If you trust Amazon to recommend the best kids bike to you, then you’d buy a Royal Baby Bike. With over 14,000 reviews, 4.5 stars, and the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” banner, the Royal Baby Freestyle must be as good as it gets, right?
If you haven’t already figured this out, let us break it to you. Amazon’s Choice isn’t always the best choice. And 4.5 stars doesn’t always mean the product lives up to such a superior rating. So how many stars does the Royal Baby Freestyle Bike actually deserve? Three… if we’re being generous. It’s a pretty solid bike for the price, but has a lot of drawbacks.
If you’re looking for a kids bike that’s more of a toy than a bike, the Royal Baby won’t disappoint. But if you’re looking for a bike that’s easy to ride and will help your child develop of love for bike riding, we’ll recommend several different options (like the Retrospec Koda 2 kids bikes) in our review below. This review covers the Royalbaby Freestyle 14″ and 16″ bikes.
Royal Baby Bike Overview
14″ and 16″ Royalbaby Freestyle Models
RATING: Recommended with reservations
MSRP: $159 (14 inch), $169 (16 inch)
BEST FOR: Families on a budget who need a bike with training wheels
SEAT HEIGHT: 14 Inch: 19.25″ – 22″; 16 inch: 19.8″ – 23.8″
WEIGHT: 14 inch: 21.7 lbs., 16 inch: 23.3 lbs. – with training wheels
Freestyle 3 models: Rear coaster, front single-pivot
Freestyle 5 models: Dual handbrakes, no coaster brake
Note: While we don’t love either of these models, the Freestyle 5 braking system is much better than the Freestyle 3.
- Solid, durable frame
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Available in many sizes – 12″, 14″, 16″, 18″, 20″
- Better build and quality than cheap big-box store bikes
- Easy to assemble
- Comes with training wheels if you need them
- Freestyle 5 models don’t have a coaster brake!
- Not a good fit for anyone – too tall or too cramped
- Very heavy
- Difficult to get started pedaling
- Coaster brake and low-quality front wheel hand brake (Freestyle 3 models)
- Front brake may not come adjusted correctly
- Small, awkwardly thick saddle
- Training wheels make learning to ride much more difficult than using a balance bike
Royal Baby Bike Video Review
If you’re a visual learner, watch this video here to see how the problems with the RoyalBaby Freestyle bike play out in real time!
Royalbaby Problem in a Nutshell
There are a lot of truly terrible kids bikes out there. Just go to any big box store and head to the bike section. RoyalBaby is not one of those truly terrible bikes. It’s actually a lot better than a typical Walmart bike, but it’s still not great. Definitely not 4.5 stars great.
In this review, we’ll go into detail about how the design of these bikes is flawed, and why they are so difficult to ride compared to a well-designed kids’ bike. But to give you a sneak peek, here’s a helpful visual. The blue bike below is a well-designed 14″ kids bike. That’s how a 14″ bike should look. Then there’s the green 14″ Royalbaby.
For now, simply focus on how short the 14″ Royalbaby is compared to the longer blue 14″ bike. This greatly limits the space for a child to maneuver and also greatly limits the time that a child can ride the bike before they grow out of it.
This is the main problem with Royalbaby bikes, but there are other issues as well. Put all these issues together and the result is a bike that makes learning to ride quite difficult.
We understand that many parents are attracted to the price point and Amazon stars of Royalbaby. So in this review, we hope to convince you to spend a little more on a better bike, and also offer better budget-friendly suggestions, like Retrospec’s Koda 2 bikes.
Royal Baby Freestyle 3 vs. Freestyle 5
Before we dive into the meat of this review, we want to clarify why Amazon has two listings for the Royalbaby Freestyle bikes. The bikes and the listings look almost identical, so it may confuse you. There is the Royalbaby Freestyle 3 and the Royalbaby Freestyle 5. Both bikes come in 12″, 14″, 16″, 18″, and 20″ models. The only difference between the Freestyle 3 and 5 are the brakes.
Freestyle 3 is the older listing that has over 14,000 reviews. This bike has a rear coaster brake and a front hand brake.
Freestyle 5 is much newer. These bikes don’t have a coaster brake, and have dual handbrakes.
We discuss the braking systems in greater detail below but overall, we always prefer bikes without a coaster brake. As a result, there would really not be a reason to buy the Freestyle 3 anymore. Especially since the Freestyle 3 and 5 are usually the same price.
Sizing of Royal Baby Bikes
While Royalbaby Freestyle bikes come in five different sizes, we tested the 14 inch and 16 inch models. These bikes look nearly identical, but they have unique issues depending on the size.
