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20″ Bikes: The Best of the Best for 2017

Which 20″ bike is best for my child?

From gears to brakes to frame size, kids’ bikes can start getting a lot more complicated when your child is ready for a 20″ bike.  While they are generally the best fit for kids ages 5 to 8, 20″ bikes can vary greatly in size, price, and features.  To help you wade through all the options, we tested twenty different 20″ bikes, ranging from $50 to $900, to help you find the best bike for your child’s riding style and your budget.

 

 

Top Picks Summary


So which 20″ 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 for Biking Around the Neighborhood


What We Look for in a Neighborhood Bike

Bikes for kids who mainly ride around the neighborhood should be lightweight, easy-to-ride, and provide a comfortable riding position for the rider.  The average child rider doesn’t need gears or shocks or other extra add-ons that require maintenance and greatly increase the overall weight of the bike.  Keep it simple here – what your child needs is a dependable, durable, and fun bike to carry them comfortably around the neighborhood.

Top Picks for 20″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

Guardian Single Speed, Best Braking System: 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 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 geared models.  Full Guardian review.

Islabikes CNOC 20″, Best for Small, Timid Riders: Ultralight and specifically built to meet the needs of small riders, the CNOC is easy to ride, easy to balance, and its smaller size is easier to maneuver to help young, timid riders build confidence in their riding.  With a low minimum seat height of 20.5″, the CNOC is a very small 20″ and is only slightly larger than many 16″ bikes. This allows kids who would normally be on a 16″ bike to ride a 20″, which is advantageous because the larger the wheel size, the easier it is to balance. Full CNOC 20 review.

Pello Reddi, Best for Everyday Riders: Lightweight with a low center-of-gravity, the Pello Reddi is the perfect bike for everyday neighborhood riders looking for a fun,  steady ride with a comfortable upright position.  With the highest gain ratio of the three, it takes slightly more effort than the others to get started but can reach faster speeds, making it ideal for fun rides around the neighborhood.  Full Pello Reddi review.   ]

 

Comparison Chart of 20″ Neighborhood Bikes

 

Best for Aggressive Riders or Basic Trail Riding


What We Look for in Aggressive and/or Basic Trail Bikes

Built for adventure, bikes for aggressive riders or all-terrain riding should have a wider handlebar for increased control and to place the rider in a leaned forward body position to allow them to more easily shift their weight as they jump off curbs, sail down hills, and tackle tougher terrain.  Geared bikes are ideal for basic trail riding or any riding around hills.  As far as shocks go, due to the additional weight, they add to the bike, we only recommend them for more advanced mountain bike riders.

Top Picks for 20″ Aggressive or Basic Trail Bikes

 

Cleary Owl, Best for Aggressive Neighborhood Riders: Single-speed, but with a more leaned-forward body position, the Cleary Owl is an amazing bike for those ambitious kids ready to tackle any jump or curb the neighborhood can throw at them, and who don’t want the extra hassle of shifting gears.  Well equipped for basic trail riding as well, the Cleary allows kids to easily throw their weight around, but its single speed does limit its use to basic trails.  Full Cleary Owl review.

Prevelo Alpha Three, Best for Basic Trail Riding: Lightweight and nimble, the Prevelo is an amazing first mountain bike for kids ready to hit the hills, as well as for aggressive neighborhood riders who need gears.  From the Alpha’s Kenda knobby tires to its trigger shifters, it’s well spec’d out and ready to play.  Full Prevelo Alpha Three review.

Raleigh Rowdy 20Best on a Budget: The Rowdy packs a lot of punch into its $229 price tag.  While built with lower-end components than our other top picks, it’s amazingly light for its price, is built with the easy-to-use Shimano grip shifter, and has responsive, dual-hand brakes. Full Rowdy 20″ review.

Bonus: Prevelo Zulu Three, Best for True All-Terrain Riding: For those young rippers ready to tackle true single-track, look no further than the Zulu.  With wider 2″ knobby Kenda tires, Promax hydraulic disc brakes, and the clutched Shimano ZEE derailleur for maximum clearance, the Zulu is the ultimate ride for young groms. Full Zulu Three review.

