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16″ Bikes: The Best of the Best for 2018

Which 16″ Bike is Best for my Child?

Throughout the year, we put over twenty 16″ pedal bikes to the test with various testers on various terrains. In the end, we determined that there isn’t one best bike, but rather bikes that are better for different types of rides and riders. A bike that is comfortable for a timid rider isn’t ideal for an aggressive rider. A bike that flies up hills is going to be problematic for kids riding on mainly flat trails.

All-16'-Bikes

 

Top Picks Summary


So which 16″ bike is best for your child? Use our handy chart below to check out our top picks for your child’s riding style, then scroll down for more detailed info on each bike.

 

Best 16″ Bike Under $200


What We Look for in a Bike Under $200

The price tag for the best kids bikes can often be out of reach for many parents, so we searched and found several great bikes that are available for under $200. 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.

Top Picks for Bikes Under $200

 

Raleigh MXR 16, Best Bang for Your Buck: Impressively durable, 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 (we have yet to find a bike under $200 that is suitable for aggressive riders), the MXR is the best choice for adventurous riders on a budget. Full MXR 16 review.

Schwinn SmartStart , Best Budget Bikes: Available in multiple styles and from multiple retailers, Schwinn’s SmartStart collection of bikes are a huge 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 is poorly made and riders will have to rely on the coaster brake to stop. Full Schwinn SmartStart review.

Diamondback Mini-Viper, Best for Taller Kids (Longer Torsos): With the tallest handlebars of the three bikes, the Mini-Viper is our top pick for kids with long torsos. The Diamondback has the same seat height range as the Schwinn, but its handlebars are 2″ taller. The taller handlebars prevent kids with long torsos from hunching over to grab the handlebars and also provides more room for growth. Not excessively tall, however, the Mini-Viper still provided a fun ride for our average- height testers as well. Diamondback Mini-Viper review.

For more info on 16″ bikes under $200, check out our Best Budget 16″ Kid’s Bike page.

Comparison Chart of 16″ Bikes Under $200

 

Best for Biking Around the Neighborhood


What We Look for in a Neighborhood Bike

Most kids on 16″ bikes stick to riding around the neighborhood. Stable, reliable, and lightweight, neighborhood bikes should be easy to ride, easy to balance, and perform consistently.

Top Picks for 16″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

WOOM3, Best for Beginning Riders: 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. Full WOOM3 review.

ByK E-350, Best Bang for Your Buck: The ByK E-350’s narrow 18″ tires offer low-rolling resistance for smooth riding on pavement. With high gearing, kids can maintain quick speeds, and the low center-of-gravity design makes for easy balancing. While it’s a deal at $259, the 350 has dual-hand brakes and a coaster brake, which can delay mastering pedaling for some kids. Full ByK E-350 review.

Frog 48, Most Versatile: While the Frog is perfect for casual neighborhood rides, as an added bonus, it’s really a great dual-purpose bike. It comes with two set of tires – one standard tread for neighborhood riding and one knobby tread for all-terrain riding. It also comes with optional front and rear fenders and a bell to help your child really fall in love with their bike. Full Frog 48 review.

Comparison Chart of 16″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

Best for Longer Distances (Paved)


What We Look for in a Bike for Riding Longer Distances

When kids need to go long distances, they need a bike that’s geared high for them to get the maximum distance with every pedal stroke. Higher gears make starting the bike more difficult, but prevent kids from spinning their pedals excessively to gain and maintain speed. We also look for narrow tires, dual hand brakes, and lightweight frames for the perfect combination for riding along paved trails.

Top Picks for 16″ Bikes for Long Distance Riders

 

Islabikes CNOC 16″ and 20″, Best All-Around: Islabikes was the first to pioneer lightweight, kid-specific bikes and continues to be one of the best, if not the best, in the kid industry. Fined-tuned from top-to-bottom with components specifically engineered for a child’s smaller frame, the CNOC 16″ rides smoothly and effortlessly. With narrower tires and a comfortable mid-range body position, the CNOC is a perfect bike for paved trails of all lengths. Similar in size to many larger 16″ bikes, the CNOC 20″ is also a great choice for taller 4 to 6-year-olds. Full CNOC 16″ review or 20″ review.

Prevelo Alpha 2, Best for Adventurous Riders: Lightweight with a low-center-of-balance 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.. Full Prevelo Alpha 2 review.

Ridgeback Dimension 16″, Best for Long, Flat Rides: The fastest 16″ bike we’ve tested, the Ridgeback is geared higher than any other 16″ bike, which allows it to travel further with each pedal stroke. The high gearing does make the bike more difficult to get started, but allows little ones to keep up with older siblings and parents on long rides. Full Ridgeback Dimension 16 review.

 

Comparison Chart of 16″ Bikes for Long Distance Riders

 

Best for Aggressive Riders & Basic Trail Riding


What We Look for in a Bike for Aggressive and/or Trail Riders

Riders who are ready to hit every jump, fly over every curb, and are passionate about riding are better off with low-rise handlebars that place the body in a more leaned-forward position on the bike. This allows aggressive riders to easily shift their weight to maintain balance on un-even 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 safety through technical terrain.

Top Picks for 16″ Bikes for Aggressive and/or Trail Riders

 

Cleary Hedgehog and Owl, Best for the Everyday Adventurous Rider: Light and nimble with impressive stability, the Hedgehog (16″ bike) 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. The Cleary Owl, which is the 20″ version, is sized like a larger 16″ bike and is often a great fit for many taller 5 or 6-year-olds. Full Cleary Hedgehog review or Owl review.

Commencal Ramones 16, Best for Basic Trail Riding: Coming in at $269, the Ramones is a well-designed and well-executed bike, especially for the price. Unlike the Hedgehog and the Rowdy, the Ramones comes with knobby tires which are better suited for trail riding . Also featuring a slightly shorter wheelbase, the Ramones is easier for younger riders to navigate through pump tracks and basic technical terrain. Commencal Ramones 16 review.

Raleigh Rowdy 16, Best Budget Bike: The lightest and best equipped bike under $225, the durable Rowdy is quite a deal. While not as fine-tuned as the others, it still provides a smooth, lightweight ride with a very aggressive body position for adventurous riders. Full Raleigh Rowdy 16 review.

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.

Comparison Chart of 16″ Bikes for Aggressive and/or Trail Riders

 

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 manufactures 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 Samurai/Mirage ($249) 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 ($240 – 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 ($209) was our least favorite as it was the heaviest and also did not offer hand brakes, just a coaster brake.

 

Other 16″ Bikes we Recommend


To compare even more 16″ bikes, check out our Kids’ Bikes: Ratings and Comparison Charts page.

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: December 7, 2017

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Best Budget 16″ Kids Bike, Under $200

What’s the best 16″ kid’s bike under $200?

Our “Exceptional” rated 16″ bikes are amazing, but for many, their $300+ price tags are a bit daunting! For those parents looking for a more budget-friendly option, we set out to find the best 16″ bikes under $200. Via online and physical stores we came up with seven candidates ranging from $50 to $179, all of which had received positive reviews online. Fortunately, there are three options we can confidently recommend for purchase, but we definitely would recommend to steer clear of a few others.

 

Best Budget 16″ Kids Bikes: The Candidates

Our Top Picks


After testing all seven bikes on our 4, 5 and 6 year-old testers, three clear winners emerged. While these bikes are not as well-designed or as light as the bikes that take our top 16″ bike 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.

 

1. Raleigh MXR 16, Best for Adventurous Riders: MSRP $149, 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 (we have yet to find a bike under $200 that is suitable for aggressive riders), the MXR is our top pick for overall-quality as well as for adventurous riders on a budget. Full MXR review.

2. Schwinn SmartStart Cosmo/Scorch, Best for Everyday and Timid Riders: MSRP $99/$129, Easy-to-ride and easy-to-love, the Schwinn SmartStart 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. The SmartStart 16″ Series is available in several different model names including Cosmo, Scorch, Twilight, and Jasmine. Full Schwinn SmartStart review.

3. Diamondback Mini-Viper, Best for Taller Kids: MSRP $139, 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. 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.

 

Top 16″ Budget Bikes Comparison Chart

 

 

What We Look for in a Budget 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 16″ budget bikes, our main criteria for performance were 1) geometry, 2) handlebar height, 3) weight, and 4) quality.

Geometry

A bike’s geometry is how the bike positions a child while riding. For a 16″ bike, 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 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 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.

 

Handlebar Height

The height and shape of a bike’s handlebars can greatly affect the overall maneuverability of the bike. The performance of the REI Co-Op REV, 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.

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.

Weight

Ideally, a child’s bike should weigh no more than 30% of their own weight. This if often hard to achieve with budget bikes as they are usually made with heavier steel frames and lower-end components. At 18.3 lb., the Raleigh MXR is the lightest of our top picks. The Royalbaby Classic, which we do not recommend, was the heaviest at 24.5 lb. The REI’s Co-op REV was actually the lightest contender at 17.6 lb., but its light weight couldn’t overcome its poor handlebar design.

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 often the quality of these components that determines 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 Smart Start was the lowest quality of our three winners 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!

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: October 20, 2017

Strider 14x Convertible Balance Bike

Balance Bike, Pedal Bike Review

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The Strider 14x starts off as a highly adjustable balance bike with 14" air tires and easily converts to a pedal bike. Great option for older preschoolers just starting off on a balance bike and likely to transition to a pedal bike soon.

View on Amazon

Product Specifications

MSRP: $209

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Seat Height: 15" - 22"

Weight: 12.5 lb.

Brakes: No Brakes Coaster

Footrest: Yes

Limiter: No

Tire Size: 14"

Grips Bumper: Yes

Bolts: Exposed

Frame Material: Steel

Review

Overview


A balance bike that easily converts to a pedal bike, the new Strider 14x 2-in-1 bike is a great option for older preschoolers who have yet mastered a balance bike yet, but who are likely to transition to a pedal bike soon. With a seat height range of 15″ to 22″, it is best suited for tall 3-year-olds to 4-year-olds.  Average sized 5-year-olds (kids in size 5 clothes) easily fit on the bike in balance bike mode, but will quickly grow out the pedal bike mode.

