If you’re looking to introduce your little rascals to the world of independence that riding a bike can bring, and want to do so with minimal investment, the Retrospec Cub is a great balance bike to try out first.
Buying toys and introducing new hobbies for your kids are always a bit of a gamble, am I right?! They either absolutely love it and want everything to be themed after whatever the latest trend is, or they have no interest in it at all. Introducing them slowly, giving lots of encouraging words, making it extra fun, and gaining trust over time with a new hobby is, often times, the winning recipe.
The Retrospec Cub is generally playful and inviting at first glance but offers more than just a fun look. It has a highly adjustable seat and handlebars. Not to mention, it’s on the more budget-friendly side of the balance bike pricing spectrum.
But why does that matter?
The adjustability and entry-level price point make the Cub a safe investment for parents to get their kids to try out bikes at a really young age (around 2-3 years old). It won’t be a huge bust if they aren’t interested in riding it right away because it can grow with them during their balance bike years. Pair that with Retrospec’s 50-day return policy and it pretty much makes trying out bikes at a young age a total no brainer.
Review in a Nutshell
- Adjustable seat and handlebars height helps with stretching out the life span of the bike
- Bright colors and simple branding aesthetic
- Rounded tubes and grips to minimize toddler injury
- On the affordable end of the balance bike price spectrum
- Tough and rigid steel frame
- Easy to purchase online with free 50-day return
- No grip tape means slippery footrest
- No steering limiter
- The adjustable bars can be easy to misalign
- While it is tough and rigid, paint does chip and scratch with a toddler’s rough handling
Price and Where To Buy:
- $79.99 List
- Check price at Retrospec.com
- $67.42 at Amazon.com* (Last updated: 2023-05-17 at 05:11) – More info
Quality At An Affordable Price
When we found out we were pregnant with our first child, we knew the first thing we wanted to buy our baby was their first bike. Riding is what brought us together, and we knew we wanted it to play a big role in the family we were creating.
We were excited! We purchased a $150 balance bike in blue to reveal his gender during a surprise family party we hosted.
Fast forward two years and he’s finally big enough to give it a go. He loved checking it out while on display in his room, but he was scared of the size. It was also a 12” balance bike, but less adjustable and didn’t have a step through design. We knew he would ride when he felt ready and trusted our instincts to not rush him.
A few weeks later, he saw another kid riding an even more expensive model at a pump track with free bikes available for test rides. Our son grabbed the nearest available bike, stepped through, and began walking with it on his own. While wiping excited tears from our eyes, we knew he just didn’t have the right bike at home.
Without wanting to drop another $199+ on buying the test ride bike, we found the Retrospec Cub on Amazon and decided that it was worth the shot. The design was similar to the more expensive bike and came in more fun color options.
We thought orange was fun and clicked buy now. Just as we expected, our son was super excited about the new Retrospec and jumped on immediately.
Since then, we’ve recommended multiple Cubs via word of mouth to friends, neighbors, and extended family who have asked for a balance bike option for their little rascals. You can see our friend’s newer teal blue and yellow Cub in some of the photos, and our second son can be seen throughout this review as he just turned two and is now figuring out riding on his own. It really is a great beginner bike, and it has been a great bike addition to our fleet with both of our kids getting plenty of seat time out of it.
Made for Growing Riders – Great Adjustability
As we mentioned above, both the seat and handlebars are adjustable using a standard style quick release clamp. This is great for trying some different heights to make your little rider feel comfortable. We also really appreciate that you don’t need any tools in order to make the adjustment.
Sometimes we have the seat slammed as low as possible to allow for the most room and control for our little rascals. When they want to be pushed around, we raise the seat up a little bit so their feet can naturally land on the large footrests. At the same time, it sometimes helps our backs a bit to raise the handlebars up a few inches while pushing them around.
Let’s look at the numbers:
- Seat Height = 12”–16.5”
- Handlebar Height = 20”–23.5”
Extremely Low Standover
In addition to being able to lower the seat height, we also appreciate the extremely low stand over height. The top tube is sloped downward, which means that the bike is easy for kiddos with little legs to get on and off.
Ride Anywhere – Wheels and Tires
The Retrospec Cub offers injection molded plastic rims with 12” diameter by 2” wide high density EVA foam tires. That means there are no innertubes inside the tires… meaning NO FLATS! Woohoo!
While we usually recommend pneumatic (air) tires for the additional traction they provide, for families who don’t want to do any bike maintenance, foam tires can be a plus.
Some additional reasons EVA foam tires might be right for your family:
- They don’t leave skid marks – which made us feel more confident in letting them sit and do some light riding on the bike indoors after wiping down the dust.
- Many of the local bike shops offer this size tire now, even more online
- EVA foam gives a little extra cushion and vibration dampening in lieu of suspension
- Lastly, they are a bit more environmentally friendly than rubber bike tires
The wheels themselves are plastic. Again, we tend to recommend metal rims and spokes, but in some cases plastic wheels are okay–particularly when you are on a budget.
