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

By David Rome | Saturday, December 7, 2013 9.00am

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.

20in kids' bikes 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.

Boys' bikes

Scott Voltage JR 20

BikeRadar 4 stars: bikeradar 4 stars

The scott voltage was a very cool bike that was popular with both boys and girls - a heavy weight was all that stopped it scoring higher: the scott voltage was a very cool bike that was popular with both boys and girls - a heavy weight was all that stopped it scoring higher

Price: £299

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”.

Trek MT 60 Boys

BikeRadar 3.5 stars: bikeradar 3.5 stars

The trek mt60 is very good, but the suspension is basically for show: the trek mt60 is very good, but the suspension is basically for show

Price: £235

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

BikeRadar 3.5 stars: bikeradar 3.5 stars

The merida dakar 620 - capable and solid ride, but heavy and poor suspension: the merida dakar 620 - capable and solid ride, but heavy and poor suspension

Price: £219.99

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 colour scheme 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

Frog 60

5 stars: 5 stars

The frog 60 would be a great bike to introduce your child to mountain biking on: the frog 60 would be a great bike to introduce your child to mountain biking on

Price: £270

Weight: 10.9kg

The good: A great bike to introduce your child to mountain biking

The bad: Suspension fork is more of a token addition

Buy if: You're looking for an introductory mountain bike without extra weight

The Frog 60 is a great bike to introduce your child to mountain biking, with 55mm travel front suspension and seven gears easily controlled with a Shimano Revoshifter. The frame is lightweight aluminium and has aggressive geometry that would look at home on the freeride circuit, with the added benefit of giving a reduced standover height. Our only concern is that the heavy suspension fork is more of a token addition rather than bringing any huge rewards. That said, the importance of having a bike that looks like mum and dad's should not be underestimated.

Islabike Beinn

5 stars: 5 stars

Islabike beinn - off-road ready, with no heavy fork: islabike beinn - off-road ready, with no heavy fork

Price: £299.99

Weight: 8kg

The good: Off-road ready bike without a weighty fork

The bad: The price is steep – but you get what you pay for

Buy if: You want a versatile kids' bike that can cope with anything

The Islabike Beinn can be customised to meet the demands of even the most unruly seven-year-old. With countless additional options you can customise what is already a great child's hybrid into a smart mini tourer or trail-ready off-road machine. It's made almost entirely from aluminium parts and boasts a SRAM seven-speed groupset complete with Islabike's own scaled down brake levers. Suspension is sacrificed in order keep the Beinn light. With the exception of the size, the Beinn feels every inch an adult's bike, with quick-release wheels ensuring the bike can be stored or moved easily and 1.3in Kenda tyres helping kids feel comfortable both on and off road.

Giant Revel JR 20 Boys

3 stars: 3 stars

The giant revel jr 20 is one of the smaller bikes in this category:

Price: £219

Weight: 11.58kg

The good: Good price, upright posture, better for smaller riders

The bad: Relatively heavy for the category, sluggish brake action

Buy if: You want a value-oriented bike from a well-respected manufacturer

The Giant Revel JR 20 is one of the smaller bikes in this group test — something to certainly take note of if your child is under 120cm. The handlebars are narrower, and the reach from the saddle to the handlebars is 5-10cm shorter than many of these other bikes. As one of the world's biggest bike makers (Giant produces bicycles for many other brands besides its own), Giant excels at delivering high-value machines for the money. However, even Giant has to make some concessions to deliver a bike at this price — even without a suspension fork, the Revel JR 20 is a bit of a tank at 11.58kg.

Specialized Hotrock 20

BikeRadar 4 stars: bikeradar 4 stars

Specialized have poured their knowledge of building adult bikes into their kids' range: specialized have poured their knowledge of building adult bikes into their kids' range

Price: £250

Weight: 12.2kg

The good: Built from the same great stuff as Spesh's adult bikes

The bad: A little on the heavy side

Buy if: You have a wannabe mountain biking daredevil in your family!

As you'd expect from Specialized, the frame is well built, using the same A1 aluminium that makes up many of Specialized adults' range, with a suspension-specific geometry that looks ready to rip. A Suntour fork and alloy riser bar give the front end a grown-up, attack-minded feel that will have your kid heading for the dirt jumps in next to no time.

Girls’ bikes

Scott Contessa JR 20

BikeRadar 4 stars: bikeradar 4 stars

Scott contessa - super capable bike with an uncomfortable seat: scott contessa - super capable bike with an uncomfortable seat

Price: £289

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

Merida Dakar 620 Girls

BikeRadar 3.5 stars: bikeradar 3.5 stars

Merida dakra 620 girls - rides well but a little heavy: merida dakra 620 girls - rides well but a little heavy

Price: £219.99

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

Saracen Spice

BikeRadar 4 stars: bikeradar 4 stars

The saracen spice is built with practicality in mind: the saracen spice is built with practicality in mind

Price: £209.99

Weight: 12.1kg

The good: Built with practicality in mind

The bad: A bike heavy

Buy if: You want a confidence-inspiring and sturdy bike

The Spice is a girl's bike with a difference. The paintwork has a spattering of pink, but that is where the girly nonsense ends. The top tube is low-slung allowing for plenty of standover room, adding to the confidence-inspiring off-road geometry. The Shimano chainset with chainring guard make for safe, simple gearing, and the rear mech protector is handy for when the bike gets dropped.

B'Twin Misty Girl

3 stars: 3 stars

 b'twin misty girl: one for the pink princess in your life: b'twin misty girl: one for the pink princess in your life

Price: £129.99

Weight: 12.2kg

The good: Components are worthy of a grown-up bike

The bad: Garishly pink colour is a love or hate choice

Buy if: You're after a cheaper bike and your child likes pink!

If your daughter likes pink then this B'Twin is for her – the Misty Girl is simply dripping with the stuff. Pink frame, pink saddle, twin pink mudguards, pink chainguard and mountable pink handbag make this 20in bike fit for a princess. The bike also comes with bell and kickstand, making it feel decidedly grown-up and interesting beyond day one. It has V-brakes and SRAM shifters to introduce your child to this next level of mechanics.

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!

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