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 lightweight aluminum make the Gecko a winner in pretty much every way.
Note: February 2023 edit includes updates based on the latest Cleary Gecko model release. The new Gecko has an aluminum rather than steel frame, beefier tires, and riser bars. The overall look and ride quality remain the same.
Review in a Nutshell
- Beautiful design and paint job
- Fits very young riders (2.5 years+)
- Freewheel option (no coaster brake)
- Easy-to-pull brake levers
- Lightweight aluminum frame
- High volume, off-road tires
- Aggressive riding position may be too much for some kids
- No quick-release on seatpost
- No steering limiter
- Weight: 12 lbs
- Age: 2.5 to 4 years old
- Seat height: 15.4″ to 18″
Price & Where To Buy:
Fits Tiny 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 inch pedal bike, and the Gecko fits the bill.
With it’s 15.4″ minimum seatpost height, the Gekco becomes one of the smallest pedal bikes on the market. Even compared to the Prevelo Alpha One, which has a lower minimum seatpost height, the Cleary Gecko remains the smaller option overall.
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.
For slightly older or bigger kids, we’d recommend skipping a 12 inch bike all together and going straight to a 14 inch bike like the Woom 2. The bigger wheels roll over obstacles better and they provide more room to grow.
Still, for the earliest pedal bike riders (2.5 to 3 years old), the Cleary Gecko remains the best option around.
Comes In Both Coaster And Freewheel Versions (Choose The Freewheel!)
The Cleary Gecko, with or without the freewheel option, comes standard with front and rear hand-brakes. The Tektro brake levers are 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. 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.
Lightweight, Aluminum Frame
While the Cleary Gecko used to be known for it’s durable steel frame, the newest release of the bike comes with an aluminum frame. This was a little sad (I loved the steel!), but the intent was to create a lightweight bike, and they succeeded.
At just 12 pounds, the Cleary Gecko is one of the lightest bikes around. The only bike lighter is the Woom 2; you can get it under 12 pounds by swapping out the coaster brake for the freewheel.
Still, for all intents and purposes, this bike is as light as they come. That weight savings makes an enormous difference for kids just learning to pedal. There is nothing more important when choosing a first pedal bike than weight.
The tires are the Cleary Gecko are super beefy–almost comically so for such a little bike. The knobs are huge and provide lots of traction, even off-road. If you’re planning to take your child on trail or to the pump track, this bike is a great option.
The 2.15″ tires are probably the fattest tires of any 12 inch bike around. This not only provides traction, it also adds a little extra comfort if your child is planning on riding off-road or off curbs.
The only thing we would caution is that the extra wide knobby tires are overkill on paved surfaces. If you plan on sticking to the driveway and cul-de-sac, you may opt for a tire that’s a little more smooth rolling.
Aggressive Riding Position
The geometry and design of the Gecko is reminiscent of an adult cross-country bike. The leaned over geometry creates 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.
The original version of the Gecko had flat handlebars that added to this aggressive position. Today, the bike comes with bars that have a slight raise, which provides a more comfortable reach.
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 And Unobtrusive Chainguard
The gearing on the Gecko (25T front x13T rear) is relatively easy 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.
We also appreciate the unobtrusive chain guard. While most smaller kids bikes have a full guard, that covers the chain, the Cleary Gecko only has a guard covering the chain ring. Some may argue that this is a safety hazard; in our experience it’s a far superior design. It’s lighter weight, and it won’t get bent and rub the chain as is often the case.
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.
Cleary Gecko Video Review
This video is based on an old version of the Cleary Gecko that had a steel rather than aluminum frame. The frame material, weight, and tires have changed–but the overall message of the video remains the same.
|Weight||Quality Of Components||Child Appropriate Geo / Ease Of Riding||Customer Service||Aesthetics||Total Score|
With a total score of 94, the Cleary Gecko has the second highest rating for any first pedal bike. The only bike that ranked higher was the Woom 2.
The weight and quality of components on the Cleary Gecko is best in class. Customer service and aesthetics are also high. We took one point off for customer service, as Cleary doesn’t have the explicit assembly instructions and videos as a brand like Guardian, nor the personal feel of Prevelo. The only bike that scored higher on aesthetics is the absolutely gorgeous Early Rider Belter 14.
We did knock a few points off on “child appropriate geometry and ease of riding” simply because the more aggressive geometry on the Cleary Gecko doesn’t inspire the same confidence as a more upright bike like the Woom 2. In our experience, the Gecko is perfect for families who mountain bike and encourage their kids to do the same; a more upright bike is more appropriate for the larger population of children.
The Cleary Gecko is both the best-looking 12” bike on the market and 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.
More Help Picking The Best Bike For Your Child
- Best Bikes For Your 3 to 4 Year Old (12 Inch and 14 Inch Bikes For Boys & Girls)
- Best Kids Bikes: 7 Brands Your Child Will Love
- 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!