Kids 16 inch bikes generally fit kids as early as 4-years-old and allow for growth for about 2 years. We LOVE 16 inch bikes as they are typically the first bikes that kids truly become independent and confident riders on! As a result, it is essential to find a 16″ bike that fits your little one like a glove! If you are unsure whether your child will fit on a 16″ bike, be sure to check out our kids bike sizes guide.
Why trust us? Over the years, we’ve put over thirty 16 inch pedal bikes to the test with various riders on various terrains. In the end, we’ve determined that there isn’t one best bike, but rather bikes that are better for different types of rides and riders. Unlike most “best lists”, you won’t find one bike crowned as our “top pick”, but rather highlights about each bike to help you find the best for your child.
Best on a Budget Bikes
- Guardian Ethos – Best Safety Innovation, $259
- REI Co-Op REV 16 – Best for Adventurous Riders, $189
- Schwinn Koen/Elm – Best for Everyday Timid Riders, $145
- Raleigh MXR/Jazzi 16 – Best Boys/Girls Bang for Your Buck, $170
- Guardian Original – Best Safety Innovation, $359
- Priority Start 16 – Best Bang for Your Buck, $329
- woom 3 – Best for Beginning Riders, $389
Multi-Use – Paved and Mild Trails Bikes
- Cleary Hedgehog – Best for Neighborhood Riders, $375
- Prevelo Alpha Two – Best for Adventurous Riders, $379
- Pello Revo – Best for Basic Trail Riding, $369
The Best 16 Inch Bikes Video Summary
Wondering what all of our favorite 16 inch bikes look like in action? Check out our video summary below to watch our kid bike riders put them to the test.
BEST BUDGET 16 INCH BIKES (UNDER $260)
What We Look for in a Bike Under $260
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 with properly placed handlebars (not too high, not too low), a reasonable weight (under 25 lb.), and a durable build.
Budget Bikes: Best Safety Innovation
SEAT HEIGHT: 18″ – 23.5″
WEIGHT: 17.5 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Proprietary braking system helps kids stop bike with more control
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, bucking the 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. Not only is it the safest system on the market, but it’s also much easier to use than most traditional dual-hand brakes.
Guardian’s Ethos line is a more budget-friendly version of their premium Original line. The two models share all the same features, but the Ethos line is slightly heavier as it constructed with steel versus aluminum.
Budget Bikes: Best for Adventurous Riders
SEAT HEIGHT: 20.75″ – 24.5″
WEIGHT: 18 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Lightweight frame and solid-quality components
FULL REVIEW: REI Co-Op Cycles REV 16
With the REI name comes an expectation of dependable quality for a fair price. And that’s what you get with the REI Co-Op Cycles REV. REI’s kids bike start with durable, lightweight aluminum frames and are paired with solid quality components.
While the REV bikes boast incredible quality for the price point, they don’t score as many points in performance. The REV 16’s overall geometry is a bit awkward. From frame design to stem length and handlebar height, many riders struggle to find a comfortable position while riding. That said, our confident, adventurous riders did great on the REV, which is why we recommend it as a high-quality, affordable option for confident riders.
Budget Bikes: Best for Everyday Timid Riders
SEAT HEIGHT: 20.5″ – 24.5″
WEIGHT: 20.6 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Easy-to-ride, kid-specific design
FULL REVIEW: Schwinn SmartStart Series
Available in multiple styles and from multiple retailers, Schwinn’s SmartStart Series collection of bikes (which includes the Elm 16 inch girls bike and Koen 16 inch boys bike) are a big step up from cheap big-box store bikes. Lighter than those bikes, the SmartStart Series also provides a high-end, child-specific geometry which allows for a more stable and comfortable ride for kids.
While the overall design is still a lower-quality budget build, the price tag is much more affordable for many parents. The SmartStart Series does come with a handbrake, but it’s poorly made and riders will have to rely on the coaster brake to stop.
