The Raleigh Rowdy 16 is a well-made, mid-priced bike for young, aggressive riders. Built with a lightweight frame, no coaster brake, and dual-hand brakes, it packs a lot of punch into its price tag. Check out the details in our review!
Raleigh Rowdy 16
MSRP: $190 (discontinued)
BEST FOR: Aggressive riders looking for a fun, durable bike for on and off-roading adventures.
SEAT HEIGHT: 21.5″ – 26″
WEIGHT: 15.6 lb.
BRAKES: Coaster with Hand Brake
Raleigh Rowdy 16 Review – Results of our Test Rides
A higher-end build for a mid-range budget, the Raleigh Rowdy 16″ is a great bike for young aggressive riders who are ready to tackle the road before them. With a longer reach and extra wide handlebars, the Rowdy is best suited for ambitious riders. At $260 it’s also the cheapest coaster-brake-free 16″ bike on the market!
Performance and Handlebars
The Rowdy is designed for action. Built with a lightweight frame, dual-hand brakes (no coaster brake), and extra wide handlebars, the Rowdy is a pint-sized mountain bike for little rippers on a tight budget. Excited to get riding, our testers quickly put the Rowdy to work and headed straight for the curbs and ramps.
Raleigh Rowdy 16 in Action
The Rowdy’s lightweight frame and responsive brakes put our testers at ease as they cruised around the neighborhood, but they were both a little taken back by the extra-wide handlebars. At 540 mm, the handlebars on the Rowdy are 100 mm longer than the Cleary Hedgehog, which is designed as miniature mountain bikes as well.
While the extra-length didn’t deter our testers from riding or cause them to complain about the wide stance, the difference was noticeable in their riding. Wide turns and jumps weren’t a problem, but narrow, quick turns, like navigating around a set of cones, was challenging.
Raleigh Rowdy Has Much Wider Handlebars than Similar 16″ Bikes
With a $260 price-tag, however, the Rowdy’s lightweight frame and dual-hand brakes are a great deal, so if absolutely necessary, shortening the handlebars is certainly an option (this could easily be done by a local bike shop). In addition to being too long, the handlebars are pretty low for most young riders. Ambitious riders should have no problem hitting pump tracks or single-track trails on the Rowdy, but for the average rider, the almost flat bar is too aggressive for everyday use.
Our testers had a lot of fun riding the Rowdy around for short periods of time, but after around 20 minutes of riding, they both asked to trade in the Rowdy for a different bike. Of course, having a large collection of 16″ bikes at a child’s disposal certainly isn’t the norm, but unsolicited feedback from kids is often telling of the bike’s overall performance.
Considering the Rowdy’s low price tag compared to other 16 inch kids bikes, if your child has a similar experience with the Rowdy as our testers did, a new higher-rise and narrower handlebar could easily be ordered at a local bike shop. It should cost between $20 and $40. This would still make the Rowdy an amazing deal at $260.
Geometry and Handlebars
The handlebars of the Rowdy also play a major role in the geometry of the bike. The flat handlebars create an aggressive position as compared to bars with more height. The Raleigh MXR 16 and the Raleigh Rowdy 16 have the same frame, but the rise in the MXR‘s handlebars creates a more upright position for the rider as compared to the aggressive position with the almost flat handlebars of the Rowdy.
Handlebar Height of Rowdy 16 vs. MXR 16 Determines Body Positioning
The geometry of the bike is also affected by the stem of the bike. The stem is the metal part that connects the handlebars to the bike. When assembling the bike, we accidentally mounted the stem pointing downward, which lowered the overall height of the handlebars. Although the difference was minimal, when flipped, our testers were more comfortable and noticeably less stretched out. While the stem can technically be mounted pointing up or down, we recommend checking to ensure the stem is pointed upwards during assembly.
