Small and mighty, the Cleary Gecko is the ultimate ride for the tiniest of riders! As the smallest kids’ pedal bike on the market and available without a coaster brake, the Gecko is the bike of choice for the rare little rider ready for action. We say rare because this rocking little bike is not ideal for the typical timid first-time rider, but it’s a true pony for a true mini-grom.
To see just how small the 12-inch Gecko is compared to similarly priced 14-inch bikes, we put it to the test with three 3-year-olds of various heights and skill levels. In the end, we realized that when paired with the right sized rider with the right riding temperament, the Gecko truly shines. But the window of “perfect fit” is pretty narrow and the average small rider is likely not an ideal fit for the Gecko.
Think the Gecko could be a great fit for your child? From sizing to handlebar-height and q-factor, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Gecko to determine if it’s the right choice for your little rider. This review also covers all the latest updates with the release of the new 2022 aluminum framed Gecko.
Cleary Gecko Overview
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Small framed 2 or 3-year-old balance bike graduates in 2T or 3T clothes who are ready to tackle pedals. The bike is too small for kids already in 4T clothes.
SEAT HEIGHT: 15.25″ – 18.5″
WEIGHT: 13 lb (w/ freewheel kit attached)
BRAKE: Dual Hand, Option for Freewheel Hub (that eliminates coaster brake)
GAIN RATIO: 3.3
TIRES: 12×2.15″ knobby tires with tan sidewall (new for 2022)
FRAME: Aluminum Alloy (new for 2022)
TRAINING WHEELS: Not compatible
- Very low minimum seat height accommodates tiny riders
- Overall high-quality components and durable build
- Easy-reach, easy-pull dual-hand brakes
- Available with or without a coaster brake
- The smallest pedal bike available without a coaster brake!
- Beautiful matte paint job
- Lightweight aluminum alloy frame (new for 2022)
- It is very small – so kids quickly outgrow it
- Wide q-factor requires kids to splay legs to pedal
- More aggressive positioning not ideal for many first time riders
- Low handlebars can interfere with steering
Pre-2022 Steel Gecko vs. 2022 Alumium Alloy Gecko
Mid-2022 the Gecko got a major update! While its frame geometry remains the same, the classic steel frame was replaced with a lighter aluminum alloy frame, which helped to drop the weight of the bike almost 2 pounds.
Beefier, knobby tires with fun and flashy tan sidewalls were also added. The beefier tires also raised the minimum and maximum seat heights about 0.25″.
In this review, you’ll see both models in our pictures. The red Gecko with all black tires is the older steel model, while the blue Gecko with tan sidewalls tires is the new alloy model. While the metal composition of the frames changed, the two Gecko frames are identical in geometry and size.
Cleary Gecko Review – Results of Our Test Rides
A well-built, thoughtfully designed 12″ bike is hard to come by. With limited space for cranks and pedals and with tiny legs to maneuver them, it is very difficult to design a quality 12-inch bike. As a result, essentially all 12-inch bikes are hard to ride and are generally a waste of time.
The Cleary Gecko is the exception. With its small frame, small brake levers, and short crank arms, the Gecko fits and performs beautifully with the smallest of riders. Unfortunately, the beauty of the Gecko is also its potential downfall. The bike is truly tiny, so before we go into the specifics of the Gecko, let’s first address what size child fits on the Gecko.
Cleary Gecko Sizing
Yes, the Cleary Gecko is a small bike, but it is likely even smaller than you think. After testing the Gecko with several kids, we found that it is the best fit for kids in 3T. It is slightly too big for kids in 2T (but still usable for some) and much too small for kids in 4T clothes. So the window of fit is pretty narrow.
Also, keep in mind that the Gecko is not compatible with training wheels, so unless your tiny preschooler has already mastered a balance bike, the Gecko likely isn’t the best bike for them. Additionally, if your young balance bike master has an inseam greater than 16″, a larger 14″ bike is likely to be a better fit for them, and will last much longer.
Does a Child NEED To Be Riding a Bike This Small?
Even if your child is in 3T clothes and has already mastered a balance bike, it’s very important to honestly ask yourself if your child wants to move up to a pedal bike. Most kids in 2T and 3T clothing are more than happy to continue to ride their balance bikes.
Far too often parents buy little bikes, such as the Gecko, thinking they can convince their child to move up to a pedal bike at a young age. But this often backfires. Balance bikes are easier to ride than pedal bikes and many preschoolers prefer them and hesitate (or refuse!) to transition to a pedal bike.
As a result, these small pedal bikes may sit unused and by the time the child is ready to start pedaling, they have already outgrown the bike.
What size/age child fits on the Cleary Gecko?
