Overview

Jumping up from a 16″ to a 20″ bike is a big step.  Of all the things a parent needs to consider, in addition to price, weight, geometry, and gain ratio, gears are now an option.  For mountain-bike-riding kids or those riding on long road rides, gears are essential, but for the average neighborhood rider, are gears really necessary?  Geared bikes add an additional level of complexity to riding for kids as well as for parents trying to maintain the bike.  Single-speed bikes, however, can restrict the length and variety of terrain a child can go on.

All Smiles on the Priority Start 20

The Priority Start 20″ is the perfect in-between solution, offering the simplicity and easy maintenance of a single-speed but with the gearing options of a traditional geared bike. With just three-gears housed in an innovative, internally-geared hub, the Priority Start 20 has gears, but without the traditional bulky and finicky derailleur or frustrating tuning requirements. (Think talk-to-text vs. T9 texting. The same end result, but so much easier and more streamlined!) Combined with a lightweight frame and grease-free belt drive, the Start 20 is the perfect “Goldilocks” bike for the average everyday rider – not too basic, not too complex, but just right.

Priority Start 20

PROS CONS
Easy-to-use 3-speed internally-geared hub Foam handlebar grips could use improvement
Grease-free and essentially maintenance-free belt drive
Lightweight and durable frame
Comfortable, upright geometry
High-quality components
Easy assembly

Performance and Size

Love at first ride, our 6-year-old tester was pure smiles and was eager to keep riding.  From cruising around the neighborhood to keeping up with his older siblings on longer rides, the Start 20″ was quick and responsive and easily held its own.  With a lightweight frame weighing only 19.6 lb., the Start didn’t hold back our average-sized 6-year-old tester from cruising up hills or leaning through turns.  For more ambitious mountain bike rides, the Start wouldn’t be our first choice, but for the vast majority of rides that 5 to 8-year-olds go on, the Start 20 is an ideal choice.

The Fun and Responsive Priority Start 206-year-old riding blue Priority Start 20" kids' bike on long paved trail and in the street

Perfectly sized for our tester in size 5 clothes, the Start 20 is small enough to provide a comfortable transition from a 16″ bike, while being large enough to provide plenty of room for growth.  With a seat height range of 22″ to 28.5″, the Start is smaller than most 20″ bikes on the market and has significantly higher quality components and a better overall design than bikes found in big box stores.

Belt Drive

Smooth, sleek, and certifiably cool, the Start 20 comes with a belt versus a chain.  With no need for grease, the belt is clean to the touch and won’t leave you finding surprise grease stains on your child’s pants and hands, or on your own fingers! It’s also highly unlikely that a belt drive will ever fall off, minimizing the potential for the drama of mid-ride chain problems. For added safety, the Start also comes with a chainguard to prevent clothing from potentially getting caught in the belt.

The Start’s Grease-free Belt DrivePriority Start 20" kids' bike grease-free belt drive

Internally-geared Hub

With an internal hub in which the gears shift through movements of the belt, the Start 20 is derailleur-free! Why does this matter? Instead of a derailleur moving a chain up and down a cassette, the Start’s hub smoothly changes the gearing of the bike inside an enclosed rear hub.  With no external moving parts, the gearing system on the Start requires very little maintenance and also provides much smoother gear changes. Derailleurs are perhaps the most delicate part of a bike, and with the way kids throw their bikes around, are the most likely to get damaged and cause serious problems on a kid’s bike. This, of course, is not an issue with the Priority 20 because it doesn’t have a derailleur!

An additional advantage of an internally-geared hub over a derailleur is that the bike doesn’t have to be moving to shift gears. If only we had a dollar for every time we’ve shouted, “Don’t shift gears if you’re not moving!!” On a traditionally geared bike with a cassette and a derailleur, shifting while the bike is standing still can cause the chain to jump up and down as it shifts roughly while the chain settles into place. Over time, this can cause the entire shifting system to become less responsive and in need of expert tuning. And of course, kids do this all the time! Just one more reason the internally-geared hub really is a big win for kids’ bikes.

Priority Start’s Internally-geared Hub vs. Traditional Bulky DerailleursPriority Start 20"'s 3-speed internally geared hub, Guardian Single Speed's no gear back axle, Pello Rover 7-speed's traditional derailleur and cassette

Shifters and Brakes Levers

1, 2 or 3.  With the simple twist of the shifter, our tester was easily able to change the gears on the Start.  No debating between which of the 7 gears are the best for the ride, the Start makes it easy – 1 for downhill or extra speed, 2 for regular riding, and 3 for hills or slow and easy cruising.

