Early Rider Belter 16 Review

If you’ve never seen an Early Rider bike, add it to your bucket list—they are museum-worthy mechanical marvels that perform as beautifully as they look. From the smooth, grease-free belt drive to the impeccably built pedals with bearings that spin for days, the Early Rider Belter 16 is sure to impress.

Designed for riders aged 4 to 6, the Belter 16 is exceptionally crafted for adventurous little riders ready for action. With a low-rise handlebar that allows kids to easily shift their weight and a high gain ratio for quickly gaining speed, the Belter is built to perform.

young boy riding the Early Rider Belter 16 up a ramp.

Early Rider Belter Overview

RATING: Exceptional
MSRP$479
BEST FOR: Adventurous riders in 4T to size 5 clothes.

SEAT HEIGHT: 19.5″ – 23.5″
WEIGHT: 13.7 lb.
ADDITIONAL SPECS
BRAKES: Tektro Dual Hand
GAIN RATIO: 4.02
WHEELBASE: 710 mm
STANDOUT FEATURE: Grease-free belt drive (no chain!), exceptional quality

PROS:

  • Impeccable quality! Flawless bearings, smooth and quiet belt drive. Functional art as a bike!
  • Super lightweight, hand-brushed and lacquered aluminum frame (also available painted in purple or green)
  • Grease-free, low maintenance carbon belt drive
  • Short-reach front and rear V-pull brakes (no coaster brake!)
  • Aggressive geometry helps kids shift their body weight around on the bike
  • Fast-rolling Vee Speedster 2″ wide tires

CONS:

  • Belt drive is exposed. Baggy clothes could get caught in the belt drive!

What We Love about the Early Rider Belter 16

  • Lightweight and Nimble: Built for speed and performance, the Belter boasts exceptional components and a very lightweight design.
  • Functional Artwork in Action: The Belter is a stunning piece of machinery that performs as great as it looks!
  • Minimal Maintenance: The grease-free belt drive rolls smoothly and effortlessly with minimal (if any!) maintenance required for years to come.
  • Three Different Model Lines: Early Rider offers the Belter in three lines: a city model (the Belter), an MTB model (the Seeker), and a jump line model (the Hellion).

What you Should Know About the Early Rider Before you Buy

  • Aggressive Positioning: Built for adventurous city riders, the bike places the rider in a very leaned-in position, which is typically not preferred by more timid riders.
  • Smooth City Tires: The Belter’s tires have minimal tread, making them ideal for city riding. If you plan to ride on dirt or varied terrain, consider upgrading to the Seeker 16, which has Vee Crown Gem tires but is otherwise the same.
  • No Chain Guard: While the Belter doesn’t have a chain and therefore doesn’t need a chainguard, baggy clothes can get caught in the belt. Ensure your child rides with slim pants or shorts to avoid this issue.

Early Rider Belter 16 Review – Results of our Test Rides

I first reviewed the Early Rider back in 2015 and, after years of waiting, finally had the chance to update this review with the new 2024 model. It certainly did not disappoint. Years later, the Belter still stands as the highest quality 16-inch bike we have ever tested.

More than just a pretty face, the Belter continues to be a phenomenal bike that performs as beautifully as it looks. Initially drawn to its bold and unique appearance, our testers fell in love with its incredibly smooth ride and nimble handling during their test rides.

young rider on the Belter 16 at the bike park

Whether zipping around the neighborhood or tackling the pump track, the Belter proved to be the perfect companion for our adventurous riders. Even on his first visit to the bike park, the Belter’s exceptional design confidently guided our 44.5″ tall, 6-year-old tester through the park’s various features.

young rider taking on a ramp at the local bike park

Designed for smooth riding on paved surfaces, the minimal tread on the Belter’s Crown Vee Speedster tires handled wood planks and packed dirt sections with ease. At 2.0″ wide, the tires can also be run at lower PSI, providing plenty of cushion along the way.

If your little one plans on tackling dirt single track or fire roads, the Early Rider Seeker 16, with its 2.25″ wide, knobby tires, would be a worthy upgrade (the only difference is the tires).