The Gecko has a seat height range of 15.25″ – 18.5″ To get a good feel for how the seat height correlates to the child’s inseam and clothing size, we put the 2021 steel model to the test with three 3-year-olds ranging in height between 37″ to 42″ tall.
TESTER #1: Barely 3-years-old, 37″ tall with a 13.5″ inseam in 2T clothes. Gecko seat is set to its lowest height of 15″.
Having just mastered gliding on her balance bike, this tiny tester was very interested in learning how to pedal a bike! While the Gecko’s freewheel did allow her to practice the pedaling motion (along with help from mom or dad), the seat was too tall for her to touch the ground with her full foot.
Being able to touch the ground with their feet squarely on the ground is essential for new riders. This allows them to easily start and stop the bike while still learning to master pedaling.
While seasoned pedalers (adults and kids) should ride with the saddle raised higher so the rider can only touch the ground with their tip toes, new riders need the comfort and safety of being able to touch with their full foot in order to allow for safe starts and stops on the bike.
For a tester of this size, we would recommend allowing them to happily continue to ride their balance bike. If they have truly mastered their balance bike and are chomping at the bit to get pedaling, encourage them to eat their veggies because they are going to need to grow a bit before it’s going to be a good fit!
UPDATE: A year later, this young tester was rocking the Gecko! She can easily start and stop the bike on her own without any issues.
TESTER #2: 3-years-old, 39″ tall with a 16″ inseam in 3T clothes. Gecko’s seat height is set to 17″ (almost maxed out). Of the three testers, he is the best fit on the bike.
This little tester’s first experience of pedaling a bike was on a Gecko. As a master of his balance bike, he was ready for pedals and the Gecko got him up and pedaling within a week. After learning to pedal, we moved the seat up about an inch to allow him more extension when pedaling, which still allows most of his foot to touch the ground to allow for easier starts and stops.
UPDATE: A year later, this young tester has moved on to a 16″ bike. We were able to test out the new Gecko with a different 3-year-old with a 17″ inseam. While certainly maxed out on the bike, he was able to navigate his favorite pump track without any concerns.
TESTER #3: 3 years, 42″ tall, 18″ inseam in 4T and size 5 clothes. The seat on the Gecko is maxed out at 17.75″
This young rider has been successfully riding pedal bikes for a while and as a result, no longer needs to have the bike saddle set low enough for her to touch the ground with her full foot. The maximum seat height of the Gecko, however, does not allow the seat to go tall enough for her. The Gecko is simply too small for her. She is a much better fit on Cleary’s larger 16-inch Hedgehog as shown below.
Cleary Gecko or Cleary Hedgehog?
As shown above, our 3-year-old with a 16″ inseam fit great on the Gecko, but our 3-year-old with an 18″ inseam was much too large for it. With the minimum seat height of the Hedgehog being 17.5″, we found new riders with inseams of at least 17″ or experienced riders with inseams at least 16″ to be a better fit on the Hedgehog than the Gecko.
For inexperienced pedalers with inseams between 16″ and 17.5″, neither the Gecko nor the Hedgehog will be a great fit. A 14″ bike, such as the Prevelo Alpha One, woom 2 or Guardian Ethos 14 would be a better choice.
When dealing with the smallest of riders, weight is just as important as size. Ideally, a bike should weigh as close to 30% of a child’s weight as possible, but with smaller and lighter 3-year-olds, a weight closer to 40% is much more likely.
The new alloy Gecko with the freewheel installed came in at 13 lbs. The weight wasn’t an issue for our testers, but for those with really petite riders, swapping out the beefy tires may provide some weight savings (although we didn’t try this).
Performance, Geometry and Q-Factor
Due to his great bike fit and skill level, Tester #2 above became our main tester for the Cleary Gecko. As a confident master of his balance bike, he was more than excited and very ready to get started on a pedal bike. After patiently waiting months for his Gecko to arrive, he was ecstatic the day it finally came in.
After a couple of days practicing the pedaling motion (more info about how we accomplished this below), he was ready to start pedaling on his own. After a few attempts, he finally got it and was off to the races!
Within the first day of learning how to pedal, he was able to ride considerable distances on his own. He quickly fell in love with the sense of adventure and independence the Gecko provided.
Gecko’s Aggressive Geometry
To make sure he wasn’t just in love with pedaling in general, we wanted to get him on another small bike so he could compare the two experiences. Once fully comfortable pedaling, we swapped his beloved Gecko for the slightly larger and more upright woom 2.
At first, he appeared to love the nimbleness and light weight of the woom 2. But much to our surprise, that love quickly waned. As an aggressive and very eager rider, he complained that the woom 2’s handlebars were getting in the way and were too big. He wanted to lean into his bike and tackle the world around him and the upright geometry of the woom 2 simply didn’t fit his riding style.
