- Overview 2019 Best Kids’ Bikes: 16 inch
- How to Buy the Best Kid’s Bike
- 16 inch Bikes: Styles
- Our Family’s Choices
- Other excellent choices
Your child is outgrowing their first pedal bike and they are ready for their first 16 inch bike. In this guide you will find everything you need to know to make the best decision on a 16 inch bike for the kid in your life.
Overview 2019 Best Kids’ Bikes: 16 inch
|Brand||Model||Recommended Age (years)||Weight||Brake Style||Cost|
|Spawn||Yoji 16"||3.5+||A little over 14 lbs||Tektro v-brake||Check price|
|Garneau||Petit Louis or Petite Quelle 16||n/a||Tektro v-brake||Check price|
|Woom||3||~4-6||11.68||colour-coded v-brake||Check price|
|Prevelo||Alpha Two||~4-6||14.5 (with pedals)||Tektro v-brake||Check price|
|Prevelo||Zulu Two||~4-6||17.15 (without pedals)||Tektro hydraulic discs||Check price|
|Islabikes||Cnoc 16||~4+||12.35||v-brakes||Check price|
|Cleary||Hedgehog 16"||Tektro v-brakes||Check price|
|Guardian||Original||~4-6||16||surestop (equal/shared braking across levers)||Check price|
|Early Rider||Belter 16||3.5-6||12.34||Tektro v-brakes||Check price|
|Priority Bicycles||Priority Start 16"||3-7||15.9||v-brake||Check price|
|Norco||Roller 16"||4-5||v-brake||Check price|
How to Buy the Best Kid’s Bike
This section covers all of points to consider when buying a bike for kids: weight, fit, brakes, and gearing.
Your preschooler has mastered their 14″ bike and it is time to size up. The process is very similar to when you selected their first pedal bike as the next size of bike is also single speed. So, where to start?
Ideally, you will have your kid try the bike in person at your local bike shop at which time you will check the standover height (see below) and look to see how stretched out they are (reach or cockpit, see below).
Can they reach the brake levers? Check.
Alas, many of the higher end 16 inch kids’ bikes still do not have a local dealer and are only available online or second hand through local Facebook buying groups, Kijiji, or Craigslist and similar. While it is a leap of faith buying sight unseen, keep it real, do your kid a favour and do not buy a heavy and very likely poorly assembled department store bike.
Please keep the weight in mind, something especially important when starting young children on pedal bikes. The bike’s weight relative to your little ripper’s really makes a big difference in building a love for the sport. A lighter bike is easier for them to maneuver while getting on or off and is less of a blow if the bike bonks them in a crash.
This is not the time to maximize your dollars and buy the next frame up because it jussssst fits. Believe me, we made that mistake once, almost twice. Too small is far better than too big. On that note, do not rush to size them up! Bigger wheels are nice but not at the expense of confidence and safety.
Many bikes in this category come with a BMX-style handlebar that can easily be adjusted fore/aft in order to change the reach of the cockpit. We’ve always made the distance comfortably small (or short) for our young riders and then pushed it a bit forward as they grew.
If your kid is barely clearing the top tube they will be wobbly getting on and off the bike and crashes will hurt even more when they slam their crotch on the top tube before their feet touch the ground.
Measure your child’s inseam by putting a book between their legs and having them gently push the book up as high as comfortable. Measure the distance from their flat, bare feet on the floor to the top of the book, i.e. their inseam. (While you’re at it, get your bare-footed kid to stand against a wall and figure out how tall they currently are; not the most important measurement, but you can recommend it to the manufacturer’s recommended heights for their bike.)
Compare their inseam measurement to the standover height or recommended inseam from the bike’s manufacturer (see below). Aim to have 3-5 cm (~1-2″) of clearance or match the recommended minimum inseam for your child for easier dis/mounting of their new 16 inch bike and for less chance of them slamming the top tube if they fall forward when ripping it up.
So, to make sure you buy a bike that is not too big, aim for their inseam measurement plus 3-5 extra centimetres (or ~1-2″ more) to equal the manufacturer’s measurement for standover height.
We recently sized up our 4 year old to our 16″ bike and this is what she looked like on the first ride:
Note, too, that this photo was taken on a slight uphill! She still had tonnes of room for confident footing, when necessary. She took off and transitioned to this bike without a hitch. I suppose, we could have moved her to it earlier on, but this fit (as pictured) inspired conviction in her and facilitated a very smooth transition to the bigger wheels and frame. (She was previously on a 14″ Spawn Furi.) [Kid-sized pogies made by coldbike.com, FYI.]
