So what’cha, what’cha, what’cha want?
Know the band that used those lyrics? If so, then you’re probably of the age to be buying a 24” bike for one of your children. So, what do you want?
As a father of two, I can speak on behalf of most parents and answer with: safety, performance, affordability, reliability, and enjoyment. Remove the performance and enjoyment characteristics and it sounds like a couple of parents shopping for a 16-year-olds first car.
What’s great about the Guardian Original is that you don’t have to sacrifice performance and enjoyment just because you are trying to save a few dollars. As bike manufacturers continue to throw R&D into bikes actually made for the lil’ riders out there, parents are faced with a dizzying array of parts, specs, options and ultimately go back to the bottom line: what do we really want for our child? Luckily, Guardian has the answer: the Guardian Original 24”.
There is definitely not a shortage of 24” bikes so selecting one that is “appropriate” can be difficult. We are a biking family, but not (yet!) a mountain biking family, meaning that when we go for a ride as a family, almost all of our time riding is on pavement, not off-road.
If you and your family share this same trait, should that impact your decisions when purchasing a bike for your child? Of course it should. The Guardian Original is kind of like a Swiss Army Knife minus a few blades and the toothpick. It has everything a “typical” child needs in a bike, but nothing that they don’t.
Review in a Nutshell
- Smooth, low rolling resistance tires
- Sure Stop brake technology (safe, simple, adjustable)
- Twist grip shifter (simplicity for kids fresh on the scene to gears)
- Pretty sweet paint scheme
- Customer service and great website
- Quick-release seat post
- Simple and quick assembly (10 minutes)
- No quick release for wheels
- Some experienced riders may be accustomed to (or prefer) dual brake levers
- Ain’t the skinniest (lightest) kid on the block
- Not intended as a mountain bike
Price & Where to Buy:
Guardian Original 24 Inch Detailed Review
This bike’s got style!
We own a silver bike, a yellow bike, a green bike, a black bike, a red bike, a ______ (insert any color from the 126 crayon box) bike. Long story, empty wallet, we own a lot of bikes that have your traditional paint/color scheme. Guardian takes it up a notch, southern Cali’ style, with the Original 24.
We, along with our six-year-old son, dig the unique graphics and he’s been turning heads in our neighborhood for the last two weeks. Kids (most) don’t care about the brand of brakes or tires, and whether the bike has mechanical or hydraulic brakes. What they want is a cool looking bike that is fun to ride. Done and done.
We especially think the wheels look pretty rad. In fact, my 6.5-year-old is working on growing a mustache so he can use these wheels when riding his fixie! Between the frame and wheels, this bike (minus the gears of course) would fit in perfectly at a Red Hook Crit.
The aluminum frame has a flat paint finish instead of the traditionally glossy shine, and although I’ve always been a guy who wanted his bling to be shiny, the flat finish has grown on me and I think it adds another unique (not expensive) characteristic to the bike.
The welds are all done beautifully and I’m a big fan of the big and bold front end. Who looks at the welds you ask? The welds are what holds the bike together and I would like my son to lose his two front teeth the organic way instead of the concrete sidewalk way.
The shape of the tubing is another unique element of this bike that gets a thumbs up from us. The top tube has a flat top and bottom but rounded sides. Not that your child will do it often, but it makes resting on the top tube doable with this bike, especially since there are no exposed cables to worry about scratching the frame. The shape of the top tube allows for a comfortable mount/dismount by shorter riders. Of course, it also has the sweet paint scheme as the rest of the bike.
Everything about the bike, including the cable routing, length of the cables, rear triangle and shape of the top and down tube, looks clean and high end.
Internal Cable Routing Keeps Things Clean and Tidy
Speaking of things looking clean, all the cables (derailleur and brake) on the Guardian 24 have housing around them and are routed internally in the frame.
Internal cable routing helps keep cables out of the way and free from dirt and grime.
Legs, shorts, knees (name a body part) and it will make contact with the frame during most cruises, thus if cables are routed externally, this could lead to possible scraping or damaging of the artistic paint job.
With exposed cables (which are usually run above or below the top and down tubes), it leaves them open to the elements (puddles, dirt, dust, or the occasional rainstorm when the bike is “accidentally” left outside).
Rigid Fork Provides Lightweight Simplicity
Many bikes in the 24-inch category will come standard with a suspension fork up front. The Guardian Original has a rigid (no suspension) fork and some customers will scratch their head and wonder why?
