Priority Start 16 Review
Lightweight, upright positioning, a maintenance-free belt drive, dual-hand brakes, and no coaster brake… the Priority Start 16 inch bike is a wicked first bike for a very decent price. Read the review below for more reasons we love it!
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Kids aged 4 up to 6 with timid to average temperaments who will be doing neighborhood and paved trail riding.
SEAT HEIGHT: 18.5" – 23"
WEIGHT: 15.9 lb.
18.5" – 23"
Gray, Blue, White
Dual Hand (No Coaster)
Pros & Cons
- Confidence-building upright positioning for first-time pedal bike riders
- Great quality for the price
- Clean, grease-free, maintenance-free belt drivetrain (no chain!)
- Dual hand brakes and no coaster brake to allow for a smoother experience when learning to pedal
- Larger seat not ideal for really petite riders
Priority Start 16 Review – Results of Our Test Rides
Built on a lightweight aluminum frame with a grease-free, maintenance-free belt drive, dual-hand brakes, and no coaster brake, the Start packs a lot of punch. Improving year by year, the Priority Start 16 has several new upgrades including more responsive brake lever and brakes, a smaller, more comfortable child-sized saddle, a more durable chain guard, stronger wheels, and touch-up paint to repair any future nicks to the frame.
Perfect for a first pedal bike as well as a second bike for those moving up from a 12″ or 14″ bike, the Priority Start 16 is ideal for cruising around the neighborhood or paved bike trails.
“Mom, let’s go ride the white bike!” Having tested out over 20 different 16″ bikes, our 5-year-old tester rarely gets really excited about a new bike. He knows what he likes and rarely prefers new bikes to his tried and true favorites. The Priority Start 16″, however, quickly made its way into his “preferred club”.
Classic and simple by design, smooth and effortless in motion, the Priority Start 16 is well balanced, easy to pedal, and easy to maneuver. From riding down driveways (over and over again!), to tackling small ramps or simply cruising around the neighborhood, the Start was ready for action with our tester as a happy participant. Even after riding for close to an hour in temperatures reaching 100, he was eager to get the perfect picture of him on the bike so everyone could see how much he liked it.
5-year-old Tester on Priority Start 16
Not too upright and not too aggressive, the Priority Start 16’s geometry was perfect for our experienced, but not overly aggressive rider. The upright body positioning provided the stability he craves without being too upright to prevent him from leaning into turns or going over jumps (as with cheap bikes like the Next Rocket). The Priority has similar geometry to the high-end woom 3, and is more upright than the more aggressive Early Rider Belter (the only other 16″ bike with a belt drive – explained more below). This mid-range body positioning is ideal for the majority of young riders on 16″ bikes.
Differences in Geometry of 16″ Bikes
For adventurous riders, Priority also now offers an advanced, low-rise handlebar which provides a more aggressive position. The advanced bar can be purchased for $20 and requires the grips and brake levers to be transferred over from the standard bar, which can be done in less than 20 minutes. The bike only comes standard with the mid-rise bar and cannot be purchased with the advanced bar already attached to the bike.
Optional Low-Rise Handlebar is Better for Aggressive Riders
To test out how the bars affect the rideability of the bike, we had our 5-year-old tester, who normally rides a Priority Start with standard bars, test out a Start with the advanced bars. Being a confident rider, she LOVED the new bars and asked if she could switch bikes! Within a couple minutes of riding, she was having fun leaning into turns, which is easier to do while in a more aggressive position. Her twin brother, however, is a very timid rider and much preferred the more upright standard bars.
Experienced, Confident Tester Preferred Lower Handlebars
The Priority Start 16″ seat height ranges from 18.5″ to 23″ and accommodates both beginning and experienced riders.
Beginning Riders: For those riders who have not yet learned to start and stop a pedal bike confidently and on their own, the seat height of the bike should be set to match their inseam. This allows them to safely stop the bike with their feet if need be. (The bike does have dual hand brakes, but some kids take a week or so to master them). As a result, the Priority Start 16″ is a great fit for beginning riders with an inseam of at least 18″.
Experienced Riders: Experienced bike riders who are comfortable stopping with hand brakes can set the seat 2″ above their inseam. This allows for proper leg extension with each pedal, which in turn provides the most comfortable and efficient ride. To allow for sufficient room for growth, the Priority Start 16″ is an ideal buy for experienced riders with an inseam of 16.5″ to 20″.
