So, your little one is finally ready to graduate from a tricycle, and you’re wondering how to pick the right bicycle for her. If you’re like me, you can’t wait to share the joys of cycling with your child, and you want to make sure that he has the bike that will ensure he enjoys his time on it.
There aren’t nearly as many options for children’s bikes as there are for adults; most kid’s bikes are fairly sturdy with knobby tires, few gears and basic features. You might have a choice between a BMX-style bike and one with posts for doing tricks, but until you get into bikes for older kids you won’t see specialized road or mountain bikes.
Really, the most important consideration is size. Given how quickly children grow, it’s tempting to buy a bike that’s a little too big for them with the thought that they’ll grow into it. In this case, however, that reasoning is totally wrong. Especially for the littlest riders, it’s really important that their bikes fit them well. They already have issues with learning to balance, pedal and steer; they don’t need the additional stress of trying to reach their handle bars, pedals, or the ground.
Unlike adult bikes, for which sizes are based on frame measurements, kid’s bike sizes are based on tire diameter. The following chart will give you a place to start when looking for the right sized bike for your child. Nothing beats having them try different bikes on for size, however, or going to a reputable bike shop for a fitting. Make sure they can reach the handle bars comfortably and rest the balls of their feet on the ground while sitting in the seat. If the bike has hand brakes, be sure their hands are large enough and strong enough to squeeze the brakes fully.
Age Child’s Inseam Child’s Height Wheel Size
(years) (inches) (inches) (inches)
2 – 5 14 – 17 26 - 34 12
4 – 8 18 – 22 34 – 42 16
6 – 9 20 – 24 42 – 48 18
8 – 12 22 – 25 48 – 56 20
9+ 24 – 28 56 – 62 24
Please try to resist the urge to buy a cheap bike at a big box store. Not only will it not stand up to the rough use most children give their bikes, the employees at those stores are not bike mechanics. They won’t be able to accurately answer your questions or help you pick the right bike. More importantly, as they were most likely the ones who assembled the bikes, you’ll never be sure that they were put together correctly. Don’t risk your child’s well being to a faulty bike just to save a little money.
Last but not least, buy your child a helmet and make her wear it. Just as important, wear yours, too. Kids copy what they see. No matter how many times you tell them to wear their helmet, if you’re not wearing yours, they won’t either. Besides, you need to protect your brain, too!