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The Hornit AIRO is a sleek-looking, simple and fun to use balance bike that'll turn heads in the playground, for both children and parents alike.
It wasn't until 2020 that Hornit dipped its toe into bikes, with two new kids bikes; the HERO pedal bike, and this, the AIRO balance bike.
Straight out of the box the AIRO's simplicity is clear; you just remove the packaging, straighten the bars, tighten the stem with the included 5mm allen key, and adjust the saddle. That's it – you're ready to roll. Or at least, your child is...
First impressions of the AIRO are of its striking looks. The magnesium alloy frame does away with the conventional diamond shape and instead opts for a sweeping, split downtube that flows into the stays in a visually unbroken line.
The sleek looks are completed with a narrow-profile fork – perfect for those toddler aero gains.
The base of the frame features grip-taped foot plates, handy for kids when they're up to speed on the flat or whizzing down a slope.
The brightly-coloured frame is finished off with a black seat post and saddle, and a matte black straight bar and stem combo.
It gets textured rubber grips with beefy stoppers on the end to avoid any injury, and the stem even has a nifty neoprene cover that pads the hard edges for the inevitable clashes with teeth and chins when the pilots are testing the limits of their ability.
It also does a secondary job of hiding the bolts and giving some protection against the elements.
The frame sits on 12.5in black aluminium wheels with sealed bearings, and the tyres are decent, chunky, 2.25in Compass Lites – much better than the foam or plastic options that come with cheaper balance bikes. If you've got storage in mind, the Compass tyres also fit neatly into Hornit's Clug MTB.
Our review version is the bright Tuvalu Turquoise, but there are five others: Flamingo Pink, Magma Red, Orca White, Hammer Yellow or Mavericks Blue. Good news, because let's face it, whether you're 3 or 43, the colour is important! The paint finish is a stylish matte that looks superb out of the box, though our test model has several scuffs and chips after a month's heavy use – realistically though, that's to be expected with a young child's bike.
Note the colour accent inside the downtube is actually moulded plastic, and while it's purely cosmetic, it's actually really nice when you're carrying the bike around on a cold day and you've not got any gloves on.
There are a few notable things missing from the AIRO. Firstly, there's no brake. Rear brakes aren't always a feature on balance bikes, and Hornit says it's a conscious decision to avoid them – because they're 'an alien concept' which anyone under three 'won't use even if you tell them to' – and that seems like sound reasoning.
However, our other balance bike does have a rear brake, and it did help our two older children get used to a lever for stopping before going up to pedal bikes. It was one less thing to get used when they did finally make the switch. Also, there does appear to be a mount on the rear stay and potential cable guides on the underside of the down tube, so perhaps a brake option will become available?
The second omission is of a quick release seat clamp. This can be super handy if you've got two kids of balance bike age, or you're taking the bike to park where other children want a turn; a QR is much quicker than the faff of an Allen key.
There's also no bell included... but many people will see that as a bonus!
Hornit says the AIRO is suitable for riders with 30-46cm inside legs, and age-wise that's roughly 18 months to five years. Saddle height ranges from 29cm to 44cm (ground to saddle top). Our two year-old test pilot fits nicely into that bracket with a 38cm inside leg, and found the bike easy to get on and off, use, and to pick up and manhandle (toddlerhandle?).
We also put the AIRO through its paces with some thoroughly scientific(!) speed testing by an excitable six year-old. Results: inconclusive.
On the scales the AIRO sits just under 3kg, which makes it allegedly lighter than 'all 23 comparable competitors.' We can't falsify that... the closest we can find is the Isla Bikes Rothan 12 at 3.1kg, and comes in at a rather more salty £199.99 too.
The Early Rider Alley Runner gets closer in price at £149.99, but tips the scales even harder at 3.4kg. Most other similarly-specced competition seems to be closer to 4kg and above, and that extra 1kg makes quite the difference for a toddler when it comes to handling the bike and slinging it around in the back garden.
The AIRO is £139 – with free delivery – which puts it somewhere in the middle of the current balance bike spectrum. That previously-mentioned Isla Bike Rothan is top end at £199.99, while (heavier) options such as the Carrera Coast sit at the bottom end at £80.
One extra the AIRO does offer, though, is a lifetime warranty on the frame and fork – definitely a big plus point if you're planning on more little cyclists, or you're considering passing the bike onto a family member or friend afterwards.
However many kids will use it, this is a really nice bike for introducing a child to the world of cycling; it looks the part and performs well. It's light, simple and good fun to use.
Superb introduction to life on two wheels – well made, looks the part and is fun to ride
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Hornit AIRO balance bike
Size tested: n/a
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Simple balance bike: Magnesium alloy frame and fork, alloy wheels, Compass Lite tyres, unbranded bars, stem, seatpost and saddle.
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
It's a balance bike for kids of 18 months up to around 5yrs old.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
It's their smallest in a range of two bikes
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Really nice. Simple and robust design.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Light at 2.95kg, and perfect for the age range. Claims to be 'lighter than all 23 comparable competitors,' a claim that seems to be true.
Riding the bike
Wheels and tyres
Seem very robust.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Perfect for this kind of bike: chunky and robust, to soak up bumpy terrain.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, really fun; a great bit of kit
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, definitely
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
This just about lands in the middle of the balance bike price bracket. It's a well thought out bike for the price though, and outshines cheaper models in finish, looks and components. The lifetime warranty on the frame and fork is also a nice bonus.
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a really nice bike for introducing a child to the world of cycling; it looks the part and performs well. It's light, simple and good fun to use.
About the tester
I usually ride: Genesis Equilibrium 20, KHS Flite 100 Singlespeed/Fixed, Wattbike Atom My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Indoor training/Zwift
Oli has been a road.cc staffer since day one. He's the creative and photography force behind the site, and has got a keen eye for good quality, well designed cycling kit. You'll find him on his bike most days whether it's commuting, riding with his kids, or tackling a climb on Zwift. He's got a penchant for a steel frame and has had 'fit mudguards' on his To Do list for nearly 8 years now. Likes: France, gin, cat memes. Dislikes: fitting mudguards.