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10 Best 12 & 14 Inch Bikes For Your 3 To 4 Year Old

Author: Kristen Bonkoski

Updated:

With so many different kids bikes on the market, it can be confusing to figure out which ones are best.  You want a bicycle for your child (or grandchild) that will be easy to learn to pedal on, durable enough to be handed down, and lightweight enough to make biking fun.

The bad news is that there are a lot of awful, heavy bikes out there. The good news is that we’ve spent years testing and reviewing 12 inch and 14 inch kids bikes to help you find the best ones.

The best 14 inch bike is the Woom 2. We recommend it for it’s extremely lightweight build, high quality components, and confidence inspiring riding position. It’s the perfect bike to learn to ride on.

Looking for more options? We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best bikes for your 3 or 4 year old (i.e. 12 inch and 14 inch bicycles).

Why trust us? These are bikes we’ve tested and reviewed ourselves. They are also ones that are recommended time and time again by other bike parents. We’re avid cyclists and parents trying to help other families have as much fun on bikes as we have.

We’ve also created a guide to help you know WHY these bikes are the best bikes and what to look for to make sure you are picking the best bike for YOUR individual child. 

Note: These bikes are best for 3 year olds, with the intent that they will be able to ride them for a year or two.  If your child is closer to 4 than to 3, you might also want to check out our list of the best 16″ bikes.  Learn more about picking the right size bicycle for your child below.  

In This Article

How To Choose
Top 10 Bikes
Honorable Mentions
Comparison Chart
How We Tested
Video: Best Bikes For Kids

How to Choose the Absolute Best Bike For Your 3 or 4 Year Old

We’re about to give you a list of all the good bikes on the market, but how do you know which one is best for your child?  Consider these factors, and then use the comparison chart above to help you choose.

Understand What Size Bike They Need

Each child is different. For instance, my son and his cousin who are only a few months apart are nearly six inches apart in height. Therefore, it is really very important to measure your child before buying a bike. What may fit one child at 3 years old may not fit another until 4. 

For details on how to measure your child and pick the right size bike, read our Kids Bike Size Guide.

For maximum comfort and stability, I recommend that your child’s inseam be at least as long as the minimum seat height. While technically their inseam can be slightly shorter than the minimum seat height (it will fit on their tippy-toes), kids this young who are just learning to ride do best if they can put their feet flat on the ground.

woom 2 sizing

Of the bikes on this list, the Prevelo Alpha Two and the Cleary Gecko are the smallest. These are great options for kiddos who are ready to move from a balance bike to a pedal bike at a very young age. On the other side of the spectrum, the Pello is a little bigger so is a good choice for little one’s with longer legs but not quite ready for 16 inch wheels.

This chart shows the minimum seat post height of our top picks.

minimum seatpost height

Weight is the Single Most Important Factor

After ensuring a bike is the right size, the next most important thing to consider is the weight. When comparing two bikes, I will *almost* always pick the lightest one.

It makes a huge difference in a child’s enjoyment level and in how long they can ride. Look for a bike that is no more than 30% of your child’s body weight (tough isn’t it)?

Cleary Gecko

Of all the bikes on my list, the Cleary Gecko is the lightest 12″ bike and Woom 2 is the lightest 14″ bike. These were also my son’s favorites—I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

The chart below shows how all of the bikes we’ve included here rate in terms of weight.

12 inch and 14 inch bike weight

Bigger Wheels are Better (Most of the Time)

The plus of the 12 inch bikes on this list (the Cleary Gecko and the Specialized Hotrock) is that they fit really young riders (as young as 2.5 years old). If your child has been on a balance bike since a super early age and is ready to graduate to a pedal bike earlier than most, go for a 12 inch bike for sure.

On the other hand, if your kiddo is 3.5+, I would recommend choosing a bike with 14 inch wheels instead. Why?

Pello Romper Review

The larger wheel size makes it significantly easier to roll over obstacles—cracks in the sidewalk, rocks and bumps at the bike park, etc. I’ve seen firsthand my son do much better on a 14 inch bike compared to a 12 inch bike.

To understand kids bike sizing and wheel size a little better, read our post on kids bike sizes.

You Get What You Pay For (Mostly)

Unfortunately, just like most things in life, the more you spend on a bike the better quality it is going to be. Buy a cheaper bike from a big box store and it will be heavy and fall apart quickly.

The good news is that when you buy a high-quality bike, like any of those at the top of our list, it will last thru several children. This makes it a good investment if you have younger kids it can be passed on to or to sell on Craiglist.

Similarly, brands like Woom and Prevelo offer trade-up programs. When your child outgrows their first bike, you can trade it in for the next size and a significant discount.

While we do believe that you should invest in a good point, there is a tipping point in terms of value. In the following chart you can see how these bikes stack up in terms of price vs. overall score. While the Spawn, Frog, and Early Rider bikes are all fantastic bikes, they are overpriced when compared to offerings from Prevelo, Pello, Woom, and Cleary.

value ranking of bikes (overall score vs price)

Consider Geometry

A lot of kids bikes are poorly designed. The bikes on our list of best kids bikes below have been specifically designed to have stable and child appropriate geometry.

This means that they have a longer wheelbase, narrower Q-factor (the distance between the pedals), and a lower center of gravity when compared to most kids bikes. All of this equates to a more stable and comfortable ride.

The other thing to consider when it comes to bike geometry is how aggressive the child’s position on the bike is. For most young kids just learning to ride, we prefer a bike with relaxed, upright geometry. This instills confidence and provides easier handling.

