One of the cherished memories from our childhood days that we as adults possess is the experience of riding a bike and the relationship we had with our bikes.
A bike for most kids symbolizes the first taste of personal freedom and adventure. So it’s important that we as adults help them in crystallizing this experience in a positive way.
However, choosing a bike for your little one can be a daunting task, as the plethora of choices customers are confronted with is vast.
There are dozens of brands and models to select from and then selecting the right one for the right age and height, and at a specific price point can add to the confusion.
Check our bike sizing chart for more details on which bike to choose for your kid.
So, in order to help you make an informed decision, we, at Inchbike, have reviewed dozens of bikes, and have zeroed in on what we find to be the best quality budget bikes for 3-year-olds at the $100-$200 price point.
Cheap 12-Inch Pedal Bikes For Girls And Boys.
|Raleigh Jazzi 12” & MXR 12”||Schwinn Elm 12” & Koen 12”||GT Siren 12” & Grunge 12”||Co-op Cycles REV 12||Retrospec Koda 12″|
|Brakes||Coaster||Coaster + Hand||Coaster||Coaster||Coaster + Hand|
|Height (Standover)||320 mm||NA||NA||349 mm||NA|
Raleigh Jazzi 12 & MXR 12
Raleigh cycles have been around for more than a hundred years and they also have marquee brands like Diamondback as part of their brand roster.
The 12-inch girls’ bike Jazzi 12 and the 12-inch boy’s bike MXR 12 are exactly the same in terms of build and features; just that both models come in different colors to appease the two genders.
The models come with training wheels that can be detached once the child is able to master balance. The frame is made of steel that can fit kids between 32 and 40 inches tall.
The bikes come with coaster brakes as can be expected at this price point and weigh in at 17.75 pounds. The bike can be assembled at a local dealer or DIY and comes with a 30-day return policy.
|30-day return policy |
Local dealer assembly
|Only coaster brakes|
Schwinn Elm 12” & Koen 12”
Schwinn is known as a big box retail brand. Like Raleigh, Schwinn also boasts of a century-old heritage. The Elm 12” and Koen 12” are for girls and boys respectively.
The Elm 12” comes in 3 colors – purple, pink, and blue, while the boys model Koen 12” comes in red, black, and blue.
Schwinn says that the SmartStart technology the bikes are equipped with will enable the kid to FIT the bike making the whole process of biking a more comfortable and memorable one.
Schwinn has managed to reduce the Q factor – a narrower pedal position that reduces the splay of the legs when kids pedal that decreases the wobbliness of the bike.
The bike also boasts of a lighter frame, however, there is no information provided on how much the bike weighs on the site.
The models come with both coaster as well as caliper hand brakes. This is a plus as it enables the kid to transition from coaster to hand brakes with ease.
|Coaster + Hand Brakes |
Reduced Q factor
|No info on weight|
Co-op Cycles REV 12 Kids’ Bike
Right off the bat, we want to highlight the aluminum frame of this bike that weighs in the bike at 16.26 lbs.
Although not the lighter one in the 12-inch bike segment by any stretch, this extra drop in weight is a plus for kids whose body is not developed enough to handle weight that is higher in proportion to their body weight, unlike adults.
Part of the REI group, a well-known outdoors brand, the frame is paired with coaster brakes. We wish hand brakes were included too which would have made this model a good value proposition.
The bike comes in 3 colors with sticker packs to help kids have some fun sprucing up their bikes.
|Aluminum frame||Only coaster brakes|
Retrospec Koda 12″
The budget one in the $100-$200 segment, the Retrospec Koda is the coolest one on the block what with 8 bright color combinations to choose from, a built-in water bottle holder, and baskets.
The Koda 12” comes with front hand brakes in addition to the coaster brakes.
The saddle comes with a handle that prevents the kid from sliding back as well as act as a clutch grab for adults to help maneuver the bike.
Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of the weight of the bike as the frame is made of steel.
|Cool factor |
Coaster + hand brakes
Lowest priced model
GT Bicycles Siren 12” & Grunge 12”
GT Bicycles are known for their BMX & mountain bikes for adults.
They are part of Dorel Sports that includes other brands like Schwinn, Cannondale, Mongoose, etc., and, as such, the Siren 12” & Grunge 12” share some of the features with that of Schwinn’s 12” models.
They term their technology LegitFit, which, unsurprisingly, shares a lot of commonality with that of Schwinn.
The one notable feature is that the frame is made of alloy which should bring down the weight of the bike. However, to our dismay, that one small piece of information is missing from the specs.
The bike comes in multiple colors to please both genders.
|Alloy frame||Only coaster brakes |
No info on weight
Pricier than other models
What To Look For When Buying a Budget 12 Inch Bike Under $200
Age: 12-inch wheel bikes are suited for 3-year-olds. If your kid is 2 years, we recommend starting her on a balance bike, and once she develops the basic balancing skills, then transition to a pedal bike.
However, age is only a guideline, and kids of the same age can vary in their height and size, and so, chose a size appropriate for their height.
The fit or size of the bike is determined by the height of the child’s inseam measurement.
Ideally, for a 3-year-old boy or girl who is learning to bike, the child should be able to place their feet firmly on the ground while they are seated firmly on the saddle, rather than tip-toeing.
That means the height of the bike at the saddle level is a couple of inches shorter than the inseam height of the child.
This would help the kid to balance the bike with confidence without having the fear of falling down.
Once the kid learns to balance and is confident of handling the bike, you can adjust the saddle height to be a couple of inches taller than the inseam that would help them to peddle efficiently.
Weight Of Budget 12 Inch Bike
The weight of the bike is an important factor when it comes to kids’ bikes as kids’ muscles are not developed fully or are strong enough to lug around a bike that can be much heavier, proportionately, in relation to their body weight.
Ideally, aim for a bike that is 30% or lower of their body weight.
Geometry Of 12 Inch Bike Under $200:
The geometry of the bike is also a very important factor when selecting a bike for children which is often overlooked. A bike that FITS the child is an important element that can enhance the overall bike riding experience for a child. A couple of points that need to be kept in mind are:
Length of the wheelbase (the distance between the two wheel hubs). The longer the wheelbase, the better the control and the lesser the nimbleness.
Adequate distance between the seat and the handlebars. This ensures that the child is not cramped when pedaling and has sufficient room to pedal with ease. If this distance is short, then the child’s knee would be very close to the handlebars when the knee is bent during the top of the stroke during the power phase, and the child will have to exert more than the required effort to power through.
Materials Used In Budget 12 Inch Bike:
Another important factor is the material used. Steel and aluminum are what is used in a 12-inch bike. Aluminum is lighter than steel but is expensive, and a bike under $200 dollars would mostly come with a steel frame and components. However, there are exceptions as you’d notice from our list.
Price Of A Budget 12 Inch:
Cheap bikes for kids come with a price. The Quality. You get what you pay for. Under-$200 dollar 12-inch bikes would be heavy with poor geometry than their expensive cousins. However, the bikes in this list straddle between the cheap under-$100 big box models and the more expensive above-$200 ones.
Features In A Quality Budget 12 Inch Bike:
All 12-inch bikes under $200 come with the mandatory coaster brakes which are not ideal for a child who is learning to bike as coaster brakes can be unsafe.
Kids tend to fall off the bike when they pedal backward to stop the bike as they can lose balance. Some of the 12-inch bicycle models in this list also feature front hand brakes in addition to the coaster brakes that would help the child in transitioning down the road.
For Further Reading:
Best 12 inch bikes