From 12 inch to 24 inch kids bikes, REI’s house brand offers budget-friendly, quality bikes for both little and big kid riders. REI Co-Op Kids Bikes come in six different models. They range in size, but also in intended use. The standard REV line is meant to rock the neighborhood, while the REV Plus line boasts plus-sized tires for neighborhood or mild trail use.
We bought and tested four different bikes in the REI Co-op Cycles REV and REV Plus lines and were impressed by what they have to offer for the price. However, the frame design and resulting bike geometry of these two lines are quite different. As a result, the REV Plus line earns a Highly Recommended rating, while the REV line is only Recommended.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the REV and REV Plus lines, followed by our detailed reviews of both. Due to those issues with the geometry of the REV line, we greatly prefer the REV Plus line. If you’re interested in the REV Plus models, click to jump down to read our REI Co-Op Cycles REV Plus review.
REI Co-Op Kids Bikes Overview
|OUR RATING||Recommended||Highly Recommended|
|BEST USE||Around town on paved surfaces||Town or basic trail use|
|SIZES||12", 16", 20", 24"||20", 24"|
|MSRP||$159, $189, $209, $349||$339, $379|
|TIRE TYPE||Street||Plus size knobby|
|TRAINING WHEELS||12" and 16" only||N/A|
|BRAKES||12", 16" - Coaster |
20" - Coaster, rear handbrake
24" - Dual handbrake
|Dual handbrake (Mechanical Disc)|
|GEARING||12", 16", 20" - Single-speed|
24" - 7-speed (REV CTY)
|20" - 6-speed |
24" - 7-speed
Co-Op Cycles REV (Plus) Video Review
Visual learner? Check out our video review of the REV and REV Plus lines to see these bikes in action!
REI Co-op Cycles REV Review
REI’s single speed REV line is available in 12″, 16″ and 20″ wheel sizes. The 24″ size is known as the REV CTY and unlike the REV line, it’s geared rather than single-speed. This review covers the single speed 12″, 16″, and 20″ only.
REI Co-Op REV Sizes
|Wheel Size||12"||16"||20"||24" (REV CTY)|
|Age Range||3 to 4||4 to 6||6 to 8||9 to 12|
|Seat Height||18" - 21.25"||20.75" – 24.5"||22.5" - 28"|
|Weight||15.8 lb.||18 lb.||21 lb.||25.5 lb.|
|Brakes||Coaster brake only||Coaster brake only||Rear handbrake, coaster||Dual Handbrakes|
REV Geometry Needs Improvement
While we have great respect for the REI brand, the geometry of the REV line is awkward. There’s really no way to sugar-coat it. We wanted to love these bikes because they offer great quality for a great price. But unfortunately, they also offer a strange ride for many young riders.
From frame design to stem length and handlebar height, the awkward geometry is pretty consistent across all sizes on the REV line. We had a lot of riders test these bikes because the geometry was so puzzling. To make themselves comfortable on the bike, each rider reacted and compensated differently. Some of our riders leaned in pretty hard while others tried to sit up! In the end, when given the choice, none of our riders preferred the REV.
That being said, we did have a few testers who made the most of the REV and made it work pretty well for them. Both of our testers shown below are more naturally aggressive on the bike and just love to ride in general.
Considering the value the REV line offers, if you happen to have a young grom ready for action and don’t want to blow your budget on a bike, the REV line is the best mid-range quality bike on the market and is certainly worth considering for confident riders.
If you’re in the market for a 20″ or 24″, the REV Plus does not share the same geometry issues as the REV line and is a great bike that our testers loved. Unfortunately, it’s almost 4 pounds heavier than the standard REV, so be sure to take that into account.
Body Position on REV 20 vs. REV 20 Plus
Small Cockpit of the 12″ REV
One additional concern we had with just the 12 inch size was its small cockpit. With a much shorter wheelbase compared to 14 inch bikes with similar seat height ranges (such as the Pello Romper shown below), our young riders were very cramped on the 12″ REV. As kids grow, this can make it challenging to turn as their knees can hit the handlebars.
