Quality kids’ bikes are definitely not simply scaled-down adult bikes, they have specific geometry and components optimised for the proportions of a child. Here are some of the key considerations you should keep in mind when finding the right bike for your little adventurer:
Weight of kid's bikes
Cheap kids’ bikes will often have several flaws, most notable will be their weight. When cutting costs, brands will have to use heavier components and the frame will often weigh more too – creating an overall mass that often reflects a notable percentage of the child’s weight. Parents sometimes struggle to understand why every incline results in an outbreak of the waterworks – but we’d be crying too if our bikes weighed half as much as us.
One characteristic that is shared with adult bikes is the trade-off between low weight and robustness. Any child’s bike needs to withstand some rough treatment, but a heavy-duty bike which is difficult to get moving will likely put a child off riding.
Do kid's bikes need suspension forks and lots of gears?
Some children want a bike that looks just like an adult version – and if they’re aspiring after an adult mountain biker, things can get tricky. It’s common to see children’s bikes with suspension forks, but most quality manufacturers don’t provide this until children are at least eight years old.
This is because a young child’s upper body mass is low and they’re rarely able to get the most from even finely tuned, responsive forks – and suspension will always add to the overall weight of the bike.
When it comes to gears – these should be introduced gradually. Most brands opt for single chainrings, with a wide spread at the rear cassette. For learners, this makes the whole process easier – and for older children, even those on racing road bikes, the single chainring allows the brand to keep the weight down.
Kid's bike geometry
When creating quality a kid's bike with optimum geometry, reach is the first thing to consider. With longer legs relative to their torso, and musculature that doesn’t allow them to lean forward as an adult would, a shorter reach is a must. As a minimum requirement the bike needs a proportionately shorter top tube, and a short stem.
When buying a kid's bike, do:
Look for a bike with scaled-down components, not just adult ones on a smaller frame
Check the weight of the bike against competitors.
Make sure your child can operate the brake and gear levers comfortably.
Check for close pedal spacing and a low bottom bracket for comfortable pedalling and safe stopping.
Ask one of our experts if you are unsure of how to set it up and get the fit right.
When buying a kid's bike, don’t:
Buy a bike which is too large in the expectation that a child will grow into it. They will have a nervous time until they do.
Get a bike which is too heavy for a child to enjoy riding.
Buy a bike without the flexibility for different types of riding.
Just consider the up-front cost of the bike, longevity and resale value are important too.
Kid's bike styles and wheel sizes explained
Starter bikes for ages three to five
At this point, bikes will have pedals and a chain to drive the wheels. Gears are often not deemed necessary, with children instead learning the basic skills – uncomplicated by shifting. Tyres will often be multi-use and wheel sizes usually sits at 14 to 16 inch.
Kids’ bikes for ages five to ten
Of course, children will grow a lot in this age bracket – and wheel sizes usually start at 16 inches and go up to 26 inches – which is only a little smaller than a standard adult road bike wheel. Most brands will estimate the wheel and frame size ideal for each age – but clearly children grow at different rates, so check the size guide and ideally organise a test ride so you can be sure the bike fits.
Children may start wanting to explore the world a little more – and often these bikes will have some gears to help them negotiate any obstacles the terrain throws up at them. Single chainrings remain popular within this age group.
Kid's mountain bikes
For those that want to enjoy a little rough and tumble through the woods, then a proper kid's mountain bike might be on the cards. Knobbly tyres that will provide plenty of traction are available from the starter bike category – but it’s only at the 24 inch wheel size for kids over eight that you’ll start to see front suspension. These should be tuned for a lighter rider.
The better bikes on the market will also come with custom-designed bars with a short reach and drop to maintain a comfortable riding position.
In Conclusion, Things to look for in a good kid's bike:
Pay attention to weight, heavy kid's bikes represent a large percentage of the child’s weight.
Don’t buy a bike for a child to ‘grow into’ – it’ll gather dust and quality kid's bikes hold their value in resale anyway.
Look for bikes with gear and brake levers that are child specific, smaller and easier to use.
Opt for single chainrings until children are older – at least over 8, double chainrings add weight and complication.
Avoid suspension until children are in their pre-teen years, it adds weight and they often aren’t heavy enough in the upper body to use it.
Choosing the best kid's bike for your child is a serious business. If it’s your child’s first bike, you want to make sure the machine you opt for will provide them with a good introduction to the world of cycling.
If you aced stage one, and now they’ve got the racing bug, you want to choose a bike that will be safe, comfortable – and competitive, ideally without clearing out your bank account completely.
The greatest temptation for any parent is to buy a kid's bike that their child will ‘grow into’ but this is likely to put them off bikes altogether – as will opting for a cheaper model which is about as heavy as they are.
As always, the Bike Craft team are here to offer help and advice to make sure you make the right choice choosing the right ride for your little one. We also have a superb range of children's helmets to help stay safe and all of our helmets come with a free fit from our experts!
You can view all our Kid's Bikes here
Read our full review of the Squish 24" MTB here