Budget Bikes: Best Bang for Your Buck
SEAT HEIGHT: 19″ – 23″
WEIGHT: 18.5 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Durable build with good basic components
Impressively durable and well-designed, the Raleigh Jazzi (girls) and MXR (boys) provide a smooth, comfortable ride and will surely last for years. With slightly lower-rise handlebars, they perform better for adventurous kids who are likely to go over small jumps or curbs, while also being perfect for neighborhood cruisers.
More lightweight than other low-price kids bikes, Raleigh kids bikes offer the best quality for the price. If you’re on a budget, it doesn’t get better than the Jazzi or MXR. While more expensive, the Jazzi and MXR are easier to ride and are better quality than the Schwinn Elm or Koen.
Comparison: 16 Inch Bikes Under $260
|Category||Raleigh MXR 16||Schwinn SmartStart||Guardian Ethos|
Raleigh Jazzi 16
Link to Review
|Jazzi Review||Schwinn Review|
Durable build with good basic components
Easy-to-ride, kid-specific design
Proprietary braking system, SureStop
19" - 23"
20.5" - 24.5"
18" - 23.5"
|3.5 - Mid-range for easy pedaling and decent speeds||3.7 - Slightly harder to get started, but has a higher maximum speed||3.55 - Mid-range for easy pedaling and decent speeds|
Front hand brake, coaster
SureStop, No coaster
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD 16 INCH BIKES
What We Look for in a Neighborhood Bike
Most kids on 16 inch bikes stick to riding around the neighborhood. Stable, reliable, and lightweight, neighborhood bikes should be easy to ride, easy to balance, and perform consistently.
Neighborhood Bikes: Best Safety Innovation
SEAT HEIGHT: 18.5″ – 23.5″
WEIGHT: 16 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Proprietary braking system helps kids stop bike with more control
FULL REVIEW: Guardian 16 inch
While Guardian bikes boast lightweight frames and a kid-specific design, what really makes Guardian stand out is their proprietary braking system called SureStop. Designed to prevent unsafe braking, SureStop has only one brake lever that sequentially engages the rear and front brakes. Not only it is the safest system on the market, but it’s also much easier to use than most traditional dual-hand brakes. Also available in the more budget-friendly “Ethos” model.
Neighborhood Bikes: Best Bang for Your Buck
SEAT HEIGHT: 18.5″ – 23″
WEIGHT: 15.9 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Packed with features for the price
FULL REVIEW: Priority Start 16
Built with high-end components that provide durability and performance, the Priority 16 packs a lot of punch in its sub-$300 price tag. Priority Bicycles got their start with Kickstarter and has grown into a well-respected, innovative bike brand. A great first “real” bike for kids, the Start will have your child craving adventure on two wheels in no time. An added bonus – kids think the super quiet belt drive is ninja cool for stealth mode, and parents love all the features you get for the price.
Neighborhood Bikes: Best for Beginning Riders
SEAT HEIGHT: 19.1″ – 24.8″
WEIGHT: 11.7 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Comfortable, upright geometry
FULL REVIEW: WOOM 3
The go-to bike for beginning riders. WOOM Bikes is a high-end, child-specific bike company that takes pride in designing bikes built specifically for children’s smaller frames. Smaller, lighter, and with a lower center-of-gravity than the average bike, the WOOM 3 is incredibly easy to balance and has a special brake system to help little newbies learn to properly use dual hand brakes for the first time.
Comparison: 16 Inch Neighborhood Bikes
|Category||WOOM 3||Guardian 16||Priority Start 16|
|WOOM 3||Guardian Original||Priority Start 16|
Link to Review
Comfortable, upright geometry
Unique and safe braking system
Packed with features for the price
19.1" - 24.8"
18.5" - 23.5"
18.5" - 23"
3.56 - Mid-range, not too hard to pedal, can gain speed
3.5 - Mid-range, not too hard to pedal, can gain speed
3.38 - Mid-range, not too hard to pedal, can gain speed
Dual hand, no coaster
SureStop, no coaster
Dual hand, no coaster
BEST 16 INCH MULTI-USE BIKES
What We Look for in a Multi-Use Bike – For Paved & Mild-Trail Use
Riders who are ready to hit the trails (both paved and compact dirt) as well as every jump or curb are better off with low-rise handlebars that place the body in a more leaned forward position on the bike. This allows the riders to easily shift their weight to maintain balance on uneven surfaces, jumps, curbs, etc. Wider and/or knobbier tires, as well as dual-hand brakes and no coaster brakes, also help little adventurers to maneuver safely through technical terrain.