While both bikes are great, they are simply designed for different types of riders. The woom 2 is a pretty universal “best fit” for most beginning riders who are usually more comfortable sitting up as they ride. The Gecko is designed for the ambitious rider who wants to lean in and embrace every jump and ramp available to them. This level of ambition isn’t as common at this age and size.
To help ambitious riders have a “wider base”, the Gecko is unique in that it intentionally features a wider q-factor. The q-factor is essentially the distance between the inside of the pedals. This is an important measurement as it determines how much the child has to splay their legs in order to pedal the bike. The more splay, the less efficient the pedal stroke.
With crank arms that angle outward, as compared to straight crank arms on the woom 2, the Gecko has a q-factor that is about 2 inches wider than the woom 2. Considering kids’ hips are already pretty narrow, a 2″ difference is a significant difference for a preschooler!
As a result, when pedaling the Gecko versus the woom, our 3-year-old tester had to splay his legs out much wider on the Gecko. For most kids, this wider stance is less desirable as it reduces the efficiency of each pedal stroke. In fact, the Gecko’s wide q-factor is the second major reason (behind aggressive geometry) why we do not recommend the Gecko for timid to average riders.
Cleary, however, intentionally made the q-factor wide to help create that wider base for ambitious riders. As young, ambitious riders begin to gain confidence on their bike, they often begin to stand up and be more playful on the bike.
Of our three testers, our main ambitious rider (shown above) surprised us and had no issues pedaling the wider bike! The other two testers much preferred the narrower q-factor on the woom.
Cleary believes the wider base (or q-factor) helps the rider feel more stable and can encourage them to continue to explore new jumps and tricks. While our little rider wasn’t quite advanced enough to try any tricks on the Gecko, we can say that we have seen this benefit on the larger 16″ Hedgehog.
Unlike previous versions, the post-2020 models of the Cleary Gecko now come standard with a u-shaped handlebar instead of a flat handlebar. We found the older, flat handlebar to be too low and too aggressive for most riders, so the slight rise is a welcomed addition.
Even though the handlebars are higher, they are still quite low compared to other bikes with similar minimum seat heights, such as the woom 2. As pointed out previously, the difference in body positions created by the various handlebar heights appeal to different types of riders. More aggressive riders tend to favor lower handlebars.
Lower handlebars force the rider to place a larger percentage of their weight on the handlebars, which places more weight on the front tire. This centers the child’s weight more evenly on the front and back tire and helps the child to feel more centered on the bike and can help them be more playful.
The downside of the Gecko’s low handlebars is that even a slight turn can cause the rider’s knee to hit their arm. While our little testers didn’t complain when this happened, it is a common complaint of the Gecko by other parents.
To be fair, our young tester also experienced this with the woom 2, but as you can see, the higher handlebars of the woom 2 allowed his knee to slide under the handlebars and allowed for a much tighter turn.
The Benefits of Small Bikes without Coaster Brakes
The Gecko is the smallest bike on the market that has an option for a freewheel hub, which eliminates the coaster brake (back pedal brake). We love bikes with freewheels because coaster brakes are notorious for slowing down a child’s ability to learn the proper pedaling motion. This is especially true for balance bike graduates!
The problem with coaster brakes is that they don’t allow you to pedal backwards. When learning to pedal a bike, young riders mistakenly pedal backwards quite often! On a bike with a coaster brake, their backward pedaling motion is quickly and unexpectedly met with an abrupt stop, which typically leads to a fall.
Getting a bike started from a standstill is also easier without a coaster brake as it allows kids to easily move the bike’s pedals into the “start position”. The start position is when one pedal is positioned in the upmost position on the bike, which allows the rider to get the most momentum on their first pedal stroke upon getting started.
For experienced riders, coaster brakes also lead to issues as kids (and adults) often pedal backwards when losing their balance, especially when going uphill. With a coaster brake, this ability to help regain your balance by pedaling is no longer an option.
Bikes with a freewheel hub do not have a coaster brake, so accidentally pedaling backwards isn’t an issue.
Gecko’s Dual Hand Brakes
Bikes without coaster brakes would not be safe without quality, easy-to-use dual hand brakes. With small-reach levers and responsive Tektro brake components, the brakes on the Cleary Gecko performed great for our preschoolers.
With powerful dual-hand brakes, however, comes the opportunity and importance of teaching proper braking technique. In order to help our young riders learn to brake with just the right hand (back brake) or with both hands, we placed a piece of colored tape on the right brake lever to remind our young preschooler which side was his right side :).
