The best kids bikes on the market are often not the bikes and brands you might assume. Over the past 10 years, we’ve tested and reviewed over 200 kids bikes.
During that time we’ve witnessed the evolution of the kids bikes market and the explosion of new kid-specific bike brands. These lightweight kids bike brands bypass the local bike shops and sporting goods stores and ship bicycles for kids directly to the consumer.
But what makes our favorite kids bikes so great? And why are they so drastically better than bikes by well-known brands like Huffy, Royal baby, or Kent? Did these brands really “re-invent” the wheel, or are they all just a marketing ploy?
In this article walk you through the top-performing kids bikes brands as well as jump into to specifics as to what makes their kids bikes so great.
The Best Kids Bikes and Brands
There are several kids bike brands that consistently show up in the top kids bike lists. Built with fine attention to detail, these brands all originated with the concept of building a great kids bike to improve a child’s riding experience.
From timid beginning riders to aggressive daredevils, each brand has done an amazing job at building and creating the “best bike” for a specific type of child rider. Having personally tested all of these bike brands, our experiences have proven that these brands deserve their “best bike” rankings.
|Best on a Budget|
|Btwin Kids Bikes||Great quality for low price||$149|
|Guardian Ethos||Innovative SureStop Braking system||$249|
|Polygon Bikes||Light, great multi purpose bikes: 20", 24" only||$249|
|Best for Everyday Riders|
|woom||Light weight for effortless riding||$399|
|Priority Bicycles||Easy to use and maintain||$329|
|Best for Aggressive Riders|
|Prevelo||Quick,nimble, light weight bikes||$369|
|Cleary||Rugged and durable bikes||$370|
|Pello||Confidence building all-terrain bikes||$359|
|Frog Bikes||Lots of bright color options||$430|
For additional details on each of these brands, jump down to our Best Kids Bike Brands below.
What about Trek and Specialized’s kids bikes?
Trek, Specialized, Giant, and all the amazing bike brands found at your local bike shop offer great quality kids bikes, but they certainly aren’t the best. These brands all focus on delivering killer adults bike for a wide range of cycling, but their main focus has never been kids bikes.
As a result, their bikes tend to be heavier and don’t offer the same quality and performance for the price as these kid-specific brands. Don’t get us wrong, we 100% support local bike shops and believe they are essential to communities. In order to be competitive in the kids bike world, however, these brands need to step up their game and build lightweight kids bikes with better components.
Price vs. Quality in Kids Bikes
A quick note about quality bikes and price. Quality, well-built, and easy to ride bikes do not come cheap. Mass-marketed kids bike brands, such as Huffy, RoyalBaby and Dynacraft (found in big-box stores or online), are built with a cheap price tag as the end goal, NOT the child’s experience on the bike.
Even adding something like an improved brake caliper for safer braking isn’t considered because it will raise the cost of the bike. With big-box store bikes, price trumps performance.
Our favorite kids bike brands are designed to be the best. From the ground up, every component is carefully selected to maximize the performance of the bike.
For those looking for an amazing bike on a budget, we highly recommend first searching for a quality used bike locally. Unlike big-box store bikes, quality bikes are can be repaired with new components to make them almost as good as new! Their lightweight frames also make for a great starting point for creating your own customized bike.
Industry Leading Kids Bike Brands
These brands truly deliver the best kids bikes on the market. We have seen countless kids struggle on a cheap big-box store bike only to hop onto a lightweight high-end bike and pedal away like a champ. Remember, all of these brands are direct-to-consumer and can be purchased from their websites by clicking on the links below.
We are only discussing pedal bikes below. If you have a child 18-months to 3 years that’s never had a bike, a balance bike is a much better option.
To learn what makes these bikes the best, jump down to our What Makes for a Great Kids Bike section below.
BEST KIDS BIKE BRANDS ON A BUDGET
Reliable quality for neighborhood riders
- SIZES: 14″ to 24″
- PRICE RANGE: $109 – $450
- TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible
- STANDOUT FEATURES: Great quality for the price, innovative and kid-friendly brake lever
- OUR REVIEWS: Btwin 14 inch bike, Btwin 16 inch, Btwin Rockrider 20, Btwin Rockrider 24, Btwin Original 24
The house brand for Decathlon sports stores, Btwin kids bikes aren’t as refined as our other favorites, but they’re the most affordable.
With frame designs and components that are a big step up from Walmart bikes, we’ve found Btwin kids bikes pretty easy to ride while also being lightweight enough and quite durable. Unlike other “cheap” kids bikes that are too big and clunky for the riders they are designed for, the Btwin kids bikes are similar in sizing to some of our other favorites like woom and Priority.
One really cool feature of Btwin bikes is the Stop Easy brake lever. Designed to nestle itself more naturally in little hands, it’s also a lot easier to pull that other brake levers at this price point.
Btwin kids bikes are available at two price points. If you go with the slightly more basic and less colorful 100 line, you can save yourself about $50.
Game-Changing Proprietary Braking System
- SIZES: 16″ to 26″
- PRICE RANGE: $249 – $429
- TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible
- STANDOUT FEATURES: Kid-friendly braking system
- OUR REVIEWS: Guardian 14, Guardian 16, Guardian 20, Guardian 24, Guardian 26
Guardian Bikes‘ innovative SureStop braking system has been a game changer in the kids’ bike world. Safer, faster, and more fun than your standard bike brakes, SureStop has simplified the braking process, while also making it more effective.
Every Guardian bike has just one brake lever on the right hand. But that one lever activates both the rear and front brakes sequentially. This results in more stopping power, and prevents kids from accidentally engaging the front brake only, which can result in a child flipping themselves over the handlebars!
Young kids typically have difficulty learning the difference between braking with their right and left hands, but SureStop removes any confusion, while offering the superior braking power of dual brakes.
Polygon Premier Ultralight
Lightweight, solid-quality, great for paved or trail use
- SIZES: 20″ and 24″
- PRICE RANGE: $349 – $399
- TRAINING WHEELS: Not compatible
- STANDOUT FEATURES: Lightweight, solid-quality components
- OUR REVIEWS: Polygon Premier Ultralight Kids Bike
For timid or aggressive riders, paved or dirt trails, Polygon Premier kids bikes boast kid-friendly geometry and solid-quality components for a seriously low price point. Because Polygon owns their own factories, they are able to produce bikes for less and they pass that savings on to the customer.
Overall, these bikes are incredibly versatile, and will be easy for almost any kid to ride – no matter their skill level. We especially appreciate that they come with a derailleur hanger and cage to protect the bike’s most fragile component from potential damage!
BEST BIKES FOR EVERYDAY RIDERS
Lightweight masterpieces for effortless riding
- SIZES: 14″ to 26″
- PRICE RANGE: $359 – $569
- TRAINING WHEELS: Not compatible on all sizes
- STANDOUT FEATURES: Lightest kids bikes on the market, kid-friendly geometry and components
- OUR REVIEWS: woom 2 (14″), woom 3 (16″), woom 4 (20″), woom 5 (24″) and woom 6 (26″)
Easy, intuitive, and incredibly lightweight, woom bikes are meticulously designed to make bike riding as natural as possible.
The woom 2 (14”) and woom 3 (16”) bikes are the perfect first pedal bikes. They are the LIGHTEST kids bikes on the U.S. market, which has a HUGE effect on a child’s ability to manage a bike.
Woom’s larger bikes have an evolved design that keeps riding simple and natural, but allows kids to get more adventurous and aggressive as they grow their skills.
