Best Balance Bike for a 2-Year-Old 2019
Hoy Napier 2020 review
Living up to the name of its trusted brand, the Hoy Napier 2020 proves itself a track star worthy of young future Olympians.
Verdict in 10 seconds
- Easy set-up with bicycle prepared in advance
- Tyres suited to every surface
- Stylish BMX aesthetic
- Beautifully designed for balance and speed
- You can pop into an Evans stores to try before you buy
- Relatively lightweight
- More affordable than many comparable bikes
- Small frame for easy on and off
- Fatter wheels than average – give the bike more stability
- Unbelievably sturdy
- Wide handlebar maximises toddler’s control
- Spans the projected two to four age range reasonably comfortably
- Simple to micro-adjust the saddle to grow with your child
- Produced by the makers of the rest of the range – genuinely a Hoy bike
- Steering limiter to prevent jackknifing and reduce falls
- Limited choice of colours – red, blue and yellow
- No brake which could be problematic for an older rider
- Handlebar height can’t be adjusted
- Pneumatic tyres require maintenance
- Might not be low enough for a younger two-year-old
What are the key features?
- Grab rail on the seat for easy carrying and guiding while learning to ride
- Fantastic grip on the handles
- Steel rims make for hardy wheels
- Classic BMX design
- Saddle dips to help your child stay put
What are the specs?
- Age range: Suitable for two to four year olds (85 to 110cm tall with an inside leg of 40cm minimum)
- Weight: 3.8kg
- Composition: Aluminium
- Wheel size: 12 inch
- Tyres: Pneumatic
- One-year frame and fork warranty
- RRP: £100
- Resale value: £50 at time of review
How easy is the Hoy Napier 2020 to ride?
Named after the schoolyard in which Sir Chris Hoy learned to ride, the Hoy Napier 2020 fits in with the rest of the range as a purpose-built bike brilliantly scaled to size.
The handlebar is extra wide and grippy for good control, the chunky wheels offer impressive stability and the bike allows for comfortable cycling across a decent age range.
Despite standing a little taller than some of the other bikes we tested (40cm minimum inside leg versus 30cm on the Islabikes Rothan), our tester, Adele's, two-year-old daughter made quick work of gliding across the local skatepark on this tiny track dream.
The Hoy Napier 2020 is a little heavier than the Islabikes Rothan, but still one of the lighter balance bikes on the market by a fair bit. It weighs in at 3.8kg which represents 30 percent of a young two-year-old’s bodyweight.
The inclusion of a steering limiter, which can’t be removed, sets the 2020 apart from earlier versions of the Hoy Napier. It allows the steering to be turned almost 90 degrees with a wide, fluid range of movement and our tiny tester soon got the hang of guiding the bike.
The design omits a brake, adding to its simplicity with less clutter and fewer things to get caught on. This is intentional as braking is a difficult skill to master at an early age. Sudden stopping could be dangerous if your child is going really fast. At the same time, shoes could get wrecked as this bike is built for speed and children on the older end of the age range are likely to put this to the test.
A grab rail helps adults to support toddlers still building up confidence and to give them a taste of what the bike is fully capable of. It’s also a useful feature when carrying.
Rounded bolts keep little legs safe should they fall, but this is less likely to happen as the seat’s close position to the back wheel and the frame's well-angled fork make this bike exceptionally stable.
What’s it like to assemble?
The Hoy Napier 2020 comes already set-up with no assembly required. The instructions only cover turning and securing the handlebars in place with the supplied allen key.
You can also adjust the saddle height – again, with an allen key – if needed. If you buy the bike in-store, Evans Cycles staff can check the height for you. The Napier comes with a one-year warranty on the frame and fork, but spare parts are also available to buy.
How adjustable is it?
The Napier's adjustable saddle height makes it easy to get an exact custom fit within the designated height range, however a quick-release adjuster would have been a great addition to this design from a parent’s point of view. It currently doesn't have one.