Our simple answer: because this bike provides your child with what they “need” and the majority of bike-riding kids never venture off the beaten path and therefore do not need a suspension fork to soak up the bumps.
The rigid front fork looks snazzy, but more importantly, it’s lightweight.
There are a lot of paved paths where we live and about every other bike we see cruising along has a squishy front end. Why? If your child falls into the “majority” of children category, those that use their bikes to go to a friend’s house, spin to the ice cream shop, tool around the campground, or go for a quick spin with the family in the neighborhood, save the unnecessary weight and be cool with the rigid front end. I (along with thousands of others) raced mountain bikes up until I was 26 years-old before buying a bike that had a suspension fork. Your shorty will be just fine rolling over those cracks in the sidewalk.
As kids age, so does their stamina for longer rides that might venture beyond the quick loop around the neighborhood. This is good news for your kids (and for you too), as they can carry their own water bottle since the Guardian Original has plenty of room for their child cocktail of choice.
Not all kids bike frames have space (or the eyelets) to accept a water bottle cage, so we like that about the Guardian 24. The bike doesn’t come with a cage, but you can grab one for under $10 and it takes under 5 minutes to install.
Shimano Tourney 7-Speed Drivetrain Provides Smooth, Intuitive Shifting
The Guardian Original 24 comes equipped with a Shimano Tourney 7-speed drivetrain that is controlled via a RevoShift twist grip shifter.
Having only ridden a bike with a trigger-style shifter, it took our son about five short seconds to master shifting the Guardian. As shown in the picture, there is a + and – sign to help in the learning process.
The grip shifter is intuitive and easy for young kids to figure out.
With his other bike, we had to yell out “finger back” or “thumb forward” when we wanted him to shift gears. The twist grip also allows him to keep as much of his hand in contact with the handlebar grip instead of removing his forefinger or thumb to adjust his gears.
The shifting from gear to gear has remained smooth, even though I see him twisting the shifter like a motorcycle throttle while telling me he’s going to drop me once we leave the driveway, all while being completely stopped. I don’t recommend anyone treats their drivetrain in that manner, but needless to say, the overall quality seems to be quite high.
In the rear, the Guardian Original is fitted with a 14-34 cassette.
For those new to gears, whenever talking about a rear cassette, just remember “opposite day” from middle school. Lower number “toothed” rings are typically used for faster speeds. So to sum up class: lower = faster, higher = slower.
You may have seen a few kids on rides where they are spinning their legs at about 150 rpms. That is because they don’t have smaller “toothed” ring/s on their drivetrain…or they just need to shift gears (if on a geared bike of course). Some cassettes go all the way down to a 10 tooth on the low end and a 50 tooth on the high end.
Long story short, the wide range of gears, especially the 34 tooth chainring, ensures that your child won’t be over-geared (lacking the force to turn the pedals over) or under-geared (lacking the smaller gears to maintain higher speeds). It’s just right. Going back to Guardian building a bike with everything the typical kid needs, I’d say they have hit the bullseye.
The drivetrain on the Guardian 24 is high-quality. Shifting is clean and intuitive and the gearing works well for both hills and flats. The chain guard on the front chainring (far right) keeps legs and pants from getting greasy and helps keep the chain from falling off.
Just in case you are wondering what the purpose of the plastic disc behind the cassette is…, it works as a catch-all (dust, dirt, sand, etc.) to keep the drivetrain running smoothly. Lastly, there is a pretty big jump from the sixth to the seventh chainring of the cassette, after both hearing and seeing the derailleur beautifully glide the chain up and down the entire gear range, no need to worry, the shifts are buttery smooth.
Comes Standard With A Kickstand
In all of the reviews I have done for various kid bikes, I have yet to talk about a kickstand as being one of the bike’s highlights. Well, that is about to change.
The durable, easy-to-use kickstand helps prevent kids from dropping their bike haphazardly on the ground.
This one works great. Many bikes that get parked in our driveway when friends visit or the ones we see when at the ice cream shop are made of stiff metal and seem to either be very difficult to get to go up/down or they don’t seem to stay fully locked when riding. I have seen many sticking out or hanging down a few inches while the bike is in motion. Riding a bike is dangerous enough, but let’s not add a javelin to the list of potential causes for injury.
