Kids, they do grow fast… So whether your child is on their bike all the time or just every now and then a bike is a must have for the garage or shed. If it is only now and then, at some point the scooter won't be the fastest mode of transport and the bike will replace it. It will teach them skills that will last for a lifetime and hopefully provide memories to match. It will also keep them a bit fitter than sitting on a tablet or games console.
The majority of children will have one bike that must adapt to a variety of purposes, so it is important to consider carefully the style of bike that you buy. It must be of a suitable size and be light enough for your child to manoeuvre. Will they be mainly on paved and level surfaces or more on tracks? The style and colour are more important features to child, although as parents you will obviously be more concerned with components and quality. Sometimes the Ben and Holly or the Star Wars bike will be the only way to get them on it though. In our experience, the more the child likes their bike the more they will ride it.
So how much to spend? A couple of things to consider. Firstly, how much use you think your child will get out of their new bike? Generally, a cheaper bike won't last as long as one that has a higher price tag. Materials used in manufacturing determines both of these factors along with paint and sticker quality. Secondly, can it be passed on to a brother or sister? If you need the bike to last through the growth of 2 or maybe 3 kids a bike that costs a little bit more will be a sound investment to help make it last.
Size is the most important factor for your Childs' bike. As this can vary from how an adult will fit a bike. When a child is young confidence and feels safe is very important and although it may be tough to come to terms with, on occasions it may be worth getting a size marginally too small to help build their confidence. If your child is quite happy to swing their leg over the saddle and go then generally you would aim to get the balls of their feet comfortably on the ground whilst sitting on the saddle. Make sure that the reach to the handlebars isn't too long as well. Riding a bike that's challenging to control is both dangerous and frightening for young children and may actually deter them from using it. To assist you in making the correct choice, we have provided approximate sizing as follows:
- Sub - 16in wheel Up to age 4
- 16in wheel Ages 4 to 6
- 20in wheel Ages 6 to 10
- 24in wheel Ages 9 to 12
Ages 4 and under
In this age group, your options for first cycles are normally a trike, balance bike or 12" wheel play bike. These can be either plastic or metal with simple friction bearings. Ideally you should look for wide set rear wheels to provide stability and a good quality front wheel axle. Proper ball bearing would be an added bonus.
Children usually learn to ride a bike between the ages of two and five. Although some find it a difficult skill to master, you can give them a head start by improving their balance and steering first. This is best achieved with a balance bike which is basically a child's bike without pedals. They should be able to sit on the saddle and have both feet flat on the floor: this enables them to propel the cycle using a scooting motion whilst learning to steer. The next step is to find a gentle decline so that they can practise coasting towards you. Once proficient at this it's time to progress to pedals.
Ages 4 to 6
In this age group we have now progressed to a 14"-20" wheel. The 14, 16 and 18" options will usually be single speed but once on a 20" the option of gears becomes available. Don't be scared of gears if your child isn't. They get used to using them very quickly, just think how quickly they mastered your smartphone…5 gears will be a doddle.
A low overall weight is of great importance so it's best to avoid things like suspension and heavy steel frames; look for thin steel tubing, these are perfectly adequate. A fairly low bottom bracket combined with shorter length cranks should enable your child to reach the floor from the saddle. Easy to operate brakes are now vital as your son or daughter may be capable of building up some speed.
Ages 6 to 10
In this age group you will start to find a much greater choice of components. Now on 20"-26" wheel and bigger frame allow for more gearing options and more options with regards to brakes and suspension.
Ages 9 to 12
In this age group you will find a tremendous range of frame styles, materials and component combinations. The bike specifications should now start to compare to an adults' bike in the same price bracket. The lightness of the cycle will also start to be maintained through the use of alternative materials such as aluminium instead of steel. The average 24" wheel bicycle will now be fitted with multiple gears at the rear axle and a triple (sometimes double) chainset at the front. You can expect to start finding adjustable alloy seat posts, brand name v-brakes and a choice of off road or semi slick tyres.
In this age range it really does depend on height but most will start to fit on a small adults' bike. This means a move onto a 26", 27.5" or 29" wheel and a 13" + frame. Once your child fits onto this size of bike the choices are endless. BMX's, dirt jump bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, full suspension there really is so much choice. We hope by this stage your child is an avid cyclist and may even have a bike for every occasion. If they have been well and truly bitten by the cycling bug you may even wish to consider a custom build.