Budget Pick

Guardian 16″ – Ethos

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A more budget friendly version of the Guardian Original line, the price is kept lower with a steel frame and headset that aren't as high-end.

RATING: Highly Recommended

BEST FOR: Kids 4 to 6 who will be doing neighborhood and paved trail riding. SureStop braking system is ideal for timid riders who need the security of an easy braking system, as well as adventurous riders who need extra stopping power.

SEAT HEIGHT: 18.5" - 23.5"

WEIGHT: 17.5 lb.

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Rating

Highly Recommended

Weight

17.5 lb.

Seat Height

18.5" – 23.5"

Frame Material

Steel

Tire Size

16"

Brake Type

SureStop

Gain Ratio

3.55

Handlebar Height

Medium

Wheelbase

719

Hand Brake Type

SureStop

Available Colors

Pink, Black

Pros & Cons

PROS:
  • Proprietary SureStop braking system for faster and more controlled braking, and NO coaster brake
  • Comfortable upright positioning for young riders
  • Handlebar height is adjustable for more a precise fit
  • Packs a lot of punch into a lower price tag
  • Eye-catching design - fun, colorful graphics and colored rims
CONS:
  • Upright design not ideal for aggressive riders

Mini-Review

Guardian recently expanded their line of kids’ bikes to include a smaller size – 16″ bikes! Two different 16″ models are available – the premium “Original” line and a more affordable “Ethos” line. We were lucky enough to get a sneak-peak of a girl’s and a boy’s pre-production 16″ bike from their higher-end Original line.  Our time with the 16″ Guardian Originals was very limited, so we weren’t able to complete our typical exhaustive review, but in the Fall, we’ll have access to both the Original and the Ethos line for further testing and comparison. We’ll keep you updated here!

6-year-olds on Guardian 16″ Original

6 year old girl and 6 year old boy riding the girl and boy version of the Guardian 16" Original kid's bike.

Guardian’s Original vs. Ethos Line

The Original 16″ and Ethos 16″ are the same size, come in almost identical designs, both feature Guardian’s unique braking system (SureStop), but differ in components.  The Ethos line runs about $100 cheaper and is built with a steel frame versus an aluminum frame as well as a threaded headset versus threaded on the Original line.

The lighter Guardian Original is ideal for lightweight and timid kids (as well as those who simply want the best), while the Guardian Ethos is a great choice for those riders who can handle a slightly heavier bike as well as those on a tighter budget.

Quick Look at the Original Line

Being big fans of Guardian’s 20″ and 24″ models, were we excited to get our hands on an early-production run of their 16″ models, and they did not disappoint.  Upon first glance at the eye-catching colors and designs, our testers were anxious to get riding.  With “eye-candy” graphic decals that wrap around the frame as well as brightly colored rims, our testers were sold before we could even adjust the seat!

Once our boy and girl testers hopped on for a ride, it became quite clear the Guardian Original 16″ bikes offer much more than a pretty face.  Built on a lightweight aluminum frame with a low center-of-gravity design and complemented with upright handlebars, the Guardian 16″ was easy to balance, easy to maneuver, and overall, offered a smooth and comfortable ride.

Guardian 16″ Bikes in Action6 year old girl and 6 year old boy riding the Guardian 16" kid's bike.

Guardian’s Unique SureStop Breaking System

Our favorite feature of all Guardian Bikes, no matter the size, is their proprietary SureStop braking system.  Unique to Guardian, the SureStop system allows riders to stop faster and with more control.  We’ve seen time and again that SureStop allows kids to feel more in control on their Guardian bike, and as a result, their confidence level increases.  With less anxiety about stopping the bike, many kids are more willing to ride more adventurously.  Our 6-year-old testers on the Guardians both mentioned the brakes without being prompted.  They accelerated and then stopped over and over again because they thought the brakes were “fun”.

Having tested out SureStop brakes myself, their description of “fun” is understandable.   Braking with SureStop brakes provides a similar feeling to braking in a new car with an advanced braking system versus an older car with a standard braking system.  Not only is it easier to brake faster, you feel MUCH more in control of the car.  As a result, (for good or for bad in a car) you’re more confident while driving a car with advanced brakes.

In our experience, the same applies to kids using SureStop brakes.  With much of the anxiety of braking gone, many kids are more confident in their riding. This also applies to adventurous and aggressive riders who really appreciate the extra stopping power SureStop give them.

