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Best Kids Bikes: 9 Best Brands and Where to Buy Them

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 boutique brands bypass the local bike shops and sporting goods stores and ship bicycles for kids directly to the consumer.

young child riding a green woom kids bike

But what makes our favorite kids bikes so great? And why are they so drastically better than bikes by well-known brands like Huffy, Royalbaby, 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.

collage of logos of the best kids bikes brands

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.

BrandStandout FeatureStarting MSRP
Best for Everyday Riders
woomLightweight, meticulously designed bikes for effortless riding$359
Priority BicyclesLow maintenance bikes w/ belt-drives & internally geared hubs$319
Guardian OriginalSafety innovation: SureStop braking system$359
IslabikesThe Ferrari of kids bikes, fine-tuned and fast (not in US)£349
Best for Aggressive Riders
ClearyRugged and durable bikes built for neighborhood adventures$310
PelloConfidence building all-terrain bikes for mildly aggressive riders$349
PreveloLight and nimble, all-terrain bikes for aggressive riders$359
Frog BikesHighly adjustable for fit, comes with knobby and street tires$360
Best on a Budget
Raleigh BicyclesReliable quality for neighborhood riders$170
Park CyclesWell built, mildly aggressive 14" and 16" bikes$215
Guardian EthosUnique kid-friendly braking system with fun graphic designs$249

For additional details to 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 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.

young child riding a pello revo kids bike

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!

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 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-old 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 BIKES FOR EVERYDAY RIDERS

woom Bikes

Lightweight masterpieces for effortless riding

toddler riding woom 2 kids bike at the skate park

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.

Priority Bicycles

Simplicity PerfectedLow maintenance bikes with grease-free belt drives

young boy riding the Priority Start kids bike

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.

Guardian Bikes – Original

Game-Changing Proprietary Braking System

child riding a green and pink guardian kids bike
  • SIZES: 16″ to 24″
  • PRICE RANGE: $359 – $439
  • TRAINING WHEELS: Compatible on Ethos Series only – 14″, 16″ and 20″
  • STANDOUT FEATURES: Unique SureStop braking system that provides faster and safer braking, fun, kid-friendly designs
  • OUR REVIEWS: Guardian 14″, Guardian 16″, Guardian 20″, Guardian 24″

Guardian’s 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.

Islabikes

The original, game-changing kid-specific bike brand

young child riding a green Islabike CNOC kids bike

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

Cleary Bikes

Rugged and durable bikes built for neighborhood adventures

kid riding a blue Cleary Owl kids bike

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.

Pello Bikes

Confidence building bikes with knobby all-terrain tires

child riding an orange Pello Reyes mountain bike

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.

Prevelo Bikes

Light and nimble bike with all-terrain tires for aggressive adventure seekers

toddler riding her purple Prevelo bike at the skate park, with mouth wide open in excitement

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.

Frog Bikes

Highly adjustable for fit, come with street and all-terrain tires

kid riding a red Frog 62 kids bike on a paved path
  • 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 with 2 sets of tires
  • OUR REVIEWS: Frog 48 (16″), Frog 62 (24″)

With lightweight frames and top-of-the-line components, Frog Bikes are a unique blend of versatile performance and proper fit. 

First, Frog Bikes are focused on a perfect fit. They’ve designed their bikes with a highly adjustable headset, stem length, and saddle height for the most natural fit for your child’s body.

Second, Frog Bikes come with two sets of tires with each bike – street tires and knobby, all-terrain tires. While not necessary for every rider, the option of tread pattern does come in handy for kids tackling a range of terrains.

BEST KIDS BIKE BRANDS ON A BUDGET

Raleigh Bicycles

Reliable quality for neighborhood riders

Child riding Raleigh Lily kids bike, turning steeply into a curve
young

The most established bike brand on our list, Raleigh 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 Raleigh kids bikes pretty easy to ride while also being lightweight enough and quite durable.

If your child will be sticking to the neighborhood and paved trails, Raleigh’s Jazzi (Girls) and MXR (boys) bikes are a solid bang for your buck. For more aggressive riders who like to venture off the beaten path, check out the Lily (Girls), and Rowdy (Boys) bikes.

Park Cycles

Well built, mildly aggressive 14″ and 16″ bikes

young child riding an orange kids bike
  • SIZES: 14″ to 16″
  • PRICE RANGE: $215 – $230
  • TRAINING WHEELS: Not compatible
  • STANDOUT FEATURES: Quality components, no coaster-brake
  • OUR REVIEW: Park Cycles 14

The newest kid-centric bike brand on the scene, Park Cycles aims to offer high-end, kid-friendly bike geometry at a more affordable price point.

Park Cycles keeps costs down by featuring more basic components, but those components are still kid-friendly and are much better quality than a Huffy or Royalbaby. If you’re a family on a budget, but are serious about getting your young rider started off on the right foot, Park Cycles is a fantastic option.

With knobbier tread tires, Park Cycles are also a great choice for future mountain bikers, or kids who will be trail riding.

Guardian Ethos

Game-Changing Proprietary Braking System

Young child riding a kids bike on tennis court

Also featuring Guardian’s unique SureStop braking system, Guardian’s Ethos line is a bit more friendly on the pocket book. What’s the trade-off? A steel frame (rather than aluminum) adds a few more pounds to the bike. That said, the Ethos line is still much lighter than any bike you’ll get at a big-box store!

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.

raleigh MXR kids bike with wheelbase and cockpit pointed out with arrows

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.

Side by side comparison of young child on Royal Baby Freestyle 14 and Prevelo Alpha Two kids bike. She is much more cramped on the Royal baby bike.

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.

Q-factor

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.

side by side image of a Islabike CNOC 14 and a schwinn 14 bike, q factor is pointed out on both

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.

the cleary owl 20 inch as compared to the specialized kids 20 inch bike, the lower bottom bracket height of the owl is pointed out

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.

Pedal Angles

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.

comparison of the Norco Roller and Pello Revo 16, focusing on the more dramatic knee bend on the Norco

Lightweight Build

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 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%!

young child holding up her lightweight woom 2 kids bike

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.

Tektro dual handbrakes on the pello rover kids bike

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!

the comparison of an easy reach kid brake lever versus a standard brake lever, child's hand shown the easy reach lever is closer to the handlebar

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.

an unadjusted single-pivot brake caliper, the brake pad does not come close to the rim of the bike

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).

young child riding a frog mountain bike on a dirt pump track

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.

Drivetrain

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.

close up image of the drivetrain on the Prevelo Zulu

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 versus grip shifters on a kids bikes
Trigger shifters (left) vs. Grip shifters (right)

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.

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