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16″ Bikes: The Best of the Best for 2017

Which 16″ Bike is Best for my Child?

Throughout the year, we put over twenty 16″ pedal bikes to the test with iperarious testers on various terrains. In the end, we determined that there isn’t one best bike, but rather bikes that are better for different types of rides and riders. A bike that is comfortable for a timid rider isn’t ideal for an aggressive rider. A bike that flies up hills is going to be problematic for kids riding on mainly flat trails.

All-16'-Bikes

 

Top Picks Summary


So which 16″ bike is best for your child? Use our handy chart below to check out our top picks for your child’s riding style, then scroll down for more detailed info on each bike.

 

Best 16″ Bike Under $200


What We Look for in a Bike Under $200

The price tag for the best kids bikes can often be out of reach for many parents, so we searched and found several great bikes that are available for under $200. 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.

Top Picks for Bikes Under $200

 

Raleigh MXR 16, Best Bang for Your Buck: Impressively durable, the 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. Full MXR 16 review.

Schwinn SmartStart , Best Budget Bikes: Available in multiple styles and from multiple retailers, Schwinn’s SmartStart collection of bikes are a huge 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 is poorly made and riders will have to rely on the coaster brake to stop. Full Schwinn SmartStart review.

Diamondback Mini-Viper, Best for Taller Kids (Longer Torsos): With the tallest handlebars of the three bikes, the Mini-Viper is our top pick for kids with long torsos. The Diamondback has the same seat height range as the Schwinn, but its handlebars are 2″ taller. The taller handlebars prevent kids with long torsos from hunching over to grab the handlebars and also provides more room for growth. Not excessively tall, however, the Mini-Viper still provided a fun ride for our average- height testers as well. Diamondback Mini-Viper review.

For more info on 16″ bikes under $200, check out our Best Budget 16″ Kid’s Bike page.

Comparison Chart of 16″ Bikes Under $200

 

Best for Biking Around the Neighborhood


What We Look for in a Neighborhood Bike

Most kids on 16″ bikes stick to riding around the neighborhood. Stable, reliable, and lightweight, neighborhood bikes should be easy to ride, easy to balance, and perform consistently.

Top Picks for 16″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

WOOM3, Best for Beginning Riders: 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. Full WOOM3 review.

Priority Start F/W, Best Bang for Your Buck: Easy to ride due to its low center-of-gravity, the Priority is actually a lot like the WOOM. While not as lightweight or built with as high-end components as the WOOM, we love that it comes with a grease-free belt drive to prevent curious hands from get black and greasy. Overall, the Priority is an amazing bike for the price. Full Priority Start review.

Frog 48, Most Versatile: While the Frog is perfect for casual neighborhood rides, as an added bonus, it’s really a great dual-purpose bike. It comes with two set of tires – one standard tread for neighborhood riding and one knobby tread for all-terrain riding. It also comes with optional front and rear fenders and a bell to help your child really fall in love with their bike. Full Frog 48 review.

Comparison Chart of 16″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

Best for Longer Distances (Paved)


What We Look for in a Bike for Riding Longer Distances

When kids need to go long distances, they need a bike that’s geared high for them to get the maximum distance with every pedal stroke. Higher gears make starting the bike more difficult, but prevent kids from spinning their pedals excessively to gain and maintain speed. We also look for narrow tires, dual hand brakes, and lightweight frames for the perfect combination for riding along paved trails.

Top Picks for 16″ Bikes for Long Distance Riders

 

Islabikes CNOC 16″ and 20″, Best All-Around: Islabikes was the first to pioneer lightweight, kid-specific bikes and continues to be one of the best, if not the best, in the kid industry. Fined-tuned from top-to-bottom with components specifically engineered for a child’s smaller frame, the CNOC 16″ rides smoothly and effortlessly. With narrower tires and a comfortable mid-range body position, the CNOC is a perfect bike for paved trails of all lengths. Similar in size to many larger 16″ bikes, the CNOC 20″ is also a great choice for taller 4 to 6-year-olds. Full CNOC 16″ review or 20″ review.

