If your little one is chomping at the bit to get pedaling, the Guardian 14 Inch kids bike is a high-quality choice to get their pedaling adventures off to a great start. Designed specifically for a child’s small body frame, the Guardian 14 is lightweight, geared low for easy pedaling, and has NO coaster brake! To top it off, the Guardian 14 bikes come in a wide range of bright, colorful patterns that kids love!
But what’s the BEST part of any Guardian? The proprietary SureStop braking system of course! Who doesn’t want simplified braking? The Guardian guys sold Mark Cuban on it… and we’re sold too. Read the full review below to discover what makes this innovation so compelling for the littlest of riders!
Guardian 14 Inch Bike Overview
RATING: Highly Recommended
TRAINING WHEELS: Optional add-on, $39
BEST FOR: Kids with inseams ranging from 16″ to 20″, or approximately 3T/4T clothes.
SEAT HEIGHT: 16″ – 25″ (but comfortable up to about 21″)
WEIGHT: 16 lbs.
GAIN RATIO: 3.95
What We Love About the Guardian 14
- SureStop braking system provides dual-braking power by only pulling one brake lever!
- No coaster brake (back pedal brake) which often makes it harder for kids to learn how to pedal
- Child-friendly bike geometry places child in natural and comfortable upright position
- Fun color combinations that our testers ADORE (optional colored accessories also available)
- Incredible customer service
What you Should Know Before You Buy a Guardian 14
- Like all 12″ and 14″ bikes, the Guardian 14 has a very narrow window for optimal fit. As a result, don’t anticipate your rider being able to properly fit on the bike for more than one riding season. If your child is close to being able to fit on the Guardian 16 (minimum seat height is just 2″ taller), we recommend going with the 16.
- The short crank arms on the Guardian 14 aren’t ideal for taller or really aggressive riders. The very short rotation required to turn the pedal tends to cause aggressive riders’ feet to fly off.
- The Guardian is a bit heavier and not as great quality than other (more expensive) 12 and 14 bikes we recommend, but is an amazing bike for its price point.
- The kickstand on the Guardian 14 is too long for the bike, which causes the bike to more easily fall over when the kickstand is in use
Guardian 14 Inch Bike Review – Results of our Test Rides
We put the Guardian 14 to the test with our smallest pack of bike testers to see how it performed for the tiniest of riders. Some testers already had a little experience pedaling, while others were just getting started.
Almost 3-year-old Tester’s Experience (39″ tall)
With just two weeks of pedal bike experience under her belt, our little girl bike tester maneuvered the Guardian 14 inch with ease and grace. Whether through the skate park, through the forest, or through the puddles, the Guardian 14 inch met every challenge her little brain came up with.
While it’s nearly impossible to get a toddler to articulate what they like about a bike, waking up in the morning and immediately asking “I ride my bike???” is always a good sign.
For reference, this child is 2 years, 10 months and is almost 39″ tall. The seat height is set at 17.5″ in the picture above where she can reach the ground comfortably with her tip toes as a confident rider.
Experiences of Very Petite Riders
Some highly-motivated, petite kids are ready and want to pedal, but are technically too small for a pedal bike. So is the Guardian 14 a good option if you’re in this boat? Potentially! One of our tiny testers had success, while another struggled.
2.5 year old Tester’s Experience (33.5″ tall)
Although Guardian’s suggested minimum height for the Guardian 14 is 37″, our tiny 33.5″ tester wanted to give it a go! Coming in at just 26 lb. and still wearing 18-month pants, he was on very high tip toes with the seat slammed all the way down (16″).
Without the ability to reach the ground fully to be able to stop the bike if needed, he really should be sticking to his balance bike, but he was determined to get on a pedal bike!
With the Guardian 14 being a bit to high for him, he first started off on the smaller Cleary Gecko (minimum seat height 15″), where he quickly mastered the art of pedaling. From there, he was ready to move onto the larger Guardian 14, even though it was too big for him.
Petite Rider on Cleary Gecko 12″ and Guardian Bikes 14″
After a couple of laps on the sidewalk, he was able to maneuver the bike around turns and ride up the driveway, but because he could barely touch the ground, he was unable to start the bike from a stop on his own. To start, he always needed a push from an adult since he could only touch the ground with his tip toes.
As a result, even though our tiny tester could ride the Guardian 14, it’s ideal for a beginning pedal bike rider to be able to touch the ground flat footed when seated on the saddle. This allows them to push off to start as well as to stop the bike with their feet when needed. So if a child’s inseam isn’t at least 16″, we highly recommend just keeping them on a balance bike a little longer.
