Review of the Black Mountain PINTO – balance bike mode
It can be a real challenge knowing how long your child is going to be riding a balance bike, and when they'll be ready to move up to a pedal bike.
Thankfully the Black Mountain PINTO takes the worry away, as you can convert it from balance to pedal bike mode (and back again) when your child is ready.
Here at Cycle Sprog we've been sent one to review, and we're reporting back on how the PINTO has performed in balance bike mode.
Disclosure: Cycle Sprog were sent the Black Mountain PINTO bike to review. We were not paid to write this review, and all opinions are our own. We do use affiliate links so may get a small commission if you choose to buy through the links on this page. This funds the website, and we thank you for your support.
Price - £399.99
Weight - 5.7kg (5kg in balance bike mode)
Age range - From around 3 years old to about 5 years
Height range - 90cm to 109cm (or from 87cm with Notch saddle upgrade)
Colours - Orange, Purple, Sky Blue, Neon Green
We like - It's been a super reliable, stable and fun balance bike, especially off road!
Black Mountain PINTO balance bike review
Black Mountain is well established as a manufacturer of top-end children's bikes with unique features.
The big selling point for the brand is their 'growing' bikes, which can increase in size as your young rider grows, giving a bike that will last longer.
This wider range of sizing goes some way to offset the premium prices that they command - you're essentially getting three bikes in one with the PINTO.
A balance bike plus two sizes of pedal bikes. When looked at in that way, the PINTO starts to look like a good investment.
As kid's bikes go, they offer some of the most well-thought-out kids' bikes on the market and continually develop new and innovative solutions for kids cycling.
By designing an entirely new frame system, the EPOK range of bikes from Black Mountain can extend by simply removing a few bolts and reassembling them.
This flexible approach, with additional adjustments in stems and saddles, has won them a huge number of loyal customers and keeps them at the forefront of kids' bike design.
The Pinto specification
The PINTO is Black Mountain's smallest bike (with another 3 larger sizes available called SKOG, KAPEL and HUTTO - all named after different mountains around the world).
The PINTO has 14-inch wheels and aims to bridge the gap from a 12-inch wheeled balance bike to a 14-inch pedal bike.
Whereas usually, a child would take a step from a balance bike to a pedal bike (needing to different purchases), the PINTO has a nifty system that allows it to be used as a balance bike until pedals are needed.
At this point, you can add the pedals and associated gubbins (all included in the cost) to make it into a fully-fledged pedalling machine!
Once your child grows a bit more the bike can be 'enlarged' with just a few bolts, and even gets a new rear cog to change the gear ratio to be more appropriate for a larger rider.
Essentially there are 3 stages, a balance bike, a small pedal bike, and a larger pedal bike.
This is what Black Mountain are all about, and the PINTO represents the greatest transformation and adjustments of any of their bikes.
In terms of all the normal things you'd expect on a bike, it's all there.
The frame is aluminium and the bike weighs in at 5.7kg. This makes it heavier than some of them and all the components are high-quality units including small brakes for child-sized hands and even a belt drive system rather than a chain to keep things maintenance and oil-free.
Knobbly tyres give a nod to a bit of off-road riding and the overall styling is from the mountain bike side of things.
They've produced a special super low saddle for the PINTO in balance bike mode, that lowers the seating position by 5 cm and brings the rider closer to the handlebars so they're not stretching.
Setting up the PINTO
The Black Mountain PINTO is no ordinary bike. It doesn't fit the standard shape, and as such can feel a bit confusing straight out of the box, but essentially it's still two wheels joining together by a metal frame.
All the bits come in a nice cardboard box with clear instructions on how to get it up and running with tools included.
In this review I'm focusing on the balance bike aspect of the PINTO (I'll be covering the transition to Pedal Bike mode at a later date when my reviewer has grown a bit! Sign up now for our newsletter to be notified when this happens).
As a balance bike there is less to set up and get sorted. Simply turn the handlebars and make sure everything is tight and you're done. The only quirk is that the seat clamp is on the bottom of the post (under the bike) which is unusual, but easy to adjust. It does, however, limit the seat height to about 47cm in balance mode, if you need it any higher you will need a longer seat post.
If you want to skip the balance bike mode and want Black Mountain to ship the bike in pedal mode, just ask, and they'll sort that for you.
With balance mode ready it's simply a case of presenting it to a child and seeing what happens!
For me, that was a three-year-old who is balance bike savvy and just starting to think that pedals might be a good idea, but the reality is not quite as appealing... yet.
This is ideal, as I know when they're ready, I can bolt on the pedals, and ta-da! It's done.
How does the PINTO perform?
For my tester, this was a little larger than previous balance bikes, with the PINTO having 14-inch wheels and many other balance bikes he's reviewed in the past having 12-inch wheels.
If you are to seek out the greatest value from the PINTO then getting your rider on the bike at its smallest possible size is key.
With the PINTO having larger wheels than many other balance bikes the trade-off is that your child does need to be slightly taller than many other balance bikes (minimum height of 90 cm)
Black Mountain offers a Notch balance bike saddle (available to purchase separately) which replaces the stock saddle and gets the balance biking position 5cm lower to allow a child to hop on the Pinto earlier.
With my rider being pretty tall, the 14-inch wheel instantly made more sense and he looked more in proportion straight away.
The geometry of the PINTO is great, The high front end and riser bars give plenty of confidence and the slack head angle and short stem mean the front wheel rolls over anything in its path like a tiny monster truck.
This style of geometry is borrowed from the mountain bike world and gives young riders a very calm and confident ride especially if they venture off the tarmac and play about on rough surfaces.
The only downside is slightly less manoeuvrable at slow speeds, but for my tester, this wasn't an issue!
The PINTO, as I found with other sized Black Mountain bikes my family has reviewed, is the bike I want for a child that will hurtle down a grassy slope covered in bumps at speed.
This confidence-exceeding-skill approach to cycling is terrifying, but with the PINTO, I know that the bike will try its best to keep them safe.
In simple terms, the bike isn't easily knocked off-line and rolls through the bumps, both expected and not, with ease.
The bike has brakes, both front and rear as these are needed when in pedal bike mode.
As balance bikes tend not to have any this has been a learning experience for my reviewer, but will set help set him up for the transition to pedals and so far hasn't caused any bother other than a few skids here and there.
Despite the PINTO weighing in at about 5kg in balance bike mode, the additional weight has not been much of a problem, other than when I have to carry it! With other balance bikes weighing under 3kg, it is a significant increase in weight, but many of these will fit much smaller children. Overall I think the weight is acceptable considering how the bike will adapt into a fully functioning pedal bike.
Overall verdict of the Black Mountain PINTO as a balance bike
So far the bike has been everything I would want from a balance bike. It's robust, stable and provides a really fun ride for the rider both on and off-road.
It's a bit heavier than a stand-alone balance bike, but the opportunity to expand the bike into not only a bigger bike, but a pedal bike is a real bonus.
The transition to pedals should (I hope) be a smooth one with the familiarity of the bike already established.
At this point In testing, I would highly recommend the PINTO as a balance bike, especially for children who like to go fast down hills.
I am hoping that it will continue to impress as we get ourselves ready for pedals!
Wish me luck and I'll see you on the other side...
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