With your child sitting on the seat, they should at least be able to touch with their tippy-toes, preferably the full front half of their foot for extra stability and confidence. See the picture above for an example of full-footed goodness for my 4 year old. The minimum seat height should not be much more than their inseam measurement; theoretically, the inseam measurement equal to minimum seat height means they could sit on the bike with feet flat on the ground.
Which bike accommodates the shorter riders best?
The Spawn Yoji 16″, Prevelo Alpha Two, and Islabikes Cnoc 16 are your best bets for riders that are shorter for their age. Their minimum seat heat, standover height, and/or recommended minimum inseams are the lowest.
16″ bike as a first pedal bike?
Depending on the age and height of your child, it is possible that their first pedal bike will be a 16″ wheeled one, and not a 14″. Truth is, the Spawn Banshee, pictured above, was the first pedal bike we bought our eldest. But read on for our cautionary tale…
According to the sizing information on the Spawn website, it seemed that she could probably pull off either a 14″ or a 16″, and we figured she would grow into it. We went to a Spawn dealer to try both out but they only had a 16″ in stock. It seemed a bit big to me but the sales rep commented on how we all learned on bikes that were often not quite the right size when we were kids and we all turned out fine! (Yes, I was suckered — I totally disagree with this now, especially knowing my kid.)
Anyway, she learned to ride that 16″ bike. In fact, she more or less took off initially — exactly as when you read or hear about that magical transition between balance bike and pedal bike — but once she realized that she couldn’t put down her feet easily, without tipping the bike to one side, she got cold feet and only wanted to ride her Strider again. A few weeks later we sucked it up and ordered a 14″ Spawn Furi and put away the 16″. Unfortunately, she had lost her confidence so we had to take the pedals off the Furi. She used it as a run bike for about a week, learning how to use the brakes and getting a feel for a different sized frame. Then she asked for the pedals to be put back on and we were back in action! All this to say is that it depends on your kid’s size and personality, but for our kids — and I think that this holds true for most kids — a smaller frame instilled confidence.
16 inch bike age
Depending on your child’s inseam and height, the latter of which affects reach, they will be on a 16″ inch bike age 4 to 6 years old. Some will start closer to 3.5 years old, especially if they are very confident; others will switch over to a 20″ bike around 5/5.5, especially some of the smaller frame ones, like the Prevelo Alpha Three.
Extra details on fitHere are some more specific details on fit that might help to paint a better picture of how these bikes might fit your child. Hopefully you can try one out in person, but if not this should help:
|Brand||Model||Recommended Age (years)||Minimum Inseam|
|Top Tube Length|
|Garneau||Petit Louis or Petite Queen 16"||447||405|
|Prevelo||Alpha Two||~4-6||16.5 (learner)|
15 (confident pedaler)
|Early Rider||Belter 16||3.5-6||420|
|Priority Bicycles||Priority Start 16"||3-7||18.5|
All of the bikes listed in this guide on buying the best 16 inch bike for your kid come with hand brakes and it is what I recommend as the best choice out there. Skip the coaster brake, they confuse the heck out of my kids.
Watch out for coaster brakes, it’s a legal thing. Thankfully there is a solution and most high quality bikes come with the option to get a freewheel replacement. Bikes recommended here are either default freewheel or have a freewheel kit option (otherwise they don’t make the cut).
When we were kids, special kid-sized brake levers didn’t exist. Yes, we successfully grew up on coaster brakes (and may still enjoy burning some rubber with them on occasion), but hand brakes are where it’s at and this is especially important for a kid learning to use a pedal bike for the first time. Now that we have kid-sized brake levers, this is especially true. Both of my kids were back pedal-ers before they figured out forward pedalling; if they had coaster brakes it would have been extremely confusing. In fact, my eldest borrowed a single speed coaster brake bike last year while we were on holiday and it was a maddening disaster for her.
Most 16″ kids’ bikes have Tektro v-brakes and they work just great in our experience. While they might not be the disc brakes that you are now so accustomed to, yourself, v-brakes are more than sufficient for riders in this ability and age group. The Prevelo Zulu Two listed here does come with a hydraulic disc, which is sweet for kids who are seriously shredding at this stage, but unnecessary for most.
Gears are not yet an option for this sized bike which is good because it keeps things simple and lighter.
However, these single speed bikes do come with different set-ups for gear ratios between the front chainring and the rear cog. As these are all high end bikes, this ratio has been well thought out. But, if you live in a particularly hilly area or spend lots of time riding the bumps at the pump track or on the trails, you might want to use the gear ratio as a defining feature when choosing between two bikes, choosing the easier geared option.
