Do you remember your “first bike”–the one without training wheels? It was the one Mom and Dad let you ride to Johnny’s house down the road on Saturday with strict instructions to behave yourself and ask to use Johnny’s phone to call Mom when you’d safely completed the 45 second trip.
Maybe it had a superhero theme, or was made to look like a motocross bike. I don’t entirely know what YOUR first bike looked like, but I can guess a few things: it was heavy, and you likely weren’t riding it without training wheels before the age of five.
Fast forward to 2023 and things have vastly improved in the world of children’s bicycles! It’s now routine to see three year-olds or younger gliding down the bike path on a 12” balance bike, or four year-old shredders chasing Mom and Dad down mellow dirt trails in anticipation of becoming “real” mountain bikers. Suffice to say, it’s a GREAT time to be a bike family!
One of the companies that’s leading the charge into building high quality, high end kids bikes is Spawn Cycles, which is located in the mountain biking Mecca of Squamish, British Columbia.
Today we’re taking a look at their smallest bike with pedals, the Spawn Yoji 14. So pull up a repair stool, a water bottle with your favorite recovery drink, and learn whether or not the Yoji should be your child’s introduction to pedaling!
Review In A Nutshell
- Lightweight aluminum frame is durable and rustproof
- Assembly is easy for a relatively competent garage mechanic
- Brood components are designed in-house
- Child-specific fit to ensure critical touch points like grips and the saddle fit little bodies
- $$$: Pricey
- Brake setup can be intimidating for some parents
- Factory communication can be spotty, especially during and after COVID
Buy at SpawnCycles.com
Unboxing And Assembly
Unboxing the Spawn Yoji 14, so named for the 14” wheels it sports was a relatively simple process. Albeit one made difficult by my three year-old daughter/tester constantly squealing with delight over her “new pink bike!”
Assembly is easily handled by any competent garage mechanic with a standard set of tools. You’ll be required to attach the handlebar to the stem, tighten up the faceplate, install the pedals (this requires a pedal wrench), and install the front brakes. The wheels attach via 15mm bolts, which is a tried and true method, albeit one that is not our favorite.
The open bolts and sharp nuts are not high on our list. They’re prone to leading to cuts and scrapes when kids inevitably crash. At this pricepoint, we’d expect to see rounded, recessed bolts like those on the Woom 2. Let’s face it: crashes are quite common on a child’s first day pedaling a bike without using training wheels!
Overall, assembly is relatively simple, but not as easy as some of our other favorite kids brands. It may be overwhelming for parents with no mechanical experience.
Once assembled, we were immediately impressed by the quality of this bike. Having moved from steel to an aluminum frame, Spawn has guaranteed the Yoji is lightweight at a mere 13 pounds. We cannot harp enough on how important weight is!
It should be a disclaimer at the bottom of our bike reviews! If an adult weighs 170 pounds, to keep a bike less than 50% of their body weight you’d want the bike to weigh 85 pounds. How well would you be able to ride an 85 lbs bike?
So fast forward to a child’s first bike and the numbers get even harder to hit. Our tiny little 3.5 year old test rider tips the scales at a mere 32 lbs., meaning she needs a 12lb. bike to hit that number. In the 3 year-old bike market, with a limited number of bike-obsessed Moms and Dads to go around, that’s going to be a tough product to produce at a profit.
Fortunately, the Spawn Yoji 14 comes awfully close. And, it happens to be one of only a few bikes on the market than can.
Fortunately, our daughter had already locked down the balancing and skills required to balance on a 12” balance bike last summer. She moved from her beloved 12” Strider with dense foam tires to a drag-the-shoes-and-sacrifice-your-toes-until-you-come-to-a-stop Woom 1 towards the end. It’s fine, hey, towards the end, we could see the light coming!
Off-Road Ready Wheels And Tires
The Spawn Yoji 14 is named so for the 14” wheel diameter. These little but sturdy wheels are wrapped with the exclusive 14” x 1.90” Spawn Cycles Loam Star tires with puncture protection. These are beefy and legitimate 14” off-road road tires that handle dirt, gravel, and grass with ease.
Durable Frame And Fork
The Spawn Yogi has a 6061-T high quality aluminum frame to keep things light, but adds in a 4130 Chromoly steel fork. This combo allows your little one to keep up with the family without fear of the bike taking a beating!
The Spawn Yoji 14 is one of the smaller 14 inch bikes around. The seat mounts very low atop the seat-post, which provides a few more millimeters for little legs to touch the ground.
We found this great, because our daughter is really short. Short to the point that although I knew she could ride the bike, I wasn’t sure how she would fair with starting and stopping. I didn’t want her to be discouraged. She was able to start with the bike leaned over so that issue never came to be an issue.