Properly sized for young riders, the Start’s dual brake levers require minimal effort to activate and can easily be adjusted to bring the brake lever closer to the grip of small hands for easy-reach.  While the brake levers aren’t as high-end as those found on Islabikes or Prevelo, the performance did not disappoint.

Easy-to-Use Shifters and Brake Levers
Priority 20"'s 3-speed grip shifter and easy-reach hand brake lever

Geometry

Designed for comfort and ease-of-use, the Priority Start 20 has a comfortable upright position that is ideal for the average young rider.  Not too upright to prevent kids from being able to shift their weight around, and not too aggressive to tire kids out on longer rides, the Start provides a comfortable, fun ride.  Compared to the single-speed Guardian, which is also designed for the average child rider, the Priority has a similar geometry. Compared to the Pello Rover, which is designed for light trail riding, the Priority is more upright.

Priority Start’s Comfortable Upright GeometryUpright body position on Priority Start 20 and Guardian 20" single-speed, while the Pello Rover 20 has more leaned-in, aggressive geometry

Other Components

Not skimping on the seemingly minor details, the Start offers a comfortable padded saddle on rails for front-to-back adjustability.  For easy seat height adjustments, the Start also has a quick release seat post clamp.

Featuring v-pull front and rear brakes and no coaster brake, the Start’s brakes are responsive and came properly adjusted right out of the box.

Padded Saddle and Responsive V-Brakes

Priority Start 20" padded saddle with front to back adjustability and quick release seat post clamp. Also v-pull front and back brakes.

Comparison

Uniquely built with three gears in an internally-geared hub and a belt drive, there are few very, if any, widely produced 20″ bikes that compare to the Start.  While we anticipate many more internally-geared kids’ bikes in the future, few, if any of them, will be paired with a belt drive.

Bottom Line

Not too simple, not too complex, the Start is the perfect 20″ bike for young riders ready for adventure, but not quite ready for the complexity of 7-speeds and a finicky derailleur.  Easy-to-use and a joy to ride, the Start 20 is a standout choice for ambitious neighborhood riders aged 5 to 8.

Overview

The Prevelo Alpha One  is one impressive and tiny bike for the smallest and most eager balance bike graduates. With high-end components, sophisticated, yet kid-specific design, and durability to last through several kids, you’ll be wishing you were small enough to ride it. 🙂

We’re still in the process of testing the bike and will have a full review coming shortly.

Performance

New to a pedal bike, our 3-year-old tester was ecstatic to get on the Alpha One – his first “big-boy” bike! Super lightweight and designed to make it easy for small kids to balance and maneuver, the Alpha one is an ideal choice for kids that have mastered a balance bike.

High-End Components

The Prevelo Alpha One features Tektro front and rear v-brakes with small reach brake levers. While it comes with a coaster brake (required by law), you can buy an optional Freewheel kit to remove the coaster brake (which we definitely recommend for balance bike graduates).

Alpha One Features Dual Hand Brakes and Internally-Routed Cable

The Kenda 14″ x 1.5″ tires with tread suitable for varies terrain coupled with a gain ratio of 3.7 make the Alpha One suitable for basically any terrain your tiny rider may want to tackle.

Kenda 14″ x 1.5″ Tires are Suitable for Varied Terrains

Ease of Assembly

The Prevelo Alpha One comes 95% assembled. All you’re required to do is install the handlebar, seatpost and pedals. I assembled it myself in a matter of minutes, while my neighbor waited outside with her child who was eager to ride it. As an added bonus, as is typical with other high-end bikes, the Prevelo comes with all the tools you’ll need for the minimal assembly.

 

Color Options

The Prevelo Alpha One comes in two colors – silver or purple.

Bottom Line

While we’re still in the process of completely our testing of the Prevelo Alpha One, everything we’ve seen so far has been nothing short of impressive. The Alpha One is one of the smallest pedal bikes we’ve seen, and should definitely be considered for very small balance bike graduates.