With a $209 price tag, the 14x isn’t cheap, but considering it works as a balance bike as well as a starter pedal bike, it can be a great investment for many families.  The 14x fills the role of a larger balance bike and a starter pedal bike.  Converting from a balance bike to a pedal bike, the 14x prevents parents from buying a smaller 14″ or 16″ pedal bike to get their kids started riding and then later buy a larger 16″ once they outgrow their starter pedal bike.   It also allows kids to completely skip training wheels.

Size


The Strider 14x is significantly larger than the Strider 12″.  The tires and the frame are both much larger on the 14x.  The Strider 12″ (all models which have the same frame and tire size) is best suited for ages 18-months to 3 years.  The Strider 14x is best for taller 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds or smaller six-year-old (up to about 20″ inseam to allow room for growth).  The minimum seat height on the Strider 12″ is 11″ and is 14″ on the Strider 14x.

Strider 14x vs. Strider 12″ (Sport & Classic)

Strider 14x versus Strider 12". The 14x is much bigger than the Strider 12".

 

Balance Bike Mode


As a balance bike, the Strider 14x shines.  With a handlebars and seat post that easily adjust, the bike was easily adjusted to fit our main 5-year-old tester with a 19″ inseam in size 5 clothes.  Weighing 48 lb., our tester didn’t even flinch at the 12.5 lb. weight of the Strider 14x as he happily put the bike to work around the neighborhood.  From speed races to rams and tricks, the balance bike gave him the confidence to try out tricks he was previously hesitant to try out.

Five-year-old on Strider 14x in Balance Bike Mode

Strider 14x in pedal balance bike mode with a 5-year-old rider.

 

In addition to the larger frame and tire size, our 5-year-old tester especially loved the seat and footrests.  The seat on the Strider 14x is very different from the seats their mini-seat or even the XL seat available on the Strider 12″ bike.  Slightly longer and thickly cushioned, the seat provides great support and comfort for older and often heavier riders.  The extra cushioning from the air tires along with the seat certainly played a role in helping our tester in overcoming hesitations of going down taller curbs.

The footrest, however, was his favorite feature.  Rather simple pegs or place to rest his heels, the platform footrests on the Strider 14x easily accommodate any portion of the foot to allow for various position.

Strider 14x Padded Saddle and Footrests

Strider 14x cushioned seat and footrests.

 

Strider recommendation for the 14x is ages 3 to 7 with an inseam of 16″ to 23″, but based on our experience we would recommend it for inseam length of 16.5″ to 20″.  With a 19″ inseam, our 5-year-old tester fit great on the balance bike, but as we will point out later, was almost too big for the pedal bike portion.  We also had a chance to the test the bike out on an almost 3-year-old tester with a 15″ inseam.  As per Strider’s recommendations, we expected the Strider 14x to be slightly too big for her, but it was much too big.  In addition to the seat height, the handlebars, even in their lowest position, were way too high.  As a result, believe the Strider 14x is best for taller 3-year-olds to 4-year-olds with a 16.5″ inseam.

Pedal Bike Mode


The Strider 14x works great as a beginning pedal bike. Considering kids who use the pedal bike mode of the Strider will already be familiar and comfortable on the bike, the transition should be relatively smooth and painless.  With narrow pedals, to easily allow kids to run to gain speed before pedaling, and with a lower bottom bracket to create a low center-of-gravity for easy balancing, the Strider 14x has some great features as a beginning pedal bike.

Five-year-old Tester on Strider 14x in Pedal Bike Mode

Strider 14x in pedal bike mode with a 5-year-old.

 

Although already experienced on a pedal bike, our five-year-old had no problems using the pedal-bike mode, but being more experienced on a larger 16″ bike, he was not impressed by the pedal bike mode and only rode for a short period of time.  The Strider’s extremely short 76 mm crank arms (the arm that connects the pedal to the frame of the bike) were too awkward for him to use as compared to the typical 100 t0 110mm crank arms.  For a beginning rider not used pedaling (assuming they have not used a bike with training wheels before), the small crank arms shouldn’t be as much as an issue.  We do believe, however, that the shorter crank arms will be problematic for any aged child with an inseam greater than 19″.  Longer crank arms provide a wider swing and allow taller riders to get more leverage on the pedal.  Increased leverage makes pedaling easier and also helps provide a wider base for balancing.

For beginning riders, the Strider 14x’s coaster brake or back pedal brake could be problematic.  While learning to pedal, bike kids naturally pedal backward when the feel like they are losing their balance.  With a coaster brake, pedaling backward automatically activates the brake, which unexpectedly stops the bike and usually causes the child to fall.  Frighten the child, this can often make them hesitant to get back up on the bike and try again.  If a bike does not have a coaster brake, kids can pedal backward without activating the brake, allowing them to keep their momentum, regain their balance and continue riding.

The gear ratio of the pedal bike portion is 4.09, which is on the higher end of the range for first pedal bikes.  Higher gear ratios take more effort to get the bike going from a stop but require less pedaling to reach higher speeds.  For really timid riders, a lower gain ratio closer to 3.0 to 3.5 is best, but considering kids using the Strider 14x will already be familiar and comfortable with the bike, the higher gain ratio likely won’t be a problem.

Adding the Pedal Assembly


Converting from the balance bike mode to the pedal bike mode is very easy and can be done in less than 10 minutes.  With one Allen bolt, simply remove the footrest and insert the pedal assembly.  The plastic covering on the rear cog also needs to be pulled off to allow the chain to wrap around.  The rear tires does not to be removed to install the pedals. Strider provides very clear instruction on how to add the pedals.  A size 6 Allen wrench is provided to fasten the pedal assembly, but you will need to have a size 5 Allen wrench to adjust the handlebars and a Phillips screwdriver to install the chainguard.

Strider 14x Pedal Bike Assembly

Strider 14x installing the pedal bike assembly.

 

Comparisons


There are very few convertible 2-in-1 balance bikes on the market, but there are several larger balance bikes that are designed for older riders.

1. LittleBig Convertible Bike, $240: With seat height ranging from 14″ to 21″ the LittleBig is slightly smaller and is also a pound lighter.  The LittleBig is also built with higher-end components and is coaster brake free, with dual hand brakes.  Hailing the Ireland, the LittleBig also cost $30 to ship to the US, so it is a jump in price from the Strider 14x.

2. Ridgeback Scoot XL, $199: The Scoot does not convert to a pedal bike, but it our top-ranked 14″ balance bike. It is slightly larger than the Strider 14x, but is sized perfectly for ages 3.5 to 5. Made with an aluminum frame and a hand brake, the Scoot is slightly lighter than the Strider 14x.

Bottom Line


The Strider 14x is a great bike for older preschoolers who have not yet mastered a balance bike.  Best suited for older/taller 3-year-olds to 4-year-olds the Strider 14x will provide them plenty of use as balance bike and beginning pedal bike.  For kids who already have balance bikes, we believe they are better off transitioning to a 16″ pedal bike where they will likely get more use out of it than the Strider’s 14″ pedal bike.

MSRP: $209

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: October 17, 2017

FTC Disclosure: No monetary compensation was provided for this review. Strider Bikes provided a bike to help facilitate the review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC and should not be used or replicated in any way. The majority of, but not all, links provided are affiliate links. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is an affiliate of Amazon.com but not of Strider Bikes.

Schwinn SmartStart Series

Pedal Bike Review

The majority of links provided on Two Wheeling Tots are affiliate links.  We receive a small commission on sales made through these links. 

The Schwinn SmartStart Series offers lighter-weight, higher-end designed bikes on a budget. Built with lower grade components to keep the price down, the SmartStart Series are easy to ride, easy to balance, and are a great basic bike for beginning riders.

View on Amazon (Girls) View on Amazon (Boys)

Product Specifications

MSRP: $129

Recommendation: Recommended

Seat Height: 20.5" - 24.5"

Weight: 20.6 lb.

Frame Material: Steel

Tire Size: 16"

Brakes: Coaster

Handlebar: Medium

Gain Ratio: 3.7

Q Factor: 6.5"

Wheelbase: 711 mm

Available Online: Yes

Review

Overview

The Schwinn SmartStart Series is an affordable line of bikes that is designed to create a more comfortable, stable, easy-to-pedal bike for young riders.  Lighter and more narrow than most big-box stores bikes, SmartStart bikes essentially provide the child-specific geometry offered in high-end brands, but in a lower-grade quality build with a modest price point.  SmartStart bikes are available in 12″ to 20″ size bikes.  This review concentrates on the 16″ size, but the overall features of the bikes are consistent throughout all sizes.

Schwinn SmartStart Series
BEST FOR: Beginning riders wanting a stable, easy-to-ride bike who are on a limited budget.CONS
PROSCONS
Lightweight for the priceFinicky handbrake
Good upright geometry for beginners
Longer wheelbase to allow for more room to pedal

Performance

Even though our 5 and 6-year-old testers are accustomed to testing the most expensive bikes on the market, they both enjoyed riding the Schwinn SmartStart.  Easy to ride and easy to get started, it was a simple, yet fun bike to ride around the neighborhood.  While certainly not the fastest or the most nimble bike they’ve tested, from their first pedal strokes, it was very clear that this was the best budget bike (under $150) we’ve had them test out. 

Both testers hopped on the bikes and easily pedaled away without any challenges or complaints.  With other bikes, such as the NEXT line from Walmart or the RoyalBaby Classic, poorly designed geometry and heavy frames cause kids to struggle getting started on the bike and subsequently, to get and remain balanced.

5-year-old boy riding the Schwinn SmartStart Cosmo 16" kid's bike

Geometry and Overall Construction

To build a bike easier for kids to ride, Schwinn tackled three major problems of kids’ bikes:

  1. Reduced the weight of the bike:  The Schwinn SmartStart Cosmo used in our testing weighed 20.5 lbs.  While certainly a lot heavier than the WOOM 3 (a high-end bike that weighs 13 lbs.), it is significantly lighter than the similarly priced 24 lb. RoyalBaby Classic.  When possible, it is best to purchase a bike no greater than 30% of your child’s weight.
  2. Placed the pedals closer together:  The distance between the pedals is often too wide for kids, which forces them to splay their legs in order to pedal, thereby creating an uncomfortable and less efficient pedal stroke. The distance between the two pedals (known as the q-factor) on the Cosmo is 6.5″, and 7″ on the Next Rocket (Flare).  With a narrower q-factor, every pedal stroke on the Cosmo will be more efficient than on the Next bike.
  3. Lengthened the wheelbase:  Most budget bikes are very short lengthwise and provide little room for a child’s knees when pedaling.  When pedaling, a child’s knees shouldn’t come close to hitting the handlebars, even while turning.  As demonstrated in the pictures below, bikes with a longer wheelbase spread a child out and provide more room for them to ride comfortably.