If you like, you can put the chainring (front) teeth number and the cog (rear) teeth number in an online calculator like this one to help you figure out how many “gear inches” you will get or what your “gain ratio” is. I like to use gear inches as it’s what I’m familiar with, eg. my touring bike (also set up to haul kids) has about 15 gear inches as the easiest gear and I can spin up many a hill with it, but that would be an annoying number for most people/kids on flatter terrain, so with a single speed you want something a bit bigger than that. For the calculator, you’ll need to input the wheel size (16″ x whatever tire size or the closest to it), crank length (usually around 100-105 mm for this bike size), input the chainring teeth number (eg. for 24T, type just 24 and ditch the T), and the custom sprocket number (eg. for 12T, use 12).
16 inch Bikes: Styles
The frame styles for little kids’ bikes are in the urban/hybrid category and some times they lean more towards a mountain bike with a slightly more aggressive stance.
For this age group, there is a 14″ balance bike by Woom called the Woom 1 Plus — it’s aimed at the 3+ crowd. This is a great option for the less confident rider, late starter, or for a kid who still loves to rip on a balance bike but needs something more in proportion for their body.
There is also the Strider Youth 16″ model aimed at older kids, aged 6+.
But really, any bike can be transformed into a balance bike by either removing the pedals or having your local bike shop remove the entire bottom bracket (plus cranks and pedals along with it).
Hybrid and mountain bikes
Many of the bikes suggested in this guide are hybrid frames, suitable for basic mountain biking. Some bikes, like the Frogs, come with two sets of tires: slicks and knobbies.
I would caution you against getting a bike with shocks for your young child. Kids this size barely have the body mass to actuate a front shock so this feature really just adds a lot of extra weight to their bike. Some kids are hung up on having this feature because they want to be just like mom or dad, but you know best!
BMX bikes are sweet. They have a great sloping top tube and the racing models are very lightweight in their basic design. There is a decent used market for them, too. Plus, with the right chain ring/cog combination, a BMX bike can be ridden up almost any hill.
Another feature of BMX bikes that I love (many other brands of bikes take advantage of this in their 14″ and 16″ wheeled offerings): an adjustable handlebar that you can lean fore/aft to change the reach of the cockpit.
Whether or not you get a 16 inch BMX bike, be sure to spend some time at your local pump track for skills development (plus, it’s super fun).
16″ wheeled BMX bikes might also be referenced by their race classes of “Micro Mini” or “Mini”, FYI.
Let’s face it: these bikes are not cheap. Lightweight kids’ bikes is a niche market that is growing so there is a bit more competition now, but it’s still not budget-friendly. But, you know what you are doing and consider this an investment. You’re just like us: you want to support your kid’s journey into biking because you want to share your passion with them and you know that the right equipment helps accelerate their ability. It is more fun to ride a bike that is less than half of your body weight than one that is 3/4 of your weight!
Chances are if you are actually researching what 16 inch bike to buy your kid, you are not heading to the department store because you are looking for something lightweight and good quality. Or, perhaps you’re hoping to support your local bike shop (LBS) instead of a big box store.
Some of these brands can be found at most mainstream LBSs, others at only boutique ones, and most are only available online.
Having sunk a crap tonne of cash into our eldest’s first pedal bike, I have been reassured that the resale value of these beautiful bikes is excellent (for example, inflation aside, kijiji action tells me we will be selling our Spawn Furi for $0-50 less than what we paid for it). So, while it may cramp your cash flow, be confident that you will recoup the majority of your hard earned coin while haven given your kid the best chance at becoming proficient at cycling and loving it.
Used kids’ bikes
They go like hot cakes! On kijiji or our local kid’s outdoor playgroup Facebook group, any high quality kid’s bike that goes up for sale is gone within days and has multiple offers. Some bikes resell for practically full price.
Set up alerts on an app on your phone. That’s what I did, and I still was usually only second to contact the seller so have yet to succeed in buying second hand but highly recommend it!
Start your hunt months ahead of time and good luck.
Our Family’s Choices
We tried a few different brands and went with the bike that was local to our hometown at the time (they have since moved operations to Squamish, BC). My younger brother’s family opted for another Canadian brand that’s a little more inexpensive.
1. Spawn bike: Yoji 16″ (formerly the Banshee)
The Banshee was the first pedal bike we bought our eldest when she was 3. She learned to ride it quickly (it was pretty amazing to watch) but we should have bought her the 14″ Furi (we listened too much to the sales guy about how “we all grew up riding bikes that are too big for us…”). Our 4 year old easily transitioned to it this fall (at 4.25 years old) and likely could have been on it since she was 3.5 years old.
Spawn makes great bikes. There’s not much more to say. After having owned two of them now (bought with our own money, i.e. not sponsored), I would highly recommend their products.
The Furi & Banshee have been replaced and upgraded to the Yoji 14″ & 16″, respectively. The Yoji 16″ clocks in at a little over 14 pounds, about a third of the weight of your average 4 to 6 year old, which is amazing.
