Designed with the confident and adventurous rider in mind, the Prevelo Alpha Three provides a natural, agile, and stable ride for long family rides, the pump track, or simply every neighborhood obstacle your kid can find! With wide handlebars, all-terrain tires, trigger shifters, and a super lightweight frame, this 20″ Prevelo pony is also right at home on dirt trails and beginner single track.
But is this “do-it-all” bike right for your developing rider? Read the review below to see why this small 20 inch bike is truly exceptional, and how it compares in size, components, and performance to other top brands.
Prevelo Alpha Three Overview
BEST FOR: From aggressive day-to-day riders to those just getting started on single-track, the Alpha Three is a high-quality bike with a wide range of uses. As a smaller 20″, it’s a better fit for smaller riders.
SEAT HEIGHT: 20.75″ – 25.75″
WEIGHT: 19.1 lb.
FRAME: Aluminum Alloy
GEARS: 9-speed with Microshift trigger shifters
BRAKES: Tektro Dual Hand Brakes
GAIN RATIO: 2.0 to 6.7
TIRES: Kenda Small Block Eight Pro 20 ×1.5. Can take up to 1.9″ in front, 1.75″ in back.
- Lightweight, low center-of-gravity frame is exceptionally nimble and responsive
- Wide handlebars for better stability for aggressive riding
- Trigger shifters allow for quick and smooth shifting
- Narrow Q-factor for maximum leverage on pedals
- Multi-terrain tires excel on a variety of terrains
- High-quality Tektro v-brakes offer solid braking power
- Top quality components
- Quick-release seat post for easy height adjustments
- Trigger shifters can be more difficult to learn to shift with than grip shifters
Prevelo Alpha Three Review – Results of our Test Rides
While there are several exceptional 20 inch kids bikes on the market, the Prevelo Alpha Three is a consistent favorite with our confident and aggressive kid bike testers. Our resident 6-year-old boy tester and (very tall) 4-year-old girl tester are both adventure-seeking riders who love to stand up on pedals, speed down hills, and “do tricks” every chance they get.
After testing dozens of bikes over the last 2 years, they each seem to have found a soulmate in the Prevelo Alpha Three.
Working as one, it’s amazing to see them so fluidly ride the Prevelo Alpha Three through the neighborhood, parks, and trails. In the month our boy tester has been rocking this little bike, he’s quickly surpassed his older brothers in skill and determination to ride.
New to 20″ bikes, we were concerned that our tall 4-year-old might struggle with the transition from her smaller 16″ bikes. Not the case here. At our local skatepark (her favorite spot to “do tricks”), we watched her fly up ramps, ride tight circles in the bowl, and carve out turns like she’d been on a 20″ bike forever. On longer paved and dirt trails, she has a new determination to ride like the wind! The agility of Prevelo’s design is truly impressive.
Geometry and Weight
The Prevelo Alpha Three features a lightweight aluminum frame with a low center-of-gravity. Combined with its wide, low-rise handlebars, this little pony is perfectly balanced for ambitious riders. Weighing in at 19.1 lbs., the Prevelo is light enough to be playful and agile, but grounded enough to give aggressive kids confidence to tackle obstacles at speed.
Watching our little test riders fly through the neighborhood, skatepark, and local dirt trails, The Alpha Three’s exceptional geometry was obvious, working seamlessly with a child’s natural movements. Compared to other 20″ bikes, our 6-year-old tester raved about how easy it was to steer and how well “it did what [I] wanted it to do!”
Body Position – Ideal for Adventurous Riders
By the time a child is big enough for a 20″ bike, most of the nicer bikes on the market place kids in a slightly leaned forward position. While remaining upright with a straighter back is usually preferred by beginning riders on 16″ bikes, more experienced riders usually prefer to lean slightly forward so they can better shift their weight as they ride more confidently and aggressively.
For our 4-year-old tester, the difference in body position for her on the Prevelo Alpha Three, Cleary Owl, woom 4, and Guardian 20 small was pretty similar. Where the biggest difference comes in to play is the height of the handlebars and the placement of her arms.
The overall body position on the Alpha Three is more on the aggressive side, primarily because its handlebars are lower. This positioning, along with the wide stance of the handlebars, allows the rider to more easily shift their weight around, while retaining control of their steering and the stability of the bike.
This is particularly important for adventurous riders who love to take turns at speed, bomb down hills, ride over curbs or roots, and generally just attack any feature they can find!