Still, there may be some kids who are athletic and confident on a bike right off the bat. If that’s your child, you can consider a bike with more aggressive geometry.

The Woom 2 (left) has more upright and relaxed geometry than the more aggressive Cleary Gecko (right).

Finally, you’ll want to pay attention to both the stand over height and the minimum seatpost height. Not all 14 inch bikes are sized the same!

The lower the stand over and minimum seatpost height are, the smaller the child that will fit on the bike. (And similarly, the less room your child will have to grow with the bike). Choose a bike that’s the right size for where your child is NOW with some room to grow.

Say No to Coaster Brakes

I’m a huge proponent of teaching children to use hand brakes and bypassing coaster brakes. I’m at a point now where I won’t even put my son on a bike with a coaster brake, or teach another child to ride using one.

Why? When kids are learning to pedal, they naturally tend to backpedal as well. With a coaster brake, a back pedal causes a sudden stop. This is incredibly frustrating for little ones. (There are other reasons to skip a coaster brake, chief amongst them is the weight).

The tough thing is that in the U.S., manufacturers are required by law to put a coaster brake on all bikes with wheels that are 20 inches or less. This isn’t a thing in the rest of the world.

Fortunately, the law only applies to manufacturers, so parents can modify the bike if they choose. Brands (like those that sell or favorite bikes below) have after market modification kits that allow you to put a wheel with a freehub on your child’s bike. This is easy to do.

To decide whether a freewheel or coaster brake set-up is best for you, and more about both options, read our article on coaster brakes vs. handbrakes. 

Coaster Brake
A child’s bike outfitted with a coaster brake only.

Brake Levers Should Be Easy to Pull

If you do choose to skip a bike with a coaster brake, you need to make sure the handbrakes are easy to pull and easy to operate. This is soooo important for young kids just learning to ride.

Our favorite brake levers are the color coded levers on the Woom 2 (listed #1 in our list below). They are easy to operate and fit small hands well. The color coding also helps kids learn the difference between their right (rear) and left (front) brakes.

woom 2 color coded brake lever

Skip the Training Wheels

Training wheels? Just don’t do it!

If your child hasn’t mastered a balance bike yet, start there and then transition to a pedal bike later. (You can also remove the pedals from a pedal bike and have your child use it like a balance bike).

You can find out more about why we don’t recommend training wheels in this article:

spawn yogi

This little bike tester has removed the pedals from her Spawn Yogi and is using it like a balance bike. She had the pedals back on and was riding in no time.

Bikes With Training Wheels

You’ll notice that all of our favorite kids bikes listed below don’t even offer training wheels. If you MUST have training wheels, here are some of our faves. You can also use the comparison table toward the end of this article to find the bikes that offer them.

Specialized Hotrock 12

Frame Material is a Personal Choice

This is a highly personal choice—some people have a clear preference for aluminum or steel. I don’t personally. Aluminum is the lighter material, and we all know how important saving weight is on kids bikes, but steel is super durable (and classic).

Customer Service

A high level of customer service might be important to you, or it might not. The more mechanically inclined and bike-savvy you are, the more you’ll be able to deal with issues that arise on your own.

If you aren’t as great with bikes, look for a company that has good customer service. They will make sure that your bike is assembled correctly and double and triple checked before shipping. They will help you with replacement parts when and if you need them.

gaurdian 14 in action

More Stuff To Consider

If you made it to here, you probably have all the information you need to pick a great first pedal bike for your child. That said, if you really like to geek out over all the nitty-gritty, you can find even MORE things you should consider before buying in our guide to choosing a kids bike.

Best 12 Inch And 14 Inch Kids Bikes

What Makes It SpecialOur ScorePrice
BEST OVERALL
1Woom 2*Lightweight, upright geometry99$399
2Cleary GeckoSmall size, great for tiny riders94$370
3Prevelo Alpha One *Easy-to-ride geometry, customer service94$379
4Early Rider Belter 14*Belt drive92$459
5Pello Romper*Brand-name components, beefy tires90$359
6Spawn YogiMountain bike geometry88$475
7Frog 40*Small size, colorful designs87$419
BEST BUDGET
8Vitus 14*Best bang for your buck **71$269
8Guardian 14*SureStop braking system67$269
10Forth Park 14Good value, smart geometry64$235
Bonus!Batch Bicycles 12Available at your local bike shop48$189
** Not currently available for shipping to the U.S.

Woom 2

Overall Score: 99

Weight10/10
Quality Of Components10/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding10/10
Customer Service10/10
Aesthetics9/10

Weight: 12.3 lbs (with coaster) I Minimum seatpost height: 15.7″ I Freehub option: yes

The Woom 2 was without a doubt my son’s favorite bike when he was learning to ride, and we aren’t afraid to call it THE BEST 14 inch kids bike on the market.

While the price tag is a bit higher than many parents may prefer to pay, the quality of the bike is worth every penny. No detail has been overlooked—from the color-coded brake levers to the upright geometry and featherlight weight, the Woom 2 is perfection.

Our kiddo also preferred the 14-inch wheels of the Woom 2 (compared to a bike with 12 inch wheels) as they allowed him to roll over bigger obstacles.

Make sure to order the freewheel kit ($19) if you prefer that to a coaster brake. (We highly recommend it). It also shaves the weight down by another pound or so.

Read Our Review: Woom 2

Price: $399

Cleary Gecko

Weight10/10
Quality Of Components10/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding8/10
Customer Service9/10
Aesthetics9/10

Weight: 12 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 15.4″ I Freehub option: yes

Oh, how I love this little bike. The Cleary Gecko‘s small frame makes it the perfect first pedal bike for early balance bike graduates, and the easy-to-pull Tektro brake levers make learning to operate handbrakes possible even for the youngest riders.

This is a great bike for athletic riders thanks to the aggressive geometry and beefy Kenda tires. If your little one is going to be riding off-road or off curbs, this bike is worth a look.

On the flip side, the more aggressive leaned-over geometry may be too much for more timid riders. We also wish that the bike came with a quick release seatpost collar to make it easier to raise and lower the seat quickly.

Read Review: Cleary Gecko

Price: $370

Prevelo Alpha One

Weight9/10
Quality Of Components10/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding9/10
Customer Service10/10
Aesthetics9/10

Weight: 13.2 lbs (with coaster) I Minimum seatpost height: 14.5″ I Freehub option: yes

The Prevelo Alpha One is a bike we recommend for new riders time and time again thanks to its child-appropriate geometry. Your child will be pedaling in no time on this bike.

The Alpha One can be fitted with an optional–and highly recommended–freewheel kit.   The rest of the bike is built up with high-quality components including Kenda tires and easy-to-operate Tektro v-brakes.

The bike has also recently been redesigned in order to have a super low seatpost height–the lowest of all the bikes on our list–but also a long seatpost so it can grow. This makes the Alpha One a solid investment and a bike that will last a while.

Is there anything negative to say about the bike? We wish that it had a steering limiter (helpful when kids are just learning to ride). It also lacks some of the “extras” that other bikes come with–bells, kickstand, etc.

Read Review: Prevelo Alpha One

Price: $379

Pello Romper

Weight9/10
Quality Of Components10/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding8/10
Customer Service8/10
Aesthetics9/10

Weight: 13.8 lbs (with coaster) I Minimum seatpost height: 17.5″ I Freehub option: yes

This 14″ beauty is one of our favorites due to the beefy mountain bike style tires. Whatever terrain your child is riding–pavement, gravel, grass, or dirt–the Pello Romper can handle it.

The paint job (orange, pink, or teal) is gorgeous and the components are brand-name. They include a Cane Creek headset, Kenda tires, and an aluminum Ahead stem.  These are the same parts we’d look for on an adult bike.

The Pello Romper has recently been upgraded so that it had dual front and rear handbrakes, which we love.

The only thing to be aware of with the Romper is that it’s a little heavier and the seatpost is a little higher than bikes like the Woom or Prevelo, so it’s a better fit for bigger and more athletic kiddos.

Read Review: Pello Romper

Price: $359

Frog 40

Weight8/10
Quality Of Components10/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding8/10
Customer Service8/10
Aesthetics9/10

Weight: 14.2 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 15.7″ I Freehub option: yes

This brand new offering from Frog Bikes deserves a spot on our best of list. The Frog 40 is one of the smallest and lightest 14″ bikes available.

It is durable and well-made so expect to hand it down to multiple kids. The bike comes with a freewheel installed, has dual Tektro handbrakes, and a bevy of other impressive components and specs.

The bike is also one of the snazziest looking kids bikes around. It comes in bright colors and fun designs, and includes fun extras–fenders and a bell–that most brands are charging extra for.

Like the Cleary Gecko, the geometry on the Frog 40 is a bit more aggressive. That’s fine for athletic kiddos, but can make learning to ride harder for kids who need a little extra confidence boost.

Read Review: Frog 40

Price: $419

Early Rider Belter 14

Weight10/10
Quality Of Components10/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding8/10
Customer Service7/10
Aesthetics10/10

Weight: 12.4 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 15.7″ I Freehub option: yes

The Early Rider Belter 14 is an exceptional (albeit pricey) bike. The most unique thing about the bike is that it has a belt drive (rather than a chain). This makes it a great choice for young kids who often leave their bikes outside, and for families who live in rainy or humid conditions.

The brushed aluminum frame is gorgeous, as is the faux leather saddle. But the bike isn’t just pretty. It’s lightweight (12 pounds) and has top of the line components (Tektro brakes, wide Vee Tire Co tires).

There’s not much bad to say about the Early Rider Belter 14 other than that it doesn’t have a quick release seatpost collar. That, and the price can be off-putting. It’s a beautiful bike, but not worth the extra cash compared to the Woom 1–in our opinion.

Price: $459

Spawn Yoji

Weight9/10
Quality Of Components10/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding8/10
Customer Service6/10
Aesthetics9/10

Weight: 13 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 16″ I Freehub option: yes

If you are a mountain biking family (like we are!), the Spawn Yoji should definitely be on your shortlist. It’s a bit pricey (like all good mountain bikes are), but the high-quality components and low weight make it worth the price. 

The Yoji has real off-road tires, Tektro brakes, and is built up to weight a mere 13 pounds.

While this is a fantastic little bike, the high price (ouch!) may be off putting. Additionally, we found assembly and brake setup was more challenging than many of the bikes on this list that are basically ready to roll right out of the box. We’ve also had many parents complain about the customer service (or lack thereof) from Spawn.

Read Our Review: Spawn Yoji

Price: $475

Vitus 14

Weight8/10
Quality Of Components7/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding6/10
Customer Service5/10
Aesthetics9/10

Weight: 14.1 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 16″ I Freehub option: yes

Looking for a deal? The Vitus 14 is it. We consider this bike the “best bang for your buck.”

