and confidence-building stable ride for beginning riders. Aggressive riders also enjoyed the SmartStart but preferred the MXR. Schwinn’s overall quality has room for improvement but is significantly better than big-box-store bikes.

 


Schwinn Elm

Best Super Budget: Girls Bike


MSRP: $118 – $170

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 14 inch, 16 inch, 18 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child. Also, it comes with a basket!

FULL REVIEW: Schwinn SmartStart

The Schwinn Elm is the girls’ version of the Schwinn Koen. While its quality is on the lower end on this list, the overall design is far superior to a standard big-box store bike. If you’re on a serious budget but need a super girly bike (with a basket!), the Elm is easily your best choice.

 


Diamondback Mini Viper

Best BMX Style


MSRP: $105 – $135 

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: High handlebars and BMX styling

FULL REVIEW: Diamondback Mini-Viper

With higher handlebars, the Diamondback Mini-Viper is a great fit for taller riders or those with longer torsos because it will keep them in a more comfortable, upright position as the seat height is raised as the child grows. The Diamondback’s handlebars are 2″ taller than the Schwinn’s and MXR’s. With a durable build and a mid-range weight, the Diamondback is a great bike for the price, especially for kids who are demanding that BMX style.

 


Raleigh Rowdy

Best for Aggressive Boys


MSRP: $260 – $330

SIZES AVAILABLE: 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Solid-quality components and aggressive body position, NO coaster brake!

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh Rowdy 16, Raleigh Rowdy 20

For a budget bike, the Raleigh Rowdy is one rugged and kid-friendly bike. With more aggressive body positioning than neighborhood bikes, the Raleigh Rowdy is the best bike on this list for kids who want to get off the paved trails and explore a little all-terrain.

Our testers have consistently loved the Rowdy, which is incredibly well-designed for the price. It’s a serious bang for your buck.

 


Raleigh Lily

Best for Aggressive Girls


MSRP: $230 – $330

SIZES AVAILABLE: 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Solid-quality components and aggressive body position, NO coaster brake!

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh Lily 16

The Raleigh Lily is the girls’ version of the Raleigh Rowdy. Best for aggressive riders who would benefit from a more leaned forward body position, the Lily has solid-quality components and can surely take a beating.

 


Guardian Ethos

Best “Stretch” Buy


MSRP: $259 – $339

SIZES AVAILABLE: 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: SureStop braking system, kid-friendly geometry, highest quality components

FULL REVIEW:  Guardian Ethos

Lightweight and well-designed, Guardian bikes come with a proprietary braking system called SureStop that prevents unsafe braking. When braking with just the front hand brake while at high speeds, bikes can tilt forward and buck a child off the bike and over the handlebars.

SureStop on Guardian bikes prevents this by having only one brake lever engage the front and rear brakes sequentially. Not only it is the safest system on the market, but it’s also much easier to use than most tradition dual-hand brakes.

 

Cheap Kids Bikes Comparison

Bike

MSRP

WeightMin Seat HeightMax Seat HeightBrakesComes with Training WheelsFrame Material
Co-Op REV 12

$159

16.3 lb.CoasterYesAluminum

Raleigh MXR 12

$150

17.7 lb.Coaster YesSteel

Raleigh Jazzi 12

$150

17.75Coaster YesSteel
Diamondback Mini Viper 12

$105

CoasterYesSteel
Co-Op REV 16

$189

16.25 lb.CoasterYesAluminum

Raleigh MXR 16

$170

18.3 lb.19.5"24"Coaster 3.5Aluminum

Raleigh Jazzi 16

$170

18.5 lb.19"23"Coaster YesAluminum

Schwinn Koen 16

$145

20.6 lb.20.5"20.6"Front hand brake, coasterYesSteel

Schwinn Elm 16

$145

Front hand brake, coasterSteel

Raleigh Rowdy 16

$260

15.6 lb.21.5"26"Dual HandNoAluminum

Raleigh Lily 16

$230

16.1 lb.21.25"25.5"Dual HandNoAluminum
Diamondback Mini Viper 16

$120

17.4 lb.17.5″20.5"CoasterYesSteel
Guardian Ethos 16

$259

17.5 lb.18.5" 23.5"SureStopNoSteel
Co-Op REV 20

$209

20.1 lb.Coaster with single hand brakeNoAluminum

Raleigh MXR 20

$190

22.8 lb.23.5"29.5"Coaster with single hand brakeYesAluminum

Raleigh Jazzi 20

$190

21.8 lb.23"29.5"Coaster with single hand brakeNoAluminum
Diamondback Mini Viper 20

$135

Coaster with single hand brakeYesSteel

Raleigh Rowdy 20

$290

21 lb.25.25"29.9"Dual HandNoAluminum

Raleigh Lily 20

$290

21.5 lb.Dual HandNoAluminum
Guardian Ethos 20

$279

20.7 lb.20.8" 28.8"SureStopNoSteel

Raleigh Lily 24

$330

Dual HandNoAluminum

Raleigh Rowdy 24

$330

Dual HandNoAluminum
Guardian Ethos 24

$339

25.5 lb.25" 33"SureStopNoSteel

What We Look for in a Cheap Kids Bike

Our evaluation and rankings for budget bikes were based on how easy it was for our testers to balance and maneuver the bike. Several different factors affect the overall performance of a bike, which we outline in more detail on our Pedal Bikes: How to Choose Page, but for 12 inch, 16″, 20″ and 24″ budget bikes, our main criteria for performance were 1) geometry, 2) handlebar height, 3) weight, and 4) quality.