Overview

If bikes were high school seniors, the WOOM 5 would easily win Most Popular in the class. The WOOM 5 is a best-in-class kid’s bike that is as beautiful as it is functional. Designed for tackling long paved rides to moderate dirt trails, the WOOM 5’s versatility, light weight, and high-end components put it in the “dream bike” category. And with 8-speeds for a wide range of gears and grip shifters for easy shifting, the WOOM 5 is sure to deliver both smiles and top performance for any kid lucky enough to take a ride. 

9-year-old girl standing over her new WOOM 5 in blue and grinning, same girl riding the WOOM 5 down a slightly hill

Performance

Delighted. If there’s just one word to describe our first tester as soon as she began riding the WOOM 5, delighted would be it. And if there’s one word to describe how I felt as I watched her ride, it would be jealous… But really, is it weird for a grown adult to be jealous of a kid’s bike? If only WOOM made a bike big enough for me! (I actually tried to ride the WOOM 5 but I was comically too big.)

WOOM 5 Excels for Various Types of Rides and Riders

1) 9-year-old girl standing up and riding the WOOM 5 2) Same girl riding her WOOM 5 next to her 7-year-old brother riding his red WOOM 4 3)Girl riding her WOOM 5 on a city street 4) 11-year-old boy riding WOOM 5 in the street of his neighborhood

Incredible, impressive, gorgeous, superior… the WOOM5 is basically every superlative because it really is the best. Our testers loved riding it because it was smooth, light, and easy to maneuver. Toughing out our neighborhood hills became easier because there was “less bike” to weigh them down. Riding around the block over and over again was a blast because the bike was faster and so much more agile than they were used to. And long rides with the parents got a big thumbs up.

Size

Seat Height: With a 7″ seat height range of 27.5″ – 34.5″, the WOOM 5 fits a variety of kid sizes and has plenty of room to grow with your child. With the seat set 2″ – 3″ above a child’s inseam (so they can touch the ground with their tip toes), the WOOM should fit kids with inseams approximately from 24.5 to 32.5″. Setting the bike seat this way allows for optimal leg extension while pedaling. As with any bike, it’s better to buy the bike when your child is on the lower to mid part of the spectrum so they have more time to grow with the bike.

Weight:  Weighing in at just 18.4 lbs, the WOOM 5 is the lightest 24″ bike that we’ve tested!

WOOM 5 Fits Kids Approximately Ages 8 – 11

3 kids standing over the WOOM 5. 1) 9-year-old, 25.25" inseam 2) 8-year-old, 26.25 inseam 3) 10-year-old, 28.5" inseam

 

Frame & Geometry

The primary selling point for a WOOM bike is that it’s designed and built for the specific proportions of a child’s body. As a result, WOOM frames are built with lightweight aluminum and with smaller, narrower components which allow for the bike to fit more naturally under a child’s smaller frame.

Rider’s Body Position: Like all of WOOM’s bikes, the WOOM 5’s frame and handlebar design, and overall geometry place the rider in a semi-upright position. This position is the most natural and comfortable for your average rider. More adventurous riders tend to prefer a more aggressive, leaned-in stance that allows them to shift their weight more easily as they tackle rough terrain or do tricks. For our testers that are really aggressive, they thought the WOOM was a great ride, but ended up preferring their more aggressive bikes.

WOOM’s Upright Geometry vs. More Aggressive GeometryGirl on WOOM 5 with upright body position, boy on Raleigh Rowdy with leaned forward, aggressive body position

Q-Factor: With a narrower frame, the distance between the WOOM 5’s pedals (q-factor) is smaller than most bikes. Why do you care? Because a bike with a lower q-factor keeps a child’s feet more aligned with their hips and allows a child to pedal more efficiently by pushing directly down on the pedal. It results in a more productive and comfortable ride.

Bottom Bracket Height and Crank Length: The WOOM 5 also features a combination of a low bottom bracket and short crank arms, which together make it easier for a child to balance and maneuver the bike. The lower a child can sit in relation to the bike tires, the lower their center of gravity will be. That equals better balance and easier maneuvering!

Saddle

The WOOM 5’s saddle is probably more like an adult bike’s saddle than anything your child has previously taken for a ride. While’s it’s designed to match the proportions of a child’s hips, it’s also more narrow and less padded like an adult bike. While most testers never even mentioned the saddle (on the WOOM 5 or the WOOM 4, which have the same saddle), we did have one tester that was turned off at first because it wasn’t as soft a seat as she was used to.

WOOM 5 saddle is more narrow and has less padding like an adult-style saddle.

The saddle can adjust slightly forward and backwards and can also tilt up and down. Once we fine-tuned the seat angle and distance from the handlebars, the seat became a non-issue. So if your child is one of the few that complains that the seat isn’t comfortable, you’ll be able to make a few easy adjustments to ensure their comfort.

Brakes and Tires

Brakes: The WOOM 5 features high-end dual Mini V-Brake handbrakes with levers specifically designed for small but growing hands to reach and engage. 

Tire tread, brake calipers, and child hand engaging the hand brake on the WOOM 5.

Tires: Mounted on WOOM’s super lightweight Soopa-Doopa-Hoops aluminum rims, the 1.5″ wide Kenda Small Block tires have excellent grip that works well in wet or dry conditions while also featuring a smooth roll enhanced by the sealed bearing hubs.

The Small Details

The quality and craftsmanship are glaringly obvious as soon as you take the WOOM 5 out of the box. It truly is one impressive bike. While killing the competition in all the major areas that are most obvious, WOOM’s secret power comes in its attention to details that no one necessarily expects, but surprise and delight every time.

From welding that’s superbly smooth to a kickstand and bell that come standard, WOOM seems to have thought of everything. The WOOM 5 also features a quick release lever on both the front and rear tires and a bike chain catcher that’s a simple piece of plastic that catches the chain if it tries to come off the chain ring. Simple, but brilliant!

One of our favorite small details is actually something WOOM just started to integrate onto all of their WOOM 4, 5, and 6 models.  The seat posts now come with a measuring scale on the back for easy re-adjustments when swapping out riders. At our house, the older kids regularly switch from bike to bike, so this has already come in super handy! Kid #2 is on 8 while Kid #1 is on 13. Easy peasy.

WOOM Bikes Excel in the Small Details

1) Saddle post showing measurement scale 2) Plastic chain catcher 3) Smooth welding 4) Child engaging bell 5) quick release lever on wheel of WOOM 5

Gearing and Shifting (Gain Ratio)

The WOOM 5 has 8 gears ranging from a 2.4 to a 6.8 gain ratio. With this wide range of gears, the WOOM5 can do everything from fly down long paved roads to tackle steep hills. The gearing system features  one chain ring in the front and a cassette of eight cogs in the rear, with a grip shifter on the right hand for gear changes. While there’s a continual debate about the merits of grip shifters versus trigger shifters, we prefer grip shifters for riders who are still mastering how to shift gears on a bike. The WOOM 5 features a SRAM X4 twister shifter.

Boy on WOOM 5 riding up a hill, girl on WOOM 5 riding down a hill

Because the WOOM 5 will be either your child’s first or second bike with gears, please take the time to help them learn how to shift properly. We’ve had several testers dislike bikes simply because they were riding them in the wrong gear! Gears are often a lot for an 8-year-old or even 11-year-old to worry about, but if they’re instructed well, a child will start to use them intuitively as they realize how versatile their bike is, making their ride much more enjoyable.

Cassette of 8 cogs on the rear wheel of the WOOM 5 and SRAM X4 Grip shift.

Ease of Assembly

Unwrapping the WOOM from its careful packaging was the hardest part of assembling the bike! The actual assembly took about 5 – 10 minutes and was very simple. I’m not the greatest at following assembly instructions and I had no problem at all.  To top it off, the bike comes with the two tools that you’ll need for assembly. WOOM bikes ship from Austin, TX, where the WOOM team prepares and checks every bike before shipping it to you.

Comparisons

The WOOM5 is comparable to several other higher-end bikes, including the Frog 62, Prevelo Alpha Four and the Islabikes Beinn 24″. We love all of these bikes and each has specific strengths, but the WOOM 5 is our favorite pick for all-around riding.

WOOM5‘s combination of a more upright position, a wider gearing range and slightly wider tires make it ideal for beginning to intermediate riders on various surfaces.

Islabikes Beinn‘s narrower frame, thinner tires and lower gear range also makes it suitable for everyday riders, but it truly excels on long paved rides.  Islabikes’ rims, however, are only compatible with Presta valve tubes, which can be challenging to find.

Prevelo Alpha Four is the best of the lot for really aggressive riders.  With trigger shifters, an aggressive body position and wider tires, it’s ideal for beginning to intermediate mountain bike riders.

Frog 62 is the most adaptable of the bikes as it comes with two sets of tires (road and street tires), mud flaps, and a bell. Riders can choose which set of tires to use as well as whether or not to install the mud flaps.  Like the Prevelo, it comes with a trigger shifter, which is better suited for intermediate or more aggressive riders.

 

Bottom Line

The WOOM 5 is easily the best all-around 24″ bike we’ve tested. Rugged and nimble for moderate dirt trail riding, and plenty fast and comfortable for neighborhood or paved trail riding, the WOOM 5 is the perfect bike to take your all-terrain rider anywhere they want to go.

The WOOM cycling gloves seen on our tester can be purchased in the same colors as the WOOM bikes – red, green, blue, and yellow. Even if you don’t think your child needs gloves, they’re just an added element of fun and our testers looooved wearing them!

Overview

The Spawn Yoji 14″ is one wicked little bike. Built for the tiniest groms-in-training, the Yoji 14″ is packed full of features that your child most likely won’t notice but that will delight mountain biking parents who have visions of the future full of tackling technical single track as a family. We haven’t had a chance yet to try out the bike on rugged terrain, but we’ll update the review when we do!

4-year-old girl riding Spawn Yogi 14" on the sidewalk

 

Size

Seat Height

Buckle up, because we’re about to take you on a ride to explain the confusing saga of the Yoji 14’s seat height. Spawn is a Canadian bike company and any Yoji sold in Canada or anywhere else internationally has the standard seat height range of 16.5″ to 18″. If you live outside of the US, the saga ends there and it’s actually quite simple.

However, if you live in the US, bikes are governed by different rules and regulations. The Spawn Yoji comes equipped with high-end dual handbrakes and does not have a coaster brake (back pedal brake). In order for a bike to be sold in the US without a coaster brake, it must have a designated maximum seat height that is usually far higher than any 12″ or 14″ bike would comfortably seat a rider. What this does is ensure that small kids’ bikes come with coaster brakes, which the US government has deemed as safer than allowing a young child to rely solely on handbrakes. Whether we agree with that or not is another story. 🙂

Because many bike companies and bike-loving parents understand that a coaster brake can actually be a detriment to kids learning to ride, many high-end brands manufacture and sell their 12″ or 14″ bikes with a coaster brake and then sell optional freewheel kits so that parents can swap out the rear wheel, removing the coaster brake on their own.

This is not what Spawn does. In order to comply with US CPSC standards regarding coaster brakes and maximum seat height, any Yoji 14″ bike shipped to the US comes installed with a different, taller seat post (300mm) with a higher minimum and maximum seat height.  US residents do have the option of purchasing the standard Yoji seat post (125mm) for $15. This second seat post is the same seat post that comes with any Yoji sold internationally.

Yoji’s Standard and Taller Seat Posts, Swapped Out Through Top of Saddle

Spawn Yogi's short seatpost vs the much longer seatpost, and top of saddle which shows the hole to unscrew the seat post

 

Here’s the thing – if you don’t buy the second seat post, your child is not going to be able to comfortably ride the Yoji.  The taller US seat post is comically big, even at its shortest setting. Our 7-year-old rode around on it like a clown bike. It’s basically a throw away. The company even says as much on their website, recommending that you either cut off the bottom of the longer seat post to shorten it, or, as we said, just buy the shorter one.

So it a nutshell, if you live in the US, you’ll have to buy a second seat post and swap it out with the one that comes attached to the bike. The longer seat post is not a seat post extension that will allow you to get more use out of the bike. It’s just too long. Even with the shorter seat post set at its maximum height, our tester was almost too big for the bike. We do also want to point out that with a seat height range of 16.5″ to 18″, your child does not have much room to grow. Other high-end 12″ and 14″ bikes have at least 2″, if not 3″ or 4″ of seat height range, while the Yoji only has 1.5″. (This is measured with the rear reflector installed, as it is unsafe to remove.)

Regular Seat Post vs. Long Seat Post
Yogi 14" with regular seat post: at max height, tester is almost too tall. Same bike with long, US seat post: at minimum height, tester can't even touch the ground

 

Handlebar Adjustments

Through a combination of multiple headset spacers and a handlebar that can be flipped, the handlebar height can be adjusted to accommodate growing kids. We flipped the handlebar to test this out, and it didn’t make a huge difference. But if this is an important feature for you, just know it’s an option!

Weight

Weighing in at 14.25 lbs., the Yoji is lighter than the previous Furi model because in addition to the aluminum frame, Spawn swapped out older components with hollow axles and a hollow bottom bracket spindle to shave weight off the bike. 14.25 lbs. is pretty on-par with most other high-end 14″ bikes. The Yoji has lot of high-end components that we don’t really think are necessary, but that add weight to the bike, so they’ve taken other measures like the hollowing out the bottom bracket and adding a 3-piece cranksett (which also cost you more money!) to keep the weight down.

Tires

The Yoji’s tires are exclusive to, and developed by, Spawn cycles. The 14” x 1.90” Spawn Cycles Loam Stars are wider than most 14″ tires (which are normally 1.5″ wide) and feature aggressive tread  for better traction and stability on all-terrain rides. They also come with puncture protection, which is a small strip inside the tire that helps prevent punctures, but not in all cases, and is often seen on higher-end brands. However, the Yoji’s tires offer an additional layer of puncture protection that is exclusive to Spawn.

As should be expected for a high-end 14″ bike, the front and rear hubs have sealed bearings for smoother rolling.

  Spawn Yoji’s Short-reach Stem, Headset Spacers, and All-terrain 14″ TiresSpawn Yogi 14's high-end components - including headset with spacers and tires

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Geometry

The Spawn Yoji is a pretty impeccable specimen of a tiny bike. It’s hard not to be impressed with the obvious attention to kid-specific details and design.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bike more perfectly suited for the youngest groms.

That said, no bike is actually perfect and there are a few elements of the bike that we weren’t totally in love with. For the price, you’d kind of expect this bike to be perfect. But as you can see below, for a mountain bike brand, the Yoji actually pushes the rider up into a more upright position more than we expected it to. There’s not anything wrong with an upright position – in fact, most young riders prefer this! But for all of the hype about a mini mountain bike, we did expect the body positioning to be more leaned in and aggressive. We even flipped the handlebars to produce a slightly more leaned-in stance, but the difference was negligible.

Additionally, there’s not a ton of room to grow with the Spawn and at its maximum seat height, there’s also not a ton of room in the cockpit for the rider to move around. There’s definitely enough space, but as said above, for the price of the bike, we expected there to be more space to allow for better maneuverability and comfort. Obviously, if this rider were smaller and the seat height were set to the minimum seat height, there would be more room. But given there’s only 1.5″ of adjustable seat height to work with, it becomes more of a concern. The company’s website does state that the handlebar can be adjusted for more room in the cockpit as kids grow, but once again, we didn’t really find this change to offer a significant amount of additional space.

Yoji 14″ More Upright, Less Room than Expected for Mini Mountain Bike

4-year-old tester riding Spawn Yogi 14" doesn't have very much room in the cockpit.

Crank Arms

With short cranks (89mm), the Yoji once again shows that’s it’s built from the ground up just for kids, similar to the high-end Islabikes CNOC 14″ 90 mm cranks, and the Prevelo Alpha One’s 85mm cranks.  The crank design also features a narrow q-factor which allows a child’s narrow frame to sit naturally on the bike with their feet placed and spaced comfortably on the pedals. Aligned with their hips, a child doesn’t have to splay their legs out awkwardly to pedal and gets more power and efficiency with each stroke.

In order for a bike to have a short crank arms and a narrow q-factor, a bike company must spend quite a bit of additional time and money to manufacture or acquire kid-specific parts. This means Spawn is serious about creating a bike just for kids!

The Yoji features a 3-piece crank set set which is typically lighter, easier to install, and easier to repair. In our opinion, besides the weight, the 3-piece is really just for show as young riders don’t ride hard enough to break bike components.

Spawn Yoji’s Short Cranks and 3-Piece Crank SetSpawn Yogi's short cranks and three-piece crank set.

Brakes

The Yoji’s hand brake components are just as impressive as any of its other components. Tektro mini v-brakes are easy for the tiniest hands to reach and engage, and the Brood Tenderiderz grips make for a comfy grip. As this will likely be your child’s first experience with high-quality hand brakes, please take the time to have them walk the bike and engage the brakes so they understand their stopping power. We’ve had kids stop so quickly they fall over the first time they used high-end brakes!

As noted in the Seat Height section, the Spawn Yoji does not come with a coaster brake. This is definitely an advantage for kids first learning to pedal. Kids (and adults!) naturally pedal backwards when they begin to lose their balance. When bikes have a coaster brake and kids try to pedal backwards, instead of maintaining momentum and balance, they come to a sudden stop and often fall over.