Comparison Chart of 20″ Aggressive or Basic Trail Bikes

 

Best for Longer Distances (Paved)


What We Look for in a Bike for Riding Longer Distances

Lightweight bikes with narrower tires, higher gearing, and a comfortable body position are ideal for riding longer distances on paved surfaces.  With less rolling resistance, thinner tires more easily roll over the pavement and are also lighter than wider tires.  Higher gearing is essential for helping bikes gain speed, especially on flat rides.

Top Picks for 20″ Longer Distance Bikes

 

WOOM4, Best Multi-Use: With mid-range 1.5″ tires, grip shifters, and weighing in under 17 lb., the WOOM4 is well-suited for anything from longer rides on paved bike trails to cruising dirt roads. With a wide gain ratio (gearing) range of 2.3 to 6.7, the WOOM4 is elevation-change friendly and well equipped to fly down flat paved trails or easily climb rolling hills.  Comes in four fun colors for particular kids. Full WOOM 4 review.

Islabikes BEINN, Best for Pre-Road Riders: Like the WOOM4, the BEINN is ready to tackle a wide range of challenges, but is slightly more “road bike” than the others.  With a strong road racing background, all Islabikes are designed with the road in mind and come with narrower tires and tubing as well as small-reach, very responsive and powerful hand brakes.  The gain ratio of the BEINN ranges from 2.2 to 5.9, and to ensure a proper fit, is available in two frame sizes – the 20″ small and large.  Full Islabikes BEINN 20 review.

ByK E-450Best on a Budget: Half the cost of the WOOM and Islabikes, the ByK E-450 is single-speed and isn’t as fine-tuned and fancy, but is well equipped for basic road riding.  The ByK is lighter than most mid-range 20″ bikes and has narrower tires. With its single-speed gain ratio of 4.0, the ByK-450 easily allows kids to gain speed on flat roads with limited effort.  Full ByK E-450 review.

Comparison Chart of 20″ Longer Distance Bikes

 

 

Best Budget Bike


What We Look for in a Budget Bike

Whether you’re on a budget or just need a basic bike for your child to get around the neighborhood, we’ve tested out numerous 20″ bikes under $250 to help you find the best bang for your buck.  Bikes under 30 lbs. with good frame design and a durable build are the most important features. In general, due to the complex nature of gears and shifters, we generally recommend NOT getting the cheapest geared bikes on the market as they will cause more pain and misery than they are worth. For ultra-budget bikes under $100, please reference our ultra-budget girls and boys 20″ bike comparison reviews.

Top Picks for 20″ Budget Bikes

 

Schwinn SmartStart, Best Under $150: A big step up in quality and design from $75 big-box store bikes, Schwinn’s SmartStart series offers a lightweight bike at an easy-to-swallow price.  Its overall geometry makes pedaling easy, but the handlebars are very tall for kids which limit maneuverability for riders with shorter torsos or those with inseams in the 22″ to 24″ range.  The taller bars, however, does allow taller riders, whose have grown above the maximum seat height, to continue to ride the bike without much trouble.

Diamondback Insight 20, Best Geared Budget Bike: For those who live near hills or simply want or need the flexibility of a geared bike when riding, the Diamondback Insight is a great basic geared bike. Full Insight 20 review.

Raleigh MXR 20, Best Bang for Your Buck: An amazing build for the price, the MXR offers a comfortable ride with a durable build that is sure to last through several children. Like the Schwinn is also has a coaster brake, but the rear V-brake on the MXR is much more responsive and better quality than the brakes on the Schwinn.

 

Comparison Chart of 20″ Budget Bikes

Other 20″ Bikes we Recommend


To compare even more 20″ bikes, check out our Kids’ Bikes: Ratings and Comparison Charts page.

