The Best First Pedal Bike

The Best First Pedal Bike

Our pick

REI Co-op Cycles REV 16 Kids' Bike

REI Co-op Cycles REV 16 Kids’ Bike

A lightweight, uncomplicated pedal bike

This solidly built aluminum-frame bike from a trusted outdoor retailer won testers (and their parents) over with its easy assembly, smooth ride (on and off pavement), and ability to grow with the rider.

Buying Options

$190 from REI

The REI Co-op Cycles REV 16 Kids’ Bike is a nicely designed, mid-price bike from REI, a nationwide retailer run by actual outdoor enthusiasts. It is light (16.9 pounds), has kid-friendly geometry, and was a favorite of our testers because of its versatility—it comes with removable training wheels and is highly adjustable, and its old-school coaster brakes make it easy for kids to get going without much fuss. (Kids who learned on balance bikes and are accustomed to putting their feet down to stop will have a small adjustment period in learning to use coaster brakes.) The REV 16 comes nearly completely assembled and ready to ride within a few minutes—unlike two-thirds of the other bikes we tested, which required more wrenching (or possibly a bike shop visit). The 1.75-inch, semi-knobby tires perform well on dirt or pavement, and the 1.5-plus inches of adjustability on the handlebar stem and a seatpost that ranges between 20.5 and 25 inches means this bike will fit a wide array of kids. We also liked the bike’s gearing, which performed well on moderate hills and allowed for good acceleration. The paint job, welds, and componentry—from headset to alloy wheelset—are top-notch, as are REI’s customer support, warranties, and return policies. If we had one complaint, it’s that the 17-inch-wide handlebars are a bit narrow, which in our testing meant that the bike responded sometimes too quickly for first-timers.

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Runner-up

Raleigh Jazzi 16

Raleigh Jazzi 16

Better for pavement

Heavier and not as trail-friendly as our top pick, the aluminum Jazzi 16 nonetheless boasts child-friendly geometry and a low price. (A matching “boys version”—differentiated only by a higher top tube—is currently out of stock.)

Buying Options

$170 from Raleigh Bicycles

Kids bikes costing $150 or less usually drop in quality dramatically. However, the Raleigh Jazzi manage to hit that price while featuring what we consider to be the most important options for kids: a lightweight aluminum frame (at 17.75 pounds for the Jazzi, the bike is only slightly heavier than our top pick), kid-friendly geometry, and sizing that will suit a good range of ages (we’d estimate from 3 years up to 6). While the Jazzi and the MXR (currently out of stock) are delineated by Raleigh as girls and boys bikes, respectively, the differences between the two models are cosmetic, not substantive. Our testers liked the medium-aggressive riding position that allowed easy out-of-the-saddle riding, the quick acceleration (and stopping) on mild to moderate inclines, the adjustable seat height, which—similar to the Co-op—ranges from 19.5 to 24 inches—and a handlebar stem that adjusts by 2.5 inches. That said, it has a lower top speed than our pick, which made it less fun for our more experienced testers, and its tires—which are smoother than the REV 16’s—didn’t handle dirt paths as well. The Co-op Cycles REV 16 also has smoother welds, a nice (unisex) paint job, and tougher, better-designed components.

Upgrade pick

Woom 3 16-Inch Pedal Bike

Woom 3 16-Inch Pedal Bike

The kid equivalent of a sports car

Beautifully built and appointed, the Woom 3 is super-light, super-zippy, and chock-full of kid-friendly features—for a price.

Buying Options

$390 from Woom

May be out of stock

The lithe, aluminum Woom 3 is remarkably lightweight (13.6 pounds) thanks in part to its wheels, which incorporate proprietary alloy rims and just 16 spokes each (most of the other bikes we tested had 28). Everything on the bike, from the saddle to the powerful linear-pull brakes to the Woom-specific cranks and headset, is kid-proportioned and butter-smooth. The handlebars encourage a more upright riding position than do the more mountain bike-inspired and comparably priced Cleary Hedgehog and Prevelo Alpha 2—the Woom’s main competition in our tests—but our kids found it more comfortable, and yet it still allowed them to stand in the pedals and ride aggressively when the need arose. The bike is so darn light that speedy riding is, in fact, almost a given—this was the case even among our more timid testers. Woom makes sure all else is top-notch too: The company ships its bikes in boxes large enough that ours arrived with the wheels already mounted; the brakes came pre-adjusted too. You pay a premium for all this, though—it costs more than twice as much as the REV 16.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

REI Co-op Cycles REV 16 Kids' Bike

REI Co-op Cycles REV 16 Kids’ Bike

A lightweight, uncomplicated pedal bike

This solidly built aluminum-frame bike from a trusted outdoor retailer won testers (and their parents) over with its easy assembly, smooth ride (on and off pavement), and ability to grow with the rider.

Buying Options

$190 from REI

Runner-up

Raleigh Jazzi 16

Raleigh Jazzi 16

Better for pavement

Heavier and not as trail-friendly as our top pick, the aluminum Jazzi 16 nonetheless boasts child-friendly geometry and a low price. (A matching “boys version”—differentiated only by a higher top tube—is currently out of stock.)

Buying Options

$170 from Raleigh Bicycles

Upgrade pick

Woom 3 16-Inch Pedal Bike

Woom 3 16-Inch Pedal Bike

The kid equivalent of a sports car

Beautifully built and appointed, the Woom 3 is super-light, super-zippy, and chock-full of kid-friendly features—for a price.

Buying Options

$390 from Woom

May be out of stock

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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