3-Year-old Tester, No Pedaling Experience, 38.5″ Tall
Our 3-year-old petite boy tester was learning to ride a pedal bike for the first time on the Guardian 14. Weighing 31 lbs., he struggled riding the Guardian, became discouraged, and went back to his balance bike.
A few weeks later we were able to get him on the Prevelo Alpha Three, which weighs almost 3 pounds less. His experience was a stark contrast as he took off pedaling and became a super confident pedal bike rider within an hour on this lighter bike.
Looking at the numbers, Guardian is still lightweight compared to most 12″ and 14″ bikes, but is 51% of this rider’s body weight. The Prevelo is lower at 43% of his body weight.
To be clear, this is not a knock on the Guardian, just a reference to help you set your expectations based on how much money you want to spend. If you’re not up for spending $400 on a kids bike, but have a very petite child, it may be better to just keep them on a balance bike a bit longer!
What size child fits on the Guardian 14?
As shown above, both of our testers 33.5″ and 39″ tall were able to ride the Guardian 14, but only the taller 39″ toddler was able to start, stop, and playfully maneuver the bike. So how can you tell if your child will fit on the Guardian 14? The best way to determine fit is by their inseam.
When a child is first learning to pedal, you’ll want to have the seat set so that when sitting on the saddle, they can touch the ground with their feet flat. So if the saddle is set to its lowest point of 16″, a child’s inseam would need to be 16″.
This allows them to use their feet to help them stop, and also prevents them from falling over when they stop. Additionally, learning to pedal from a standstill is much easier when they can paddle their feet on the ground to gain initial momentum.
As a child gains confidence, you should raise that seat height so that they can only touch the ground with their tip toes. This allows for much better leg extension and pedaling efficiency. When you’ll raise the seat depends on the confidence of the rider. For our confident riders, we raised the seat after just a few days. But other toddlers may take weeks or even months.
With a comfortable seat height range of 16″ – 21″, the Guardian 14 Inch is one of the smallest pedal bikes on the market, but also has more room for growth than most. The similarly sized woom 2 has a range of 16″ – 19″, while the Prevelo Alpha One has a seat height range of 14.8 – 19.3″.
How long will my child fit on this bike?
1 year and 2 months after originally writing this review, we put our little girl tester back on the Guardian 14 (image on the left). In the images below, she is 4 years old and 43″ tall with a 19″ inseam with shoes on. (Guardian’s recommended tallest ideal height is 43″.) As a comparison for size, she is on the Guardian 20 Small on the right.
On the Guardian 14, the seat is set to its maximum “realistically comfortable” height at 20.25″, and we raised the handlebars to the max, giving us an additional inch in handlebar height. While certainly maxed out in every way on the bike, she is still a decent fit.
The image on the right shows our little tester on the Guardian 20 inch small bike during the same week. The seat on that bike is set to its minimum at 21.3″. Guardian sized these bikes so if you’re on a budget and want to skip a 16″ bike, it is possible to skip from the Guardian 14 directly to the Guardian 20 small.
That said, while you technically can transition from the 14 to the 20 small, saving money in this way does come at a cost in performance and experience. Our tester above also rode the 16″ bike that is sized between the 14″ and the 20″. The gradual size increase in the bikes makes for more enjoyable riding journey.
Guardian 14 Inch Bike Components
Guardian’s Fun Color Schemes
In addition to their family-friendly price tag, Guardian bikes stand out for their fun color schemes. The Guardian 14 is offered in six different colors. All colors schemes have a fun pop of color on the rims, as well as optional color coordinated accessories like handlebar grips and bells.
SureStop Braking System – How it Works and Why It’s AWESOME
While there are a hundred reasons to love the Guardian 14 Inch, the SureStop braking system is what makes Guardian truly unique. If you didn’t catch them getting funded by Mark Cuban on Shark Tank back in 2017, let us fill you in!
The SureStop braking system is featured on every Guardian. There is one brake lever on the right hand that activates both the rear and the front brake. Yep, the stopping power of two brakes, by just pulling one lever! Why does this matter? Several reasons!
(1) FASTER. By pulling the one lever and activating both brakes, Guardian claims that kids can stop much faster. Throughout our years of testing Guardian bikes, we’ve certainly seen this to be true. We’ve also hopped on larger Guardian bikes ourselves and they really do stop so quickly!
