Article Banner

16″ Bikes: The Best of the Best

Which 16″ bike is best for my child?

Over the course of several months, 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.


16″ Bikes Categories

Timid/Beginner: Hesitant riders often need time and encouragement to warm up to the idea of a pedal bike.  A lightweight bike with a more natural upright position helps kids feel more relaxed and less anxious about riding. These bikes are also geared lower for easier pedaling riding.

Aggressive:  Riders who are ready to hit every jump, fly over ever curb and are passionate about riding.  Aggressive bikes have flat handlebars that place the body in a more forward position on the bike, which is beneficial when shifting your weight, but can be tiring and intimidate the average rider.

All-terrain: For those ready to hit single-track or the pumps tracks.  All-terrain bikes have knobby tires, no coaster brake (coasters are problematic when riding up hills, over jumps, etc.) and dual hand brakes for increased stopping power.

Pre-road: Geared high for the maximum distance for every pedal.  Higher gears make starting the bike more difficult, but it prevents kids from having to spin their pedals excessively to gain speed.

Best for Timid Riders

The vast majority of kids bikes are built using components designed for adult riders.  As a result, kid’s bikes are often too wide, requiring them to splay their legs out to pedal.  When built with child-specific parts, bikes are narrower, lighter and fit more naturally under their smaller frames. Bikes in this category position the kids much more upright, allowing the kids to naturally balance their body over their hips.  The Pello Revo, WOOM3 and Islabikes CNOC 16 all offer upright positioning, narrow frames (low q-factor) and are lightweight.
For the most hesitant riders, the WOOM3 is our top choice. Coaster brake free, the WOOM3 helps kids learn to pedal without with sudden and unexpected stopping caused by coaster brakes.  The right brake lever on the WOOM3 is also green to help remind kids to stop with their right hand, versus their left, teaching them proper braking technique.
The Islabikes CNOC 16 is also an amazing bike for hesitant riders.  Having a coaster brake, it can take a child longer to pedal, but it is geared slightly higher than the WOOM3 to allow for faster riding. For kids who do not yet have the hand strength to rely solely on a hand brake, the CNOC 16 would be an ideal choice.  Lastly, the Pello Revo is great for timid riders who are likely to become a more aggressive pedaling is mastered.  With wider, knobby tires the Pello Revo easily and smoothly rolls over various terrains.  It also has a coaster brake and a rear hand brake, but no front brake.

Best 16″ Bikes for Timid or Beginning Riders

Best for More Aggressive or Experienced Riders

Aggressive positioning creates a lower center-of-gravity for the rider, allowing kids to lean into turns and shift their weight on the pump track and over jumps.  The Early Rider Belter, the Priority Start F/W, and the Cleary Hedgehog all have aggressive positioning but vary in other aspects.
The Priority Start F/W and the Belter have belt drives, which are grease free and essentially maintenance free, while the Cleary has a chain drive.  The Priority is more aggressive than the Early Rider and has a slightly higher gain ratio (get more distance per pedal) but the Hedgehog has the lowest gain ratio making it best for tackling inclines.

Best 16″ Bikes for Aggressive Riders

Best for Trail Riding (Freewheel with Dual Hand Brakes)

Wider, knobby tires provide additional cushioning and traction make for all-terrain riders.  With dual hand brakes, freewheel hubs (no coaster brake) and wider handlebars for a stable base, all-terrain bikes designed for adventure.
16'-All-terrainOf the three we tested, the Commencal Ramones was a favorite amongst average-sized testers, but its wider q-factor was less than ideal for petite or smaller-framed kids.  The Norco Samurai/Mirage and the Stampede Bikes Sprinter are an inch narrower with a q-factor of 6.25″ and were preferred by smaller riders.  For aggressive riding, the Stampede Sprinter was preferred over the Norco as its wider handlebars and longer wheelbase provided greater stability and control.

Best 16″ Bikes for All-Terrain Riders

Best Pre-Road

Getting more distance for each pedal, high gain ratios combined with narrow tires are the perfect combination for riding along paved trails.  Dual hand brakes for increased stopping power and lightweight frames are also ideal.
The Ridgeback Dimensions 16 has the highest gain ratio of all the bikes we tested at 4.5 with the ByK 350 coming in second at 4.  The Islabikes CNOC 16 has a lower ratio of 3.5, but its high-end components and nimble handling make for a great starter bike.  Plus, for those looking to get their kids into road riding, Islabikes designs some of the best road bikes for kids on the market.

Best 16″ Bikes for Pre-Road Riders

Best Bike Shop Bikes

While bike shops have good quality bikes, they are often heavier and offer minimal features as compared to bikes available online.  Bike shop bikes, however, are much better quality than bikes found at big-box stores and always come 100% assembled and tuned up.  Of the bikes we tested, the Norco Samurai/Mirage ($265) was our hands-down favorite with the Specialized Hotrock 16 ($240) coming in a distant second.  The Trek Superfly 16 ($309) was the lightest of those we tested, but its extra-wide handlebars and lack of hand brakes make its higher price tag hard to justify.  Related Article: Bike Shop Bikes vs. Online Bikes.  

Best Bang for Your Buck

If you are looking for the best bike for your dollar and are not as concerned about a particular type of riding, the Pello Revo, Stampede Sprinter and Commencal Ramones are amazing bikes for their price.

At $299 the Pello Revo isn’t necessarily a “budget bike”, but it’s high-end components comparable to those on $360+ bikes, including a Cane Creek headset, Kenda tires and Tektro rear brakes, make it a deal.  For $229, with additional discounts often available, the Stampede Bikes Sprinter 16″ is the best deal around.  Built on a solid frame with well-made components and wide handlebars for stable riding, in all-terrain condition, the Sprinter is the bike you want at the price you need.  For those with a slightly shorter torso, the Commencal Ramones 16″ is another great choice for $250.

Best Bang for Your Buck 16″ Bikes

Best Bike Under $200

Our Best Budget 16″ Bike Comparison review brakes down your best options under $200.  Our top pick, the Torker Throttle is no longer available, but the Diamondback Mini-Viper is a great option for around $150.  Heavier, built will lesser quality components and with no handbrakes, budget bikes lack many kid-friendly features but are much better quality than $50 big-box store bikes.


Need More Options?

Be sure to check out our Pedal Bike Comparison Charts for more detail on each 16″ bike.

By: Natalie Martins

Last Updated: January 22, 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 ( or a fun basket on it (

      If you are looking for another bike, the Raleigh Jazzi ( or even the Schwinn Girl’s Jasmine (

  • 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