Introducing the next generation of young cyclists to the joys of the sport is one of the undoubted pleasures of biking, but it’s important to bear in mind some key considerations when purchasing bikes for children. In this kids bike buying guide we will take you through some of the key considerations before buying a kids bike.
Buying a bike for your kid can be difficult with the vast array on offer today, however a kids bike needs to be able to withstand the rough and tumble of the streets, forests and back gardens.
Discover kid’s bikes:
What size kids’ bike do I need?
Buying a bike that is the right size for your child is crucial. For a kids bike – sizing the the most important factor to consider – kids will find it hard to control bikes that are the wrong size, especially if they are too big. Don’t be tempted to think a too-large bike will be fine on the basis that the child will ‘grow into it’.
Because every kid grows at different rates it’s difficult to have an accurate chart that tells you exactly what you need. So a good rule of thumb is to get your child to sit on a potential new bike and check to see if they can touch the ground with both feet.
Kids’ bike size chart
This handy chart will give you a good idea of the best size kids bike to buy.
Kids Bikes: In depth
There are a vast array of kids bikes available on the market today, from road to mountain bike, balance to BMX.
- Mountain Bike: Built for those off road adventures that come with thick knobbly tyres for grip across all terrain. Most MTB’s will come with suspension up front and a range of gears.
- Road Bike: Built for those kids who love speed on tarmac, a kids road bike usually is tailored for older kids, with a lightweight frame and thin tyres for maximum speed.
- Kids balance Bike: a bike with no brakes, pedals or gears, is often tailored for toddlers to get their confidence on two wheels.
- BMX Bike: Built for style, not speed, BMX bikes have a smaller frame, strong wheels and a low saddle which lets kids do flicks and tricks at the local park or on the street.
Most kids’ bikes will feature some range of size adjustment via seat or handlebar height, but in general, bikes for children are sized according to wheel diameter, with each size roughly correlating to an age group. Of course, there may be some overlap if your little one is especially tall or petite, so don’t worry if their age doesn’t exactly correlate to the size below.
Kids balance bikes
- Age: 2-5 years old
- Wheel size: 12-14”
A perfect way for toddlers to tackle two wheels – balance bikes have no gears or pedals with the idea that the kid uses their legs to push themselves along and to (importantly) stop themselves.
A balance bike is all about teaching kids how to manage two wheels and can be an excellent way for small kids to build up the confidence to progress to a ‘real’ bike once they have perfected the ability to coast along under their own steam, although stabilisers may still be needed until they are comfortable with pedalling.
- Durability: if you are looking for a kids bike that will last long enough to be handed down to younger siblings, look for a durable but lightweight wooden or metal bike that can deal with being thrown around.
- Stabilisers: many 12-14” kids bikes can also come with stabilisers, brakes and pedals too and often represent most kids’ ‘first bike’.
- Age: 4-6 years old
- Wheel size: 16”
Graduating onto their first (or second) ‘proper’ bike is an important step for many kids. 16” wheel kids bikes are aimed at children aged four to six years old and usually come with stabilisers as standard for those kids who are yet to master the art of balance.
Some say that stabilisers can become a hindrance for kids learning to get their balance on their bike, however we would say it’s best not rushing kids until they are ready before running the risk of putting them off.
For frame material and parts, it’s worth remembering to look for a bike that is lightweight and easy to manoeuvre. Heavy frames and parts will tire our little bodies. Avoid unnecessary suspension and fat steel frames.
Most bikes in this category will be single speed, fine for pedaling short distances on mostly flat ground, with at least one working brake. Check that little fingers can reach the brake levers, and that not too much effort is required to squeeze.
Finally, make sure that the cranks are the right length – 20% of the inside leg measurement is a good rule of thumb, so at this age cranks of 90-100mm are about right.
- Age: 6-10 years old
- Wheel size: 18-20”
Riders from the ages of six to 10 will be covering longer distances so larger wheels are necessary, and gears will come into the picture – usually five- and six-speed rear derailleurs.
Look for simple shifting mechanisms such as Shimano’s Revoshift system, but remember that single speeds are also less prone to mechanical trouble and more than likely fine for the kind of use that the bike will be put to. Crank length should be 120-140mm.
Fashionable extras like suspension (front and rear) will also be more common in bikes aimed at this age bracket, but for the most part they will only add weight and expense, not improved performance. Rigid bikes will likely be lighter, cheaper and more durable.
Many riders in this age category, for example, find a BMX to be a great tool for buzzing around the neighbourhood with their buddies, while proper ‘mini-MTB’ bikes will also appeal to budding trail hounds.
- Age: 10+ years old
- Wheel size: 24”+
Older children (10+) are ready for 24” or 26”-wheeled bikes that in design terms differ little from those aimed at adults. In fact, adult bikes in smaller frame sizes (13”-15”) may suit perfectly, although be wary of going too big, too soon.
Dirt jump (DJ) style bikes are popular among teenagers, and in fact make tough and versatile all-rounders. Look for a decent range of gears, good-quality brakes and suspension forks that work as they should.
You may need to spend a little money to get a bike with decent components and a frame that does not weigh a ton, but it should prove a tough and reliable companion for your offspring.
Some manufacturers have also begun to offer properly sized and spec’d road bikes for junior riders, with kid-friendly features such as 600c wheels, shallow-drop handlebars and short-reach brake levers.
These light and speedy steeds are excellent for long-distance adventures and as first bikes for budding road racers.
What else will my kid need to ride their bike?
Safety is the number one priority when kids are riding bikes. It’s important from an early age to get them a helmet and other protective gear to ensure their safety. There is a wide variety of kids accessories out there on the market.
Kids bike helmet
Accidents happen more often with kids, especially at the beginning of their biking journey. Helmets help to prevent serious head injuries and go a long way to helping avoid those cuts and bruises.
Your kids bike helmet should fit securely, don’t try buying one too big for the case that they’ll ‘grow into it’. Invest in an adjustable helmet, so as they grow the helmet can be adjusted to fit their head.
Protective pads and gloves
Knees and elbows often take the impact when kids are falling off their bikes. A pair of protective pads and gloves will help in protecting their hands, knees and elbows whilst also offering a bit of confidence and extra grip.
Lights and reflectors
Adding lights to your kids bike will help increase visibility, which is important. All children’s bikes come with reflectors as standard equipment, but it’s inexpensive to add a set of lights to make sure they’re seen and safe at all times. Lights are a legal requirement if they intend to ride in the dark.