All in all, the Belter doesn’t come cheap, but it certainly won’t disappoint—especially for adventure-seeking city riders who love to conquer curbs, jumps, and ramps.

What size and age of child fits on the Belter 16?

The Belter 16 has a seat height range of 19.5″ to 23.5″. Early Rider recommends this bike for kids aged 4 to 6 with a minimum inseam of 17.7″.

For riders just starting to pedal, an inseam of at least 19.5″ is ideal. This allows them to place their entire foot on the ground while seated, ensuring stress-free starts and stops as they learn to ride.

Our main tester featured throughout this review is a 44.5″ tall 6-year-old riding with the saddle set to a seat height of 22.5″ with an inseam close to 19″. While the bike was a fantastic fit for him, he was at the tail end of the bike’s ideal fit range. For maximum growth potential, children with inseams ranging from 18″ to 19″ are likely to get the most extended use out of the Belter.

Compared to other brands, Early Rider’s ideal fit range is smaller, anticipating that kids will fit on their bikes for about a year to a year and a half. You can learn more about their sizing philosophy on their sizing page.

What type of rider is the Early Rider Belter 16 best for?

The Belter is designed for adventurous riders eager to tackle anything and everything around them. If your little rider is itching to go down every curb or fly down the grassy hill at the park, the Belter is their perfect pony. The low-rise handlebars allow them to easily lean into the bike, the lightweight frame is easy to maneuver, and the high gain ratio (gearing) provides a high top speed.

Boy riding the Early Rider Belter up a wood features at a bike park

The aggressive geometry of the Belter makes a significant difference when getting adventurous on the bike. Notice how much lower our 6-year-old tester can lean into the bike on the Belter (on the left) compared to the more upright bikes on the right.

collage of the same boy riding three different bikes up a bike ramp

For kids just starting on a pedal bike, however, the more aggressive, leaned-in geometry of the Belter may be too much for naturally timid riders. Timid riders tend to sit upright and keep their weight centered over their hips, as shown on the green woom 3 below. The Belter, however, leans the rider forward, which can be uncomfortable for hesitant riders.

comparison picture of the upright position of the woom 3 and the aggressive position of the early rider belter 16
48″ Tall Rider – Riding at her preferred, but less than ideal 22″ seat height

If your young grom has no hesitation about learning to pedal or is already a daredevil on their balance bike, the aggressive stance of the Belter shouldn’t be a problem.

How fast is the Belter 16?

The Early Rider Belter 16 isn’t just aggressive in its design; it’s also impressively fast. With a gain ratio of 4.02, the Belter 16 has one of the highest top speeds among the 16″ bikes we’ve tested.

This high gain ratio, combined with the longer crank arms, allows the Belter to accelerate faster than many other bikes. For example, using bike math we can calcuate that to cover 200 feet, the Early Rider Belter requires 45.7 pedal strokes. In comparison, the Pello Revo and Guardian 16 both require 61.3 strokes, and the woom 3 falls in the middle with 53.1 strokes.

The Belter’s ability to quickly gain speed is especially noticeable when tackling ramps or jumps. However, the higher gain ratio also makes it more challenging to start when stopped on hills or ramps.

Our tester experienced this firsthand at the bike park, where his initial attempts to go up a ramp failed due to insufficient speed. With practice, he learned to start gaining speed earlier and better maintain momentum, which allowed him to make it through without stopping.

Young rider gaining speed to head up a ramp at the bike park

For more timid riders or those frequently navigating hilly terrain, the Belter’s higher gain ratio may be less ideal. Bikes with higher gain ratios demand more effort to get moving, which can be frustrating for less confident riders.

Conversely, bikes with lower gain ratios, like the Pello Revo with its 3.2 gain ratio, require less effort to start and are typically better for timid riders and uphill climbs. However, these bikes have a lower top speed. If your young rider is a speed enthusiast and doesn’t mind putting in extra effort, a bike with a higher gain ratio like the Belter 16 is a better choice.