This little ride has brand-name components like Kenda tires and Tektro handbrakes. It’s also reasonably light, coming in at only 14 pounds. At this pricepoint, we don’t know any other bike coming close to the quality.

The one bummer with this bike is that it’s not as carefully built prior to shipping as a Woom or Guardian bike, for example. You may need some mechanical skills to check over the brakes, headset, etc before riding.

Unfortunately, Chain Reaction is no longer shipping this bike to N. America. We’re leaving the bike on here for those fortunate enough to be in the E.U. or to find one used.

Price: $235

Guardian Ethos 14

Weight6/10
Quality Of Components6/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding7/10
Customer Service10/10
Aesthetics7/10

Weight: 16 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 16.1″ I Freehub option: yes

For under $270, the Guardian 14 is a great pick. It’s big differentiating feature is the proprietary SureStop braking system that helps prevent over-the-bars accidents. For kids just learning to ride a bike, in particular, we love this design.

The bike comes sans coaster brake, sans training wheels, and with child-appropriate geometry. It also has features usually only found on higher end bikes like internal cable routing and a removable steering limiter.

Our only complaints about the Guardian 14 are the weight (heavier than the more expensive bikes on this list) and the exposed axle bolts.

Read Our Review: Guardian 14

Price: $269

Forth Park 14

Weight6/10
Quality Of Components6/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding6/10
Customer Service8/10
Aesthetics8/10

Weight: 15.8 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 16.5″ I Freehub option: yes

Forth Bikes set out to make great kids bikes (like some of the kids bike brands listed at the top of our list) but at a more approachable price point. And they have succeeded.

The Forth Park 14 has child appropriate geometry, dual hand brakes, and a respectable weight for about $100 less than the competition. So where does it fall short?

The components aren’t quite as high end as the bikes higher up on the list, and it weighs a couple pounds more, but for the price, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Price: $235

Batch Bicycles 12

Weight4/10
Quality Of Components5/10
Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding4/10
Customer Service6/10
Aesthetics7/10

Weight: 18 lbs (with freewheel) I Minimum seatpost height: 16″ I Freehub option: no

The Batch Bicycles 12 was developed with the belief that you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent bike, and we agree! It’s available only from local bike shops, which is nice if you want to go take it for a spin before buying.

The bike has a high-quality aluminum frame, threadless headset, and nice wide tires that provide plenty of traction. Unfortunately, like the other “budget” bikes on this list, though, it’s awfully heavy (18 lbs). Unless your child is super athletic, they will probably struggle to ride it without the training wheels.

This is a bike we’d recommend only to those would are determined to stay under $200, but who would prefer buying a durable bike as opposed to one that will end up in a landfill.

Read Review: Batch Kids Bicycle

Price: $189


Honorable Mentions: Even More 12 Inch and 14 Inch Bikes to Consider

While these bikes aren’t in our top 10 list, they are good quality bikes that deserve a look.

BikeWhat Makes It SpecialPrice
Commencal Ramones 14*Beefy tires, off-road capability$380
Specialized Riprock 12Best local bike shop bike$275
Byk E-250 *Training wheels, intelligent geometry$249
Norco Coaster 12 Good looks, large grippy pedals$259
Trek Precaliber 12*Available at local bike shop or online$279
Islabikes Cnoc 14No longer sold in U.S., find used£399

Commencal Ramones 14

commencal ramones 14 kids bike

Unlike many of the big bike manufacturers, Commencal is killing it with their kids bikes.  Known for their adult mountain bikes, the brand has created a 14″ bike that looks cool enough to hang with the grown-ups.

Luckily, the Commencal Ramones 14 doesn’t just look good, it rides well also.  The Commencal Ramones 14 offers dual Tektro handbrakes and no coaster, a comfortable saddle, and Vee tires.  Best of all, it’s far more affordable than most of the bikes out there with a freewheel.

Read Review: Commencal Ramones 14

Price: $380

Islabikes Cnoc

Islabikes Cnoc 14 Kids Bike

As of fall 2018, Islabikes has discontinued sales in the U.S.  If you are lucky enough to live in a market where they are still sold or if you can find one used, the Islabikes Cnoc 14 is a top pick. 

This 14” bike is a cult favorite among parents in the know, and if you are looking for a bike with good resale value, this bike is it. The bike is lightweight, fast, and durable.

Read Review: Islabikes Cnoc 14

Specialized Riprock 12

specialized riprock 12 inch bike

Most of the bikes on this list are only sold online and aren’t available at your local bike shop. Specialized, on the other hand, sells only thru local bike shops which means the Specialized Riprock 12 is an easy bike to find locally and your child can try it on for size prior to purchasing.

While this is a solid first bike (literally, it’s super durable), it is not quite as nice as some of the other bikes on this list.  It also comes with training wheels, so we recommend taking those off.

Read Review: Specialized Riprock 12

Price: $275

Byk E-250

Byk E-250

While this company is popular in their home country of Australia, it’s not as common to see a Byk in the U.S.

Child appropriate geometry and 14” wheels for rolling over obstacles make the Byk E-250 a decent choice. That said, the lack of a freewheel option and the hard-to-pull brake levers puts this bike lower on my list of faves.

Price:$249

Norco Coaster 12

norco coaster 12 inch bike

Norco makes rad adult mountain bikes, and the Norco Coaster 12 looks like a mini version. While we like the quality and durability of the bike, we don’t love the coaster brake or the heavier weight (when compared to the bikes on our top 5 list).

It does come with a rear v-brake which is nice and we appreciate the large grippy pedals.