The kickstand that comes standard on the Guardian Original 24 has a great feel to it. It is operated with an internal spring that keeps it doing what it is supposed to be doing, whether locked in the position to support the bike while parked, or safely tucked out of the way when riding the bike. It works extremely well.
Fully Adjustable Saddle Ensures a Comfortable Fit
The seat is fully adjustable, which is something new for the bikes we have owned thus far. Many bikes that are 20 inches or smaller offer adjustment up and down, but not forward or back.
Like a real adult bike, the seat rails have fore-aft markers that are worth noting just in case you want to start fiddling around with seat/body positioning on the bike. Measure twice, write it down once.
The saddle on the Guardian 24 can be adjusted for and aft to ensure a comfortable fit. Adjusting the height of the seat up or down is also made easy thanks to a quick-release seatpost collar. No tools required.
One of the bikes we own actually has a measurement indicator/scale on the seat post so that you can know the height you have the seat set at, just in the case you have friends over and are adjusting the seat for other riders. The seat post on the Guardian Original does not have such a feature, but I’ll let it slide.
As you can see in the picture, there is a quick-release seatpost collar so adjusting the seat on the trail or at the park can be done without a tool (typically an Allen wrench).
Braking News: The Coolest Brakes I Have Ever Seen
Hold up, what about the rim brakes? Wouldn’t having disc brakes be preferred?
Nope. I don’t think they are necessary for the Guardian Original’s intended use and the type of kid who is most likely to ride this bike. They work extremely well. They were quick to engage, easy to adjust (more on this below), and predictable. And now…drum roll, please….The single best reason why you should buy this bike for your kid: the SureStop Brake Technology.
Fall left or fall right and chances are your kid is going to bounce back up. Flip over the handlebars and you might be taking an extended TV timeout.
Many kids go from a bike with coaster brakes (which are engaged by turning the pedals backward) into a bike with dual hand brakes. With some practice, kids can usually get the hang of it pretty quickly with no issues.
But be it tomorrow, next week or next month, at some point in their young riding career, something is going to cause them to have to stop in a hurry. Whether it is a car backing out of a driveway, a squirrel running out in front of them, or a rider in front stopping in a hurry, your little one’s little brain is going to have to react and brake accordingly…pull back on both brake handles hard enough to stop quickly but not too hard to lock up the wheels. This is often difficult for young riders to do; as a result they end up flying over the handlebars.
The single lever brake design intelligently removes 99%, if not all, of the front dismounts due to emergency braking. I help coach a junior mountain bike team and even our 10-year-olds have not mastered the technique of using their front brake in unison while engaging their rear brake. The Guardian’s Sure Stop Brake technology was developed specifically for these reasons.
For more information on the Sure Stop braking system, this video helps explain.
Our son is about 50 inches tall which makes him just barely tall enough to whip around on the Guardian Original 24. Regardless, the brake levers and distance from the grips didn’t pose a problem. The brake levers are easily adjustable using the included Allen wrench which took about six seconds.
Unlike most kids bikes, the Guardian 24 has neither a coaster brake nor dual hand brakes. Instead, a single brake lever operates both the front and rear brake brakes.
We have ridden the bike on pavement as well as gravel, which pretty much sums up the environment this puppy will be playing in, and the brakes worked flawlessly. We were on a gravel descent where with a typical two brake handle set up, I would have been worried about my son locking up the front or the rear by pulling too hard on either one of the levers. Too much on the front and he’d lose control of the front wheel and wash out. Lock up the rear and his back end would slide out.
Either of these scenarios would require some camo Bandaids and probably an ice cream cone or two. The patented brake technology standard on all Guardians will save you trips to the convenience store as well as help keep you 10 pounds lighter by not frequenting the ice cream shop as much.
High-Quality Kenda Tires Are Smooth Rolling
The Kenda tires provide minimal rolling resistance and great traction when venturing onto a slightly unbeaten path. Since our son has only ridden on Kenda Small Block 8s (they have been on every bike we have purchased thus far) his whole life, the smooth-rolling tread on the Guardian Original 24 seemed wicked fast to him. Because of the narrow width and speed he is able to carry with these tires, he calls this whip his road bike.
The Kenda tires have a mostly-smooth tread. This makes them ideal for rolling fast on pavement, but they are capable of rolling on dirt canal paths and rail trail as well.
