Early Rider Belter 24 Review

If we could give the Early Rider Belter 24 a cheesy nickname, it would be “Smooth Criminal.” 😉 Smooth rolling tires, smooth steering, smooth shifting. All of our test riders raved about how smooth this bike is, and these are kids who are used to riding the best kids bikes on the market. To impress this group of riders is no easy feat.

From the belt drive paired with an 8-speed Shimano Nexus internal hub, to the Vee Speedster tires and cartridge bearings, the Early Rider Belter is one magnificent kids’ bike. But is it worth the higher price tag? Read our review below for our take.

8 year old girl riding Early Rider Belter 24" kids bike down the sidewalk

Early Rider Seeker 24 Overview

RATING: Exceptional

MSRP$899

BEST FOR: Adventurous neighborhood riders

SPECIFICATIONS

SEAT HEIGHT: 27.3″ – 34.6″ (good fit up to about 31″)
WEIGHT: 24.3 lb.
FRAME: Aluminum Alloy
GEARS: 8-speed, Shimano Nexus Internally Geared Hub
BRAKES: Promax Hydraulic Disc Brakes, Dual Hand
GEAR RATIO: 307% spread
TIRES: Vee Speedster 24″ x 2.0″

PROS:

  • Impressively smooth ride
  • Shimano Nexus internal hub provides seamless shifting and eliminates the finicky derailleur
  • Grip shifter is very easy to engage
  • Belt drive requires minimal maintenance
  • Pedals are gorgeous and spin effortlessly on their spindle
  • Hydraulic disc brakes for exceptional, all-weather braking power
  • Smooth tread on cushioning Vee Speedster tires minimizes rolling resistance

CONS:

  • Higher standover height limits the lowest seat height
  • Slightly aggressive geometry limits good fit on the high end

Early Rider Belter 24 – Results of our Test Rides

Hailing out of the UK, but not widely-known in the US, Early Rider has long been a leader in raising the bar for precision-designed kids bikes. If you’re not familiar with them yet, let us introduce you to this luxury kids bike brand.

Why an Early Rider Belter?

10 year old rider on Early Rider Belter 24, riding on neighborhood street

An Early Rider Belter of any size doesn’t come cheap. At $999, the Early Rider Belter 24 is the most expensive 24″ urban kids bike in the US market by a wide margin; the $649 woom 5 is almost cheap by comparison.

So what’s the big deal about the Early Rider Belter? And is it worth paying more? Having tested over 300 kids bikes over the last 15 years, the Early Rider bikes are distinctly in a league of their own. These bikes look and feel luxurious and sophisticated. Whether that luxury is worth the price tag is up to you!

Functionally, we’ve found four primary reasons that upgrading to the Early Rider Belter 24 is a worthy investment.

(1) Shimano Nexus 8 Speed Internal Hub

(2) Maintenance-free Belt Drive

(3) Strikingly Smooth Ride

(4) Impressive Durability

Shimano Nexus Internal Hub – Why It’s Superior

The Early Rider Belter 24 is the only kids bike on the market that features the Shimano Nexus Inter 8 internal hub. Internally geared hubs aren’t common, especially on kids bikes. This is primarily because they are significantly more expensive than a traditional derailleur, and are even more expensive when you get up to 8 gears.

Side by side collage showing a belt drive internal hub and a derailleur with cassette and chain

This hub alone is a huge reason this bike has such a high price tag; if you were to purchase one separately, it’s about $170. But as we’ll explain below, unlike a derailleur, it won’t need maintenance nearly as frequently (only about every 1,000 km), so over time you can actually end up saving money with this system.

Gearing Mechanism Safely Enclosed

Derailleurs are a part of the bike that can easily get damaged, which then makes shifting gears clunky or not even possible. With an internal hub, all the gearing components are enclosed within the hub.

If your child crashes, or simply sets their bike down wrong, the gearing components won’t get damaged. They are also protected from weathering and don’t get out of alignment easily. (Generally recommended for service every 2 years, but we’ve personally gone longer than that with no problems.)