Simplicity Perfected – Low maintenance bikes with grease-free belt drives
- SIZES: 16″ to 24″
- PRICE RANGE: $319 – $399
- TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible on 16″
- STANDOUT FEATURES: Belt drives, internally geared hubs, 3 gears for simplified shifting
- OUR REVIEWS: Priority Start 16″, Start 20″, and Start 24″
Priority Bicycles are uniquely suited for parents who are looking for a top-quality bike that’s easy to maintain and easy to use. Two features help accomplish this purpose: (1) a belt drive instead of the traditional bike chain, and (2) an internally geared hub with just 3 gears for easy shifting on their 20” and 24” bikes.
While greasy bike chains typically require regular maintenance and can easily fall off, belt drives are grease-free, maintenance-free, and will almost never fall off.
For the 20” and 24” geared bikes, the internally geared hub requires minimal maintenance compared to finicky derailleurs. Derailleurs can easily get damaged, especially on kids bikes, but internally geared hubs are enclosed, protecting it from damage.
The original, game-changing kid-specific bike brand (Not available in US)
- SIZES: 14″ to 24″
- PRICE RANGE: £349 – £549
- TRAINING WHEELS: Not compatible
- STANDOUT FEATURES: From crankset to headset, every component on an Islabike is fined-tuned to create the ultimate riding machine
- OUR REVIEWS: Islabike CNOC 14″, CNOC 16″, CNOC 20″, Beinn 20″, Beinn 24″
Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, Isabikes. If there’s a kids bike luxury brand, Islabikes is it. While no longer available for sale in the U.S., Islabikes are expertly crafted and built with excruciating attention to detail.
Islabikes is also the first true kids-centric bike brand, and should be credited with providing the inspiration for transforming the world of kids bikes and the creation of the many excellent kids bike brands you see on this list.
BEST KIDS BIKES FOR AGGRESSIVE RIDERS
Rugged and durable bikes built for neighborhood adventures
- SIZES: 12″ to 24″
- PRICE RANGE: $330 – $594
- TRAINING WHEELS: Not compatible
- STANDOUT FEATURES: Rugged and durable construction built to last for years and endless adventures
- OUR REVIEWS: Cleary Gecko (12″), Hedgehog (16″), Owl (20″)
Rugged and durable, Cleary Bikes are ideal for your neighborhood adventurer. With steel frames, Cleary bikes weigh just a bit more than a brand like woom, but these bikes are made to take a beating. For kids who have a passion for riding and push their bikes to the limit, a Cleary Bike is ideal.
The wider tires and slightly aggressive geometry of Cleary Bikes empower kids to take things off-road, through ditches, down dirt hills… basically whatever terrain your neighborhood is made of, your child can dominate on a Cleary.
Confidence building bikes with knobby all-terrain tires
- SIZES: 14″ to 24″
- PRICE RANGE: $369 – $619
- TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible on 14″ and 16″
- STANDOUT FEATURES: High-end Tektro, Kenda, Cane Creek components; excel at going from pavement to trails and back
- OUR REVIEWS: Pello Romper (14″), Revo (16″), Reddi (20″ small), Rover (20″), Reyes (24″)
Pello bikes are incredibly versatile and can easily tackle any terrain you choose. With a more upright geometry than bikes like Prevelo, Pello’s smaller bikes are ideal for timid to average riders who need time to build their skills before they are truly aggressive riders.
Pello’s 20” and 24” geared bikes have an optional front suspension fork. If you think you may have a budding mountain biker on your hands, Pello is a perfect choice because you can help your child grown their trail skills, and then upgrade the fork to convert your bike into a little mountain pony.
Light and nimble bike with all-terrain tires for aggressive adventure seekers
- SIZES: 14″ to 24″
- PRICE RANGE: $359 – $539
- TRAINING WHEELS: Not compatible
- STANDOUT FEATURES: Trigger shifters for aggressive riders, mountain bike inspired design
- OUR REVIEWS: Alpha One, Alpha Two, Alpha Three and Alpha Four
If you have a confident, aggressive rider on your hands, Prevelo Bikes should be your go-to option. Lightweight with slightly aggressive geometry and all-terrain tires, Prevelo Bikes empower your little rider to effortlessly transition from sidewalks to trail riding and back again.