2. Garneau bikes: Petite Queen or Petit Louis 16
A Canadian brand that makes wonderful little bikes that are still not exactly cheap, not your very lightest weight choice (but not too shabby either), and — most importantly for many — not your most expensive option. My nephews have ridden the crap out of their Garneaus in Nanaimo, BC and they are still standing strong — that is why I recommend them.
[My only beef with Garneau is that they’ve ‘genderized’ their bikes, ugh. I guess if it’s what’s gonna get your kid riding… but, really: It’s 2019, Garneau.]
Other excellent choices
Here are more suggestions for high quality 16″ bikes for your little ripper. We have two smaller Spawn bikes and they have been great and I know people who have happily used every other model.
3. Woom 3 Pedal Bike 16″
We have yet to ride a Woom bike but have a couple of friends whose kids absolutely love them and they do, too – each having used multiple sizes now, including this one. I am admittedly smitten with the looks of them — I love the top tube design for kids and the upright riding position their bikes have.
I don’t think that you can go wrong with Woom. Check out their well designed helmets for kids, too.Check prices online here.
4. Prevelo: Alpha Two
California-based Prevelo has two offerings in the 16″ category: this model is their high-quality urban or beginner 16 incher. The geometry is slightly more upright and the bottom bracket is a little bit lower (since it’s not specifically designed for mountain biking, thus its riders likely won’t need as much clearance). It is spec’d with v-brakes (as opposed to discs).
This company does not mess around with bikes – their products are excellent. Our youngest has recently started using their rigid 20″ Prevelo Alpha Three and it’s been awesome.
5. Prevelo: Zulu Two
The Zulu has a slightly higher bottom bracket (so that kids can clear roots, etc. a little easier), disc brakes for epic stopping power for their size, and slightly more aggressive/forward geometry. Plus, the option to have a suspension fork, if desired.
I would argue that if you have a kid who is super in to mountain biking, then this is the bike for you.
6. Islabike 16 inch: Cnoc 16
Islabikes no longer have an American headquarters, but these bikes can be found used and are a fantastic option. This brand is a pioneer in lightweight quality kids’ bikes and you can expect that to show through in the used market, i.e. if basic maintenance is done then you can expect these high quality bikes to last.
The word “cnoc” means round hill or knob in Gaelic. And the ‘c’ is silent. If you can find a used Islabikes Cnoc 16 in North America, I’d say go for it, especially if you’re looking for a bike for the city, touring, and/or some smoother trails.
7. Cleary bikes: Cleary Hedgehog 16″
Cleary’s Hedgehog 16″ Single Speed is another example of quality equipment for kids. These clean lined bikes are a great choice as an all round lightweight kid bike.
8. Guardian Bikes: Original (or Ethos) 16″ bike
Guardian bikes are proving to be a decent and less expensive option. I would liken them to the UK equivalent of Garneaus (above), but they are also available in the USA. I find it easier to trust brands that skip coaster brakes altogether and that they do.
Guardian has two models on offer for this size range: the Original and the slightly pared down Ethos, with the latter being $100USD cheaper. Many UK families trust this brand as a cheaper alternative to Frog or Isla and I can see why.
9. Early rider bike: Belter 16
At 5.6 kg (12.3 lb) this super lightweight, beautiful bike is all real and just fabulous. Well built, excellent components, and designed to go through many kids. Plus a quiet belt drive, ta boot. This British brand is available at REI in the USA.
10. Priority Bicycles: Priority Start 16″
Priority Bicycles‘ signature is a belt drive on every bike, even their kids’ series! Having used a belt drive on my bakfiets cargo bike for years now in all seasons, I can attest that they are strong, clean, smooth, and quiet! I’m a fan. This is definitely a “chain” that is not going to rust out and will last for many, many kids to come.
I love the white paint job on this bike (it comes in charcoal or sky blue, too) and the upright position completely inspires confidence! This will be a great urban adventure ride for any little kid and is on the more affordable side of the high end bicycle spectrum.
11. Norco: Roller 16″
The Norco Roller 16″ is their coaster brake free offering with nice wide, 1.95″ tires that will float on dirt for your little trail demon. My first mountain bike was a Norco so I have a soft spot for them, plus my old they’re a classic Canadian offering available worldwide.
Another choice in the higher end spectrum that doesn’t break the bank quite as much as some (although still definitely not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination).
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Never fear, not every link in this post is an affiliate link; I did not pick these bikes with the slim hope that I could make some referral marketing income: a lot of these links are not affiliate links and I have recommended them because I truly think that they are the best lightweight 16 inch bike options out there in the North American market that I am aware of.
Good luck with your purchase decision and happy trails!