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REI Kids Bikes: Co-Op REV Review

In addition to selling many high-end kids bikes, REI offers its own house brand called Co-Op Cycles. The kids’ line, REI  Co-op REV, offers amazing quality for the price.

From 12″ to 24″ bikes, the Co-Op REV offers budget-friendly, quality bikes for both little and big kid riders. Best of all, with local REI shops across the US, you can try out, pick up, and even easily return fully assembled bikes.

QUICK LOOK

REI Kids Bikes: Co-Op REV

RATING: Highly Recommended

MSRP: $159 – $379

BEST FOR: Everyday riders who want a quality, lightweight bike without breaking the budget

SIZES: 12″ to 24″ (ages 4 to 10)

REI Co-Op REV Models

FeaturesREVREV Plus
MODEL
REV
REV Plus
SIZES12", 16", 20", 24"20", 24"
MSRP$159, $189, $209, $349$339, $379
BEST USEAround town on paved surfacesTown or basic trail use
TIRE TYPEStreetPlus size knobby
BRAKES12", 16" - Coaster 
20" - Coaster, rear handbrake
24" - Dual handbrake
Dual handbrake (Mechanical Disc)
GEARING12", 16", 20" - Single-speed
24" - 7-speed (REV CTY)
20" - 6-speed
24" - 7-speed

What We Love About the REI Co-op Cyles REV Line

  • Great quality for the price – aluminum frame with clean welds, quality Shimano and Tektro components
  • Basic single-speed bike available in smaller sizes and more advanced geared options available in larger sizes
  • All bikes can be picked up fully assembled as well as returned at your local REI
  • All models can be shipped to you if you don’t have a local REI

What You Should Know Before You Buy

  • All single-speed REV models comes with a coaster brake, which isn’t ideal for balance bike graduates
  • The 12″ and 16″ models come with training wheels
  • Components are not top notch as compared as boutique brands, but are great for the price point and high enough to perform great for most riders
  • Bikes come with all the tools you need to assemble and the process is pretty straightforward

REI Kids Bikes: Co-Op REV Bike Reviews

8 year old riding REI Cycles Co-Op REV Plus 20 inch geared bike across a wooden bridge

We had a chance to test out REI’s single and geared bikes in their REV line and were impressed by what they have to offer for the price.  Below are detailed reviews of the Co-op REV single-speed as well as the REV Plus.  Both are great bikes designed for two different types of riders.

Only interested in the REI REV Plus model? – Click to jump ahead!

REI Co-Op REV: Single-speed Review

8 year old riding REI Cycles Co-Op REV 20 inch single speed bike down a paved trail

BEST FOR: The Co-Op REV single-speed bikes are best for young riders who need a good-quality, lightweight neighborhood bike. Due to their coaster brakes and more aggressive positioning, they aren’t ideal for really timid riders. However, they are hands-down the best choice for neighborhood riders in the mid-range price point.

SIZES: 12″, 16″ and 20″.  The very similar REV CTY is available in a 24″ size.

TRAINING WHEELS: Come with 12″ and 16″ sizes

BRAKES: 12″ and 16″ – Coaster only; 20″ – Coaster with rear handbrake; 24″ – Dual handbrake, no coaster

REI Co-Op REV Single-Speed Performance

Unlike big-box store bikes, the REV models are built with a lightweight aluminum frame and a sturdy ahead headset. And unlike bike shop bikes, REI’s line comes backed with their amazing warranty and return policy. If you don’t have the budget for a high-end bike, but want to give your child a much better experience than a heavy big-box store bike, the Co-op REV single speed bikes are the perfect solution.

Great Lightweight Build for the Price

The REV line is built with a quality aluminum frame, similar in construction to higher-end bikes.  In addition to durability, the aluminum frame allows the REVs to weigh much less than similarly sized bikes with similar features. Since kids are lightweight, it’s important that their bikes are lightweight as well.  Ideally a bike shouldn’t be more than 30% of a child’s weight.  Building a lightweight bike is expensive, but the REV series is quite unique in that it is the same weight or even lighter than more expensive bikes.

REI REV 16"Schwinn SmartStart Elm 16"Raleigh MXR 16"Pello Revo 16"
REV 16"Schwinn Elm 16"Raleigh MXR 16"Pello Revo 16"
16.2 lb.20.5 lb.18.3 lb.16.3 lb.
$189$149$169$359

Geometry

One surprising design feature of the REV is that it places its rider in a more leaned forward position than other bikes.  While some kids prefer this more aggressive, leaned-in position on a bike, most new and timid riders prefer to sit upright. Even with its more aggressive geometry, the REV’s lightweight frame made the bikes as easy to balance as heavier bikes with a more upright design.

Aggressive Position of the REV 16″

More leaned forward body position of the REI Kids bike vs the Raleigh MXR 16.

The more aggressive geometry is consistent amongst all the REV single speed line (12″, 16″, 20″).  We have not seen the 24″ in person, but its frame appears to be similar in shape. If your child does prefer a more upright position, the REV Plus bike actually has a less aggressive body position than the single-speed REV.  It’s almost 4 pounds heavier than the single-speed, however, so be sure to take that into account.

Body Position on REV 20 Single vs. REV 20 Plus

Side by side comparison of 8 year old riding REI Cycles Co-Op REV 20 inch geared bike and single speed bike. He is more upright oh the REV Plus 6 speed.

Coaster Brakes

Like all other bikes similarly priced to the Co-Op REV series, the 12″, 16″ and 20″ sizes come with a coaster brake.  Coaster brakes, or back pedal brakes, aren’t ideal for young riders learning how to pedal, but they aren’t necessarily problematic for everyone.