Spawn says if your rider is taller than 35” tall with a 14” inseam, they’ll fit on this bike. We managed to make it work at 37” height with a 13” inseam.
Another thoughtful feature often found on big bikes is an adjustable flip stem, which our test bike comes with. By flipping the stem, you can adjust the height of the stem slightly, providing just that much more change to the size of the bike.
I knew we would have issues with the pedals for the first few days, as our tester was coming off a 14” Strider Sport 14. I never let her ride it because of the coaster brake. We don’t care for coaster brakes, which can introduce bad habits and make it harder to transition to pedals. However, one thing we DO care for is the half-width pedals that came with the Strider. I quickly swapped those pedals on to the Spawn in favor of the standard sized pedals.
No fault of Spawn’s (in fact, we’re already back to the stock pedals), but these smaller pedals did exactly what I hoped they would. It allowed her enough of a “Q-factor” to stride the bike for a few days to get confident on the Yoji for starts and stops without ripping her legs up. A bit unconventional. You may have to go the eBay route for pedals, but one that was well worth it in my opinion.
Keeping with the size is safety theme, we next turn our attention to the Tektro mini v-brake setup. We’ve seen these on countless kids bikes these days. While my ultimate preference would be for a hydraulic disc brake, my gut tells me that would introduce too much additional weight and complexity that wouldn’t be utilized until the child was almost ready to move into a 16” wheel, negating any benefit beyond attracting my desire for shiny things. This is a real problem folks, look it up!
The brakes are easy enough to adjust by anyone who’s ever used a standard v-brake. Parts are easy to come by, and they offer enough stopping power until things get gnarly enough you should be questioning your parenting skills rather than your child’s cycling skills.
How’s it Look?
Ooh look, a squirrel! Adults are attracted to good looking bikes, and there’s no doubt kids are, too. While some might be attracted to a bike stylized after their favorite super-hero or other cultural icon, trail-kids know a hot looking whip when they see it. Spawn nailed the design on this ride.
Understated but somehow aggressive styling pairs form fully with function, which is so important. Rugged knobby tires, the Spawn skeleton logo, and a great looking font added to the pink color to send my daughter/tester over the moon.
The Full Ride
Ahh, the culmination of all our preparations and work are finally here! So, how did it go? About as well as it could have. Aided by the slight slope of our driveway, she strode away a few times, got to cruising speed, successfully used the v-brakes, proved she was ready for the pedals, and started riding alongside the family!
The Spawn’s well-designed geometry had her in the perfect position to take advantage of her newly learned skills. Even more impressively, the LOW WEIGHT let her do her thing without holding her back or having the bike come crashing down upon her.
Even having done this with three children now, it never gets old. The shrieks of joy, the smiles, you could see the joy and independence spreading across her face!
Ultimately, this is why we all ride bikes, isn’t it? To have the ability to go where we please, propelled only by our own power and skill.
To Spawn, I once again say, Kudos! You have placed that joy into the hands of younger kids in a package that will last a long time. It will help them to keep up with the rest of their friends and families. They will feel good while doing it.
The Bottom Line: A Fantastic Bike For Families Who Like To Shred
So at $425, who is this bike for? Probably not the Mom and Dad who plan on putting a 35 lb. super-hero bike with training wheels under the Christmas tree. Then again, they already know what they want.
There is nothing wrong with that and there are parents that do want their kiddo’s on the Spawn Yoji. The Yoji 14 is small enough that some of the littlest riders are now able to join in the family fun on their own bike.
Spawn has dropped the weight from the original version by building an aluminuim frame. This has allowed the bike to maintain all the capabilities of the original bike. Our middle child rode one of the steel versions of this bike (dare I say) hundreds of miles on bike paths and dirt singletrack (including down some lift-served trails in Vermont) and it served him SO WELL for a full two seasons.
By joining the Spawn family, you’re raising your hand and affirming, “Yes, we are a shred-fam!” It’s a commitment to a lifestyle, and lifetime of loading bikes up in the SUV or van every weekend and hitting the trails. It’s an outdoor lifestyle that values exercise and fresh air over digital devices (except for bike research!) and valuing fun and adrenaline over in-game purchases and “clicks and likes.”
While there’s certainly a cost involved in either direction, you’ll be hard pressed to convince me the latter is superior in almost any way. By further utilizing products like the TowWhee tow strap and perhaps even a shotgun seat like the Mac-Ride, a family can easily hit the trails with a gaggle of kids ages 3 and up together. I initially thought wasn’t possible when our other children were that age!
If you and your family are looking for a bike that the littlest member can enjoy on pavement and dirt, consider the Spawn Yoji 14.
More Resources to Help You Pick the Best Bike for YOUR Child
Picking the best bike for your unique child can be the difference between having fun on a bike and quitting in tears. Here are some more articles to help you make sure you’re picking the best bike for your child.
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.