 

By: Carrie Wren

Last Updated: September 2, 2017

  • Jerel

    I’m struggling with what bike to get for my son’s next bike. He’s 8 years old and 49″ tall but only has a 20″ inseam and weighs 57 lbs. He’s been riding a 16″ Diamondback mini viper for a few years and has outgrown it. He wants a geared bike and he’s starting to want to do jumps and stuff. Any suggestions?

    • anon

      I might double check that inseam just to be sure – use the book method described in “how to choose” section. (you may already know this, but i’m just covering all my bases.)

      if that inseam is correct it certainly poses a challenge. i would look at the prevelo alpha three, with it’s long wheelbase, which would help accommodate his torso length. the guardian 20 could also likely work, and costs less. i can’t think of another geared option, in a cheaper price range, that would fit his inseam.

    • Steve

      Raleigh rowdy is a nice 20″ bike for the price. My kid is the same size as yours but 5yro. He shreds on a 20″ Spawn Yama Jama but I’m guessing that too much. Don’t buy anything with a spring fork. (nothing under 700$ has a decent air fork). If he wants jumps and to ride hard. Get a Framed Impact 16″ Bmx. The size is still good since it’s BMX (adults often ride a 20″). The geometry is great and he’ll learn to jump well on a bike designed for it. Now you just have to go buy a jig saw, plywood and 2x4s and build him a kicker!

      Also, stand over height and inseams are much less of an issue of the kid can already ride well.

  • Jennifer Triplett

    I am looking for the next bike for my 5 1/2 year old daughter . . . she is 47.5″ tall with a 21.5″ inseam and is a strong rider (she’s been riding w no training wheels since her 4th birthday when we gave her a Woom 3 and she just took off riding it no problem!). We can’t afford one of the $400+ bikes this time, and are looking for a geared 20″ bike in the $200-$250 range. I was looking on the Diamondback website and I came across the Clarity
    20″ bike. It is the girls’ version of the Insight. It has a 19.5″
    standover height, and weighs 22.4 lbs. It seems to solve the high
    standover height “CON” of the Insight, and is actually lighter. Have
    you ever reviewed the Clarity? Is it just as good as the Insight in
    other ways? Is anyone out there familiar with the Diamondback Clarity
    20? Thank you!

    • Steve

      That bike isn’t great. The steel fork is a boat anchor. Most importantly tho, the cranks are hilariously long. Those cranks are too long for even a 24″ bike let alone a 20″ and young rider.

      For that price I’d look at the Raleigh Lilly instead. It’s lighter and better. Of course it isn’t perfect but it’s a nice bike for the value.

      • anon

        The issue here is that the Raleigh (Rowdy and Lilly both)has too high a standover, around 20.5in. This would give the commenter’s daughter only 1in of clearance from the top tube, instead of the standard 2in. It may however, be the best that can be done.

        The Byk E-450 is a single speed, and original commenter specifically wants a geared bike – however, unless there are hills in the area, or their daughter has been begging for gears, I would agree it really can wait.

        • Steve

          Good point on the Byke. No gears.

          Stand over height isn’t really such a big deal for kids that can ride already. Especially for neighbor riding stuff! Having an inch is excellent in my mind. My 3yr started out with no clearance on his tip toes (I bought him a larger 16″ $$$ bike and expect him to grow this winter). No issues at all. He was starting on his own within 2 days and riding in 10mins. With a full inch of clearance, that is more than enough.

          • anon

            as long as jennifer’s daughter isn’t doing any aggressive riding, one inch should probably be okay. definitely. however, for more aggressive riders i would definitely hold to two inches if possible (as they are more likely to crash their bike doing their things). i wouldn’t recommend a bike with no clearance, though.

            as to lilly vs rowdy – buy the one the kid likes the color of better. girls can ride the rowdy and boys the lilly, there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Steve

    You guys are crazy, by far the best aggressive 20″ trail bike is either a Spawn or Flow 20″ bike. How can you possibly leave those off of here? Nothing on here even comes close. The safety concerns of aggressive riding come in to play big time. An incredible air fork (Brood El Dorado) has saved us from going over the bars SO many times on jumps/drops. The hydraulic disk brakes are a deadset requirement, so on longer decents we don’t run into hand fatigue (5yr old) and blow over a berm and down, down, down to the ER. My kid couldn’t even pedal that Clearly up the mountain, let alone come down the trails.