How does the SureStop system work?

Guardian’s unique braking system allows both the rear and then the front brake to be activated sequentially with the pull of ONE brake lever.  Once the lever is pulled, the back brake is activated.  Once the rear brake has engaged, the SureStop system on the rear brake pad then activates the front brake.  This sequential stopping system allows the bike to stop faster and with more control.  It also prevents kids from going over the handlebars when accidentally braking with just the front brake.

Coaster Brake Free

While many parents think coaster brakes are just a normal part of 16″ kids’ bikes, we absolutely love that Guardian’s 16″ bikes do not have a coaster brake (back-pedal brake).  Coaster brakes can be very confusing for kids new to pedal bikes.  When learning to balance a bike, both kids and adults naturally pedal backward when they lose their balance.  Upon doing so on a bike with a coaster brake, the brake is unexpectedly activated, which often causes kids to fall.

This process can be very frustrating for young riders which can delay their mastering of a pedal bike.  On a bike without a coaster brake, a child can pedal backward without activating the brake and once they regain their balance, they can continue to pedal forward without a break in the momentum they had previously gained on the bike.

Size

Seat Height

The seat height on the 16″ Guardian ranges from 18.5″ to 23.5″.  If the Guardian is a child’s first experience riding a pedal bike (without training wheels) they will need an inseam of at least 18.5″ to fit on the bike (usually kids’ in 4T pants).  First-time bike riders need to be able to place their entire foot on the ground while standing over the seat in order to comfortable start and stop the bike while they are learning to balance and use a handbrake.

For those kids who are already comfortable riding a pedal bike without training wheels, if they have an inseam of at least 16.5″ they can fit on a 16″ Guardian.  Experienced riders only need to be able to touch the ground with their tippy toes as they are comfortable starting and stopping a bike without using both of their feet.

Weight

The aluminum-framed 16″ Original weighs 16 lb. while the steel-framed Ethos weighs 17.5 lb.  Compared to similarly priced bikes, the Guardian models are slightly heavier, but not by much.  Much of their difference in weight is due to the larger tires on the Guardian bikes.  While still 16″ in diameter, Guardian’s tires are wider than most with the Original being 1.75″ wide and the Ethos being 1.5″ wide.  In addition to providing slightly more cushioning and traction, Guardian has found that kids prefer the look of the wider tires.  Based on our experience, however, for the average everyday rider (not all-terrain riders), the width of a child’s tires makes very little difference on the bikes performance.

Guardian’s Virtual Bike Sizer

Confused about which size is best? While a child’s height is generally a good indicator of fit, Guardian has recently released a new avatar-based sizing guide to help you visualize and confidently determine which size bike frame is best for your child.  Their RideSizer technology will allow you to see how your child will grow on the bike and predicts how long before they outgrow the bike.

The recommended bike size comes is displayed right away, but their estimations are presented via a chart that is emailed to you (via Guardian). Based on our experience, it works great, but if you have a child with a long torso and shorter legs, be sure to check their inseams against the bike’s minimum seat height to ensure a great fit.  It’s a super cool tool, give it a try below right here on our site.

Geometry

Handlebars & Body Position

The Guardian 16″ bikes are designed for beginning riders who often prefer an upright position.  Sitting upright centers their weight over a child’s hips, like they are accustomed to when standing and walking. As a result, beginning riders are usually able to master balancing a bike faster when sitting upright.

Experienced riders, however, may prefer a bike with lower handlebars that place the rider in a more aggressive position.  A more aggressive position better allows the rider to shift their body weight during turns and while on hills.

Body Position on Guardian 16″ Original

Upright body positioning is best for young, beginner riders. Priority Start 16" and Guardian 16" original both provide an upright body position for riders. The Priority Start 16" with optional flat bars provides a more aggressive body position that's better for experienced riders.Bottom Line

Based on our experience with the 16″ Original as well as with Guardian in general, we’ve rated the 16″ Guardian Original as Exceptional and the 16″ Guardian Ethos as Highly Recommended (due to lower quality components).  Guardian’s combination of SureStop brakes, lightweight frames, and upright positioning make their 16″ line of bikes one of our top choices for 4-6-year-olds riding around the neighborhood and paved bike trails.

 

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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