REI Co-op Kids Bikes Review – New 2022 Models

From 12 inch to 24 inch kids bikes, REI’s Co-Op house brand offers budget-friendly, quality bikes for both little and big kid riders. The standard REI Co-Op Cycles REV line is meant to rock the neighborhood, while the REV Plus line (only available in 20″ and 24″ wheel sizes) are recreational mountain bikes with wide, knobby tires for beginning trail use (or just a cool bike for neighborhood riding!)

This review will cover 12″, 16″, 20″, and 24″ kids bikes from the REV neighborhood line from REI’s newly resigned 2022 line. The re-design resulted in some solid improvements for the 16″ and 20″ bikes, but the 12″ and 24″ bikes need additional improvements before we can wholeheartedly recommend them. Read our full review below to understand what we loved, and didn’t, about these bikes.

If you’re interested in a recreational mountain bike for your kids, be sure to check out our REI REV Plus Kids Moutain Bike Review.

Collage of the four REI REV kids bikes. Sizes 12", 16", 20", and 24".

REI Co-op Kids Bikes Overview

The Co-op REV 12″, 16″, and 20″ are all single-speed models with a coaster brake, smooth street tires, and tool-free training wheels. The 20″ model also comes with a rear hand brake in addition to the coaster brake.

The Co-Op Cycles REV CTY 24″ bike is similar to the smaller bikes but is geared. It also has dual handbrakes (no coaster brake) and does not come with training wheels.

We recommend the 16″ and 20″ bikes. We do not recommend the 12″ and have reservations recommending the 24″ bike.

12" 16" 20" 24"
Reco Status 🟡
MSRP $199 $229 $279 $399
Age Reco 3 to 4 4 to 6 5 to 8 7 to 11
Seat Height 17.5" - 20.5" 20.1" - 24" 21.9" - 27" 25.5" - 31.5"
Weight 15.75 lb. 18.3 lb. 22 lb. 25.2 lb.
Brakes Coaster only Coaster only Coaster, Rear Hand Dual hand
Gears No No No Yes

JUMP TO REVIEWS BY SIZE

Benefits of Purchasing an REI Co-op Kids Bike

For the 16″ and 20″ Co-Op bikes that we happily recommend, in addition to offering great quality, there are several other bonus perks to purchasing a bike through REI.

  • Free assembly when you pick up at your local REI store. You can order any REI bike online and have it shipped to and assembled at your local REI
  • Free bike adjustments for a year after purchase. Adjustments, not repairs (new parts not included)
  • 20% off a bike shop services and free flat repair with a $30-lifetime REI Membership

REI Co-op Cycles REV 12 Inch Bike

rei kids bikes 12 inch bike ridden by a young rider

MSRP: $199
SEAT HEIGHT: 17.5″ – 20.5″
WEIGHT: 15.75 lb.
BRAKES: Coaster brake only
TRAINING WHEELS: Included and tool-free
RECOMMENDED: No, super short crank arms make it very hard to stop

While the overall quality of the Co-op REV 12″ bike is actually quite good for the price, we cannot recommend it as a result of its coaster brake being hard to engage. We had two testers, ages 3 and 4, test out the bike and both of them struggled to effectively and safely engage the coaster (backpedal) brake.

The coaster brake mechanism on the REV 12 is the same as found on many other bikes. To engage the brake, a child should simply pedal backwards, which stops the bike.

However, the REV 12 has super short crank arms and very small pedals. This combo provides too small of a base for kids to effectively backpedal to stop. On our test rides, pedaling backward while applying enough force to the pedal was too challenging for our testers. With no safe braking system to stop the bike, we cannot recommend it.

As a point of reference, we found the crank arm length (the length of the bar that connects the pedal to the bike) on the REV 12 to be 5mm to 20mm shorter than similarly sized 12 and 14″ bikes. The longer the crank arms, the more leverage kids have on the pedals and the easier the coaster brake is to activate. The crank arms on the REV 12 are the shortest we’ve seen on a bike.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly 12 or 14 inch bike, the only one we recommend is the Btwin 100 14.

REI Co-op REV 16 Inch Bike

4 year old riding REI REV 16 kids bike down a country road

MSRP: $229
SEAT HEIGHT: 20.1″ – 24″
WEIGHT: 18.3 lb.
BRAKES: Coaster brake only
TRAINING WHEELS: Included and tool-free
RECOMMENDED: Yes, solid quality and design for the price

There are many affordable 16″ bikes, but very few of them are actually easy to ride, and durable enough to pass on to your next kid. REI has done a solid job in making a 16 inch bike that several of your kids can enjoy cruising around the neighborhood.

