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What Type of Bike Should I Buy my Child?

28 February 2023

Children can ride balance bikes from 1 year old. As they grow they will need bigger bikes and eventually figure out gears. They may then choose to go into BMX or mountain bikes so researching what bike to choose is important. What kind of cycling would you be likely to do with them? Are they going to compete? Uncomfortable bikes with dodgy brakes are no fun to ride and can be dangerous. 

Starting Out

Balance bikes with no pedals teach preschool children balance and steering. Some even have brakes. If they have mastered a balance bike, the child will not need stabilisers when moving on to pedal bikes.

Once they are confident scooting along at speed and stopping, your child can move on to a single gear 12-inch or 14-inch pedal bike. Bikes are measured in inches of the diameter of the wheel. The brakes should be easy to apply. You can test them with your little finger. Some have back pedal brakes. A lighter bike is preferable.

Moving On Up

From age 6 to 9 children can move on to a 20-inch bike with 3 to 6 gears. Again a lighter bike is easier. A kickstand is useful so your child can stand the bike up when not riding. They will be hopping on and off a lot. You will want mudguards, a carrier stand and dynamo lighting.

Traditionally bikes have been designed for women without the crossbar. This had more to do with riding in skirts and is unnecessary for children. A women’s saddle, however, will be more comfortable as it has cushioning in the right places. If you want to hand the bike down from an older to a younger child choose neutral colours.

Mountain or Hybrid Bike?

From age 8 - 12 a child might need a 24-inch bike. These have all the features of adult bikes including some with 18-21 speeds. Mountain bikes come in this size for off-roading. They have wider wheels with chunkier tyre treads. Road bikes have narrow wheels and curved handlebars. These position the rider right forward so they create less wind resistance.

Hybrid bikes are a cross between mountain and road bikes and are easy and fun to ride. They have flat handlebars, easy to change gears, and are lightweight with no suspension. Children’s bikes need to be versatile so they can go beyond paved roads and muddy tracks.

26-inch adult bikes are heavier so just because your child is tall enough they might not be suitable.

BMX Bikes

If your child is into stunts and tricks they may want to get a BMX bike. They are light with short frames and wide tyres and designed for sprints rather than long distances. They can still ride them to school though, up to a distance of about 5 miles.

There is a second-hand bike market for children’s bikes with high quality outgrown models. Bike Club offers membership where a monthly subscription means they can swap a new or refurbished bike as they grow. There is a fee for the first bike.

Photo by Gustavo Fring

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