The 14″ bike is marketed to 3 – 4-year-olds, while the 16″ bike is marketed to 4 – 5-year-olds We’ll first discuss the sizing issues of the 14″ Royal Baby Freestyle. Click here to jump down to a discussion on the 16″ Royal Baby Freestyle sizing.
The RoyalBaby 14″ Sizing Problem
Let me sum up the problem with the RoyalBaby Freestyle 14″ bike. It doesn’t fit any kid really well, and for that reason, we generally don’t recommend them. There are other bikes that will fit your child, so why buy a bike that probably won’t?
On Amazon, Royalbaby provides a simple sizing chart. But the stated seat height ranges and the stated recommended child height ranges just don’t make sense. And having tested this Royalbaby 14 inch bike with four different riders within the stated height range, we can verify that in real life these sizes don’t make sense either. Read on to find out the cause behind this problem!
RoyalBaby Sizing Overview
Wheel size is a very general (and often inaccurate) way of indicating a bike’s size. What we really need to look at are two things:
- Seat Height
- Frame Size
Sizing – Seat Height for 14″ Freestyle
The 14″ Freestyle we tested has a seat height range of 19.25″ – 22″. With less than 3″ of range, the bike doesn’t offer much room for growth. This is especially problematic at an age where kids are growing like weeds! To be fair, most 14″ bikes don’t offer much room for growth, which is a downside for 14″ bikes in general.
Seat height should be set for flat feet or solid tip toes
For a rider using training wheels, the saddle needs to be low enough so that they can touch the ground either flat-footed or with solid tiptoes. For balance bike graduates that are not using training wheels, flat feet is ideal when first learning, and as they master pedaling, the seat height can be raised so they can touch with tiptoes.
Being able to touch the ground allows the rider to learn to start the bike on their own. Even more importantly, it allows a child to use their feet to help them stop and to keep themselves upright if they start to fall. (And YES, it’s very possible to fall even using training wheels.)
Royal Baby’s lowest seat height is too high for many riders
Royalbaby’s sizing chart states that their Freestyle 14 inch bike is a good fit for kids 37.4″ – 47.2″ tall. It is quite common for a manufacturer to state a very wide, unrealistic height range. That’s where we come in to help you hone in on a bike that will be a great fit for your child.
Look at our test riders below where the saddle is set to its lowest position. On the left, our 37.5″ tall 3-year-old can’t even touch the ground when she’s sitting on the saddle in its lowest position. On the right, our 39.5″ 3-year-old tester can barely touch with one tiptoe if she leans the bike to the side. This bike’s seat is too high for both of them, even though they are within the stated height range.
For further reference, check out our taller 4 and 5-year-old testers below. On the left, our 41.2″ 4-year-old tester has the Royalbaby’s seat set to its lowest point. She can comfortably touch the ground with her toes, which is safe for a rider with training wheels, and would also be okay for a balance bike graduate without training wheels.
At the saddle’s maximum height, we have our 45″ tall, 5-year-old tester, well within the stated height range. She’s on solid tiptoes, but she’s clearly too big for this small bike!
Sizing – Frame Size: Royal Baby’s disparity between frame size and seat height
Here’s the heart of the dilemma with the Royal baby Freestyle 14-inch bike (and some other bikes like it). The bike’s frame size and the room in the cockpit (distance between the saddle and the handlebars), are actually quite appropriate for its low-end stated height range (our 3-year-old testers).
But the minimum seat height is too tall for those kids to safely ride it. For riders who can safely touch the ground (our 4 and 5-year-old testers), the cockpit is already getting cramped, which limits their ability to comfortably maneuver the bike.
Look at this side-by-side comparison of our 3 and 4-year-old riders on the Royal Baby bike. Pay particular attention to how close their knees come to the front of the bike.
On the left, our 3-year-old has enough room, but remember, she can’t safely touch the ground with toes! On the right, our 4-year-old tester who can touch the ground with her toes has basically no room for growth. Her chest is too close to the handlebars to easily lean in and out of turns, and her knees come almost directly under the handlebars.
Do other bikes provide more room to move and grow?
If you’ve never seen a child effortlessly ride on a bike that was truly designed for their body’s proportions, it’s hard to understand why the Royal Baby comes up short. Dedicated kids’ bike brands have much better bike geometry that works seamlessly with a child’s body.
Look at this comparison here of our 3-year-old (39.5″ tall) on the 14″ Royal Baby Freestyle bike, vs. her everyday-use bike, the 16″ Prevelo Alpha Two.
Although our 3-year-old has decent room on the RoyalBaby, the difference between that and her Prevelo is drastic. The Prevelo has a minimum seat height that allows her to solidly touch the ground with her toes, and also has a much longer frame and ample room in the cockpit.