What We Love About the REI REV 16

  • Great quality, durability, and low weight for the price
  • Updated design of 2022 model is a more comfortable fit and riding experience for more kids
  • Training wheels attach and detach without the need for tools

What You Should Know Before You Buy

  • Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) make it harder to learn to ride a bike, but at this price point, it’s hard to find a bike without them
  • The grips are pretty small. If this bothers your child, you can easily swap them out.

Geometry Improved Over Previous Model

The 2022 update of the REI Co-op 16 inch bike is an improvement on the previous model. REI kids bikes have struggled with strange geometry issues in the past, so we were happy to see some small changes that make this little bike a better fit for more riders.

With higher handlebars and a lower minimum seat height, the 2022 REI REV 16 is a more natural fit for a wider size range of kids. Its lower bottom bracket and shorter crank arms help keep kids’ knees from coming up as high on the high pedal stroke, making pedaling more comfortable and efficient.

Sizing

The REI REV 16 has a seat height range of 20.1″ – 24″. Below you can see how two different-sized 4-year-olds fit on the bike.

On the left, our rider is 42.75″ tall and has the seat set to 21.1″. On the right, our rider is 44.75″ tall and has the seat set to 22.75″. Both have the saddle set so they can touch the ground with their tip-toes, and experienced a smooth and fun ride.

Side by side comparison of two kids on the REI Co-op REV 16

While our larger rider on the right can still comfortably ride the REV 16, the handlebars are much lower in relation to her waist, and closer to her knees.

This perches her more on top of the bike and her hands and arms are also forced a bit straight down, rather than naturally in front of her. That said, while not the most perfectly comfortable fit, it is certainly fine for a child this size to continue riding this bike for several more months. If you’re buying a bike for a child this size, the REV 20 is a more appropriate fit.

The window of “great fit” is more narrow that we would like on this bike, but we’ve found that issue to be pretty consistent for budget-friendly kids bikes. Overall, the REV 16 is a better fit and design than the vast majority of budget-friendly 16″ bikes out there.

Light weight helpful to young riders

4 year old girl riding REI REV 16 down the sidewalk

The Co-op Cycles REV 16 kids bike is built with a solid-quality aluminum frame, similar in construction to higher-end bikes.  Its aluminum frame allows the REV to weigh much less than most 16″ bikes with heavy steel frames.

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.

REV 16″Schwinn Elm 16″Commencal 16″
18.3 lb.20.5 lb.18.5 lb.
$229$169$380

Training Wheels – No Tools Required!

While we encourage parents to skip training wheels, if you are using them, REI makes it super easy. The arm of the training wheel attaches to the bike’s frame with a large, screw-in, knob. Simply line up the holes, insert the knob, and turn to the right to tighten.

training wheels attached to Co-op REV 16 kids bike

Coaster Brakes Aren’t Ideal, But Expected at this Price

Like most other similarly priced 16″ bikes, the REI REV 16 comes 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. (Unless you can catch a Joey 3.5 in stock!)

Grips are Oddly Sized

The grips on the REV 16 are oddly small, and are actually the same sized grips they put on the 12″ bike. As you can see below, our 4-year-old tester’s hand barely fits on the grip of the 16″ REV (on the left). Compare this to how much more room her hand has on a more standard-sized grip (on the right).

Colage showing how small the grip is on the 16" REI co-op bike

Not a deal breaker, but if this bothers your child. you could easily swap them out for larger grips.

REI Co-op REV 20 Inch Bike

Child racing her REI REV 20 kids bike

MSRP: $279
SEAT HEIGHT: 21.5″ – 27″
WEIGHT: 22 lb.
BRAKES: Coaster brake, rear Tektro hand brake
TRAINING WHEELS: Included and tool-free
RECOMMENDED: Yes, solid quality and design for the price

The REI Co-op REV 20 is one of our favorite, budget-friendly 20″ bikes. Durably built with a lightweight aluminum frame, its overall design is kid-friendly and easy to ride.

What We Love About the REI REV 20

  • Great quality, durability, and low weight for the price
  • Upright handlebars (vs low bar) allows for a better fit over a longer period of time for more riders
  • High-quality Tektro hand-brake for the rear wheel
  • Training wheels attach and detach without the need for tools
  • Comes with a kickstand

What You Should Know Before You Buy

  • Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) can make it harder to learn to ride a bike, but they are standard on bikes in this price range
  • Some 20″ bikes come with gears. This bike is a single speed, which is ideal for beginning and casual riders this age. If you’d prefer a bike with gears, the REV 6-Speed Plus is REI’s 20″ geared bike.

