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The Kidvelo Rookie 14 Balance Bike is a lightweight bike for 3-6-year-olds. Its big selling point is that it can also be fitted with pedals, so your child can learn to ride on a bike they're already familiar with.
There have been countless major developments in the world of bicycles since I was a child, but I'd argue few as significant as the move away from stabilisers and towards balance bikes.
I was most struck by this on the day my daughter learned to ride with pedals. I say 'learned to ride,' but what in fact happened was that I handed her a bike with pedals and she rode away on it, leaving all my visions of father-daughter, rite-of-passage teaching behind her in the dust.
She had ridden a small balance bike from around two or three years old, and moved on to scooting around in the same way on a larger bike with the pedals removed. On one occasion, I reattached the pedals, but she didn't get on with them. A month or so later, we tried again and she rode the thing. I have no idea what happened in the interim, but that is apparently how it goes.
The balance bike teaches balance (obviously) and leaning the bike when manoeuvring. This means that when pedals are finally added to the mix, they can be the rider's sole conscious focus as everything else has already become second nature. Even the pedalling action itself isn't really so radically different from the kind of running-in-the-saddle movement your child will have been using to propel the balance bike.
So that's really the thinking behind the Kidvelo Rookie 14. The child learns the feel of the bike, gets to grips with the brakes, and then you just slot on a drivetrain for a new method of propulsion. Two bikes in one.
My two test subjects for this review were aged three and six, which is rather fortunately the exact age range for which the bike is recommended.
It was on the large side for my three-year-old son, but perfectly useable as a balance bike. He was visibly more comfortable on his smaller balance bike, but that lacks brakes and he is now fast enough that their absence is becoming an issue.
This highlights what the Kidvelo Rookie 14 is for. It is a transitional bike. It boasts front and rear V-brakes with short-reach levers, so your child can get used to operating them before you implement the big switch.
As it turned out, my son wasn't ready for pedals, but my daughter pedalled it merrily enough and it didn't seem at all undersized.
One thing that struck me as a slightly odd omission for a bike that is – by definition – for riders of varying heights is a quick release clamp on the seatpost, particularly as Kidvelo appears to stock them. Even if you don't have two differently sized kids taking turns on the same bike, you can guarantee you'll want to faff with the saddle height pretty frequently. However, Kidvelo explained that, "In pedal bike mode, in order to satisfy ISO8098 we can’t use a quick release seat clamp. We would if we could. In balance mode we could, but not with pedals fitted and we really wanted to pass both standards."
It's a minor annoyance that demands having an appropriately sized hex key to hand, but understandable.
That is of course not the only reason you'll need a hex key.
The worth of this product to a great extent hinges on how easy it is to convert from a balance bike to a pedal bike, and the process is pretty straightforward if you aren't a complete idiot, like I am.
Set up as a balance bike there's a flat plastic footrest on the frame. Remove a bolt and this comes off, to be replaced by a unit featuring the pedals, cranks and chainring.
Meanwhile, at the rear of the bike, a short chunk of the driveside seatstay can be unscrewed, allowing you to thread the chain through. At this point you can seat the chain, secure the chainring unit and restore the little seatstay panel. And you're good to go.
It's all pretty straightforward if you don't, for some bone-headed reason, try to attach the pedal contraption to the underside of the bike. (It goes on top. Just like it says in the instructions. This is the only way the chain will stretch far enough and you can probably waste a certain amount of time tetchily scratching your head if you get this simple detail wrong...)
Certainly by the second time you swap things around, it's not much more than a five-minute job – which is just as well, because this is most likely a switch you'll find yourself making multiple times. Learning to use pedals isn't always a one-shot deal, so you'll probably have at least a couple of false starts and abandonments that will necessitate reverting to the balance bike setup.
This would be my only real concern with the system. It didn't feel to me that the bike pedalled quite so smoothly after the second conversion, for no clear reason that I could discern. This may have been my imagination, though, because it certainly pedalled quickly enough that I couldn't keep pace on foot during the photography session.