Ridgeback Dimension 16″, Best for Long, Flat Rides: The fastest 16″ bike we’ve tested, the Ridgeback is geared higher than any other 16″ bike, which allows it to travel further with each pedal stroke. The high gearing does make the bike more difficult to get started, but allows little ones to keep up with older siblings and parents on long rides. Full Ridgeback Dimension 16 review.

ByK E-350, Best Budget Bike: The ByK E-350’s narrow 18″ tires offer low-rolling resistance for smooth riding on pavement. With high gearing, kids can maintain quick speeds, and the low center-of-gravity design makes for easy balancing. While it’s a deal at $259, the 350 has dual-hand brakes and a coaster brake, which can delay mastering pedaling for some kids. Full ByK E-350 review.

Comparison Chart of 16″ Bikes for Long Distance Riders

 

Best for Aggressive Riders & Basic Trail Riding


What We Look for in a Bike for Aggressive and/or Trail Riders

Riders who are ready to hit every jump, fly over every curb, and are passionate about riding are better off with low-rise handlebars that place the body in a more leaned-forward position on the bike. This allows aggressive riders to easily shift their weight to maintain balance on un-even 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 safety through technical terrain.

Top Picks for 16″ Bikes for Aggressive and/or Trail Riders

 

Cleary Hedgehog and Owl, Best for the Everyday Adventurous Rider: Light and nimble with impressive stability, the Hedgehog (16″ bike) 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. The Cleary Owl, which is the 20″ version, is sized like a larger 16″ bike and is often a great fit for many taller 5 or 6-year-olds. Full Cleary Hedgehog review or Owl review.

Commencal Ramones 16, Best for Basic Trail Riding: Coming in at $269, the Ramones is a well-designed and well-executed bike, especially for the price. Unlike the Hedgehog and the Rowdy, the Ramones comes with knobby tires which are better suited for trail riding . Also featuring a slightly shorter wheelbase, the Ramones is easier for younger riders to navigate through pump tracks and basic technical terrain. Commencal Ramones 16 review.

Raleigh Rowdy 16, Best Budget Bike: The lightest and best equipped bike under $225, the durable 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. Full Raleigh Rowdy 16 review.

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.

Comparison Chart of 16″ Bikes for Aggressive and/or Trail Riders

 

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 Samurai/Mirage ($249) 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 ($240 – 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 ($209) was our least favorite as it was the heaviest and also did not offer hand brakes, just a coaster brake.

 

Other 16″ Bikes we Recommend


To compare even more 16″ bikes, check out our Kids’ Bikes: Ratings and Comparison Charts page.

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: November 14, 2017

  • I haven’t heard of them, but should certainly go check them out. The overall geometry looks decent, especially if the seat can be lowered. The seat being similar in height to the handlebars, the rider is going to be more aggressively positioned as compared a bike like WOOM, but not overly aggressive. Without a listed weight, it’s also hard to say as other REI branded bikes have been pretty heavy. Lastly, since it does not have a hand brake, it does have a coaster brake, which we aren’t keen on, but most bikes (if not all) under the $200 range will have a coaster brake.

    • Fil

      I agree, a hand brake would be preferable. I think I’m going to go ahead with a Stampede Sprinter 16 for my 5 YO. We purchased a Stampede balance bike and we loved the build quality. Thanks!

    • shurley

      Hi – Have you done any more reviews/research on the REI Co-op Rev 16″ bike since your response a couple months ago? I’m looking at it for my 5 year old, as a first bike. It weighs just under 17 lbs (16 lbs 14.4oz).

      • No, not yet sorry! End of the school year has been crazy here. I did notice that they have the weight and minimum seat height listed in the questions though which is nice. At 17 lb. it is certainly lighter than low-end budget bikes, but the minimum seat height of 21″ makes it a tall 16″ bike. As a result, I wouldn’t recommend it for younger rides transitioning straight from a balance bike, unless they were really tall (already in size 5 clothes).

  • Cynthia

    Hi there, i was hoping you would help me decide on which bike to choose. I have a four and half year old that is currently in 4T clothes she has been riding a strider bike since she was 2 years old and she is really good at riding it, she balances herself really well and likes to go down a little incline while balancing it. My 3 choices for her are the WOOM3 with the auto matrix, the Islabike Cnoc 16, or the early rider belter urban. Which do you recommend for her? I understand they are all good bikes.