Coaster brakes tend to work great for kids who start off on a bike using training wheels, but they usually cause confusion for kids who skip training wheels by using a balance bike first.

When balance bike graduates are learning how to pedal, they often accidentally pedal backwards when learning the motion of pedaling.  This leads to an abrupt and unexpected stop, which almost always leads to a fall and much frustration. For kids who learn to pedal while on training wheels, backpedaling isn’t an issue as the training wheels keep them upright in the event of the abrupt stop.

So if your child is graduating from a balance bike, the coaster brake may slow their progression, but considering essentially all bikes in the REV price range come with coaster brakes, you’ll need to consider increasing your budget to get a bike without one.

For those kids who have already learned how to pedal and are moving up to a 20″ bike, the coaster brake on the REV 20 shouldn’t be a problem, since most kids on 20″ bikes already know how to pedal.

The 20″ REV also comes with a reliable rear Tektro handbrake. We love to see high-quality components that are easy to use! Most low-budget bikes have low-quality and hard-to-adjust braking systems that are often more trouble than they are worth.

Tektro handbrake on 20 inch REI Kids bike single speed.

The 24″ version of the REV, called the REV CTY, has dual Tektro handbrakes and no coaster brake.  It is also geared to allow for a wider range of uses.

REI Co-Op REV Models

Features12"16"20"24" (REV CTY)
Age Range3 to 44 to 66 to 89 to 12
Seat Height22" – 25"22.5" - 28"
Weight16.2 lb.16.9 lb.21 lb.25.5 lb.
BrakesCoaster brake onlyCoaster brake onlyRear handbrake, coasterDual Handbrakes

BOTTOM LINE:  The REV single-speed series is a great bike for neighborhood riders looking for a lightweight, quality bike without breaking the bank. Significantly lighter than other bikes in its price range, it’s particularly a great choice for younger kids who plan on using training wheels, as well as older kids needing a lightweight bike.  Due to its narrower street tires with minimal tread, the REV is not suitable for non-paved trails.

REI Co-Op REV: Plus Review

8 year old riding REI Cycles Co-Op REV plus 20 inch geared bike on mountain trail

BEST FOR:  Adventurous neighborhood riders who want a cool looking bike that’s also capable of hitting basic trails.

SIZES: 20″ ($339) and 24″ ($379).  Also available in 26″ size, but is labeled as the REI Co-op DRT.

BRAKES: Dual handbrakes (mechanical disc)

REI Co-op REV Plus Performance

With plus size tires, mechanical disc brakes, and a design that oozes the cool-factor, REI’s REV Plus line offers great performance for a reasonable price point.  Whether your child simply wants the coolest bike to ride around the neighborhood, or if you’re looking for a budget-friendly entry level mountain bike for beginning trails, the REV Plus has you covered.

To put the REV Plus to the test, we took it on a paved trail around a neighborhood lake as well as on a basic single-track mountain bike trail.  Our 8-year-old tester raved about the Plus during both rides.  With an entry-level shifter and derailleur on the Plus, the shifting was choppy and a big challenging, but not enough to hinder his fun and  excitement of the ride.

The 24.9 lb. weight of the Plus was pretty noticeable, especially compared to the 17.2 lb., but doubly-priced woom OFF he usually rides. But as long as you don’t plan on taking steep inclines or long epic rides, all in all, the Plus is a great option for a budget-friendly entry level mountain bike.

8 year old riding REI Cycles Co-Op REV Plus 20 inch geared bike on scenic mountain trail

Components

For those who do plan on taking the Plus on trails, one thing to be mindful of is its low-hanging rear derailleur. Built with the lower end Shimano Tourney, the derailleur hangs quite low as compared to the woom OFF’s SRAM X5 derailleur. But once again, the Plus is half the price.  During our rides, the derailleur was smacked around a copy times by some rocks, but survived!

Neighborhood riders, however, shouldn’t have any issue with the Plus’s low derailleur.

Low hanging derailleur of REI Kids bike vs high-end woom OFF

The Shimano RevoShift grip shifters, which are found on essentially every bike in the Plus’s price range, are not our favorite, but are suitable for most riders.  Due to the large diameter of the inside portion of the grip shifter, a smaller kid’s hand is forced to hold onto the outside edge of the grip and reach inward to pull the brake lever.

Trigger shifters, shown on the bike on the right below, allow kids to grip the entire grip, but for most kids who want to shift, versus need to shift (like on an aggressive trail) the standard RevoShift will work just fine.

Grip shifter on 8 year old riding REI Cycles Co-Op REV Plus 20 inch geared bike can be a little difficult for kids with small hands.

Lastly, for extra stopping power, the Plus comes with mechanical disc brakes.  The brakes are easy to use and adjust and are an unexpected bonus for a mid-range bike.

Geometry

The geometry of the Plus is fantastic for both a neighborhood bike and a beginning trail or mountain bike – not too upright, yet not too aggressive.

While mountain bikes typically position the rider pretty leaned forward on the bike, we’ve found that for kids just starting to hit the trails, sitting a little more upright can help them gain more confidence as they learn to tackle new obstacles.  In fact, the Plus’s geometry is almost identical to the high-end woom OFF.

Side by side comparison of REI Cycles Co-Op REV Plus 20 inch geared bike and high-end woom 4 OFF mountain bike. Almost identical geometry.

BOTTOM LINE: An amazing bike for the price, the REV Plus is a great option for adventurous city slickers as well as basic trail riders.  While its heavy weight and lower-end components keep it from being a true mountain pony, it’s hands-down our favorite mid-range bike for younger riders looking for a cool “mountain bike” that can actually ride in the mountains!

 

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