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

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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 about 2 and a half years and over.

Take a moment to GRAB YOUR FREE KIDS BIKE BUYING CHECKLIST which will help you record all the information you need to find the perfect bike for your child. 

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 if they're not ready to pedal yet.

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).

Before you start take a moment to GRAB YOUR FREE KIDS BIKE BUYING CHECKLIST which will help you record all the information you need to find the perfect bike for your child. 

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.

We've therefore included several small 14" wheel bikes on our list which we recommend looking at if your child fits them, as they'll probably get more enjoyment and a long use out of them over a much heavier 12" wheel bike.

Cube Cubie 120

Cube Cubie 120 2021

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.

The rear brake on the Cubie 120 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 and in the US but are not very common in the UK.

They’re a good idea if your child isn’t ready to operate a brake lever, but they will have to learn how to do this when they move up to larger bikes.

Specialized Riprock Coaster 2020

Specialized Riprock 12" Coaster

Key data:

Price: £220
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
Warranty:
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.  The tyres are nice and wide to give additional stability.

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The Raleigh Pop 12 is a small pedal bike for children aged 3 years and over

Raleigh Pop 12

Key data:

Price: £175
Typical age range:  3 years plus
Bike weight: 6.4 kgs
Brakes: Alloy V Brake with adjustable brake levers
Frame: Alloy (with steel forks)
Accessories:  
Stabilisers, full chain guard, mudguards
Available colours: Black or pink
Warranty:
1 year

The Raleigh Pop 12 gives your child a more upright riding position than some of the other bikes on this page, which some children find comforting when starting to pedal,.  However, some slightly older children may find this a bit frustrating when they start trying to go faster or on more off road terrain - it depends on how confident your child is at physical activity, and whether they are riding around the garden or trying to do tricks at the local pump track!

This bike does come with stabilisers, although we recommend that if your child isn't ready to pedal you buy them a balance bike instead and save your money for a larger pedal bike in a few months time.

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Trek Precaliber 12 inch kids bike for small toddler

Trek Precaliber 12"

Key data:

Price: £300
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
Warranty:
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.

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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.

How to start cycling with your kids

Fuel prices have reached record levels, and they're unlikely to drop any time soon.  Swapping to cycling for shorter local journeys is often quoted as being a quick way to save money.

But how do you do this if you've got a family????

Don't panic - Cycle Sprog is here to help!

Here's a selection of articles to get you started - and don't forget to sign up for our FREE guide to cycling to school 

Comments

Connie

Hi, came here to say I’ve found your site very helpful and well made but I have also had an issue with Bobbin bikes. I ordered the gingersnap based on your review but despite it claiming a saddle height of 40cm (which I confirmed with the company especially) it in fact has a saddle height of 44cm – far too tall for my short 3 year old. They tried to claim this was a one off but I see on your more detailed review (which I stupidly didn’t read) that the reviewer also states its lowest setting is 44cm. As you know, at that age those 4cm are a huge difference, so the gingersnap doesn’t really belong in your “bikes for 2 year olds” as a child with an inside leg measurement of 34cm couldn’t manage it. I also had a rather disappointing discussion with bobbin bikes as I had to return the bike (which was for a birthday, so doubly disappointing) but they were incredibly obstructive, suggesting first of all that maybe I was wrong that my child couldn’t manage it and that “most kids are fine”, and then suggesting I just hacksaw the seat post even after I’d made it clear I just wanted to return the bike. I don’t believe you should have to hacksaw a seat post just to get a bike to fit the specifications the company claims! Anyway, rant over, but I will definitely not be recommending bobbin bikes to anyone.

Penny Millar

Hi Connie
Thanks for your comment, we’re really sorry to hear about your experience. We’ll have a look into it in more detail, and thank you for bringing this to our attention. Kind regards, Penny

David Howe

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

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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