    • You are right in that they are all great bike. Of the three I would get the WOOM3 is she is tends to me a more hesitant rider and the CNOC 16 if you expect her to become more ambitious. The Early Rider is a great bike, but it does have a higher standover height that the others (which measures how high the top tube is from the ground to protect kids during falls if they slip forward off the seat).

  • Emily H

    My son is a couple months over 4 and has mastered his balance bike, a FirstBike which I bought a couple years ago from your recommendations. The issue I’m having is that he’s small, both short and light and he can still wear 3T pants. That said, he’s pretty aggressive on his balance bike. I’m looking at the Spawn Banshee (or Maybe the Spawn Yoji since the Banshee only comes in pink at the moment) and the WOOM 3 right now. Any other suggestions or advice? I’m happy to pay for a great bike but I can’t deal with spending $400ish on something he’s going to outgrow in a year so I’ve been leaning towards a 16 inch.

    • It really comes down to inseam. If he is still in 3T pants, I would really goes towards a 14″ bike, but the Spawn Banshee does have a pretty low minimum seat height of 18.5″, which means his inseam would have to be at least 19″ to comfortably fit on the bike from day one. The Banshee is slightly more aggressive than the WOOM3, but not overly aggressive for a little guy. The seat height of the Yoji isn’t listed, but I assume it is similiar. The benefit of the Yoji is that you can swap out the chain ring to a larger chain ring once he gets older to increase the gain ratio of the bike. It is also lighter and I assume it will completely replace the Banshee. The Automatix on the WOOM3 does allow for 2 speeds, which is awesome for little riders, but it is not great for hills and the bike has to slow down before it will downshift to the lower gear. All three bikes will likely be great or him, it really just comes down to his inseam, his personality as well as where you plan on riding (WOOM is best for on paved surfaces around town, Spawn better for all-terrain).

    • anon

      this is older so a decision may have already been made, but i would like to note that the Yojis (both the 14 and the 16) have min seat heights about an inch lower than their older relatives the Furi and Banshee. This means that the Yoji 16 has a min seat height of only 17.5in, which likely makes it a good option. Spawn lists the min inseam as 16in for the bike.

  • Nishit Bhatia

    HI Natalie – my son is going to be 4, is a tall kid and just loves biking (balance bike – no pedals) . i cant make up my mind between the Cnoc 16″ and the Woom3 for his 4th birthday. am not sure if the coaster brake is a great idea or should i get him used to the regular bikes with hand brakes. What would you suggest. Thanks, Nish

    • We have both the CNOC 16 and the WOOM3 Automatix right now and my son loves both of them. If he is transitioning from a balance bike, the WOOM3 will be easier as it doesn’t have a coaster brake, which kids often accidentally activate when learning how to pedal. The Automatix is also an awesome feature that allows kids to easily start pedaling, yet still be able to gain speed once they get going. The WOOM is also slightly more upright than the WOOM, which makes it better for more timid riders. Between the two, my son like the CNOC slightly better as he claims it is faster, but you really can’t go wrong with either.

  • Jen

    Hi Natalie, great article. Thanks for all the info. My little girl (just turned 4) is very girly and hasn’t shown any interest in the two balance bikes I’ve bought her. She likes her pink and purple tricycle though. She is a timid kid, taking her time with everything. I’ve tried to accept that she may not be the athletic kid I want her to be 🙁 but the problem is she is borderline “heavy.” I want her to get more exercise and entice her onto a bike or scooter. A lot of the bikes listed are very boy. I thought about getting one and covering it with pink tape but I thought I’d write you first. Also, a lot of the budget bikes you suggest have sold out. She takes her tricycle on walks but it’s heavy and I end up carrying it home. She loves being outside, just not moving…

    • I totally understand where you are coming from. We had the same problem with our daughter and ended up lucking out with an old purple Specialized Hotrock for $40. We had to clean it up for her, but it worked so much better than other bikes in the same price range. Then a year later, we spray painted it green for our son to ride ;). If you aren’t have any luck finding a used bike, I agree that having her decorate a bike might just do the trick. You could even put a doll seat (http://amzn.to/2sRe9WR) or a fun basket on it (http://amzn.to/2rygjH5)?

