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16″ Bikes: The Best of the Best for 2018
Which 16″ Bike is Best for my Child?
Throughout the year, we put over twenty 16″ pedal bikes to the test with various 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.
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.
ByK E-350, Best Bang for Your Buck: 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.
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.
Prevelo Alpha 2, Best for Adventurous Riders: Lightweight with a low-center-of-balance 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.. Full Prevelo Alpha 2 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.
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: December 7, 2017