Geometry Improved Over Previous Model

Child riding REI REV 20 kids bike in a skate bowl

The 2022 design of the REV 20 is very similar to its predecessor with one key difference that has a big impact. Instead of the low, flat handlebar that made the bike awkward and overly aggressive, the 2022 model has a riser handlebar.

The riser handlebar allows kids to sit in a comfortable, upright position. The bar can also be rotated towards or away to adjust the fit as kids grow.

For our 46″ tall (with shoes on) rider, we rotated the handlebars towards her so she wouldn’t have to reach so far. For our 50.5″ tall rider, we rotated them up and out to better accommodate her longer arms and torso.

Handlebars Rotated for Short and Tall Riders

Handlebar on REI REV 20 rotated toward and away from the rider to affect reach

Sizing

The Co-op REV 20 has a seat height range of 21.5″ – 27″. Our primary tester is 46″ tall and has a 20.25″ inseam (with shoes on) and has the seat seat to 23.3″. As an experienced rider, we have the saddle set so that when she’s sitting, she can touch the ground with her tip toes.

If your child is timid or a beginner, it is safer and will build confidence if the saddle is set lower, so that the child can reach the ground with their feet flat. When the seat is set to its lowest point (21.5″), our same tester can touch the ground with flat feet.

Tip Toes for Experienced Rider vs. Flat Feet for Beginner

Side by side comparison of 46 inch tall rider with saddle set high and low on the REI REV 20 kids bike

The REV 20 was also a great fit for our 7-year-old tester who is 50.25″ with shoes on and prefers the seat set to 25.5″. Below you can see how both our 4 and 7-year-old testers fit on the bike.

46″ Tall and 50.25″ Tall Riders

Side by side comparison of 46 inch tall and 50.5 inch tall rider riding the Co Op Cycles REV 20 bike

This bike has a much wider “good fit” range than the REV 16, which makes being able to rotate the handlebars a more important feature on this bike.

Lightweight

The REI REV 20 is lightweight for a budget-friendly bike. At 22 pounds, it is significantly lighter than competitors like the Btwin Rockrider (24.3 lbs) and the Schwinn Koen (27.8 lbs.). It’s also several pounds lighter than the REV 20 6-Speed Plus, which weighs 24.5 pounds.

A few pounds can make a big difference for a kid’s desire and ability to pedal and manuever a bike, and especially to ride up hills or for an extended period of time. Our 4-year-old tester flew up and down the ramps at our local skatepark just like she does on her much more expensive bikes.

Child riding down skatepark ramp on the REI Co Op Cycles REV 20 inch bike in purple

Coaster Brake, Rear Hand Brake

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. (Click here for an explanation of why coaster brakes are problematic for beginning riders.)

In addition to the rear coaster brake, the Co-op REV 20 also has a rear Tektro v-brake, activated by the right hand. The lever is easy to pull and offers plenty of stopping power for a neighborhood rider. 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.

Rear Tektro handbrake lever on the REI REV 20 kids bike

Comes with Training Wheels, But Skip Those Please!

Previous versions of the REV 20 did not come with training wheels, but the 2022 version does. The training wheels are incredibly each to attach or take off, and don’t require the use of tools to do so – just turning a knob!

While we appreciate that the included training wheels are high-quality, we encourage you to skip them entirely! Training wheels actually make it harder to learn to ride a bike, and a much better method exists. Simply take the pedals off and use the bike as a balance bike! We have an article all about how to do this here.

REI Co-op REV CTY 24″ Bike

The REI REV 24 CTY is a nimble, lightweight bike that offers a smooth and comfortable ride. However. two major flaws prevent us from recommending it fully – its drivetrain (gearing system) and its long crank arms (explained in detail below). While these certainly don’t prevent all riders from happily riding the bike, compared to other bikes in its price range, they do prevent us from recommending the REV CTY over other 24″ bikes.

REI kids city 24 inch hybrid bikes

MSRP: $399
SEAT HEIGHT: 25.5″ – 31.5″
WEIGHT: 25.2 lb.
BRAKES: Dual rim brakes
DRIVETRAIN: 21 gears with dual Shimano grip shifters and Tourney derailleurs

If you are looking for a mid-priced, lightweight, geared, street bike, the REV CTY 24″ certainly fits that description. Weighing just 25.2 lb., the REV CTY only weighs as much, if not less than, several higher-priced bikes. The REV CTY is also unique in that it has 21 gears whereas most kids bikes have 6 or 7.

Based on numbers alone, the REV CTY looks great on paper, but when put to real-life tests, it didn’t perform as well as we would have liked for its price range.

Geometry and Fit

The REV CTY 24 has a seat height range of 25.5″ to 31.5″, which is considerably lower than the average 24″ bike found at big box stores or even many bike shops. While the seat height range is comparable to other expensive bikes, the geometry of the bike makes it difficult to ride when the seat is in its lowest position.

