Priority Start 14 Review (discontinued)
A modern bike with a classic look, Priority Bicycles’ Start F/W line of bikes offer a higher-end feel and performance for a mid-range price in 14″ and 16″ sizes. Designed by a bike-industry expert looking for a better bike for his sons, the Priority Start has been fine-tuned and adapted to meet the needs of young riders.
The F/W in the name stands for “freewheel”, which means the bike does not have a coaster (back-pedal brake), which benefits young riders (more on this below). In addition, the Start is lightweight and narrow, with upright positioning for beginning riders, and is topped off with dual-hand brakes and a grease-free belt drive. All in all, the Start F/W packs a lot of punch into its $249 price tag!
The 14″ size is ideal for preschoolers ready to graduate from their balance bike to a pedal bike (the bike does not come with training wheels, which balance bike graduates do not need).
Performance & Geometry
The Priority Start 14 performed great for both beginning and experienced riders. Our beginning rider – a newly 4-year-old who has only been riding a bike for a little over a month – was riding more confidently and turning much more smoothly on the Start 14 than she had been on her 12″ bike. As shown below, the Start 14 also fit her much better than the 12″ Cleary Gecko. Oftentimes parents of young riders buy 12″ bikes thinking they are the best fit for their 3 or 4-year-old, when really a 14″ bike is a much better fit.
Compared to the 12″ bike our tester had been riding, the Priority Start has much more upright geometry, which makes it more ideal for beginning and/or timid riders. The mid-rise handlebars keep the child’s body positioned higher on the bike and more centered over their hips for a more stable, natural feel. As a result, like our 4-year-old tester, most kids will feel more comfortable and relaxed on the Priority Start than most 12″ and 14″ bikes.
With a seat height range of 18″ – 22″, the 14″ Start is best suited for kids ranging from 3.5 to turning 5 years old. The bike was a perfect fit for our newly 4-year-old beginning rider with a 17.5″ inseam. Although the seat couldn’t be lowered to match her inseam exactly, with the minimum seat height 0.5″ above her inseam, she was still able to start and stop the bike with her feet without concern.
Our 5-year-old tester with a 19″ inseam also fit the bike, but as an experienced rider, he’s comfortable stopping with the hand brakes and not his feet, so the seat height was set to 21″ (2″ above his inseam). For him, the Priority Start 14″ offered a fun, enjoyable ride, but it offers very little room for growth, especially compared to the Priority Start 16″. With a seat range from 19.5″ – 23″, the Start 16″ would be a better option to purchase for an experienced rider of his height.
Start 14″ Seat Height Should be Set Differently for Beginning and Experienced Riders
Grease-free Belt Drive
In addition to upping the coolness factor, the Start 14’s grease-free belt drive (instead of a chain!) also increases the overall cleanliness and safety of the bike. Bike chains are messy and unfortunately, inquisitive kids often like to touch greasy chains which quickly leads to grease stains just about everywhere. The Start’s belt has NO grease and needs NO maintenance! (Did you know bike chains should be cleaned and re-greased on a regular basis?).
Better yet, unlike a chain, a belt drive very rarely, if ever, comes off. So as a parent, you don’t have to deal with the greasy hassle of putting a chain back on your kid’s bike! In our years of testing belt drives on kids bikes, we have NEVER had the belt come off. To our knowledge, the Priority Start 14″ is the only 14″ bike to have a belt drive versus a standard chain. 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.
Dirty Chain vs. Clean Belts: Priority Start is the Only 14″ Bike to Feature a Belt Drive
Brakes and Q-factor
Child-sized, easy-pull, dual-hand brakes allowed our tester to quickly and easily stop the bike. Additionally, both sizes of the Priority Start (14″ and 16″) are coaster-brake-free, which allows kids to naturally pedal backwards when learning pedal. The bikes also have a narrow q-factor of 5.5″ (read more about q-factors on our page Best Kids Bikes: The Authoritative Buying Guide), which 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 14″ pedal bikes with an upright design, 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 has a wider seat height range as well 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 2, the Priority is very similar in geometry and performance, but the Start’s overall quality is slightly less than the woom 2, while still being better than most kids’ bikes found in local bike shops.
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 brakes, the Priority Start 14″ is a perfect first pedal bike for balance bike graduates ages 3 up to turning 5 years old. Differentiating itself from the crowd, the Start is the only 14″ bike on the market to offer a grease-free belt drive, instead of a chain, to prevent greasy hands and clothes. All in all, the Priority Start series offers a lot of great features that you won’t find in any other bike at this low of a price tag!