Collage showing difference in legroom for several 16" kids' bikes. The WOOM 3 has lots of room for kids' knees. The Schwinn SmartStart also has ample room for knees. RoyalBaby Classic has minimal room for knees, while Next Rocket has no room for kids' knees.

Brakes

Most bikes under $150 don’t have a hand brake, so with a front hand brake as well as a coaster brake, the SmartStart Series is a step up.  However, while the coaster brake worked flawlessly, the front hand brake was very finicky and hard to adjust.  Upon first assembling the bike, the front hand brake didn’t work at all as the brake pads wouldn’t engage with the tire rim when the brake was activated.  After tweaking the brake for about 30 minutes, we were able to get the brake functioning, but it was still not sufficient.  As a result, don’t allow the hand brake to be a deciding factor when purchasing a SmartStart bike as it can’t be relied on to stop the bike.

Size

The Schwinn SmartStart Boy Series – the Cosmo and Scorch – have a seat height range of 20.5″ to 24.5″.  The girls’ bikes – the Twilight and the Jasmine –  are likely to have very similar seat heights, but we were unable to confirm their seat heights.  The Cosmo we tested was a great fit for our tester in size 5 clothes with a 19″ inseam.  Our 6-year-old tester in size 6 clothes and a 21″ inseam was also easily able to ride the bike, but it offered little room for growth.  If being used with the included training wheels, a child in 4T pants with at least an 18″ inseam could ride the 16″ SmartStart Series bikes.

Comparison

The SmartStart is about as good as it gets for its price range.  Most budget bikes (under $150) are often either very heavy or have a very short wheelbase that cramps the rider, but not the Schwinn SmartStart Series. Lightweight, with plenty of room to pedal, the SmartStart Series is well worth the small jump in price from many big-box store bikes.

Schwinn SmartStart 16″ Comparison Bikes

Bike

WOOM3

Schwinn SmartStart

RoyalBaby Classic

Next Rocket (Flare)

MSRP$369$120$100$50
Weight12.3 lb.20.6 lb.24.5 lb.20 lb.
BrakesNo coaster, dual handCoaster, front hand brakeCoaster, front hand brakeCoaster only
Stable Wheelbase
Space for Knee Extension
Easy to Start Pedaling
Responsive Hand Brakes
Durable, high-end components

Availability

Different retailers carry different models of the SmartStart series, but they only differ by name and color scheme, and sometimes a few accessories. The Schwinn SmartStart boys’ line includes the Scorch and the Cosmo on Amazon.  The girls’ line includes the Jasmine on Amazon and the Twilight at WalmartThe SmartStart Series in available in 12″, 16″, 18″, and 20″ tire bikes, but at the time of this review, we’ve only tested out the 16″ size.

Bottom Line

A great deal for the price, the Schwinn SmartStart Series is ideal for any parent looking for a comfortable, confidence-building pedal bike that won’t break the bank.  While heavier, not as fine-tuned, or as well-built as high-end brands, it provides a similar geometry and child-friendly features at a fraction of the price.

Schwinn SmartStart Video Overview

MSRP: $129

By: Carrie Wren

Last Updated: October 4, 2017

FTC Disclosure: No monetary compensation was provided for this review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC and should not be used or replicated in anyway. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is an affiliate Amazon.com, Walmart.com and WOOM BIkes USA. All links provided are affiliate links.

Raleigh Rowdy 20″

Pedal Bike Review

The majority of links provided on Two Wheeling Tots are affiliate links.  We receive a small commission on sales made through these links. 

The Raleigh Rowdy 20" is a durable and affordable option for young, adventurous riders looking to ride hard and get aggressive off the beaten path.

View on Raleigh’s website View on Amazon

Product Specifications

MSRP: $230

Recommendation: Recommended

Seat Height: 25.25" - 29.9"

Weight: 21 lbs.

Frame Material: Aluminum Alloy

Tire Size: 20"

Brake Type: V-Pull

Speed/Shifters: 6-speed Shimano Grip Shift

Suspension: No

Handlebar: Low

Cassette: 14 - 28t

Chain Ring: 36t

Geared Bike Type: Beginning Cross Country

Gain Ratio: 2.57/5.14

Wheelbase: 864 mm

Available Online: Yes

Review

Overview

The Raleigh Rowdy 20″ is a durable and affordable option for young, adventurous riders looking to ride hard and get aggressive off the beaten path. For a price tag under $250, you’ll be hard pressed to find a lighter bike with higher-quality components for your tough little explorer.

Performance

Sticking to paved trails was not something that our tester wanted to do on the Raleigh Rowdy 20″. From riding up and down grassy hills, to riding over rocks and through uneven packed dirt, off-roading was on this 6-year-old’s mind and the Rowdy lived up to the task.

With wider, knobby tires for traction and stability and low handlebars to allow riders to aggressively lean in and shift their weight easily, the Rowdy is designed and ready to perform for a 6-year-old’s off-roading dreams. While not as stable or nimble as the Cleary Owl which our tester recently fell in love with, for its much lower price tag, the Rowdy performs impressively.

Four action shots of a 6-year-old riding the Raleigh Rowdy 20 kid's bike. Going over a rock, riding up a grassy hill, riding through a dirt rut, and riding down a grassy hill.

Size

The short story is this: kids with inseams ranging from 22.5″ to 25″ are generally a good fit for the Rowdy 20.  If your child is just outside these ranges, read further to learn about the Rowdy’s size limitations.

Standover Height

Perhaps the most important spec to consider when fitting your child for a bike is standover height. If your child slides forward on the bike during a crash, he’ll need enough clearance between the top tube of the bike and his crotch to avoid serious injury. While Raleigh recommends 1″ of clearance, we adhere to general industry standards of at least 2″. With a standover height of 20.5″, we recommend that kids with an inseam of 22.5″ or greater ride the Raleigh Rowdy 20.

Seat Height

At this age and on a 20″ bike, kids should have the seat height set to about 3″ or even 4″ above their inseam. It’s a good seat height fit when a child can touch the bike with his tip toes while sitting on the seat. With a seat height range of 25.25″ – 29.9″, this would technically put the child’s inseam range from about 21.25″ to 25.9″, but as with mostly all kids bikes, you need to be careful with the manufacturer’s recommended size range. Just because a kid can fit on a bike, doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit for him.

Child’s Inseam to Seat Height Comparison

Our 6-year-old tester with a 21.6″ inseam was a great fit on the bike when set at its minimum seat height (25.25″).  The problem here was that he really only had 1″ of standover height clearance, not the recommended 2″.

Our 7-year-old tester with a 24.4″ inseam easily cleared the top tube and was a good fit on the Rowdy, but doesn’t have a whole lot of room to grow on the bike.

Our 10-year-old tester with a 25.75″ inseam falls within Raleigh’s height guidelines and needed the bike set to the maximum seat height, but was clearly too big to ride the Rowdy 20. Kids his size should be on 24″ bikes, which is why you need to be careful about manufacturer’s suggested height ranges.  While he enjoyed messing around on the bike and was able to ride it without any problems, he we was very cramped and had to scrunch his back to reach the handlebars – the Rowdy 20 is simply too small for him.

Sizing Summary

Based on our testing, we would recommend that the good child inseam range is 22.5″ to 25″, not utilizing the low end of the seat height range due to standover height issues nor the high end of the seat height range simply because kids that size are too big for the Rowdy’s bike frame. 

Weight

With an aluminum frame and weighing in at 21 lbs., the Rowdy’s weight is pretty average for a 20″ geared bike but pretty great for its price. While high-end brands like the WOOM 4 (17.5 lbs.) and Prevelo Alpha Three (18.9 lbs.) are significantly lighter, they also come with a much steeper price tag. Additionally, other really nice (and still more expensive!) bikes weigh just about as much as the Rowdy, like the Guardian 20″ (21.5 lbs.), or even weigh much more, like the Cannondale Trail (25 lbs.).

Tires

The Rowdy’s knobby tread tires are 2.125″ wide, perfect for surfaces varying from paved sidewalks to packed dirt trails.

Geometry

The Rowdy 20″ is designed to be an aggressive bike for kids that are looking to ride hard and be adventurous. It is not ideal for timid or even average kids who will just be casually riding the neighborhood.

Three action shots of a 6-year-old riding the Rowdy 20. Standing up while riding across a grassy field, riding down a hill, and leaning into a turn on packed dirt.

Handlebars

The handlebars of the Rowdy are some of the lowest we’ve ever seen on a kid’s bike.  As you can see in the far right image of the graphic below, the handlebars aren’t just low, they are bordering on flat. This style of handlebar is pretty rare on a 20″ kid’s bike, but works fine for the right-sized, aggressive kid who will benefit from leaning forward to stabilize himself for jumping off curbs, sailing down hills, and tackling off-road terrain.

Rowdy’s Low and Flat Handlebars are Best for Aggressive Riding

4 images of kids' bikes on a spectrum of highest handlebars to lowest handlebars. From Highest to Lowest: Dynacraft Throtle, Diamondback Insight, Islabikes CNOC, and Raleigh Rowdy

Rider’s Position on Bike

The flat handlebars combined with the wheelbase and top tube length of the Rowdy position the rider in a slightly aggressive stance. (Great for adventurous or experienced riders, not great for timid riders.) The comfort level of this aggressive stance is greatly affected by the height of the child as well as their riding temperament.

Our adventurous 6-year-old tester that is 47.75″ tall was able to lean in with ease and comfort to achieve a body position that was well-suited to his off-roading plans. Our 8-year-old non-aggressive tester that is 51.5″, however, was not as fortunate.  With handlebars that were so low, her back had to arch at a strange angle in order for her to ride the bike.  She wasn’t comfortable and didn’t ride it for long.

Raleigh Rowdy Has a Moderately Aggressive Body Position

3 images of kid's bikes on a spectrum of upright body position to most leaned forward body position. In order from most upright to most leaned forward: Diamondback Insight, Raleigh Rowdy, and Islabikes CNOC 20.