Multi-Use: Everyday Riders
SEAT HEIGHT: 19″ – 26″
WEIGHT: 16 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Lightweight, nimble ride
FULL REVIEW: Cleary Hedgehog
Light and nimble with impressive stability, the Hedgehog is the perfect ride for hitting curbs, jumps around the neighborhood, or cruising through basic single track. Responsive handbrakes and low gearing make it ideal for more ambitious and/or uphill terrain. Cleary bikes truly make biking fun! The Cleary Owl, which is the 20-inch version, is sized like a larger 16 inch bike and is often a great fit for many taller 5 or 6-year-olds.
Multi-Use: Best for Adventurous Riders
SEAT HEIGHT: 18″ – 26″
WEIGHT: 14.9 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Well-suited for long distances and aggressive riding
FULL REVIEW: Prevelo Alpha 2
Engineered for kids with a lightweight, low-center-of-balance frame and a high gearing, the Prevelo Alpha Two is the perfect bike for kids who want to enjoy a long ride with the family as well as an occasional bike jump or pump track. With a 3.8 gain ratio, the rider gains considerable distance with each pedal stroke, making long rides easier for young riders while still being quick and nimble for fun and adventurous rides around the neighborhood.
Multi-Use: Best for Basic Trail Riding
SEAT HEIGHT: 20″ – 24.5″
WEIGHT: 16.3 lb.
STANDOUT FEATURES: Knobby tires, high-end components
FULL REVIEW: Pello Revo
Pello Bikes was started by a dad looking for a lightweight kids bike, built with high-end components that wouldn’t break the bank. He succeeded. Built with a Cane Creek headset, Kenda tires and a Tektro caliper brake, the Revo has significantly better components than 16″ bikes found in a bike shop. Unlike the Hedgehog and the Rowdy, the Revo comes with knobby tires that are better suited for trail riding. The Revo also comes with dual-hand brakes and a coaster brake, which can be removed via Pello’s $20 freewheel kit.
Bonus: Spawn Banshee, Best for True Trail Riding: While we haven’t yet tested out the Banshee for ourselves, we’ve only heard rave reviews from parents and biking world professionals. With knobby tires, Tektro dual-hand brakes, and a shorter wheelbase for a snappier ride and increased maneuverability, the Spawn is the perfect starter bike for the true all-terrain rider.
Comparisons: 16 Inch Bikes for Multi-Use
|Categories||Prevelo Alpha 2||Hedgehog||Pello Revo|
|Prevelo Alpha 2|
Link to Review
|Alpha 2 Review|
|Higher gain ratio for longer rides|
Lightweight, nimble ride
Knobby tires, high-end components
|18" - 26"|
19" - 26"
20" - 24.5"
|3.8 - High maximum speeds but not as hard to start pedaling|
2.88 - Low-range for easier pedaling up jumps, hills, etc.
3.55 - Mid-range for easy pedaling and decent speeds
|Dual hand, no coaster|
Dual hand, no coaster
Rear hand, coaster
BEST BIKE SHOP BIKES
What We Look for in a Bike Shop Bike
While bike shops have good quality bikes, they are often heavier and offer minimal features as compared to bikes available from child-specific bike manufacturers online. Due to limitations set on local bike shops by larger manufacturers such as Specialized and Trek, these new breed child-specific brands are rarely, if ever, available in local bike shops. More often than not, they are lighter and provide a higher level of quality and performance for the price. For more detailed differences, please read Bike Shop Bikes vs. Online Bikes – Why Online is Often a Better Deal.
Bike shop bikes, however, always come 100% assembled, tuned up, and come with a bike shop mechanic to help you keep it in top shape. If you prefer to purchase at your local bike shop, be sure to buy from a shop that is willing to take the time to find the right bike in their shop for your child, versus trying to sell you a poorly fit bike that either provides little room for growth or is too big and will require your child to “grow into it”. Of the bikes we’ve tested from local bike shops, the Norco Samurai and the Specialized Riprock Coaster are our top picks.
