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Guardian Bikes Review – Airos 20″ Affordable Lightweight Kids Bike

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Guardian Bikes has been disrupting the kids biking scene for a few years with their SureStop technology which they claim makes them the safest kids bikes. The real question is, how good are Guardian bikes?

We break down exactly what sets Guardian balance bikes apart from the competition if the Guardian Bikes brake system really works, and if this lightweight bike for kids is worth your money!

guardian bikes airos 20 small review

Review: Guardian Bike Airos 20″ Small

If you want your kids to really love biking, one of the best things that you can do for your kids is to invest in good quality kids bikes.  Trust me, I know the pain that can cause on the wallet, but I’d rather have some pain there than on the trail.  Between our large family of 5 kids, I feel like I’m always on the hunt for a new bike for at least one kid per year. 

We’ve now had our son riding his Guardian bike for about 8 months. He’s ridden in mud, dirt, snow, down paved trails, and through desert paths. Mostly, he’s ridden it HARD! He’s the youngest of 5 kids, so keeping up with the rest of the family is no joke. He’s ridden pump tracks, gone off wooden jumps, and ridden it just as much on mountain bike trails as he has around the neighborhood. While he was only 4.5 when we got him a Guardian Airos, this bike has clearly boosted his biking ability. Below we’re breaking down all the details that we love most about Guardian Bikes for kids.

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Why Do Kids Need Lightweight Bikes?

Most kid’s bikes are shockingly heavy. We once got a hand-me-down bike for our three-year-old that weighed over 30 pounds (which was almost as much as the kid). Heavy kids bikes make kids unbalanced, crash more easily, and can even injure kids when they fall on them. When our kids ride heavy bikes, they get tired more easily, complain more, and get more easily frustrated with biking.

We got our first REALLY lightweight bike for our kids about 4 years ago. That lightweight bike took our son from being a reluctant rider to a confident one, helped him keep up with all his older siblings on hills (which he could never do before), and made him fall in love with riding.

guardian bikes airos 20 small review

How Heavy Are Guardian Bikes?

Guardian Bikes are really lightweight. We got our son a 20″ Guardian Bike and it only weighs 18.7 pounds. To contrast, many of the other big name bikes we were looking at for him weighed close to 25 pounds. That’s like asking a kid to bike with a 7 pound dumbbell strapped to their bike!

Little boy mountain biking in the desert

Bike Sizing For Guardian Bikes

We always try to get our kids the biggest bike that they can fit into. Not only does this help them to use the bike longer, but we’ve learned that by getting bigger wheel sizes for our kids, they can go faster and conquer difficult terrain better.

Guardian bikes makes picking the right size of kids bikes easy with their Ride Sizer tool. This helps parents figure out exactly what bike is the best fit for their kids based on their size, age, riding ability, and weight. Guardian uses actual measurement to determine the right size of bike for kids, which makes their tool surprisingly accurate.

guardian bikes airos 20 small review

When we were looking for a new bike for my son, he was 4.5 years old and his old 16″ bike was struggling. We assumed that he was too small to move up to a 20″ bike because of his age, but the Ride Sizer tool recommended that we get him a small frame 20″ bike. We were thrilled that the Guardian bike sizing tool was so accurate and proved to us that our son could be riding a much bigger bike than he currently was.

Are Guardian Bikes Actually Safer??

One of the major selling points of a Guardian Bike is their SureStop brake system. This is one brake lever that operates both the front and rear brake at once. The technology in this kid’s bike brake senses where your child’s weight is and puts the appropriate amount of pressure on both the front and rear brake to make sure that they stop well and don’t flip over. The proper use of these brakes can be an amazing skill to each younger riders.

guardian bikes airos 20 small review

I was amazed at how well it works in real life. One of our big hesitations with moving our son up to a 20″ bike is that he struggled with managing 2 brake levers. He had tried bigger bikes, and always ended up squeezing one lever or the other too hard, and often crashing. After seeing one of his older brothers get pretty scared a few years previously, after flying over his handlebars from bad braking, we were very cautious. Instead of waiting until he got older to figure things out, we got him this bike to meet him where he was at. Even with safety precautions like this, you can’t forget the basics. Getting kids a safe kids helmet will keep them safer than anything.

The brakes on Guardian bikes perform wonderfully. We’ve never had a crash because of braking issues, and we’re always really confident that both of his tires have the ability to stay right on the ground. I do notice that on dirt, he has a little more of a tendency to skid than a bike with 2 brake levers, especially if the terrain is steeper. I think that this is because these kids brakes work almost like a car’s ABS system, so it can be hard to have a smooth slow down if the tires don’t have good traction. Overall, the Guardian SureStop brake system has much more going FOR it than AGAINST it.

We’ve actually never had any of our kids learn how to ride a bike on dirt trails with as few crashes as we’ve had on our Guardian Airos 20″ bike. This is proof that at least for our family, Guardian bikes are much safer than other kids bikes.

Do Guardian Bikes Work For Mountain Biking?

Guardian is pretty clear that their bikes are designed for city riding, but we just couldn’t resist trying to do MORE with it.

guardian bikes airos 20 small review

As our older kids are on their school mountain bike team, riding mountain bike trails as a family happens regularly. While many people may not consider using a Guardian Airos for mountain biking, we’ve had great success here. Here are a few of the things to consider when choosing to mountain bike with a kids Guardian bike:

guardian bikes airos 20 small review

Looking for more bike reviews? Check out these next.

Downsides to mountain biking with the Guardian 20″ small kids bike

The biggest downside to mountain biking with the Guardian 20″ bike is that the tires are fairly thin, and don’t offer much in the way of nubby traction. We wish they came with beefier tires, though we do understand that this adds more weight, so it’s a find compromise.

The SureStop brake system is great for kids who are learning how to mountain bike, but I do think that for kids who are starting to ride more technical trails, a bike with dual braking would be better (since technical trails often require operating both front and rear brake with different amounts of pressure.)

What Is The Difference Between Guardian Ethos and Airos?

Guardian makes their bikes in both an Ethos and Airos model to suit different riding needs and budgets. The Guardian Ethos is the more budget friendly model and the Airos* is the premium kids bike. While they both look similar, there are a few differences in their construction that set them apart.

*As of March 2023 the Airos has been discontinued but I wanted to leave the differences up in case you find a used Guardian Airos and want to know the difference. They now make a 20″ small bike with a smaller frame to fit 5-8 year olds. They also make a 20″ large bike to fit 6-9 year olds. The large is better for more advanced riders.

The Ethos is made with a steel frame, basic decals, and a threaded headset. The Airos has an aluminum frame, heat bonded decals, and a threadless headset. This makes the Airos a couple pounds lighter than the Ethos, but for the 20″ small bike, for example, the price difference is $100 (Ethos $339, Airos $439). If your child will only be using the bike for a while, grab the Ethos. If you plan on them riding this bike for more than a year, or passing it on to younger siblings or friends, the Airos is absolutely worth the money.

What Is The Resale Value On Used Guardian Bikes for Kids?

In our area (Utah), we’ve seen used Guardian bikes selling for about 60-80% of retail value. This is an excellent return on your investment if you plan on selling this kids bike when you’re done using it!

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Who Are Guardian Bikes Best For?

Guardian bikes are great for anyone who wants their kids to love biking but doesn’t want to spend tons of money on another brand. The quality is great, and overall, we feel like Guardian bikes really designed their bikes with kids in mind. This isn’t the best bike for kids with more advanced mountain bike skills, but we found that this is a fantastic bike to learn how to mountain bike with!

Guardian bike review airos 20 small
About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

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