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Is it time to buy your child their first bicycle? Or, is your "little one," not so little anymore and ready for a bigger bike, or one without training wheels?
If it's been a while since you've bike shopped, you're in for a pleasant surprise.
Today, there are more types of children's two-wheelers available than ever before. While this means you have a better selection, it also increases the possibility of purchasing the wrong bike or one that is lesser quality or poorly designed.
To help, here are some fun tips to ensure that you get a bike your tyke, kindergartner, pre-teen and young adult – and every juvenile in-between, will love. And remember that we're always happy to help answer questions, show you and your child which bikes fit and how they differ, and handle any other issues that crop up as you get your whole family pedaling together. We can keep a secret, too, in case that new tot rod is a surprise!
While adult bicycles are selected according to frame size, kids' bikes are sized (and referred to) according to wheel size (see our photos and chart below).
Also, fitting a bike to children is more than determining their age and height. We also (and you should) evaluate coordination and riding ability. For example, taller children lacking cycling confidence do much better on smaller bikes because they feel more comfortable and in control. And a coordinated 10-year old with long legs who has ridden smaller bicycles growing up might be ready for a full-size bike.
The most important deciding factor is safety. You want a bicycle that lets them ride easily in complete control. All our children's and young-adult bicycles are adjustable to fit as your child grows.
So, don't make the common mistake of believing you should get a bike that's a little big in order to have growing room for your child. Oversize bikes like this can be dangerous and can cause crashes. They're also harder to ride. These things can have the opposite effect of what you want, and instead of being fun for them, actually turn your kid off to cycling. And don't worry, once they've outgrown any bicycle, you can easily sell it online, in the newspaper or at a yard sale.
|Sizing by age and wheel size
Age: 2 - 4
Wheel size: 12-inch (or smaller)
| Age: 2 - 4
WS: 12-inch pedal bike (can include training wheels)
|Age: 3 - 6
WS: 16-inch pedal bike (can include training wheels)
|Age: 5 - 9
|Age: 7 - 11
|Age: 10 - Adult
When you're checking a bike's fit, make sure that the child can sit on the seat and place both feet firmly on the ground, which means they'll be able to hold themself upright and get on and off without difficulty. If the bicycle is equipped with training wheels, it's okay if the child reaches the ground with their toes only, because the training wheels provide the support.
As they develop their balance, gradually raise the training wheels so they get used to leaning the bike to turn. This is easy to do on our quality training wheels.
It's also important that children can comfortably reach the handlebars and steer. If the bars are out of reach, steering will pull them forward causing a loss of control. Plus, if the bicycle has hand brakes, it's crucial that the child can reach and operate the controls. If the child doesn't have the hand strength to operate the levers, it's usually possible to adjust the systems to make it easier for them, which we can help you with.
For children who cannot ride yet, and the youngest and least coordinated kids, running bikes are a great way to start. These compact, uncomplicated and totally fun learning machines are also referred to as balance or push bikes. They are very intuitive for most children and inspire confidence because their feet are on the ground so much of the time and the bikes are small, light and easy for them to handle.
These ingenious bikes have a sturdy frame, nice wheels and tires and a seat and handlebars, but they have no pedals, cranks, drivetrain or brakes. They are powered by the child pushing along with their feet, a natural motion they've already mastered. And, as they propel themselves along Fred Flintstone style, they quickly learn how to steer a bicycle and soon also get the feeling of balancing a two-wheeler. Once that happens they're well on their way to a pedal bike.
It's important to note that even new riders can scoot along quite quickly on running bikes. So be ready to keep an eye on your little ones and make sure they only ride where it's safe. Also, these bikes can handle pavement and dirt, so they're great for learning off-road skills, too.
Today, kids' pedal bikes vary as much as adult models. For tots, there are tiny brakeless "sidewalk" bikes not intended for street use. Once they turn about eight, many kids want BMX (Bicycle Moto Cross) models, which are ideal for everything from cruising to school and around town to trick riding, racing and dirt jumping. Also popular are cruisers, and even mini mountain bikes with suspension, and full-on performance road bicycles.
If your child is very small, you might be able to pick out a bike for them. Once they get a little older, though, this gets tricky. Remember, that it's their bike and keep in mind that they're more likely to want to ride and to get excited about biking if they've got the two-wheeler they like best.
To find out what they want, just ask them. Or bring home some catalogs or visit us online with them and have them point out models they like. Or, make a day of it and bring them in shopping so they can show you the models they think are cool.
If the new bike is a surprise gift, check what your child's friends ride. That should ensure that you pick a winner. Also, we're happy to exchange new bicycles if it turns out that your child had their heart set on a different type.
Our professional bike shop is the best place to buy
We hope that this basic information on choosing, sizing and buying a children's bicycle is helpful and that you'll come see us when it's time to share your cycling love with that eager little one. We carefully select the kid's models we carry and assemble every one by hand plus stand behind every bicycle with a full guarantee, too, should you ever have a problem. We also properly fit the bike to your child and can show you the adjustments you can make as your child grows.
We've got a full selection of accessories, too. You'll want to get them a helmet and we'll make sure that it fits right. And, if they're old enough to bike to school, you'll want them to have a quality lock and know how to use it. You might want them to have a light and bell or a rack for carrying books and clothing. We've got it all and are happy to show you.
This article was prepared in conjunction with our friends at People For Bikes who are working hard to make America more bicycle friendly.
Thanks for reading!