The stoke level on the Shotgun Dirt Hero off-road balance bike is high, and so well deserved. If your garage stable is full of anything from dirt jumpers to gravel bikes (or both!), the Dirt Hero bike is calling your little one’s name. Not just a pretty face, the Dirt Hero is appropriately named for its ability to shred.
From its 2.25″ wide knobby tires, to the optional Magura hydraulic disc brake, the Dirt Hero is the best off-road balance bike we have ever tested. In this review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this mini shredding machine, including sizing, wheel options, and what type of rider the bike is best for.
Shotgun Dirt Hero Balance Bike Overview
MSRP: $340 (w/12″ wheel kit), $360 (w/14″ wheel kit)
BEST FOR: Adventurous toddlers riding mainly on dirt with at least a 13.5″ inseam
SEAT HEIGHT: 12″ wheels: 12.5″ – 15.5″, 14″ wheels: 13.5″ – 16.75″
WEIGHT (w/o brake kit): 12″ – 8.7 lb., 14″ – 9.5 lb.
BRAKES: $99 Optional hydraulic disc brake add-on
TIRES: Knobby air (2.25″ wide Vee Tire Crown Gem)
FRAME: Aluminum Alloy
FOOTREST: Yes, removable
SEALED BEARINGS: Yes
BOLTS: Recessed, flat
TURNING LIMITER: No
- Available with 12″ or 14″ wheels (same frame fits both wheel sizes)
- Lightweight, nimble, and narrow frame works seamlessly with the smaller bodies of little riders
- The 12″ and 14″ wheel kits have different front and rear dropouts which allows the 14″ Dirt Hero to have a longer wheelbase than the 12″ Dirt Hero (taller riders need a longer bike)
- Optional Magura hydraulic disc brake has an enclosed rotor to protect curious fingers, as well as an easy-reach brake lever
- Reliable disc brake works in all-weather, including mud
- Footrest is non-obtrusive for experienced riders, but also easily removable for toddlers just starting out
- Fun MTB-specific accessories including a front mudguard and 3 different colored top tube skins
- Comes with temporary tattoos that match Shotgun’s popular Shred Til Bed kids book
- Pricey! But not unreasonable considering its overall quality.
Dirt Hero Review – The Ultimate Off-road Balance Bike
She’s pretty, but certainly not just a pretty face. She’s an off-road beast ready to guide adventurous toddlers, as well as trail-ready preschoolers, through the chunkiest rock gardens and gnarliest of pint-sized bike parks.
Our test riders, several of whom are already trail confident on their pedal bikes, all fell in love with the ease and confidence with which they were able to tackle trails and bike parks on the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero balance bike.
In fact, they even preferred and were able to better tackle challenging terrain on the Dirt Hero than on their high-end 16″ pedal bikes. From sizing to specs, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this amazing little shredding machine.
Dirt Hero in Action
Like watching a true master at work, the Dirt Hero is a dream to observe as it appears to make even the trickiest toddler-sized obstacles melt away under its presence. The Dirt Hero’s unique combination of a long wheelbase, lightweight build, and different wheel size kits, come together seamlessly as our young testers had no problem lifting the bike up and over obstacles, rolling down baby drops, and leaning in and out of turns.
When hitting up the rollers, the Dirt Hero quickly delivers smiles and laughter. As it was only her second day on the Dirt Hero, our timid 4-year-old tester initially demanded that her mom stay by her side at all times, but within minutes, she was all smiles!
Even our littlest 2-year-old tester had no problems putting the Dirt Hero to work! In fact, at times he got a little too ambitious and had to be reined in by mom 🤣.
All in all, throughout all our test rides, the Dirt Hero has not disappointed. While plenty of tests on single track are still planned (ugh, so much snow this year!), we can confidently say that the Dirt Hero is one awesome and capable rig for ambitious young groms.
What type of rider is the Dirt Hero best for?
The Dirt Hero is the perfect companion for kids who love to ride aggressively, as well as for any rider who is riding mainly on non-paved surfaces. The lightweight, narrow frame and kid-friendly geometry of the Dirt Hero allow kids to comfortably push their boundaries and increase their skill level, whether it be at a bike park or single track MTB trails.
