Guardian 26 Review

Author: Kristen Bonkoski

Updated:

Youth sized 26 inch bikes are a relatively new option. Just a few years ago, kids bikes only went up to 24 inch wheels, after which children would have to move up to an adult bike. The problem with that is that it’s hard to find adult bikes sized properly for smaller tweens and teens.

Even now, there are definitely a limited number of youth 26 inch bike options. That’s why we’re always super excited to see a new one come to market. The Guardian 26 is a bigger version of the company’s wildly popular smaller kids bikes.

Our 10 year old has been testing the Guardian 26 for us for a few months now, and we’ve been super pleased with it. The bike is smaller than your average 26 inch bike and provides a great fit.

Like other tweens, our son is starting to venture out into the world more on his own–biking to and from school and to friend’s houses and the ice cream shop. The Guardian 26 is the perfect bike for this kind of riding. It’s durable, affordable, and fast rolling.

riding the guardian 26

Review In A Nutshell

Pros:

  • SureStop braking system provides extra safety
  • Durable build
  • Youth sized frame fits younger tweens
  • Fun and intuitive Microshift shifter display
  • Saddle and pedals better than your average stock components

Cons:

  • Not the right bike if your child wants to mountain bike
  • No quick release skewers on the wheels

Price: $549


SureStop Braking System

The thing that sets Guardian bikes apart from all of the rest of the competition is their proprietary SureStop braking system. What is, you ask?

SureStop utilizes one brake lever to send appropriate pressure to both the rear AND front brake. This helps prevent over-the-bars accidents due to grabbing a little too much front brake.

This system is great option for kids who have had trouble learning to ride a bike, who have coordination issues, or for parents who simply want to keep their child as safe as humanly possible! It works well, and we recommend it frequently to parents who are nervous about sending their child out into the world on two wheels.

There are two things, however, to keep in mind when choosing a Guardian bike. (1) These brakes work best in urban environments. If your child plans to mountain bike, choose a bike with dual handbrakes. (You need individual brake control for more advanced bike handling). (2) Once your child outgrows the Guardian 26, they are going to have to switch to a bike with dual handbrakes.

Grip Shifter

When I asked my son for HIS feedback on the bike, he said his favorite thing was the grip shifter. Why? The clever display has pictures to help kids understand which way to turn the shifter. Turns out kids love this.

While I’m not always a fan of grip shifters for younger kids (while intuitive they can be hard for young hands to shift), by the time kiddos are old enough for a 26 inch bike there hands should also have plenty of hand strength to operate them. My 10 year old had no issue with making shifts.

7 Speed Drivetrain Provides Plenty Of Range

The Microshift drivetrain offers 7 speeds which is more than enough. Moreover, the gearing provides plenty of range, with my son being neither spun out on flat roads nor overgeared on the climbs. In fact, we live at the top of a steep hill and he was able to ride up it on this bike with (relative) ease.

Reasonably Lightweight

At a hair under 25 pounds, this bike is a couple of pounds lighter than most adult 26 inch city bikes. This will make a big difference in your child’s enjoyment on the bike.

There are lighter 26 inch bikes out there–the Woom 6 weighs 22 pounds–but at this age weight doesn’t matter quite as much as it did when your child was younger. You could also drop a little weight by dropping the kickstand and reflectors as well.

Easy, Intuitive Assembly

We assemble a LOT of bikes and Guardian really does a superior job of making assembly quick, easy and intuitive even for parents who have no bike mechanic skills. There are stickers showing how to install the handlebar and pedals, and videos online to help as well. This isn’t true of all kids bikes you order online, so if you’re worried about assembly at all, Guardian is a good choice.

Tires Are Suitable For Riding On Roads As Well As Canal Paths Or Rail Trails

While I mentioned earlier that the Guardian 26 isn’t the bike I’d choose for true mountain biking, it is well suited to more mellow off-road riding. Thanks to the relatively wide tires and overall geometry of the bike, your child can hit a little dirt on their school commute. The Guardian does a fine job of tackling the dirt or gravel you’d find on canal paths and rail trails.