Whatever man, I’m just glad you love it. In fact, he likes this bike so much, he hasn’t touched his mountain bike in over two weeks.
Plenty of Reflectors
With safety being #1 on Guardian’s lists of must-haves (fun is penciled in as #2), front and rear reflectors come pre-installed on the bike, as well as a reflector on each wheel.
Ensuring The Correct Bike Fit Is Easy With the RIDESIZER Tool
Since our son is just barely at the height to enter the 24-inch bike club, I was worried about how this bike would fit him and affect his riding ability.
Some areas that worry me on a too big for your britches bike is the extension of his arms to the handlebars and what that does to his back, the ability to safely reach the brake levers (or in this case, lever), the ability to turn the bike without altering their position on the bike significantly, and the child’s ability to mount/dismount the bike for stops and starts.
Being just over 50-inches tall, none of these concerns ended up being a problem whatsoever. Because of the sloped downtube, adjustable brake levers and less aggressive cockpit (stem, handlebars), he fit comfortably.
Guardian makes choosing a bike in their lineup quite easy and foolproof by their RIDESIZER program (guardianbikes.com/#ridesizer). It’s pretty slick to say the least, however the kid with no face or hair kind of creeps me out.
Red Carpet? This Way…Guardianbikes.com
From the moment my interaction with Guardian Bikes began, it has been all good. From the quick replies to my emails, a phone conversation with Kyle (one of the co-founders), the fast delivery, the packaging, the included tools (they even included a wrench), the easy to use website, the fast assembly, yada yada yada, Guardian Bikes does it right.
The Guardian 24 right out of the box. Assembly is quick and easy and all needed tools are included. And if you run into trouble? The Guardian website has helpful tutorials and answers to FAQs.
One Con: No Quick-Release On The Wheels
One slight bummer about this bike is the lack of quick-release levers on the both the front and rear wheels. This means if you have a flat tire, or need to take the wheels off for transport, etc, you’ll need tools to remove them.
That said, we still don’t think it’s that big of an issue. No quick-release wheels for this rig could have many writing it off, but how often are you removing the front wheel of your own bike? Maybe it could pose a problem for roof rackers, but for the hitchers out there, don’t even think twice about it.
Not Intended for Serious Mountain Biking
Could you take this bike on a mellow XC trail? Sure you can…there’s room for beefier tires and the aluminum frame has more than enough toughness to handle anything your ripper can throw at it, but mountain biking is not Guardian’s intention with this bike.
The other reason we don’t recommend the Guardian bikes for real mountain biking is that the SureStop brakes don’t allow for the level of modulation and individual use of the front and rear brakes as is required for developing mountain bike braking skills.
Can a gnarly 24″ mountain bike roll down a paved or gravel path as well as the Guardian Original? Nope. Each bike has their purpose and are built and spec’d accordingly.
Also Comes In A Cheaper “Ethos” Version
If you like the idea of the SureStop braking system, but the cost of the Guardian Original is stopping you, you’ll be glad to know that Guardian also offers the Ethos 24. This bike lacks some of the higher-end components of the Original, but costs $100 less. (Retails for $329).
Bottom-Line: An Excellent Bike For Recreational Riding
The Guardian Original 24-inch is a great bike for who it is intended for: the majority of kid riders out there. It’s not the lightest ship in the sea, but will a pound or two of added weight over the other brands persuade your kid to stay inside and play video games instead of ride this bike? Hardly.
I would put the Guardian Original 24 on the top of my list if safety, reliability, customer service, and performance were my main focus. You can’t put a price on your kid’s safety and this bike enables you to breathe a little easier whenever they saddle up for a ride.
Our lil’ dude’s only complaint thus far? Maybe it could have a little more red paint on it!
Do Your Research Before Buying
Want to know what your other 24-inch bike options are? Or what you should be looking for when buying a kids bike? These articles will help you make an informed decision, so you don’t waste your hard-earned cash.
About the Author: My name is Michael Pero, a 38 year old teacher, husband and father of two boys, ages 6 and 4. When not building forts, bike ramps, or exploring the great outdoors on two feet, you’ll find me racing on two wheels. With two junior Olympic xc racers in training, I know there are many more smiles and miles in my future.
FTC Disclosure: Guardian Bikes provided a bicycle to help facilitate this review. We did not receive any monetary compensation, and all opinions are our own. The majority of the links on this site are affiliate links and we earn from qualifying purchases.