Cleary Gecko 12″ Kids Bike Review

Cleary Gecko Review

Cleary Bikes are probably the best-looking, coolest little bikes around. As good as they look in pictures, they look even better in real life. If these came in adult sizes, I would want one.

Fortunately, I have a little boy who loves to ride so he got to test out the Cleary Gecko for me.  The smallest bike in the Cleary lineup, the Gecko is a 12” pedal bike that fits the very youngest riders, and is a huge step-up from any other 12” pedal bike on the market.   Easy-to-pull brake levers, a freewheel option, and a durable steel frame make the Gecko a winner in pretty much every way.


Review in a Nutshell

Pros:

  • Beautiful design and paint job
  • Fits very young riders (2.5 years+)
  • Freewheel option (no coaster brake)
  • Easy-to-pull brake levers
  • Durable steel frame

Cons:

  • Aggressive riding position may be too much for some kids
  • No quickrelease on seatpost or wheels
  • No steering limiter

Specs:

  • Weight: 15.8 lbs (with coaster) or 13 lbs (with freewheel option)
  • Age: 2.5 to 4 years old
  • Seat height: 15″ to 18″ (with optional short seat post)

Price and Where to Buy:


Cleary Gecko Review

Fits young riders

The biggest thing the Gecko has going for it is that it fits the very smallest riders. There are very few options for a quality 12” pedal bike, and the Gecko fits the bill. Compared to the Specialized Hotrock (the only other 12” bike I’d recommend to parents), the Gecko’s freewheel option and easy-to-pull brake levers make it the superior choice.

Cleary offers the option for a shorter seatpost ($22) which allows the bike to fit kids with a 15″ inseam (2.5 to 3 years old). We ended up with the regular seatpost on our Gecko, which did not fit my 3.5 year old. We ended up swapping it with a shorter seatpost that we had around the house, but you could also take the longer seatpost to your local bikeshop to have it cut.

Cleary Gecko

The stock seatpost is too tall for my 3.5 year old

With the shorter seatpost, the Gekco becomes the smallest pedal bike on the market. For bike-obsessed families or those who have kids who started on a balance bike at a young age, the Gecko is the natural next step after they’ve mastered the push bike.

Brake levers and freewheel option

Brake Levers on the Cleary Gecko

Tektro Brake Levers are perfect for little hands.

The Cleary Gecko, with or without the freewheel option, comes standard with front and rear hand-brakes. The Tektro brake levers and hands-down the easiest levers I’ve seen. My 3 year old with very small hands has no problem operating the levers. We took him biking on some tricky dirt trails, and he absolutely nailed them with these brakes.  Even if you choose the coaster brake option, having these hand-brakes are excellent practice for kids.

If you prefer not to have a coaster brake (read this article on why you might not want one), Cleary sells the Gecko with a freewheel option for an additional $4. Unlike the Woom 2, where you have to buy an upgrade kit and swap out the standard rear wheel, Cleary actually provides the option to purchase the Gecko with the freewheel hub already installed. Because we prefer the freewheel option for our kiddo, this was ideal for us.

Beautiful design and paint job

As I already mentioned, one of the primary draws to the Cleary bikes is that they are just absolutely gorgeous. Any bike aficionado will be proud to have their kiddo riding the Gecko. The paint job is both durable (we crashed it more than once in testing), and beautiful. The Brooks-esque faux-leather saddle is the cherry on the top of an all-around good-looking bike.

Steel frame

Cleary Gecko

People tend to have a strong preference for either steel or aluminum. I personally fall somewhere in between, but do recognize the draw to steel. The Gecko’s frame is durable and sturdy, and could potentially be handed down over and over and over again. This is something I always try to remind parents of when they are choosing a kids bike, because a durable bike will have great resale value when your child (or children) outgrow it.