When the REV CTY’s seat is set to its lowest position, the bike is hard to pedal as a result of the high position of the pedal on the upswing. As shown below, our 7-year-old 49″ tester can stand over the bike with her toes touching the ground, but pedaling the bike requires a tight knee bend that made riding the REV very uncomfortable. Although she is a confident rider, she was very vocal about her discomfort and difficulty in riding the REV.

young rider trying to get started on the REI REV CTY 24 inch bike

Once she got up to a descent speed, pedaling the bike became easier, but the long reach to the handlebars made it challenging for her to maneuver. All in all, it was very clear that she was not a fan of the bike at her size.

rei kids 24 CTY bike

Our taller 10-year-old tester (54.5″ tall, inseam of 27″), had no issues with the bike being cramped. He quite enjoyed the smooth rolling hybrid tires of the REV CTY, but considering he was riding with the seat height set at its max of 31.5″, the bike offered no room for growth.

Riding the REI REV CTY in the park

As a result, we believe the best fit range for the REI REV CTY 24 is for kids who are able to ride it within the seat height range of 27.5″ to 31.5″. While every child’s preferred seat height setting varies, that roughly equates to kids with inseams ranging from 24″ to 26″.

Drivetrain

Our second main concern with the REV CTY was its 21-gear drivetrain. While the 21 speeds on the REV provide a slightly wider range of gears than similarly priced 7 or 8-speed bikes, it has a major drawback as it requires 2 shifters – one for the rear and one for the front. All of our testers, including our experienced 10-year-old tester, found it very difficult to twist the grip shift for the front derailleur (left hand).

Grip shifter on REI REV CTY

We found nothing mechanically wrong with the shifter, it was just hard to use due to the large jump between cogs on the front chainrings. This is quite common on all bikes with front derailleurs. Fortunately, this was not the case with the rear (right hand) shifter on the REV CTY as our testers were able to use it without any concerns.

As a result, although the REV CTY 24 has 21 gears, based on our tests, only 7 gears are really available for use while riding. When stopped, parents can help kids shift the front derailleur, but don’t plan on having your child use the left shifter while riding.

In addition to being hard to engage, learning how and when to properly use and shift two different derailleurs can be quite challenging for kids (as well as adults)! Over the years we’ve found that it’s much easier for kids to use bikes with 1x systems (with just one derailleur, in the back). While this does reduce the number of gears available, we’ve found that the vast majority of our kid testers have not felt limited by 7 or 8 gears.

REV 24″ vs. REV CTY 24″

If you are looking to purchase a 24″ bike at REI, we highly recommend getting the REI REV 24″ over the REI REV CTY 24. The REV (not CTY) is a recreational mountain bike with beefier tires and mechanical disc brakes. All of our testers much preferred it over the REV CTY, even on paved city streets!

Unlike the REV CTY, the REV has an easier 1x system with one derailleur in the rear. The geometry (frame design) of the bikes are also very different. The REV has a slightly taller handlebar and longer wheelbase which allows for a larger “cockpit” (space between the saddle and the handlebars) for the rider.

In the image below, look at the distance between the rider’s knees and the handlebars. The rider has much more “cockpit” space on the REV on the left as compared to the REV CTY on the right.

REI REV 24″ vs. REV CTY

The REV, however, is significantly heavier at 28 lb. (versus the REV CTY’s 25 lb.), so if your child is on the lighter or timid side, be sure to take that into consideration. Our experienced 68 lb. 10-year-old tester, however, had no problems maneuvering the heavier REV.

The seat heights of the two models are almost identical, so they will fit the same size rider. Like the REV CTY, however, the REV isn’t a great fit for riders who need the bike seat set at or close to the minimum seat height of 25.25″. So like the REV CTY, riders with inseams ranging from 24″ to 26″ would be the best fit for the REV.

REI Co-Op Cycles REV Bottom Line

REI’s REV house line of kids’ bikes offer great quality and confidence (especially if you have an REI nearby!), but some models provide a much better value and performance than others.

After extensive testing, we found the REV 16″ and 20″ models to be great options for parents looking for a quality bike without breaking the bank. The 24″ REV CTY was a fun bike to ride for taller kids, but we struggle to recommend it due to a difficult shifter. Lastly, the REV 12 we don’t recommend at all due to its short crank arms that make it a challenge for kids to quickly stop the bike.

FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this review.  No monetary compensation was provided for this review and Two Wheeling Tots purchased the REI REV bikes to facilitate this review. All opinions and images are that of Two Wheeling Tots LLC.  All content and images are copyrighted and should not be used or replicated in any way. View our Terms of Use.

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