Stem Positioning on the Rowdy 16 Affects Handlebar Height
The Rowdy 16 has a seat range of 21.5″ to 26″ and does not come with training wheels. With a standover height of 18″, the Rowdy is a best fit for kids with at least a 20″ inseam in order to provide 2″ of clearance between the child’s crotch and the bike’s top tube if they were to slip forward off the seat during a fall. Raleigh, however, only recommends 1″ of clearance, so per the Rowdy’s standards, a child with a 19″ inseam can technically fit on the bike.
Fitting the Rowdy for Experienced Riders
The Rowdy was a great fit for our experienced 6-year-old rider with a 21″ inseam as it provided plenty of standover clearance and a plenty of room to adjust the seat for proper leg extension. With a 19″ inseam, our experienced 5-year-old rider didn’t have the 2″ of standover clearance we recommend, but he did fall within Raleigh’s recommended 1″ of clearance and easily fit on the bike otherwise.
Both confident in pedaling and riding bikes, as well as using a hand brake, the seat heights were set about 2.5″ above our testers’ inseams, which allowed them to reach proper leg extension when pedaling.
With the seat height raised above their inseam, they could only touch the ground with their tip toes, which is a good indication that the seat height is properly set for an experienced rider. Since it’s very difficult to stop a bike with just your tip toes, however, it is vital to ensure your child knows how to properly stop a bike with a hand brake before you raise the seat higher than their inseam.
Raleigh Rowdy Fit for Experienced Riders
Fitting the Rowdy for Beginning Riders (without training wheels)
The Rowdy is lightweight enough for beginning riders, but its aggressive geometry and low handlebars make it best suited for ambitious riders. Balance bike graduates who are nimble and eager riders should have no problem transitioning to a pedal bike like the Rowdy. If they are not already experienced with hand brakes, we recommend having them walk beside the bike to practice using the handbrakes before they get on the bike.
When a child is just learning to pedal or balance, the seat should be set to match their inseam. The bike’s minimum seat height is 21.5″, so ideally a beginner’s inseam on the Rowdy should at least be very close to 21.5″. With the seat set to match their inseam, a child can better utilize their feet to help them regain balance on the bike as well as safely stop the bike.
For those beginning riders with an inseam less than 21.5″, the seat post of the Rowdy can be sawed off about 1.5″ to allow for the minimum seat height to drop to 20″. This will, of course, shorten the maximum seat height of the Rowdy to 24.5″.
Note that it is always important to consider your child’s inseam and riding ability to find the perfect seat height and ultimately, the perfect bike fit.
Easy to reach and easy to pull, the Rowdy’s dual-hand brakes performed great without any complaints from our testers. The Rowdy does not have a coaster brake (back pedal brake), which allows young riders to more easily master the motion of pedaling.
When learning to pedal, young riders naturally pedal backwards when they lose their balance on a bike. When a coaster brake is present, pedaling backwards unexpectedly stops the bike, which causes riders to lose all their momentum (which they tried so hard to gain), which inevitably leads to a fall. Without a coaster brake, kids can pedal backwards, which can help them to regain their balance, and then continue to pedal forward.
Most bikes under $200 have coaster brakes, so at $260, the coaster-brake-free Rowdy is quite the deal. In fact, the Raleigh Rowdy 16″ is the cheapest coaster-brake-free 16″ bike on the market (well that we could track down)!
Rowdy’s Small-Reach, Easy-Pull Handbrakes
Head to head against similarly designed “mini-mountain bikes” with 16″ tires, the Rowdy is a deal for under $300. While upgrading the handlebar may be an additional expense for those kids who would benefit from a more upright body position, the Rowdy is a great bike for the price.
Both of those bikes, however, come with narrower handlebars with a higher rise that are better suited for the average rider. Additionally, the Cleary Hedgehog does have slightly better components than the other bikes, which is reflected in its higher price. With a lower gain ratio, the Cleary is also better suited for riding in hilly areas.
Lightweight, aggressive, and fun to ride, the Raleigh Rowdy 16 is a great bike for young, ambitious riders at a very reasonable price. The Rowdy’s very low-rise and extra-wide handlebars do limit its appeal for the average neighborhood rider, but can easily be swapped out at a local bike shop for minimal cost.