10 Best Kids 16-Inch Bikes: 2019

Bikes for 4 and 5-Year-Olds

What is the best 16-inch bike?

Kids 16-inch bikes generally fit kids as early as 4-years-old and allow for growth until they are 5 or 6-years-old. In fact, for most balance bike graduates, a 16-inch bike will typically be their first bike.

12 different 16" bikes lined up in a row - these are the best bikes for kids who are 4 years old, 5 years old, or 6 years old.

Why trust us? Over the years, we’ve put over twenty 16-inch pedal bikes to the test with various riders on various terrains. In the end, we’ve determined that there isn’t one best bike, but rather bikes that are better for different types of rides and riders. Unlike most “best lists”, you won’t find one bike crowned as our “top pick”, but rather highlights about each bike to help you find the best for your child.

Best Bikes for 4 and 5-year-olds

Category

Top Pick Bike

Other Options

Budget Bikes (Under $250)

Parents looking for quality bikes with a great overall design and performance for under $200.Guardian Ethos

Schwinn Elm/Schwinn Scorch, Raleigh MXR 16

Neighborhood Riding

Your standard, everyday ride - these stable, easier-to-balance bikes perform consistently around the neighborhood.WOOM3Guardian Original, Priority Start 16"

Multi-Use: Paved & Mild Trails

Riders who are ready to hit every jump, fly over every curb, and are passionate about riding.Prevelo Alpha 2

Cleary Hedgehog, Pello Revo, Rowdy 16

 

BEST 16-inch BIKES UNDER $260

What We Look for in a Bike Under $260
While these bikes are not as well-designed or as light as the bikes that take our top recommendations, they all perform impressively for their price tag and feature good basic geometry with properly placed handlebars (not too high, not too low), a reasonable weight (under 25 lb.), and a durable build.


Guardian Ethos

Budget Bikes: Best Safety Innovation


MSRP: $259

SEAT HEIGHT: 18″ – 23.5″

WEIGHT: 17.5 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Proprietary braking system helps kids stop bike with more control

FULL REVIEWGuardian Ethos

Lightweight and well-designed, Guardian bikes come with a proprietary braking system called SureStop that prevents unsafe braking. When braking with just the front hand brake while at high speeds, bikes can tilt forward, bucking the child off the bike and over the handlebars. SureStop on Guardian bikes prevents this by having only one brake lever engage the front and rear brakes. Not only is it the safest system on the market, but it’s also much easier to use than most traditional dual-hand brakes.

Guardian’s Ethos line is a more budget-friendly version of their premium Original line.  The two models share all the same features, but the Ethos line is slightly heavier as it constructed with steel versus aluminum.

 


Raleigh MXR 16

Budget Bikes: Best for Adventurous Riders


MSRP: $170

SEAT HEIGHT: 18″ – 24″

WEIGHT: 18.3 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Durable build with good basic components

FULL REVIEWRaleigh MXR 16

Impressively durable, the Raleigh MXR provides a smooth, comfortable ride and will surely last for years. With slightly lower-rise handlebars, it performs better for adventurous kids who are likely to go over small jumps or curbs. While not recommended for really aggressive riders (we have yet to find a bike under $200 that is suitable for aggressive riders), the MXR is the best choice for adventurous riders on a budget.

 


Schwinn Elm/Scorch

Budget Bikes: Best for Everyday Timid Riders


MSRP: $145

SEAT HEIGHT: 20.5″ – 24.5″

WEIGHT: 20.6 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Easy-to-ride, kid-specific design

FULL REVIEWSchwinn SmartStart Series

Available in multiple styles and from multiple retailers, Schwinn’s SmartStart Series collection of bikes (which includes the Elm and Scorch) are a big step up from cheap big-box store bikes. Lighter than those bikes, the SmartStart Series also provides a high-end, child-specific geometry which allows for a more stable and comfortable ride for kids.

