The Raleigh Jazzi 12 inch bike is one of the cutest little girl bikes you can find. With a bright purple frame and a chain guard and saddle with an ice cream cone design, it’s sure to delight your little one (and you)!
But looks certainly aren’t everything. While we’d give the Jazzi 12 a 10 for its sweet style, its performance is lacking. Read our full review below to understand why this cute and durable bike is actually quite cumbersome to ride.
Raleigh Jazzi 12 Overview
RATING: Recommended with reservations
BEST FOR: Kids in size 2T to 3T clothes who are using training wheels
SEAT HEIGHT: 17 – 20.5″
WEIGHT: 16.9 lb.
BRAKES: Rear coaster
TRAINING WHEELS: Come standard
- Lighter than many other budget bikes
- Solid and durable
- Adorable ice cream sprinkles design
- Training wheels are included
- Difficult to gain and keep momentum
- Coaster brake only
- A bit heavy
- Seat height adjustment requires a wrench to loosen the bolt (most bikes have a quick release or only require an Allen key)
Results of our Test Rides
I have very mixed feeling about the Raleigh Jazzi 12. I wanted to love it because I love its big sisters the Jazzi 16 and Jazzi 20. For their price, those bikes are great quality and pretty easy to ride.
Unfortunately, I don’t love the Jazzi 12. I don’t hate it. But I definitely don’t love it. 12 inch bikes are notorious in our book for being awkward. In over 10 years of testing kids bikes, we’ve never found a 12 inch bike that we really like. Essentially, it’s impossible to build a 12 inch bike that fits a child well and is also easy to ride.
If we’re being honest, if you’re looking at this bike, your best bet is to get your child a balance bike instead. They have so many benefits over bikes with training wheels, which you can read all about here.
Jazzi 12 Riding Experience – Difficult to Get Started and Keep Momentum
Our primary tester just turned three, and has been riding a pedal bike for 3 months. She graduated from a balance bike and never used training wheels. She’s confident, aggressive, and can already dominate the skatepark on her every day pedal bike.
So I was a little surprised when I put her on the Jazzi 12 and she could hardly ride it at first. It brought back memories of the days when she was just learning. She was slow, a bit spastic, and had a lot of difficulty gaining and keeping momentum unless she was going downhill.
While there could be many reasons for this, I’ve narrowed it down to three plausible causes – (1) The crank arms are short, so it’s hard to keep momentum, (2) the bike is a little heavy, and (3) the wheels have quite a bit of rolling resistance so it’s difficult to overcome the inertia of starting from a standstill.
Who is the Jazzi 12 best for?
During our test rides I had our little rider try riding the Jazzi 12 at different seat heights. First, I set the seat for a beginning rider, meaning her feet were almost flat on the ground. When a child is first learning to ride, they need to be able to touch the ground solidly with their feet to safely start and stop the bike.
Second, I raised the seat so that only her tip toes could touch the ground. This makes pedaling more comfortable as it allows a child to get more leverage on the pedals. This is how a more experienced rider would ride their bike. This is also the best way to set the seat for a child with training wheels, although some kids prefer to be able to solidly touch the ground, even with training wheels.
In both seat height settings, the Jazzi 12 was not easy for her to ride. Compared to watching her ride her usual bike, which often looks effortless, the Jazzi 12 was honestly a bit painful. Who is this little rider? And where did my confident daredevil go??
However, the lower (beginner) seat height setting was definitely more difficult to ride. This is a problem. Learning to ride a pedal bike without training wheels is a lot to handle for little ones. If an experienced rider can barely ride this bike, it’s going to be quite the challenge for a brand new rider!
For more information on how to find a bike that is the perfect fit for your child, check out our Kids Bike Sizes Guide.
First Time Riders with Training Wheels
As a result, the Jazzi is best for a rider who will be using the training wheels so they can ride with the seat a bit higher. That said, it’s still not going to be easy to ride, and most children are much better off on a balance bike.
Remember… this bike is very small, so if you do plan on using this bike with training wheels, you probably shouldn’t plan on ever taking them off. Most kids are likely to outgrow the Jazzi 12 before they are ready to remove the training wheels. (One more reason to try a balance bike instead!)
A Note for Balance Bike Graduates
If your child is currently on a balance bike and you’re looking for a small pedal bike, we highly encourage you to spend a little more money and get much better 14 inch bike like the Guardian Ethos 14 instead ($269).
If that is out of your budget, keep your child on their balance bike a little longer until they are big enough for a 16 inch bike! Honestly, a bad experience with a 12 inch pedal bike just isn’t worth it! Balance bikes are awesome… there’s no need to rush a child to a pedal bike!
Jazzi 12 Sizing – Best Fit for Narrow Height Range
The seat height of the Jazzi has a range of 17″ – 20.5″. This narrow range of seat height is pretty standard for 12″ and 14″ bikes. Those bike are so small in general, that a child who needed to raise the seat height any higher would be comically big.
The Raleigh Jazzi 12 has a recommended height range of 32″ – 40″.
For reference, our 3-year-old is at the end of that range – she’s 39.5″ tall. When riding on her tip toes as an experienced rider (or rider with training wheels), she has the seat height set at 18″. Looking at how much room she has on the bike, any child much bigger would be a bit cramped, so we agree with the 40″ tall maximum recommendation.
