Getting their first bike is a big moment in any child’s life. It opens up a whole new world of fun, adventure and independence. Equally important is choosing a bike that suits your child. That’s your job.
The choice in children’s bikes is almost endless and finding the right one can be a pretty daunting task. We’re here to help. Here’s our top ten tips to help you find the right bike for your child.
Make sure your child is ready for a two-wheeler
Kids grow fast and most will out-grow a bike seat or bike trailer by the time they’re three or four by which time most children are ready to try a two-wheeler bike. Not all children are the same though so don’t just buy…..
Get the right size
Don’t be tempted to buy a bigger bike they can “grow into”. Many parents have fallen into this trap only to discover their child feels too unstable and simply refuses to ride. That brand new shiny bike is left abandoned in the garage, gathering dust. Do your research and buy the best bike you can afford that suits your child.
Bikes for kids are based on wheel diameter, not seat height and frames like adult bikes. You’ll usually find the measurements on the wheel itself. As a guide, the following sizes should apply:
3-5 years 30cm / 12 inches
6-8 years 40cm / 16 inches
9-11 years 50cm / 20 inches
Your child should be able to straddle the bike with their feet flat on the ground then, with a slight tilt of the bike, be able to sit on the seat with one foot still grounded and the other on the pedal.
They shouldn’t be scrunched up with their knees hitting the handlebars and they shouldn’t be stretched out and unable to turn the handlebars easily. This is important because, as your child learns to ride at slow speeds, most of the steering is done with the handlebars. As they gain in confidence and speed they will learn to steer by leaning.
Buy from someone who knows bikes
These days most kids bikes are sold at stores with employees who are unlikely to know much about the bikes they are selling, let alone the difference between coaster and hand brakes. The good news is that all bikes sold in Australia must conform to the Safety Standard so you know you’re at least buying a safe bike. The bad news is that not everyone can assemble a bike and we’ve seen our fair share of good bikes assembled wrong.
We recommend you buy from a bike shop and pay to have it assembled there. It’s a small investment but well worth it.
A word about brakes
Choosing the right brakes is critical to ensure your child’s safety on the bike. It’s a thrill to see them riding but you also want them to be able to stop right?
Kids younger than five generally don’t have hands big enough or strong enough to use hand-breaks. Coaster or back-pedal brakes are best for younger riders, especially those learning on their first two-wheeler. As bikes get bigger, coaster brakes are less common which can present a dilemma if your child is particularly tall.
If your child needs a larger bike but you feel coaster brakes are the safest option, visit a bike shop and talk to someone who knows about bikes. They may be able to custom assemble or modify a bike for you.
Choose the right colour
It may seem unimportant to you but believe us when we say the wrong colour bike can turn your child off cycling for life… or at least until you’ve found enough stickers featuring their favourite cartoon character to cover the bike. This is an important consideration that you must take into account.
Children grow fast and, before long (in about two years), they will have outgrown their Chistmas 2013 bike and be ready for the next one. When the time comes there will be many other parents just like you looking to off-load perfectly good bikes to a new home.