While the overall design is still a lower-quality budget build, the price tag is much more affordable for many parents. The SmartStart Series does come with a handbrake, but it’s poorly made and riders will have to rely on the coaster brake to stop.

Comparison: 16-Inch Bikes Under $260

CategoryRaleigh MXR 16Schwinn SmartStartGuardian Ethos
schwinn elm 16-inch girls bike

Bike

Raleigh MXR 16

Schwinn SmartStart

Guardian Ethos

MSRP

$170

$145

$259

Link to Review

MXR ReviewSchwinn Review

Guardian Ethos Review

Standout Feature

Durable build with good basic components

Easy-to-ride, kid-specific design

Proprietary braking system, SureStop

Seat Height

18" - 24"

20.5" - 24.5"

18" - 23.5"

Weight

18.3 lb.

20.6 lb.

17.5 lb.

Gain Ratio

3.5 - Mid-range for easy pedaling and decent speeds3.7 - Slightly harder to get started, but has a higher maximum speed3.55 - Mid-range for easy pedaling and decent speeds

Brakes

Coaster brake

Front hand brake, coaster

SureStop, No coaster

BEST FOR BIKING AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD

What We Look for in a Neighborhood Bike
Most kids on 16-inch bikes stick to riding around the neighborhood. Stable, reliable, and lightweight, neighborhood bikes should be easy to ride, easy to balance, and perform consistently.


WOOM 3

Neighborhood Bikes: Best for Beginning Riders


MSRP: $389

SEAT HEIGHT: 19.1″ – 24.8″

WEIGHT: 11.7 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Comfortable, upright geometry

FULL REVIEWWOOM 3

The go-to bike for beginning riders. WOOM Bikes is a high-end, child-specific bike company that takes pride in designing bikes built specifically for children’s smaller frames. Smaller, lighter, and with a lower center-of-gravity than the average bike, the WOOM 3 is incredibly easy to balance and has a special brake system to help little newbies learn to properly use dual hand brakes for the first time.

 


Guardian Original

Neighborhood Bikes: Best Safety Innovation


MSRP: $339 – $359

SEAT HEIGHT: 18.5″ – 23.5″

WEIGHT: 16 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Proprietary braking system helps kids stop bike with more control

FULL REVIEWGuardian 16-inch

While Guardian bikes boast lightweight frames and a kid-specific design, what really makes Guardian stand out is their proprietary braking system called SureStop. Designed to prevent unsafe braking, SureStop has only one brake lever that sequentially engages the rear and front brakes. Not only it is the safest system on the market, but it’s also much easier to use than most tradition dual-hand brakes.  Also available in the more budget-friendly “Ethos” model.

 


Priority Start 16″

Neighborhood Bikes: Best Bang for Your Buck


MSRP: $319

SEAT HEIGHT: 18.5″ – 23″

WEIGHT: 15.9 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Packed with features for the price

FULL REVIEWPriority 16-inch

Built with high-end components that provide durability and performance, the Priority 16 packs a lot of punch in its sub-$300 price tag.  Priority Bicycles got their start with Kickstarter and has grown into a well-respected, innovative bike brand. A great first “real” bike for kids, the Start will have your child craving adventure on two wheels in no time. An added bonus – kids think the super quiet belt drive is ninja cool for stealth mode, and parents love all the features you get for the price.

Comparison: 16-Inch Neighborhood Bikes

CategoryWOOM 3Guardian 16Priority Start 16

Bike

WOOM 3Guardian OriginalPriority Start 16

MSRP

$389

$359

$319

Link to Review

WOOM Review

Guardian Review

Priority Review

Standout Feature

Comfortable, upright geometry

Unique and safe braking system

Packed with features for the price

Seat Height

19.1" - 24.8"

18.5" - 23.5"

18.5" - 23"

Weight

11.7 lb.

16 lb.

15.9 lb.