Kenda tires

As proof that the Gecko is top-of-the-line, it comes stock with Kenda tires that will last quite a while  before needing to be replaced.  These tires are pretty beefy, but if you intend to do much off-road riding with the bike, you may want to replace them with a knobbier tire.  If you’re riding primarily (or entirely) on road, the tires are perfect.

Aggressive riding position

The geometry and design of the Gecko is reminiscent of an adult cross-country bike. The leaned-over position and flat handle bars, create an aggressive riding position.   If the Gecko came with 27.5” wheels, I would probably want to buy it and race it.

This aggressive riding position is neither a pro nor a con of the design, but instead very dependent on the rider who’s on it. You know your child best; if they are just learning to ride or are timid by nature, they may be better off on a different bike. You can see in a side-by-side view, the Woom 2 has more upright bars and a lower bottom-bracket, both which provide a more stable comfortable platform for hesitant riders.

Woom 2 vs Cleary Gecko

As for my little boy, he took to the geometry of the Gecko pretty much right away.  In fact, this bike inspired him to tackle some local mountain bike trails for the first time.  I also know a mom who has a 3-year old that races BMX and the Gecko has been the ideal choice for him. He’s won a lot of races on it. Like I said, the right choice is going to be dependent on the child.

Small Chain Ring

Cleary Gecko Chain Ring

Small chainring provides the perfect gear ratio for young riders.

The chain ring on the Gecko is relatively small compared to other kids bikes.  While this means that kids wont be able to pedal as quickly at top speed, it also means that biking uphill and starting from a stop are much easier.  My 3 year-old had a noticeably easier time biking up the hills in our neighborhood on this bike than on both the Woom 2 and the Specialized Hotrock.  For the very young kids that are going to be riding this bike, I think the gearing is perfect.

(Minor) Cons

Any other cons that I could find with the Gecko are rather nit-picky, but I’ll list them here in case any are deal-breakers for you. There aren’t any quick-releases on the seatpost or wheels which is slightly obnoxious—either when your child grows 2” overnight (as they are known to do), or when you have to change a flat tire. Also, the Gecko does not have a steering limiter, which I find very helpful particularly with young kids who are just learning to ride. Finally, the Gecko does not come with the tools requires for assembly (most kids bikes do), but chances are if you are savvy enough to be buying a Cleary, you already have the basic tools needs for the quick and easy assembly.

No Training Wheels

One thing to note is that the Gecko does NOT come with training wheels.  For this reason, the bike is ideally suited to balance bike graduates.  If your child doesn’t already have the skills and confidence to ride a pedal bike, start them on a balance bike first.

Bottom-Line

The Cleary Gecko is both the best-looking 12” bike on the market, and–with the shorter seatpost–the best-constructed bike for very young toddlers (2.5 years+). If you are trying to decide between it and the Specialized Hotrock 12”, choose the Cleary Gecko. If you have a kiddo who is aggressive, races BMX, or loves hitting up the bike park, choose the Cleary Gecko. If you love beautiful bikes, choose the Cleary Gecko.  You won’t be sorry.

Price and Where to Buy:

Kristen

Kristen is a project manager and writer. She spends all her free time mountain biking with her family on the trails in Salt Lake City and Park City, UT.

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4 Responses

  1. tom says:

    Thanks for the great review Kristen! You answered all my questions. I’m ordering one today for my 3 yr old who has mastered the balance bike.

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Tom, Glad I was able to help. Hope your little one loves the bike. Transitioning to a pedal bike is an exciting next step!

  2. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for confirming my decision to get my 2.5 year old niece a Gecko for her next bike, despite the fact that my partner works for a Specialized dealer, so we were naturally considering the Hot Rock. My sister-in-law was just asking me about the ability to put a hand brake on her balance bike because she’s going too fast. 🙂 Now I’m kicking myself that we didn’t know about the Starfish.

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Lindsay! Sounds like she’s going to rock the Gecko! When we got my son his first balance bike, I didn’t know enough to get him a bike with a hand brake either. Kids seem to do a good job of stopping with their feet–they just end up going thru the soles of a lot of shoes!