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.
Of 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
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