Guardian Ethos 16-Inch Kids' Bike Review

eric-awwy By Eric Awwy, 21 Jan 2020

Every parent’s worry immediately after outgrowing the balance bike is “, what next?” Could it be a 12-inch bike or a 16-inch bike? For some reasons, we have always advised against 12-inch bikes. Now, there are many brands of 16-inch bikes out there. However, the Guardian Ethos 16” bike leads the pack.

We consider it the coolest bike in the neighborhood and the safest in the market. Truly, Guardian company has earned its name in the kids’ bike market for its safety engineering practices, kids-friendly design, and perfection.

Even with simplicity, the Guardian Ethos is considered the economy line after the high-end Guardian Original. However, it comes with a basket full of quality components that will enthuse confidence into your young cyclist. It is undoubtedly one of those bikes they will forever be thinking of in their free time.

Most importantly, we cannot forget to mention the proprietary SureStop braking system that sets Guardian bikes apart. The braking technology works magic for timid riders.

If you are a parent, guardian, or a grandparent looking for a great bike gift idea for a 4-6-year-old kid, we recommend the Guardian Ethos. It is a highly recommended and smart piece to spend your money on. In our review of the best 16-inch pedal bikes for kids, it comfortably checked the boxes of the best 16-inch bike in terms of value for money.

Guardian Ethos 16-Inch Kids’ Bike

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Gender: UNISEX.

Colors: Pink Aqua and Black Blue.

Braking System: SureStop Brake System.

Frame Material: Steel with water transfer decals.

Weight: 17.5 lb.

Seat Height: 18.5”-23.5.”

Tire Size: 16 inches (pneumatic).

Gearing: Single Speed

Ideal for: Kids with heights 40-46 inches.

  • Kid-friendly design.
  • Comfortable upright gait thanks to kid-friendly geometry.
  • Adjustable handlebar height.
  • SureStop braking system that inspires confidence.
  • Freewheel rear hub with no coaster brakes.
  • The low standover height and center of gravity.
  • Ease of assembly.
  • Chainguard for extra protection and safety.
  • Single-speed and might make kids use more efforts climbing.
  • Slightly weightier for petite kids.

Guardian 16 inch Ethos Full and Unbiased Review

If ever there is a company that wants to see many kids on the bikes, it is Guardian Bikes. It is not just about being kids-friendly anymore; it is about bringing out quality and value for money as well.

If you are ever thinking of buying bikes from big box stores, then you will have to sacrifice all the good reasons to purchase a quality designed bike from Guardian.

Some people claim that the Ethos is a watered-down design of the Guardian Original. We here disagree with that statement. We believed taking a chance and time to remodel and come up with the Ethos was a timely idea.

It was such a fantastic move to give every entry-level buyer something to smile about at an affordable cost. We say ‘affordable price’ because the features the ethos have are mostly in highly-priced high-end kids’ bikes, which come at a higher cost.

Now, you will notice that kids naturally love Guardian bikes, and we are about to explore some of the many reasons.

SureStop Braking Technology

Among the most exceptional features that enthuse us to talk more of the guardian bikes is the proprietary SureStop braking system. As its name suggests, the SureStop is just what a child needs to control the bike and stop faster. And that is all you need to turn a timid kid into an aggressive little daredevil on the bike.

The braking technology allows sequential activation of both for rear and front wheels by just pulling a single brake lever. And immediately a child engaged the lever; the brakes quickly swing into action.

It begins with activating the rear brake, which engaged first. From there, the SureStop system on the rear brake pad enables the front brake. The logical braking system allows the kids to control the bike, engage their senses, and stay on course.

You can never have instances of kids flying over the handlebar for accidental braking of the front brakes, and that is a safety feature especially for kids learning to brake. Not a chance that the bike will flip. Besides, the lever is placed in just the right position for the kids and is the right size for the small hands.

Excellent Seat Height

On their website, Guardian bike indicates that the Ethos is suitable for kids with a height of 40-46 inches. It means that within that height the children can have an inseam that falls in the range of the seat.

Both the Original and Ethos 16” bikes have a seat height range of 18.5” to 23.5”. Those transitioning into pedal bikes and want to ride the Ethos must have an inseam of 18.5”. In this case, ensure that the kid can stand over the bike on both feet and can comfortably reach the pedals and the hand levers for the brakes.

Relatively Light Weight 

The Guardian Ethos has a lightweight frame that is made from steel. Compared to the Guardian Original that weighs 16 lb. the Guardian Ethos weighs 17.5 lb. which is relatively light. Even so, given the price range, there are other lighter options, but not by far.

The thick rims on the Guardian bikes contribute to the additional weight. Besides, the wheels have many steel spokes, which despite adding weight help align the tire and take on different terrains.

Appealing Colors and Neat Finish

Guardian bikes are designed by kids for kids. No wonder the bike colors appeal to most children. Talk of the eye candy decals that make the ethos the coolest in the neighborhood. The water transfer decals with a bright coat finish give the bikes a glow and polished feel. You can spot a Guardian Ethos from afar and still get wowed with the color. We are sure this is something your kid (s) would love.

The Ethos has a tremendous and quality build. It reflects engineered styling at its best. The brake cables are internally routed through the tube. This could seem useless, but exposed wires are often exposed to every element (friendly and corrosive), which increases wear and tear. Such exposures reduce the life-cycle of the cables. Therefore, with internal cable routing, you can bet they will serve your kid longer.

