I knew this moment was coming soon, and right now I am blessed with proud parenting moments. My boy, AKA “The Pok”, has very much outgrown his JD Bug balance bike and is ready for pedals. This post has two purposes. Firstly to show how proud my boy is of his new set of wheels, and secondly as a guide for parents buying their children their first bike.

Specialized Hotrock 16

After searching long and hard for my son’s first pedal bike, what I finally landed on was a Specialized Hotrock 16. This bike is the business!

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The Specialized oozes quality all round, like the adult models. And I was quietly surprised at finding this. I thought that I would struggle and would end up having to get a custom 16″ BMX bike made up for him. Check out the paintwork.

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The frame itself is coated in paintwork, not flimsy decal stickers. There are also no dinky infant commercial “tie-ins” to sell this bike – no Thomas the Tank Engine, no Diego, no Ben 10, and no Mickey Mouse. This is a bike, and a Specialized at that.

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The wheels, like the name suggests, are 16″ with a a decent set of strong spokes. Probably slightly overengineered, but you really don’t want to be fixing spokes on your child’s bike. The rubber is decent too, with a good tread pattern and at 2.0″ there is plenty of cornering grip from these shoes. The reflectors on the wheels are big, and that is good because you want your child to be seen on their bike. The great thing is that these 16″ wheels will make it easy for my to replace the rubber when my boy has worn through them (did I hear someone say Maxxis Hookworms?). Oh, and you can inflate these babies to 65PSI if you want to run fast on the road.

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The design of the saddle is smart. There is a handle lip at the rear that assists parents to hold onto the seat as my boy learns how to balance riding. Smart!

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The stem is pretty much a rugged 22.5mm BMX stem. This is fantastic from a longevity point of view, because I will be able to upgrade to a full size BMX stem when he gets older and taller without any issues. It is solid too, rigid and no flex.

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It is a single speed, and the rear mechanicals are covered up well by the transmission guard. This is good because it means that there will be less muck getting into the drivetrain. The rear brake is engaged by pedalling backwards, and I have many fond memories of doing rear brake skids on my BMX bike.

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The transmission guard is well designed and has a smart cutout for chainstay. This is probably the cheapest looking part on the bike, but it is supposed to be a plastic guard to keep the leg from getting caught in the transmission.

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The grips are great for small hands, and the rubber is durable but tactile and not too hard. The front brake lever is adjustable for reach too, again quality.

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And in a final touch of quality, the brake cable is a Jagwire. Who puts Jagwire on kids bikes? – Specialized do.

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I said at the start of the post that this bike is the business and when you have a good look it really is. Probably the biggest thing that I noticed when shopping around for kids bikes was how much lighter it was compared to others. This won’t come out in photos, but is super important for your child. A lot of that has gotta be in the frame design and the wheels. You want them to enjoy the ride not spend their time lugging around an oversized piece of metal.

So if you are looking for the first bike for your child, don’t waste your money on crappy cheap bikes from Kmart or Target. Spend the extra $50 or so and get this one. The fact is the other department store bikes are cheap, poorly designed, and probably weigh more than my dual suspension MTB (I am talking about you Huffy). But also look hard at what you are buying if you go for some of the other big brands. I looked at the Trek Jet 16 and it was very inferior in build quality and design with a whole bunch of unnecessary plastic “extras” – heavy too. I also looked at the Cannondale Trail 16 which was better design, but it was heavy! The great thing about this Specialized bike is that it also comes in a trim for girls too – if only that was the same as the hot pink as Chavanel rode on in last year’s TDF.

And on the most important question… How does it ride? I can’t get my son off of it. The video will come shortly, as soon as I take off his training wheels – he is ready.

P.S. I tried to justify getting a matching McLaren Venge, but then realised that divorce was not a life experience I was looking for.