The one disadvantage of the Yoji’s brakes is that the front brakes don’t come assembled at all so they required an extensive and full adjustment. We even had to crimp a brake cable and put on a faring. Some bike-centric parents may not mind or may even enjoy making these adjustments, but the average parent won’t have the know-how to do this and will have to take the bike to a shop for assembly.

Spawn Yoji’s Dual Tektro Mini V-brakesSpawn Yogi's short-reach break levers and v-pull brakes

 

Gearing (Gain Ratio)

The Yoji 14″ comes standard with a pretty average gain ratio of 3.67 for aggressive riders (that’s who this bike is designed for!) – it’s not too difficult to get started pedaling and can reach decent speeds. For timid riders, this gain ratio is a little high as it would be more difficult for a less confident rider to get started and initially reach sufficient speeds for maintaining balance. Our confident but slightly timid tester did have difficulty riding up inclines as a result. She would stop and put her feet down, walking the bike instead.

For ambitious parents with serious bike-know-how, the common 64mm BCD (bolt circle diameter) chainring size makes it easy to swap out the front chainring to change the gain ratio of the bike. The true cassette hub with Shimano compatible cog in the rear also allows you to swap out the rear cassette as another way to change the gain ratio to your preference. Let’s be real here, though. Very few parents even know what this means! But I guess if you’re still reading at this point, you are one of the few that might! Unless your 3-year-old is some crazy rider though, there’s no reason for swapping any of this out.  These features do, however, greatly increase the cost of the bike.

 

Ease of Assembly

You know the saying “Don’t try this at home”? Yeah, well, don’t try this at home. The instruction booklet actually states that you should have a professional bike shop assemble the bike. We thought it was just a CYA statement, but they’re serious. It took us a good hour and a half to assemble and adjust a 14″ kid’s bike and required more tools in more sizes than other bikes we traditionally assemble. Your average parent will not have the right tools and will NOT be able to assemble the bike and adjust is properly for a safe ride. If you’re a bike guru though, you might be in bike assembly heaven.

Among other things, the front brakes don’t come assembled at all so they required an extensive and full adjustment. We even had to crimp a brake cable and put on a faring. The rear wheel was out of true (most likely from shipping) and was rubbing the brake pad, which then added to assembly time with some pretty time consuming tweaks.

As a comparison, other high-end kids’ bikes like WOOM and Prevelo come with all the tools you’ll need to assemble the bike and also come almost entirely assembled already.  It takes 5 – 10 minutes to actually put them together.

Bottom Line

The Spawn Yoji 14″ truly is an exceptional first bike for kids in a bike-obsessed family. It does, however, come with a hefty price tag – starting with a high MSRP, along with the $15 seat post, $40 in shipping, and potentially paying to have it assembled, it’s a very expensive option for a bike that your child will grow out of pretty quickly.

 

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.

Guardian Ethos, Best Quality and Braking System: One of our favorite brands is now offering a 16″ budget bike! While it’s a little over $200, we love it so much we just had to include it here! 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.

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.

Priority Start 16″, Best for Confident Kids: With a slightly more leaned forward body position and gearing that allows kids to gain more speed, the Priority is a great first “real” bike for kids that pick things up quickly and will be searching for adventure on two wheels in no time. An added bonus – kids think the super quiet belt drive is ninja cool for stealth mode, and parents love all the features you get for the price. Full Priority Start 16″ 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.

Pello Revo, Best for Basic Trail Riding: Built with a Cane Creek headset, Kenda tires and a Tektro caliper brake, the Revo has significantly better components than 16″ bikes found in a bike shop. Unlike the Hedgehog and the Rowdy, the Ramones comes with knobby tires which are better suited for trail riding. It also features a coaster brake and a rear brake only, preventing unintentional “endos” over the handlebars that can happen when kids learning to use hand brakes use the front brake only. Pello Revo review.

Frog 48, Most Versatile: With free bike shop professional assembly, two sets of tires (one for road, one for all-terrain), fun fenders, and coming in SIX different colors, the Frog 48 is sure to accommodate the needs and wants of most young riders.  It excels at providing a smooth, lightweight ride with a very aggressive body position for adventurous riders. Full Frog 48 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.

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.

BONUS Guardian Ethos, Best Quality and Braking System: MSRP $230, One of our favorite brands is now offering a 16″ budget bike! 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.

 

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!

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.