We’ve tested EVERY model and size of Guardian Bikes and have put countless hours of riding on them. They are some of our most highly recommended kids bikes.
The Guardian Bikes are a great pick if: (1) you are looking for a high quality kids bike (but don’t have the appetite for the higher price tag of a Woom or Prevelo), or (2) you have a child that might benefit from their unique braking system.
Read on to learn more about Guardian Bikes and whether or not they are the best fit for YOUR child.
Guardian’s Proprietary SureStop Braking System Is The Differentiating Factor
Guardian Bikes are great bikes even without the proprietary SureStop braking system, but it’s certainly what sets them apart from the competition.
Unlike traditional hand brakes, SureStop brakes only have one brake lever. This single lever provides appropriate force to both the front and rear brake, helping to prevent “over the bars” crashes. These types of accidents happen when the child grabs too much front brake.
It’s a pretty clever design and works as advertised. We think it’s a particularly great design for kids who have eye hand coordination issues or who just aren’t ready for the complexity of proper braking technique.
Compared to kids bikes with coaster brakes, SureStop shines even more. In our opinion, coaster brakes are ridiculously dangerous for kids, and they make it challenging to learn to pedal.
For more on this topic, read our article on brakes on kids bikes.
While overall we like and recommend SureStop, there are a couple of instances where we DON’T recommend this braking system and we’ll talk about that more later on.
Easy Assembly And Helpful Customer Service
Considering that we test and review kids bikes, we have unboxed and assembled a bazillion kids bikes over the years. None are easier to put together than the Guardian bikes AND they have videos on their website if you do have any issues.
We’ve also had to contact customer service before, and they are quick and helpful. This can’t always be said for kids bike brands, especially those that sell on Amazon or at big box stores. And if you don’t like the bike for whatever reason, you can return it for a full year! We don’t know of any other brand that offers that long of a return window.
Finally, we appreciate their Ridesizer tool. Picking the right size bikes for your child can be nerve-wracking and confusing, but the Ridesizer tool makes sure you nail it.
Steel Frames Are Durable But Heavy
All Guardian bikes have steel frames. (They used to have a line of aluminum bikes, but have discontinued them).
The good news is that steel is a highly durable material, and these frames are well made. They can withstand plenty of abuse from kids, and won’t end up in a landfill.
The downside is that steel is heavy. Guardian bikes are far from the heaviest bikes around–the Trek Precaliber 20 is a couple pounds heavier than the Guardian 20 for example–but they can’t compete with higher-end aluminum kids bikes.
This isn’t as big of a deal for older kids (my son does great on the Guardian 26), but should be taken into consideration for younger and petite children.
Child Appropriate Geometry
Have you ever noticed how awkward most kids look on their bikes?! That’s due to poor design and geometry!
Guardian has taken a page from some of the more expensive kids bike brands and designed their bikes with a low center of gravity, low standover height, a narrow q-factor, and a long wheelbase. All of this means that your child will have an easier time learning to bike and/or feel more comfortable riding for longer distances.
Even though the Guardian bikes aren’t the lightest bikes around, the good geometry makes up for quite a bit and makes them easier to ride.
No Trade In Program
One thing to be aware of is that Guardian doesn’t have a trade-in or trade-up program. This is something that quite a few other kids bike brands (like Woom) offer as well as many local bike shops that sell Specialized or Trek bikes.
Trade in programs can be a great deal, especially for parents with an only child or kids far apart in age, but for families with multiple kids that you can hand down a bike too, not having a trade in program may not be a big deal. The good news is that Guardian bikes are durable enough to be handed down to multiple kids, making them a good deal if you can do so.
When We Would NOT Recommend Guardian Bikes
There are two scenarios where we would NOT recommend a Guardian Bike.
Let’s say you are shopping for a 14 inch “first pedal bike” for your child. The Guardian 14 ($269) is is certainly more affordable than the Woom 2 ($399) but it’s also significantly heavier (16 lbs vs 12.3 lbs). For a young child, this weight difference can make an enormous difference in their enjoyment and ease of riding.
The overall quality of components on the Guardian is also just not as high. You’ll notice this in the bigger things (the headset for example) as well as the smaller details (the wheel bolts on the Woom 2 are recessed, while the Guardian bolts are exposed).
The second scenario where we don’t recommend the Guardian bikes is if you are a mountain bike family (or hope to be in the future). For off-road riding, it is important to be able to operate both brakes independently which you cant do with the SureStop brake. Even if your child isn’t currently riding anything crazy, you’ll want them to begin to learn proper braking technique at a young age.
Our Reviews + Feedback From Our Community
Our team has tested and reviewed all of the bikes in the Guardian lineup. Here are links to our detailed reviews of each of the Guardian Bikes.
- Guardian Balance Bike Review
- Guardian 14 Review
- Guardian 16 Review
- Guardian 20 Review
- Guardian 24 Review
- Guardian 26 Review
You don’t have to rely on only our word, however. Here are some of the things folks in our Biking With Kids Facebook Community have had to say about Guardian.
- “We have loved our Guardian bikes! My 4yo is admittedly a beast, but he does 15 mile rides on his 20″ Ethos. Yes, there are lighter bikes out there. But my kids ride these just fine and enjoy it.”
- “We love our 20 in large guardian! My daughter refuses to consider any other brand when thinking about her next bike.”
- “My kids first pedal bikes were guardians. They loved them, the braking system is awesome for learners, and I wasn’t too stressed when they beat them up. Absolutely no regrets.”
- “We love our Guardian Bikes. Still a price commitment but they’ve been fantastic. My 3 year old is riding her brother’s 16” and picked it up in a day. We bumped my 6 year old up to the Large 20” and he’s flying! They both love their bikes!”
- “The guardian ethos 16” was my oldest son’s first pedal bike! I think he was about 42 lbs when we got it. He had no trouble at all learning to ride it. We don’t go on super long rides or anything, but we usually do 3-4 miles and he has never complained about the weight of it. I also really appreciated their guarantee and their customer service. He probably will need to go up to a 20” this summer, and I want to get him another guardian.”
- “My two oldest have both learned on Guardian bikes. We love them. Yes, there are lighter bikes out there, but these are great and are still lighter than most. My 4.5 yr old just switched from the 14″ to the 16″ and is able to ride the whole 10 miles of our family bike rides.”
Bottom-Line: Guardian Bikes Provide Good Bang For Your Buck
While Guardian doesn’t make the top of our list of favorite kids bikes, we still strongly recommend them, especially if you’re looking for a kids bike that offers good value OR if your child can benefit from the SureStop braking system.
Their durable frames, focus on safety, and child appropriate geometry make Guardian bikes are big step up from the average kids bike.
More Reading To Help You Pick The Best Bike For Your Child
- 10 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!