Brakes

The dual handbrakes on the Rowdy are fully adjustable to allow you to customize the fit for your child. Easy to reach and easy to activate, the Promax V-brake Youth Levers get the job done.

Grip Shift and Gearing (Gain Ratio)

Grip Shift

In general, shifters on kids’ bikes are pretty average – they aren’t super easy to twist, and do require some effort on the part of the child rider. The 6-speed, Shimano Revo grip shifter on the Rowdy 20 is made by a reputable brand and performs no better or worse than you would expect. At this price point, we don’t have any complaints!

Kids riding 20″ bikes probably won’t bother to shift gears much anyways, so the Shimano system will work just fine for most kids and be a nice introduction to the world of multi-speeds.

Rowdy 20’s 6-Speed Shimano Revo Grip Shifter

Shimano 6-speed Revo Shift grip shifter on the Raleigh Rowdy 20

Gearing

With a gain ratio ranging from 2.57 to 5.14, the 6-speeds of the Rowdy nicely cover the range of gears needed to tackle hills or ride flat roads. With only 6 speeds, rather than 7 or 8 like some other 20″ bikes, kids have less to worry about. But remember, there are very few kids riding 20″ bikes that actually need to shift gears. For most kids, it’s just one more thing to think about.

For our testers, they tended to find a gear they felt comfortable in, and then just leave it there. Unless I was prompting them to shift gears, they just didn’t want to hassle with it. Especially on the Rowdy, where our 6-year-old just wanted to do tricks and be a daredevil, he had to spend most of his focus on not falling over! He definitely didn’t have the mental capacity to handle thinking about gears at the same time as he was calculating how to navigate a packed dirt rut.

For kids that will continue to do more advanced riding as they get older, it may be nice to introduce them to the idea of gears and shifting on a 20″, but don’t stress out if it takes your kid a while to want to use the gears, or to be able to use them properly.

Ease of Assembly

If you know your way around bikes, the Raleigh Rowdy won’t be much trouble for you to assemble.  If, however, you are an average parent, you will probably want to get some assistance from your neighborhood bike guru or bike shop.

Bottom Line

You’re going to be hard-pressed to find another bike at this price point with the quality and durability of the Rowdy 20. While its low handlebars and aggressive body position are not ideal for timid to average riders, the Rowdy really does rock for adventurous little riders.

MSRP: $230

By: Carrie Wren

Last Updated: September 19, 2017

FTC Disclosure: No monetary compensation was provided for this review. For many, but not all reviews, products are provided by the manufacturer or distributor to help facilitate the review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC and should not be used or replicated in any way. The majority of, but not all, links provided are affiliate links. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is an affiliate of Amazon.com and raleighusa.com.

Raleigh Rowdy 16″

Pedal Bike Review

The majority of links provided on Two Wheeling Tots are affiliate links.  We receive a small commission on sales made through these links. 

The Rowdy 16" is a fun, ambitious bike for aggressive young riders. Lightweight with an extra wide-handlebar and no coaster brakes, the Rowdy is best for adventurous riders ready to ride!

View on Amazon View on Raleigh’s website

Product Specifications

MSRP: $219

Recommendation: Recommended

Seat Height: 21.5" - 26"

Weight: 15.6 lb.

Frame Material: Aluminum Alloy

Tire Size: 16"

Brakes: No Coaster Dual Hand

Handlebar: Flat

Gain Ratio: 3.5

Q Factor: 7"

Wheelbase: 723

Available Online: Yes

Review

Overview

A higher-end build for a mid-range budget, the Raleigh Rowdy 16″ is a great bike for young aggressive riders who are ready to tackle the road before them.  With a longer reach and extra wide handlebars, the Rowdy is best suited for ambitious riders. At $220 it’s also the cheapest coaster-brake-free 16″ bike on the market!

Performance and Handlebars

The Rowdy is designed for action.  Built with a lightweight frame, dual-hand brakes (no coaster brake), and extra wide handlebars, the Rowdy is a pint-sized mountain bike for little rippers on a tight budget.  Excited to get riding, our testers quickly put the Rowdy to work and headed straight for the curbs and ramps.

Raleigh Rowdy 16 in Action

Three images of kids riding the Raleigh Rowdy 16" kid's bike - in the street, off a curb, and up a ramp on a curb.

The Rowdy’s lightweight frame and responsive brakes put our testers at ease as they cruised around the neighborhood, but they were both a little taken back by the extra-wide handlebars.  At 540 mm, the handlebars on the Rowdy are 60 mm longer than the Stampede Sprinter 16 and 100 mm longer than the Cleary Hedgehog, which are both designed as miniature mountain bikes as well.

While the extra-length didn’t deter our testers from riding or cause them to complain about the wide stance, the difference was noticeable in their riding.  Wide turns and jumps weren’t a problem, but narrow, quick turns, like navigating around a set of cones, was challenging.

Raleigh Rowdy Has Much Wider Handlebars than Similar 16″ Bikes

Three images of 16" kid's bikes on a scale of wider handlebars to narrower handlebars. In order, Raleigh Rowdy 16 with 540 mm wide bar, Stampede Sprinter with 480 mm wide bar, and Cleary Hedgehog with 440 mm wide bar.

With a $220 price-tag, however, the Rowdy’s lightweight frame and dual-hand brakes are a great deal, so if absolutely necessary, shortening the handlebars is certainly an option (this could easily be done by a local bike shop).  In addition to being too long, the handlebars are pretty low for most young riders.  Ambitious riders should have no problem hitting pump tracks or single-track trails on the Rowdy, but for the average rider, the almost flat bar is too aggressive for everyday use.  

Our testers had a lot of fun riding the Rowdy around for short periods of time, but after around 20 minutes of riding, they both asked to trade in the Rowdy for a different bike.  Of course, having a large collection of 16″ bikes at a child’s disposal certainly isn’t the norm, but unsolicited feedback from kids is often telling of the bike’s overall performance.

Considering the Rowdy’s low price tag, if your child has a similar experience with the Rowdy as our testers did, a new higher-rise and narrower handlebar could easily be ordered at a local bike shop which should cost between $20 and $40. This would still make the Rowdy an amazing deal at close to $250.

Geometry and Handlebars

The handlebars of the Rowdy also play a major role in the geometry of the bike. The flat handlebars create an aggressive position as compared to bars with more height. The Raleigh MXR 16 and the Raleigh Rowdy 16 have the same frame, but the rise in the MXR’s handlebars creates a more upright position for the rider as compared to the aggressive position with the almost flat handlebars of the Rowdy.

Handlebar Height of Rowdy 16 vs. MXR 16 Determines Body Positioning

Comparison of the handlebar height and rider body position of the Raleigh MXR 16 and the Raleigh Rowdy 16. The MXR has mid-rise handlebars which produces upright body positioning for beginning and everyday riders. The Rowdy 16 has very low-rise handlebars that give the rider an aggressive positioning, which is for more ambitious riders.

The geometry of the bike is also affected by the stem of the bike. The stem is the metal part that connects the handlebars to the bike. When assembling the bike, we accidentally mounted the stem pointing downward, which lowered the overall height of the handlebars. Although the difference was minimal, when flipped, our testers were more comfortable and noticeably less stretched out. While the stem can technically be mounted pointing up or down, we recommend checking to ensure the stem is pointed upwards during assembly.

Stem Positioning on the Rowdy 16 Affects Handlebar Height

Installing the stem of the Raleigh Rowdy 16 downward results in very aggressive positioning. Installing the stem upwards results in slightly less aggressive positioning of the handlebars and rider.

Size

The Rowdy 16 has a seat range of 21.5″ to 26″ and does not come with training wheels.   With a standover height of 18″, the Rowdy is a best fit for kids with at least a 20″ inseam in order to provide 2″ of clearance between the child’s crotch and the bike’s top tube if they were to slip forward off the seat during a fall.  Raleigh, however, only recommends 1″ of clearance, so per the Rowdy’s standards, a child with a 19″ inseam can technically fit on the bike.

Fitting the Rowdy for Experienced Riders

The Rowdy was a great fit for our experienced 6-year-old rider with a 21″ inseam as it provided plenty of standover clearance and a plenty of room to adjust the seat for proper leg extension.  With a 19″ inseam, our experienced 5-year-old rider didn’t have the 2″ of standover clearance we recommend, but he did fall withing Raleigh’s recommended 1″ of clearance and easily fit on the bike otherwise.

Both confident in pedaling and riding bikes, as well as using a hand brake, the seat heights were set about 2.5″ above our testers’ inseams, which allowed them to reach proper leg extension when pedaling.

With the seat height raised above their inseam, they could only touch the ground with their tip toes, which is a good indication that the seat height is properly set for an experienced rider.  Since it’s very difficult to stop a bike with just your tip toes, however, it is vital to ensure your child knows how to properly stop a bike with a hand brake before you raise the seat higher than their inseam.

Raleigh Rowdy Fit for Experienced Riders

Three images about size for the Raleigh Rowdy 16. 1) Child sitting on bike seat with his tip toes touching the ground. Experienced riders should have the seat set above their inseam so only their tip toes touch the ground. 2) 5-year-old with 19" inseam on the bike is a great fit with room for growth. 3) 6-year-old with 21" inseam on the Raleigh Rowdy 16 is also a great fit but has less room for growth.

Fitting the Rowdy for Beginning Riders (without training wheels)

The Rowdy is lightweight enough for beginning riders, but its aggressive geometry and low handlebars make it best suited for ambitious riders.  Balance bike graduates who are nimble and eager riders should have no problem transitioning to a pedal bike like the Rowdy.  If they are not already experienced with hand brakes, we recommend having them walk beside the bike to practice using the handbrakes before they get on the bike.

When a child is just learning to pedal or balance, the seat should be set to match their inseam.  The bike’s minimum seat height is 21.5″, so ideally a beginner’s inseam on the Rowdy should at least be very close to 21.5″.  With the seat set to match their inseam, a child can better utilize their feet to help them regain balance on the bike as well as safely stop the bike.

For those beginning riders with an inseam less than 21.5″, the seat post of the Rowdy can be sawed off about 1.5″ to allow for the minimum seat height to drop to 20″.  This will, of course, shorten the maximum seat height of the Rowdy to 24.5″.

