What’s the best cheap kids bike around or 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
|BIKE||Why We Love It||Sizes Available||MSRP (12")|
|REI Co-Op REV||Best Overall||12", 16", 20"||$159|
|Raleigh MXR||Boys: Best Neighborhood Bike||12", 16", 20"||$150|
|Raleigh Jazzi||Girls: Best Neighborhood Bike||16"||$150|
|Schwinn Koen||Boys: Best Super Budget||12", 14", 16", 18", 20"||$118|
|Schwinn Elm||Girls: Best Super Budget||12", 14", 16", 18", 20"||$118|
|Diamondback Mini Viper||Best BMX Style||12", 16", 20"||$105|
|Raleigh Rowdy||Boys: Best for Aggressive Riders||20"||$260|
|Schwinn EVO Krate||Lots of room for growth||16"||$170|
|Park Cycles||Great geometry, solid components||14", 16", 20"||$215|
|Guardian Ethos||Best "Stretch Buy"||14", 16", 20", 24"||$269|
Our Favorite Cheap Kids Bikes
MSRP: $159 – $209
STANDOUT FEATURE: The lightest weight and highest quality budget bike on the list!
FULL REVIEW: REI Co-op REV
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.
Best Neighborhood Bike: Boys
MSRP: $150 – $190
STANDOUT FEATURE: Sturdy and lighter-weight build allows average to aggressive riders to get adventurous on the MXR.
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.
Best Neighborhood Bike: Girls
SIZES AVAILABLE: 16 inch
STANDOUT FEATURE: Well-built and durable, the Jazzi is easy to ride and is also adorable.
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 Royal baby 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.
Best Super Budget: Boys Bike
MSRP: $118 – $170
STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child.
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.
Best Super Budget: Girls Bike
MSRP: $118 – $170
STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child. Also, it comes with a basket!
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.
Best for Aggressive Boys
SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 inch
STANDOUT FEATURE: Solid-quality components and aggressive body position, NO coaster brake!
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.
Most Room for Growth
SIZES AVAILABLE: 16 inch
STANDOUT FEATURE: Retro banana seat and fun styling
FULL REVIEW: Schwinn Krate EVO
The Banana Seat is back, baby! Beyond its retro cool styling, the Schwinn Krate EVO’s banana seat serves a functional purpose as well. Because a child can slide their bum back on the seat, a much older and taller rider can comfortably pedal on the Krate EVO. If you’re looking for a bike that your child won’t outgrow quickly, this modern take on a classic is a great option.
Great Geometry and Solid Components
MSRP: $215 – $315
SIZES AVAILABLE: 14 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch
STANDOUT FEATURE: Good geometry, lightweight frame, solid-quality components
FULL REVIEW: Park Cycles 14 and 16
Park Cycles are an insane bang for your buck. Their lightweight aluminum frames offer kid-friendly geometry not found on any other bike at this price point. With all-terrain tires and no coaster brakes, Park Cycles are perfect for families who want to give their kids a positive first-riding experience without breaking the bank.
Best “Stretch” Buy
MSRP: $269 – $379
STANDOUT FEATURE: SureStop braking system, kid-friendly geometry, highest quality components
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 traditional dual-hand brakes.
Cheap Kids Bikes Comparison
|Weight||Min Seat Height||Max Seat Height||Brakes||Comes with Training Wheels||Frame Material|
|Co-Op REV 12||16.3 lb.||Coaster||Yes||Aluminum|
Raleigh MXR 12
|Guardian Ethos 14||$269||16.2 lb.||15.5"||19.25"||SureStop, no coaster||No||Steel|
|Co-Op REV 16||16.25 lb.||Coaster||Yes||Aluminum|
Raleigh MXR 16
Raleigh Jazzi 16
Schwinn Koen 16
|20.6 lb.||20.5"||20.6"||Front hand brake, coaster||Yes||Steel|
Schwinn Elm 16
|Front hand brake, coaster||Steel|
Raleigh Rowdy 16
|15.6 lb.||21.5"||26"||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
Raleigh Lily 16
|16.1 lb.||21.25"||25.5"||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Diamondback Mini Viper 16||17.4 lb.||17.5″||20.5"||Coaster||Yes||Steel|
|Guardian Ethos 16||17.5 lb.||18.5"||23.5"||SureStop||No||Steel|
|Schwinn Krate EVO||$159||24.5 lb.||20.25″||23.75″||Coaster||Yes||Steel|
|Co-Op REV 20||20.1 lb.||Coaster with single hand brake||No||Aluminum|
Raleigh MXR 20
|22.8 lb.||23.5"||29.5"||Coaster with single hand brake||Yes||Aluminum|
Raleigh Jazzi 20
|21.8 lb.||23"||29.5"||Coaster with single hand brake||No||Aluminum|
|Diamondback Mini Viper 20||Coaster with single hand brake||Yes||Steel|
Raleigh Rowdy 20
|21 lb.||25.25"||29.9"||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
Raleigh Lily 20
|21.5 lb.||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Guardian Ethos 20||20.7 lb.||20.8"||28.8"||SureStop||No||Steel|
Raleigh Lily 24
Raleigh Rowdy 24
|Guardian Ethos 24||25.5 lb.||25"||33"||SureStop||No||Steel|
What We Look for in a Cheap Kids Bike
Our evaluation and rankings for cheap kids bicycles 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 Best Kids Bikes: The Authoritative Buying Guide, 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.
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
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
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
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.
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 Kids Bikes Articles
Kids Pedal Bikes: Comparison Charts – To view and filter even more bikes, and read reviews.
Best Kids Bikes: The Authoritative Buying Guide – Detailed information on what to look for when choosing a bike.
How to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike – It doesn’t have to be painful!