- Norco Roller ($319) was our hands-down favorite with no coaster brake and a comfortable but slightly aggressive geometry. It performed consistently and smoothly for our 5-year-old tester around the neighborhood as well as at the local bike park.
- Specialized Riprock Coaster 16 ($250 – previously Hotrock) provides a very stable ride and is durable enough to last for years, but its coaster brake and lack of handbrakes make it less desirable for all-terrain and more aggressive riding.
- Trek Precaliber ($249) was our least favorite as it was the heaviest and also did not offer hand brakes, just a coaster brake.
How to Choose the Best 16 inch Bike for your 4 or 5-Year-Old
While we have a much more detailed discussion about what makes a great bike in our best kids bikes buying guide, here’s a quick summary of the most important things to look for to find the perfect bike for your 4 or 5-year-old.
Girls 16 Inch Bike vs Boys 16 Inch Bike
Is there really any difference between a 16 inch girls bike or boys bike? Beyond color or design patterns, not really. There are a few cheaper girls bikes that have swooping frames, but in todays’ world, all of the best kids bikes have identical frames and components for boys and girls.
All kids bike brands offer a range of colors from “girly” to “boyish” or gender neutral. You don’t need to look for a 16 inch girl bike or 16 inch boy bike. Just choose the best kids bike, and find a color you child loves. If you’re wondering which brands have purple and pink and turquoise colors for a 4 or 5 year old girl, check out our page on the best bikes for girls.
You also always have the option of adding cute bike accessories to any bike to make it more feminine. For our favorite girls bike accessories, check out our list of best kids bike accessories.
Size – Kids 16 inch bikes vary widely
A 16 inch bike is generally the best fit to purchase for 4 and 5-year-olds. If your child is a very tall 5-year-old, a 20 inch bike should also be considered to allow for more room for growth.
Within the 16 inch wheel size, there is a very large range of seat heights. The smallest 16 inch bike we recommend has an 18″ minimum seat height, while another has a minimum seat height of 21.5″! To allow for the most room for growth, find a bike that has a minimum seat height that comes as close as possible to your child’s ideal seat setting (which will vary based on inseam and whether or not this is your child’s first pedal bike).
If this bike is your child’s first pedal bike after a balance bike, the bike’s seat should be set at or just below their inseam measurement. This allows a child to sit on the seat and easily put their feet down to steady themselves or stop the bike. This is critical as they learn to pedal to instill confidence and for maximum safety.
If your child has already mastered pedaling, you should set the bike’s seat about 2″ above the child’s inseam to allow for maximum efficiency while pedaling.
Weight – Lightweight is key to gaining confidence
Ideally, your child’s bike shouldn’t weigh more than 30% of their body weight. In general, the lighter the bike, the easier and less tiring it will be for your child to ride. Heavy bikes are really hard to manage for little ones who are still mastering the art of balancing and pedaling at the same time!
For example, can you imagine a 4-year-old trying to ride the Royal Baby 16″ bike which weighs 24 pounds compared to the woom 3 at 11.7 pounds?? Since kids are often starting off their pedal bike journey on a 16″ bike, when possible, we often encourage parents to step up their budget a bit in order to get their kids on a lighter weight bike. With a lightweight bike they can quickly become confident little pedalers. Once confident, they can often tackle a heavier, often lesser quality bike for their next bike.
Frame Design – It goes way beyond looks!
A bike’s frame design plays a major role in the overall feel and performance of a bike. Some bikes put a child in an upright position that feels very natural for beginning riders and is great for neighborhood riding.
Other bikes require a rider to lean forward to grip the handlebars, putting kids in a more aggressive position. These types of bikes are generally better for more experienced, adventurous riders who will be doing more aggressive riding.
Brakes – Try to avoid coaster brakes
Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) are often found on 16 inch bikes, but they can inhibit a child’s ability to learn to pedal while balancing a bike. Why?