Brakes

Easy to reach and easy to pull, the Rowdy’s dual-hand brakes performed great without any complaints from our testers.  The Rowdy does not have a coaster brake (back pedal brake), which allows young riders to more easily master the motion of pedaling.

When learning to pedal, young riders naturally pedal backwards when they lose their balance on a bike.  When a coaster brake is present, pedaling backwards unexpectedly stops the bike, which causes riders to lose all their momentum (which they tried so hard to gain), which inevitably leads to a fall.  Without a coaster brake, kids can pedal backwards, which can help them to regain their balance, and then continue to pedal forward.

Most bikes under $200 have coaster brakes, so at $220, the coaster-brake-free Rowdy is quite the deal. In fact, the Raleigh Rowdy 16″ is the cheapest coaster-brake-free 16″ bike on the market (well that we could track down)!

Rowdy’s Small-Reach, Easy-Pull Handbrakes

Rowdy Raleigh 16 has small-reach, easy-pull handbrakes. First image shows child's hand on bike grip, second image shows child engaging the brake lever, and third image shows the v-pull brake connected to the tire.

Comparison

Head to head against similarly designed “mini-mountain bikes” with 16″ tires, the Rowdy is a deal at $220.  While upgrading the handlebar may be an additional expense for those kids who would benefit from a more upright body position, the Rowdy is more affordable than the Stampede Sprinter (currently sold out until December 2017) and the Cleary Hedgehog.

Both of those bikes, however, come with narrower handlebars with a higher rise that are better suited for the average rider.  Additionally, the Cleary Hedgehog does have slightly better components than the other bikes, which is reflected in its higher price.  With a lower gain ratio, the Cleary is also better suited for riding in hilly areas.

Bottom Line

Lightweight, aggressive, and fun to ride, the Raleigh Rowdy 16 is a great bike for young, ambitious riders at a very reasonable price.  The Rowdy’s very low-rise and extra-wide handlebars do limit its appeal for the average neighborhood rider, but can easily be swapped out at a local bike shop for minimal cost.

MSRP: $219

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: September 19, 2017

FTC Disclosure: No monetary compensation was provided for this review. Raleigh Bicyles provided products to Two Wheeling Tots LLC to help facilitate this review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC and should not be used or replicated in any way. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is an affiliate of Raleigh Bikes and Amazon.com. All links provided are affiliate links.

Raleigh MXR 16

Pedal Bike Review

The majority of links provided on Two Wheeling Tots are affiliate links.  We receive a small commission on sales made through these links. 

Best Under $200

The Raleigh MXR 16" is well-made budget bike and provides a comfortable, fun ride for ages 4 to 6. Coaster brake, no hand brakes and high handlebars make it better suited for basic neighborhood riders versus ambitious trail or road riders.

View on Amazon View on Raleigh’s website

Product Specifications

MSRP: $149

Recommendation: Recommended

Seat Height: 19.5" - 24"

Weight: 18.3 lb.

Frame Material: Aluminum Alloy

Tire Size: 16"

Brakes: Coaster

Handlebar: Medium

Gain Ratio: 3.5

Q Factor: 7"

Wheelbase: 725 mm

Available Online: Yes

Review

Overview

The Raleigh MXR 16 is a fun, reliable bike that will surely be loved by the average child enjoying new found freedom on their rides around the neighborhood.  A basic build with a coaster brake, no hand-brakes, and standard components, the MXR isn’t top-of-the-line, but for $150 it’s a great bike for the price and certainly worth the extra expense as compared to big-box store $75 bikes. The MXR line is also available in 12″ and 20″ bike tire sizes.

Performance

Classically simple, the MXR brought smiles to our testers’ faces.  Our 5 and 6-year-old testers were both enamored by the MXR’s bright colors and were eager to take it for a ride.  Our 6-year-old tester – who is quite the ambitious rider –  quickly began flying down driveways and jumping off curbs.  The only complaint he had was that it took more effort than he’s accustomed to to start pedaling, but like many kids naturally do, he simply stood up to pedal and quickly gained momentum and went on his way.  Standing up to help with pedaling is common with bikes in the MXR’s price range, which we’ll explain further in the gearing section below.

6-year-old Ambitious Rider on Raleigh MXR 16

6-year-old riding a bright blue Raleigh MXR 16 kid's bike while standing and then while sitting and going over curbs.

Our less adventurous 5-year-old tester also enjoyed riding the MXR around the neighborhood.  Accustomed to riding 16″ bikes with low-rise handlebars, his first ride was a little wobbly as he adjusted to the MXR’s higher-placed handlebars. Once he adjusted his steering, he was happily maneuvering the bike through a race track of cones he carefully laid out beforehand.  Like our 6-year-old tester, getting the bike started was also a slight challenge for him, but not being advanced enough to stand up at slower speeds, he simply ran with his feet slightly longer than normal to gain momentum before be began pedaling. As mentioned previously, this is a common problem with sub $200 bikes that kids generally get accustomed to with time.

5-year-old on Raleigh MXR 16

Three images of a 5-year-old boy riding the Raleigh MXR 16 kid's bike on the pavement.

Size

Seat Height and Standover Height

The seat height on the MXR 16 ranges from 19.5″ – 24″.   With a slanted top tube and a standover height of just over 16″, a child really should have at least an 18″ inseam in order to achieve the industry recommended minimum 2″ of top tube clearance for safe riding.

The seat height range combined with the standover height make the MXR an ideal fit for kids with 18″ to 21″ inseams. The MXR was a great fit for our 5-year-old tester with a 19″ inseam and our 6-year-old tester with a 21″ inseam. How it fits your child is highly dependent on their inseam measurement and how much experience they have riding pedal bikes without training wheels, which we explain below.

Raleigh MXR Size Range

Side by side comparison of two boys riding the MXR 16. One is a 5-year-old with a 19" inseam. It's a great fit with room for growth. The other is a 6-year-old with a 21" inseam. It's a great fit, but there is little room for growth.

Fitting a Bike: First Time Pedal Bike Riders

When determining a proper fit for a bike, it’s important to consider whether the child has already mastered riding a pedal bike without training wheels.  For first-time pedal bike riders (balance bike graduates), it’s best to have the seat height set to the child’s inseam so they can safely start and stop the bike with their feet flat on the ground. With the MXR’s minimum seat height of 19.5″, a first-time pedal bike rider needs to have at least a 19.5″ inseam to ride the bike.

Fitting a Bike: Experienced Pedal Bike Riders

For kids who have already mastered riding a bike without training wheels (like our two testers shown above),  they don’t need to be able to stop and start the bike with their feet. The seat height should be set around 2″ above their inseam so that the child is standing on their tip toes when seated on the bike. With the MXR’s minimum seat height of 19.5″, this means that a child with an inseam as small as 17.5″ can comfortably ride the bike. (Although based on standover height, we recommend 18″.) As a result, while Raleigh gives the age recommendation of 3 to 5 for the MXR 16″, we believe it would be a better fit for kids aged 4 to 6.

Fitting a Bike: Training Wheels

Unlike many of the 16″ bikes we’ve reviewed, the MXR does come with training wheels.  While we strongly encourage the use of balance bikes to teach a child to balance a bike, we understand that training wheels may be the best option for some families.  When using training wheels, the seat height should be set 2″ to 3″ above the child’s inseam to provide proper leg extension when pedaling. So with the MXR’s minimum seat height of 19.5″, this would allow kids starting with inseams of 16.5″ to 17.5″ to ride. However, once again because of the standover height, we recommend a minimum inseam of 18″.

Growing with the MXR

While the ideal inseam range for riding the MXR 16 is from 18″ – 21″, kids with inseams ranging from 21″ – 23″ can also fit on the bike, but the bike will provide little, if any, room for growth. The MXR’s taller handlebars, however, do allow a child to comfortably continue to ride the bike with the seat set to its maximum height of 24″. 

Since kids ages 4 to 6 often grow very quickly, it’s common to see kids riding 16″ bikes that are technically too small for them. Many parents don’t want to buy a new bike every year while their kid is growing like a weed!  So while we wouldn’t recommend it, we’re also realistic about what is really going to happen 🙂 – a child with an inseam of up to 24″ or even 25″ could easily ride the MXR, but they would be cramped on the bike and would be unable to properly extend their legs with each pedal stroke.

Brakes

5-year-old boy happily riding the Raleigh MXR 16 on the sidewalk.

The MXR 16 only comes with coaster brakes (back pedal brakes).  Although coaster brakes have the advantage of being essentially maintenance free, they can be problematic for beginning riders.

When learning to ride a bike, kids naturally pedal backward when they lose their balance.  On a bike with coaster brakes, this natural motion unexpectedly activates the brake, which often causes the unsuspecting child rider to lose their balance further and fall off the bike.  This learning process, however, is temporary as kids quickly learn to adapt to the coaster brake.  Essentially all 16″ pedal bikes under $200 come with coaster brakes, so while not ideal, it isn’t an issue worth skipping the MXR 16 over.

Geometry

The MXR 16 is designed for the average neighborhood rider and therefore has higher-rise handlebars to provide a more comfortable upright body position.  Kids, especially beginning riders, are generally more comfortable gaining and maintaining their balance on a bike when their body weight is positioned over their hips, like when standing or walking.  Higher handlebars allow kids to sit more upright and therefore center more of their body weight over their hips.

As a comparison, the Raleigh Rowdy 16″, which has the same frame as the Raleigh MXR 16″, is designed for more aggressive riders who need to be able to shift their body weight around on the bike when going over jumps, down curbs, etc.  As a result, the handlebar on the Rowdy is flat, which requires the child to lean in to grab the handlebars, which better positions them to shift their weight for aggressive and adventurous riding.

MXR’s Higher Handlebars Often Preferred by Beginning and Everyday Riders

Comparison of the handlebar height and rider body position of the Raleigh MXR 16 and the Raleigh Rowdy 16. The MXR has mid-rise handlebars which produces upright body positioning for beginning and everyday riders. The Rowdy 16 has very low-rise handlebars that give the rider an aggressive positioning, which is for more ambitious riders.

Pedal Power (Gain Ratio and Components)

The gain ratio of a bike determines how hard it is to start pedaling, and how fast and easily it can gain speed.  Like the gears in a car, the lower-gears are much easier to get started with, but higher-gears allow you to travel faster. With a 3.5 gain ratio, the MXR is geared pretty average for a 16″ bike (gain ratios range from 2.8 to 4.5).  

