While pricey, the Early Rider Belter 16 is as beautiful as it is functional and is worth every penny (if it’s in your budget). Read our review!
Early Rider Belter
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Adventurous riders in 4T to size 5 clothes.
SEAT HEIGHT: 19″ – 22″
WEIGHT: 13.7 lb.
BRAKES: Dual Hand
- Super lightweight, hand-brushed, and lacquered aluminum frame
- Grease-free, maintenance-free carbon belt drive
- Short-reach front and rear V-pull brakes (no coaster brake!)
- Low to the ground for easier balancing and maneuvering
- Does not come with a chain guard – pants can get caught
Early Rider Belter 16 Review – Results of our Test Rides
UPDATE: While we still LOVE the Belter, an incident has caused us to lower our rating level from “Exceptional” to “Highly Recommended”. While riding the Belter, our 4yo tester got his pants stuck in the belt drive causing him to crash. While he was not hurt, this would have easily been prevented by a chain guard which is not available on the Belter. Chain guards are actually not required on bikes with belt drives, but a chain guard would have prevented our son’s pants from getting stuck in the drive. Wearing shorts or tighter pants can also completely prevent this problem, which is why we still recommend the Belter. ***Early Rider has since changed the Belter to prevent accidents like this from happening. We have not yet had a chance to review the new model yet.
Lack of Chain Guard on Early Rider Belter
As beautiful as it is functional, the Early Rider Belter (now called Belter Urban) is a modern marvel of bicycle engineering in a pint-size package. Designed for kids ages 3.5 to 6, the Belter is simply stunning. From its hand-brushed and lacquered aluminum frame to its carbon belt drive, the Belter leaves kids begging for more while their parents simply stare in awe. Fully loaded with 16″ air tires on aluminum rims, short-reach front and rear V-pull brakes (no coaster brake!) and a remarkable grease-free, maintenance-free belt drive, the Early Rider Belter weighs in at about 13.7 lbs., about 10 lbs. less than most lower-end 16″ bikes. With a minimum seat height of 19″, the Belter is the perfect first pedal bike for any balance bike graduate. Albeit pricey at $400, the lightweight frame and laid-back geometry of the Belter make learning to ride a breeze.
Carbon Belt Drive
While the brushed aluminum frame steals the show, the belt drive is the icing on the cake. In addition to being grease and maintenance-free, the belt essentially prevents any snags on clothing and, unlike a chain, will not stretch or easily slip off the gears.
Kids, however, love the smooth, jerk-free, quiet ride the belt provides.
Cranks, Saddle and Brakes
Designed to grow with your child, the Belter has three inches for growth on the seat post (19″ to 22″ seat heights) and two mounting positions for the pedals on the crank arm. Each pedal also spins freely on ball-bearings, but the raised plastic grips on the pedals were prone to scratching legs.
Other standout features of the Belter are the faux-leather, riveted saddle and the forged aluminum stem and threadless headset (not adjustable).
Another main draw to the Belter is the lack of a coaster brake. Required by the CPSC on all bikes with a minimum seat height of less than 16″, coaster brake often cause more harm than good for graduates of balance bikes who are accustom to hand brakes. While learning to pedal, many kids accidentally pedal backwards. On a bike with a coaster brake, pedaling backwards causes the bike to stop abruptly, causes them to lose all their momentum, while a bike without a coaster brake is much more forgiving and keeps moving forward. Instead of a coaster brake, the Belter and two short-reach, front and rear, V-pull brakes. While the brakes worked smoothly, the rear brake cable has very little clearance over the tires, which would only be an issue when biking in muddy conditions (as shown on the far right below). The front brake, as shown in the middle picture below, has plenty of clearance.
**Over time we have found that the handlebar grips can completely come off while riding, which led to one of our testers getting hurt (luckily not majorly). As a result, we highly recommend pulling on the grips on the bike, before each ride, to ensure they are securely adhered to the handlebar.**
Testing with Various Ages
We tested the Early Rider Belter with two five-year-olds a newly four-year-old. Both five-year-olds loved the bike and found it much easier to ride than their other bikes.
The four-year-old, however, had never successfully ridden his 16″ without training wheels, but upon seeing the Belter, however, was eager to give it a try. Here’s what happened:
How could one bike much such a difference? Two main features of the Belter make it easier to ride as compared to other bikes, its laid-back geometry and light weight.
Lower-end bikes tend to have very poor geometry, which negatively affects the handling of a bike. The higher your center of gravity, the harder you have to work to maintain your balance. As shown in the pictures above, both lower-end bikes have the rider in a very upright position, thereby causing the rider to have to work harder to maintain their balance. This is why finding the perfect bike fit is so important.
In addition to geometry, the heavier bikes are harder to gain and maintain balance on. Mr. B’s bike (boy in the video above) was previously riding the 16″ Avigo Extreme that weighs 23 lbs., which was almost half his body weight. As a result, after three months of trying, he still was not able to ride his bike. Upon giving him the Belter, however, he was quickly able to take off and ride.
**The Belter‘s lack of chainguard and CPSC certification has lowered our rating from “Exceptional” to “Highly Recommended”. The perfect bike for any balance bike graduate with an inseam of 19.5″ to 23″. While pricey, it is beautiful as it is functional and is worth every penny (if it’s in your budget). Belter is sure to be the envy of the neighborhood.