Once again, look at the additional room between her knees and the handlebars. She rides skillfully and aggressively on her Prevelo. It will also provide her with much more room for growth.
The need for more room is even more exaggerated for our 4-year-old, taller rider below. At 41.2″ tall, from a safe seat height perspective, the Royal Baby bike is designed for someone just her height. But she has minimal room in the cockpit on the Royal Baby, and plenty on the Prevelo. And remember, the recommended child height range is 37.4″ – 47.2″ tall for the Royal Baby 14″, so she’s actually on the lower end of that range!
Is the tall seat height okay if you’re using training wheels?
Even with training wheels, the Royal Baby 14″ is not a good experience for either of our “good fit” 3-year-old riders. While training wheels are designed to keep a child upright, we’ve seen plenty of kids fall over while using them.
Not being able to touch the ground to help stop themselves is not a situation any child wants to be in, especially toddlers and preschoolers. Our little rider ended up riding into a ditch several times because the bike was hard to maneuver with training wheels and she couldn’t figure out how to use the coaster brake. Because her toes couldn’t touch the ground, she was unable to use her feet to help her stop. She also ended up falling over as a result.
Additionally, even without training wheels, this confident, aggressive rider can’t get the bike started on her own. It’s too tall for her to push off the ground and gain momentum. On her Prevelo Alpha Two, she needs absolutely no help and rides like a total pro. Which begs the question – who is this bike designed for??
Royal Baby 16 Inch Sizing
About a year and a half after we tested the 14″ Royalbaby, we purchased the 16-inch model of the Royalbaby Freestyle 5 to use with our same (not so) baby bike tester who is now 4.5 and 44.25″ tall.
We were surprised to discover that the sizing issue that plagues the 14″ model is not as drastic on the 16″ model. However, their stated sizing ranges are still not accurate. According to Royalbaby, the 16″ model is for kids 41.3″ – 53″ tall.
A 41.3″ child would barely be able to touch the ground while seated on the saddle. This is not safe, even with training wheels. On the high end, this bike would be a clown bike for a 53″ child.
For reference, here are our two primary riders. On the left, our rider is 42.5″ tall and has the saddle set almost to its lowest point. On the right our rider is 44.25″ tall. Both are riding with the saddle set so they can touch the ground with their tiptoes.
The cockpit of this larger 16″ size isn’t nearly as cramped as the smaller 14″ bike, but still doesn’t offer much room for maneuvering or growth compared to better-designed kids bikes.
Royalbaby Bike Features – 14″ and 16″
While buying the right size bike is clearly important, there are still many other features that affect how easy and fun a bike is to ride.
Weight – Royal Baby’s Heavy Steel Frame is A Lot to Handle
While the Royalbaby bikes are better than your average budget bike, they still weigh a lot.
With a heavy steel frame and heavy components, the Royal Baby Freestyle 3 14″ weighs in at 21.7 lbs with training wheels. That’s a lot of weight for a toddler to handle.
The Royalbaby Freestyle 5 16″ weighs 23.3 pounds with training wheels. That’s a lot of weight for a 4 or 5-year-old to handle.
Royal Baby 14 Inch
Our tall barely 3-year-old-tester was already 39.5″ tall, well within Royalbaby’s stated height range for the Freestyle 14″. She’s a solid little nugget at 38 lbs. At that weight, the Royalbaby comes in at 57% of her body weight. That’s like a 150 lb. adult riding an 85 lb. bike. Can you even imagine? As a comparison, the $269 lb. Guardian 14″ Bike weighs just 16 lbs, which is 43% of her body weight.
When she first rode the Royalbaby, she had already been riding a pedal bike for about two months. She was confident in her skills, and also an aggressive rider. Although she couldn’t start the bike on her own, she honestly didn’t have much trouble riding the Royalbaby without the training wheels on flat surfaces. But hills quickly become problematic and fatigue is going to set in a lot more quickly.
Royal Baby 16 Inch
A year and a half later, this little rider, now 4.5, is very strong and very confident. She was able to manage the weight of the Royal Baby 16 just fine, but usually needed to stand up to pedal to get the bike started. She also had to gain significantly more speed before attempting to climb her regular ramps at the skate park.
She weighs 49 pounds (much more than most kids her height), making the Royalbaby 16 (without training wheels) 44% of her body weight.
The heavy weight of the Royal Baby 16 will be much more problematic for your average rider. Our other 4.5 year old tester is a confident rider, but not as strong or aggressive. And at just 38 pounds, the Royalbaby 16 is 57% of her body weight!
She had great difficulty getting the bike started, and even crashed at one point because she couldn’t gain any momentum. Watching her ride the Royal Baby, it looked like she was a timid rider with little skill, solely because it was so hard for her to maneuver this bike.