Belter’s Components and Exceptional Craftsmanship

Contributing to its outstanding performance, the Early Rider Belter brings unparalleled quality and craftsmanship (if your a sucker for craftsmanship be sure to check out their Velio baby bike!). More than just a combination of top notch components, the Belter sets a new standard of durability and reliability. In every detail, from bearings to pedals, Early Rider spares no expense in offering the finest components available for kids.

Ridiculously Smooth Belt Drive

A standout feature and the hallmark of the Belter is its belt drive. The Gates carbon-fiber belt drive replaces a traditional chain and runs impeccably smooth and quiet, without any grease.

Drive train of the Belter 16

And when we say quiet, we mean whisper-quiet! One of our young testers was so impressed, he called it his “ninja bike”!

The belt’s rounded teeth also ensure safety by eliminating sharp edges, making it extra safe for curious little fingers.

close up image of the belt on the Belter 16

Best of all, the belt drive requires minimal maintenance over time. For instance, take a look at the comparison between a brand new Belter 16 and a neglected 10-year-old Belter (the one used in our original review!). Despite being returned in a sorry state full of dirt and grime, it still pedals with remarkable smoothness!

Comparison image of an old dirty belter 16 and a new one

While we strongly advise against leaving your Belter (or any bike) outdoors or never properly cleaning it, in our 15 years of testing bikes, we’ve never seen one return in such poor condition yet still perform flawlessly!

In the comparison image above, you can also see how Early Rider has continuously refined the Belter 16 over the years. The chainring and crank arm are now a single unit, and the belt tensioner system (allows the belt tension to be adjusted if needed) has been further enhanced.

Smooth Rolling Tires

The Belter’s smooth ride owes much to its Speedster tires, which feature minimal tread that allows for quick and quiet rolling on pavement.

Vee Speedster tire on the Early Rider Belter 16

However, if you’re seeking a tire that performs well across various terrains, consider the Early Rider Seeker 16, equipped with knobby all-terrain tires that excel on dirt or gravel paths.

Impressive, Show-Stopping Pedals

Pedals rarely get mentioned in our reviews, but these pedals are something else! In addition to looking smooth and sleek, it’s what you can’t see that really makes a difference. These durable resin pedals spin faster and longer than the pedals on my high-end adult bike!

close up image of the resin pedal of an Early Rider Belter 16

The only pedals we’ve seen spin a bit faster are the metal ones on that old, neglected, 10-year-old Belter! 🤣

What We Don’t Love about the Early Rider Belter 16

Lack of Chain Guard on Early Rider Belter

One concern we have about the Belter is the absence of a chain guard (or belt guard). The CPSC mandates that all small kids’ bikes should have a chain guard to prevent clothes from getting caught in the chain. Since the Belter uses a belt drive instead of a chain, it technically doesn’t require a chain guard.

However, it’s important to note that the belt drive can still pose a similar risk of trapping clothes. We encountered this issue during our initial tests with the Belter 16 ten years ago when my son’s pants got caught in the belt, causing him to fall.

collage showing a young riders pants getting stuck in the belt drive of the Belter 16

While baggy kids’ pants are less common nowadays, we still advise against riders wearing baggy pants, skirts, or dresses while using the Belter 16 to be safe.

Early Rider vs. Competitors

If your young rider is eager to seize every biking adventure that comes their way, the Belter 16 is an excellent choice. Its aggressive stance, lightweight design, and high gain ratio make it perfect for ambitious kids who love to push their limits. In contrast, other high-end bikes like the more upright positioned woom 3 are better suited for very timid riders.

For those seeking a balance between aggression and ease of riding, the Pello Revo is worth considering. While not as aggressive as the Belter, it is more so than the woom 3 and has a low gain ratio for easy pedaling.

Belter 16Pello Revowoom 3
MSRP$479$399$449
Weight13.6 lb.14.6 lb.13.1 lb.
Seat Height19.5″ – 23.5″19″ – 23.75″19.3″ – 24.8″
Gain Ratio4.023.13.88

Early Rider Belter 16 Bottom Line

It’s beautifully crafted and rides like a dream; the Early Rider Belter 16 will make you wish you were a kid again. With its aggressive body position and fast, high gain ratio, the Belter is perfect for speed-loving, adventurous kids who wear at least 4T pants.

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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