Specialized Riprock (Hotrock) 12 Review

Small, yet mighty, the Specialized Riprock 12, previously called the Hotrock 12, is a fun and well-designed little machine capable of getting the youngest and tiniest kids off and riding.

In addition to being lightweight and durable, the Riprock has some unique features up its sleeve that help set it apart from the wide array of poorly-designed 12 inch bikes on the market. Read our full review below to find out if the Specialized Riprock 12 is right for your tiny rider!

3 year old riding Specialized Riprock down the driveway

Specialized Riprock 12 Overview

RATING: Highly Recommended

MSRP$230

BEST FOR: Kids in 2T to 4T riding on various surfaces

SEAT HEIGHT: 15.75″ – 18.25″

WEIGHT: 15.6 lb. (without training wheels)

BRAKES: Coaster only

ADDITIONAL SPECS

GAIN RATIO: 3.25
WHEELBASE: 603
FRAME: Aluminum Alloy

PROS:

  • Lightweight and durable
  • Pushed forward bottom bracket for easier pedaling
  • Training wheels don’t require tools to take on and off
  • Thick, cushioning tires
  • Adjustable-height handlebar for growing kids
  • Fun color and graphics designs

CONS:

  • No handbrake
  • Coaster brake can be challenging kids learning to pedal
  • Seat post requires Allen key to adjust

Specialized Riprock 12 Review – Results of our Test Rides

Girl riding Specialized Riprock 12 down the sidewalk
3-Year-Old, 38.25″ tall

Sizing – One of the Smallest Pedal Bikes

Parents often think their child needs to start out with the smallest bike size available, which is a 12 inch bike. But many parents don’t realize just how small a 12 inch bike is!   The Specialized Riprock 12 is actually one of the smallest pedal bikes on the market, making it a great option for very young or petite balance bike graduates.

The Riprock 12 is so small that when our tall Baby Bike Tester was 2-years-old in 3T clothes she could fit on the bike with her feet fully touching the ground.  Now that she’s almost 3.5 and solidly in 4T clothes at 41″ tall, the Riprock 12 is a bit too small for her. In the picture below, the seat is set to its maximum height, and the handlebars are raised to their max.

3-Year-old (41″ Tall) Maxed Out on Riprock 12 Seat Height

3 year old riding Riprock 12 at its maximum seat height.
3-Year-Old, 41″ Tall

For being maxed out on the seat height, the Riprock 12 is still a pretty decent fit. While you would never buy this bike for a child already this size, it does speak to the bike’s longevity of use.

All this to say, your child’s first pedal bike may be a 12 inch bike, but it may also need to be a larger 14 inch or 16 inch bike. (You can check out our Specialized Riprock 16 review here!)

Sizing Tips

The best way to guarantee a proper fit with a kid’s bike is to compare your child’s inseam (crotch to floor) with a bike’s seat height. (We discuss this in detail in our Kids Bikes Sizes Guide.) The Specialized Riprock 12 has a seat height range of 15.75″ to 18.25″.

For beginning riders NOT using training wheels: The seat height should be set equal to the child’s inseam. This allows kids to stop the bike with their feet as they are getting used to the coaster brake. This also allows them to learn to start the bike independently.

This makes the Riprock 12 a best buy for kids with inseams ranging from about 15.5″ to 16.5″.

For kids using training wheels: The seat height can be set 1 to 2″ above the child’s inseam (so they can sit on the seat with their tip-toes touching the ground).  Because the training wheels will usually keep a child upright, it’s less necessary for them to use their feet to stabilize themselves. That said, many kids prefer to be able to solidly touch the ground with their feet because it gives them a sense of security.

With training wheels, the Riprock is a best buy for kids with inseams ranging from about 14″ to 16.5″.

If your child needs training wheels, you should also consider the Specialized Hotwalk, which is a balance bike. For kids with an inseam of 14 to 14.5″, the balance bike would be a great fit and a much better experience than training wheels.

If you’re unsure why everyone keeps talking about balance bikes, be sure to check out our Balance Bike vs. Training Wheels article to learn about the many benefits of balance bikes over training wheels.