Whether you’ll be rocking the skatepark, racing through the neighborhood, or adventuring on to beginning singletrack, Prevelo Bikes can do it all. Because these little bikes are so easy to ride on any terrain, they inspire young riders to push their riding skills to the limit.
Starting on their 20” bikes, Prevelo bikes feature trigger shifters, which are particularly suited for aggressive riders who may advance to mountain biking.
Super lightweight, tons of fun colors
- SIZES: 12″ to 26″
- PRICE RANGE: $360 – $620
- TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible on smaller models
- STANDOUT FEATURES: A wide assortment of sizes to get a precise fit, quality build and construction, come in tons of fun color options
- OUR REVIEWS: Frog 48 (16″), Frog 62 (24″), Frog 52 and 55 (20″)
With lightweight frames and top-of-the-line components, Frog Bikes are a unique blend of versatile performance and proper fit.
Like other high-end bikes on this list, Frog bikes have kid-focused geometry, lightweight frames, and narrow q-factors. What makes Frog Bikes stand out from the rest really are their color options. If your kid just has to have an orange bike, purple bike, or oven a polka dotted bike, Frog probably has a color your child will love. They consistently have seven or more colors to choose from.
Besides their more popular hybrid bikes, Frog Bikes also makes kids mountain bikes and kids road bikes.
What makes for a great kids bike?
Why are these kids bike brands so good? What should you look for when shopping for a bike and what should you avoid? While we won’t go into specific details about individual bikes, more in-depth coverage of each of these features are included in our individual kids bike reviews.
The Best Kids Bikes have Kid-specific Bike Geometry
The design and shape of a bike’s frame goes way beyond looks. While there are many factors at play, the ease with which a child can ride a bike is greatly influenced by the shape of a bike. All in all, if a bike’s frame is poorly design, it will be very hard for a child to ride.
Wheelbase and Cockpit Size
If you’ve ever had to drive a car sitting WAY too close to the steering wheel, you know that is greatly affects your ability to drive the car. From slower reaction times to inhibited maneuverability, you need space when driving!
Riding a bike is the same way. If the bike seat and the handlebars are too close (the cockpit), a bike will be significantly harder for a child to ride.
A major factor in creating an ample sized cockpit is the bike’s wheelbase (the distance between the wheel’s axles). With kids bikes, a smaller wheelbase almost always means a smaller cockpit.
Take a look at the example below. The small child is riding a green budget-bike on the left, vs. a purple Prevelo bike on the right. Although both of these bikes are meant to fit the same size child (the seat heights are set to the same height), the Prevelo has a much larger cockpit.
Notice that the distance between the child’s knees and the handlebars is much greater on the Prevelo. As a result, the rider feels much less cramped on the bike and it is easier for her to maneuver.
The q-factor of the bike is a measurement of the width between the pedals. Lower-end bikes are typically wider and required kids to splay out their legs in order to pedal. This splay in their pedaling greatly decreases the efficiency of each pedal stroke.
Higher-end bikes are built with narrower components that allow the bike to be narrower between the pedals, which prevents splay. With minimal or no splay in a child pedal stroke, pedaling becomes much more natural and comfortable. As you can see above, the splay required to pedal on the Islabike on the left is much less than the splay of the Schwinn on the right.
Bottom Bracket Height and Low Center of Gravity
The bottom bracket of a bike is essentially where all the components that allow for pedaling (crankset, crank arms, etc.) attach to the frame of the bike. The distance between the bottom bracket and the ground plays a role in the bike’s overall center of gravity and also plays a role in the efficiency of each pedal stoke.
If a bottom bracket is positioned high on a bike, the child will sit higher off the ground, creating a higher center-of-gravity. A higher center-of-gravity on a bike is much less stable at lower speeds. Since kids typically ride at lower speeds (they start and stop often), a bike with a lower center-of-gravity is much easier for them to balance.
