First look at the Hornit HERO 14 kids bike

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Here at Cycle Sprog HQ we were really excited when we heard that Hornit (the horn and helmet folk) were moving into kids bikes.  And even more excited when they told us they were ditching the traditional bike chain and going with a belt drive instead.

They've kindly sent us one of their brand new Hornit HERO 14 starter pedal bikes to cast our eye over, before we hand it over to one of our review panel to put to the test.

SPONSORED CONTENT:  This article has been paid for by Hornit Bikes. The opinions and photographs in the article are all our own.

Bike Model: Hornit HERO 14

Child age: Approx 2.5 - 4.5yrs

Child Height: 95cm - 110 cm tall

Inside Leg: 34 - 44cm

Standover height: 38cm

Weight: 5.4kg

Warranty: Life time on frame

Cost: £349

Date of review: September 2021

We Like:  Oil free belt drive, quality of components, upright riding position, low weight and competitive pricing

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Hornit Hero kids bike

Who are Hornit?

Hornit are perhaps best known for their VERY loud horn!

From their HQ just outside of Exeter in the southwest of England, Hornit have been making innovative cycling products since 2012. Their objective is to 'create pioneering accessories that make cycling safer without compromising style'.

Over the years the company's product range has grown and their range of products now include accessories, helmets, bike storage, and now, kids bikes.

Innovation remains at the heart of the company as they make it their goal to "create cycling products that transform your ride".

Hornit Hero bike

The AIRO was Hornit's first kids bike, a 12-inch wheeled balance bike which we loved and you can read more about it here.

Adding to their line-up they have just launched the HERO, a logical next step in their children's bicycles with capital letters range.

The HERO 14 is the bike a child would graduate to from the AIRO balance bike as it is both larger, with 14-inch wheels, and has pedals and brakes.

There is also a 16-inch wheel version available too which is identical specification wise other than the increased size.

According to Hornit, the geometry of the HERO was designed with children in mind to "optimise comfort, enjoyment and safety".

They have produced an innovative bike that certainly looks great, has some interesting geometry and a belt drive rather than a traditional chain.

The HERO has a lot to live up to as the AIRO was such a great bike, but it looks good on paper so I'm expecting to be impressed!

The Hornit HERO 14

Weighing in at 5.4kg, the Hornit HERO 14 is one of the lightest 14-inch pedal bikes out there which is fantastic for small riders getting to grips with their first bike.

The quality of the bike is clear from first glance - there's an opulent finish to the paintwork and the components are clearly well specified.

But it's not all about looks, and a quick once over confirms it has proper bearings in the headset, hubs and bottom bracket - there is nothing 'plasticy' or cheap about the HERO.

The bike has wide handlebars and small grips which will give plenty of stability, and has a saddle perfectly proportioned for small people.

Hornit Hero kids bike up close

The 14-inch wheels use 1.75-inch tyres, which should give plenty of comport and grip on the tarmac.

Review of the Hornit HERO 14 Kids Bike

The HERO uses V-brakes with small adjustable levers for little hands and plenty of stopping power.  As with all small starter bikes it is single speed, so no gears to worry about.

 

The HERO 14 comes in a choice of four funky sounding colours; Snapper Red, Blue Racer, Mawas Orange or Pink Dragon.

Each bike has a lifetime warranty on the frame.

The price for the Hornit HERO with 14-inch wheels is £349.00, with optional extras of a kickstand for an additional £10 and mudguards for £26. They also offer free UK delivery.

First impressions of the HERO 14

At first glance, the Hornit HERO 14 may just look like just another kids starter bike, but look a little closer and we can see some interesting design features which set it apart from the rest of the market.

Firstly there is the belt drive, which although not new to kids bikes, is still not common (you'll also find them on Early Riders and Black Mountains - both high end kids bike brands).

However belt drives have been around for some time, and are seen on adult commuter bikes and bikes with hub gears.

