The best 12" wheel first pedal bikes for ages 2 years and over

Buying your child's very first pedal bike is such a milestone - and you want to make sure you're choosing the best bike for them. There's a bewildering range of kids first pedal bikes available, so in this article, we look at the various 12" wheel kids bikes suitable for children aged 2 years and over.

Q: Does your child really need a pedal bike?

Before going any further, ask yourself whether your child is really ready for a pedal bike.

Have they mastered using a balance bike yet?

A balance bike is cheaper and lighter than a pedal bike and they will learn the important skill of balancing and moving, without having to worry about learning to pedal at the same time.   Usually, children who have used a balance bike can move onto a pedal bike without stabilisers when the time is right.

Check out our post on the Best Balance Bikes for inspiration

The great stabiliser vs balance bike debate

The majority of 12" wheel bikes come supplied with stabilisers because very few 2 year olds are ready to start pedalling unaided.

The issue many parents have with stabilisers is that they don't teach a child how to balance properly, so they struggle to ride without them at a later date. Stabilisers also add weight to the bike, slow the child down and impact their ability to turn, climb etc.

Children with stabilisers on their bike often get left behind by their friends on balance bikes and can find it a frustrating experience.

However, some children appreciate the additional security they feel by having stabilisers, and move happily onto two wheels when the time is right.

Don't buy a heavy "bike shaped object"

There are two types of children's bikes - those that are designed by bike companies and those designed by toy companies. The latter are commonly known as "bike shaped objects".  There is a BIG difference between the two.

I haven't got room to go into why you shouldn't buy a Bike Shaped Object here but click here to read an article which explains the dangers of buying a cheap children's bike. They're poorly made, incredibly heavy and can be unsafe. You're likely to end up with a very frustrated child and wishing you'd spent that little bit more on a proper bike.

Bike Shaped Objects tend to be associated with cartoon characters, pirates and princesses, handlebar streamers and other gimmicks.  They are usually sold in supermarkets, discount stores and large warehouse stores.  They always seem to be a very good price, until you have a broken bike and upset child on your hands!

The best test of whether it's a bike shaped object is to ask your child to pick it up. If they can't move it (and if you think it's heavy) then avoid!

Good quality children's bikes tend to be gender neutral, with child sized components. They are lightweight so can be moved around easily by a young child (including lifting it into a riding position when it's been left lying on the floor).

Click here for your free guide

The best 12" wheel first pedal bikes

Now you know what to look for when you're buying a first pedal bike, let's take a look at the best bikes available for children aged 2 years and over.

It's worth noting that the majority of quality children's bike manufacturers (such as Frog Bikes, Islabikes, Woom, Squish) don't start making children's bikes until the 14" wheel size, which is suitable for ages 3 and over. They recommend the use of a balance bike before that.

The majority of 12" wheel pedal bikes available are therefore Bike Shaped Objects, but we've searched far and wide to bring you a selection of proper kids bikes that are light enough for a 2 year old to handle, have a low standover height for shorter legs, are well made and durable and should give your little Cycle Sproglet loads of fun.

Cycle Sprog is an family run, reader supported, website. We belong to several affiliate schemes so may receive a small commission from sales made from links on our site. We do our best to be impartial and recommend products on their quality not whether they are in a scheme.

Black Mountain Pinto (£349)

Cycle Sprog reviewed and recommended bike

Black Mountain Pinto - best 14" wheel children's bike - a excellent choice as a first pedal bike

Black Mountain Pinto key data:

Price: £349
Typical age range: 2.5 to 5 years;
Height range: 90cm to 109cm;
Bike weight: 5.7kg;
Brakes: Tektro V-brake (rim);
Components: Adjustable brake levers, Go Lo seatpost; drive belt (not chain); balance bike conversion kit;
Frame: Adjustable frame - two sizes; 
Tyres: Kenda Small Block 8;
Available colours: Neon Green, Sky Blue, Orange, Purple;
Black Mountain Bike Warranty:
3-year warranty on the frame, forks and belt-drive system and a 2-year warranty on non-consumable components. Warranty can be passed onto new user if you sell on (must inform Black Mountain about the change of ownership)

We've included the Black Mountain Pinto in this post, as whilst it's actually a 14" wheel bike it's very cleverly designed to replace a 12" wheel bike.  It starts out as a balance bike, and then when your child is ready you can add pedals. It also has a "growing frame", so the bike actually grows with your child and is very lightweight (just 5.7 kg)

The initial cost of the Pinto is much higher than other starter bikes, but it's designed to replace a balance bike, a first pedal bike (i.e. a 12" wheel bike) and also a 14" wheel bike.   When you take this into account, along with the lack of hassle having to shop as your child grows, it becomes an attractive choice for families who can afford the initial outlay.

