Just a few years ago, the 16 inch mountain bike category simply didn’t exist. You could find a good-quality bike and add some beefier tires, and that was about as good as it got. Not anymore!
Today, there are quite a few legitimate 16 inch mountain bikes. We’ve rounded up what we’d consider the best of the crop, so you know what all your options are.
If you’re not sure how to pick or what to look for, scroll down to the bottom for our tips on choosing a good-quality kids mountain bike.
But First….Does Your Child Really Need a “Mountain Bike”?
We end up with a lot of parents looking for a “mountain bike” who’s child doesn’t really need one. If your kiddo is primarily riding their bike on pavement, with the odd foray onto dirt, check out our list of the best 16-inch recreational bicycles instead. All of these can be used on mild trails as well as on the road.
On the other hand, if your family is spending most of your time on the trails, hitting up the bike park, etc….then you should definitely look for a true mountain bike like those listed below……
Prevelo Zulu Two
The Prevelo Zulu Two is our top pick for young shredders. It comes with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, and slack, trail-oriented geo. We also appreciate Prevelo’s excellent customer service.
The bike comes in two versions. The Zulu Two has a rigid aluminum fork, while the Zulu Two HEIR offers a high-quality 80mm adjustable air fork with carbon lowers. The weight gain for the suspension fork is negligible, so if you can afford the extra coin, we’d highly recommend the HEIR version.
The only bummer is that it’s a bit heavy for uphill riding; so make sure to buy a Tow-Whee when you check out. (Prevelo carries them on their site).
Read Our Review: Prevelo Zulu Three (larger version)
Price (MSRP): $479+
Commencal Ramones 16
The 2022 Commencal Ramones 16 has been upgraded with Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes and beefy 2.25″ Vee Tire Co Crown Gem tires. We also like the nice wide 500mm bars.
The rigid fork may be a drawback for some, but it does help keep the weight down. For the price, this is a pretty great bike.
Price (MSRP): $429
Spawn Yoji 16
Spawn has long created the kids’ bikes of choice for mountain biking families. Unfortunately, we feel that Spawn has fallen a bit behind on it’s 16″ offering. The Spawn Yoji 16 lacks disc brakes and suspension.
Still, it’s this lack of “extras” that keeps the Yoji 16 super light (14.5 lbs), making it a great pick for families who spend as much time going up as they do going down. It also has in-house Loam Star 1.9″ tires that can handle whatever comes their way.
Price (MSRP): $495
Early Rider Hellion 16
The Early Rider Hellion 16 is a beauty thanks to it’s brushed aluminum frame. Thankfully, it doesn’t just look good, it performs as well.
Beefier than any of the company’s other 16 inch offerings, the Hellion has hydraulic disc brakes and super wide Vee Crown Gem 2.25″ tires. (These are easy to set up tubeless). The frame will even accept tires as wide as 2.6″ if you wanted to try a little fat biking with it.
We also like the fact that the bike can accept a rear derraileur if you decided you wanted to add gears.
Although it lacks disc brakes, everything else about the Cleary Hedgehog works pretty well on the trail. The steel frame provides a little extra vibration dampening, as do the knobby tires.
We also know that mountain biking provides a lot of abuse to bikes as compared to paved riding, and the Hedgehog is plenty durable. As 125 pound adult, I’ve ridden the bike and it didn’t so much as groan.
Read Our Review: Cleary Hedgehog
Comparison Chart: 16 Inch Mountain Bikes
|Bike||Price (MSRP)||Weight (lbs)||Fork||Brakes||Drivetrain||Tires|
|Prevelo Zulu Two HEIR*||$799||17.95||60mm||Tektro hydraulic||Singlespeed||Innova MTB 16 × 2.1|
|Prevelo Zulu Two*||$469||17.15||Rigid Alloy||Tektro hydraulic||Singlespeed||Innova MTB 16 × 2.1|
|Commencal Ramones 16||$359||Rigid Cromo||Tektro mechanical||Singlespeed||Vee Tire Co Crown Gem 16 x 2.25|
|Flow Kids Bikes 16||$1,099+||20||80mm||Tektro hydraulic (base model)||Singlespeed or geared||Maxxis Max Daddy|
|Lil Shredder Icon||$1,950+||Custom||Custom||Singlespeed or geared||Custom|
|Spawn Yoji 16||$395||14.5||Rigid Cromo||Tektro V-brakes||Singlespeed||SPAWN CYCLES LOAM STAR, 16 x 1.9|
Tips For Choosing a 16″ MTB
Not sure how to choose between bikes? Here are some things to consider before buying.
Suspension Fork vs Rigid Fork
Let’s be real. Most kids don’t really need a suspension fork on a 16 inch mountain bike.
With wide enough tires and low enough pressure, they can tackle most obstacles without a suspension fork. We personally didn’t introduce our son to suspension until we moved him up to a 20-inch bike. A rigid fork also saves some weight, which makes it a good choice for petite kids or for families who do a lot of climbing.
That said, if your child is riding rocky or technical trails, or hitting up lift-served downhill trails on the weekend, you absolutely want a suspension fork. It can make a world of difference in your child’s comfort and capability. Just make sure you are buying a high-quality air-sprung fork, not a coil-sprung fork.
You’ll notice the bikes on this list have three different brake types: v-brakes, mechanical disc brakes, and hydraulic disc brakes.
V-brakes are the cheapest and the lightest. They work pretty well for kids who don’t weigh much, and they help keep the weight of the bike down. They also require minimal maintenance, if tooling around on bikes isn’t your thing.
That said, v-brakes just aren’t that great for mountain biking. When we first switched our son from v-brakes to disc brakes his descending ability went through the roof. Chances are you haven’t had v-brakes on your mountain bike in years and if you’re asking your child to ride the same trails you are, they should get the same high-quality braking system.
As far as disc brakes go, hydraulic disc brakes are really the way to go for kids. Not only do they have superior braking power compared to mechanical disc brakes, but they are also much, MUCH easier for little hands to operate.
That said, hydrualic disc brakes are more expensive and require more maintenance than mechanical disc brakes, so we understand why some folks might choose the latter.
Tires are one of the most important things on a 16 inch mountain bike, especially if it doesn’t have a suspension fork. Nice high volume tires can provide a lot of cushion.
We particularly like tires that can be set up tubeless. This allows them to be run at a much lower pressure, with the added benefit of additional comfort and traction.
As far a tire width goes, it will be largely dependent on the type of riding your child is doing. Lots of hardpack cross-country trail? You can get away with a lighter, narrower tire. For downhill mountain biking, on the other hand, we like a nice wide 2.2″ tire.
How important weight should be in your decision-making process is largely dependent on the type of riding your family does. Are you mostly doing shuttle rides and lift-served riding? If so, weight probably doesn’t matter that much.
On the other hand, if you live in Colorado or Utah and do lots of trail riding, your child is going to be climbing. And climbing is really tough on a heavy bike. In this case, we’d recommend sticking with a lighter weight OR buying a Tow-Whee so you can help give them an assist.