Price: $259

Trek Precaliber 12

While the Trek Precaliber 12 is far from our favorite 12 inch bike, we do understand that there are a lot of families who would like to support their local bike shop and Trek is an easy-to-find LBS brand. (They also sell direct to consumer on their website if that’s more your jam).

What we do like about the Precaliber is that it is durable. This isn’t a bike that will fall apart within a few months (or even years of use). At 15 pounds, it’s also relatively lightweight, and if you remove the training pounds you’ll save a bit more weight.

Price: $279


Comparison Chart – 12 Inch and 14 Inch Pedal Bikes

Not sure which of these bikes is best for YOUR child?  Here’s how they stack up.

BikeSizeMinimum Seat HeightWeightFreewheel ?Dual handbrakes?Training wheels?Frame Material
Woom 214"15.7"12.3 lbsYesYesNoAluminum
Islabikes Cnoc14"18.5"12.4 lbsNoYesNoAluminum
Spawn Yoji14"16"13 lbsYesYesNoAluminum
Cleary Gecko12"15.4"12 lbsYesYesNoAluminum
Prevelo Alpha One14"14.5"13.2 lbsYesYesNoAluminum
Frog 4014"15.7"14.2 lbsYesYesNoAluminum
Pello Romper14"17.5"13.8 lbsNoNoNoAluminum
Specialized Riprock12"17"15 lbsNoNoYesSteel
Byk E-25014"15.7"14.4 lbsNoYesYesAluminum
Commencal Ramones 1414"18"15.4 lbsYesYesYesAluminum
Norco Coaster 1212"15"15 lbsNoNoYesAluminum
Vitus 1414"16"14.1 lbsYesYesNoAluminum
Co-Op Cycles REV 1212"16 lbsNoNoYesAluminum
Batch Bicycles 1212"18 lbsNoNoYesAluminum
Forth Park 14
14"16.5″16 lbsYesYesNoAluminum
Trek Precaliber 1212"15"15 lbsNoNoYesAluminum
Early Rider Belter 1414"15.7"12 lbsYesYesNoAluminum

How We Came Up With This List

We first started testing kids bikes 8 years ago when our son was 2 years old! We’ve tested and reviewed a ton of bikes in that time, and experienced even more out and about riding with other families.

The bikes here are those that we have first hand experience with and can whole-heartedly recommend to other parents. There’s not a bad bike on the list–although we like some better than others!

How We Tested The Bikes

We rode them! Well no, we’re too big for that. We had our kids and our friend’s kids and our neighbor’s kids ride the bikes for us.

These bikes have been ridden how they were most often intended to be ridden, but also ridden down trails, off ramps, and through the snow. We live to bike and bike year round, so bikes get used and abused.

In addition to first hand testing, we also listen to our community. We get soooo many emails from y’all. We have a Facebook group. We talk to parents in real life at the pump track. You all tell us all kinds of things about your children’s experiences on bikes and your experiences with the companies that sell them. This feedback counts too.

Kali Chakra Kids Helmet

How We Scored The Bikes

Putting a numeric score to a bike is a tough thing; although it helps make our ratings more accurate, it’s still subjective. We urge you not to spend too much time belaboring these scores, and instead look for a bike that seems like it would be a good fit for YOUR child.

All that said, here is what we were looking for when ranking the bikes.

  • Weight: We mentioned it early and we’ll mention it again, for very young kids weight is the single most important factor in choosing a bike. We’ve given it 30% of our overall score.
  • Quality components: Durable and high end parts mean that a bike will be enjoyable and fun to ride AND that it will last through multiple children. We don’t recommend any bikes that will end up in a landfill anytime soon. We gave this another 30% of the total score.
  • Child Appropriate Geometry / Ease Of Riding: Here we looked at things like the frame geometry, wheelbase length, and crank length. It also takes into account how easily our testers were able to get riding on the bike–no easy feat for kids hopping on their first pedal bikes. This was 20% of our score.
  • Customer service: Many of the bikes on our list are direct to consumer, meaning you order them online rather than buying thru a local bike shop. This makes it really important that the bike is properly assembled and thoroughly inspected before shipping. It also means that we look for brands that actually answer email and phone calls with issues and questions. This accounted for 10% of our total score.
  • Aesthetics: The way a bike LOOKS shouldn’t really matter, but it does. Kids are more likely to ride bikes they think look awesome, and we’re more likely to spend our hard earned money on things that look nice too. This was the final 10% of our score.

VIDEO: Best 12 Inch and 14 Inch Bikes


Your Questions Answered

What’s The Best Bike For A 3 Year Old?

The best bike for a 3 year old is the Woom 2. It is lightweight, has high quality components, and is easy to learn to pedal on. The pedals can also be removed to be used as a balance bike at first, if needed.

What Size Bike For A 3 Year Old?

Most 3 year olds will fit best on a 14 inch bike. Very small children may fit better on a 12 inch bike, but the larger wheels on a 14 inch will help kids ride more easily over obstacles.

You may also want to check out our kids bike size chart to make sure you’re getting the best size bike for your child.

Should A 3 Year Old Ride A Tricycle?

No, a 3 year old should not ride a tricycle. Unless the tricycle is purely for fun, your child will be better suited by a balance bike or a pedal bike without training wheels. These bikes will help develop gross motor skills and set your child up for a lifetime of loving bicycles.

What age is a 14 inch bike for?

A 14 inch bike is typically a best fit for a 3 year old. That will provide plenty of room to grow for a year or two.

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    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!