Prevelo Alpha Three vs. Cleary Owl
The woom 4 or Cleary Owl are both good examples of bikes with mid-rise handlebars. While not as high and upright as a cheap bike you’ll find at Walmart, you can see above how on the Cleary our rider’s arms are higher and her hands are more on level with her mid-torso, rather than lower and at her waist on the Prevelo. (Keep in mind that the Prevelo’s low handlebars will cause the body position to become more leaned forward and aggressive as a child gets taller. More on that below.)
Timid or beginning riders who are likely to stick to casual riding tend to prefer bikes with higher handlebars, as more of their weight is centered over their hips (which they are accustomed to when walking or running).
Size – A Smaller 20″ Bike
With a seat height range of 20.75″ to 25.75″, the Prevelo Alpha Three is on the smaller end of 20″ kids bikes. Through our testing, we found it to be a good fit for kids with inseam ranges from about 19″ – 24″ (or 43″ tall to 49″ tall).
In the middle range, it was a perfect fit for our 6-year-old boy tester in size 6 clothes with a 21″ inseam and still allowed for plenty of room for growth, seen below.
On the small end, our very tall 4-year-old girl tester in size 5 clothes (19.5″ inseam, 44″ tall with shoes on), was also an excellent fit. With the seat height set to just under 22″, her transition from the smaller 16″ Prevelo Alpha Two was seamless (purple bike on the left). The larger frame of the 20″ Alpha Three didn’t seem to inhibit her agility at all.
That said, before the 20″ Prevelo arrived, this kid was still happily riding her 16″ Prevelo. While she’s getting a bit big for it, she could absolutely still ride it for several more months. If you’re not ready to purchase a new bike yet, or just want to wait a little longer before you introduce your child to gears, don’t feel pressure to get your child on a 20″ bike before you’re both ready!
On the high end, we found that our 7-year-old 50″ tall tester could still ride the Alpha Three just fine, but investing in a 24″ bike like the Prevelo Alpha Four would be a good idea for her. With the seat height set to its maximum (25.75″), she was on very solid tip toes when sitting on the saddle.
While you would never buy this bike for a child this size, this rider gives you a good idea of how long your child will be able to comfortably ride the Alpha Three. As a comparison, you can see how she fits on the similarly sized Cleary Owl with its higher handlebars. For kids about to outgrow either of these bikes, the Owl is a slightly more comfortable fit.
A child will outgrow the “best fit” stage of the Alpha Three faster than a bike with higher handlebars like the Cleary Owl or the woom 4. The low handlebars make it difficult to extend the life of the bike as long as a bike with higher handlebars. The Alpha Three’s slightly shorter wheelbase (and slightly smaller frame) will also be a contributing factor.
Prevelo Alpha Three vs. Cleary Owl
This is not a ding against the Alpha Three, simply a fact that comes with the territory when you’re buying an aggressive bike for a growing child.
For kids with inseams greater than 23″, we would recommend checking out the larger 24-inch Prevelo Alpha Four. To learn more about finding the best bike fit for your child, check out our guide on proper bike sizing.
For Small Riders, Frame Size and Geometry Best Option on the Market
While there is NO RUSH to get a child off of a 16″ bike and onto a 20″ bike, through our testing we’ve found the Prevelo Alpha Three to be the best option for small, adventurous riders. If you need a small 20″ bike for a small rider, the Prevelo should be at the top of your list.
Not only does it have a lower minimum seat height (20.75″) than most 20″ bikes, but its geometry is also fine-tuned for little riders. The Cleary Owl is the other 20″ bike with a really low minimum seat height (20.5″). However, look at this side-by-side comparison of both bikes with their seat heights set to 22″.
At the high stroke of the bike, the Cleary’s knee bend is much tighter than the Prevelo’s. The looser angle of the Alpha Three makes it easier for a child to push down and complete the pedal rotation. This is a result of a lower bottom bracket and shorter crank arms on the Prevelo.
Child’s Knee Bend Angle – Cleary Owl vs Prevelo Alpha Three
The Alpha Three also has a slightly shorter wheelbase than 20″ bikes by Cleary, woom, and Guardian. This makes for an overall smaller frame, which creates a more natural-fit riding environment for a smaller child.
Gearing & Shifters
The Alpha Three is a 9-speed bike with a gain ratio of 2.0 to 6.7. This wide range will easily allow kids to tackle hills previously deemed “too hard” as well as quickly gain speed on flat surfaces without having to excessively spin the pedals.
