Best kids' bikes: 20in girls' and boys' bikes on test

The best 2014 road and mountain bikes for children over 6

Growing big enough to fit a 20in wheeled bike is a momentous occasion in a young cyclist's life. It’s at this point that a kids' bike starts to share many features with an adults', and starts to look like a 'proper' bike. Whether you’re after a boys' bike or a girls' bike, BikeRadar is here to help.

To find out everything you need to consider when buying a kids' bike, have a look at our buyers guide to kids' bikes.

Bikes designed for six- or seven-year-olds start to offer gears, two brakes, a freewheel and possibly suspension. These features come at a price point not too dissimilar to adult bikes. We brought together a group of highly decisive seven- and eight-year-old testers to find the best 20in bike.

The BikeRadar junior test team, Australia division

20in kids' bike come in various forms, including basic singlespeed BMX-style bikes, internal geared hub rides or derailleur bikes. For the sake of comparison, our testing criteria were that all bikes should feature two brakes (with reach adjustment), a single front chainring and a rear derailleur. That covered everything from a supermarket bike to a race-ready Trek.

Boys' bikes

Trek Superfly 20

Price: AU$399

Weight: 8.72kg (19.18lb)

The good: Lightest on test, simple design, unisex design

The bad: High price

Buy if: You value quality, performance and are prepared to pay for it

The fully rigid Superfly borrows the name of Trek’s professional level mountain bikes. It's the lightest on test by nearly 1kg, and is ready for road or off-road use by even the most discerning child. The Superfly features a few adult-level parts and has quick handling that is best suited to the more confident bike handlers.

Kids' thoughts: Lucas: “I really like how fast and light it is”. Amelie: “It rides so smooth and is best on test”. Oliver: “It’s so fun to ride and a great size for me”.

Scott Voltage JR 20

Price: AU$329.95

Weight: 12.38kg (27.24lb)

The good: Based on Scott’s credible dirt jump line-up, cool chunky frame, capable suspension, off-road ready, bottle and cage included, low starting height

The bad: Heavy, low maximum seat height

Buy if: You’re after a capable mountain bike that can handle some airtime

The Voltage is based on Scott’s popular adult dirt jump line-up. With a chunky square-edged frame and proper suspension in the form of a XCT Jr fork, this bike is made to withstand the most abusive of seven-year-olds. Parts from well-known mountain bike brand Syncros are featured throughout the bike, along with a bottle and cage, so plenty of style points are earned. The quick-release wheels and seatpost aren’t common on bikes for kids of this age, but may be handy for parents who have wheel-off transport racks.

Kids' thoughts: Lili: “It rides fast, it's comfortable and I really like the water bottle”.

Apollo Neo 20 Boys Geared

Price: AU$269.95

Weight: 9.68kg (21.30lb)

The good: Lightweight, very low standover and starting height

The bad: Basic build quality, lacks the 'big kid' look

Buy if: You want a lightweight, easy riding bike for street and sealed path use

The Neo is 100 percent kids – little effort has been made to make it look like an adults' bike. Basic parts have been chosen for lower weight or ergonomics and so the end result is a well-fitting and lightweight bike. The Neo was the second lightest on test and offered the lowest standover height. Slick tyres show the bike's street designation and make sense of the basic parts selection, but the threaded quill style stem, basic nutted seatpost and lack of suspension means the Neo looks far lower quality than it actually is.

Kids' thoughts: Lucas: “Like the other blue bike (Trek Superfly), it rides fast, is comfortable and fun”.

Trek MT 60 Boys

Price: AU$299

Weight: 11.57kg (25.45lb)

The good: Adjustable length cranks, great sizing, grippy tyres

The bad: No kickstand, oversprung suspension

Buy if: You want a basic, yet fully capable off-road ready ride

The MT 60 is a classy ride. It’s cheaper than many others on test but competitive in all areas. The standover isn’t the lowest, but a long seatpost offers a tall maximum height. The length of the crank arms is adjustable, and they feature a 120mm option (shortest on test), which increases the size range of the bike. The suspension fork, as experienced with the Merida (below), is a gimmick and does little for a light child. The quill stem further cheapens the otherwise great build. It also comes in a pink girls' version.