Black Mountain growing bike

Whilst the wheels on the Pinto are actually 14", but because of the growing frame, it's suitable for most children aged 2.5 years and over (height from 90cm) which is why we've included it here.

You can read our review of the Black Mountain Pinto here.

BUY NOW:  The Pinto is available exclusively from the Black Mountain website, or you can collect from their showroom in the Welsh Black Mountains. 

Specialised Riprock 12" Coaster (RRP £190)

Specialised Riprock Coaster 12 2020 kids bike


Specialised Riprock key data:

Price: £190:
Typical age range:  2-3 years;
Bike weight: 7.2kgs
Brakes: Steel coaster brakes;
Frame: Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum;
Tyres: Rhythm Lite tyres;
Available colours: Neon blue or pink, white and orange;
Lifetime warranty on frame and forks

The Specialised Riprock 12" is another small pedal bike with a rear coaster brake. Unlike the Cube it doesn't have a front rim brake, so your child only has to worry about learning to pedal backwards to stop (but will have to learn to use brake levers when moving up to a 14" wheel bike at some point).

The Riprock has an aluminium frame and a steel fork so will be reasonably lightweight but not quite as light as the Cubie due to the steel. Specialized don't give the exact weight for this bike, but we understand it's around 7kg without stabilisers.   The tyres are nice and wide to give additional stability.

BUY NEW: The Specialised Riprock at Leisure Lakes Bikes

BUY SECONDHAND: The Specialised Riprock from eBay 

Click here to signup

Bobbin Gingersnap and Moonbug 12" (£170)

Cycle Sprog reviewed and recommended bike

Bobbin Gingersnap key data:

Price: £170;
Typical age range: 2-4 years;
Inside leg: 33cm- 43cm;
Bike weight: 7.5kg (including all components but not stabilisers);
Brakes: Alloy dual-pivot with easy-reach levers;
Frame: Steel;
Available colours: green, pink, cerise, duck egg, yellow;
Frame: 12 months Rest of bike 6 months

Bobbin Moonbug key data:
as above, except;

Inside leg: 35cm- 45cm;
Available colours: red, blueberry, yellow, pea

The Bobbin make a gorgeous range of city bikes, both for adults and children and you can even colour coordinate your child's bike with yours if you really want some great Instagram moments!

The "leather" saddle and other trimmings are all synthetic, making them suitable for vegans.

Bobbin have two 12" wheel offerings, which is great to see. The Gingersnap (above) is an upright city style bike with a low standover height. It is available in a range of five colours and is suitable for children with an inside leg measurement of 33 - 43cm.

The Moonbug (below) comes in more vibrant colours and a higher frame design. This means your child has to be slightly taller to ride the Moonbug - the inside leg guide is 35-45cm.

Moonbug 12 inch kids bike for a 2 year old

Both bikes come fitted with a wicker basket plus mudguards and a full metal chain guard to keep clothes clean. They also come with stabilisers if you need them.

They're not as light as the Cubie or the Black Mountain. This bike is advertised as being "approximately" 6.5kg. However, as these are designed for more sedate, city style riding rather than pump track action this shouldn't be a problem.

All the components are child friendly and the bikes have lever operated brakes front and rear - rather than the coaster brakes on the Cubie.

Our reviewer loved riding the Gingersnap 12 and found the basket particularly useful.

BUY NEW: Bobbin Bikes are available from Amazon

BUY SECONDHAND: Gingersnap 12 & the Moonbug 12 from eBay

Cube Cubie 120 (RRP £250)

Cycle Sprog recommended brand

Cube Cubie 120 is a lightweight 12" wheel first pedal bike for children


Cubie 120 key data:

Price: £250;
Typical age range:  2-4 years;
Height range: 90 - 115cm;
Bike weight: 5.9kgs;
Brakes: Front: Alloy Cantilever; Rear: Coaster Brake;
Components: Rear mudguard, a Hebie chain looper;
Frame: Lightweight aluminium (Alu Lite 6061);
Tyres: Cube aluminium;
Available colours: blue/mint & green/blue;
2 years

The Cubie 120 is Cube Bike's latest offering. They've realised that children are wanting to move onto proper pedal bikes at a younger age due to gaining skills on their balance bikes. The bike is designed for children 90 - 115cm in height.

The Cubie 120 has a lightweight aluminium frame and forks and comes with child sized brake levers, a chain protector and a carry handle on the rear of the saddle for when you end up having to carry it.