    • anon

      You clearly do much, much more aggressive and advanced riding than the Cleary was designed for.
      The Cleary is recommended for basic trail or more aggressive neighborhood riding, as are the other two bikes in that section.

      In fact, in that section the Prevelo Zulu Three is later mentioned as a bike appropriate for serious trail riding. It has disc brakes, a good air fork, etc, comparable to the Spawn.

      It’s important to remember these lists are geared to average parents, who do not do the type of riding you describe. For children who simply ride around the neighborhood, or on basic dirt trails, bikes such as the Spawn and the Zulu Three are overkill and unnecessary expense. The vast majority of children do not need shocks or disc brakes to ride comfortably and safely, and in fact are usually better off without the added weight.

      • Steve

        I read that section as “aggressive or basic trail riding”, I guess that was a mistake? Trail Riding is a defined class of biking and there has been a new (and existing) influx of great bikes that fit into Kids Aggressive trail riding. Why not list those here? If all “the best” bikes are just permutations of neighborhood bikes… that leaves a solid, fun and growing demographic out. (Fwiw our neighborhood is full of gap jumps, ramps and other fun stuff). The Alpha and Rowdy are nice basic trail bikes for sure tho. I saw that Zulu bike there… it’s an expensive, decent, newer bike but it’s heavy and isn’t in the upper class that Flow and Spawn are in. You get a ton of bike and components for the money with Spawn and Flow. Not to mention the Mom’s and Dad’s that built those bikes are awesome people.

        Regardless another lacking area for burgeoning riders around the neighborhood and trail is the BMX bike. Few bikes will ever teach your kid as much about riding as a nice BMX bike. The geometry, especially a freestyle bike, make learning critical techniques much easier for littles and the value of standing position riding (and the body positioning) is amazing for kids development whether in a neighborhood or on a trail.

        • anon

          I think there may be a breakdown here in what is meant by words like “aggressive”, as they definitely do mean different levels of riding in different contexts.

          I have typed and retyped multiple responses past this point, but after some thought have decided that instead I will leave it to Natalie.

        • Should have read this whole tread before responding above. I believe we are in agreement. By not listing Spawn we are by no means trying to say these are better than Spawn, because in terms of overall build and components they are not.

          I have considered adding another section for true mountain riders, but since we have only tried out a few (Prevelo and Islabikes) I honestly don’t feel like I have seen and tested out enough true mountain bikes to make a declaration of “the best”. The same applies to BMX bikes. I have not done enough research and testing about BMX bikes to feel comfortable to label some as “the best”.

          I try really hard to be honest and straightforward in our reviews and won’t just throw a list up just to get traffic or to potentially make money off of it. There are plenty of review sites that put together lists just for the sake of creating a list. To your point, I agree that these additional sections would be helpful to others, I just don’t have the expertise in those fields to feel comfortable adding them.

    • Totally agree with you here. For true shredders, you can’t go wrong with a Spawn! We haven’t had a chance to review their bikes yet, which is why they aren’t listed, but have hesitation in recommending their bikes to our readers.

      Our “Aggressive” section is also for “Basic Trail Riders”. We made the assumption that anyone looking for a true bike would know that a bike recommended for a basic trail riders wouldn’t be right for their child for the exact reasons you pointed out. We used the term aggressive more for ambitious neighborhood riders who want to fly down every hill and jump every rock they see, versus true mountain bike riders who are riding true single track or at bike parks. Since we are Two Wheeling Tots we realize most of our readers are everyday riders, not mountain riders, so we use the terms like “aggressive” more loosely than a review at mtbr or pinkbike would.

      We have, however, had a chance to review the Prevelo Zulu, which is certainly a bike up your alley, https://www.twowheelingtots.com/prevelo-zulu-four/.