Cleary Hedgehog 16" Review - Two Wheel Tots
- Lightweight (16 lb.!)
- Rear hub enables two freewheels - gain ratios ranging from 3.8 to 2.76 (comes as 3.1)
- Easy-pull, small reach brake levers
- No coaster brake
- Very stable
- Lower top speed than most 16" bikes
No crazy graphics or cartoon faces, but rather pure biking goodness in a pint-sized package. With great emphasis placed on weight and geometry, the Cleary Hedgehog is fine-tuned to ensure proper stability and responsive handling that had our testers exclaiming, “It’s perfect!”
2017 Hedgehog Updates
Updated for 2017, the Cleary Hedgehog now comes with an optional low-rise handlebar, versus the standard flat bar, and a reversible wheel to allow for two different gears.
Low-rise handlebar: Positions the riders in a more upright position which is better for beginners and more timid riders. Previous models had a flat handlebar (which is still available upon request).
Reversible wheel: Cleary’s clever reversible wheel allows the bike to have 2 gears – one high, one low – for use during different types of rides. The gears cannot be used at the same time and it requires the rear wheel to be reversed to change the gear. While not ideal for everyday switching, it greatly improves the longevity of the bike by allowing the child to learn on a lower gear and them move up to a higher gear once they are more comfortable on the bike.
The Hedgehog was a delight to watch children ride. The more our testers rode the Hedgehog, the more we liked it. With easy-to-use brakes, a lightweight frame, and a low basic gear, the Hedgehog provides a smooth and easy ride. The standard low gear (2.88 gain ratio) allows kids to get the pedals moving with little resistance and quickly gain speed. For young riders, a low gain ratio makes the bike feel fast and allows them to quickly gain higher speeds which makes it easier to balance the bike. Quickly gaining speed in a short distance can also make going down a curb or around a cone obstacle course much easier to tackle.
A low gain ratio, however, does limit the amount of speed the bike can gain. While this gearing is great around the neighborhood, our tester had to pedal very quickly to gain speed on long, flat bike trails and family rides. For those kids who may want a faster top speed offered by a higher gear, the Hedgehog is designed to allow parents to change the gearing of the bike (explained further in the gearing section below).
While at first out tester struggled on the Hedgehog as he wanted to go faster, the more he rode the Hedgehog, the more his love for it grew. No too upright or aggressive, the Cleary is extremely stable, even at lower speeds, and our tester quickly gained confidence and began to try new tricks on the bike. From going down curbs (a first for him!) or zig-zagging down the bike trail, the Hedgehog provided the stability and confidence he needed to up his game.
Size & Weight
The Hedgehog is a mid-size 16″ bike with a seat range of 19″ to 26″ and weighs 16 pounds. It was a perfect fit for our 5 and 6-year old testers in size 5T and 6 clothes. The Hedgehog is ideal for a child with a 19″ inseam who is learning to ride a pedal bike for the first time or for a child with a 17″ inseam who is already confident riding a pedal bike without training wheels.
Remember that for a child’s first pedal bike without training wheels, they need to be able to stop the bike with feet flat on the ground. This means the minimum seat height of the bike should not be greater than the child’s inseam. The Hedgehog does not come with training wheels and is not compatible with them. For kids with an inseam, less than 17″ (or 19″ for first-time riders) the smaller 12″ Cleary Gecko would be a better fit.
Hedgehog is a Perfect Fit for Kids in Size 5T & 6 Clothes
Geometry & Q-factor (Bike Width)
The new low-rise handlebar creates a more upright position for the rider, which provides a more natural and relaxing ride for young riders. Compared to the WOOM3, the Hedgehog is not as upright, but is much less aggressive than other bikes, like the Early Rider Belter. Its mid-range position makes it very similar to most mid to high-end 16″ bikes.
The Hedgehog’s mid-range positioning – not too upright and not too aggressive – is best for most children riding 16″ bikes. Really timid and hesitant riders do better on upright bikes and more adventurous riders do better on a bike with an aggressive position. The mid-range is a good middle ground for most kids. The Hedgehog is slightly more upright than the Stampede Sprinter 16, which is designed for more adventurous, all-terrain basic riding.
Separating themselves from WOOM, Islabikes, and others, Cleary intentionally made their q-factor (width of the bike between pedals) slightly wider at 6″. Wanting to provide a narrow, yet wide base for a more athletic stance, the Hedgehog has angled crank arms, creating a q-factor an inch wider than the Islabikes CNOC. Still narrower than the average kid’s bike, the extra inch helps to provide more stability for tricks (curbs!), leaning turns, and all-around more adventurous riders.