Smoother Shifting

The mechanics behind shifting with an internal hub are entirely different than with a cassette and derailleur. An internal hub allows for much smoother shifting because a metal chain is not moving up and down to bigger or smaller metal sprockets. No stuck chains, no grinding gears, no jumping or skipping sprockets.

We’ve tested many internally-geared hubs over the years, on both kids and adult bikes. The Shimano Nexus 8 speed on this Early Rider bike kind of blew my mind. The shifting is so seamless and so effortless. I gave it a test ride before handing it over to the kid riders and I was shocked at the smoothness of the shifting.

This is a bonus for any bike, but particularly for a kids bike. We’ve seen many kid riders just not use their gears because twisting the grip shifter took too much effort, or the grinding of the chain moving on the cassette was awkward and interrupted the flow of their pedaling.

When our first test rider hopped on the Belter 24, I told her to shift her gears. As she did so, she turned to me with a look of surprise and delight. In the last 6 years, she’s tested over 50 bikes, and she was instantly impressed with this one. “It’s amazing!,” she declared. Our 9-year-old tester explained, “It’s just so easy to turn the grip!”

Grip shifter on Early Rider Belter 24

One big advantage of the Nexus 8 shifting system is that you can shift the bike when it’s standing still. For anyone, but especially kids, the ability to change your gears while you’re standing still can ease a lot of frustration. On our bike commute to school, we pedal quickly down a long, flat strip of sidewalk before we get off our bikes and walk across the round about.

On the other side, we immediately need to begin climbing a hill. Our young test rider usually doesn’t remember to shift into an easy gear before stopping at the cross walk, and so getting started on the hill can be a struggle. With the Shimano Nexus system, she can mount her bike, twist her grip shifter, and voila – she’s immediately in the right gear to begin climbing.

The downside to the internal hub system is that to protect the inner workings of the hub, it’s recommend to STOP pedaling to shift. So if you need to shift mid ride, you’ll need to train your child to glide for a moment, twist the grip shifter, and then start pedaling again. This can be a bit confusing.

That said, this Nexus Inter 8 system is more “forgiving” than other internal hub systems we’ve used. If your child forgets to stop pedaling and twists the grip shifter, we found that it still shifts into the right gear. On 3-speed systems we have in our stable, shifting while you’re pedaling usually results in the bike shifting into the wrong gear, or not at all.

Wide Gearing Range

Internally geared hubs commonly have 3 gears; it’s more difficult and more expensive to make one larger than that. In the kids bike world, you have internal hubs with 3 gears offered by Priority on their 20″ and 24″ bikes, and Cleary on their 20″. Cleary’s 24″ offering has 5 gears. Early Rider is the only brand to offer 8 speeds.

The 8-speed hub features a very generous gearing range, with a 307% difference from the lowest to the highest gear. This spread is quite impressive for a 24″ bike and is more than sufficient to climb hills with ease or gain some serious power and distance when speeding down the other side.

Low-Maintenance Belt Drive

Belt drive of Early Rider Belter 24

Internally geared hubs can be paired with a traditional bike chain, but in kids bikes and cruiser/city adult bikes, you’re much more likely to see the chain replaced with a belt drive.

A belt drive rarely needs to be serviced, while a chain should be cleaned and lubed regularly. It’s also very rare for a belt to fall off (it’s never happened to us), while we’ve had many, many bike chains fall off over the years. And to top it off, a belt drive is grease-free, so it doesn’t have the potential to be messy like a bike chain.

Overall, a belt drive is a nice-to-have feature that makes maintaining your bicycle a lot easier, and is a great compliment to the internally geared hub, which also requires minimal maintenance.

Strikingly Smooth Ride

As we’ve already raved about, the Early Rider Belter 24 is the smoothest 24 inch bike we’ve ever tested. The tires are smooth rolling. The steering is exceptionally responsive. The shifter turns effortlessly. The gears slide smoothly into place. Even the pedals spin more smoothly! In a nutshell, the Belter 24 feels uniquely different than any other 24″ bike we’ve tested.