When learning to pedal and balance on a bike, kids (like adults!) naturally pedal backward when attempting to regain their balance. If the bike has a coaster brake, pedaling backward inadvertently activates the bike’s brake, which slows the bike and often leads to a crash. Without a coaster brake, pedaling backward to regain balance isn’t a problem.
As a result, we much prefer bikes without coaster brakes and with responsive hand brakes that are easy for small hands to operate.
Gearing – How fast will the bike go?
For kids ages 4, 5, and 6, gears are just too much to handle and bikes with gears and shifters are not available on 16 inch bikes. However, the gearing of a bike is still worth taking into consideration. In the biking world, the gain ratio relates to the gearing of a single-speed bike and is often used to determine how hard it is to pedal a bike.
High gain ratios (3.7+) are harder to get started pedaling but can more easily maintain higher speeds. Lower gain ratios (3.3 and below) are really easy to start pedaling but can’t reach high maximum speeds. Gain ratios in the middle do a little bit of both! For 16 inch bikes, we generally prefer mid-range gain ratios from about 3.3 to 3.7.
Price – What does a more expensive bike get me?
Good bikes are not cheap. Every bike on this list is significantly better than a bike you’ll find at Walmart, but also costs more. Why? It’s not easy making a great, quality, yet lightweight bike! There is a reason some adults bikes cost more than a car.
In the end, after testing over 30 different 16 inch bikes, we can confidently say that higher-end bikes are MUCH easier for kids to ride than budget bikes found at big-box stores. While any bike (well any safe bike) is better than no bike, if you want child to start their biking journey off with a smile versus tears and frustration, we highly recommend splurging on a nicer bike when possible. Higher-end bikes also typically have great resale values, with many re-selling for close to 70% of their MSRP.
Comparison Chart: 16 inch Bikes for 4 and 5 year olds
|Bike Weight||Min Seat Height||Max Seat Height||Brakes|
|Gain Ratio||Frame Material|
Budget Bikes (Under $260)
|Guardian Ethos 16||17.5 lb.||18.5"||23.5"||SureStop||3.55||Steel|
|Cannondale Trail||19.1 lb.||Coaster||Aluminum|
|Trek Precaliber||17.98 lb.||Coaster||Aluminum|
|20.5 lb.||19.25"||23"||Front hand brake, coaster||Steel|
|19.25"||23"||Front hand brake, coaster||Steel|
|20.6 lb.||20.5"||24.5"||Front hand brake, coaster||3.7||Steel|
|Schwinn Krate EVO||24.5 lb.||20.25″||23.75″||Coaster||$159||Steel|
|REI Co-Op Cycles REV 16||18 lbs.||20.75"||24.5"||Coaster||$189||Aluminum|
Neighborhood and Paved Trail Bikes
|Ridgeback Dimension||14.96 lb.||Dual hand||Aluminum|
|15.9 lb.||18.5"||23"||Dual hand, no coaster||3.38||Aluminum|
|17.6 lb.||18"||23.3"||Coaster with hand brakes||4||Aluminum|
Multi-Use: Paved and Dirt Trail
|Early Rider Seeker||13.1 lb.||Dual hand||Aluminum|
|14.8 lb.||19.5"||23"||Dual hand, no coaster||3.5||Aluminum|
|11.7 lb.||19.1"||24.8"||Dual hand, no coaster||3.56||Aluminum|
|16 lb.||19"||26"||Dual hand, no coaster||2.88||Aluminum|
|14.9 lb.||18"||26"||Dual hand, no coaster||$369||3.8||Aluminum|
|16.3 lb.||20"||24.5"||Coaster with dual handbrakes||3.55||Aluminum|
|16.1 lb.||21.25"||25.5"||Dual Hand||3.6||Aluminum|
|15.6 lb.||21.5"||26"||Dual Hand||3.5||Aluminum|
Related Kids 16 Inch Bikes Articles
Training Wheels: 10 Frequently Asked Questions: If you’re considering training wheels, read this first!
How to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike – It doesn’t have to be painful!
10 Best Girl Bikes: Looking for a high-performance bike in pink, purple, or cute designs? Check out our list!
REI Co-Op REV Kids Bikes – Another great quality and affordable option for kids bikes is REI REV Bikes