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Specialized Hotrock 16 (Riprock) Review

The Specialized Hotrock 16 (Riprock) is our favorite bike-shop bike, but it’s pretty pricey for what you get. With no hand brake and heavier than other bikes, our review details why it’s great and why it’s not.

boy riding a red specialized riprock 16 inch bike

QUICK LOOK

Specialized RipRock 16

RATING: Recommended

MSRP$250

BEST FOR: Riders who need a quality bike for shorter rides around the neighborhood. Not ideal for long or technical rides.

SEAT HEIGHT: 18.25″ – 22.75″

WEIGHT: 20.25 lb.

BRAKES: Coaster only

PROS:

  • Padded seat
  • Comfortable geometry for beginning riders
  • Great quality and durability

CONS:

  • No handbrake, only coaster brake

Specialized Hotrock 16 (Riprock) Review – Results of our Test Rides

Specialized in one of the most well-known bike companies and is an easy “go-to” for many parents as they trust the brand.  Although the vast majority of our reviews are of bikes only available online, we often visit our local bike shop to see the bikes the larger brands are offering.  Specialized Riprock (formerly Hotrock) line have consistently been some of our favorite bikes as they are well-built and offer a comfortable geometry for beginning riders.

**The Riprocks in the images below are not of the most current Riprock 16 model.  We will be updating this review with images of the newer model shortly.**

 

Build and Brakes

With a threadless headset, an aluminum frame and cushioning air tires, the Riprock is a quality build and is certainly a great pick for kids who plan on using it’s included training wheels.  If you do plan on using training wheels, however, we strongly recommend checking out a balance bike instead.  In fact, Specialized just updated their Hotwalk balance bike and is now comes with some impressive puncture-proof tires (you can check them out on our Specialized Hotwalk review).

The one major update we would like to see on the Riprock is the addition of hand brakes as a replacement for the coaster brake.  Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) tend to work well for kids who are riding with training wheels, but they are typically problematic for balance bike graduates and even training wheels graduates looking to pedal on their own.

The problem lies in the natural tendency for kids (and even adults!) to pedal backwards when they lose their balance.  If the bike has a freewheel (no coaster brake), the child can pedal backwards, regain their balance, and continue forward with only a little loss in their momentum.  On a bike with coaster brakes, the bike comes to an unexpected stop when the child back-pedals, which usually leads to a fall.  This is especially true when climbing up even the mildest hills.

When riding up a hill, the bike naturally slows down, which makes the bike harder to balance.  To regain their balance, kids backpedal, which stops the bike and their progress.  This cycle is typically why many kids eventually don’t even try to pedal their bikes up a hill, they just hop off and run them up!  On a bike without a coaster brake, hills are still a challenge, BUT they can often power through them as don’t lose all of their momentum when attempting to regain their balance by backpedaling.

Coaster brakes, however, are typically easier for kids on training wheels to use as they don’t have to worry about keeping the bike upright.  As a result, if you plan on having your child use training wheels, the Riprock line is a solid choice. In fact, the training wheels that come standard on the Riprock are by far the studiest training wheels we have ever seen on a bike.

Size

We tested out the Riprock 12″ and 16″ bikes along with the Hotwalk balance bike on our 4-year-old tester in 4T clothes.  While he was easily able to ride all three bikes, the 12″ pedal bike offered no room for growth, so we wouldn’t recommend it for a child his age.  The 16″ was a much better fit, but seeing as it was larger and heavier than the 16″ bikes he normally rides (a woom 3), it was a bit more challenging for him to ride, but certainly a lot easier than the many different budget bikes he has tested out.  As a result, we wouldn’t recommend the 16″ for timid riders in 4T or smaller clothes unless they were planning on using the bike with training wheels.

Specialized Riprock Size Guide

FeatureHotwalkRiprock 12Riprock 16
ModelHotwalk Balance BikeRiprock 12Riprock 16
Seat Height13.5" to 17.5"15.5" to 18.5"18.25" - 22.75"
Weight~10 lb.17 lb.20.25 lb.
Age Reco2 to 32 to 3 (with training wheels)4 to 6 (with or without training wheels)

 

Comparisons

If you are looking to purchase a bike locally, the Specialized Riprock is by far our favorite “bike shop” bike we have tested.  If you are willing to purchase a bike online, there are many great options available.

Specialized Riprock: Our favorite bike shop bike.  Well-built but comes with a coaster brake and training wheels.

Pello Revo: Designed and built by a mountain-biking dad, the Pello Revo is one versatile machine.  It comes standard with a coaster brake and is compatible with training wheels, BUT Pello offers a freewheel set to remove the coaster brake!  The bike also comes included with dual v-pull Tektro hand brakes, a Cane Creek headset and Kenda K-RAD tires.

Priority Start 16: Equipt with a grease-free gates belt drive versus a chain, the Priority Start 16 is one awesomely quite ninja-stealth bike.  Coaster brake free, the Start come ready with dial v-pull handbrakes.  To help new riders maintain an upright geometry, the Start comes with a mid-rise handlebar, but for aggressive young riders, they offer a low-rise handlebar.

Guardian Ethos 16 inch: Guardian bikes claim to fame is their unique SureStop braking system.  Featured on Shark Tank, the SureStop system allows kids to activate the rear and then the front v-pull brake by pulling ONE brake lever.  This system not only allows the bike to stop faster, it also prevents kids from accidentally braking with just the front brake which can cause the child to get bucked off the bike.

Specialized Riprock 16 Comparison

FeaturesRiprock 16Pello RevoPriority Start 16Guardian Ethos
Bike (link to review)Specialized Riprock 16Pello RevoPriority Start 16Guardian Ethos
MSRP$250$359$299$239
Weight19 lb.17 lb.17 lb.17.5 lb.
Seat Height19" – 23"19.5" - 23.5"18.5" - 23"18.5" - 23.5"
BrakesCoaster onlyDual-hand w/ coasterDual-hand, no coasterSureStop, no coaster
Training WheelsIncludedCompatible, Not IncludedCompatible, Not IncludedNot Compatible

Bottom Line

The Riprock is a well-made and quality bike that is a great choice for kids planning on using training wheels.  For aggressive young groms who are eager to take their bike beyond the neighborhood, it’s not the best choice.

FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this review.  No monetary compensation was provided for this review.  The product reviewed was purchased by Two Wheeling Tots and not supplied by the manufacturer. 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

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