    50 thoughts on “10 Best 12 & 14 Inch Bikes For Your 3 To 4 Year Old”

    1. I really appreciate your insight into bikes for little people, but all the bikes you recommend cost 200 plus. I would love to be in a position to buy my nephews those, but they are triplets , age 9, and still need to learn to ride a bike, my niece age 4 can do a balance bike well, but is outgrowing it. and I can’t invest that much. Can you recommend which of the bikes under $100, would be best? I am looking for a bike that can last say 2 years, as a starter. But I already have trouble paying my mortgage and do not see and bike companies with discount programs. Thanks in advance

      Reply
      • Hi Kat,
        For under $100, your best bet is to look for used bikes on Craigslist/Facebook marketplace, etc. You might also be able to find a local shop, o second-hand sports store, or second-hand kids gear store that sells used bikes. You should be able to find a pretty nice bike for under $100 by looking used.

        Reply
    2. Hi Kat,
      For under $100, your best bet is to look for used bikes on Craigslist/Facebook marketplace, etc. You might also be able to find a local shop, o second-hand sports store, or second-hand kids gear store that sells used bikes. You should be able to find a pretty nice bike for under $100 by looking used.

      Reply
    3. Thank you so much for this! Best info out there! I’m still having trouble choosing for my almost-4yo. Her inseam is about 16”, so she’s still a bit short for a lot of the bikes, but I don’t want to invest in a 12” that won’t last long. (I’d also like to stay under $300.)
      I’m looking at the Norco 14” bikes, but can’t find ANY reviews for them. We mostly ride the pump track or dirt trails, so I like the MTB features of it. Do you know anything about it?

      Reply
      • Hi Brynn, I haven’t personally tested the Norco 14″ but I know a lot of parents like it, especially the fact that it can be purchased at a local bike shop. I would definitely go for the freewheel, not coaster, version. My other concern would be the weight. Norco doesn’t list it, and some of their other kids bikes are pretty heavy. I would ask the bike shop to put it on a scale and weigh it for you before buying…..If you end up getting it and like it, let us know. Sounds like its one we might need to do a review on!

        Reply
    4. I found your article very insightful, but I am having trouble understanding how 30+ years ago kids were able to learn to ride bikes on heavier clunkier and cheaper versions. I understand these bikes may make it easier for the kids, but they will still learn on “cheaper” bikes. So what is the point in buying an expensive bike if the goal can be accomplished by buying something more economical? I am not the sort of person who resist change or is scared of change. I just don’t think a 4 year old needs $200+ bike to learn how to ride.

      Reply
      • Hi Amanda,
        I was one of those kids! Kids can learn to ride (and have fun) on any bike–heavy, clunky, whatever. The difference is that on modern lightweight bikes with kid appropriate geometry kids are able to do a few things they generally weren’t able to on those bikes 30 years ago: (1) learn to ride a pedal bike at 2 or 3 years old with no training wheels, (2) learn to ride a pedal bike with no training wheels in a single day, (3) ride long distances easily. Yes, kids can have fun on any bike. But there is no doubt a lightweight, well-designed, high-quality bike makes a huge difference in how young and how easily kids are able to learn to ride. And then how fast and far they are able to ride once they’re pedaling….

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        • I somewhat agree if an adult is riding alongside with them, otherwise I wouldn’t want my 3 year old riding long distance or super fast anyway as they can not be supervised.

          Reply
    5. My son is turning 3 years old and has done amazing on his push bike! We are so excited to get him his first big boy bike. I really appreciate your website it has been a great resource.
      I am glad we found it! I too feel that getting a good quality bike that is lighter in weight is worth the money. I see how well my son does on single track trails and the distance he rides on his push bike… this tells me that paying $300 dollars is worth every penny for a family that rides a lot, but I do understand it to be a lot for a family that doesn’t ride often together!
      Another, Amanda

      Reply
      • Hi Kim, The Strider 14x is a decent enough bike and makes sense for kids who aren’t quite ready to pedal yet, but are close. That said, I would still prefer one of the bikes on this list and just temporarily remove the pedals. The Strider 14x doesn’t have handbrake which I prefer.

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        • Are all the bikes on this list handbreak bikes? I saw you commented that you didn’t like to recommend coaster bikes which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid, but I was wondering if any of these were exceptions to your recommendation (so I can street away from the coasters). I love this list and will likely choose one from your review!

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          • Hi Jean,
            All the bikes on the “Top 5” list have hand brakes and come with the option of a freewheel rather than a coaster. Just pay attention when ordering, as most of them you have to add the freewheel as an option at checkout.
            Cheers,
            KB

            Reply
      • My daughter learned just fine on a Strider 14x, and for the price, you really can’t go wrong under $200. A lot of people don’t like coaster breaks because it stops their momentum when they pedal backwards.

        However, it’s been my experience with several kids that a freewheel bike sometimes gives smaller children a false expectation that if they’re pedaling (even backwards) the bike will still go. I’ve known children that have had just as much of a hard time with pedaling a freewheel bike.

        In a nutshell, don’t fear a coaster brake. They make more sense to children cognitively: Back = stop, Forward = go. You can freewheel it up if coaster brakes drive you mad.

        Reply
        • Hi Jessica,

          I’m also kind of on the fence when it comes to coaster brake versus hand brakes. On one hand it’s important to know how to brake and I believe it’s a little easier learn using a coaster brake. (plus its easier and fun to do skids, but hey, maybe that’s just me). I’m drawing from my own bike experience and I remember it took me a while to learn how to effectively use both the front and rear brake without falling. I remember it took me a while but eventually I got it. For reference, I learned to ride a bike at about 5/6 years old and I’m 49 now. I also work on all of my bikes and I love, love, love bikes.

