The Best 20-Inch Bikes (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Enter the wild and wacky world of 20-inch bikes and walk out with a winner
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BY Brian Smyth / LAST UPDATED ON January 11, 2021
In the world of bicycles, there is nothing quite like a 20 inch bike. Smaller bikes fit neatly into the category of children’s cycles, while larger two-wheelers are designed for older children, teenagers, and adults. Not so with the 20-inchers. This strange size category includes bicycles for riders of virtually every size and persuasion. Children transitioning from the world of training wheels regularly hop onto bikes of this size with features such as hand-activated front (and sometimes rear) brakes and multi-gear drivetrains. BMX bikes and cruisers suddenly find themselves competing with that unknown contraption called “mountain bike.”
To further complicate things, there are plenty of 20-inch offerings for teenagers and adults. Folding bikes and large-frame BMX bikes now dot the landscape. Whatever a bike buyer’s age or interest may be, there is a good chance they will leave the store walking alongside a brand-new 20-inch two-wheeler.
These Huffy clones cover all the basics and then some without burying your wallet. These single-speed BMX bikes are perfect for growing bikers and include a wide variety of extras.
- These bikes feature a BMX-style steel frame with multiple color schemes available
- They use both coaster and caliper brakes
- Each bike is covered by Huffy’s limited lifetime warranty
- These bikes lack reflectors
- Some users have reported the occasional issue missed by Huffy’s quality control efforts
This offering from Dynacraft provides boys with a utilitarian performance at a great price point. The single-speed design relies on simple, traditional components to keep kids rolling along.
- This bike uses a BMX-style steel frame
- It uses rear coaster brakes.
- This bike is inexpensive
- The frame and fork are covered by Dynacraft’s limited lifetime warranty
- This bike was designed mainly with boys in mind
- It lacks a quick release saddle post lever
- This bike lacks the quality of its pricier competitors
The Guardian Ethos combines the best of the BMX and mountain bike frame designs with the company’s proprietary SureStop braking system to provide riders with safe, solid, and reliable performance.
- This bike uses a steel frame available in both masculine and feminine color schemes
- Guardian’s SureStop braking system simplifies and shortens stops simultaneously
- Guardian offers impressive customer service
- This bike is a bit pricey
- It lacks both reflectors
- This bike lacks coaster brakes, a positive for some parents
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Benefits of 20-Inch Bikes
- Prepare for the future. Owners of 20-inch bikes are usually new graduates from the world of training wheels, coaster brakes, and single-speed drivetrains. This new breed of bike prepares growing riders to prepare for larger bikes where such things may no longer exist.
- Learn new skills. Most riders of 20-inch bikes are kids learning how to master a new bike with new features, but sometimes, these new bikes introduce young riders to new skills. Rarely will you encounter a 4-year-old tackling trails on a mountain bike or attempting jumps on a BMX bike. 20-inch bikes are ideal for learning new styles of riding.
- Downsize successfully. Minimalism is a growing trend and, recently, a growing necessity. For adults interested in decreasing their carbon footprint, their “stuff” footprint, or both, 20-inch folding bikes may just be worth the cash, especially for those living in urban neighborhoods.
Types of 20-Inch Bikes
BMX bikes rely on a single-speed drivetrain and a minimalistic design to give bikers the ability to transform into airborne performers. Usually, these bikes feature only rear brakes, with true freestyle bikes relying on hand brakes instead of coaster brakes. Due to their simplistic design, these bikes are an excellent choice for new and inexperienced riders as well as daredevils.
Cruiser bikes have been around longer than virtually any other design type. They combine a single-speed drivetrain, rear coaster brakes, and an upright seating position to maximize comfort on flat surfaces. This design tends to be heavy and relatively slow, making them ideal for new or inexperienced riders as well as those interested in relaxation. Often, these bikes include springs under the seats, handlebar baskets, and luggage racks, hearkening back to the mid 20th century. On rare occasions, shoppers can find cruisers with three or seven gears, although this drivetrain configuration is especially rare among 20-inch bikes.
Mountain bikes were designed to tackle trails and maneuver over mountains using a combination of a hand-control, multi-speed drivetrain, dual hand-activated brakes, and, often, shock-absorbing suspension components. This specially-engineered layout allows users to quickly and easily adjust their speed to match conditions on various trails and terrain features with minimal effort. On 20-inch mountain bikes, drivetrains with six or seven gears are the norm. This allows riders to learn how to manage their gears effectively before they grow into a larger bike with two or three times that number of gears.
