Please note that many of the links on our site are affiliate links. These are denoted with an *.  By clicking on them, Rascal Rides gets a small commission on any sale.

Cleary Gecko 12″ Kids Bike 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 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

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • Aggressive riding position may be too much for some kids
  • No quick-release on seatpost
  • No steering limiter

Specs:

  • 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.

Compared to the Specialized Riprock or the Trek Precaliber 12 (the most sold 12″ bikes), the Gecko’s freewheel option and easy-to-pull brake levers make it the superior choice.

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.

cleary gecko learning to pedal

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

Cleary Gecko

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.

Beefy Tires

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.

Woom 2 vs Cleary Gecko

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.

(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.

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.

Overall Score

WeightQuality Of ComponentsChild Appropriate Geo / Ease Of RidingCustomer ServiceAestheticsTotal Score
Cleary Gecko101089994

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.

Bottom-Line

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

About Us

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!

12 thoughts on “Cleary Gecko 12″ Kids Bike Review”

  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  3. Question. I am considering buying the 12in Clearly bike for my son but wondering if he’s too big for the 12in. He will be 4 in July. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Hi Shay,
      That’s impossible to know without having his inseam info. Some kids are still TINY at 4, while for others the bike would be way too small….The best thing to do is measure his inseam. I’d then compare it to the seatpost height for the Cleary Gecko as well as the Woom 2 or some other 14″ bikes. You want to buy a bike where your child meets the minimum seatpost height but still has plenty of room to grow….
      Cheers,
      KB

      Reply
  4. Hello. We bought this for my nearly 3 year old and are having issues with the aggressive riding style (I think that’s what you called it). Well, my daughter’s legs are coming up super high and I was wondering if there was anything you can recommend we do before giving up.

    Thank you,
    Christina

    Reply
    • Hi Dawn,
      We haven’t reviewed the Cult Juvenile 12″, but I am familiar with it. It’s a nice bike, especially if you are specifically looking for a BMX bike. Compared to the Cleary Gecko, it is definitely more upright. It’s also a bit heavier though than a bike like the Cleary or Woom.
      Cheers,
      KB

      Reply
  5. Hi Kristen! Thank you so much for your detailed reviews. It helped us a lot to narrow down the list of bikes, however we are torn between Cleary Gecko and Woom 2. Our son is experienced balance bike rider (Cruzee, super light- 4.4 lb, no hand brakes). He is turning 4 years old in a month, but quite petite for his age – 37″ tall, 15″ inseam, although when I measured his balance bike seat height it was at almost 16″ height. I think Gecko has more similar to our balance bike “agressive” position, however I also like Woom for bigger wheels. Just can’t decide, and would appreciate any advice!

    Reply

Leave a Comment