Frog 55 20" wheel Kids Bike

Our 20″ Bike Recommendations for Kids

Hey all, this is my quick list of my favorite 20" bikes for kids.

How I picked these 20" bikes for kids

We run regular kids bike buses to school and bike parades, and our own kid has since moved up to a 24" bike. I had set up a running feed of used 20" bikes to help set up my own kid as well as others who we ride with.

Who are 20" bikes for?

Generally I think 20" bikes fit kids who are about 5-8 years old. Our kid is of average height, and they used a 20" bike from age 6 to age 8.

There's a bit of overlap between sizes - they rode a 16" bike from age 5-6, and I imagine will ride a 24" wheeled bike from age 8-11 or so.

There are exceptions to this rule of course. There are adult folding bikes that have 16" wheel diameter (like the Bromptons) and 20" wheel diameters (like many Terns)

My considerations for a 20" bike for kids

Most of the kids we know do a little bit of trail/off road riding, and mostly ride on paved roads or paths.

Bike fit for kids

I haven't seen many 20" bikes that are a bad fit for kids, so this isn't too big of a deal. Some bikes have a more "aggressive" geometry where the handlebars are a bit lower or further away. This would be good for kids who can pedal pretty hard and ride relatively fast, as the force they exert on the pedals can offset the weight on their wrists. Kids who don't fall into that category may find bikes with an aggressive geometry to be uncomfortable on their wrists.

Gears on kids bikes

Frog 55 Bike: Altus Rear Derailleur
Frog 55 Bike: Altus Rear Derailleur

A kid who can ride a 20" bike may be limited if their bike doesn't have adjustable gearing. Some kids will max out on a single speed bike, which will generally limit how far they can ride or how easy it is for them to ride up hills.

There's a bit of a learning curve, and it probably takes a couple of months for a kid to figure out when to shift gears.

I've written a bit about twist-shift (or Grip shift) versus trigger shifting before when writing about a Frog bike we had, and younger kids may have trouble not having enough grip strength to shift with a twist-shift bike. At age 6, in order to shift, our kid stopped riding, then used both of their hands to twist the shifter, then started riding again. This isn't great for riding. They did not have the same problem when I changed the twist-shift to a trigger shifter.

However, there are other brands like Woom who use twist shifters because they are more intuitive for children: twist one way and it becomes easier to pedal, twist the other and it becomes harder.

Either way, having gears was a priority because there are small hills that became much easier to handle with shifting, and they could easily ride faster with higher gears as well.

Suspension and weight for a 20" kids bike

Frog 55 20" wheel Kids Bike
Frog 55 20" wheel Kids Bike

Unless the kid is doing a lot of off-road mountain biking, I don't recommend a suspension for a kids 20" bike. For nicer $$$ bikes, it's nice to have, and the added weight penalty is not too large. But for less expensive bikes, the front suspension adds a good pound or two of weight and doesn't provide much benefit for riding on paved trails, streets, or gravel paths.

The extra weight will make it harder for a kid to handle the bike and lift it up when they're mounting. And it'll be more annoying for you to have to carry should the need arise.

Generally, lower weight is better. An average 6-year-old may weigh about 45 pounds, and an average 20" bike might weigh 25 pounds. So a few pounds of weight on the bike is a still a pretty big percentage of the kid's weight.

Bikes I'd recommend with 20" wheels for kids

Here's a list of bikes that I've recommended for other parents and their kids:

Woom's incredible Woom NOW bike
Woom's incredible Woom NOW bike
  • Woom 3 - expensive, but nice. They are lightweight and ergonomically designed for kids. These are very good. They have multiple speeds with a twist-shifter. They also have their NOW series, which have a front rack and built-in light and fenders for kids who commute.
  • Islabike Beinn 20 - I love Islabikes, and am sad that they are not making kids bikes anymore.  These have nice aluminum frames and nice components. They're light, are built well, and perform well. You can find them used for a lower price than a Woom. If we could have gotten a 24" Islabike for my kid, I would have done so. Their 20" bike has multiple speeds with a twist-shifter.
  • Cleary Owl - Cleary makes a 3-speed and a single speed 20" bike. I recommend the 3-speed. These bikes are a little heavier and a littler "burlier" and are well-suited for off-road use, but might not be as speedy as a lighter ride.
  • Frog 55 20" - Frog bikes are great kids bikes. I wrote more about this bike earlier.
  • Vitus 20 - A friend rode one of these, and they're nice. They're not especially fancy and might have a lower-level spec than the Woom, Islabike, and Frog. But they are very attractive (in my opinion) and are decent bikes at a lower price point.
  • Opus Doppler - Our kid rode one of these. It was mid-level spec - nothing awesome, but decent. It fell into the midrange in terms of weight too. But we loved it.

Bikes that we have not tried but believe to be good

  • Priority - Priority's focus is to make bikes that don't require a lot of maintenance.
  • Prevelo - Superlight rugged kids bikes
  • Specialized Jett - These aren't too common yet, but they are Specialized's highest end kids bikes and their answer to the Wooms of the world.
  • Spawn - These are fancy off-road bikes. Lightweight and amazing.

Bikes that are not bad, but not as good as the bikes above:

  • Guardian Bikes - These bikes are fine. A friend's kid rode with one for a while. I didn't find it to be that great though. One important piece though is that they have their "Surestop" system. It's a neat way to make sure the kid doesn't fly over the handlebars by grabbing their front brake too quickly. It's an interesting setup. When the rear brake is actuated, the friction between the brake pad and the rim pulls a cable that in turn actuates the front brake. My kid has never needed to worry about braking too hard with the front wheel, but it's also because I taught them from an earlier age to feather the brakes and modulate power for both the front and rear brake. We're still working on that second part.
Kids Islabike at Mount Diablo
Kids Islabike at Mount Diablo. This is a 16" bike, not a 20", but what a nice bike!

Should I buy new or used?

I always buy used. But that's because I feel comfortable putting work into a bike to get it into good shape. If you're not into that, then there's a lot more variation in the amount you might need to spend to get the bike into good working order. Some bikes have been kept inside and are in great shape. Others, you can tell they've been left outside for a while, and in need of some TLC. Current bike tuneup prices might be $100+, so factor that into your buying.

If buying used, look for bikes that have been stored inside. An ABC Quick check is a good way to gauge what kind of shape a bike is in:

  • Air: Check the tires and whether they hold air. Make sure the tread isn't super worn or cracking from dry rot.
  • Brakes: Grab the brake levers and let go. They should snap back quickly. The brake levers should not hit the handlebar and only come about a finger's distance from doing so. This part is usually not too hard to adjust, but if the brake levers don't spring back right away, changing the cables or lubing them might be more work. You can also grab both brakes and try to push the bike forward. Make sure the brakes actually stop the bike.
  • Chain, Cranks, Cassette: Check the chain, make sure it's not rusty and making crazy creaking noises. Wiggle the pedals/cranks and make sure they aren't loose. Turn the pedal backwards and watch the cassette and check for rust, binding, and general creakiness.
  • Quick release: this is more of a safety check rather than a used-bike check, but make sure the saddle and wheel quick release levers are engaged (if the bike has them) and make sure the seatpost can't slide down or spin (this is tightenable and easy to fix) and make sure the wheel are securely installed.


Thanks for reading. Let me know what other questions or concerns you may have when thinking about purchasing a 20" bike for your kids.

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