We’ve tested over 25 budget-friendly bikes, with kids ranging from 3 years old to 8 years old.  The smaller the bike, the more exaggerated potential issues are.

There are very few 12″ bikes that are easy to ride. It’s absolutely more important to get a better bike when your child is young. A 12″ bike that’s difficult to ride may deter a 3 or 4-year-old from ever learning to ride. An adventurous 8-year-old, on the other hand, is going to have a much easier time handling a less-than-perfect 24″ bike.

Geometry

A bike’s geometry is how the bike positions a child while riding. The bottom bracket (where crank arms attach to the frame), should sit low to the ground to provide a lower center-of-gravity for the rider. A lower bottom bracket allows the rider to sit lower on the bike (sit closer to the wheels), which makes the bike easier to balance. The bottom bracket heights varied from 8″ to 9.5″ on the seven 16″ bikes we tested, with the Schwinn SmartStart having the lowest bottom bracket height of 8″.

Sitting Lower to the Ground Makes it Easier to Balance

Picture showing the Schwinn SmartStart having a low center of gravity against the Raleigh MXR and the Diamonback Mini-Viper. All three are budget 16" kids bikes under $200.

Bikes with a lower bottom bracket generally also allow the rider to center more of their weight over their hips, which mimics the ease of standing or walking. By sitting lower on the bike, a child can sit in a more natural, upright position, which not only centers their weight over their hips for better balance, but for beginning and timid riders, greatly increases their comfort and confidence on a bike.

Since most kids on 12″ and 16″ bikes are beginning riders, we gave preference to bikes with upright positioning for this comparison. For more skilled or adventurous riders, however, a more leaned forward position is generally better as it allows them to shift their weight when maneuvering the bike up and around jumps, curbs, and hills.

Schwinn SmartStart has Most Upright Body Positioning

Picture showing the differences in geometry on the Schwinn SmartStart, Raleigh MXR 16 and the Diamondback Mini Viper, all 16" budget kids bikes under $200. The Schwinn is most upright, the Mini Viper is most leaned forward. The MXR is in the middle.

 

Handlebar Height

The height and shape of a bike’s handlebars can greatly affect the overall maneuverability of the bike. In our testing, the performance of the Diamondback Mini Venom and Next Rocket all suffered due to a lack of proper handlebar design.

When the bars are too low, the child must lean forward to reach the bars, which limits their comfort on the bike and can also minimize the space for the child’s legs when pedaling. When too high and/or swept back, the handlebars can reach halfway up a child’s chest which requires riders to bend their elbows too much, limiting their range of motion.

Bars can also be too narrow or too wide, which can make the rider feel too squished or too stretched out on the bike. As seen below, the older version of the REI Co-op REV bike had narrow handlebars that were difficult to manage for our young riders. The REV bike has since been updated and its handlebars are wider and better-designed.

Poorly Designed Handlebars Make a Bike Difficult to Ride

Comparison of handlebars of Diamondback Mini Venom, REI Co-op REV 16 and Next Rocket/Flare. The Mini Venom's handlebars are too low, the REV's are too narrow, and the Rocket's are too tall/swept back.

As shown in the body positioning pictures earlier, the Schwinn SmartStart, Raleigh MXR and Diamondback Mini Viper all have handlebar designs that allow for proper arm extension as well as plenty of room for knees when pedaling.

Weight

Ideally, a child’s bike should weigh no more than 30% of their own weight. This is often hard to achieve with budget bikes as they are usually made with heavier steel frames and lower-end components. At 17.6 lb., the REI’s Co-op REV is the lightest of our top picks. The Royalbaby Classic, which we do not recommend, was the heaviest at 24.5 lb.

Quality of Build

The actual frames of kids’ bikes rarely break, but their components (the smaller parts of a bike) often do. Like adult bikes, it’s usually the quality of these components that determine the overall cost of the bike. While determining quality is subjective, assembling the bike and feeling how well the parts go together and stay together is very indicative of their quality.

We found the Raleigh MXR to have the best quality for the under $200 price point. The bike went together very smoothly with no rattles or noises made while pedaling.

The Schwinn SmartStart was the lowest quality of those on our list as it required a lot of tweaking to get the handbrake to work and has some minor squeaks when in use.

The Diamondback Mini Viper was mid-range in quality between the Raleigh and the SmartStart. It doesn’t feel as “solid” as the Raleigh, but has no rattles or squeaks when in use.

Keep in mind that each of these bikes are some of the best quality in their price range. You can only expect so much for the price!

Related Articles

Kids’ Bikes: Product Filter Tool – To view and filter even more bikes, and read reviews.

Kids’ Bikes: How to Choose – Detailed information on what to look for when choosing a bike.

How to Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike Without Training Wheels – It doesn’t have to be painful!

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