The Specialized Hotwalk balance bike is a solid choice for a mini-Marianne Vos or a petit Peter Sagan, with some nice features such as the airless tyres, although the bell could be more kid friendly, and these extra features add a fair amount of extra weight. And while you might be cutting it late for Christmas, if you're in the market for one, it's worth checking out our best kids' bikes buyer's guide.
> Buy now: Specialized Hotwalk balance bike for £138 from Cyclestore
Out of the box, it will be no surprise to find that a bike with no brakes, pedals, gears or even inner tubes is simple to set up.
It took me under two minutes to fit the bar and set the correct seat height for my daughter, which made me feel like some kind of mechanical genius. In reality I am far from a mechanical genius, and this is just a very simple bike to set up. As anybody with kids will know on Christmas morning, this is a real plus.
It is made from Specialized A1 Premium Aluminium, which is heavier and more sturdy than the kind of aluminium you would find in its adult bike ranges. This is no bad thing as you will invariably find this at the bottom of stairs, left in gardens, dropped, kicked, or left vulnerable to any one of the millions of ways children seem to find of damaging whatever you've spent your money on.
The frame itself is a step-through design, something that makes it super easy for even the smallest riders to mount. The geometry of the rear triangle has been designed to allow smaller riders get on more easily.
One of the key selling points of the bike is this sturdiness and this comes through with several of the features on the bike.
For me a key element is the use of airless tyres, which means that I won't need to trawl through bike shops trying to find a 12in inner tube while my child is screaming. These certainly add weight to the bike but mean that Specialized has essentially removed all regular perishable elements from a bike, which saves a lot of potential pain.
Aside from the additional weight, the tyres don't appear to suffer from this, with them being supple and grippy enough that I'm not worried about my daughter's safety and hard-wearing enough that I can't see chunks being torn out of them any time soon.
In use the bike works well, with a horizontal plate across the bottom bracket keeping my daughter's feet away from the wheels when she's walking, while still remaining slim enough that she doesn't have to walk like John Wayne to move.
There is a lot of adjustability in the bike, which allows it to grow with your child. You can move the handlebar up by 10cm and you can raise the seat even more. It means that you won't need to be buying a new balance bike every couple of years, which again, is a nice touch.
One thing I wasn't too enamoured by is the bell, which isn't really good enough for a kid's bike. It has a manually operated striker – essentially you need to ping the hammer down with your thumb in such a way that it strikes the bell. I could get it to ding maybe once in every three attempts and my daughter managed it maybe five times in total despite hundreds of attempts. This is a kid's bike, a bell that can be used is important.
As mentioned, the bike is heavy compared to others on the market at 4,230g. The Hornit AIRO that Oli rated highly weighs in at 2,950g while the Kidvelo Rookie 12 that Oli also reviewed weighs 2,890g.
Weight is important for balance bikes, not because I expect my daughter to be climbing Mont Ventoux at any stage, but because it makes it harder to pick up and control. Equally important is that I will invariably end up needing to carry it within about 15 minutes of any walk, so the lighter it is, the easier it is to carry. At 4.2kg that is only 200g less than the AX Lightness VIAL Evo Ultra, which is a fully specced adult bike.
If you're really worried about the weight (and have more money than sense) you could always opt for the £999 Hotwalk Carbon, which at just 2.1kg is significantly lighter.
The Hotwalk comes with an RRP of £149, which is a little more than others on the market. The Hornit AIRO has an RRP of £139 and is over 1kg lighter, however, with its semi-stepover frame it is harder for little ones to mount and has tubes in its tyres. The Kidvelo Rookie 12 comes in £19.99 cheaper at £130 and is also much lighter, but again has a much higher stepover height and traditional tubed tyres.
Overall, I like this bike, it is heavier than others on the market, but I think that the reasons for the additional weight are entirely justified. The thicker downtube removes the cross tube, which makes it much easier for a toddler to mount, which is a big plus, especially if it's their first balance bike.
The airless wheels are also a bike plus as I don't need to worry about an errant thorn ruining my daughter's day. Just these two elements add a lot of weight, but they are significant advantages. However, this extra weight does make it harder for my daughter to use, so there is a trade-off. Also, Spesh needs to put a better bell on this bike – my daughter's bell-related tantrums are testament to that.
A strategically heavy balance bike that is great for smaller children and those looking for durability – but change the bell
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Make and model: Specialized Hotwalk balance bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
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?
Starting early is the key to teaching your young ones the joys of bicycle life, and there's no better way to do so than with our Hotwalk. Designed for less crashes and more smiles, the Hotwalk makes learning to ride a bike as easy as can be.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is the lower of the two models, with the Hotwalk Carbon way above it.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
They seem well made and would survive multiple terrible-two's tantrums.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame and fork use Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum, which seems durable and for its intended use is a key element.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Slightly amended to allow a child to put their feet down.
Rate the wheels for performance:
Rate the wheels for durability:
Seem bomb-proof enough to survive whatever a toddler can throw at them.
Rate the tyres for performance:
Grippy enough to feel safe, while the airless tyres are a real life-saver.
Rate the tyres for durability:
They have no air in them!
Rate the controls for weight:
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Maybe
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Hornit AIRO has an RRP of £139 and is over 1kg lighter, however, with its semi-stepover frame it is harder for little ones to mount and has tubes in its tyres. The Kidvelo Rookie 12 comes in £19.99 cheaper at £130 and again is much lighter, but it also has a much higher stepover height and has traditional tubed tyres.
Rate the bike overall for performance:
Rate the bike overall for value:
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a good balance bike that may weigh more than others, but this additional weight has been strategically considered, with it going to important areas. The fact that this is so easy to mount is a real plus and the airless tyres have the potential to save flat-tyre child meltdowns too – a blessing.
Age: 35 Height: 6 ft Weight:
I usually ride: CAAD13 My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,
Or maybe they're both named after the black mamba snake that features on the box?!
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