Hedgehog’s Wider Pedals Provide More Stability for Adventurous Riding
The Cleary Hedgehog comes standard with a low gain ratio of 2.88, which is the lowest gain ratio on a 16″ bike that we’ve tested. With a lower gain ratio, a bike requires less effort to pedal, but the wheel travels a shorter distance with each pedal stroke (which is why low gears are better for hills, jumps and “tricks”). A bike with a high gain ratio is harder to start pedaling, but the wheel travels farther with each pedal stroke (which is why high gears are better for flat terrain).
With a gain ratio lower than WOOM, Islabikes, and Prevelo’s 16″ bikes, the Hedgehog allowed our tester to climb hills without stopping that he couldn’t on his other bikes. The low gear also allowed him to gain speed quicker when attempting jumps and dodging obstacles. As mentioned above, however, the low gain ratio did limit his overall speed on long flat rides, which was frustrating for him at times.
To help parents and kids find the best of both worlds, Cleary’s new 2017 Hedgehog is designed to give parents the option of adding a second freewheel (“rear cog”) to the bike to allow for two different gain ratios. Adding the second freewheel is completely optional as most riders will not have the need to change the gearing of the bike. When a second freewheel is utilized, the Hedgehog is still a single-speed bike as the gearing is NOT changed like a traditional multi-speed bike with shifters. The gear is changed by reversing the rear tire and engaging the chain with the new freewheel. The change is not meant to be done on the fly, but rather to give parents the option to set the bike to a higher gear before a flat ride or to a lower gear before a hilly ride. This “flippable” rear tire system is unique to Cleary and is not available with any other brand.
When adding the second gear to the Hedgehog, the standard freewheel, which plays a role in creating the 2.88 gain ratio, remains on one side of the rear axle and a second freewheel can be screwed into the other side of the rear axle. By flipping the rear tire, the gain ratio is changed by putting the new freewheel into use. The Hedgehog will accommodate a freewheel with 13 to 18 teeth, which would change the gain ratio to between 2.56 and 3.54 (the higher the number of teeth, the lower the gain ratio). As comparison, the standard rear cog included with the bike is a 16T (T=teeth). If you need a lower gear for more aggressive, hilly rides, an 18T rear cog would be ideal, while a 13T would create a higher gear better for flat rides. Freewheels (rear cogs) cost around $9 (be sure to purchase a 3/32″ size).
Reversible Wheel Allows Hedgehog to be Used in Two Different Gears
Adding the second freewheel isn’t difficult, but properly adjusting the brakes and the chain tension after adding the new freewheel can be challenging to those not familiar with working on bikes. If you are not familiar with bikes, we would recommend having a bike shop add the rear freewheel to ensure your child’s brakes work properly after.Adding the second freewheel shouldn’t cost more than $20 as it will likely take a bike shop less than 10 minutes to complete.
When testing out the Hedgehog, we added a 15T freewheel to the rear tire, which changed the standard 2.88 gain ratio to a 3.07. While slight, the difference was noticeable by both myself and our tester. Although slight, the bike took more effort to get started, which our tester was not fond of, BUT he did enjoy being able to ride faster.
Easy-pull, small-reach Tektro brake levers provide responsive braking for young riders. Our testers had no trouble reaching the brake levers and we had no issues adjusting them.
Hedgehog’s Small-Reach, Responsive, Dual Hand Brakes
Coming standard with front and rear hand brakes, the Cleary Hedgehog does not have a coaster brake, allowing kids to naturally pedal backwards when they lose their balance. *The low-rise handlebars on the demo bike we received was not painted but will be painted blank standard.
As mentioned previously, the Cleary Hedgehog has the lowest gain ratio out of all the mid to high-range 16″ bikes we’ve tested. The low gain ratio, combined with the bike’s stability, make the Hedgehog ideal for adventurous young riders looking to explore every curb, jump, and puddle in the neighborhood. More timid riders, who simply want to ride and not necessarily jump, are likely to prefer the WOOM3. The Sprinter 16 is also a great bike suitable for basic tricks but has a minimum seat height 2″ taller than the Cleary. The Hedgehog, however, is the ONLY bike to have a reversible tire to allow for a second gear option.
The Hedgehog is an excellent 16″ bike for beginning to advanced riders. When used with the new, standard low-rise bar, it provides a comfortable and stable ride, helping kids at all levels to gain confidence on two wheels. With a seat height of 21″ to 26″, it’s best for beginning riders with an inseam of at least 21″ and experienced riders with an inseam of 19″ (to allow for several years of growth).