If you have an REI dividend burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to consider the Co-Op Cycles REV 12 balance bike by REI. Straight from the box, it has a few details that make it stand out – namely, pneumatic tires, traditionally spoked wheels, and a grab handle under the seat.
Do they improve upon the standard bearer? Read on to find out!
Review In A Nutshell
- Aluminum frame is lightweight
- Pneumatic (air-filled) tires provide great grip and a smooth ride
- Seat handle is nice for parents when the children become more advanced
- Traditional threaded headset will provide years of smooth operation
- Use your REI dividend!
- “Child-proof” valve caps on the tires are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist
- No quick-release for seatpost height adjustments
- No option to add a brake down the road when the child becomes more proficient
- A steering limiter would be nice
First: Why You Should Choose A Balance Bike
Learning to ride a two-wheeler is still a rite of passage, but the days of pedaling around with the aid of training wheels before Mom or Dad dutifully removes them in order to run behind the child yelling, “pedal faster!” have thankfully gone the way of the landline telephone. Depending on who you ask, the “balance bike” (a lightweight child’s bicycle without pedals) was either invented in the early 1800s, the late 1990s, or 2007 when Strider came to market in the U.S. Rather than debate the details, we should all agree that balance bikes are a superior tool for teaching children to ride a bike today – riding a bike is, after all, about balance!
The concept behind the modern balance bike is simple, by design. Without having to worry about pedaling, and without the accompanying weight of a drivetrain, children are free to find the point where speed and balance align.
Because kids are able to safely scoot along with their feet on the ground, they need not worry about crashing and the whole process is accelerated. I first saw this in practice seven years ago and was blown away, and suffice to say, I remain impressed today.
Pneumatic Air Tires Provide Additional Traction
My child’s first balance bike had foam tires, which were lightweight, and seemed adequate at the time. Once he became proficient at “scooting” and maneuvering on the bike, however, it quickly became apparent that the lack of grip and traction was going to hold him back as time went on. As he began scooting down a small, grassy hill in our backyard, the foam tires would lose grip, and he’d go quickly go down.
Enter the Co-Op Cycles Rev 12, with traditional pneumatic tires wrapped around spoked wheels. An air-filled tire is both safer, because it smooths out the bumps in the road or on the sidewalk, while also allowing for higher lean-angles as the child becomes more proficient on the bike.
The only negative to this setup may be the need to keep a 12” tube in your spare parts kit, and have the skills to fix a flat should one occur, but ultimately, the advantages outweigh the potential negatives.
Modern Bike Geometry In A Pint Sized Package
Another game-changing aspect of today’s balance bikes is geometry. For those of us that didn’t fare so well in 11th grade math class, frame geometry influences the steering, stability, and performance characteristics of a bicycle.
When talking in terms of adult bikes, climbing (how the bike performs when pedaling uphill) is an important aspect of frame geometry, whereas with balance bikes, we’re mostly talking about flat-ground or downhill stability. In both of these categories, the Co-Op Cycles Rev 12 shines! With a long wheelbase and “slack” head angle, kids can move quickly while maintaining a stable, solid (and low) center of gravity.
Lightweight, High Quality Construction
Hang around dedicated cyclists long enough, and you’ll inevitably be asked, “What’s it weigh?” For the average adult, the answer is not terribly important, unless you’re into racing (as I tell my friends, you can spend a lot of money on carbon parts, or you can lose 5 pounds – the effect is the same on your ride, but very different on your wallet).
For children, however, that answer is paramount – if you weighed 28 pounds and your bike weighed 14 pounds, well, that’s half your body weight. As a Bike Dad, I stand 5’9” and weigh 170 lbs. with a hydration pack, and I would never dream of riding a bike that weighs 85 lbs.
Fortunately for today’s children, bike manufacturers are cognizant of the need to keep things lightweight. The Co-Op Cycles Rev-12 weighs in at 9 lbs., which is nearly 30% heavier than a Strider with foam tires, but this doesn’t affect the function or performance of the bike. In fact, given the advantages of the air-filled tires in the grip and ride categories, I think most riders would agree the extra weight is put to good measure.