Bottom bracket height is even a concern on mid-range bikes. As you can see above, the bottom bracket on the Cleary Owl is considerable lower than that on a Specialized Riprock.
Higher bottom brackets also produce less efficient pedaling. The higher the bottom bracket, the less space there is between the child seat and the pedal at the top of the pedal stroke. As a result, the child will have to bend their knee at a greater angle on the pedal upswing, which places their legs in a much less efficient position once they hit the downswing.
A lower bottom bracket, as shown on the Pello to the right, allows for more space between the seat and the pedal at the top of the upswing, which leaves the legs less squished and easier to pedal down.
Importance of a Lightweight Kids Bike
Most adults ride bikes that are about 20% of their total weight, while kids’ bikes are usually around 50% of their weight! In addition to creating an efficient frame design, creating a lightweight frame is also essential.
Ideally, a child’s bike should be less than 40% of their weight. While all kids benefit from lightweight bikes, a few pounds makes an even bigger difference for young, timid, or beginning riders.
While all the brands on our best kids bikes list build bikes that are much lighter than the average bike, woom bikes is king when it comes to lightweight kids bikes. For example, the 16″ woom 3 bike weighs only 11.7 pounds while the Raleigh MXR 16″ bike weighs 18.3 pounds. For a 40 lb. child, the woom 3 is 29% of the child’s weight while the MXR is 45%!
Weight, however, should never be looked at in isolation. Some cheap big-box-store bikes are similar in weight to higher-end bikes, but only because their wheelbases are narrower (they have a smaller frame) and they lack components such as hands brakes.
Decreasing the weight on a child’s bike is a priority for well-designed bikes, so higher-end kids bike companies proudly display their bikes’ weights. On the other hand, most major bike companies refrain from publishing them.
Quality Kid-friendly Components
Quality brakes for more stopping power
Quickly and confidentially stopping a bike is essential to a child’s safety on a bike. The brakes on kids bikes, however, range vastly in quality and performance. The brakes on higher-end bikes stop faster and with much less effort required by the child.
Hand brakes vs. coaster brakes
Hand brakes on a child’s bike are always preferred over coaster brakes (back-pedal brakes). Unfortunately, the vast majority of kids bikes on the market come with coaster brakes. Why? They are very cheap and don’t add a lot of money to the production costs of the bike.
Quality hand brakes, like those shown on the Pello below, add significant costs to a bike. With more parts and even more time required to install and tune the brakes, reliable handbrakes are simply not available on low-cost bikes.
So what’s wrong with coaster brakes? Coaster brakes are not intuitive and can inhibit the child’s ability to learn to pedal. Over the years we’ve found separating the pedaling motion from the braking motion is more natural, and enables a child to master pedaling and braking more quickly. Use your hands to stop and your feet to go!
Coaster brakes are particularly tricky for young kids as they prevents them from naturally pedaling backward when they lose their balance. Upon doing so, their bike unexpectedly stops, which often results in a fall. Coaster brakes also prevent kids from properly lining up their pedals to “go position” which allows them to start pedaling from a stop more easily.
Quality vs. Budget Hand Brakes
Unlike coaster brakes that can require kids to slam down backward on their pedals to stop, quality hand brakes require very little effort to engage. A quality hand brake is very easy for a child’s hand to reach and requires minimal effort to pull.
Easy-reach levers on a hand brake allow kids to pull the brake lever without loosening their grip on the handlebar. The easier a brake is to engage, the more likely a child will use it!
While some cheap kids bikes have hand brakes, they are typically hard to reach and very unreliable! Often built with single-pivot calipers, budget hands brakes are almost impossible to properly adjust and should not be expected to stop a bike.
Don’t assume that a cheap bike is better because it has a hand brake. It’s usually not. Also don’t assume that because the hand brake passed CPSC certification that it’s going to work well.
