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 there are more and more child-specific bike companies coming on the market producing some seriously awesome bikes.
I’ve compiled a list of the best bikes for your 3 to 5-year-old (i.e. 12
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.
If you are short on time, scroll straight down to our top picks.
Note: These bikes are best for 3-year-olds, with the intent that they will be able to ride them for a few years. If your child is closer to 5 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.
VIDEO: Best 12 Inch and 14 Inch Bikes
More of an audio learner than a reader? This video sums up the info in the post below. More of a visual learner? Keep on reading…..
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 at the end of this article 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.
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)?
Of all the bikes on my list, the Woom 2 is the lightest. It’s also my son’s favorite—I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
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
On the other hand, if your kiddo is 3.5+, I would recommend choosing a bike with 14 inch wheels instead. Why? The larger wheel size makes it significantly easier to roll over obstacles—cracks in the sidewalk, rocks
To understand kids bike sizing and wheel size a little better, read our post on kids bike sizes.
You Get What You Pay For
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 on our Top 5 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.
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.
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.
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.
If you MUST have training wheels, I’ve listed those bikes that offer them in the table below, but you’ll notice most of the best kids bikes don’t even offer them anymore.
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).
5 Best 12 Inch and 14 Inch Bicycles
Finally, the part you’ve been waiting for! Here are our five top picks.
|Bike||What Makes It Special||Price (MSRP)|
|1||Woom 2||Lightweight, upright geometry||$339|
|2||Cleary Gecko||Steel frame, small size||$310|
|3||Prevelo Alpha One||Easy-to-ride geometry, customer service||$359|
|4||Pello Romper||Brand-name components, beefy tires||$319|
|5||Frog 40||Small size, colorful designs||$360|
The Woom 2 is was without a doubt my son’s favorite bike, 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 of the other bikes on this list, 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
Read Review: Woom 2
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.
Read Review: Cleary Gecko
Prevelo Alpha One
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.
Read Review: Prevelo Alpha Two (same bike, just a bit bigger)
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 or pink) 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.
Read Review: Pello Romper
Where to Buy: $319
This brand new offering from Frog Bikes deserves a spot on our Top 5 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 brand’s are charging extra for.
Read Review: Frog 48 (same bike, just a bit bigger)
Honorable Mentions: Even More 12 Inch and 14 Inch Bikes to Consider
While these bikes aren’t in my Top 5, they are good quality bikes that deserve a look.
|Bike||What Makes It Special||Price|
|6||Spawn Yoji||Mountain bike geometry||$370|
|7||Commencal Ramones 14||Beefy tires, off-road capability||$289|
|8||Islabikes Cnoc 14||No longer sold in U.S., find used||N/A|
|9||Vitus 14||Best bang for your buck||$226|
|10||Specialized Riprock 12||Best local bike shop bike||$230|
|11||Byk E-250||Training wheels, intelligent geometry||$269|
|12||Norco Coaster 12||Good looks, large grippy pedals||$229|
|13||Co-Op Cycles REV 12||Best bike under $150||$149|
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.
Commencal Ramones 14
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.
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.
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.
Specialized Riprock 12
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.
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.
Norco Coaster 12
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.
Co-Op Cycles REV 12
Loyal REI shoppers, rejoice! The Co-Op Cyles REV 12 is already a good deal, but even better if you have an REI dividend you need to use.
This is our favorite “budget” 12″ bike. It comes with training wheels, so if that’s something you’re looking for, this is one of your best options. Otherwise, plan on taking them off to save some weight.
The only bummer is that it has a coaster brake and at 16 pounds, this is a pretty heavy first pedal bike.
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.
|Bike||Size||Price (MSRP)||Minimum Seat Height||Weight||Freewheel ?||Dual handbrakes?||Training wheels?||Frame Material|
|Woom 2||14"||339||16"||11.2 lbs||Yes||Yes||No||Aluminum|
|Islabikes Cnoc||14"||N/A||18.5"||12.4 lbs||No||Yes||No||Aluminum|
|Spawn Yoji||14"||370||16"||13 lbs||Yes||Yes||No||Aluminum|
|Cleary Gecko||12"||310||15"||13 lbs||Yes||Yes||No||Steel|
|Prevelo Alpha One||14"||359||15.6"||14.4 lbs||Yes||Yes||No||Aluminum|
|Frog 43||14"||360||15"||13.9 lbs||Yes||Yes||No||Aluminum|
|Pello Romper||14"||319||18.5"||15 lbs||No||No||No||Aluminum|
|Specialized Riprock||12"||230||17"||15 lbs||No||No||Yes||Steel|
|Byk E-250||14"||269||15.7"||14.4 lbs||No||Yes||Yes||Aluminum|
|Commencal Ramones 14||14"||289||18"||15.4 lbs||Yes||Yes||Yes||Aluminum|
|Norco Coaster 12||12"||229||15"||15 lbs||No||No||Yes||Aluminum|
|Vitus 14||14"||226||14.1 lbs||Yes||Yes||No||Aluminum|
|Co-Op Cycles REV 12||12"||149||16 lbs||No||No||Yes||Aluminum|
More Reading to Help You Make the Best Choice
- The Best Kids Bikes: 7 Brands that Deliver
- Kids Bike Size Chart
- 7 Tips to Help you Choose the Best Bike for Your Child
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