The main advantage of belt drives is the lack of maintenance required, with no oil needed, the belt can run for years without any input.

This means no more inquisitive little fingers getting covered in oil and smearing it all over the place. There's also less chance of clothing getting caught up, and if it does, it shouldn't be too damaged...

 

The Hornit HERO range of kids bikes come with a belt drive rather than a traditional bike chain
Spacers on the Hornit HERO 14 kids bike allow for adjustment of the handlebars

The other notable design feature of the HERO is the tall head tube (the front tube of the frame which connects the forks to the handlebars).

This gives the HERO a front end that is higher than many other bikes of a similar size.

Having tested another bike recently with a high front end I am very much in favour of this as the rider sits more upright and appears to be comfortable and secure in their riding position.

In addition, there are several spacers under the stem which allows for further height adjustment of the handlebars should you need it.

 

Assembling the bike out of the box was as to be expected for a kids bike and the manual walks you through step by step what is needed.

Check out our videos on how to assemble a bike out of a box if you've never had to do this before.

One thing to note is that Hornit don't supply any tools, so you will need some allan keys, a Phillips screwdriver and an adjustable spanner to assemble the HERO.

I had a little experiment with the belt to see how it was adjusted.

There are two tensioning screws on the back wheel which pull it backwards to add tension to the system.

This is the same system needed on a single speed chain, but your fingers come away with no oil on them.

Adjusting the belt is pretty easy and Hornit is planning some instructional videos on how to set up the tension.

I don't see the belt as any more difficult than dealing with a chain and could be a better choice for kids bikes.

Hornit hero kids bike wheel

Measurements of the Hornit HERO 14

The saddle height on the HERO 14 can be dropped down as low as 41cm and goes up to 51cm giving plenty of growing room.

The highest handlebar height is 57cm but has 3cm of adjustment up and down with headset spacers.

Essentially the front of the Hero is taller, and the bars are wider than many other kids bikes of the same size.

Hornit hero kids bike saddle
Hornit HERO 14 Crankset and pedals

Quality kids bike brands usually talk about their q factors and cranks being smaller and shorter for little legs (check out this article if you want to learn more).

The HERO 14's Q-factor is wider and the cranks are slightly longer than some of the competition but Hornit claims that this allows for more efficient progress.

They argue that because the bike requires fewer rotations to travel the same distance when compared to a shorter crank, it means a more efficient ride on the flats (which is where most young children are going to be riding).

Discussions on q-factors and crank length go on regularly throughout the cycling world and in recent years many kids bike brands have moved to narrower q-factors and shorter cranks lengths to keep bikes in proportion to their smaller riders.

We'll see if we can pick up any real-world feedback from our testers regarding this, but I do think this is likely to be very marginal gains for a child of this age, who is unlikely to be riding high mileage.

Overall the bikes geometry looks good, and the tall front end should make for a comfortable and confident bike.

Hornit HERO 14 summary

I like the geometry of the HERO 14 and feel the high front end is a real bonus and gives a confident riding position for a novice cyclist.

The belt drive makes sense on a kids bike, and time will tell if it offers major advantages over a chain.

With a competitive price, low weight, innovative features and some great colour choices, the HERO certainly appears to be in keeping with the excellent AIRO balance bike and shows that Hornit is serious about making quality kids bikes.

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What next for the Hornit HERO 14?

All this is my adult opinion, and I'm really looking forward to finding out how our young tester gets on.

Will they like the high front end riding position? 

Does a wider Q factor and longer cranks make much difference to their riding experience?

Can they be persuaded to use the kick stand rather than throw the bike on the floor?

If you sign up to our newsletter then we'll let you know in a few months when our rider review is complete.

Review of the Hornit HEROI 14 kids starter bike

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Autumn can be a wonderful time of the year to get out cycling with your child – from finding brightly coloured leaves, collecting conkers, seeing squirrels, racing cyclocross or riding muddy routes there’s usually a lot to keep them occupied, what ever their age.

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