A bike with a lower gain ratio has the advantage that it’s easier to start to pedal but it requires more spinning of the wheels to gain speed.  Higher gain ratios require more effort to get the pedals moving but require less spinning of the tires to gain speed. Most 16″ bikes (even $300+ bikes) are geared in the mid-3’s (not too high and not too low) because it’s the best for the average neighborhood bike rider.

Compared to similarly geared 16″ bikes, however, the MXR was slightly harder for our testers to get started.  While there are several factors at play, the bike’s components – including the pedals, chain, bottom bracket, and all the parts that help to move the back tire – are likely to play a role.

With essentially all bikes, both for kids and adults, the quality of these components can drastically change the overall price of a bike.  Higher-end bikes use higher-end components which help to make a bike easier to start pedaling, but your budget would have to jump up to at least a $250 price tag. For $150, however, the MXR components are well suited for the average child rider and much more durable and reliable than lower-end, big-box store bikes which were even more difficult for our testers to get started.

Comparison of Bikes with 3.5 Gain Ratio

 

As a result, we believe the MXR 16 would be an amazing second pedal bike for kids growing out of their 12″ or 14″ bikes, but the effort needed to start the bike may be a turn off for some first-time riders.  If you want to minimize the potential frustration with a first-time rider, buying a higher-end 16″ bike ($250+, such as the Priority Start 16 or the WOOM3) would be to your advantage.  The higher-quality components and more kid-friendly design of these bikes have helped our testers build their confidence and skill level on a bike much faster than bikes in the $150 and below range.

In fact, often times spending more money on a 16″ bike than your child’s future 20″ bike is to your benefit. Once confidence and basic skills have been learned, the average neighborhood child rider generally does just fine on a more budget, sub $150 20″ bike.  That being said, buying a bike out of your budget is NOT required to teach your child to ride a bike!  Kids’ bikes have historically been challenging to learn to ride, yet kids have successfully learned to ride them for decades :).

Comparison

In its price range, the MXR 16 is a great choice.  While not as light as the Diamondback Mini Viper, we found it to have slightly better components and it’s also much easier to come by (the Diamondback Viper can be hard to find).  At $179, REI’s REV 16″ is lighter, but its narrow handlebars can be problematic for larger framed kids.

 

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to spend under $150 on your kid’s bike, the Raleigh MXR 16 is a solid choice.  Durable, fun, and essentially maintenance free, the MXR 16 is worth the price jump from big-box-store bikes costing around $75.  Although it’s better suited as a second bike for those already experienced with riding a pedal bike, the Raleigh is lightweight enough for ambitious first-time riders eager to ride.

MSRP: $149

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: September 14, 2017

FTC Disclosure: No monetary compensation was provided for this review. Raleigh Bikes provided product to Two Wheeling Tots LLC to help facilitate this review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC and should not be used or replicated in any way. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is an affiliate of Raleigh Bikes and Amazon.com

Prevelo Alpha Three 20″

Pedal Bike Review

The majority of links provided on Two Wheeling Tots are affiliate links.  We receive a small commission on sales made through these links. 

A top-notch, solidly-built bike perfect built for intermediate to advanced riders. Wide handlebars, a long wheelbase and trigger shifters make it an ideal ride for beginning mountain bikers or adventurous city riders.

View on Prevelo

Product Specifications

MSRP: $499

Recommendation: Exceptional

Seat Height: 20.7" - 25.5"

Weight: 18.9 lb.

Frame Material: Aluminum Alloy

Tire Size: 20" - geared

Brake Type: Tektro v-brake

Speed/Shifters: Trigger

Suspension: No

Handlebar: Low

Cassette: 11 - 34t

Chain Ring: 32t

Geared Bike Type: Beginning Cross Country

Gain Ratio: 2.1 - 6.7

Wheelbase: 835 mm

Available Online: Yes

Review

Overview

The Prevelo Alpha Three 20″ is the perfect bike for intermediate to advanced riders who have an itch for adventurous or aggressive riding.  Lightweight with a long wheelbase and wide handlebars, the Prevelo Alpha 20″ provides a smooth and stable ride for everyday as well as adventurous riding.

Performance

Our resident 6-year-old tester is quiet by nature, but certainly feels the need for speed the minute he sits on a bike.  Aggressive and eager to ride, he doesn’t just ride bikes for us, he truly puts them to the test.  From steep downhills, jumps and curbs, to standing on his seat while riding or sliding through a tight turn, after testing out over 20 bikes over the last 2 years, he’s finally met his soulmate.  Working as one, it’s amazing to see him fluidly ride the Alpha Three through the neighborhood and parks.  In the month he’s tested out the bike, he’s quickly surpassed his older brothers in skill and determination to ride.

6-year-old Making Waves on the Prevelo Alpha Three

3 image collage - 6-yearold boy riding the Prevelo Alpha Three 20" kids' bike down a long grassy hill, standing next to the bike on the hill, and riding standing up on the edge of a curb.

Geometry and Weight

Lightweight with a low center-of-gravity and wide, low-rise handlebars, the Prevelo Alpha Three is perfectly balanced for young ambitious riders.  Weighing just under 19 lbs., the Prevelo is light, but its overall geometry makes it exceptionally nimble.  Compared to other 20″ bikes, our 6-year-old tester raved about how easy it was to steer and how well “it did what [I] wanted it to do!”

The Quick & Nimble Prevelo Alpha Three

Three image collage - 6-year-old boy on the Prevelo Alpha Three 20" bike about to ride down a grassy hill, riding down the street, and mid-way down a grassy hill.

The overall body position on the bike is on the aggressive side, meaning the rider is leaned forward more when holding the handlebars.  This positioning allows the rider to more easily shift their weight around, allowing more adventurous riders to tackle various obstacles.

Timid or beginning riders who are likely to stick to casual riding tend to prefer bikes with a more upright position, as more of their weight is centered over their hips which they are accustomed to when walking or running. Compared to the Guardian 20″ and the Islabikes BEINN 20″ Small, the Prevelo is the most aggressive as it has a longer frame that extends the space between the seat and the handlebars, stretching out the rider.  The Islabike is the most upright and the Guardian is in-between.

Aggressive Geometry of the Prevelo Alpha Three

Comparing body position on three different 20" kids' bikes, with the more aggressive being more leaned forward. From most aggressive to more upright - Prevelo Alpha Three, Guardian 6-speed 20", and Islabikes BEINN 20" small

Size

Seat Height

With a seat height range of 20.7″ to 25.5″, the Prevelo Alpha Three is in the smaller range of 20″ bikes.  It was a great fit for our main 6-year-old tester in size 6 clothes with a 21″ inseam and still allowed for plenty of room for growth.

Our 5-year-old tester in size 5 clothes with a 19″ inseam was easily able to sit and pedal the bike, but the bike was too long for him to feel comfortable. The 16″ Prevelo Alpha Two was a better fit for him.

Our second and taller 6-year-old tester with a 24″ inseam  fit on the 20″ Prevelo Alpha Three just fine, but it provided little room for growth. While you wouldn’t want to buy this bike for a child this size, if he already owned the bike he could still ride it comfortably for several more months.

It’s important to note that seat height doesn’t always tell the whole story – the size of the frame needs to be considered as well.  Based on the actual seat height range and the long reach of this bike, the Alpha Three’s “good fit” inseam range is 20″ to 24″, while its “best fit” inseam range is from 21″ to 23″. 

Prevelo Alpha Three Size Range

Three images showing size range of Prevelo Alpha Three - 1) 5-year-old with a 19" inseam. Fits, but long reach makes it uncomfortable. 2) 6-year-old with a 21" inseam. Perfect fit with room for growth. 3) 6-year-old with a 24" inseam. Too small, no room for growth.

Frame Size

Compared to other 20″ bikes, the Prevelo is mid-range in frame size with the Guardian 20″ being taller and the Islabikes BEINN 20″ Small being smaller.  Even though they have similar seat height ranges, our 5-year-old tester was much more comfortable with the shorter reach on the Islabikes BEINN 20″ than the larger Prevelo.

Prevelo 20″ Slightly Big for a 5-year-old in Size 5 Clothes

Comparing frame size of three 20" bikes. 1) Prevelo Alpha Three - long wheelbase for stability with aggressive riding, but creates a long reach for smaller kids. 2) Guardian 6-speed 20": mid-range wheelbase for stability, has shorter reach for smaller kids. 3) Islabikes BEINN 20" Small: Shortest wheelbase (only by 1") provides best reach for smaller kids, does limit stability for aggressive rides.

 

Gearing & Shifters

The Alpha Three is an 8-speed bike with a gain ratio of 2.1 to 6.7.  This wide range will easily allow kids to tackle hills previously deemed “too hard” as well as quickly gain speed on flat surfaces without having to excessively spin the pedals.

Trigger Shifters vs. Grip Shifters

One of the main differences between the Alpha and other high-end bikes is its use of trigger shifters versus grip shifters.  Trigger shifters are much better for aggressive riders as they generally allow for faster shifting and help riders keep their handlebars straight when riding at faster speeds.  With grip shifters, kids can apply too much force while shifting, which can cause them to accidentally and unexpectedly rotate their handlebars.

Grip shifters (also called twist shifters), however, allow kids’ fingers to remain on the handlebars to shift and only require them to twist up or down to shift. On the flip side, trigger shifters require kids to slightly loosen their grip on the handlebar to shift gears.  Trigger shifters have two buttons – one button for the index finger to shift up and a second button for the thumb to shift down.

While trigger shifters generally take less force to activate, they are less intuitive for kids and have a steep learning curve.  Grip shifters are typically harder to activate but are more intuitive and have an easier learning curve. Prevelo designed this bike for more aggressive riders and/or beginning mountain biking which make trigger shifters the best option for the Alpha.

Trigger Shifter Test Performance

As expected, our 6-year-old tester had some trouble getting started on the trigger shifters, but once he figured it out, he LOVED them.  Already having experience learning the basics of shifting with a grip shifter, the transition to a trigger shifter was relatively easy for him.   Based on our experience, however, learning how to use gears for the first time on a bike with trigger shifters is generally more challenging than on a bike with grip shifters.