With 2.25″ wide knobby tires, the Dirt Hero provides plenty of traction and bite for single track as well as cushioning when rolling over chunky rock gardens or flying down jumps and curbs. Although the Dirt Hero has a solid and impressive mountain bike DNA, it is more than capable of taking on the concrete jungles of the city, including skate and bike parks.
What type of rider is the Dirt Hero not ideal for?
The Dirt Hero’s design and attention to detail really make it a great bike for just about any toddler or preschooler. The question for most parents really should be whether the Dirt Hero is worth the added expense compared to other bikes.
For families all about the single-track life, the Dirt Hero is absolutely worth making room in the bike budget. For families sticking mainly to riding on sidewalks and around the neighborhood, the Dirt Hero is a phenomenal bike, but likely not worth the added expense compared to other balance bikes (see our Best Balance Bikes for Kids article).
Shouldn’t I just buy a 14″ or 16″ pedal bike?
If your tiny grom is already a pro on a balance bike, it can seem like getting a 14″ balance bike would be pointless. Why get another balance bike for trails if they are ready for a pedal bike?
For many young balance bike riders, a pedal bike is the next logical step. But for really adventurous riders, especially those taking on single track MTB trails and bike parks, balance bikes certainly still have their place.
Small pedal bikes work great around the neighborhood and on flat terrain, but quickly show their limitations on uneven surfaces. As a result of their small frames and small wheel sizes, all small pedal bikes have very short crank arms that result in poor pedaling efficiency. They are also heavier compared to balance bikes and essentially have to be single speed.
Balance bikes, however, are very lightweight, easy to maneuver, and make it significantly easier for toddlers and preschoolers to climb hills or even make their way up stairs!
In fact, even though our 4-year-old tester had been confidently riding a pedal bike for over a year, he MUCH preferred the 14″ Dirt Hero balance bike at the bike park than his 16″ pedal bike. There were many features that required him to stop and walk on his pedal bike that he could easily cruise over on the Dirt Hero.
We even brought other 16″ pedal bikes to make sure it wasn’t just his bike, but in every case, he wanted nothing to do with the pedal bikes while at the bike park and always preferred the Dirt Hero.
What makes balance bikes better for technical terrain?
Small pedal bikes make it all but impossible for tiny legs to pedal up a hill. But with a balance bike, a small child can still make it to the top on his own. Our 4-year-old test rider can easily ride his balance bike up our local MTB trails designed for young kids, but on his pedal bike, he can’t make it to the top without mom or dad towing him.
When pointed down, kids (and even us adults!) often don’t pedal much anyways. For the places when pedaling is required, running is much more efficient for kids than pedaling on a small bike with a single gear.
If your local trails involve rolling hills (rather than extended climbs), balance bikes also shine as you don’t have to constantly start and stop to attach and detach a tow rope to help kids get up hills on a small pedal bike.
With pedals in the way, kids often can’t, or are hesitant to, put their foot down to help them through hard portions of the trail – so they just stop. Once stopped on a small bike, it can be challenging to get started pedaling again. On a balance bike, kids naturally put their feet down to help them through an obstacle, and they just keep on going – no stopping required!
Smaller wheels also make it harder to power over larger obstacles like rocks and roots, so oftentimes, kids simply can’t pedal over large objects along the trail. But they can easily lift a balance bike over them.
In a nutshell, if MTB trails and bike parks are in your plans, don’t second guess the capabilities of a 14″ balance bike!
What size child is the Dirt Hero best for?
The Dirt Hero is a great fit for kids in size 24 month pants to 4T/5T and inseams ranging from 12.5″ to 17.5″.