          I’m leaning more towards getting my son (he’s 2 and 1/2) a 12″ pedal bike with a coaster brake and once he’s in the 14″ bike range, a bike with hand brakes. I want him to enjoy biking (and skidding, lol) and then learning the more technical aspects of braking.

          Just my thoughts! Thank you for the video and all the awesome information!

          Ray

          Reply
    6. Hi Kristen,

      My daughter is 3 years old. She never had balance bike and didn’t express much interest in riding push bike a year ago either. Should we get balance bike first, bike with training wheels or regular bike ( i like woom)? I appreciate your advice!

      Thank you !

      Reply
      • Hi Tatiana,
        I would go with a balance bike. She’s still young enough that she’ll get plenty of use out of it. If she is a really athletic kid that picks things up quickly, you could go with a pedal bike (Woom) right away and just remove the pedals until she gets the hang of balancing. In any case, skip the training wheels.
        Cheers,
        KB

        Reply
    7. I’m looking for a bike for my son’s fourth birthday in a little over a month. It will be his first bike, so I want to take the pedals off and start off using it as a balance bike. He has short legs and only a 16″ inseam, which eliminates several bikes on this list. I almost eliminated the Woom 2, but then I noticed that on their website the minimum seat height is listed as 15.94″ which should work, I think. Have they changed the specs since this article was written? Do you think this bike would work for him? He’s also not very heavy, only around 33 lbs right now so we need something very light. We were also considering the Cleary Gecko, but my husband thinks the low handlebars would be difficult for him as a complete beginner.

      Reply
      • Hi Heather,
        You’re right, the min seatpost height has changed. I’ll make sure to update it here. I think the Woom 2 would work great for him, especially if he still has another month of growing to do. It’s my favorite bike for kids this age, hands down.

        Reply
      • Hi Liz,
        Due to their upright geometry, the Woom bikes make a great bike to use first as a balance bike (with no pedals) and then as a pedal bike. Without knowing your daugher’s inseam, I cant say which model (Woom 2 vs Woom 3) would be best for her, but just make sure that you pick a bike where the minimum seatpost height is at least as low as your daugherts inseam length. This will allow her to put her feet flat on the ground and scoot the bike like a balance bike.

        Reply
    8. Hi Kristen, many thanks for this article.

      i’m looking for a bike for my 3 years old son. He has an old specialized Hotrock 12 (without training wheels) but he is already at max speed with it, so i think it’s time to move to something else. So i read a lot of reviews, articles, and so on.

      I just wonder : did you have the opportunity to test the Canyon Offspring Al 16 ? it’s a ‘weird’, beautiful (expensive) bike that fits childrens between 98 and 110 cm, so in the range of the bikes you compare on this page, but has 16” rear wheel and 18” front wheel ! It has also disc brakes !! and a sram automatix hub… I wonder if the automatix hub is good on this kind of bike ?… maybe the first speed is too short and the second two long, or maybe the speed change is too weird for 3-5 years old childrens ?… any thought about this ?

      thanks a lot, best regards from France

      Reply
      • Hi Stephane,
        Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to test any of the Canyon kids bikes, as they aren’t offered (yet) in the U.S. market. (Though their adult bikes are). In any case, what I’ve seen of them makes them look super attractive….We have tested several bikes with the SRAM Automatix hub and really like it. Kids can feel when it shifts, but it doesn’t seem to bother them and certainly adds extra capability. I’m suprised thought that Canyon is offering the Automatix hub–as far as I know it’s been discontinued in both the US and Europe, so they might be using old stock?….Let us know if you end up getting one and what you think; always looking for guest reviews too!
        Cheers,
        KB

        Reply
        • Hi Kristen,

          Finally, I have one (canyon offspring). It’s a beautiful bike. A little heavy for young children but it’s ok. The big front wheel is nice, the bike is very stable. The brakes are very powerful but the levers are a little far for small hands. Happily, They can be moved a little.
          It’s hard for me to see when the sram automatix goes to the 2nd speed but i think i managed to see it sometimes. As you said, it does not seem to bother my son when it shifts.
          Due to the weird frame and disk brakes, the bike is no so easy to transport. The follow me cannot be used and not all of the bike racks can handle it. i’m still looking fot the best way to carry it. The front wheel can be removed easily (with allen wrench). The rear wheel is harder to remove.
          At last, i think it’s possible to put a smaller sprocket, but you need to reduce the chain length. I’ll see later when my son will be taller.

          regards

          Reply
          • Hi Stephane,
            Thanks for following up and for the thoughtful recommendation. It sounds like you made a good choice. I’m hoping that Canyon will choose to offer these bikes in the USA sooner than later. As for not being able to use the FollowMeTandem, you could always try a Tow-Whee; that’s what we use in our family.
            Cheers,
            KB

            Reply
    9. Oh crud we just bought the Trek Jet 12. It has coaster brakes and weighs l8 pounds. Our son is 2.5 but he’s taking big hills and jumps and flying down the trails and getting air on the strider, daily in season (we live in Montana and go hiking every day) and at the bike park so when he started telling us he wanted a pedal bike we said yes. I wish I’d done more research. Should I return it? He figured out how to do the pedals in the store. We have no pavement around us so no use for the training wheels. He loves it…

      Reply
      • If he’s already figured out how to ride it without training wheels and is having fun, it doesn’t matter much! Though when he grows out of it and you upgrade him, his skills will probably take off even more. If he’s struggling to learn on it or not able to get up hills, then totally return it now.