Gain Ratio

3.34 - Lower range for easier pedaling

3.5 - Mid-range, not too hard to pedal, can gain speed

3.67 - Mid-range, not too hard to pedal, can gain speed

Brakes

Dual hand, no coaster

SureStop, no coaster

Dual hand, no coaster

 

BEST FOR MULTI-USE (Paved & Mild-Trail Use)

What We Look for in a Multi-Use Bike
Riders who are ready to hit the trails (both paved and compact dirt) as well as every jump or curb are better off with low-rise handlebars that place the body in a more leaned forward position on the bike. This allows the riders to easily shift their weight to maintain balance on uneven surfaces, jumps, curbs, etc. Wider and/or knobbier tires, as well as dual-hand brakes and no coaster brakes, also help little adventurers to maneuver safely through technical terrain.

 


Prevelo Alpha 2

Multi-Use: Best for Adventurous Riders


MSRP: $379

SEAT HEIGHT: 18″ – 26″

WEIGHT: 14.9 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Well-suited for long distances and aggressive riding

FULL REVIEWPrevelo Alpha 2

Engineered for kids with a lightweight, low-center-of-balance frame and a high gearing, the Prevelo Alpha Two is the perfect bike for kids who want to enjoy a long ride with the family as well as an occasional bike jump or pump track.  With a 3.8 gain ratio, the rider gains considerable distance with each pedal stroke, making long rides easier for young riders while still being quick and nimble for fun and adventurous rides around the neighborhood.

 


Cleary Hedgehog

Multi-Use: Everyday Riders


MSRP: $375

SEAT HEIGHT: 19″ – 26″

WEIGHT: 16 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Lightweight, nimble ride

FULL REVIEWCleary Hedgehog

Light and nimble with impressive stability, the Hedgehog is the perfect ride for hitting curbs, jumps around the neighborhood, or cruising through basic single track. Responsive handbrakes and low gearing make it ideal for more ambitious and/or uphill terrain. Cleary bikes truly make biking fun! The Cleary Owl, which is the 20-inch version, is sized like a larger 16-inch bike and is often a great fit for many taller 5 or 6-year-olds.

 


Pello Revo

Multi-Use: Best for Basic Trail Riding


MSRP: $359

SEAT HEIGHT: 20″ – 24.5″

WEIGHT: 16.3 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Knobby tires, high-end components

FULL REVIEWPello Revo

Pello Bikes was started by a dad looking for a lightweight kids bike, built with high-end components that wouldn’t break the bank. He succeeded. Built with a Cane Creek headset, Kenda tires and a Tektro caliper brake, the Revo has significantly better components than 16″ bikes found in a bike shop. Unlike the Hedgehog and the Rowdy, the Revo comes with knobby tires which are better suited for trail riding.  The Revo also comes with dual-hand brakes and a coaster brake, which can be removed via Pello’s $20 freewheel kit.

 


Raleigh Rowdy 16

Multi-Use: Best Bang for Your Buck


MSRP: $260

SEAT HEIGHT: 21.5″ – 26″

WEIGHT: 15.6 lb.

STANDOUT FEATURES: Very lightweight for the price

FULL REVIEWRaleigh Rowdy 16

The lightest and best-equipped bike under $230, the durable Raleigh Rowdy is quite a deal. While not as fine-tuned as the others, it still provides a smooth, lightweight ride with a very aggressive body position for adventurous riders.

Bonus: Spawn Banshee, Best for True Trail Riding: While we haven’t yet tested out the Banshee for ourselves, we’ve only heard rave reviews from parents and biking world professionals. With knobby tires, Tektro dual-hand brakes, and a shorter wheelbase for a snappier ride and increased maneuverability, the Spawn is the perfect starter bike for the true all-terrain rider.