The Dirt Hero has one frame size that is compatible with two different wheel kits – a 12″ and 14″ wheel. When you purchase a Dirt Hero, you can select whether to purchase the 12″ or 14″ wheel kit. The Dirt Hero with the 14″ wheel kit is $20 more than with the 12″ wheel kit.
|Dirt Hero 12″||Dirt Hero 14″|
|Seat Height||12.5″ – 15.5″||13.5″ – 16.75″|
|Inseam Fit Range||13.5″ to 17.5″||14.5″ to 18.75″|
|Weight (w/o brake)||8.71 lb.||9.5 lb|
|Wheelbase||612 mm||644 mm|
If your child’s inseam is between 14.5″ and 17.5″, they will fit on both wheel kits, but which wheel kit is best for them depends on their level of experience. You can also always purchase either size wheel kit for $150 later on down the road (for growing kids or younger siblings).
Beginning Balance Bikers
The Dirt Hero can absolutely be a first balance bike for toddlers. Considering beginning riders typically stand over the saddle and walk the bike, to ride the Dirt Hero, kids will need an inseam of at least 13.5″ (slightly more than the bike’s minimum 12.5″ seat height). This allows them to stand over the saddle and place both heels on the ground.
Having the seat height about an inch less than their inseam is ONLY applicable to young riders just getting started who will be walking the bike for a period of time (learn more about the stages of balance bike progression here).
As your child naturally progresses on the Dirt Hero and begins to sit and walk and then sit and run on the saddle, it is best to have the seat height set 1.5″ to 2″ below their inseam. Having the seat set lower than the inseam allows the child to get enough knee bend to run comfortably.
For all-terrain riding, kids often need a bit more clearance (between their bum and the seat) than with traditional paved balancing bike riding. This allows them to more easily pick up and maneuver the bike around and over various obstacles. (With standard balance bike riding we recommend setting the saddle only 0.5″ – 1.5″ below inseam for beginning riders.)
The 2-year-old tester below has a 14″ inseam and is riding the Dirt Hero with the 12″ wheel kit and the seat set to its minimum of 12.5″. This is an ideal fit for him. While he can technically fit on the bike with the 14″ wheel kit, its higher minimum seat height of 13.5″ doesn’t provide enough clearance for him.
Due to the lower maximum seat height of the 12″ wheel kit, we only recommend it for kids with inseams 14″ or less. The smaller 12″ kit may also be a good choice for more timid beginning riders with inseams closer to 14.5″. Although they will fit on the 14″, they will likely prefer the “smaller” feel of the Dirt Hero with the 12″ wheel kit.
Experienced Balance Bikers
If your child is moving up from a smaller balance bike or if they just need a more rugged balance bike, the Dirt Hero is exceptional. As an established rider, the seat height should be set 1.5″ to 2.5″ below the child’s inseam. The larger the lifts and drops your child adventures up or down, the more clearance they will need.
The Dirt Hero with a 12″ wheel kit will work with experienced riders with inseams ranging from 14″ to 18″. With the 14″ wheel kit, the Dirt Hero will work with experienced riders with inseams ranging from 15″ to ~19″. In order to provide the most room for growth, we recommend getting the 14″ kit if your experienced rider’s inseam is at least 14.5″.
Dirt Hero Build and Components
So what makes the Dirt Hero so awesome? From tires to brakes, the Dirt Hero is the result of years of development and smart component selection.
Geometry and a Natural Riding Position
The Dirt Hero has a kid-friendly geometry that places its rider in a semi-upright position that’s not too upright, but not too aggressive. Having only mastered walking a few years ago, young kids still prefer to “balance” their bodies with their shoulders stacked over their hips. Sitting upright also puts less strain on the neck to look up.
Aggressive riders also need to be able to shift their weight around on the bike when heading up or down a challenging obstacle. As a result, bikes for aggressive riders need plenty of room for the child to lean into the handlebars without being too far forward on the bike. The longer wheelbase of the Dirt Hero does a great job of keeping the rider’s weight centered on the bike while the lower-set handlebars keep out of the way.
City vs. Off-road Balance Bike Geometry
So what makes the geometry of the Dirt Hero that different that other balance bikes? While many balance bikes offer a semi-upright position, the Dirt Hero also adds in a lower handlebar height, a slightly longer wheelbase, and a slacker seat tube angle, which all benefit the off-road rider.