Trigger Shifters vs. Grip Shifters
One of the main differences between the Alpha Three and other high-end geared bikes is that it features trigger shifters versus grip shifters. Both styles of shifters have advantages and disadvantages for kids.
Trigger shifters have two buttons – one button to shift up and a second button to shift down. They are much better for aggressive riders as they generally allow for faster shifting and help riders keep their handlebars straight when riding at faster speeds. With grip shifters, kids can apply too much force while twisting on the grip, which can cause them to accidentally and unexpectedly rotate their handlebars.
Microshift Double Thumb Trigger Shifters
Twisting a grip shifter up or down is generally much more intuitive for a young rider than pushing two different trigger buttons. This is why you’ll almost always find grip shifters on kids bikes for your average rider.
While trigger shifters are beneficial for advanced riders, they do have a steeper learning curve. Prevelo designed this bike for more aggressive riders, and based on our experience, it’s even an exceptional option for beginning mountain bikers. For its intended rider, trigger shifters are the best option for the Alpha.
Can Little Kids Actually Use Trigger Shifters?
Because the Alpha Three is such a small 20″ bike, there will be kids as young as 4 or 5 who can ride it. The younger the child, the more challenging it will be to teach them the concept of shifting, and how to actually use the trigger shifters.
Developmentally, this will be a lot to take in for the youngest riders. Additionally, their smaller and weaker hands may struggle to activate the trigger buttons. But with practice, kids will pick it up!
Our 6-year-old tester had some trouble getting started with the concept of trigger shifters, but once he figured it out, he LOVED them. Already having experience with the basics of shifting with a grip shifter, the transition to a trigger shifter was relatively easy for him. He had no issues with hand strength.
Our 4-year-old was entirely new to the concept of shifting and had a harder time figuring it out. We normally wouldn’t try using gears with a 4-year-old, but she is quite tall for her age, was outgrowing her 16″ bike, and absolutely loves riding the Alpha Three.
After a few weeks of effort from Mom and rider, we were pleasantly surprised that she was able to correctly shift the levers when directed by Mom. (Also keep in mind that she is a very confident and skilled rider, so we aren’t saying that every 4-year-old is ready for shifting.)
Based on her age, we don’t anticipate that she will independently understand when to shift for at least another year or longer. Coaching from Mom and Dad will be necessary for quite some time!
Trigger Shifter Tips For Mastery
We used the following tricks to teach our little tester to use her hands to engage the trigger buttons. We advocate focusing on the mechanics of using the trigger shifters first. You can worry about incorporating the when to shift later.
Especially at this age, a child can quickly get overwhelmed if you’re also trying to teach them how and when to shift at the same time. You should expect to be calling out shifting cues for years to come with most kids!
MY CHILD NEEDS A GENERAL INTRODUCTION: Use a (make-shift) bike trainer to allow your child to pedal in place while you explain the process. We used two cans of beans to raise the rear wheel off the ground. Whatever works!
Have them shift up and down to get a feel for how it feels to push the trigger buttons. This will also help them start to understand that changing gears affects the effort required to pedal.
Take it outside by having your child practice riding up a hill in a high gear, then again in a low gear. While you are not emphasizing when to shift, this will help them understand how shifting will eventually make riding so much easier for them, and give them the incentive to learn. You may need to shift the gears for them before starting this exercise.
MY CHILD GETS CONFUSED BETWEEN THE TWO BUTTONS: Place colored tape on the buttons. “Push the pink button!” is more intuitive than “Push the small button!” or “Push the button closest to you!”
We used regular masking tape and colored it with Sharpies – pink and purple to motivate our 4-year-old with her two favorite colors. 🙂
MY CHILD’S HAND ISN’T STRONG ENOUGH TO ENGAGE THE BUTTONS: For the larger button with a long throw, we recommend trying a SureShift, which extends the lever. This not only makes the button larger for small hands, but shortens the lever arc to make it easier to engage.
The smaller trigger button requires more force to engage than the larger button. While older, stronger riders won’t have an issue, our 4-year-old couldn’t push this smaller button. However, we discovered that it requires less effort to “swipe right” from the side. To help her remember to do this, we put colored tape on the side of the button instead of the front. Once we did that, no problems!
MY CHILD STILL ISN’T GETTING IT, or I DON’T WANT TO DEAL WITH THIS YET: Set the gear to 4, 5, or 6 and tell your child not to touch it! (Gain ratio 3.1, 3.5, 4.1 respectively.) Just because the Alpha Three has gears doesn’t mean you have to use them if your child isn’t ready. For the first few weeks of riding with the Alpha Three, this is what we did.