Beware of manufacturer’s stated height ranges though. For cheaper bikes, they are almost never correct. A 32″ child, which is the minimum suggested height listed on the bike, cannot ride this bike! 32″ is the average height of an 18-month-old. If my solid, aggressive three-year-old can hardly ride this bike… there is NO WAY it’s happening for an 18-month-old. Not to mention that a 32″ tall child couldn’t remotely touch the ground when sitting on the saddle.
The quill headset of the Raleigh Jazzi 12 is designed to be raised or lowered to make the handlebars higher or lower. We used the lowest setting for our 3-year-old tester because as an aggressive rider, she prefers to lean forward rather than being completely upright.
Weight – Heavier than we’d like, but lightweight for the price
At 16.9 lbs, the Jazzi is heavier than high-end brands like the woom 2 (11.2 lbs.), but lighter than other budget brands like the Royal Baby Freestyle (21. lbs.)
A lightweight bike has a huge impact on a child’s ability to learn to ride a pedal bike. Heavy bikes are harder to get moving, harder to maneuver, harder to pick up when you fall, and fatigue a rider much more quickly. Especially for a child’s first pedal bike, keeping that weight down is highly important if you want your child to have a positive and quick learning process.
Most budget bikes with training wheels are fairly heavy, so if you’re only able to spend in the $150 category, the Jazzi is one of the lightest bikes available.
Coaster Brake Not Ideal
Bikes as small as the Raleigh Jazzi 12 are required by the CSPC to have a coaster brake (or back pedal brake). Unfortunately, coaster brakes actually make learning to ride a pedal bike more difficult. This is because kids naturally pedal backwards when learning to pedal, and a coaster brake stops them in their tracks!
We can’t fault the Jazzi for having a coaster brake, even our favorite 12 inch bike, the Trek Precaliber, has a coaster brake. But some bikes that also have dual handbrakes do have options available to remove the coaster brake. If you’re interested in a fairly affordable small bike without a coaster brake, the Guardian Ethos 14 is a high-quality option.
Tires – Street Tread Ideal for Sidewalks
With a smooth street tread, the 12″ air tires on the Jazzi are well-suited for sidewalks and paved trails. With little tread pattern, they aren’t ideal for kids who like to venture off on dirt or gravel adventures.
Also be aware that small 12″ wheels (compared to 14″ or 16″ or larger) make rolling over obstacles like rocks or taller sidewalk cracks more bumpy. There are several bikes in the Jazzi 12’s size range that offer 14″ wheels, like the woom 2, or Guardian Ethos 14.
The Raleigh Jazzi 12’s wheels have quite a bit of rolling resistance. Essentially, when you spin the wheel, it slows and comes to a stop quite quickly. We tested this by setting the Jazzi and other 14″ bikes upside down and spinning their wheels. The Jazzi’s came to a stop long before the other (more expensive) bikes we tested it against. This rolling resistance doesn’t do a child learning to ride any favors as they attempt to gain and maintain momentum.
Saddle and Seat Post
While the Jazzi really is a decent little bike for the price, we don’t love the saddle or the seat post. The saddle is rather wide and flat, and our 3-year-old rider would periodically slip around on the saddle when she was first getting used to the bike. She once even slipped off the back of the seat entirely! Just something to be aware of, but not a deal breaker.
Adjusting the seat height is accomplished by raising or lowering the seat post and then tightening down a bolt. While most bikes these days have either a quick release clamp or loosen with an Allen key, the Raleigh Jazzi 12 isn’t that convenient. It actually requires a wrench to loosen and tighten.
This process is honestly a bit of a pain when you’re trying to get that seat height set just right for growing kids. It also makes adjustments when you’re out and about much more difficult.
Ease of Assembly
You can expect assembly to take you about 30-45 minutes if you’re unfamiliar with bike assembly. There are a few more steps than most other bikes we assemble, but nothing too difficult.
You’re required to:
- Attach the front wheel
- Attach the handlebars to the headset
- Insert and tighten the stem into the bike’s frame
- Screw on the pedals
- Bolt down the seat post
- Attach the training wheels
Side by Side Comparison with Better Designed Bike
Raleigh is a well-respected bike brand, so it may surprise you that we don’t love the Jazzi 12. If you’re not familiar with the great strides that have been made recently in the kids bike world, it’s easy to think the Jazzi 12 is one of the best offerings.
But take a look below at the Raleigh Jazzi 12 compared to the Pello Romper 14 inch bike, which is a solid example of a “better” kids bike now offered by brands like Pello, woom, Guardian, or Prevelo.
The Jazzi 12 has a minimum seat height of 17″. The Pello Romper has a minimum seat height of 17.5″. As a result, they are technically made for the same size child. In this picture, both saddles are set to 18″.
While there are many differences between these two bikes, just focus on how much more room a child has on the Pello Romper. There is significantly more space between the wheels’ axles, providing a much more stable base. And the amount of room between the saddle and the handlebars gives the child ample room for their knees and ample room to grow. Overall, there’s just more room in general to naturally and comfortably maneuver the bike.
Bottom Line on the Raleigh Jazzi 12
The Raleigh Jazzi 12 is a solid-quality bike, but it’s difficult to gain and keep momentum. However, if your child is not interested in a balance bike and wants training wheels instead, this bike is probably your best bet. Because bikes all 12″ bikes with training wheels are awkward and difficult to ride, we highly recommend looking at a balance bike instead.
If your child is a balance bike graduate and you really do need a 12 or 14 inch pedal bike, check out the Guardian Ethos 14 or Park Cycles 14, which are the cheapest, well-designed small pedal bikes on the market. Also consider the Btwin 100 14, which is the same price as the Jazzi 12, but much better designed.