Radio Flyer’s new line of kids pedal bikes are brightly colored, available in three different sizes, and have solid quality aluminum frames. At first glance these “Flyer” bikes seem to have a lot to offer, but how do they stack up to competitors? From how comfortable they are to ride to how easy they are to stop, our kid bike testers put these Radio Flyer pedal bikes to the test to help you decide if a Flyer bike is the right choice for your child.
Radio Flyer Kids Pedal Bikes Overview
Radio Flyer’s “Flyer” line of pedal bikes is available in 16″, 20″ and 24″ wheel sizes. All three sizes are built with aluminum frames and are available in 5 different colors.
The Flyer 16″ is a single-speed model with a coaster brake. The Flyer 20″ and and 24″ have dual handbrakes and 7 gears.
We recommend the 24″ Flyer. For the price, we are hesitant to recommend the Flyer 16″ and Flyer 20″ which both have shortcomings that make other (cheaper) bikes a better option.
Radio Flyer – FLYER 16
SEAT HEIGHT: 18.8″ – 23.5″
WEIGHT: 20.4 lb. (without training wheels)
BRAKES: Coaster brake only
TRAINING WHEELS: Included
RECOMMENDED: With hesitation for the price
What You Should Know
While the $199 Flyer 16 is a solid-quality and durable bike that our testers rode with ease, it’s a hard sell against the very similar and much cheaper $120 Retrospec Koda 16. Here’s why:
Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes)
The Flyer’s coaster brake is more difficult to engage than other bikes we recommend. The crank arms (that attach the pedals to the bike’s frame) are shorter than other 16″ bikes, like the Retrospec Koda 2. This makes it harder for little kids to pedal backwards with enough force to stop quickly.
While the 20.4 lb. Flyer 16 is a tad lighter than the popular Royalbaby 16, it’s several pounds heavier than the Koda 2 16″ bike. A few pounds makes a huge difference for a small child, especially when a child is first learning to ride a bike.
Radio Flyer – FLYER 20
SEAT HEIGHT: 23.7″ – 28.8″
WEIGHT: 24.8 lb.
BRAKES: Dual hand brakes
GEARS: 7 speed
GAIN RATIO: 2.1 – 4.2
TRAINING WHEELS: No
RECOMMENDED: With hesitation for the price
What You Should Know
At $299, the Flyer 20 is a hard sell. Not only is it awkward to ride, but it’s quite a bit heavier than bikes by Guardian Bikes and REI that come in at similar price points.
Awkward Geometry = Uncomfortable Ride
The geometry of the Flyer 20 makes it uncomfortable to ride. Take a look at the image below with the same rider on the Flyer ($299) and on the Guardian Bikes 20 Large ($329).
On the Flyer, there are two primary problems that don’t exist on the Guardian.
(1) The stem is long and the handlebars are low, placing the handlebars far in front of the rider. This requires her to lean and reach too far forward.
(2) To compound the issue, the crank arms (arms that attach the pedals to the bike) of the Flyer 20 are long; the bottom bracket (where the crank arms attach to the frame of the bike) is high off the ground. As a result, when a child is at the top stroke of their pedaling rotation, their knee is very high in relation to their body, and the knee bend is cramped.
Already leaned forward, our test rider complained that her knees were in her chest.
For $30 more, the Guardian 20″ Large is similarly-sized, has exceptional kid-friendly geometry and a better gearing range, is 3 pounds lighter, and has the Shark-Tank-Funded SureStop braking system.
SEAT HEIGHT: 27.5″ – 33.5″
WEIGHT: 28.3 lb.
BRAKES: Dual V-brakes
DRIVETRAIN: 7 speed, Shimano grip shift
GAIN RATIO: 2.6 – 5.6
RECOMMENDED: Yes, a great bike for its price.
What We Loved About the Flyer 24
The Flyer 24″ is the only Radio Flyer we can recommend without hesitation. The brake levers and shifters are both easy to use and the bike’s components work together to provide a smooth and comfortable ride.
While the Flyer 24’s $379 price is a bit high compared to comparable bikes such as the Guardian 24 ($339) and the Retrospec Koda 24 ($219), it does offer several comfort features not offered on the other bikes. They include comfortable grips with side bumpers (to protect hands from side impacts), a soft, cushioned saddle, and wider, high-volume 2.35″ wide tires (more volume = more room for compression over bumps).
All in all, these work together to provide a slightly smoother and more comfortable ride compared to our budget-friendly competitors. This isn’t to say that the other bikes are uncomfortable, but the Flyer does smooth out the everyday bumps on the sidewalk or around town a bit better.
Unlike the Flyer 20, the geometry of the Flyer 24 is great and very similar to the Guardian 24. The bike provides a nice, semi upright position that most kids prefer.
Compared to the Retrospec Koda 24, our riders were less stretched out on the Flyer, providing a more comfortable ride and more control of the bike.
The Flyer’s seat height ranges from 27.5″ to 33.5″, making it suitable for kids with inseams ranging from ~25″ – 31″. The 11-uear-old rider in the images above has the seat set to 30.5″. Although the seat is able to raise up 3″ more inches, the reach of the bike (distance between the seat and the handlebars) will likely be too small for him. As a result, in order to allow for more room for growth, we wouldn’t recommend the Radio Flyer 24 for kids with inseams greater than 27″.
As a comparison, the Guardian 24 has a slightly lower seat height range of 25″ – 33″, while the Retrospec Koda 24 is taller at 29″ – 35″.
Decent Gearing Range
The Flyer, Retrospec, and Guardian 24″ bikes all have 7 gears, but their gearing ranges do differ. The Guardian has the widest range with a 2.45 – 5.6 gain ratio range. (The lower the number, the easier it is to pedal. The higher the number, the harder it is to pedal, but the farther you’ll go with each pedal stroke.)
The Flyer is not far off with a 2.6 – 5.6 gain ratio. The Retrospec has the narrowest range with a 2.42 – 4.84 range.
The highest gear of the Flyer and the Guardian (both with a 5.6 gain ratio) allows for the bikes to cover more distance per pedal stroke at the highest speed (mainly used when sprinting on flat surfaces). The Retrospec is a bit lacking here with a max of 4.84, which means in it fastest speed, the Retrospec can’t travel as fast as the others.
Compared to the Retrospec and the Guardian, the Flyer 24 is also the only bike with a replaceable derailleur hanger. We LOVE derailleur hangers on kids bikes as they prevent the frame of the bike from becoming bent when the derailleur makes hard contact with the ground due to a crash or the bike falling over.
Once the frame of the bike is bent, it can be very challenging to fix, which can prevent the gears from ever working properly again. If a bike has a replaceable derailleur hanger, the hanger bends instead of the frame. The hanger can then and can easily and quickly be replaced for a couple dollars.
What We Didn’t Love about the Flyer 24
While a great bike, the Flyer was also the heaviest of the three coming in at 28.3 lb. The Retrospec is slightly lighter at 28.1 lb., while the Guardian is the lightest at 25.5 lb. Although heavier, the Flyer is the only bike with an aluminum frame; the Retrospec and Guardian are both steel.
Radio Flyer Kids Pedal Bikes – Bottom Line
While the Flyer 16 and 20 models need a few tweaks, we found the Flyer 24 to be a comfortable bike that our testers enjoyed riding. However, all three bikes have pretty high prices compared to other brands we recommend, which makes for a harder sell.