Folding bikes are an adult commuter’s answer to traffic snarls and an urban denizen’s answer to high parking costs and higher fuel costs. Due to their folding design, these bikes require a smaller wheel diameter than that found on other adult bikes, but they will fit multiple different riders with a wide variety of heights, making them much more adaptable than other adult bike designs. Their compact folding size also allows them to fit more easily inside elevators, offices, and apartments. To make up for their inherently lower speeds, folding bikes usually come with a multi-speed drivetrain.
Originally founded in Ashland, Mass., Dynacraft has been providing “fun on wheels” for North American families since 1984. Today, the company operates out of American Canyon, California, distributing bikes, like the Dynacraft Magna Throttle, scooters, and battery-powered ride-ons under the Dynacraft name and under license for some of the world’s biggest names, including Hot Wheels, Hello Kitty, and many more.
Guardian got its start in 2013 when the company’s founders began providing bicycle manufacturers with its revolutionary SureStop technology. After a few years, it took the next step and began providing the overlooked kids’ bike market with its own line of SureStop-equipped bikes, like the Guardian 20-Inch Ethos. The company produces kids’ bikes and accessories, maintaining its original safety focus.
One of the oldest names in American bicycles, Huffy has been at it since America’s “bicycle craze” in 1892. The Ohio-based company produces bicycles for all ages and stages, such as the Huffy Go Girl/Ignyte, electric bikes, scooters, tricycles, ride-ons, and biking accessories, a far cry from its origins as the Davis Sewing Machine Company of Dayton, Ohio.
Schwinn got its start in 1895 when German immigrant Ignaz Schwinn partnered with Adolf Arnold in Chicago, Ill. to form World Bicycles. Today, the company produces cruisers, road bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes, balance bikes, scooters, and tricycles. Bikes like the Schwinn 20-Inch Koen populate America’s sidewalks, parks, and bike paths, providing everyday Americans with quality bikes.
20-Inch Bikes Pricing
- Under $100: Bikes in this price range tend either toward minimalism, and some may struggle with quality control issues. To get the most bang for your buck, pick something simple and utilitarian.
- $100 to $200: This range includes bikes with a good balance between quality and features, although an overabundance of extras could signal the need to further investigate a bike’s quality.
- $200 and up: These bikes provide riders with build quality and useful or convenient features. As the saying goes, “Buy once. Cry once.”
20-inch bikes are a bit more unusual than many of their counterparts due to the variety of brake systems they choose to employ. Bikes often use either rear coaster brakes or hand-activated front and rear brakes. 20-inch two-wheelers can use either of these setups, but they also commonly feature a combination of both systems, sometimes with a front hand brake and other times with both front and rear hand brakes.
20-inch bikes are the first size category to feature both single-speed and multi-speed bicycle drivetrains. For bikers seeking a simpler riding experience, there are a wide variety of single-speed options available, usually in the form of BMX or cruiser bikes. On the flip side, those looking to learn a new biking skill can get a “big kid bike” with multiple gears, and adult folding bikes with 20-inch wheels also come with multi-speed drivetrains.
The best bikes of any size include several safety-oriented features. Most commonly, young riders should look for a bike with reflectors, chainguards, and handlebar pads, although the last couple of items usually do not appear on mountain bikes. On the flip side, adult riders hunting for a folding bike need only include reflectors on their list of non-negotiable.
- Helpful Extras. While not essential to their function, some bicycles come with a few helpful features that may be worth spending a little extra money to obtain. Items like kickstands have immensely practical benefits, making them worth buying separately in the rare instance a bike lacks one. Other non-essential extras, such as BMX pegs or a basket, also enhance a bike’s level of fun and function.
Best 20-Inch Bikes Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Purchase the proper bike for the rider’s intended use. Single-speed bikes are ideal for less-confident bikers, while multi-speed bikes are better suited to more advanced riders.
- Select a bike based on the rider’s size rather than their age. Bike sizes are based on specific measurements that fit many of those within the recommended age range, but bikes are not one-size-fits-all machines.
Q: What age is a 20-inch bike for?
20-inch bikes were designed for kids measuring between about 48 and 60 inches tall. Proper bike sizing relies much more heavily on a rider’s height than their age. That said, 20-inch bikes usually fit kids somewhere between six and 12, depending on the bike’s frame size.
Q: Can you put training wheels on a 20-inch bike?
Yes, 20-inch bikes can support the use of training wheels, although these bikes do not include training wheels. That said, there is a solid market for training wheels for larger bikes.
Q: Do 20-inch bikes have gears?
Sometimes, although probably less than 50 percent of the time. Most 20-inch bikes use single-speed drivetrains unless they are mountain bikes or adult folding bikes.
The Huffy Go Girl/Ignyte offers kids everything they need to be safe, successful, and cool all at once, yet this bike will not break Mom and Dad’s bank. While a bit on the utilitarian side of things, the Dynacraft Magna Throttle is a great option for the budget-conscious buyer.