Another feature to always consider when purchasing a single-speed bike is the bike’s gearing. The Gecko features a low gain ratio of 3.3. As a comparison, the Prevelo Alpha One has a gain ratio of 3.7, while the woom 2 has a 3.71.
The low gain ratio of the Gecko means that it will require less effort to get started compared to other bikes, but in turn, it will reach a lower maximum speed than bikes with a higher gain ratio.
For aggressive riders who like to tackle ramps and jumps, the lower gain ratio of the Gecko will allow them to power up obstacles faster and easier.
For those riders who may need an even lower gain ratio (honestly not sure why you would as the Gecko is already geared low), the Gecko can be modified to include a second, lower gear. The non-drive side of the rear hub has a second spot for a second freewheel (see image below). To engage the second gear, simply remove the rear tire, flip it 180° and then reinstall with the second freewheel on the drive side. Cleary sells a 14T freewheel that can replace the standard 13T freewheel, which would lower the gain ratio to 3.0.
One word of caution about the Cleary Gecko is that a chain guard does not come standard on the bike, but Cleary does have one available upon request. As a result, make sure your child does not wear baggy pants while riding the Gecko as they could get caught in the chain.
The new Cleary Gecko 12 comes with beefy 2.1″ wide knobby tires that offer plenty of traction for all-terrain use.
Our 3-year-old tester had no issues powering through the dry and dusty trails at our local bike park. For most kids, the knobby tires of the Gecko are a bit overkill, but you can’t discount the cool retro vibes of the tan sidewall tires!
On paved surfaces, the knobby tires didn’t skip a beat, although they certainly don’t offer as smooth of a ride as your standard smooth street tread. If your young rider will be riding mainly on pavement, the tire could certainly be swapped out for ones with a smoother tread.
Learning to Ride on the Cleary Gecko
If you’ve come this far and believe the Gecko is the best little pony for your little grom, here’s a quick tip to help them learn the pedaling motion of the bike.
Before you have the child try to ride the bike, get a 4×4 piece of wood about 8″ long (or something similarly shaped) and prop the bike up on the frame of the bike as shown below. Then, while holding the bike in place, have the child practice pedaling the bike. At first, they will accidentally pedal backwards, but with time they will master the correct forward motion.
Once they have mastered pedaling, allow them to start riding, but make sure they “run” on the bike before they begin to pedal. Having kids push the bike with their tiptoes while their legs are behind the pedals is a great way to get started without worrying about their legs hitting the pedals. Getting started on an area with a slight decline is also beneficial to help them gain momentum faster.
Once moving and the bike is stabilized, have the child begin to pedal. It may take a couple of tries, but in time they will be up and pedaling on their own!
Cleary Gecko 12 vs. Other 14″ Bikes
While the Cleary Gecko 12 is the smallest kids bike on the market (that we know of), it certainly isn’t the smallest by much. The Prevelo Alpha One (14″ bike) and the woom 2 both have minimum seat heights which are only about 0.5″ taller than the Gecko’s. Both bikes also come with a freewheel option.
Like the Gecko, the Prevelo Alpha One has low-rise handlebars, which will make for a more aggressive body positioning on the bike (but not as aggressive as the Gecko). It also has a slightly higher gain ratio, which will be beneficial if you plan on riding longer distances. Like the Gecko, however, the Alpha One is small, and kids with an inseam of at least 17″ are better off on Prevelo’s 16″ Alpha Two.
The woom 2 is slightly different from the others in that it has a high-rise handlebar, which makes it better for timid and average riders compared to more aggressive riders. The upright position, as well as a longer seat post, do allow for more room for growth on the woom 2 versus the Cleary and Prevelo.
|Cleary Gecko||Prevelo Alpha One||woom 2|
|Seat Height||15.25″ – 18.5″||15.6″ – 17.5″||16″ – 19.1″|
|Weight||13 lb.||14.4 lb.||12.3 lb.|
|Handlebars||Low Rise||Low Rise||High Rise|
Having tested all three bikes, we can confidentially say that they are all great bikes, but the bike that is best for your child really depends on your child’s size and riding ability.
Cleary Gecko Bike Review Bottom Line
With an exceptional build quality, a freewheel hub option (to eliminate the coaster brake), aggressive geometry, as well as a wider q-factor, the Gecko is uniquely designed for the tiniest of mini-groms in 2T/3T clothes.
What makes the Gecko top-notch for ambitious riders, however, also makes it less than ideal for your average first-time rider. Timid riders (which most first-time riders are) are better off on a more upright bike such as the woom 2.
If you do believe your little rider is ready for action, be sure to check and double-check your child’s inseam prior to ordering to make sure the Gecko will be a great fit from day one. The Gecko is likely much smaller than you think and your little one may be better off on a larger 14″ or 16″ bike.