Now can you imagine how frustrated a brand-new rider might be on a Royal Baby bike?
Brakes – Not an Ideal Set Up
Royalbaby Freestyle bikes are now offered in two different models. The Royalbaby Freestyle 3 has a front hand brake and a rear coaster brake. This is the model with over 14,000 Amazon reviews. The newer Royalbaby Freestyle 5 has dual hand brakes and no coaster brake on all wheel sizes.
Royalbaby Freestyle 3 – Front hand brake, rear coaster brake
The brakes on the Royalbaby Freestyle 14″ are not going to help your child’s riding experience. In the rear, you have a coaster brake (or back pedal brake). Based on their Amazon listing, all sizes come with a coaster brake.
Back pedal brakes make learning to ride more difficult because children have a natural tendency to pedal backwards. With a coaster brake, pedaling backwards will only stop the bike. This sudden stop causes a child to lose all of their forward momentum, and potentially even crash. While many more expensive bikes come with an option to remove the coaster brake, the Royalbaby does not.
The Royalbaby also features a front wheel hand brake on the left hand. The brake is single-pivot style which has very limited stopping power. It’s an older style of brake that good quality bikes generally don’t use anymore. Out of the box, our brake cable didn’t have enough tension to provide any stopping power at all. If you want this brake to work, you may need to YouTube how to adjust a brake cable.
The other problem with this hand brake is that it’s on the left hand, which teaches children to rely on the left hand for braking. When a child advances to a bike with dual hand brakes, this is a problem.
As kids get older and ride faster, braking with the left hand (front wheel) only can cause a child to endo (flip themselves over the handlebars). When learning to brake a child should be taught to brake with the right hand first, engaging the rear brake. If a child’s first experience with a brake is on the left hand, they will have to un-learn this bad habit.
Royalbaby Freestyle 5 – Dual hand brakes, NO COASTER BRAKE
The Royalbaby Freestyle 5 doesn’t have a coaster brake – on ANY of the wheel sizes (12″ – 20″). For a bike at this price point, this is unheard of and a huge benefit for kids learning to ride a bike.
That said, the dual handbrakes are very basic and have slower stopping power than most other handbrakes we’ve tested. The front brake is a caliper brake, while the rear brake is a band brake. Band brakes on bikes are quite rare (we don’t know of another kid’s bike with one), and you can read all about their disadvantages here.
While our daring rider didn’t have any issue stopping while she did all of her tricks at the skate park, we would certainly be cautious about where you ride this bike, especially if crossing traffic may be involved.
Wide Street Tires
The tires are a standard street tread, which makes the RoyalBaby bike great for paved surfaces. They are also a little wider than most tires, which does provide a little additional cushioning and stability but adds weight to the bike. The tires are also taller than other brands, which contributes to the sizing issues we’ve discussed.
Saddle and Seat Post
The saddle is small and awkwardly shaped. It’s slightly padded, but covered in a thick vinyl/plastic that is a bit stiff. The saddle itself is also quite tall, which adds to the tall seat height problems we discussed earlier.
We do appreciate that the seat post has a quick release clamp to allow for easy height adjustments.
Easy to Assemble
For coming out of a box, this Royal Baby kids’ bike was actually pretty easy to assemble. It comes almost fully assembled – you’re responsible for attaching the handlebar, pedals, saddle, and training wheels.
As mentioned previously, if you want to use the front handbrake, you may need to adjust the brake cable.
Bottom Line on the Royal Baby 14 Inch Bike
While the Royal Baby 14″ Freestyle bike is much better than many bikes you’ll find at a big box store, we still can’t sufficiently answer the question, “Who is this bike designed for?” With a frame that’s a good size for a 3-year-old, its seat height is too tall for that same child to safely ride. By the time a child is tall enough to safely ride the bike, the frame is getting too small.
So what do we recommend instead? If your child has never had a bike – a balance bike. Your average 3 or 4-year-old is much better off on a balance bike than a bike with training wheels anyways. Check out our list of favorite balance bikes here.
If your child is a balance bike graduate, check out the $149 Btwin 100 14. Better in every way, it’s well worth the additional $15 for a great and affordable riding experience.
Bottom Line on the Royalbaby Freestyle 5 16 Inch
As far as super-budget bikes go, the Royalbaby Freestyle 5 is actually better than most. Without a coaster brake, it removes one of the major barriers to learning to ride a bike. But its heavy weight and difficulty to get started make it difficult to recommend to learning riders.
So what should you get instead? If you’re on a super-budget, check out Retrospec’s line of Koda kids bikes, which are lighter and have better quality brakes. If you can spare an extra $75, the Joey 3.5 is also coaster-brake-free but significantly lighter and easier to ride.