Unfortunately, this is an issue on most 12″ bikes and for this reason, we typically recommend avoiding them. Balance bikes or 14″ inch pedal bikes a better fit and a better riding experience for kids 3 and under. For a more detailed discussion of the limitations of 12 inch bikes, check out our bike geometry section on our Best 12 and 14 inch bike page.
Solid-Quality, Lightweight Build for the Price
The Co-op Cycles REV bikes are built with a solid-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.|
Coaster Brakes Aren’t Ideal
Like all other bikes similarly priced to the Co-Op Cycles 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 fine 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.
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.
Grips and Pedals (12″ and 16″) are Oddly Sized
While there is no perfect bike, we were a little surprised with the grips REI chose to put on their 12″ and 16″ Co-Op Cycles bikes. The grips are oddly tiny.
As you can see below, our three-year-old tester’s hand barely fits on the grip of the 12″ REV (on the left). Compare this to how much more room her hand has on a more standard-sized grip (on the right).
To make matters even more interesting, the grip on the REV 16″ is the exact same grip that’s on the 12″! If our 3-year-old’s hand barely fits on the 12″, it certainly doesn’t make sense to have that same small grip on the larger 16″ bike.
The 12 inch REV also has extremely small pedals. The pedals were so small that our test riders’ feet would fly off of them pretty consistently. We highly recommend buying a larger set of pedals for the Co-op Cycles REV 12. Below, you can see the smaller pedal of the REV 12 versus a more standard-sized pedal on the Raleigh Jazzi 12 inch bike.
REI Co-Op Cycles REV Bottom Line
The REI Co-Op Cycles REV single-speed series offers solid-quality but flawed bikes for neighborhood riders. We love that these bikes are lightweight without breaking the bank, but due to issues with the bikes’ geometry, we only recommend the REV line for confident kids.
REI Co-Op Cycles REV Plus Review
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. The REV Plus is offered as a 20″ and 24″ bike.
What We Love About the REI REV Plus Line
- Great quality and aesthetics for the price – clean welds, quality Shimano and Tektro components
- Semi upright body positioning very comfortable for most riders
- Plus-size tires that provide the coolness factor that kids love as well as extra grip while on trails
What You Should Know Before You Buy
- These bikes are heavy for a mountain bike, so they are best for the everyday neighborhood rider who only plans on hitting basic trails on occasion
- Both bikes have mechanical disc brakes that work great for the average rider but are lacking in power for a true plus-size mountain bike (hydraulic disc brakes are ideal for that)
- The Plus is offered in 20″ and 24″ wheel sizes on REI’s kids line, but is also offered as a 26″ in the adult Co-Op Cycles line
REI Co-Op REV Plus Sizes
|Age Range||6 to 8||8 to 10|
|Seat Height||22.5" - 28"|
|Weight||24.9 lb.||28.2 lb.|
|Brakes||Mechanical disc brakes||Mechanical disc brakes|
REI Co-op Cycles REV Plus Performance
To put the Co-Op Cycles REV Plus to the test, we took the 20-inch model 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 bit challenging compared to his other bikes, but not enough to hinder his fun and excitement of the ride.
The 24.9 lb. weight of the 20″ 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.
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 couple of times by some rocks, but it survived!
Neighborhood riders, however, shouldn’t have any issue with the Plus’s low derailleur.
The Shimano RevoShift grip shifters on the Plus (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.
As a comparison, higher-end grip shifters, as well as trigger shifters (shown on the bike on the right below), allow kids to grip the entire grip while shifting. But for most kids who want to shift, versus need to shift (like on an aggressive trail), the standard RevoShift will work just fine.
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.
The mechanical disc brakes, however, are NOT suitable for intermediate and advanced mountain biking, especially at higher speeds. The additional stopping power of hydraulic brakes are essential to stop plus size tires at aggressive speeds. Considering it’s weight, the REV Plus is not designed for really aggressive mountain bikers and we don’t recommend it using it as such.
The geometry of the Plus is fantastic for both a neighborhood bike and a beginning trail bike – not too upright, yet not too aggressive.
While mountain bikes often 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.
REI Co-Op Cycles REV Plus Bottom Line
An amazing bike for the price, the REI Co-Op Cycles 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”.
For more 20 inch bike options, read our 12 Best 20 Inch Kids Bike list!