Gain Ratio and Gearing
While there isn’t typically a lot of difference between the gearing of a budget or a high-end bike, how high or low a bike is geared should always be taken into consideration when purchasing any bike. The ease at which a child can climb up a hill or pedal quickly to keep up on a flat path depends on the gearing of a bike.
When referring to the gears on a bike, we prefer to compare bikes based on the gain ratio of their gears. The gain ratio of a bike’s gear is determined by the wheel size, crank arm length (the pedal arm length), and the number of teeth on the front and rear cogs.
A high gain ratio requires more effort to get started but allows the bike to travel farther with every pedal stroke (like a high gear on an adult bike).
A low gain ratio requires less effort to get the bike started but requires more “pedal spinning” to get the bike going (like a low gear on an adult bike).
Gain ratios should be taken into consideration on both single-speed and geared bikes. A 16″ bike with a gain ratio of 3.2 is going to to take much less effot for a child to start pedaling than a 16″ with a gain ratio of 4.5. However, the top speed of the 3.2 bike is going to be much slower than the bike with the 4.5 gain ratio.
With geared bikes, it’s important to look at the ranges of the gain ratio. A 7-speed bike with a gain ratio range (the spread between the lowest and the highest gear) of 2.2 to 4.45 offers a much more narrow gear range than a 7-speed bike with a 2.2 to 6.7 gain ratio range.
The components that make up the gears of bikes vary greatly in quality and performance. Higher-end bikes typically have more robust systems that can better handle the wear and tear from kids, and also allow for smoother shifting.
If your child needs gears, versus wants them, purchasing a bike with a high-end drivetrain is essential. Shimano’s entry-level Tourney components (shifters and derailleurs) should be used with hesitation for those who need reliable gears for consistent use.
Shimano’s Altus and Acera lines (used on Prevelo) and are much better lines that offer smooth and more reliable shifting. SRAM components (used by woom and Pello) do not make a budget line, so any of their systems are better than the Shimano Tourney line.
Grip Shifters vs. Triggers Shifters
The type of shifters on a bike can make shifting a breeze or a challenge for young riders. The shifters on higher-end bikes are typically significantly easier for a child to use and usually wear better with time.
There are two main types of shifters – grip shifters and trigger shifters. Grip shifters are common on kids bikes are they are the most intuitive and easiest to use. To shift, kids simply twist forward or back on the grip. For more advanced or aggressive riders, grip shifters aren’t ideal as they don’t allow kids to shift as quickly.
Trigger shifters offer faster (and often smoother) shifting, but they can be more confusing for kids to use. Instead of twisting with their hands, trigger shifters require kids to push or pull a lever with their fingers.
The Best Kids Bikes are Really Easy to Assemble!
Assembling a bike can be very complicated, but for the best kids bikes, they’ve made an art out of simplifying the process. From clear and concise instructions to included tools, most of the high-end bike brands can be assembled in about 15 minutes!
Kids Bike Brands with Quality Customer Service
Passionate about bikes and their products, one of the major benefits of purchasing from a kid-specific bike brand is the customer service they provide. Whether something isn’t quite right with your bike or you are confused about assembling it, their customer service stands ready to help.
Quality Bikes for Kids are An Investment: High Resale Value
Quality kids bikes aren’t cheap, but they are a great investment. As long as they are properly maintained and cared for, each of these brands have a high resale value, so you can expect to get at least half (but likely much more) of your investment back once your child outgrows it.
Our Best Bikes by Size Lists
Looking for more details on bikes of specific sizes? Check out our list of favorites for kids of every age.
- 12 and 14 Inch Bikes: Bikes for 3+ (or really advanced 2-Year-Olds!)
- 16 Inch Bikes: Bikes for 4+
- 20 Inch Bikes: Bikes for 5+
- 24 Inch Bikes: Bikes for 8+
- 26 and 17.5 Inch Bikes: Best for 11+