        Reply
    10. My son FLIES down the Montana forest trails every day on his little strider, also he tackles campgrounds and the bike park weekly. He wants a pedal bike but his inseam is 13.5, he’s 37″ tall, 2 and a half years old. We don’t do pavement, its mostly packed dirt with some rocks and a bit of crushed rocks, pine needles and tree roots here and there. He’s had the balance bike over a year, before that the pewi Ybike, which he flew around the house on before he could walk. Which one do you recommend?

      Reply
    11. Hi, what is the minimum seat height for the Vitus 14″? I see that space is left blank in the chart. I am considering purchasing this bike for my son, but would like to know before buying.

      Reply
    12. Hello, I am planning to purchase a Vitus 14″ or 16″ for my my daughter. She seems to be at the top range for the 14″ and just below the bottom size requirements for the 16″. She is 3’4″ and her inseam is 16.5″. Of course I don’t want to go with the 14″ and have her quickly outgrow it but I don’t want to buy something that is too big either. Either way it will get handed down to her little brother at some point. Any thoughts on which I should go with? Thanks!

      Reply
      • Hi Jeff,
        It depends on whether she’s already a confident pedaler already or still learning. If she’s still just learning to ride, stick with the smaller size bike. It will allow her to place both feet flat on the ground and will weigh a little less. Both will increase her confidence. If she’s already riding a pedal bike (and is fairly confident), then I would probably go with bigger bike.
        Hope that helps!
        KB

        Reply
    13. Hi, I’m looking at the Woom bike for my son who is turning 4 in June. I’m measuring him as 16 inches inseam and 41 inches tall. He has mastered the balance bike. Should I get the woom 2 or woom 3? Thanks!

      Reply
    14. This and the article on BMX bikes are excellent and really informative- just wish I had read them a year ago before we wasted time with training wheels!

      Reply
    15. Hi Kristen,
      I’m shopping for a bike for my newly turned 3yo son. We made some smart choices with him after learning from mistakes with my daughter and we avoided training wheels and tricycles and pushed his balance bike and he really loved it and learned quickly. At 2.5 he was able to ride his older sister’s 16” bike! Over the summer we knew he was ready for his first pedal bike, but most quality bikes were sold out so we bought him a cheapie Joystar Totem and immediately removed the training wheels. He can ride it and gets excited to ride his big boy bike but we’d still love to get him a quality bike as he has really taken to riding. We’re trying to decide between a Woom 2 and a Prevelo Alpha One. The main use will be our paved street neighborhoods and a flat rail trail. No real mountain bike trails in the immediate future. I lean towards the Woom 2 because I like the upright riding style and it has a higher seat height range so it should last him longer (and it’s lighter), but his inseam is currently only 15.6” so the Woom 2 is just a tad high whereas the Alpha One seems like the perfect height. But it’s late November and will be too cold and snowy here in New England so really I’m buying for next spring/summer and I’m sure he’ll grow a bit. If you were choosing based on all of this info, would you recommend getting him a Woom 2 or Prevelo Alpha One?

      Reply
        • Hi Kristen,
          My 2 year old has been on a balance bike since could walk and is begging (crying) for a pedal bike like the big kids. We tried the Cleary Gecko but it was impossible to pedal with the saddle at the lowest height. We ride most days so want to get the best option. Have you compared the Frog 40 to the Spawn Yoji 14? Hard to tell which is smaller for my tiny rider.

          Reply
          • Hi i know this is a very old comment but I’m curious what you mean that he couldn’t pedal with the seat at the lowest height? Because I’m in a nearly identical situation with my 2.5 year old and that’s the bike we were considering.

            Reply
    16. Hi Kristen, thank you so much for this article , it is so informative!
      I have found a bike called Serious Superlite 14 which seems great, very light and reasonably priced. But I cannot find any information in the brand Serious. Do you know it ?

      Reply
      • Hi Ivette,
        I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the brand at all. Are you in the EU? It doesn’t look like they’re sold here in N. America. Just a quick look at their website makes me curious–they seem like they could be nice!
        Cheers,
        KB

        Reply
    17. Hi there,
      I noticed the post above and had the same questions regarding the Spawn Yoji 14 and the Frog 40? Do you have an opinion on what would be a better fit for an almost 3 year old who is about 3′ tall and hard to say what his inseam is as its not easy to get that measurement but I am guess its around 15 or so. He weighs around 30lbs. On his balance bike I have his seat around 16″ and he can still touch the ground. Also, any thoughts on sizing up to a Spawn Yoji 16 ( I was told that would be a good fit for him ) but seems like a big bike for a small kid.

      Reply
    18. What about the Strider bike? When I search for the Woom on Amazon, this is the comparable bike that comes up. A friend also told me it’s been a great bike for her 4 year old. I didn’t see it mentioned in this great blog post of yours, but maybe it’s because the Strider was not on the market yet.

      I’d love to know as I’m still shopping and figuring out our budget. Thank you!

      Reply
    19. Have a question: my daughter is 3 on a woom2 we love woom but find it’s not a good sand/trail bike; we live in AZ and are often on them what would you recommend for an upgrade?

      Reply
    20. Kristen
      My great grandson is turning 7yrs old & I want to get him a bike, but everything I’ve read in your information is for the young kids, so how
      do I go about buying a bike for him I know he had a smaller bike but has out grown it, any suggestions on what to buy him??

      Reply

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