Comparisons: 16-Inch Bikes for Multi-Use

CategoriesPrevelo Alpha 2HedgehogPello RevoRaleigh Rowdy
Prevelo Alpha Two 16" kid's bike in silver

Bike

Prevelo Alpha 2

Cleary Hedgehog

Pello RevoRaleigh Rowdy

MSRP

$379

$375

$359$260

Link to Review

Alpha 2 Review

Hedgehog Review

Revo Review

Rowdy Review

Standout Feature

Higher gain ratio for longer rides

Lightweight, nimble ride

Knobby tires, high-end components

Very lightweight for the price

Seat Height

18" - 26"

19" - 26"

20" - 24.5"

21.5" - 26"

Weight

14.9 lb.

16 lb.

16.3 lb.

15.6 lb.

Gain Ratio

3.8 - High maximum speeds but not as hard to start pedaling

2.88 - Low-range for easier pedaling up jumps, hills, etc.

3.55 - Mid-range for easy pedaling and decent speeds

3.5 - Mid-range, not too hard to pedal, can gain speed

Brakes

Dual hand, no coaster

Dual hand, no coaster

Rear hand, coaster

Dual hand, no coaster

BEST BIKE SHOP BIKES

What We Look for in a Bike Shop Bike

While bike shops have good quality bikes, they are often heavier and offer minimal features as compared to bikes available from child-specific bike manufactures online. Due to limitations set on local bike shops by larger manufacturers such as Specialized and Trek, these new breed child-specific brands are rarely, if ever, available in local bike shops. More often than not, they are lighter and provide a higher level of quality and performance for the price. For more detailed differences, please read Bike Shop Bikes vs. Online Bikes – Why Online is Often a Better Deal.

Bike shop bikes, however, always come 100% assembled, tuned up, and come with a bike shop mechanic to help you keep it in top shape. If you prefer to purchase at your local bike shop, be sure to buy from a shop that is willing to take the time to find the right bike in their shop for your child, versus trying to sell you a poorly fit bike that either provides little room for growth or is too big and will require your child to “grow into it”. Of the bikes we’ve tested from local bike shops, the Norco Samurai and the Specialized Riprock Coaster are our top picks.

    • Norco Roller ($319) was our hands-down favorite with no coaster brake and a comfortable but slightly aggressive geometry. It performed consistently and smoothly for our 5-year-old tester around the neighborhood as well as at the local bike park.
    • Specialized Riprock Coaster 16 ($250 – previously Hotrock) provides a very stable ride and is durable enough to last for years, but its coaster brake and lack of handbrakes make it less desirable for all-terrain and more aggressive riding.
    • Trek Precaliber ($249) was our least favorite as it was the heaviest and also did not offer hand brakes, just a coaster brake.

How to Choose the Best 16-inch Bike for your 4 or 5-Year-Old

While we have a much more detailed discussion about this in our article Best Kids Bikes: The Authoritative Buying Guide, here’s a quick summary of the most important things to look for to find the perfect bike for your 4, 5, or 6-year-old.

Size

A 16-inch bike is generally the best fit to purchase for 4 and 5-year-olds. If your child is already 6 or is a very tall 5-year-old, a 20-inch bike should also be considered to allow for more room for growth.

If this bike is your child’s first pedal bike after a balance bike, the bike’s seat should be set at or just below their inseam measurement. This allows a child to sit on the seat and easily put their feet down to steady themselves or stop the bike. This is critical as they learn to pedal to instill confidence and for maximum safety.

If your child has already mastered pedaling, you should set the bike’s seat about 2″ above the child’s inseam to allow for maximum efficiency while pedaling.

12 different 16" bikes lined up in a row. They vary in size.

Within the 16-inch wheel size, there is a very large range of seat heights. The smallest 16-inch bike we recommend has an 18″ minimum seat height, while another has a minimum seat height of 21.5″!  To allow for the most room for growth, find a bike that has a minimum seat height that comes as close as possible to your child’s ideal seat setting (which will vary based on inseam and whether or not this is your child’s first pedal bike).

Weight

Ideally, your child’s bike shouldn’t weigh more than 30% of their body weight. In general, the lighter the bike, the easier and less tiring it will be for your child to ride.  Heavy bikes are really hard to manage for little ones who are still mastering the art of balancing and pedaling at the same time!

