The world of kids’ bikes has been turned upside down in the past decade. Training wheels are out, balance bikes are in. There’s a slew of small bikes with suspension forks and disc brakes for little rippers. And even basic bikes have evolved to make riding easier to learn, more fun, and safer.
To take advantage of these advances, there are a couple key features to look for when picking up a new kids’ bike. Getting the size and fit right is important too; it will make sure your little one gets the most out of their new ride. Here’s what to look for, and 15 of our top recommendations, reviewed and evaluated by our test editors and proven on the road and trail by our crew of test groms.
It is hard to decide what to like best about the Cleary Hedgehog–the beautifully painted steel frame, the top-notch componentry, or the way the little bike performs out on the trail. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose. Your child can have it all: form and function.
The Hedgehog is Cleary’s 16″ bike, sized for kids ages 4 to 6. The geometry and design make it look and perform like a real (albeit tiny) mountain bike. That said, it performs just as well on rides around town and on the kindergarten commute as it does on singletrack.
Lighter, brighter and stronger could mean more riding
Want to get your little one excited about riding? Well, you're in luck. Cleary Bikes makes really cool kids' bikes featuring bright colors, catchy names and low weight. Perhaps more important, though, the five models are built with thoughtful geometry, proportional components and quality construction.
The 13-pound Cleary Gecko is a kids’ bike that comes with the goodies you’d expect on a performance adult rig: V-brakes, three-piece cranks, a faux leather saddle, and a lifetime warranty. "We build tools, not toys" says Owner Jeff Cleary.
Cleary does one thing and does it really, really well: It crafts well-thought-out bikes for kids—and only kids. The 24-inch Meerkat is the newest bike in the Cleary line, and it picks up where the 20-inch Owl model leaves off. It has easy-to-use hydraulic disc brakes, a 9-speed drivetrain with a single ring up front, and a kid-sized saddle and grips for comfort. The durable steel frame is equipped with an equally tough steel fork. The rigid fork is suspension corrected, so adding a fork with some cush is incredibly simple. Available in Very Orange, Deep Blue, Sorta Pink, Red, and AstroTurf.
Cleary Bikes, the only U.S. brand tailoredspecifically for kids, introduces a line of lightweight bikes created to motivate kids to ride to the best of their abilities. Cleary Bikes’ mission is to provide kids with real tools through every level of riding, to ultimately take off independently with confidence and ease. From exploring the neighborhood to adventuring out on mixed terrain, Cleary Bikes prides itself on being the brand of choice for kids and parents, inspiring them to enjoy life on a bike.
Jeff Cleary, former professional triathlete, mountain bike racer and dad, started Cleary Bikes after years of planning
One of our favorite websites, Two Wheeling Tots, has published a wonderfully detailed review of our Cleary Gecko. Below are some of the highlights.
A well-built, thoughtfully designed 12″ bike is hard to come by. With limited space for cranks and pedals and with tiny legs to maneuver them, most 12″ bikes are poorly designed, hard to ride and are generally a waste of time. As a result, we never recommended 12″ pedal bikes, until now.
The Cleary Owl was field tested by Bicycle Times Magazine. Here are a few excerpts from the article: