29 June 2021 (updated)

How to Choose the Best Bikes for Kids

Biking is one of the most beloved activities of childhood for good reason! Family bike riding has only become more popular since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once kids learn how to ride bikes, a new world opens up.

Suddenly it's easier to get around with friends and family. Going for a bicycle ride with friends is a great way to spend an afternoon even with no particular destination in mind.

What Do I Look for in Kids Bikes?

In order to ensure that riding a bicycle is both safe and fun, it's important to get the right bicycle at the right time. This means making sure that your child's bicycle is the right frame size, the right wheel size, and the right type of bicycle for your terrain. After a little research into what to consider when choosing the perfect kids' bike, you should be able to fine-tune your selection.

Start With Balance Bikes for Kids

A child-specific balance bike is the perfect first kids' bike for beginners. Studies show that kids who start with the right size balance bike learn how to ride bicycles more quickly. It may come as a surprise to learn that pedals and training wheels are not necessary. However, once you see your little one gliding on a balance bike as their first bike you will quickly see the benefits. Kids can start learning how to bicycle on a balance bike when they are as young as one or two years old. If your toddler can walk well they may be ready for a balance bike! Xtend balance bikes are a popular choice because they use a 3-step system to get your child biking with just one frame.

Just like other bikes balance bikes come in a variety of sizes so it's necessary to get the right size bike. Balance bikes are almost always single speed so the main consideration is what inch bike to purchase.

A scooter can also help kids find balance. A 3-wheel tricycle can help kids practice pedaling when the time comes for them to move up to a pedal bike. Some scooters and trikes even fold so you can use them even if you don't have a lot of storage space.

@the_warrilows on an Early Rider Bike

Move to Pedal Bikes for Kids

Once your child has mastered the balance bike it's time to move to a new bike! Finding the right size bike is key when moving to a big-kid bike. Start by figuring out the right frame size for a 2-wheel pedal bike. This could be 10 inch, 16 inch 14 inch, 20 inch, or 24 inch. While it may be tempting to go up a frame size when buying a new bike in hopes that it will fit your child longer, avoid the temptation. A frame size that is too large may make it difficult for your child to reach the handlebar or pedals. Bike fit is key to successful cycling! Many children who learn to ride on a balance bike do not need training wheels but some do. If your child's feet often slip off of pedals look for anti-slip pedals or pedal straps.

Think About Safety

A helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment when riding a bike, especially a kid's bike. A properly fitting helmet that meets the ANSI standards is key. Get kids used to wearing a helmet early to prevent a bad habit from forming.

Brakes come in a close second when it comes to safety. Some bikes have coaster brakes, also known as backpedal brakes or back wheel brakes. These help the bike stop quickly by stopping the bike when a child pedals backward. Coaster brakes are easy to use and do not require any maintenance. While this might sound tempting, consider that they are less efficient than hand brakes and prevent a child from pedaling backward to regain balance. Because of this, hand brakes are safer.

You might also consider a chain guard to prevent your child's leg or fingers from getting entangled in the bike chain.Rim brakes and v-brakes are also safe choices but are usually found on higher-end adult bikes.

Remember that falling is part of the learning process! Once your child has a good start they will need plenty of practice. Even time with a babysitter can be used to practice!

Don't Overlook Handlebars

Handlebars are a very important part of any bicycle! Your child will not just hold onto their bike's handlebars but that is typically where you find the brakes and gears. Your child should be able to reach their bike's handlebars easily and comfortably. Smaller riders usually prefer narrow handlebars. Bigger kids may prefer wider handlebars. Handlebars should be about shoulder-width in length. You can also adjust the bar height on most handlebars to find the right spot for your little one or big kid.

@lt_rides910 SmarTrike bike

Consider Where You Are Cycling When Buying Kids Bikes

Once your child moves to a pedal bike it's time to consider what bike type will work best. Where you will be cycling plays a part in choosing the right bike type. If your child will by cycling on mostly flat terrain look for a city bike or road bike. Riders near the coast might opt for a beach cruiser. But if you are biking off-road look for a mountain bike or BMX-style bicycle.

A child who will do a combination of biking on streets, sidewalks, and rough terrain might consider a hybrid bike. Hybrid bikes have features of both city bikes and mountain bikes and can handle mixed-terrain. That makes them a versatile bicycle choice for almost everyone. Older kids who bicycle long distances or deal with a lot of hills might benefit from an electric bike, also known as an e-bike.

Ensure a Correct Bike Fit

According to the experts at Schwinn, one of the most important aspects of selecting a kids' bike is making sure it fits! When a child comfortably fits their bike, it instantly boosts their confidence which correlates to improved handling and safety. Since sizing is key, it's worth spending some time figuring out the right bike size and the right bike fit before setting on a specific bike. It can be notoriously hard to find the right size kids bicycle because guidelines vary by type and manufacture. Don't worry about getting technical. You don't need to worry about measuring from the top tube to the saddle.

A good first step is to measure a child's leg inseam starting from their foot to their crotch. You also need to know the child's height. Then, consult a bike size chart and look for bikes online. An adjustable seat is also a must so that your child's bike has a little room to grow with them. If your child is between sizes it can be tempting to go up a size. However, this is not always the best idea as your child may not be able to reach the handlebars on a bigger bike and may not be comfortable. If your child falls into this category it may be a good idea to look for a second-hand bike that is the right size. Once your child grows a little you can invest in the right size bike that will hopefully last your child a few years.

@growing.up.wright on a Frog Bike

Cost Considerations for Kids Bikes

Quality bikes are not cheap. If the right bike is out of your price range look for a direct-to-consumer option. Some parents buy kids' bikes second-hand, especially if they have their eye on a high-end bicycle. If you go this route, it's a good idea to take the bike to a bike shop to be fine-tuned to ensure there are no safety issues. Bike weight also plays a role in pricking. Light aluminum frames will be more expensive than other frames. Paying attention to "extras" you don't need can help you find the right bike and the right price.

Adding bells and whistles may make it a little easier to ride but may not be worth the added cost for most riders, especially for a kids bike.

Big box stores like Walmart often have sales on bikes. Keep your eyes open for sales, especially around holidays and the end of summer.

Knowing what is standard in the type of bike you are looking for is helpful. For example, a 20-pound or 30-pound bike might sound heavy. However, that is a standard weight for a bike so looking for something much lighter will cost a lot.

Where to Look for Kids Bikes

If you are not sure where to start, a local bike shop can help you find the perfect new bike with the perfect bike size for your rider. Some kid-friendly bike shops may also let your child go for a test ride. If you don't have a local bike shop don't worry. Many sporting goods stores also carry bikes. Take your child's measurements and find a reliable size chart. Bear in mind that some brands have different size frames, especially for kids' bikes, so double-check your measurements against the brand's bike size chart before making a purchase. Looking for a top-rated bike like Schwinn online may be a good option, especially if you can't try the bike in person. While there is no shortage of bicycle brands out there sticking with a tried-and-true brand like Schwinn is always a good idea.

Once you get your child biking, you won't want to stop! You may even something creative like tandem biking or bike-sharing. Or you may add a fun accent like a bell or basket. The most important thing is that you and your child have funriding together in the fresh air! You will feel so much pride as your little one's aptitude increases. Many discovered a love of biking during the pandemic that will continue for years to come. Given how much fun biking is for the entire family, it's no wonder that bicycling has skyrocketed in popularity!


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