That said, while wide, the tires aren’t very knobby, so they are fast rolling on pavement–where they are best suited. In fact, my son noticed he is noticeably speedier biking around town on the Guardian 26 than he is on his mountain bike with it’s knobbier tires.

Best Fit For Tweens

Guardian advertises the bike as suitable for 10 to 15 year olds, but this is really going to be dependent on how tall YOUR child is. In general, it will be a best fit for kids at the lower end of that age range with plenty of room to grow with it.

The suggested height range is between 54 and 64 inches. My son is 56 inches and fit very comfortably on the bike.

guardian 26 sizing
Note–he has the saddle lowered on the way…which is not the best fit for his height. Yes, he would be more comfortable with it raised, but he’s crazy and he likes it low. Not a battle I’m willing to fight right now. His knees are young and he likes to stand to pedal.

Looks Good

We all know that 10 year olds are getting quite opinionated about what looks cool and what doesn’t. Or at least, my 10 year old is.

Fortunately, my son mentioned several times that he thought the Guardian 26 is a good looking bike. So while mom and dad might be worried about the quality of the bike, you can rest assured knowing that the youths think it’s cool as well.

Rounded Bolts…But No Quick Release On Wheels

The wheels on the Guardian 26 are bolt on and have nice recessed, rounded bolts to avoid scratching kids. The only thing we don’t love is that there are no quick releases on the wheels. I assume this is part of Guardian’s overall safety branding (a quick release could come loose), but it is a pain when dealing with a flat tire or trying to transport the bike.

Comfy, Ergonomic Saddle

The saddle on the Guardian 26 is quite a bit better than your typical stock saddle. It has the design of a higher end adult saddle. The seat has a gel-like feel that makes it soft without being too cushy. It’s also thin and narrow enough to really allow kids to maneuver around it.

saddle

Wide, Plastic Pedals

When we get bikes to test one of the first things we generally do is ditch the stock pedals and replace them with something a little nicer. Good pedals help improve pedaling and keep feet safely planted.

Fortunately, on the Guardian 26 we didn’t feel the need to swap pedals. The pedals that come stock are nice and wide (but not TOO wide) and have strategically placed plastic pins. These pins can help keep feet from slipping off the pedals, especially if your child is wearing a good pair of shoes with some grip.

guardian pedals

Competitively Priced

While it’s not exactly “cheap” at $549, the Guardian 26 is competitively priced. It’s on par with the Trek Wahoo ($559) and lower than the Woom 6 ($999). It’s also a little cheaper than similar bikes marketed to adults–like the Priority Classic or the Co-Op Cycles CTY.

Other Things Worth Mentioning

  • Quick release seatpost collar. This makes raising or lowering the seat quick and tool-free. The lever is easy enough to maneuver that even my sons was able to do it.
  • Kickstand. The kickstand comes with the bike and is pre-installed. Our son is pretty accustomed to not having a kickstand (and knows how to gently lay his bike down or lean it against a rack), so we will likely take it off at some point to save weight. But for families who want a kickstand (which I think are the majority) it’s nice to have the kickstand pre-installed and not to have to pay extra or try to add one after the fact.
  • Eyelets for bottle cage. There are eyelets for a bottle cage and the frame has plenty of space to actually mount a water bottle.
  • Internal cable routing. Both the brake and derailleur cables are routed internally. This helps keep them clean and looking tidy.

Bottom-Line: A Great Option For Tweens Looking To Spread Their Wings

The Guardian 26 is an ideal bike for kids who are looking to venture out more on their own, whether riding to school, sports practice, or their friends houses. It’s durable so you don’t need to worry about it falling apart and your child being stranded somewhere. (Yes, even when they decide to jump it off the curb).

The SureStop braking system, fast-rolling tires, and 7-speed drivetrain are well suited to slaying neighborhood streets and getting places quickly. Finally, the pricetag is reasonable enough that I don’t have heartburn about my child riding it around town. Since we are a mountain bike family we’ve invested in some pretty high-price mountain bikes for our son, and are happy for him to have the Guardian to ride to the playground and other places where we know he’s not locking his bike.

Overall, we’d highly recommend the Guardian 26 for any tween who’s ready to fly, and for the parent who wants to keep them safe as they do.

More Help Choosing A Great Bike

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!

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