COACHING IS KEY DURING A RIDE: Regardless of how old your child is, mastering trigger shifters will take some time and patience. Once the motions of shifting have been mastered (for both trigger and grip shifters), most kids will still need a lot of coaching during the ride to understand when they need to shift up or down. This is normal and one of the joys of being a bike parent. 🙂 In our experience, most kids don’t truly master the concept of shifting until a 24″ or 26″ bike.
New MicroShift Drivetrain for 2021
As of Spring 2021, the Prevelo Alpha Three features a 9-speed MicroShift Mezzu drivetrain with accompanying MicroShift trigger shifters and a short cage derailleur. This Prevelo bike previously had an 8-speed Shimano Acera.
A short cage derailleur is beneficial as it prevents the derailleur from extending too close to the ground, especially when the chain is on the highest chainring. Low-hanging derailleurs (with long cages vs. short cages) are often problematic on 20″ and 24″ bikes as the derailleur’s close proximity to the ground makes it much more likely to be damaged by rocks or other large obstacles during a ride. Here is an example of a long vs short cage derailleur.
Short-cage derailleurs compatible with 9-gears are very hard to come by. As a result, many 20″ and 24″ bikes max out at 6-gears. Not wanting to sacrifice the low gears (or greatly increase the cost of the components of the bike), we commend Prevelo for taking to time to source a high quality but affordable short-cage derailleur for the Alpha.
Like all high-end bikes should, the Alpha Three features a derailleur hanger. This component is essential to prevent frame damage when a derailleur is damaged. While a bent derailleur can be replaced, it’s incredibly difficult and expensive to repair or replace a bent frame. The hanger is designed to bend (and then be bent back or replaced), to prevent the frame from bending.
V-Brakes Offer Great Stopping Power
The Alpha Three comes with Tektro v-pull brakes. Quick and effective, the brakes were very responsive when put to the test by our eager test riders. From making skid marks to slowing down at the bottom of a big hill, the brakes were easy to reach and easy to activate. The brake cables are internally routed.
If the Prevelo Alpha Three is your child’s first experience with quality hand brakes, be sure to have them walk next to the bike and practice activating the brakes to get a feel for how much effort is needed to stop the bike – prior to riding the bike. Kids moving up from lower-quality bikes often apply too much force to the brake lever, which causes them to stop faster than anticipated, which can lead to a crash.
Easy-reach Brake Levers on the Prevelo Alpha Three
Prevelo Alpha Three vs. Other Small 20″ Bikes
If you’re specifically looking for a bike for an aggressive rider, the Prevelo, Cleary Owl, or woom 4 are all solid options. Your determining factor really should be size and/or the presence and style of shifters.
The Prevelo Alpha Three is the smallest and the most aggressive of these three bikes and is the best for intermediate to advanced riders who are likely to engage in more adventurous riding.
Whether around the neighborhood or on groomed trails, the Alpha Three is superb at allowing kids to really throw their weight around on the bike, while the trigger shifters will help them shift faster and easier. For downhill or more technical mountain biking, the Prevelo Zulu Three (also a 20″) may be a better choice.
The Cleary Owl comes in a single-speed option. If you would prefer to wait until a 24″ bike to introduce your child to gears, the Owl’s wide tires and sturdy steel frame are a perfect combination for adventurous neighborhood riders.
The woom 4 is the largest of the three and has grip shifters. If you’re not sure how aggressive your child will be, the woom is a solid in-between option for daring or more cautious riders.
|Bike||Prevelo Alpha Three||Cleary Owl||woom 4|
|Seat Range||20.75" - 25.75"||20.5″- 26.1″||22.1" - 27"|
|Brakes||Dual Hand||Dual Hand||Dual Hand|
|Gearing||9-speed, Trigger||Single||7-speed, Grip|
|Weight||19.1 lb.||20.3 lb.||17.9 lb.|
|Gain Ratio||2.0 - 6.7||N/A||2.3 - 5.9|
|Read our Review||You're reading it!||Cleary Owl||woom 4|
Prevelo Alpha Three Bottom Line
Exceptional from frame to wheels, brakes to handlebars, the Prevelo Alpha Three is the ultimate ride for young, adventurous riders. While any small rider could enjoy the Alpha Three, its geometry and components are especially beneficial for confident kids who love to aggressively lean in for speed, tackle hills with grit, and dominate every trail, ramp, or curb they can find. If your little rider is ready to take their skills to the next level, the Prevelo Alpha Three is their perfect match.