Impressive Durability

The Shimano Nexus hub and belt drive certainly contribute to the Early Rider’s extra durability. But in our experience, Early Rider bikes have taken durability to another level.

In full candor, we have only been riding this Early Rider Belter for a few weeks. But we have a 16″ Early Rider Belter that we’ve owned for over 10 years. It’s had many different homes in our neighborhood, gone through many different kid riders, and is filthy because we’ve purposely never cleaned or serviced it.

And guess what? 10 years later, that dirty little Early Rider still rides like a dream.

Geometry Best for Confident or Adventurous Riders

With low-set handlebars that cannot be raised as a child grows, the Early Rider Belter 24 places a child in a slightly leaned forward, more aggressive stance. Adventurous kids love this style of geometry as it allows them to be more playful, lean in for more speed or to climb, and lowers their center of gravity to more confidently do tricks.

If you wanted to put knobby tires on this bike, it would also be an exceptional rigid mountain bike, especially given that its wide handlebars help stabilize steering. (At 640mm wide, they’re actually wider than those on the 24″ mountain bikes our kids ride.)

Below you can see how this moderately aggressive geometry looks on our test rider compared to the more beginner-friendly, casual Guardian Bikes 24. Her body is more upright on the Guardian, and her hands are higher in relation to her body.

Early Rider Belter 24 vs. Guardian Bikes 24

Collage showing the more aggressive geometry of the Early Rider Belter 24 vs a more casual neighborhood bike like the Guardian Bikes 24.

Remember – one style of geometry is not necessarily better than another, it’s primarily about riding style and personal preference.

The one downside of more “aggressive” kids bikes is that they don’t have as much comfortable room for growth on the high end. Primarily because the handlebars are flat and low and can’t be raised, kids on the higher end of the sizing range tend to feel more awkward because they need to “bend down” to reach the handlebars.

Here you can see our 11-year-old, 54″ rider with the Belter 24 saddle set to 31.6″. For comparison, we also put her on the Prevelo Alpha Four (24″), which we also consider to be moderately aggressive. While she looks a tad more aggressive on the Belter, the point is that if you prefer a bike with this general style of geometry, you’re going to run into this issue with other brands too.

54″ Rider on 24″ Bikes with More Aggressive Geometry

Collage showing side by side comparison of 11 year old on Early Rider Belter 24 and Prevelo Alpha Four

Sizing Range a Bit Limited

The seat height range of the Belter 24 is technically 27.3″ – 34.6″, but there’s an interesting discussion to be had about the low and high range here. If you’re totally unfamiliar with kids bike sizing, check out our guide on proper bike sizing.

Sizing on the Low End

With a minimum seat height of 27.3″, the Belter 24 is the “tallest” of any of the 24″ kids bikes we recommend. For context, the woom 5 has a minimum seat height of 26.4″, while the Guardian 24 has a minimum seat height of 25″. But while the Belter is “taller”, it’s not really bigger – it has one of the shorter wheelbases of the bunch.

If you use a shorter seat post, you can actually get the minimum seat height down almost a whole inch to 26.4″. With the shorter seat post, our very tall 6-year-old (50.5″ without shoes), was able to comfortably ride the bike. She thought the handlebars were a bit wide, but other than that she was enamored with this new rig and wanted to ride it above any of her other (many) options.

50.5" tall rider on Early Rider Belter appears to be a great fit

The problem is that the Belter has a much higher top tube (and thus standover height) than other 24″ bikes, so it limits how much you can lower the saddle and still safely ride. For our 50.5″ rider, when standing directly in front of the saddle, the top tube was hitting her crotch.

As a result, the 27.3″ standard minimum seat height should be respected, which means that your child will need to be taller to ride the Belter 24 than any other 24″ bike we recommend.

Mid-Range Sizing

Our 54″ tall (with shoes on) rider was an ideal fit for the Belter 24. She has the saddle set to 28.25″.

54 inch tall rider on Early Beter 24

Sizing on the High End

With growing kids, there’s no bike that going to be a perfect fit from min to max seat height. That said, some bikes are better at “growing” with a child than others. As explained in the geometry section above, bikes with more aggressive geometry generally aren’t as good of a fit on the tall end.

