Bikes are a great source of exercise and fresh air for everyone. Taking a leisurely ride around your neighbor hood or plunging through the trees and hills of an all terrain ride, or doing that long haul on your city’s bike trails, are all good family activities. No matter your choice of riding landscape, safety is important. That makes choosing the right bike for your child essential.
Balance bikes are a great way to start your toddler off with bicycling. There are no pedals and the child learns balance and motion without the wobbly feel of peddling. This can make the transition to a pedal bike with training wheels easier. From that first bike there are many options depending on age and size of your child, how long you want the bike to last, and your budget.
Here are a few things you will want to take into consideration when choosing the right bike for your child.
Choosing the right size
- 12”= 18 months to age 4
- 14”= 3 to 5 years
- 16”= 4 to 6 years
- 20”= 5 to 8 years
- 24”= 7 to 10 years
- 26”= 10 years and up
Because age isn’t the only factor, every size can be suitable for a wide age range. Measuring your child’s inseam is the most important factor. You want your child to be able to stand and straddle their bike with the tips of their toes touching the ground. If they can stand flat footed, the bike is too small.
Seat height: This is just as important as tire size. Getting an adjustable seat is a plus as you can use the bike longer as your child grows in height. If the seat is too high, knee strain could be a result.
Handle bar height: If all terrain riding, or with an aggressive rider, lower bars are best. For normal use, or for a timid rider, this isn’t the best option as it can put some strain on the neck. Optimal height is a mid bar range that puts their arms just above their hip level. Higher bars hinder rider control of the bike.
Bike weight: The safest bikes are lightweight, however they are more expensive. The ideal bike should be less than 40% of your child’s weight.
Some great examples are the Rothan balance bike frame which weighs only 7.7 lbs and the Cnoc 14 for ages 3 and up that weighs in at 13.5 lbs. Both are made by Islabikes. They are on the higher end price wise.
Type of brakes
Pedal brake: These brakes are operated by pushing back on the pedals, easy to learn, yet offers less control.
Hand brakes: Most kids between ages three and five have developed the eye hand coordination to use these. They simple squeeze the lever to stop the bike. No thinking about reversing foot movement to confuse them.
Chain Guard: A chain guard will protect feet and clothing from getting sucked into the chain.
Pedals: The pedals should have a good tread so that feet don’t slip while pedaling.
Length of Use
Most bikes can be used for years with a few adjustments as your child grows, such as removing training wheels, raising seats and handlebars. Purchasing one that allows you to do these things will mean a longer use time. Also, a good bike can be passed on to the next child, or resold as used.
When purchasing a bike, if your child is on the higher height and weight range for the tire size, you will probably not get as long of a stretch of time with it. However, buying a bike too big thinking your child will “grow into it” presents some safety issues.
Kid’s bikes can be purchased on any budget. There are safe, cheaper versions out there, or buying used is perfectly good as long as the bike meets the safety issues discussed and the size of your child. There are many high end bikes that cost hundreds of dollars out there as well.
Do your research first, and if you can afford a higher end bike, go to a bike shop and have your child “fitted” for the perfect bike. Otherwise, take your kid with you when you shop and let them have a sit to check the fit and see if they are able to work the handbrakes.
Biking is a great way to spend time together as a family, to get kids outside, and it has been an iconic American pastime for kids for decades. With the right safety equipment and some good research, you will not have to worry about anything, except maybe getting them to come inside.