When compared to the woom 1, which is a phenomenal balance bike designed for city riding, the differences in geometry are pretty apparent. While the difference in wheelbase length is hard to see in the overlap below (the Dirt Hero with 12″ wheels is 612 mm while the woom 1 is 555 mm), the slacker seat tube angle and lower handlebar height of the Dirt Hero are noticeable.
Designed for city use, the shorter wheelbase of the woom 1 allows the bike to be easier to maneuver at slow speeds, while the steeper seat tube and higher handlebar place the rider in a more upright position. While great for more relaxed city use, these features also provide for a smaller cockpit that limits the child’s ability to shift their weight around on the bike in order to ride aggressively on rough terrain.
As a comparison, the Dirt Hero has a longer wheelbase, a slacker seat tube angle, and lower-set handlebars. The longer wheelbase makes the bike more stable at higher speeds (a huge benefit for aggressive riders on trails), while the slack seat tube angle and lower placed handlebars allows for more space in the cockpit.
2.25″ Wide Vee Crown Gem Tires
Both wheel kits come with beefy 2.25″ Vee Crown Gem Tires. In addition to looking killer, the tires provide plenty of traction and side knobs for young riders leaning into off-road turns.
With the PSI properly lowered (they should feel soft, yet firm, like when squishing an orange), the wide 2.25″ tires also provide plenty of extra cushioning over the chunkiest of terrain.
Optional Magura hydraulic rear disc brake
Aggressive riders need aggressive brakes! To provide more than enough stopping power for little speed demons, the Dirt Hero comes with an optional hydraulic brake kit. While we do think a high-end caliper brake would have offered enough stopping power as well, the disc brake has some added benefits of durability when knocked around on a trail as well as reliability when the trails get wet and muddy.
The brake does need to be installed, but the process isn’t hard and Kids Ride Shotgun’s Dirt Hero assembly video does a great job demonstrating the process.
For added safety (curious little fingers and metal rotors are not a good combo), Kids Ride Shotgun worked with Magura to create a rotor with protective plastic inserts that block all entry points for fingers.
Up front, the brake lever is easy for small hands to reach and requires little effort for them to pull.
Whether or not to get the brake kit really depends on your child’s age and how aggressive you anticipate your little one becoming. Most toddlers under the age of three will almost exclusively use their feet to stop. During their third year, kids typically develop the hand/eye coordination to reliably use a hand brake to stop.
As a result, if your child is riding the Dirt Hero with the 12″ wheel kit, we don’t think the brake kit is essential right away (you can always buy it later). But most kids tall enough to ride with the 14″ kit will likely be developed enough to use the brake as well as be riding fast enough for it to really come in handy.
As kids advance on a balance bike, adventurous riders almost always put footrests to use! Whether standing or sitting, footrests allow kids to create more fun ways to explore on their bike.
On an MTB balance bike, the footrests are particularly handy on the down hill as they allow kids to begin to get comfortable in the standing position during descents as well as provide a place for them to sit and rest their legs.
That said, footrests on balance bikes can be problematic for young riders just getting started – they often interfere with the child’s stride. While we didn’t have a problem with our 2-year-old tester, the black plastic footrest platform is easily removable if it is a problem for your young rider.
While the included mudflap is certainly functional, in reality, its main purpose is to make the parent of the grom swoon! The flap is held in place with 4 included zip ties.
Flat Axle Bolts
Axle bolts often stick out past the frame of a balance bike, which can scratch a child’s legs during falls, or simply when maneuvering the bike. To prevent any potential leg contact, the Dirt Hero uses a through axle with flat ends. The bolts that hold the front and rear drop outs also use flat bolts.
Shotgun Dirt Hero Balance Bike Bottom Line
These little faces say it all! The Dirt Hero is a wicked, grom-worthy balance bike that is sure to build confidence and skill level while providing endless hours of fun.
So whether you are getting your toddler on a balance bike for the first time, or are moving your trail-ready preschooler up from a basic balance bike, the Dirt Hero is an exceptional pony. From bike parks to single-track, the Dirt Hero is the perfect companion for baby shredders with inseams 12.5″ and up!