Early Rider recommends a maximum child height of about 58″, which is the height (with shoes) of our 11-year-old rider here. She is riding with the saddle at 31.6″, several inches below the technical maximum seat height of 34.6″.

58 inch tall rider on Early Rider Belter 24 is a little cramped.

This test rider was as impressed with the Early Rider as the rest of our kids, and couldn’t stop raving about how smooth the ride was. But as I watched her ride and saw how close her knee was coming to the handlebar, I was concerned that it might make contact with the bar if she tried to turn sharply.

Here you can see that her knee could, in fact, hit the grip shifter if her knee was at the high point of her pedal stroke at the same time she turned sharply. We tested this same issue on the Prevelo Alpha Four, but her knee did not hit that bar on that bike.

Tall rider's knee hits handlebar on Early Rider Belter 24

This doesn’t make the Belter a bad bike, it just means that your child may outgrow it more quickly than another bike. Given the high price tag of the Belter, it’s certainly something to consider.

Other Impressive Features

If you need just a bit more convincing that the Early Rider deserves its luxury kids bike status, here’s a rundown of the rest of its components.

Smooth Spinning Pedals

Early Rider Belter 24 pedal

We wouldn’t normally put pedals at the top of an “Other Impressive Features” section, but that’s how impressive these pedals are. Upon first glance, you can tell they’ve been designed with intention, not as an afterthought. They’re initially quite visually stunning, and we were admittedly in a bit of a “love at first sight” situation.

But beyond their visual star-appeal, these alloy pedals are also functionally superior. The foot of the pedal rotates rapidly on its spindle. This allows a rider to quickly get the pedal in a flat foot position.

And remember that “needs-a-bath” Early Rider Belter 16 we’ve had for 10 years? Its pedals still spin like that!

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

160mm disc rotor of hydraulic brake system on Early Rider Belter 24

For best-in-class, all-weather braking power, the Belter 24 features hydraulic disc brakes with 160 mm rotors. Now you could certainly argue that 160 mm rotors on a kids bike not designed for downhill mountain biking is a bit overkill. And you may be right. But you’re also always going to have plenty of reliably consistent braking power for whatever riding situation your kid finds themself in.

Vee Speedster Tires

Tire tread of Vee Speedster tires on Early Rider Belter 24

Our kid testers ride a lot of different bikes, and often require a bit of coaxing to get them to explain why a particular bike is better or worse than the others. So when all of your test riders immediately point out how smooth a bike rides, you know it’s a stand-out feature.

While the smooth ride of the Belter 24 has several contributing factors, the 2″ wide Vee Speedster tires are an important element. If smooth and fast are what you’re looking for, the Speedster tires deliver.

They have a very unique tread pattern designed to excel on paved terrain or hard packed dirt. The tread limits drag and rolling resistance for easy speed, while also providing plenty of traction. And at 2.0″ they also offer just the right amount of cushioning effect. If you need a bit of additional cushioning and traction for your riding conditions, you can lower the psi a tad.

That smooth-rolling traction isn’t the best on wet pavement, though. On one bike commute home from school, we accidentally got caught in a bit of rain. A few times upon braking, the Belter did a bit of a fish tail. Our rider was able to maintain control, but just a reminder that just because you have high-quality hydraulic disc brakes doesn’t mean you should go nuts in the rain. 🙂

Early Rider Belter 24 Bottom Line

The smoothest bike on the block, the Early Rider Belter 24 was an immediate smash hit with our team of kid bike testers. From comments like, “It’s like it turns itself”, to “This bike is just so smooth!” our seasoned test riders enthusiastically give the Belter all the thumbs up.

The only drawback is that it has a smaller growth range than we’d like for $999, but for the years it does fit, you won’t find a more exceptional 24″ kid’s bike.

FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this review.  No monetary compensation was provided for this review, however, the reviewed product was supplied by the manufacturer or distributor to help facilitate this review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC.  All content and images are copyrighted and should not be used or replicated in any way. View our Terms of Use.

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