For older riders with an inseam greater than 20″, we recommend the larger Priority Start 20 inch model.
Grease-free Belt Drive
From stained pants to sticky fingers, bike chains can be a pain. They fall off, are hard to get back on, and when you do get them back on, they often fall off again. With a goal to simplify a child’s bike without sacrificing performance, Priority Bicycles uses a grease-free and maintenance-free belt drive on all their bikes (both child and adult!).
With no need to grease or clean and with little, if any, chance of the belt coming off (we’ve NEVER had a belt come off), belt-driven bikes make bike ownership easier, cleaner, and more simple. If the belt drive ever had to be adjusted (which is rare!), the rear drop out of the bike (where the back wheel attaches to the frame) is specifically designed to allow for easier adjustments. A sturdy “chain guard” is also provided to prevent baggy pants from coming into contact with the moving belt when riding.
The rounded teeth on the belt and cogs also increase the overall safety of the bike. This is especially important for younger riders who often want to explore their new bike while it’s laying on the ground.
Priority Start 16″ Features a Grease-free, Maintenance-free Belt Drive
Brakes and Q-factor
When learning to pedal a bike, kids (like adults!), naturally pedal backward when trying to regain their balance. Because coaster brakes are so common on kids’ bikes, this natural inclination actually backfires as kids find themselves quickly coming to an unexpected stop, which often results in a fall. Without a coaster brake, the Priority Start allows kids to pedal backward to regain their balance without stopping and without losing the momentum they have already gained.
To stop a bike without a coaster brake, kids must rely on hand brakes. The Start comes with dual hand brakes that are designed to make it easier for smaller hands to activate. Much more responsive and easy to use than bikes found in big-box stores, our testers had no problem stopping the bike within a couple feet of activating the brakes.
The Priority Start also has a narrow q-factor of 5.5″ (read more about q-factors on our page Best Kids Bikes: The Authoritative Buying Guide). This prevents kids from having to splay their legs while pedaling, making each stroke more efficient.
Dual Hand Brakes and No Coaster Brake are Ideal for Kids Learning to Ride
Compared to other 16″ pedal bikes, the Priority Start is an amazing deal for its price. The overall quality, lightweight build, and unique belt drive make it a true standout among the crowd.
Significantly better quality than the ByK, the Start also weighs less and has as a higher gain ratio that kids will appreciate once they master pedaling (a lower gain ratio makes it easier to start pedaling but limits the overall speed of the bike).
Compared to the more expensive woom 3, the Priority is very similar in geometry and performance, but the Start’s overall quality is slightly less than the woom, while still being better than most kids’ bikes found in local bike shops.
The Early Rider Belter is the only other 16″ bike with a belt drive. The Belter is an amazing bike with top-notch components from top to bottom. Better for more adventurous riders, it also has a much more aggressive body position.
Priority Start 16 Comparison
|Features||Priority Start 16||WOOM 3||ByK E-350||Early Rider Belter|
|Bike (review link)||You're reading it!||woom 3||ByK E-350||Early Rider Belter|
|Seat Height||18.5" - 23"||19.1" - 24.8"||18" - 23.3"||19" - 22"|
|Handlebar||High or Low||High||High||Low|
|Weight||15.9 lb.||11.7 lb.||17.6 lb.||13.7 lb.|
|Brakes||Dual-hand, no coaster||Dual-hand, no coaster, color-coded||Dual-hand, w/ coaster||Dual-hand, no coaster|
|Gain Ratio||3.38, Slight higher gain ratio allows kids to start pedaling with slight effort and pedal towards a fast top speed.||3.34, Low gain ratio allows for quick starts and a decent top speed.||2.45, Very low gain ratio allows kids to easily start pedaling, but greatly limits top speed.||4.15, Mid-range gain ratio takes more effort to get started, but allows the bike to gain more speed.|
The Priority Start series offers a lot of great features for a pretty decent price tag. Lightweight with upright positioning, dual-hand brakes, and no coaster brake, the Priority Start 16 is a wicked little pedal bike for balance bike graduates in at least size 5 pants or as a second pedal bike for kids in at least 4T pants.