Its handlebar also can’t be adjusted but your child will probably be ready for a pedal bike by the time this is a problem anyway as the frame will comfortably accommodate many three- and four-year-olds.
How comfortable is it?
The saddle is well cushioned and shaped with a dip to prevent children sliding about, making for a comfortable ride.
Overall, the bike’s excellent geometry ensures that there’s no strain while learning to ride. Our two-year-old tester did tire a bit when first getting to know this bike, possibly because it was slightly heavier than others she tested, but she was happy to keep picking it up at intervals nonetheless.
Once she gained confidence riding the bike, she used it for long sessions without tiring.
Eventually my two-year-old took to challenging her older sisters to a race, which was a sure sign that she’d got comfortable with the Hoy Napier.
How does it look?
Inspired by Sir Chris Hoy’s early BMX racing days, the Hoy Napier 2020 looks like a classic BMX bike, attractive to both adults and children interested in the sport.
The style is minimalist and the frame undoubtedly sturdy. It feels slightly over-engineered as the extra bar adds strength that a balance bike is unlikely to be ridden hard enough to need (inevitably adding weight to the design), but it’s also an important part of the BMX aesthetic along with the straight handlebars and stripes.
Black wheels and deep colours mean that dirt won't show up easily on this bike, that is unless you opt for yellow. We tested the blue colourway, which both adult and child were delighted with.
What’s it like to use day-to-day?
The Hoy Napier 2020 is built for hard knocks and easy balance – a brilliant way to start your child’s love affair with cycling.
The pneumatic tyres provide good traction and have lots of grooves to glide over any terrain, but the bike's sheer strength and its aluminium frame make it particularly well suited to the skatepark.
As with all the bikes we tested, the Hoy also took on the pavement and trail, performing well on all surfaces.
Adele's two-year-old quickly got the hang of coasting on this bike, finding it very easy to steer and control. It’s also light enough that there was no concern about the bike falling on her when she needed to drop it.
Its durability was put to the test with drop tests conducted on hard surfaces. We feel confident that this is a bike sturdy enough to stay intact no matter what it's put through before being passed on in good condition. Any marks or mud stains were easily wiped off with a damp cloth.
The pneumatic tyres do require maintenance, which parents need to be aware of, but the valves on the Hoy Napier 2020’s tyres are at an unusually accessible angle to inflate – another noteworthy feature.
As it’s relatively lightweight, carrying it presents no problems, especially with the handgrip on the seat. But it’s heavy enough that you might not want to load up with much else. Your toddler might also prefer for you to be the one doing the carrying. Our two-year-old tester had no trouble picking up the bike to ride it, though.
This model is small with enough freedom on the steering limiter to avoid awkward storage. However, it is slightly bigger than some of the other high performers on the market, such as the Islabikes Rothan and the Strider 12 Sport, which you’ll want to know if space is an issue. However, it’s still a compact option that won’t dominate your car boot.
Adele scored the Hoy Napier 2020 highly in almost every area, but noted its weight as a potential downfall. While it's certainly lighter than earlier versions of the Hoy Napier, it’s still not quite as light as a couple of the other options in our top five and, with balance bikes, weight counts for a lot. However, if your child is closer to two and a half, tall or fairly tenacious, that shouldn’t be a problem.
The grab rail on the seat helps to assist younger toddlers approaching the bike with some uncertainty so we can see why it would take a child from the ages of two to four, which should give you some bang for your buck. By the time they reach age four, they’d likely be more than ready to take on the skatepark with a pedal bike anyway.
Additionally, it should resell well. While the Hoy Napier 2020 doesn’t seem to come up that much on reselling sites, other Hoy bikes hold their resale value, which would suggest that this one does too.
While it could benefit from the addition of a brake (although this is a matter of opinion, even among experts), this is an excellent bike with a very reasonable price tag nonetheless.
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All prices correct at time of publication
How we test
Balance bikes have gained in popularity in the last decade, allowing children as young as 18 months to start cycling. To find the best balance bikes for most families, we put 13 different products to the test. Here's how we tested them.Read more »
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