With so many kids’ bikes now on the market, it can be tough for parents to make the right choice. It’s an important decision because an unsuitable bike will make riding frustrating, uncomfortable and just not fun, and that risks putting them off altogether. Here are a few pointers to make sure they get the right bike that will open up a lifetime of enjoyable cycling.
Get the right size
The single most important consideration is to get the right sized frame. Just like buying clothes for them it can be tempting to go one size up because they grow out of things so quickly. Don’t do it. A bike that is too large will be heavier, more unwieldy and more difficult to ride, particularly for those starting out.
Bikes for small people are measured by the wheel size. Here’s a guide to sizing based on age and/or height, but more important is to test ride the bike and make sure it’s comfortable.
Probably the next most important factor is weight. Go for the lightest bike you can, as this will make the bike simpler to get started, easier to control, and more fun to ride. Putting a child on a bike that weighs as much as your adult bike just ain’t fair and risks putting them off for life. Avoid suspension and other unnecessary extras.
Small brakes for small hands
The best kids’ bikes have scaled down components to suit the rider. Most importantly, look for brakes with a shallow reach that can be easily operated by small hands. Cranks (the arms connecting each pedal to the chainring) should be also be an appropriate length. BMX style bikes with low saddles and long cranks create a riding position which is inefficient and soon becomes uncomfortable.
Ditch the stabilisers
Stabilisers give kids a false sense of being able to ride a bike whilst preventing them from learning the most important skill – balance. The best way for pre-schoolers to learn is to start them off on a balance bike. For older children learning to ride for the first time, a regular bike can be converted to a balance bike by removing the pedals, and refitting them once they are confident in balancing and steering. If you want a little help getting them going from a professional instructor, take a look at what training’s available.
Show a little love
Having invested in a decent bike, show it some love by keeping it well maintained. These tips for getting the most from your (grown up) bike apply just as well to smaller ones. A smooth, fast ride is an enjoyable one.
Try before you buy
If at all possible get your child to test a number of bikes. This can be the best way of steering them away from the one with the Batman logo, or the one with stunt pegs, or the one with the basket. Put them on a well-fitting light bike and they’ll work out for themselves that it’ll be a pleasure to ride, and they’ll be more likely to ride it if they feel that it was their choice.
Don’t believe it? Here’s how real kids rated bikes from a number of popular brands.