Specialized Riprock Size Guide

FeatureHotwalkRiprock 12Riprock 16
ModelHotwalk Balance BikeRiprock 12Riprock 16
Seat Height13.5" to 17.5"15.75″ – 18.25″18.25" - 22.75"
Weight~10 lb.15.6 lb.20.25 lb.
Age Reco2 to 32 to 3 (with training wheels)4 to 6 (with or without training wheels)

If your little one is in-between sizes (too tall for the 12 inch to provide room for growth, but too timid to ride a larger 16″), we recommend checking out the 14 inch Pello Romper.  With a seat height range of 17.25″ – 21.25″, it is perfectly sized right between the Riprock 12 and Riprock 16.

Lightweight for its price

The weight of a bike plays a large role in the overall ridebility of the bike, especially for the littlest riders on 12 inch bikes!  Ideally, a bike should weigh no more than 30% of a child’s weight, but that can be hard to come by for young, or lightweight riders. 

The Specialized Riprock 12 weighs 15.6 lb. without training wheels. This weight isn’t ideal but is still much lighter than many other 12 inch kids bikes made by popular brands like Royalbaby and Joystar.

Weight isn’t everything though. Just because a bike is lighter doesn’t always make it better. The super cheap (and not recommended!) Huffy Rock It weighs just 14.4 pounds without training wheels. But… its geometry is terrible and makes the bike incredibly difficult to ride. The frame of the Rock It is several inches shorter than the Riprock 12!

Side by side comparison of Riprock 12 and Huffy Next 12 showing the Huffy's frame is much shorter

Geometry – One of the Best for 12 Inch Bikes

The differences in frame design pointed out above play a major role in the child’s ability to balance and maneuver a bike.  As first-time riders, these eager little ones need all the help they can get. All too often poorly-designed bikes greatly inhibit a child’s ability (and enthusiasm!) to ride the bike.

One of the major effects of the frame design is how it alters the rider’s center of gravity.  Bikes that position a child lower on the bike allow the rider to have a low center of gravity. As a result, the bike is much easier to balance at lower speeds and easier for beginning riders to ride.  Like the Hotrock 12 before it, the Specialized Riprock is one of the only 12 inch bikes on the market that has a low center of gravity design.

Kids bikes with longer wheelbases (the distance between where the two tires touch the ground), almost always have a lower center of gravity and position the rider lower on the frame and closer to the tires.

Take for example the Huffy Next 12, Specialized Riprock 12, and woom 2 shown below. They have similar seat heights and are marketed to essentially the same age group, but the position of the rider on the bike is vastly different due to the difference in frame design, particularly the wheelbases of the bikes.

Longer Wheelbase Generally Means Better Body Position and Balance

Wheelbase and body position comparison. Showing Huffy Rock It, Specialized Riprock, and Woom 2 side by side.

The high-end woom 2’s wheelbase is 5″ longer than the Huffy! The Specialized Riprock’s wheelbase is about 1.5″ shorter than the woom 2, but is still able to provide a good body position for the rider.

Handlebars – Low and Wide for Stability

The shape of the handlebars can have a huge effect on the body position of a rider.  The low and wide handlebar of the Specialized Riprock 12 provides a much better riding experience than the high handlebars found on many big-box store bikes.

Low Handlebars vs. Too-High Handlebars

Showing Huffy Rock It, Specialized Riprock, and Woom 2 side by side.

Most handlebars on cheap 12″ and 16″ bikes (like the Huffy above) position a child’s hands well above the child’s waist while riding. This positioning doesn’t allow for proper arm extension, which minimizes a child’s overall control of the bike and creates twitchy steering.

Handlebars placed lower on the body also force a child to place more of their weight on the handlebars. With more weight on handlebars, more weight is applied to the front tire. More weight applied to the front tire allows for less twitchy steering and allows kids to have better control of the bike.

Coaster Brakes Aren’t Ideal on the Riprock 12

The Riprock 12 comes with a coaster brake and no handbrakes.  The coaster brake is simple and effective but can be problematic for young riders learning to pedal.  When learning to pedal kids often accidentally pedal backward.  Upon doing so, the coaster brake of the bike quickly and unexpectedly stops the bike, which usually leads to a fall.