The plastic rims have a bit of give to them, allowing for less vibration. Retrospec added quality bearings to each side of the hub so the wheels spin freely.
The wheels easily bolt on with large, rounded end nuts. This makes it easy to grab a socket or any basic adjustable wrench to make sure they aren’t going anywhere. However, we are seeing some other bikes in the marketplace with a more recessed wheel attachment to protect little ankles from getting beat up.
A Closer Look At the Handlebars And Seat Details
The handlebars are a very simple, welded T-style tubing with a slight bend. For what this bike is intended for, simple is definitely better.
We will note, the quick release clamps for adjusting the handlebar height are a bit bulky. It might be worth finding a pad at the local BMX shop for protection. Also, the stock handlebars are quite wide.
For our kids, we removed the grips carefully and cut 1 inch off of each side to make them narrower. I would only suggest doing this if you are experienced.
The seat is a very traditional size with a little bit of firm foam. The material is smooth but not too slippery, making it nice for chunky little thighs to walk and brush against without it causing chaffing.
A Great Size to Learn On
The overall proportions and scale of the bike is perfect for a 2–3-year-old to learn on. It really depends on your child’s general size, but our 2-year-old has no problem picking up the front wheel and turning around if need be. And our almost 4-year-old still enjoys playing with it occasionally.
Something to note, the bike doesn’t have any brakes, so they won’t be learning how to brake. However, most kids at this age instinctually resort to the “Fred Flintstone” style feet brakes for quite a while.
Style and Aesthetic
The minimalistic steel constructed frame design Retrospec created is timeless. It is simplistic in some regards, and very thoughtful in others. There is a large arch that comes off the back wheel to create the chain stays, but also offers plenty of room for little sneakers.
However, we wish the Cub had a bit of grip tape on the area where a kid’s feet land. It’s a little slippery with its round edges.
The graphics and colors offered on the Cub are great. Retrospec is constantly updating and rotating new options available as well, even some collaborations with influencers. They have something for the mild side with white, brown, and black options; and the wild side being bright and fun with yellows, blues, pinks, and many others.
As a side note, they have updated the graphics on some of their latest models to reflect a branding change that the whole company did recently. So if the ones offered now have slightly different branding, no need to be alarmed.
The steel frame is tough. As you can see in some of the orange bike photos, there are some paint scuffs and minor dings. But after 2 years of multiple kids’ tip overs and spills, it’s honestly taken a beating and still looks pretty darn good.
With a material like steel, you’d think it would be heavy. Somehow, the frame is lightweight at 9.2 lbs. Again, our 2-year-old has no problem picking it up and hopping on with ease.
Compared To The Strider Classic
A lot of similarities can be drawn to the balance bike brand Strider. Their classic model offers a similar bike that is roughly $20 more expensive with many of the same features.
Adjustable handlebars, seat post, plastic wheels, EVA foam tires, rounded grips with bumpers, and a simplified bike frame aesthetic. Some design elements that separate and elevate the Cub outside of the cost savings is:
- The Cub has an arched down tube on the frame, allowing little riders to step through and over the frame instead of the traditional move of swinging their leg over the rear tire.
- Retrospec has a bigger area for their little feet to rest, which makes it easier to have them put their feet up and sit while you push them around.
- The graphics are much more minimal and timeless on the Cub. Not to mention the color schemes available being much more Instagram worthy.
Compared To Higher End Balance Bikes
The Retrospec Cub is a steal, but what are you missing when compared to higher end balance bikes? A top-notch balance bike, like the Woom 1, comes with metal wheels, pneumatic tires, a hand brake, a steering limiter, lighter weight, and overall nicer components.
The pros of those bikes might be that they’re slightly lighter, faster rolling, and include extra features like brakes, but they are really intended for parents and kids who already love riding. The benefit of the Retrospec Cub is that you can introduce your child to a balance bike without breaking the bank.
If your kiddo ends up loving it, you can always splurge on a nicer bike later on.
If you’re ready for your little rascal to become a rider, this is a great option to introduce them to two wheels. The Retrospec Cub is adjustable and ready to grow with your child. It’s made to last and on the affordable end of the balance bike market.
Learn More About Balance Bikes
- Everything You Need To Know About Balance Bikes
- 7 Best Budget Balance Bikes Under $100
- 5 Best Balance Bikes For Your Toddler & How To Choose!
About The Reviewers
Our Rascal friends, Warren and Therese, met through their mutual love of riding and have injected their passion for bikes into their family unit. Warren grew up riding dirtbikes at a young age, which expanded into mountain biking and BMX racing. Therese rekindled her love for bike riding when she was introduced to dirtbikes and mountain bikes. They share their joy of riding with their two young boys, “Cuatro and Ez.” You can find them out at Wheelie Ranch, building bike lines and dirt tracks or out at their local tracks, bike parks and trails.