With all the choices available, buying the right bike for your kid can be daunting. We ask bike experts Wheelies for what advice they would give to parents when choosing a child's bike.
Buying a kid’s bike is a magical experience for both the child and the parent.
It gives children their first taste of independence and adventure, with the added thrill of whizzing about.
With these top tips, you’ll find the perfect bike that your child will love.
1. Choose the right size bike for your child
Riding a bike which is too big is not only uncomfortable for children, it can be a safety hazard
Parents often fall into the trap of buying a kid’s bike, which is far too big, with the expectation that their children will grow into it.
Riding a too-big bike is not only uncomfortable for children but can also be a safety hazard, forcing them to adopt poor cycling techniques (like constantly riding out of the saddle) and leaving a bitter memory of the experience, which puts them off cycling altogether.
How to get your child the correct size bike
To help you find the right size bike for your youngsters, look at the Wheelies children’s bike sizing guide below.
2. Make sure there are child-friendly components
Components like brake levers and crank arms are very dependent on the rider’s size
Components like brake levers and crank arms are very dependent on the rider’s size, and there’s no question that a small child’s hand will struggle to reach and operate a brake lever designed for an adult.
Surprisingly, that’s exactly what you’ll find on many children’s bikes from less reputable brands.
On the other hand, brands like Frog Bikes have worked extensively with component manufacturers and physiology experts to design brake levers, gear shifters and crank arms which are suitable for younger children. Across their range, Frog use crank arms which are not only the appropriate length for children’s legs, they are spaced the appropriate width apart as well.
3. Safety First: Helmet AND Bike
features like a chainguard, bell and frame padding not only look fun, they add an element of safety to the bike as well
Children learning to ride tend to fall off and bump into things, so they must wear helmets.
As for the bike itself, features like a chainguard, bell and frame padding look fun and add an element of safety to the bike.
4. Aluminium vs Steel - can you tell the difference?
A genuine aluminium frame is far lighter than steel, making the bike much easier to ride for children
It’s cheaper and easier to manufacture a steel bike than aluminium, but the resulting bike becomes very heavy as a consequence.
To make things even worse, some of the cheap and nasty steel bikes are made with thick frame tubing so that they look like aluminium, making them even heavier again!
A genuine aluminium frame is far lighter than steel, making the bike much easier to ride for children.
It’s also a lot easier for parents to haul them up and into the back of the car too!
If you can’t read the spec and are unsure if a bike is made of aluminium or steel, put a magnet on the frame. Aluminium is non-magnetic.
5. You get what you pay for
Although good-quality kids' bikes may be more expensive to buy in the first place, they outperform and outlast cheap bikes and are much more fun in the process.
A child's bike that lasts for years can be handed down to younger siblings as they grow older, making the old saying ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ ever more accurate.
If you decide to re-sell your son/daughter's bike when they grow out of it, the resale value on quality brands like Frog bikes is surprisingly high.
Also, see if there is a trade-up scheme. Frog bikes have their own ‘Leapfrog’ scheme, which actively promotes the resale of Frog bikes amongst retailers, with selling prices often as little as £25 less than the original RRP.
6. Balance bikes vs stabilisers - Which is the best for learning to ride?
Balancing on a bike is a more critical core skill than pedalling
Balance bikes are so simple, yet they are an amazingly effective way to teach the youngest children how to ride them.
Balancing on a bike is a more critical core skill than pedalling, so when a child moves up to a bigger bike with pedals, they’ve already got the hang of it.
On the contrary, when children learn to pedal a bike with stabilisers, they may come to depend on them too much, resulting in some nasty spills and tumbles when the training wheels come off.
If your child is too tall for a balance bike when they start learning to ride, you can start by using a larger pedal bike with the pedals themselves removed.
7. Get a bike your child will love. But be careful!
try and get them to choose the bike they like the look of if you can
There’s nothing like the crushing disappointment you feel when your son/daughter takes one look at their new bike and refuses to touch it because they don’t like the colour.
Choosing a bike that your child likes is an essential factor towards getting them outdoors and cycling, so try to get them to choose the bike they like the look of.
However, one caveat to this is to remember tip number 4. Beneath many funky kids' bikes which look like police cars or have matching dolly seats and tassels, you’ll often find a heavy steel frame with thick tubing that looks like aluminium. Buyer beware!
8. Is that high-tech-looking bike suspension the best for your child?
full suspension kids' bikes should be avoided
Full-suspension kids ' bikes should be avoided unless you’re spending a lot of money on a fantastic kid’s bike.
They’re very heavy, use cheap and unreliable components, and the suspension does little more than make the bike wobbly and uncomfortable.
On the other hand, a hardtail (a bike with suspension at the front and a rigid ‘hard tail’) can be an excellent choice for older children who take their bikes off-road.
Although they’re more expensive and will add a little weight to the bike, hardtails with aluminium frames can be bought new for as little as £250.