The brake cables are also cut the right size, which makes the cockpit neater. One word for the bike “Classy.” With the less than 300 bucks for all these quality components, this is just a 16-inch bike that is the best bang for your cash.

Kid-Specific Geometry

Contrary to our imagination that kids, being small, belong with the smaller bikes, the difference is what matters. It trickles down to having the right proportion. True to it, the Guardian Bikes engineers have ensured that the distance between the pedals is small.

Also, they have incorporated into the Guardian Ethos 16” shorter crank arms. The bike also has a guaranteed more extended wheelbase (719”) which maintains a lower center of gravity. When you talk of a lower COG, stability comes into play.

Apart from the SureStop brakes, the lower COG increases stability and inspires the little riders with confidence.  The super-low standover height of the bike puts down other bikes in its league.

The low standover height allows the little riders to mount, offsaddle easily, and dismount the bike. And for just the correct sizing guide Guardian Bikes offers you the virtual RideSizer tool that you can use to get the right size of bike for your kid.

The Guardian 16” bikes allow the beginner cyclists to maintain a good posture (upright body position). Consequently, with an upright gait, the children are able to balance the bike and master its control in no time.

Chainguard - All Safe for Kids

Bikes move smoothly when greased or oiled. There are many lubes out there, but a combination of those with dirt and dust can put trash on the chain. There is no doubt that removing grease stain on children’s clothing is hard.

Now, the Guardian Ethos has a Chainguard that protects the chain from coming out and protects the kids’ clothes from getting stained with dirt from the chain.

So, there will never be dropped chains anymore. Also, no more greasy pants. Still, your kids can keep off their shoelaces and dress helms off the chains. Such nasty stories end with the Ethos.

Steering Limiter and the Tires

The Guardian Ethos outstandingly has a steering limiter just like the WOOM bikes.  A steering limiter is a tool on the front fork that limits the radius to which the front fork turns. For 16-inch bike enthusiasts, this means a lot because failure to have bike turning skills can turn out disastrous. 

The simple attachment limits the turning of handlebars and averts unforeseeable turning accidents.

Among the 16-inch bike category, the Ethos primes as the one with non-knobby and fast-rolling tires. Most kids’ bikes come with grippy and knobby tires, which suit the off-road trails and still weigh much. The tires are just what kids need for the paved paths, dirt tracks, and pump up tracks.

Freewheel Hub

The Guardian Ethos is a single speed bike with a single handbrake that activates both rear and front brake pads sequentially. So, with it, you forget the coaster brakes. We have talked of the difference and benefits of freewheel and coaster brakes before.

The freewheeling hub helps the kids to balance when not pedaling, for example on slopes and slanting paves. Besides, the kids can adjust the positions of the pedals to their favorite taking off position when standing.

Compared to the freehub on Woom 3, the feeling on Guardian Ethos was different. Your child can pedal faster and maintain some speed for some distance. That way, they spend less energy compared to bikes with coaster brakes.

Ease of Assembly

Unboxing and assembling the Guardian Ethos is effortless and breathtaking. Its arrival signals the little one to get their shoes and helmet on ready for the thrill. The bike comes 99% pre-assembled by the Guardian Bikes engineers. Unlike the big box bikes assembled by just anyone, Guardian Bikes are custom assembled by professionals.

As a buyer, you will receive a box with a spanner, Allen keys, and an assembly manual. You can also reach the Guardian Bikes website for assembly instructions (it is indicated on the box). So you will fix the handlebars and adjust the brake lever to the desired distance as per your child’s reach.

You will also install the pedal. And everything is simplified as there are removable stickers on the crank arms. It is entirely something; it shows Guardian bikes have the customers at heart.

Guardian Original versus Guardian Ethos

There has been an argument that the Guardian Ethos is the economy version of the Guardian Original. We totally refute that. There is not a chance that you will regret spending money on the Ethos, or any 16” Guardian Bikes for that matter.

The Guardian Original is a super high-end and higher investment kids’ bike. It is best suited for kids who are timid. On the other hand, the Guardian Ethos is a wonderful choice for kids who are already aggressive and can comfortably handle slightly heavy bikes. It is also suitable for parents on a tighter budget but still needs a 16-inch bike that gives them a bang for their money.

Compare the ethos with other 16 inch bikes its category like Raleigh MXR 16, it is a bit lighter. Here is a simple comparison table though.

  Weight (pounds) Seat Height Headset Frame Material Frame Design Gearing
Guardian Original 16 18.5-23.5" Threadless Aluminum upgraded heat-bonded decals Single-speed
Guardian Ethos 17.5 18.5-23.5" Threaded Lightweight steel water transfer decals single-speed


The Guardian Ethos 16 is a confidence-inspiring 16-inch bike and the best pick for a kid aged 4, 5, and 6 years. Its price is not anything close to the components and the thrill your kids will get on this bike.

Guardian Bikes engineers bikes designed by kids for kids. If you are keen to have kids on bikes, get this machine. You get quality, neatness, performance, and every other thing you can think about when shopping for a bike.

We highly recommend the Guardian Ethos as it will never cost an arm and a leg. And, with the SureStop technology, even the timid kids can now ride.

Add it to your cart straight away. No regrets!

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