(2) SAFER. The SureStop system promotes safer braking. As kids get older, heavier, and ride faster, braking with the left hand (front brake) only (on a bike with dual handbrakes) can lock up the front wheel and flip a child (or any rider!) over the handlebars.
Called an “endo”, Guardian bikes prevent a child from endoing because it’s impossible for them to brake with the front brake only. With SureStop, the rear brake always activates first, followed immediately by the front brake. While a child riding a 14 inch bike will rarely be going fast enough or weigh enough to endo, the SureStop system instills safe breaking technique from the get-go.
(3) SIMPLER. The SureStop system is simple. Have you ever tried to teach a toddler or preschooler the difference between right and left?!? When trying to teach proper braking technique, “Only brake with your right hand!” is an extremely difficult concept for little ones to grasp.
With only one brake lever, there’s only one option for little brains to focus on. While one brake lever can be a big benefit for kids of any age, we’ve found it particularly useful for our toddler riders.
No Coaster Brake!
While most 12″ and 14″ bikes come standard with a coaster (back pedal) brake, the Guardian does NOT have a coaster brake. This is a huge win for the littlest riders just learning to pedal.
Why are coaster brakes such a problem? When kids are learning to pedal for the first time, they tend to pedal backwards a lot. This is in part because they haven’t yet internalized that pedaling forward is what helps them move forward.
So if they’ve just gotten started, have gained a little momentum, and then decide to back pedal… a coaster brake will stop them in their tracks. All momentum lost!
Being able to pedal backwards works with a child’s natural tendencies, making the process of learning to pedal significantly easier, especially for young riders on 14″ bikes.
Additionally, back pedaling can help kids regain their balance if they turn their handlebars too sharply or start leaning to the side. If they are trying to regain balance by pedaling backwards, but stop instead, they often end up crashing.
And let’s not forget how hard it can be to get those pedals in place to start pedaling in the first place. If you can’t move the pedals in both directions, getting them set to go can be nearly impossible!
In a nutshell, there are really only downsides to coaster brakes, and we give Guardian a high five for making sure this little bike is coaster-brake-free.
Body Position and Geometry
All Guardians are known for their kid-friendly geometry, and the Guardian 14 Inch is no exception. The Guardian 14’s mid-rise handlebars place a child in a comfortable, upright position. This helps them to feel natural and relaxed as they’re learning to ride.
The Guardian 14 also places a child close to the ground for a low center-of-gravity that makes balancing easier. This also allows a younger, shorter child to safely and confidently ride a 14″ bike without training wheels.
If you’ve ever seen a child perched awkwardly on top of a big-box-store bike, you’ll know why kid-friendly geometry is a big deal. As seen in the image below, our almost-3-year-old can comfortably touch the ground with her tip toes on the Guardian 14 Inch, with its seat post raised about 2″. She can’t even reach the ground on the 14″ RoyalBaby (which is 20 lbs. by the way!) with its seat post lowered all the way.
Big-box-store bikes also tend to have small cockpits so a child feels cramped and has limited ability to maneuver. The Guardian 14 Inch has an extended wheelbase that offers ample room to move and to grow.
Coming it at 16 lbs. (with pedals and kickstand), the Guardian 14 Inch bike is much lighter than any bike you’ll find at a big box store, and also lighter than 12″ bikes by well-known brands Specialized, Raleigh, and Diamondback. And as a welcome update, it’s about a pound lighter than when it originally debuted in 2019.
While it’s not as light as boutique-brand bikes like the woom 2 (12.3 lbs, $399) or the Prevelo Alpha One (13.3 lbs, $399) the Guardian 14 is significantly less expensive at just $239. The woom and Prevelo also come with a coaster brake and cost about $20 more to get a freewheel kit to replace the coaster brake.
We are huge advocates of lightweight bikes for kids, but shaving pounds off of a bike will always cost more. The 16 lb. Guardian 14 is light enough for the vast majority of kids out there. As a parent, you’ll have to determine if paying an additional $180 for a bike like the woom 2 (without a coaster brake) is worth almost 4 pounds in weight savings. Like all things with kids, the way your child reacts to something can be pretty unpredictable!
Remember, our 2.5 yo petite boy tester only weighs 26 lbs. Already a confident and determined pedal bike rider, he was able to manage the Guardian 14, but as expected it was a bit much for him to handle. As a child truly ready for a pedal bike, the Guardian works just fine for him if your budget is limited. But our 3-year-old 31 lb. tester didn’t fair as well with the extra weight. All kids are different!