A coaster brake also makes it quite difficult for beginning riders to set their pedals in the “go” position. Even experienced riders often end up engaging the brakes as they are attempting to get their pedals in place to start pedaling.

Be aware, however, that almost every 12 inch bike has a coaster brake. At this price point and below, you’re most likely going to end up with a coaster brake. Higher-end bikes (like the woom 2) have hands brakes in addition to a coaster brake, but they also sell a “freewheel kit” to allow you to remove the coaster brake.

There are a few 14 inch bikes on the market that don’t have a coaster brake at all. Check out the Guardian Ethos 14 inch bike, which comes without a coaster brake, and features Guardian’s proprietary SureStop braking system. The Guardian is designed to fit the same size child as the Riprock 12, and costs about $40 more.

Ease of Pedaling – Gearing and Pedal Placement

While the coaster brake does make starting to pedal from a standstill more difficult, Specialized designed the Riprock 12 with two features to help counteract this issue – lower gearing and forward pedal placement.

With a low gain ratio of 3.25, the Specialized Riprock will be easier to get started pedaling than many other 12 inch bikes, but will be limited in its top speeds. Because beginning riders stop and start frequently, a lower gain ratio is beneficial as it limits the resistance riders feel from the pedals when starting from a standstill. Bikes with a higher gain ratio (such as a 3.8 or 4) require much more effort to pedal from a stop.

In addition to the strength needed to pedal a bike, learning the proper motion of pedaling can also be a challenge. Learning to pedal forward can be confusing for developing minds. As we mentioned before, kids accidentally pedal backward often.

To help alleviate a young rider’s confusion when learning to pedal, Specialized moved the bottom bracket (and hence the pedals) slightly forward on the Riprock. This positions the pedals a little bit in front of the seat versus directly below. 

Pushed Forward Bottom Bracket on Riprock 12 vs. Trek

Side by side comparison of Specialized and Trek 12 inch bikes. Showing Specialized has pushed forward bottom bracket.

This allows kids to push more “forward” on the pedals instead of straight down, making the idea of pedaling “forward” more intuitive.  As a result, pedaling forward is a bit easier on the Riprock than on most other bikes with coaster brakes.

Training Wheels – No Tools Required to Take on and Off

Over the years, one of our favorite “cherry on top” benefits of the Specialized Riprock is its training wheels compared to other 12 inch bikes. The Riprock 12 has very rigid, high-quality training wheels.

Training wheels and knobs on Riprock 12

As an added bonus, the training wheels can be removed and installed without the use of tools! (The Trek Precaliber 12″ bike is also like this.) The mounting bolt on each training wheel is attached to a large cylindrical knob that can quickly and easily be screwed into place.

Wide, Kobby Tires for Various Terrain

The wide, knobby tires of the Specialized Riprock 12 offer a lot of versatility for little riders. If your child prefers pavement, the Riprock has you covered. But if you’ve got a little adventurer on your hands, the semi-knobby tread on the tires helps provide great traction for dirt, gravel paths, or other off-road adventures a 2 or 3-year-old can handle.

Tire and angled valve on Riprock

12 inch tires are often a pain to pump up because the diameter of the wheel makes it almost impossible to access the tire valve. Fortunately, the Riprock 12 features an angled valve to make attaching the head of a bike pump so much easier!

Extra Details Make the Specialized Riprock 12 More Fun

colorful chainguard on Specialized Riprock 12

While aesthetics don’t affect the performance of the bike, we do appreciate fun graphics and color options – especially on kids’ bikes! The brightly colored paint job on the Riprock 12 is complemented by a multi-colored chain guard and dual-colored grips.

Dual colored grip of Riprock 12

Specialized Riprock 12 Bottom Line

Like its predecessor the Specialized Hotrock 12, the updated Specialized Riprock 12 is a solid-quality bike-shop bike for young pedalers in no larger than size 3T clothes.  With great geometry and a pushed forward bottom bracket, the Riprock is easier to ride and easier to pedal than the standard 12 inch bike.

For other options for great small pedal bikes, check out our 10 Best 12 Inch and 14 Inch Bikes List.

FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this review.  No monetary compensation was provided for this review but Two Wheeling Tots received a bike from Specialized 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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