Safety at Every Turn
For parents who either may not know how to ride a bike themselves, or even those who grew up learning to ride the “traditional way, “ transitioning from training wheels to a two-wheeler over time, the idea of a balance bike can be hard to grasp. Fortunately, these bikes are built with safety in mind.
From smart details like rounded nuts on the front and rear wheels (exposed nuts or bolts can cut children during a fall or when learning to scoot) to the low center of gravity we discussed earlier, safety is built into every detail on the Rev 12. The Co-Op branded saddle has a nice amount of padding, which is both a safety and comfort feature, and also comes with a small “handle” for a parent to grab on to if needed while the child gets used to riding the bike.
Even the valve caps on the air-filled tubes get in on the action, coming with a “childproof” lock feature similar to a bottle of prescription medication. If you’ve ever struggled to remove the cap to your pill bottle, well, suffice to say the valve caps don’t work any better. I suppose the valve caps could be considered a choking hazard, which would be the problem this solution is meant to solve, but ultimately, they make putting air in the tires too difficult. You’re better off ditching them, or replacing them with traditional valve caps.
Riding The Co-Op Cycles REV 12
I put the Rev 12 to the test with the help of my children. My two year old daughter is a rookie, having spent less than 20 minutes on any balance bike prior to trying out the Rev 12, whereas her five year old brother has been pedaling for two years and is now becoming quite the accomplished mountain biker on his rigid single-speed.
The Rev 12 has a steeply sloped frame and low stand-over height, which meant my daughter could easily get on the bike herself. While she was content to slowly walk up and down the streets of our quiet neighborhood with her new bike, her more adventurous brother immediately began asking if he could take it off a jump. Uh, sorry dude, but you’re going to need pedals before you can start sending it off jumps!
Nevertheless, when it was his turn to give the Rev 12 a try, a quick adjustment with an allen wrench (although a quick-release seatpost collar would be much appreciated) allowed the seat and handlebar to be raised to accommodate taller children. My 42” tall son fit comfortably on the bike, and immediately started scooting as fast as his little legs would propel him, pulling them up as he leaned into turns, the high-quality tires providing all the grip he needed to experience that feeling of G-forces we all covet on a bike. When asked what he thought of the Rev 12, he gushed about the “bright green color” and how smooth and fast it felt!
No Hand Brake Or Steering Limiter
There are a few “nice to have” features on a child’s balance bike, and the Rev 12 misses my common, top request – an option for a hand brake that could be added as a child becomes more proficient, in order to cut down on the number of shoes they’ll wear out during the course of riding!
Many 12” balance bikes come with steering limiters, too, which can cut down on falls due to sharp or unintended steering inputs.
These omissions are not deal breakers, however. REI has built a very good 12” balance bike that can compete with well-known industry leaders like Strider. If you’re in the market for a balance bike for an 18 month to four year old child, purchase with confidence!
The Co-Op REV 12 lacks features (like a hand brake and steering limiter) that you find on higher end balance bikes like the Woom 1.
The Bottom Line
The market for 12” balance bikes is crowded these days, so where does the Rev 12 fit in? Features like the air-filled tires, aluminum frame, and stable geometry provide a solid platform for children between the ages of two and around five (Rev says recommended rider weight stay below 60 lbs.) to learn the basics of balancing a bike, turning, and scooting along.
With the Co-Op Cycles REV 12, you’re getting a high-quality frame with well thought-out details that provide for a safe, easy, and most importantly, fun ride for the beginning balance biker.
A good range of adjustability means the bike can grow with your child until they’re ready to move on to a pedal bike. The Rev 12 is built to last, and can be passed on to younger siblings or resold to recoup some of a parent’s investment (and go towards the child’s next bike!).
More Balance Bike Help
- 5 Best Balance Bikes For Your Toddler
- Everything You Need To Know About Balance Bikes
- 5 Best Convertible Balance Bikes
About The Reviewer
Chris Del Sole has been an avid cyclist for over 20 years. He is now sharing his love of the sport with his wife and three children. A Marketing Director by day, in his free time he can be found riding, working on, looking at, talking about, and generally geeking out over bikes. In the winter, he spends his weekends teaching skiing and encouraging his kids to “send it” off every jump in sight.
Since the writing of this article Chris has left his track down the trail and passed on. He will be forever missed and thought of often. Chris, thank you for the indelible mark you left on this world.