For example, can you imagine a 4-year-old trying to ride the Royal Baby 16″ bike which weighs 24 pounds compared to the woom 3 at 11.7 pounds??

Frame Design

A bike’s frame design plays a major role in the overall feel and performance of a bike.  Some bikes put a child in an upright position that feels very natural for beginning riders and is great for neighborhood riding.

Other bikes require a rider to lean forward to grip the handlebars, putting kids in a more aggressive position. These types of bikes are generally better for more experienced, adventurous riders who will be doing more aggressive riding.
Example of four 16" bikes from most upright position to most aggressive or leaned forward position. 5-year-old boy is on the bikes.

Brakes

Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) are often found on 16-inch bikes, but they can inhibit a child’s ability to learn to pedal while balancing a bike.  Why?

When learning to pedal and balance on a bike, kids (like adults!) naturally pedal backward when attempting to regain their balance.  If the bike has a coaster brake, pedaling backward inadvertently activates the bike’s brake, which slows the bike and often leads to a crash. Without a coaster brake, pedaling backward to regain balance isn’t a problem.

As a result, we much prefer bikes without coaster brakes and with responsive hand brakes that are easy for small hands to operate.
5-year-old engaging the handbrake of a 16" bike

Gearing and Gain Ratios

For kids ages 4, 5, and 6, gears are just too much to handle and bikes with gears and shifters are not available on 16-inch bikes. However, the gearing of a bike is still worth taking into consideration. In the biking world, the gain ratio relates to the gearing of a single-speed bike and is often used to determine how hard it is to pedal a bike.

High gain ratios (3.7+) are harder to get started pedaling but can more easily maintain higher speeds. Lower gain ratios (3.3 and below) are really easy to start pedaling but can’t reach high maximum speeds. Gain ratios in the middle do a little bit of both! For 16-inch bikes, we generally prefer mid-range gain ratios from about 3.3 to 3.7.

Price

Good bikes are not cheap. Every bike on this list is significantly better than a bike you’ll find at Walmart, but also costs more. The more expensive bikes on this list are more lightweight, have higher-end components, and frame designs that make them easier to ride.

16-inch Bikes for Kids 4 and 5-Years-Olds

Bike

MSRP

WeightMin Seat HeightMax Seat HeightBrakesGain RatioFrame Material

woom 3

$389

11.7 lb.19.1"24.8"Dual hand, no coaster3.34Aluminum

Guardian Original

$359

16 lb.18.5"23.5"SureStop3.5Aluminum

Priority 16

$299

17 lb.18.5" 23"Dual hand, no coaster3.67Aluminum

Prevelo Alpha Two

$36914.9 lb.18"26"Dual hand, no coaster3.8Aluminum

Frog 48

$395

14.8 lb. 19.5"23"Dual hand, no coaster3.5Aluminum

ByK E-350

$269

17.6 lb.18"23.3"Coaster with hand brakes4Aluminum

Cleary Hedgehog

$375

16 lb.19"26"Dual hand, no coaster2.88Aluminum

Pello Revo

$359

16.3 lb.20"24.5"Coaster with dual handbrakes3.55Aluminum

Raleigh Lily 16

$230

16.1 lb.21.25"25.5"Dual Hand3.6Aluminum

Raleigh Rowdy 16

$230

15.6 lb.21.5"26"Dual Hand3.5Aluminum

Raleigh MXR 16

$170

18.3 lb.19.5"24"Coaster 3.5Aluminum

Raleigh Jazzi 16

$170

18.5 lb.19"23"Coaster 3.5Aluminum

Schwinn Scorch

$120

20.6 lb.24.5"20.5"Front hand brake, coaster3.7Steel

Schwinn Elm

$120

Front hand brake, coasterSteel
Guardian Ethos 16

$259

17.5 lb.18.5" 23.5"SureStop3.55Steel

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