To this day, I can still remember the very first bicycle I ever got.
Like many kids in the US, my first bicycle was waiting for me on a crisp Christmas morning that “Santa Clause” got for me. I can still recall the joy I had as I jumped up and down checking out my brand new blue bike with training wheels and a little pretend California license plate on the back with my name on it.
The memories your child will make with their bicycles may last them a lifetime. So, choosing the right bicycle for your children can be a very important decision.
How do you choose the right bicycle for your child?
While there really isn’t the best bike or the best kind of bike for any kid, what are the three most important factors when picking out a child’s bike?
The correct size of the bicycle you choose for your child (especially one that is just learning) is one of the most important aspects. Choosing a bike that is too big or too small can make learning very difficult, frustrating, and even unsafe. You want your child to be comfortable, happy, and most of all safe while learning how to ride.
This is the second most important aspect of picking out a bicycle for your child. While most adult bicycles are 20% or less of their body weight, it is difficult to find a children’s bike that is less than 50% of the child’s weight. Ideally, when picking out a bike for your child, you want it to be less than 40% of their body weight. The lighter it is, the better it is for your child.
After the correct size and weight of a bike, the third thing you will want to decide is what kind of brakes the bike you are getting your child should have. There are two options:
This is probably the most common type of brakes you will find on children’s bikes. They require less maintenance and are typically much cheaper.
These types of brakes are generally less common among children’s bicycles. They generally are more expensive, poorly designed, and require more maintenance. However, if you are truly interested in your child’s learning curve, you will want to invest in this type.
For the details:
1. Bicycle Sizes for Children
Unlike adult bicycles, children bikes are measured by the tire, or wheel sizes. They come in even sizes between 10” to 24”. However, the most common wheel sizes are 12”, 16”, 20”, and 24”.
So how do you know what size bicycle to get for your child?
The simple answer is:
While these are the most common sizes for these age groups, it isn’t uncommon for a child to be taller or shorter than the average size.
Probably the most important factor for a child learning to ride any kind of bike is that they can get both feet fully touching the ground, not just with their tippy-toes.
Whether the bike is just a balance bike with no peddles or the child’s first pedal bike, your kid should be able to stop and balance themselves with both feet. As such, the bike needs to be the right size for the child to do so.
A good way to do this is to measure the child’s inseam. Your child’s inseam measurement should match the minimum seat height. This will allow your child to be able to put both feet fully on the ground.
This is only important for when your child is learning how to ride. Once your child has mastered braking and balancing, they shouldn’t rely on their feet to stop anymore. At this stage, a child SHOULD have a bike where they are tippy-toed, not fully flatfooted on the ground. This will allow them to have proper leg extension while peddling.
2. Bicycle Weight
Does a bicycle’s weight really matter?
It really does!
I remember the second bike I had growing up. No more training wheels and no more cute license plate with my name on it. I was way too cool for all of that. I moved on to the ever-popular BMX bike with pegs on the back for my friends to ride on.
But, to this day, I remember how heavy it was. I could sometimes barely lift it off the ground if I fell over, and sometimes really scrapped myself up.
A bike that is too heavy for the child will make maneuvering difficult and tiring. Ideally, when looking for a bike for your child, you want it to weigh no more than 40% of your child’s weight.
The lighter the bike is, the better it will be for your child. This is even true for adults!
3. The Brakes
There are two types of bicycle brakes:
Most children’s bikes you look at will have coaster brakes. Coaster brakes are maintenance free, less expensive, and are more common.
But please keep in mind that kids naturally peddle backward when they lose balance or when they ride uphill. So, a bike with coaster brakes will inherently cause unexpected stops and falls for your child while learning how to ride.
Handbrakes are more intuitive for your child. They will allow your child to peddle freely and stop faster at higher speeds.
A bike with good handbrakes is highly suggested for children learning how to ride, but they can cause problems too. Good handbrakes can cause the child to flip over the front if they only use the front brake at higher speeds.
When teaching a child how to break with handbrakes, it is imperative to teach them to use either both brake handles or just the rear brake handle. A child should never brake by just using the front tire brake.
While handbrakes are generally the better option for a learning child, they often require maintenance and many times they are poorly designed for children. If they are poorly made, it will also make braking difficult for the child.
In The End
There are countless possibilities, factors and choices to look over when picking out a bicycle for your child. You can choose what color, what style, what type of tires, what kind of frame, and etc.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as the best bicycle for your child.
In the end, what you do need to know are these three most important factors:
If you stick to these factors you can keep your child happy, comfortable, and safe while they learn how to ride.
Now that you have the bicycle rundown, go find the right bicycle for your child!