Super Short Crank Arms
The Guardian 14’s crank arms are shorter than other (more expensive) 14″ bikes we recommend. (Guardian’s cranks are 70mm, while woom’s are 80mm and Prevelo’s are 85mm). While 10mm doesn’t seem like much, it leads to a much smaller pedal revolution, which can be problematic for faster or more aggressive riders.
When attempting to pedal faster, our more aggressive 3 year old rider did have his feet fly off the pedals a couple times.
As kids grow and legs get longer, completing small pedal revolutions becomes more difficult and awkward. So while stretching the life of the bike may be good for your pocket book, it’s a less than ideal riding experience.
With a gain ratio of 3.95, ease of pedaling will require just slightly more effort than our other favorite 14″ bikes. (woom 2 = 3.71, Prevelo Alpha One = 3.7, Pello Romper = 3.57). Higher gain ratios (4+) make it harder to get started pedaling, but enable faster speeds. Lower gain ratios make it really easy to get started pedaling, but limit top speeds.
Because of their overall size and the limitations of the size of their components, high-quality 14″ bikes almost always have pretty low gain ratios. This is a benefit because it’s easier for new pedalers to get started pedaling. However, it certainly limits how fast and far a child can go.
Our youngest test riders still mastering their pedaling skills had no issue getting those pedals started with the 3.95 gain ratio. Our older test riders certainly didn’t either, but the short crank arms (arms that attach the pedals to the bike’s frame) do become awkward with taller riders almost ready to upgrade to a larger bike.
Overall, it’s much more difficult for a child on a 14″ bike to go long distances because they can’t get enough “distance” with each pedal stroke. This is the situation for all bikes this size, so just be sure to set realistic expectations on distance and speed for family rides. It’s less of an issue when kids are just learning to ride, but as your rider gets more confident and aggressive, it may become a source of frustration for them.
While the tires feature a standard street tread, we took this little baby through a romp in the forest and it did just great. The Guardian 14 Inch isn’t meant for trail riding, but it certainly can handle occasional packed dirt.
Whether or not beginner bikes need a turning limiter is always a point of debate, but we love the Guardian 14’s limiter. It’s easily removable so you can use it if you want to, or just take it off if you don’t!
The Guardian’s turning limiter is very mild, so it really won’t restrict steering much, if at all. Its more important purpose is preventing the handlebars from turning all the way around when a child falls or puts their bike down.
Handlebars can easily get all mixed up and little ones can quickly get confused and frustrated while trying to get them sorted out the right way. This also prevents the brake cables from being stretched as a result of rotating the handlebars the wrong way.
The Guardian 14 Inch comes standard with a kickstand, but it’s a bit too long for the bike, so the bike easily falls over when the kickstand is in use. As a result, it likely best to store the Guardian 14 on a rack or propped up against a wall.
Assembly is a Breeze
If you’re worried about getting a bike in a box and putting it together yourself, don’t be! These bikes are so incredibly easy to assemble.
Out of the box, both wheels are already on the bike. The only things you have to do are tighten the seat post collar, attach the pedals, and put on the handlebar.
To make this process as simple and fool-proof as possible, Guardian came up with a unique solution. They’ve included peel-off stickers on the crank arms and pedals as well as the handlebars and stem. These stickers help you line up all the parts correctly and tighten them in the correct direction. It really is simple genius.
High-quality Training Wheels
While we will always advocate for a balance bike instead of training wheels, if you’re set on going the training wheels route, the Guardian 14 is compatible with them. Guardian offers a very high-quality set by Wald, which are some of the nicer training wheels we’ve seen.
That said, these training wheels are more complicated to put on the bike than cheaper sets we’ve used – it actually took longer to assemble them that it took to assemble the bike. You’ll just need to plan on an additional 15 minutes to add the training wheels to the bike.
Guardian 14 Bike Review Bottom Line
We’ve loved Guardian Bikes for years, and have anxiously been awaiting the re-arrival of the 14″ bike. With a simplified braking system and incredibly kid-friendly geometry, the Guardian 14 Inch was a hit with our toddler testers and us moms.
Its budget-friendly price tag seriously can’t be beat – it’s incredible what they’re offering at this price tag! And when you’re buying a child a bike at an age when they grow so quickly, it’s a benefit we particularly appreciate. These little bikes are easily some of the best performing and best priced boys bikes and girls bike on the market.
If your child is small and barely able to fit on the Guardian 14 pedal bike, we highly recommend starting with the Guardian balance bike first.