If you’re the type to pay attention to kid’s bikes (and chances are if you’re reading this site, you are) you’ve no doubt seen your fair share of Specialized Hot Rock 16s being ridden. If you’re really paying attention, you may also notice that a kid is a little more likely to be riding one if one of their parent is a big bike nerd or works in a shop. What do these people know that the average person doesn’t? In short, the Hot Rock 16 is likely the best value you’ll find in a 16″ bike, straddling the fine line between quality and price.
In a nutshell, parents like it because it’s inexpensive, bike nerds like it because it’s easy to modify, and kids like it because it’s light and looks cool. Sound good? Let’s break it down:
What’s to Like?
Modifiability – The fact that they Hot Rock 16 features a 1 1/8th headtube means that it’s one of the most modifiable bikes in it’s class. If you can get your hands on a 20″ suspension fork, you can install it with a standard stem and handlebar and you’ve got yourself a mini-mountain bike. Both the frame and the fork have holes to mount caliper-style brakes if you’re interested in weening your grom off of coaster brakes. The chain guard is easily removable if you’re looking to create a more grown-up looking bike. All of these factors make the Hot Rock 16 one of the most popular bikes for the mod-set.
Weight – Unlike many bikes in it’s price range, the Hot Rock 16 has an aluminium frame. It’s not the lightest bike, but it’s a featherweight compared to many 16″ bikes out there. Why do some companies think it’s OK to expect kids to ride a bike that weighs almost as much as they do?
Look – One sure sign of a decent kid’s bike is if it doesn’t look like a kid’s bike. This one’s got that wrapped up nicely.
Price – The Hot Rock 16 can be had for a mere $230. Considering this bike will last as long as the rider can fit on it, that’s a very worthy price to pay.
Not Sold On
Tires – The standard tires might be OK for riders who don’t leave their driveways, but if you’re looking to kit the trails, BMX track, or skills park, you’re going to be looking for tires with a little more aggressive tread.
Availability – Currently, the Hot Rock 16 isn’t stocked by Specialized Canada. No big deal for our American readers, but this is a real hassle for anyone not living close to the border. That said, they seem to be appearing in more and more places as Canadian shops special order the bikes from the big ‘S’.
Training Wheels – They come with the bike, but seeing as most kids learn to ride on run-bikes/striders these days and training wheels only hold kids back from actually learning to ride, it’d be nice to see a manufacturer get rid of them. They’re easy to remove, but too bad they take up so much room in the garbage.
More durable grips and pedals – If I’m really digging deep, I suppose I could say that the pedals and grips wore out too soon. That said, they did last 2 years of a LOT of riding. The handlebars are the the standard diameter, so replacement grips are super easy to come by, but finding decent replacement pedals that fit the smaller cranks is a challenge and it’d be nice not to have to worry. An alternative would be to change the crank so that they use the standard full-size pedal thread, which would make replacements much easier to find.
V-brake bosses and rim-brake ready rims – While it’s not sold as a bike with hand brakes, it is possible to add caliper-style brakes after the fact. The problem is that calliper brakes suck, and the rims aren’t rim-brake ready, so without significant upgrades, the handbrakes are mostly cosmetic. Short of spec’ing the bike with disc brake mounts and compatible hubs, it’d be nice if the bike could accommodate the much more powerful V-brake standard (or mini V-brake) by putting the appropriate mounts on the frame and fork, and ship it with a more appropriate rim. It’s a small change but it would be immensely helpful for riders looking to step up to hand brakes before stepping up to a bigger frame.
It isn’t easy to find much to fault with the Hot Rock 16. It’s a light bike for smaller riders, it can be modified by the intrepid tech crew/parent, and it’s very reasonably priced. This bike will last under even the most demanding grom, and keep up with them even as they start outpacing you.