Kidvelo Rookie 12 Balance Bike Review
Late last year we got our hands on the new Rookie 12 balance bike from Kidvelo. We gave it a once over and were impressed with its weight, price and skinny tubed aesthetic.
Since then the Rookie 12 has been in use with Cycle Sprog's balance bike tester who has ridden it through the winter and out the other side into summer!
With my tester now just about ready to try pedalling, it's time to wrap up our review on the Kidvelo Rookie balance bike and deliver our verdict.
Cycle Sprog were sent the Kidvelo Rookie 12 to review. We were not paid to write this review, and all opinions and photographs are our own
Bike Model: Kidvelo Rookie 12 balance bike
Child age: 18 months – 4.5 years (depending on height)
Inside Leg: 31 - 48cm
Tester Age/Height: 4 yrs old, 104cm, 44cm inseam. (at end of review period)
Warranty: Lifetime on frame
Date of review: July 2022
We Like: A lightweight, fun ride with competitive pricing and striking looks
Who are Kidvelo?
So Kidvelo is new, not as new as when I first took a look at the bike back in November, but still pretty fresh on the scene. Or are they???
The team behind Kidvelo actually used to be distributors for Strider bikes so they really know a thing or two about balance bikes.
They decided to do their own thing and Kidvelo was born, with the Rookie 12 their first bike.
I'm reliably informed that more bikes are on their way from Kidvelo, including 14" and 18" wheel balance bikes that convert into pedal bikes, so we're excited to see what's coming.
If you want to hear more about the evolution of the brand then take a listen to the Balance Biking episode of The Family Cycling Podcast for an interview with Kidvelo founder Karen Wood.
Kidvelo Rookie 12 balance bike review
The Kidvelo Rookie is a 12-inch wheel balance bike. This is the most common size of balance bike and this bike will fit children with a 30 - 48cm inseam, which generally equates to about 18 months to around 4.5 years old.
Kidvelo has gone down the 'less is more' route for the Rookie which gives the bike a clean, easy-to-understand feel for new riders.
What I mean by this is that it hasn't got a brake, or extra gadgets or gizmos, just the core element of the bike. Personally I like simplicity in a balance bike.
One of the key characteristics of the Rookie has to be its weight, which is a highly competitive 2.89kgs, placing it at the lightest end of the balance bike market.
What's more, it's also coming in at £130, making it competitive with other lightweight balance bikes out there.
Do you want colours? Well, you've got green, blue, red and pink to choose from, which covers a good range.
In the small print, you'll be pleased to find a 30-day money-back guarantee, free delivery on balance bikes and a lifetime warranty.
Frame and Components
I won't labour the point I made last year in my first look at this balance bike but I like skinny tubes on bikes and love the look of steel-framed bikes. The Rookie is not steel, but the thin aluminium tubes maintain the silhouette of a bicycle, and I like that.
Did my test rider care? I doubt it, they said the blue was nice...
The frame is made of 6061 heat-treated aluminium alloy, which is common in the bike world, and the frame construction is good, with pretty nice looking welds and a very thick paint job, which has lasted.
The fork welds lack a bit of finesse and don't match the quality of the frame, but it's functional and does the job.
I like the integrated footrests, which remove the need to bolt on a plastic footrest and keep the bike's sleek looks.
The components on the Kidvelo Rookie 12 are few, as it is with a balance bike, but what there is of a premium quality.
The aluminium wheels are light, look cool with their 12 spokes plus they spin on proper bearings meaning no grating noises that you can find with some balance bikes.
The tyres are 'air filled', rather than cheap solid tyres, which makes for a more comfortable ride and offers more grip.
The bar and stem offer some adjustment to fine-tune the fit, and spacers under the stem allow for raising or lowering the bar height.
The forks spin in the frame on bearings which again suggests longevity and reliability.
Throughout the test period, I've not touched anything other than topping up some tyre pressure. It's been extremely reliable.
How does the Kidvelo Rookie 12 ride?
First up I'll mention the weight. For me, a light weight is one of the defining features of a good balance bike, as it allows little riders to immediately engage with the bike and have ownership or their steed.
The Rookie 12 is one firmly in the lightweight camp, and this showed. Straight out the door, my tester jumped on and was up to speed.
Now they may not be the most discerning of 3 yr olds, but I would certainly be told if they didn't like riding it!
So thankfully all was good, and it's been an enjoyable riding experience ever since.
The smooth tyre profile works great for getting up to speed, and it's a very nippy little bike. Again that low weight allows riders to pick it up and turn around on the spot.
Playing off-road on the grass, the Rookie holds its own and the geometry of the frame and fork give good confidence to play on the rougher stuff.
The high front end of the bike is good, and something I look for in a balance bike to give further confidence - balance bikes don't need to be aerodynamic.
Pumptrack riding has been great, and the Rookie can be used for pretty much anything.
There is no brake, which could be important for some, but I find that feet work equally well, especially for younger children - it's one less thing to think about so they concentrate more on the riding and there's no risk of them suddenly braking too hard.
The footrests are neat and tidy but don't offer a huge amount of space for feet once kids get a bit bigger. It's a tough balance, as you don't want foot rests impinging forward motion. I think Kidvelo have found a good compromise in their design and the grip tape makes sure feet have some purchase.
As my tester has grown, I've moved the saddle up and the handlebars have risen a couple of centimetres. This has kept them happy to the size they are now of about 104cm tall.
We've now reached that point where trying pedals seems like a good idea!
How does the Kidvelo compare to other balance bikes?
The Kidvelo is firmly at the quality end of the balance bike market, with price tags north of £130. There's clearly been a lot of obsessing with the finer details of the design that we'd expect from a team with so much experience in the balance bike market.
At £130 / 2.89 kg the price of the Kidvelo is much lower than the similarly obsessed over Islabikes Rothan 12 (£200 / 3.1kg) but the Rothan does have a brake, which some parents like for helping transition older kids onto a pedal bike.
If a brake is a deal breaker for you, then the new Hoozar Cruz 12 comes in at £139 / 3.2kg so price wise is more comparable to the Rookie, but doesn't have the same attention to detail on the frame design.
The Hornit AIRO (£139 / 2.89 kg) is probably the Rookie's nearest comparable rival. Aesthetically these bikes are very different and I suspect you'll naturally gravitate to either the skinny "retro look" tubes of the Rookie or the more modern design of the AIRO.
Quality wise the Rookie is far superior to the Strider Sport 12 (£130 / 3kg) which is what the team behind this bike set out to achieve. We particularly noticed this with the quality of the bearings and the wheels, and the use of pneumatic tyres.
Kidvelo Rookie 12 Balance Bike review - final thoughts
We have had a lot of fun with this bike. Aside from it being a fun bike to ride, it is super light, reliable plus I think it looks cool with its narrow tube design.
Kidvelo has captured what I believe to be the essence of a great balance bike in the Rookie 12 and I look forward to what they do next as a brand.
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