One of the very long hex bolts that goes through the pedal unit also got quite stiff when almost fully tightened, and I was worried about rounding it off.
It didn't feel like a system that would massively enjoy being added and removed, again and again. That said, three conversions in, there have been no major issues, so I can't really fault it.
Whether set up as a balance bike or a pedal bike, the Kidvelo Rookie 14 is a really lovely looking thing, and perfectly functional in both arrangements. If £235 seems quite an outlay, you can quite legitimately argue it's two bikes in one.
It's a very similar price to another convertible balance/pedal bike, the £229.99 Strider 14x Sport (which we haven't reviewed), but the pedal mechanism for that is sold separately for £64.99. The LittleBig 3-in-1 bike, meanwhile, looks cheaper at just £175, but again the pedal kit is separate. It's £55, so add that to match the Rookie's spec and you match the Rookie's price too at £230.
You can find plenty of regular 14in pedal bikes that cost more than these, anyway, so it's certainly not an outrageous price – particularly for something light enough for the inevitable parental carrying. It's 4.7kg, or 6.2kg with pedals.
If you suspect your child is very close to pedalling, I'd be tempted to go straight to something with a permanent pedalling mechanism and perhaps just familiarise them with the bike with the pedals removed. However, if they're a bit younger and pedals still seem a way off, the Kidvelo Rookie 14 should help smooth the transition nicely.
Great way for kids to learn pedalling on a bike that's already familiar
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Kidvelo Rookie 14 Balance Bike
Size tested: One Size
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Wheels: 14-inch Alloy Rims – with Joytech alloy hubs and sealed bearings.
Headset: 1 1/8in threadless with 50mm Alloy Stem.
Brakes: Front and Rear Aluminium V-brakes with short-reach levers.
Frame: 6061 heat-treated aluminium alloy.
Fork: Aluminum alloy blades with Chromoly steerer tube – 30mm rake.
Grips: Child-sized Kraton grip rubber with end protectors.
Tyres: Innova Compass Lite BMX 14in x 2.0 Lite tyres.
Spokes: Black – Stainless Steel.
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?
Kidvelo says: "Rookie 14 inch is a bigger balance bike to which you can add pedals! Starts your child off on 14in wheels with no pedals fitted, so they learn the fundamental skills needed, such as using brakes and fine-tuning balance. Ideal for kids that have outgrown their first bike or for taller beginners."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Solid with a nice finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061 heat-treated aluminium alloy frame. Aluminum alloy fork blades with chromoly steerer tube.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Large but usable for a three-year-old. Small but usable for a six-year-old. Recommended age range seems legitimate.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Viable as a balance bike at both ends of the age range. Taller six-year-olds may be a bit bent-legged when pedalling.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
I know this isn't what this section is for, but one of the bolts got a bit stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
A permament pedal drivetrain would feel more efficient, but I don't think a child would ever feel the bike was holding them back.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Occasionally unprecitable, but I think the blame lay with the rider.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Brakes worked well and no issues with control. From a parent's perspective, bikes with pedals are fractionally more awkward to carry when the rider opts for a DNF a mile from home.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
It needs a quick release for the saddle.
It felt like a permament drivetrain would be slightly more efficient.
Had to do significantly more of it (on foot) than I'd have liked. Fast enough that you'll want to be on a bike yourself once they're pedalling.
Weaved around patio furniture with almost alarming aplomb.
The gear is low enough to tackle any hill that wouldn't be annoyingly steep for a small child.
Without labouring the point, it felt like a permament drivetrain would be slightly more efficient.
My only reservation is how the fasteners will stand up to multiple installations and removals.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I'm dubious that some of the fasteners will stand up to multiple installations and removals.
Wheels and tyres
Tough enough for the mileage a kids' bike is likely to do.
Brake levers are short-reach, which is good.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Everyone enjoyed the bike a great deal
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
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?
Better than it might appear - some similar bikes look cheaper but don't come with the pedal assembly. Instead, the kits are cost extras.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Rookie 14 does the job whichever way it is set up, and the conversion process is simple.
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant Defy Advanced Pro 3 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, E-bike/utility