      If you are looking for another bike, the Raleigh Jazzi (http://amzn.to/2tHY4iV) or even the Schwinn Girl’s Jasmine (http://amzn.to/2tmLINP).

  • Bonnie Singer

    HI Natalie,
    Thanks for all the great reviews. Looking for bike buying advice. My 5 year old (42 inches 18.5 inseam) is an aggressive rider and has outgrown his hotrock 12. We live in a hilly area and commute by bike. He also likes to go to the pump track and skate park. Was thinking to skip right to a 20inch geared bike but am hesitant. Woom thinks the 4 is too big for him Prevelo bikes thinks he will fit their Alpha 3. Isla bikes thinks he might be a bit stretched on the Beinn 20 small. Better to go with a 16 inch or push to a 20?
    And while I am asking questions his sister who is 7 and a timid rider (ASD) needs a bigger bike. Was considering a Guardian for her because she is very left handed and often forgets that she can even use her right hand to help. She only got used to her coaster brakes this year instead of dragging her feet. Woom might be a more comfortable fit for a timid rider and has lower gears for the climbing hills.
    Glad there are so many good choices and great reviews to help understand the differences. Without trying them out so hard to know.

    • Glad to help out if I am not too late. It’s been a crazy summer so I’m trying to catch up :). If you already purchased a bike, I’d love to hear what you chose and how you like it. If not, here’s my thoughts. For your son, I would probably go with the Islabikes BEINN 20″ Small as it should fit him just fine. The minimum seat height is 2″ above his inseam, which will fit him perfectly. My son started on his BEINN 20 Small when he was five as well and did great on it. I will say, however, that the bike much bigger than the 12″ and he will likely have a lot of trouble riding the 20″ at the skate park. A bike pump track should be fine, but it will also be more challenging at first. My son loved the skate park as well and was amazing on his Hotrock 16, but as soon as he got the Islabikes, his love for skate parks dropped. If he wants to continue going to skate parks, you may have to get him a BMX 16″ to ride there in addition to a geared 20″ to ride around town.

      For your timid 7yo, if she is hesitant on brakes as well, I would absolutely go for the Guardian, especially since you live around hills. The Guardian’s aren’t super aggressive and I think she would do just fine on it. You are right in that the WOOM is probably going to be better for her, but in this case, the braking system of the Guardian puts it over the top simply for safety reasons.

      • Bonnie Singer

        Bikes came this week. Went with the Woom 4 for my little guy. Biggest sis rides a Beinn 24 and we love it but the presta tubes and the $100 price difference decided for the Woom. Hard to get those presta tubes where I am. Well he loves his new bike!!! He is already testing the limits of the bike. He is riding fast, standing up, playing with gears, learned the hand breaks and is looking for any uneven ground he can find tree stump, rocks… He had no problem moving to a 20 inch bike.

        His other sister got a Guardian 24. She is riding slow and adjusting to the hand brake. So far so good. She is riding up hill well and will is still very timid going down. She is very happy with her bike and loves the white color.
        I will try to upload an image or two soon for reference I know that I found that really helpful when trying to choose a bike.

        Thanks for the advice and great detailed reviews it is such a wonderful resource.
        Happy riding 🙂

        • Great to here! I’m glad your kids are loving their bikes. Per WOOM vs. Islabikes, you make a great point about the tubes. Presta are pricey and often not easy to come by. We had to order them online and also keep spares nearby as bike shops never have them as well. Regardless of tubes, sounds like you made a great choice. Isn’t is amazing seeing how quickly kids can progress on a well-made and well-designed bike? I’d be interested to see how your daughter likes the Guardian brakes as well. My testers all loved the new system, but everyone is different and the more opinions the better :). Happy riding as well!

  • Bobo

    Hi Natalie,
    Thanks for all the info, i want to buy a bike for my son and i was thinking for ORBEA GROW 1. Its not a cheap bike it cost 289€. The weight is approx 23 lb. After i read your info im totally confused for the weight of the bike. Do you think the ORBEA GROW 1 its Ok or i can get something better for that price??
    Thanks again