Kids Gear

Everything You Need to Know About Choosing the Right Bike for Your Child

written by KATHY SISSON & BRETT NICOLE HAYDEN

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Source: @thiswildheart
Source: @thiswildheart

Riding a bike without training wheels is a quintessential kid milestone—and it was at the top of my daughter’s summer bucket list last year. It took some time, but one Sunday in early August, she asked her dad to take off her training wheels. She was off after just two wobbling tries. She has tasted a new kind of freedom, and I love watching her glow with pride over her accomplishment. I’ll admit I did some glowing too. My husband and I totally fumbled the entire bike buying process for our oldest, first ending up with a bike too big for our daughter and one with gears, which meant we couldn’t attach training wheels—#parentfail. We quickly realized there’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right bike for your child.

If getting your kiddo on two wheels is something you’re looking forward to this summer, we’ve got you covered. Read on for everything you need to know about choosing the right bike for your child.

Picking the Correct Size

First things first, kids’ bikes are available in different tire sizes. You will typically see 12”, 14”, 16”, 18”, and 20” tires. Some sizes go above and beyond this as well. This measurement refers to the diameter of the tire, and it’s the best way to judge which bike is right for your kid. Manufacturers usually provide age ranges, as well as height or inseam measurements, for kids bikes.

Here are the approximate age and size guidelines for kids’ bikes. There is some overlap, so when looking for the right bike for your child, other considerations might include budget, brand preferences, and availability.

  • Ages 18 months – 2 years: Balance bike
  • Ages 2 – 4 years: 12″ Bike
  • Ages 2 – 5 years: 14″ Bike
  • Ages 4 – 6 years: 16″ or 18″ Bike
  • Ages 7 – 9 years: 20″ Bike
  • Ages 9 – 11 years: 24″ Bike
  • Ages 11+ years: 26″ Bike

Other Sizing Considerations

Along with guideline considerations, there are a few other rules of thumb to keep in mind when bike shopping. First, remember that your child should be able to straddle the bike and stand flat on the ground. This means no tippy toes or resting on the seat in order to reach the ground. When it comes to handlebars, they should be able to grip them comfortably. We’ll want to allow for a slight bend in the elbows when gripping the handlebars, as opposed to being fully extended. Lastly, the seat height should allow for the child to ride in an upright position. When their leg is extended to the bottom pedal, there should be a slight bend in their knee.

Comfort

Perhaps even more important than recommended sizing guidelines is your child’s comfort level on their bike. It’s best to go bike shopping in person, when possible, as getting to physically try different models will help your child determine which is the most comfortable. They’ll want to consider how the seat, handlebars, pedals, and brakes feel.

choosing the right bike for your child
Source: @tinygirlgang

Finding the Right Helmet

Keeping our little riders safe is so important, and that’s where a quality, correctly-sized helmet comes in. To find the right helmet size, start by measuring the circumference of your child’s head one inch above their eyebrows. While sizes may vary between brands, according to Schwinn, the following is a typical helmet size guide:

  • 17¼ – 19¾”: Infant Helmet Size
  • 19 – 20½”: Toddler Helmet Size
  • 20½ – 22″: Child Helmet Size
  • 21¾ – 22¾”: Youth Helmet Size
  • 22¾ – 24″: Adult Helmet Size

They also suggest that if your child is between sizes, it is best to size up. You’ll want the helmet to sit approximately one finger above their eyebrows and it should be snug to their head. The side clasps should sit below their ears, and the straps should be tight enough that only one finger fits under it when fastened. Ready to purchase a helmet for your little one? Shop the best helmets for toddlers and kids here!

Training Wheels vs. Balance Bikes

Many of us learned to ride a bike thanks to training wheels. There is some debate, however, that they may cause children to take longer to learn how to ride. Ultimately, it’s up for each family to decide what’s best for their child. If you decide to not go with training wheels, there is the option to begin your child on a balance bike that includes two wheels but no pedals. The purpose is to help them find their balance, which advocates of balance bikes say will help them with bike riding in the long run.

Brake Options

In general, there are two types of brake options out there. Coaster brakes are brakes on the pedals, while hand brakes are on the handle bars. Several sources agree that hand brakes are the best bet for kids. Most adult bikes are made with hand brakes, so learning to use them right away will prevent children from having to re-learn how to brake when it comes time to upgrade to a bigger ride.

choosing the best bike for your child
Source: @strollergang

Budget Considerations

Buying a bike for your child can easily feel like an investment. Pricing will be determined by size, brand, and added features. When it comes to buying your child’s first bike, it could be on the more affordable side at around $100, or hit as high as $500. Something to keep in mind, though, is that as your kid grows the bike won’t necessarily grow with them. We’ll want to keep safety in comfort in mind, which may mean replacing their bike for a larger size as they age.

Accessories

Like all good things in life, kids may want to accessorize their new bike. Some accessories may be purely decorative, and others may serve nice-to-have purposes. This is also something to consider when thinking about budget. Things like a basket, colorful lights for the wheels, tassels, headlights, and bells are a few you may consider.

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