It's worth noting that the rear brake on the Cubie is a coaster brake, which is operated by your child pedalling backwards, whilst the front brake is a v-brake on the rim, operated by the brake lever.  Coaster brakes are very popular on the continent but are not really used in the UK.

The benefit of coaster brakes is that your child just needs to learn to pedal - forwards to go and backwards to stop and doesn't have to worry about using brake levers at this point.   However, when your child moves up onto a larger pedal bike they will have to get used to using rim brakes front and rear.

We haven't had a chance to review the Cube Cubie 120 yet, but we've reviewed various of Cube's larger kids bikes and have always been impressed by their quality.

Buy now - The Cube Cubie 120 is available from Wiggle

Buy secondhand - click here to see if the Cube Cubie is available in your area

Trek Precaliber 12" (RRP £189)

Trek Precaliber 12 inch kids bike for small toddler

Trek Precaliber key data:

Price: £189;
Typical age range:  3-4 years;
Height range: 91–102 cm;
Bike weight: 7kgs;
Brakes: Rear coaster brake;
Frame: Alpha Silver Aluminium;
Tyres: Bontrager XR1, wire bead, 27 tpi, 12x2.25";
Available colours: Royal blue, pink;
Frame - lifetime

The Trek Precaliber is suitable for slightly taller children, with a range of 91 - 102cm tall.  It has a useful handle on the rear of the saddle to allow you to guide your child as they ride.

The frame is aluminium and the forks are steel, making this one of the heavier bikes we feature at 6.98kg. However, do remember this is still hugely lighter than the majority of 12" wheel kids bikes, which often come in well over 10kg in weight.  It has a rear coaster brake, but no front rim brake and comes in two colour choices - blue and pink.

BUY NEW: The Trek Precaliber at Wheelbase

BUY SECONDHAND: The Trek Precaliber from eBay

Islabikes Cnoc 14 Small (£319)

Best small kids bike - the Islabikes Cnoc 14 small - for toddlers

Cnoc 14 key data:

Price: £319
Typical age range:  3+ years;
Height range: approx. 92cm;
Inside leg:
34 - 42cm;
Bike weight: 5.2kg;
Brakes: Aluminium mini V-brakes;
Components: Islabikes aluminium micro brake levers, Allen key fittings;
Frame: Aluminium;
Tyres: Islabikes Mixte;
Available colours: orange, pink or teal;
5 years on frame and forks and a 2 year on parts

Islabikes have realised that younger (or shorter) children are desperate to get on their bikes. As the pioneers of quality kids bikes, it's worth taking note that they have decided to make a small bike with 14" wheels rather than a 12" wheel bike.

The Cnoc 14 Small is their tiniest pedal bike, designed for children with an inside leg of just 34cm.  We've included it here as an alternative option if your child is able to fit it.

Buy new:  The Islabikes Cnoc 14 Small is only available direct from Islabikes

Buy secondhand:  There are always plenty of secondhand Islabikes available on eBay - they are so well made they are outgrown long before they're worn out.  The Cnoc split to become the Small and Large several years ago, so make sure anything that isn't clearly labelled is the smaller bike.  They changed their branding in October 2019, so any second hand will have a different paint job, but is still the same great bike! 

We do hope you find a great first bike for your little Cycle Sprog. Do drop us a note below and let us know how you got on.

Click here to download

Other posts you may want to read whilst you're here:

Disclosure:  Here at Cycle Sprog we belong to a number of affiliate schemes which mean if you click a link on our page and buy something we may get a small commission. This helps us to feed our Sprogs! Thanks for your support. Karen and Chris

This post was first published in June 2019 and updated in May 2020 to reflect the 12" wheel bikes currently available.

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  1. David Howe says:

    I bought a Bobbin ginger snap after recommendation from your website. It was horrendous. Far too heavy for a small child and poorly built with the pedals barely able to turn. I had To strip all the mud guards and chain guards off which wasn’t an easy process due to a “fussy” build style and then rebuild the bike myself in order for the pedals and cranks to turn without resistance.
    The bike still weighs more than my son’s bike which is a 16” wheel Wiggins.
    Very disappointed with the product and the fact you recommended it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi David - so sorry to hear you've had such problems with the bike. I do hope you've contacted Bobbin to get a replacement as the functionality of the bike should not be a problem. When our reviewer was sent one to test out the performance of the bike was far better than the much cheaper and heavier bike she'd been riding previously, which is why we recommend it. However, it is steel framed and not the lightest 12" wheel bike available (although as we state me majority of the quality kids bikes don't start until 14" wheels). Sorry you've not been happy, and I hope Bobbin are able to sort out your issues. Karen

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