Another problem we have encountered in the past with trigger shifters is the child’s ability to reach the two trigger buttons.  Much to our surprise, our smaller-than-average height 6-year-old had no problem extending his index finger or thumb to shift the bike.  Being a more aggressive rider than most kids his age probably factored into his ability to pick this up so quickly. Kids more on the timid side may feel uncomfortable releasing the handlebar grip to shift the trigger shifters.

Our 5-year-old tester, on the other hand, didn’t even attempt to shift the gears as he was already stretched out on the bike and was too anxious to try to shift gears when he couldn’t see the levers.

Trigger Shifters on the Prevelo Alpha Three

Trigger shifter on Prevelo Alpha Three 20" kids' bike - index finger pushes 1st button to shift down, thumb pushes 2nd button to shift up.

Brakes

The Alpha Three comes with Tektro v-pull brakes.  Quick and effective, the brakes were very responsive when put to the test by our 6-year-old tester.  From making skid marks to slowing down at the bottom of a big hill, the brakes were easy to reach and easy to activate.

As a word of caution, however, the brakes on Prevelo bikes stop much quicker and with more force than lower-end bikes.  So if the Prevelo is your child’s first experience with quality hand brakes, be sure to have them walk next to the bike and practice activating the brakes to get a feel for how much effort is needed to stop the bike – prior to riding the bike.  Kids moving up from lower quality bikes often apply too much force to the brake lever, which causes them to stop faster than anticipated, which can lead to a crash.

Easy-reach Brake Levers on the Prevelo Alpha Three

Tektro v-pull short-reach brake levers - showing short reach and then child easily engaging the brakes.

Prevelo Alpha Three vs. Islabikes BEINN 20″ Small vs. Guardian 20″ Geared

The Prevelo, Islabikes and Guardian are all great bikes that we love, but all three are ideal for different types of riders.

The Prevelo Alpha Three is the most aggressive of these three bikes and is the best for intermediate to advanced riders who are likely to engage in more adventurous riding.  Whether around the neighborhood or on groomed trails, the Alpha Three is superb at allowing kids to really throw their weight around on the bike, while the trigger shifters will help them shift faster and easier.  For true mountain biking, however, the Prevelo Zulu Three (also a 20″) is an ideal choice.

The Islabikes BEINN 20″ Small (also available in Large) is lighter, has a narrower frame, and is best for more timid riders who would benefit from a comfortable, easy-to-ride bike that will gladly take them on extended paved bike rides or even on easier groomed single track trails.  Twist shift gears allow them to easily tackle moderate inclines.

The Guardian 6-speed 20″ is the perfect bike for neighborhood riders, especially those who live or ride around hills where shifting gears and stopping correctly and quickly is essential.  The Guardian is certainly capable of going on longer rides like the others, but its slightly higher weight makes it less appealing.  For the price, however, the Guardian is a great bike for basic all-around riding.

Bottom Line

Christmas came early for our 6-year-old tester, his mom, and even me! We’ve never seen him so happy as when he’s on his Prevelo Alpha Three.  Exceptional from top to bottom, the Prevelo is the ultimate ride for adventurous riders in at least size 6 clothes.

MSRP: $499

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: September 7, 2017

FTC Disclosure: No monetary compensation was provided for this review. Prevelo Bikes provided products to Two Wheeling Tots LLC to help facilitate this review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC and should not be used or replicated in any way. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is an affiliate of Prevelo Bikes and all included links to Prevelo are affiliate links.

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The majority of links provided on Two Wheeling Tots are affiliate links.  We receive a small commission on sales made through these links. 

20″ Bikes: The Best of the Best for 2018

Which 20″ bike is best for my child?

From gears to brakes to frame size, kids’ bikes can start getting a lot more complicated when your child is ready for a 20″ bike.  While they are generally the best fit for kids ages 5 to 8, 20″ bikes can vary greatly in size, price, and features.  To help you wade through all the options, we tested twenty different 20″ bikes, ranging from $50 to $900, to help you find the best bike for your child’s riding style and your budget.

 

 

Top Picks Summary


So which 20″ bike is best for your child?  Use our handy chart below to check out our top picks for your child’s riding style, then scroll down for more detailed info on each bike.

 

Best for Biking Around the Neighborhood


What We Look for in a Neighborhood Bike

Bikes for kids who mainly ride around the neighborhood should be lightweight, easy-to-ride, and provide a comfortable riding position for the rider.  The average child rider doesn’t need gears or shocks or other extra add-ons that require maintenance and greatly increase the overall weight of the bike.  Keep it simple here – what your child needs is a dependable, durable, and fun bike to carry them comfortably around the neighborhood.

Top Picks for 20″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

Guardian Single Speed, Best Braking System: 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 it is the safest system on the market, but it’s also much easier to use than most tradition dual-hand brakes.  Also available in geared models.  Full Guardian review.

Islabikes CNOC 20″, Best for Small, Timid Riders: Ultralight and specifically built to meet the needs of small riders, the CNOC is easy to ride, easy to balance, and its smaller size is easier to maneuver to help young, timid riders build confidence in their riding.  With a low minimum seat height of 20.5″, the CNOC is a very small 20″ and is only slightly larger than many 16″ bikes. This allows kids who would normally be on a 16″ bike to ride a 20″, which is advantageous because the larger the wheel size, the easier it is to balance. Full CNOC 20 review.

Pello Reddi, Best for Everyday Riders: Lightweight with a low center-of-gravity, the Pello Reddi is the perfect bike for everyday neighborhood riders looking for a fun,  steady ride with a comfortable upright position.  With the highest gain ratio of the three, it takes slightly more effort than the others to get started but can reach faster speeds, making it ideal for fun rides around the neighborhood.  Full Pello Reddi review.   ]

 

Comparison Chart of 20″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

Best for Aggressive Riders or Basic Trail Riding


What We Look for in Aggressive and/or Basic Trail Bikes

Built for adventure, bikes for aggressive riders or all-terrain riding should have a wider handlebar for increased control and to place the rider in a leaned forward body position to allow them to more easily shift their weight as they jump off curbs, sail down hills, and tackle tougher terrain.  Geared bikes are ideal for basic trail riding or any riding around hills.  As far as shocks go, due to the additional weight, they add to the bike, we only recommend them for more advanced mountain bike riders.

Top Picks for 20″ Aggressive or Basic Trail Bikes

 

Cleary Owl, Best for Aggressive Neighborhood Riders: Single-speed, but with a more leaned-forward body position, the Cleary Owl is an amazing bike for those ambitious kids ready to tackle any jump or curb the neighborhood can throw at them, and who don’t want the extra hassle of shifting gears.  Well equipped for basic trail riding as well, the Cleary allows kids to easily throw their weight around, but its single speed does limit its use to basic trails.  Full Cleary Owl review.

Prevelo Alpha Three, Best for Basic Trail Riding: Lightweight and nimble, the Prevelo is an amazing first mountain bike for kids ready to hit the hills, as well as for aggressive neighborhood riders who need gears.  From the Alpha’s Kenda knobby tires to its trigger shifters, it’s well spec’d out and ready to play.  Full Prevelo Alpha Three review.

Raleigh Rowdy 20Best on a Budget: The Rowdy packs a lot of punch into its $229 price tag.  While built with lower-end components than our other top picks, it’s amazingly light for its price, is built with the easy-to-use Shimano grip shifter, and has responsive, dual-hand brakes. Full Rowdy 20″ review.

Bonus: Prevelo Zulu Three, Best for True All-Terrain Riding: For those young rippers ready to tackle true single-track, look no further than the Zulu.  With wider 2″ knobby Kenda tires, Promax hydraulic disc brakes, and the clutched Shimano ZEE derailleur for maximum clearance, the Zulu is the ultimate ride for young groms. Full Zulu Three review.

Comparison Chart of 20″ Aggressive or Basic Trail Bikes

 

Best for Longer Distances (Paved)


What We Look for in a Bike for Riding Longer Distances

Lightweight bikes with narrower tires, higher gearing, and a comfortable body position are ideal for riding longer distances on paved surfaces.  With less rolling resistance, thinner tires more easily roll over the pavement and are also lighter than wider tires.  Higher gearing is essential for helping bikes gain speed, especially on flat rides.

Top Picks for 20″ Longer Distance Bikes

 

WOOM4, Best Multi-Use: With mid-range 1.5″ tires, grip shifters, and weighing in under 17 lb., the WOOM4 is well-suited for anything from longer rides on paved bike trails to cruising dirt roads. With a wide gain ratio (gearing) range of 2.3 to 6.7, the WOOM4 is elevation-change friendly and well equipped to fly down flat paved trails or easily climb rolling hills.  Comes in four fun colors for particular kids. Full WOOM 4 review.

Islabikes BEINN, Best for Pre-Road Riders: Like the WOOM4, the BEINN is ready to tackle a wide range of challenges, but is slightly more “road bike” than the others.  With a strong road racing background, all Islabikes are designed with the road in mind and come with narrower tires and tubing as well as small-reach, very responsive and powerful hand brakes.  The gain ratio of the BEINN ranges from 2.2 to 5.9, and to ensure a proper fit, is available in two frame sizes – the 20″ small and large.  Full Islabikes BEINN 20 review.

ByK E-450Best on a Budget: Half the cost of the WOOM and Islabikes, the ByK E-450 is single-speed and isn’t as fine-tuned and fancy, but is well equipped for basic road riding.  The ByK is lighter than most mid-range 20″ bikes and has narrower tires. With its single-speed gain ratio of 4.0, the ByK-450 easily allows kids to gain speed on flat roads with limited effort.  Full ByK E-450 review.

Comparison Chart of 20″ Longer Distance Bikes

 

 

Best Budget Bike


What We Look for in a Budget Bike

Whether you’re on a budget or just need a basic bike for your child to get around the neighborhood, we’ve tested out numerous 20″ bikes under $250 to help you find the best bang for your buck.  Bikes under 30 lbs. with good frame design and a durable build are the most important features. In general, due to the complex nature of gears and shifters, we generally recommend NOT getting the cheapest geared bikes on the market as they will cause more pain and misery than they are worth. For ultra-budget bikes under $100, please reference our ultra-budget girls and boys 20″ bike comparison reviews.

