Has your child outgrown most kids’ bicycles but they’re not quite ready for an adult sized bicycle either? It used to be that there was an awkward gap between smaller-wheeled “kids bikes” and 26 inch “adult bikes.” Today, however, more and more 26 inch bikes are being designed specifically for kids and teenagers (or petite women).
These bikes may have 26-inch wheels but are sized smaller for smaller riders (ages 10+). Older or taller teens have more options and can look at regular adult bikes instead.
We have tested LOTS of kids bikes over the years, and our favorite youth sized 26 inch kids bike is the Woom 6. It is lightweight, durable, and has lots of add-on options (fenders, racks, bags) etc. If you want to save a little money, we’d recommend the Guardian 26.
Please note, these bikes are primarily intended for around-town riding. If your kiddo wants to ride out off-road, check out our guide to 26 inch mountain bikes. Or, if they want a drop-bar option, you’ll want our list of road and cyclocross bikes.
Our Favorite 26 Inch Bikes
|What We Like
|Lightweight, plenty of accessory options
|Frog 69/Frog 78
|Brand name components
|Steel frame, disc brakes
|SureStop braking system
|Available at local bike shops
What We Like
✅ Lightest bike on this list
✅ High quality build
✅ Upright geometry
✅ Tires work well on pavement and dirt
✅ Ability to add a rear rack
What We Don’t
❌ No disc brakes
❌ Grip shifters rather than trigger shifters
Woom makes our favorite little kid bikes, but they make great big-kid bikes too. The Woom 6 comes with top-shelf components, and at 22 lbs it is significantly lighter than most 26″ bikes.
Woom also offers add-on options like a rear rack, bags, and fenders, so if your child is planning on commuting or even touring with their bike, this is the best option. The all-terrain tires are fast rolling on pavement, but also allow your child to ride on dirt rail trails or cut across grass fields.
Despite this being our top pick, we do have some minor complaints. For one, the bike has grip shifters. At this age, kids are perfectly capable of operating trigger shifters, and they work much better. Additionally, it does not have disc brakes (like the Cleary Meerkat listed below) which offer superior braking power especially in wet weather.
Read Review: Woom 5 (same bike, just smaller)
Frog 69 / Frog 78
Frog actually offers TWO 26″ bikes. The Frog 69 is smaller-sized for younger kids (ages 10+) and the Frog 78 is sized for older kids (13+).
These bikes are built with brand-name components including Kenda tires, a Shimano drivetrain, and Tektro brakes. Both bikes come standard with fenders which is nice for families that live in wet climates. Additionally, the nice bright colors are great for visibility when riding around traffic.
Like the Woom 6 above, the Frog bikes do not have disc brakes, which at this price point one might expect or hope for.
Cleary Meerkat 26
The Cleary Meerkat 26 is the new big brother to the 24 inch Meerkat. This is a fantastic bike that can do a little bit of everything.
Thanks to the steel frame, hydraulic disc brakes, and high volume knobby tires, the Meerkat is a good choice for a little gravel or off road riding in addition to hitting the pavement. There are also plenty of bosses in case you want to add racks, fenders, or bags.
The most unusual thing about the Meerkat is the internally geared Sturmey Archer hub. It’s low maintenance and means there isn’t a derailleur to bend on the bike rack at school.
Unfortunately, the disc brakes and internally geared hub equate to both a higher weight and a higher price tag. At 29 pounds, this is the heaviest bike on the list, AND the most expensive. It might be tough to spend this much on a bike that will be outgrown when other good options at a lower price exist.
Read Our Review: Cleary Meerkat
The Guardian 26 has an ideal bike for zipping around town thanks to the super-safe proprietary SureStop braking system, fast rolling tires, and 7-speed Microshift drivetrain. While we don’t usually love grip shifters, the display on this one has fun graphics to help kids understand which direction to shift, and was our tester’s favorite feature.
We also really appreciated the high quality saddle and pedals–far better than the stock ones you usually get on kids bikes.
The bike is very reasonably priced and offers a bunch of bang for your buck. It is heavier than the Woom 6, for example (25 vs 22 pounds) but at this age, weight doesn’t matter quite as much as it does for younger kids.
Our biggest complaint with the bike is that the wheels don’t have quick-release skewers on them (for quick, tool-less tire repairs), but that’s always something you could add after the fact.
Read Our Review: Guardian 26
Trek Wahoo 26
Price (MSRP): $559
The Trek kids’ Wahoo line extends all the way up to 26 inch wheels. The Trek Wahoo 26 comes with semi-knobby tires and is well suited for being ridden on or off road.
The one huge pro to buying a Trek is that it will be easy to find from a local bike shop. If you don’t want to have to assemble a bike, or want to be able to try it in person before purchasing, the Trek Wahoo 26 is a great option.
Like the Guardian 26, the Wahoo also offers amazing bang for your buck. It has high-quality components (including an easy-to-operate trigger shifter) and the weight is on par with the Woom 6.
It is missing some of the extras (ergonomic grips, internal cable routing, quick release skewer, etc), but if you’re looking for a lightweight bike at a good price, this is it.
- Prevelo Alpha Five – We love the Prevelo Alpha series of bikes. We haven’t tested the Alpha Five (yet), but we have tested the smaller Alpha One, Alpha Two, and Alpha Three. The Alpha Five is incredibly lightweight (21 lbs), has upright geometry, and trigger shifters–all things we appreciated.