Kids' thoughts: Charlie: “I really like the black and blue colours and the bike is very comfortable to ride”

Merida Dakar 620 Boys

Price: AU$359

Weight: 12.01kg (26.42lb)

The good: Tall max height, seven-speed gears, adult looks

The bad: Oversprung suspension,150mm cranks, tall standover, high starting height, heavy

Buy if: You’re getting into the 20in size late, want a solid build or need a black bike

The Dakar’s hydroformed tubes take inspiration from Merida’s adult models. The black colourscheme is a mature choice, and polarised our test team. Similar to the Scott Voltage, the sturdy build is designed handle abuse. Bidon cage mounts are provided, but with space for a child’s bottle only. Seven-speed gears offer a suitable range. The suspension fork is a gimmick, completely oversprung for a child and has a harsh bounce back. Combine this with a high overall weight and tall starting height, and the Merida isn’t well suited to smaller children.

Kids' thoughts: Noah: “I really like this bike. The seat is comfortable, it’s good on grass, comfortable and I like the colour

Southern Star Dual Suspension

Price: AU$89 (unbuilt)

Weight: 14.37kg (31.61lb)

The good: Looks cool, very cheap

The bad: Best built by a pro (which costs money, but the bike is potentially unsafe otherwise), heaviest of test, smallest size range on test, excessive drive friction, only bike not to fit all kids

Buy if: Low cost and motorbike-like aesthetics are the only two things that matter

This is our supermarket bought sample (Kmart Australia) and by far the cheapest bike on test. Assembling it is the biggest challenge, a professional shop mechanic built it in just under an hour (for $80 to 100), about double the time of a store bought bike. Once built, it’s safe to ride but lacks refinement. The poorly functioning rear suspension is no doubt cool for a seven-year-old, but at over 14kg, the bike is heavy for an adult, let alone a child. Poor tolerances meant excessive drag in the drivetrain and intermittent brake rub.

Kids' thoughts: Amelie: “I hated the bouncy part”. Summer: “It’s too big for me”.

Girls’ bikes

Scott Contessa JR 20

Price: AU$329.95

Weight: 11.95kg (26.29lb)

The good: Lowest possible seat height on test, girl-specific frame, consistent kids graphics, real suspension, quick-release wheels

The bad: Heavy, love-or-hate colour, uncomfortable saddle

Buy if: You’re after a quality off-road worthy bike

The Scott Contessa takes the great features of the boys' Voltage but moves it to a slimmer (and lighter) frame with cartoon graphics. With a proper suspension fork and scaled down mountain bike position, the Contessa is ready for real rides. For taller kids, lots of exposed seatpost is required for correct saddle height. The Contessa is the most capable girls' bike on test and has the lowest possible saddle height.

Kids' thoughts: Summer: “I really like this but the seat is too uncomfortable

 Apollo Neo 20 Girls Geared

Price: AU$269.95

Weight: 9.77kg (21.49lb)

The good: Light weight, lowest standover and starting height

The bad: Basic build quality, lacks the 'big kid' bike look

Buy if: You want a lightweight, easy riding bike for street and sealed path use

This is the lowest and second lightest bike on test and perfect for smaller riders. The basic parts selection leads to a lightweight and easy riding bike, but takes away from perceived quality. Thanks to the low frame, taller kids will need plenty of seatpost showing. The basic colourscheme and childish aesthetics meant it wasn’t anyone’s first choice. Slick tyres let the bike ride fast, but limit versatility.  

Kids' thoughts: Lili: “I don’t like the pink" (Lili liked the green bikes most). Amelie: “It feels small but is good”.

Merida Dakar 620 Girls

Price: AU$359

Weight: 12.13kg (26.69lb)

The good: Max saddle height is generous, popular colour, comfortable saddle

The bad: Heavy, poor suspension, tall minimum saddle height

Buy if: You want solid and comfortable bike in a safe and popular colourscheme

On paper, the Merida is underwhelming – heavy and a tall minimum saddle height (especially without trimming the seatpost). The step-through frame adds weight compared to the boys frame, without much gained in saddle height. The fork is the same as the one on the boy’s Merida, so does nothing for a light child. However, the seven-speed gears shift nicely and overall the build quality is high. The white colourscheme proved popular and is easy to dress-up.

Kids' thoughts: Summer: “The saddle is comfortable and the bike is fast

In conclusion, if you're buying a kids bike from a reputable bike store, it's hard to go wrong. Find the right size, with features suitable to the desired use and, most importantly, pick a colour your child likes!

See the chart below for a summary of all the bikes and a basic size guide.

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