Top Picks for 20″ Budget Bikes

 

Schwinn SmartStart, Best Under $150: A big step up in quality and design from $75 big-box store bikes, Schwinn’s SmartStart series offers a lightweight bike at an easy-to-swallow price.  Its overall geometry makes pedaling easy, but the handlebars are very tall for kids which limit maneuverability for riders with shorter torsos or those with inseams in the 22″ to 24″ range.  The taller bars, however, does allow taller riders, whose have grown above the maximum seat height, to continue to ride the bike without much trouble.

Diamondback Insight 20, Best Geared Budget Bike: For those who live near hills or simply want or need the flexibility of a geared bike when riding, the Diamondback Insight is a great basic geared bike. Full Insight 20 review.

Raleigh MXR 20, Best Bang for Your Buck: An amazing build for the price, the MXR offers a comfortable ride with a durable build that is sure to last through several children. Like the Schwinn is also has a coaster brake, but the rear V-brake on the MXR is much more responsive and better quality than the brakes on the Schwinn.

 

Comparison Chart of 20″ Budget Bikes

Other 20″ Bikes we Recommend


To compare even more 20″ bikes, check out our Kids’ Bikes: Ratings and Comparison Charts page.

 

By: Carrie Wren

Last Updated: September 2, 2017

Prevelo Alpha Two

Pedal Bike Review

The majority of links provided on Two Wheeling Tots are affiliate links.  We receive a small commission on sales made through these links. 

A top-notch, well-built bike perfect for beginning riders likely to advance to more adventurous riding such as curb jumping or pump tracks.

View on Prevelo

Product Specifications

MSRP: $369

Recommendation: Exceptional

Seat Height: 18" - 26"

Weight: 14.9 lb.

Frame Material: Aluminum Alloy

Tire Size: 16"

Brakes: No Coaster Dual Hand

Handlebar: Low

Gain Ratio: 3.8

Wheelbase: 730 mm

Available Online: Yes

Review

Slick, fun, and fast, the Prevelo Alpha Two 16″ kid’s bike will quickly turn any child into a bike enthusiast.  Built on a lightweight, low center-of-gravity frame, with Tektro dual-hand brakes and no coaster brake, the Prevelo Alpha Two is a phenomenal first ride for kids in 4T or size 5 pants or experienced riders in 3T pants.

Performance

With an ideal combination of a lightweight, low-step through frame, waist-high handlebars and a low-center of gravity design, the Prevelo was a joy to ride.  Our confident, but not adventurous, 5-year-old tester eagerly rode it up and down mild hills and on paved and light gravel trails (we didn’t have a chance to try it out on groomed trails but we don’t doubt that it would excel there as well).  Feeling how fast the bike was, he even extended his ride just to run some speed tests on the bike. 🙂   (And now, he wasn’t going 39 mph, but he certainly thought he was!)

Our six-year-old tester was equally enamored with the bike.  Although he is a better fit on the larger Prevelo Alpha Three 20″, he loved the quick and nimble ride of the 16″ and quickly began trying out tricks with the bike (top middle picture below).

Prevelo Two 16″ Kid’s Bike in Action

Prevelo Alpha Two riden by 5 and 6-year-olds.

Weight and Geometry

At just under 15 pounds, the Prevelo Alpha Two is one of the lightest 16″ bikes on the market. Our testers both felt uninhibited on the Alpha Two and wanted to ride faster, and longer are were willing to be more adventurous.  In addition to its low weight, the Prevelo has a low center-of-gravity design that makes it easier to balance.  Compared to lower-end bikes, the bottom bracket (where the crank arms attach the frame of the bike) is closer to the ground, which allows the rider to sit lower to the ground which lowers the overall center-of-gravity of the bike.

Low center-of-gravity geometry of the Prevelo Alpha Two 16" kids bike.

With a low bottom bracket and low-rise handlebars, the Prevelo Alpha Two offers comfortable – not too relaxed and not too aggressive – riding position.  Compared to other higher-end bikes, the Prevelo Alpha Two is mid-range in overall body position, making it a great bike for beginning riders who are likely to progress to more advanced, adventurous rides (i.e., curbs, groomed trails, pump track).  A bike with an upright position, like the WOOM3 is best for timid riders while a bike with a more leaned-in aggressive position, like the Cleary Hedgehog, is better for riders likely to tackle curbs, basic trail riding or pump tracks.

 

Prevelo Alpha Two Body Position vs. WOOM3 and Cleary Hedgehog

Geometry of the WOOM3, Prevelo Alpha Two an Cleary Hedgehog.

Size

Seat Height: The Prevelo Alpha Two 16″ comes with two seat posts which allows the seat to range from 18″ to 26″ as it comes with two seat posts.  We tested out the bike with a 5-year-old with a 19″ inseam and a 6-year-old with a 21″ inseam.  The 5-year-old fit on the Alpha Two perfectly with the seat height set to 21″ (he is an experienced rider) and the bike fit him perfectly with room for growth.  The 6-year-old experienced rider set the seat post to 24″ and while he enjoyed riding the bike, it was slightly too small for him.  As a result, we believe the usable seat height range for the Alpha Two to be 18″ to 24″.  The Alpha Two is, therefore, a best fit for experienced riders (those who have already mastered a pedal bike) with an inseam of 15″ to 21″.  For beginning riders, who are transitioning from a pedal bike, the Alpha Two is a best for kids with an inseam ranging from 18″ to 20″.  The smaller range for beginning riders is to allow for more room growth on the bike once they master pedaling.

16″ Bike vs. 20″ Bike: Compared to the Prevelo Alpha Three 20″ bike, the 16″ is smaller, but both our 5 and 6-year-old testers were able to ride both bikes.  The seat height of the Prevelo Alpha 20″ ranges from 20.7″ to 25.5″ which significantly overlaps with the seat height range of the Prevelo Two which is 18″ to 26″. As a parent, it’s important to remember that just because a kid can technically ride a bike, it may not be the best fit for him.  So which size bike is best for your child?  As explained below, we found the 16″ to be the best for kids with an inseam ranging from 16″ to 20″ and the Prevelo Three 20″ to be best for kids with an inseam of 20″ to 24″.

In our tests, the 20″ was too much to handle for our 5-year-old in size 5 clothes with a 19″ inseam as it required him to stretch out considerably to reach the handlebars. The shifters for the gears and overall larger size were also unnecessary for him as he generally sticks to basic neighborhood riding. For kids like him, the 16″ is definitely the way to go.

For our adventurous 6-year-old rider in size 6 clothes with a 21″ inseam, the Prevelo Alpha Three 20″ was a much better fit as he easily reached the handlebars eagerly rides the bike whenever he gets a chance.

Prevelo Alpha 16″ and 20″ Sizing Comparison

Prevelo Alpha Two vs. Prevelo Alpha Three with 5 and 6-year-old riders.

Gearing

The Prevelo has a gain ratio of 3.8, which places it on the higher-end of the gain ratios for 16″ bikes. Lower gain ratios make it easier to start pedaling, which makes them better for beginning riders but does limit the top speed of the bike. Low gain ratios also make the bike easier to pedal up a hill.  Most 16″ bikes are made with a lower gain ratio to help beginning riders start to pedal easier as well as gain speed faster.  Bikes are much more stable at higher speeds, so reaching faster speeds more quickly is ideal for beginning and especially timid riders.

Higher gain ratios are harder to get started pedaling and can take a couple of seconds longer to reach more stable speeds, but once they get going the rider has the advantage of reaching a much higher top speed than on a bike with a lower gain ratio.  The Prevelo Alpha Two’s gain ratio is on the higher-end, so it’s best for riders willing to power through the first few seconds of pedaling for the reward of faster speeds on the other side.  For our 5-year-old tester, the gain ratio certainly wasn’t too high as he LOVED being able to gain more speed on the bike and had no problems going up small hills and jumps around the neighborhood.

Tackling Mild Hills with Prevelo’s Higher Gain Ratio

Prevelo Alpha Two gearing.

Cranks & Chainguard

One of our previous concerns with the Prevelo Alpha Two was the chainguard, but Prevelo has solved the issue and all bikes are now shipped with a properly mounting chainguard.

Prevelo Alpha Two ChainguardPrevelo Alpha Two chainguard.

Brakes

Prevelo’s Tektro brakes stop quickly and efficiently.  Our testers had no problems reaching or activating the dual handbrakes.  Coaster brake free, the Prevelo allows beginning riders to naturally pedal backward when losing their balance while allowing more experienced riders to properly position their pedals before take off.

Prevelo Alpha Two Easy Reach Tektro Handbrakes

Prevelo Alpha Two Handbrakes.

Prevelo Alpha Two vs. Cleary Hedgehog vs. WOOM3

Prevelo Alpha, Cleary and WOOM’s 16″ bikes are all amazing.  With all three bikes at our disposal for several months, we can honestly say that you really can’t go wrong with any of the bikes, but they are uniquely different.  While all the bikes perform flawlessly around the neighborhood, each bike excelled slightly better in distinct situations.

Prevelo Alpha Two: Wide handlebars make it more “mountain bike” style as it provides a wider base for the hands.  Their set up is ideal for adventurous young riders who are ready to hit the pump track, single track, or every curb between the park and your house.

Cleary Hedgehog: A slightly more aggressive geometry combined with its lower gain ratio of 2.88 makes it better for adventurous kids who are either riding around hills or are planning on hitting basic single track with mom or dad.  The Cleary also has the ability to lower or raise the gain ratio within the range 2.56 to 3.54 to adjust for hills or flat rides.

WOOM3: The upright position makes it ideal for timid riders or those who are hesitant to start riding. The WOOM3 is also a great all-around bike for the average rider who is planning on riding around the neighborhood or paved bike trails.  Fined tuned from top to bottom and backed by years of research, WOOM bikes pioneered the upright positioning for beginning riders and is a tried and true favorite for our testers.

Bottom Line

The Prevelo Alpha Two 16″ bike is an exceptional top-quality bike that any child would love.  Best for young riders with a lot of ambition, the Alpha Two is sure to take your child from beginning wobbles to a little shredder.

MSRP: $369

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: August 29, 2017

FTC Disclosure: No monetary compensation was provided for this review. Prevelo Bikes provided products to Two Wheeling Tots LLC to help facilitate this review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC and should not be used or replicated in any way. Two Wheeling Tots LLC is an affiliate of Prevelo Bikes and all included links to Prevelo are affiliate links.