- Pello Roovi – Pello is another kids bike brand we have had great experience with. The Roovi actually has 27.5″ wheels rather than 26″ wheels but has a relatively low stand over, disc brakes, and the option to add a suspension fork. We’ve previously reviewed the Pello Romper, Pello Rover, and Pello Reddi.
What To Consider When Choosing A 26″ Bike For Your Child
Here are some things you should think about when picking a bike, and more information on how the bikes on this list compare to one another.
A 26″ bike refers to WHEEL SIZE and provides no indication of FRAME SIZE. Most 26 inch bikes will be sized for an adult and are far too big for the average pre-teen.
When looking for a 26 inch bike, make sure to pay attention to the manufacturer’s size chart and frame specs. The frame stand over height should be less than your child’s inseam .
If you can find the minimum seat post height, that’s also a great size indicator. The minimum seat post height should be no more than 1.5″-2″ longer than your kiddo’s inseam.
The chart below shows how the minimum seat height and stand over height compares for the bikes on this list. The Prevelo Alpha Five has the lowest stand over height (by far) but the Cleary Meerkat actually has the lowest minimum seat height. These two bikes will be best picks for kids just on the threshold of a 26 inch bike.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Frog 78 is the largest of the 26 inch bikes on this list, and will be better suited to slightly taller kids and for parents who want the bike to grow with their kiddo a little longer.
Most of the bikes on this list have traditional v-brakes (rim brakes). The benefits of v-brakes are that they are affordable and low-maintenance.
You’ll notice some 26 inch bikes (like the Cleary Meerkat), however, offer disc brakes.
Hydraulic disc brakes provide the best stopping power and cause little hands less fatigue than other options. Unfortunately, they are also expensive and require more maintenance. You won’t find any hydraulic disc brakes on this list, but you will find them on 26 inch mountain bikes.
A nice medium are mechanical disc brakes. Mechanical disc brakes are relatively affordable, offer better stopping power than v-brakes (especially in wet conditions), and don’t require much maintenance.
Finally, whatever type of brakes you choose, you want to look for a bike that has short-reach brake levers. All of the bikes on this list have brake levers well suited for smaller hands, but many adult-oriented 26 inch bikes will have brake levers a little too big for small-ish hands to easily operate.
There are several things to pay attention to when it comes to the drivetrain; specifically, gearing, shifting, and the component group set.
With a 26 inch bike, most options will be geared (as opposed to being single speed). With kids, we think it’s best to keep things simple. Look for a bike with a single chainring upfront rather than a front derailleur (all of the bikes on this list meet that criteria). 7 or 8 gears on the rear cassette is plenty as well.
The Cleary Meerkat is unique in that it doesn’t have a rear derailleur at all. Instead, it has an internally geared hub. This is a super low maintenance option, but does add additional expense and weight.
If you want to get geeky, you might also consider the gear ratio and gain ratio of the bike. (For most families, don’t worry about this).
As far as shifters go, we prefer trigger shifters. Kids this age should have no problem learning to use them, and they provide cleaner shifts and less maintenance than grip shifters.
That said, you’re likely to see bikes with grip shifters. For some kids, they might be easier to use / more intuitive, and shouldn’t be a deal breaker when shopping for a bike.
Of the bikes on this list, the Woom 6 and the Guardian 26 have grip shifters. The remainder have trigger shifters.
Finally, you might want to consider the drivetrain group set on the bike. In general, the more expensive the bike, the higher-quality the drivetrain. SRAM and Shimano have long been the gold standard, but Microshift is a newer brand offering quality drivetrains. Steer away from any cheaper bikes with no-name or off-brand drivetrains.
Type of Riding
The bikes on this list are well-suited for around-town riding and maybe even a little off-road rail-trail cruising. If your child needs a bike for riding to school or biking with your family to the swimming pool on Saturday afternoon, the bikes on this list are for you.
That said, if you have a kiddo that is more interested in a specific type of riding (i.e. mountain biking, road cycling, BMX), get them a bike that matches their interests. A REAL mountain bike, for instance, will provide them with a lot more fun and capability on the trail then a hybrid bike from this list.
Weight isn’t as important on a 26-inch bike as it is on say, a 12 inch bike, but it’s still important. The lighter a bike is, the easier it is to pedal and handle, and the more enjoyable it will be to ride for your child. Even a couple pounds can make a big difference, especially for more petite kids.
The chart below shows how all of the bikes on this list compare in terms of weight. The Prevelo Alpha Five wins (by a hair) with the Woom 6, Frog 69, and Trek Wahoo close behind. The Cleary Meerkat is by far the heaviest.
More Reading To Help You Pick The Best Bike
- Best Kids Bikes: How To Choose, Reviews, & More!
- Ultimate Guide To Kids Bike Sizes (And Bike Size Chart!)
The Rascals are a family of three. Kristen (mom), Blair (dad), and Parker (kiddo). We started Rascal Rides when Parker was born and we didn’t want to give up our passion for biking. As we learned, we shared. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of kids bikes, helmets, bike trailers, and more.
Kristen is a USA Cycling certified coach and loves to share her passion for biking with other families. Blair is a bike geek, mechanic, and mountain bike junkie. Parker is our resident tester and inspiration.
If you see us out on the trail, make sure to say hi!