Parenting: How to Choose a Bike for a Child

Kids grow at an alarming rate. It was only yesterday, or so it seems (!), that they were taking those first tottering steps from the crawling stage. All of a sudden, they want to be mobile.

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As they reach the age of three or four, you buy their first tricycle and soon they’re careering around the kitchen, front room, and the garden, continuously attempting to break the land speed record. Nonetheless, tricycles help the child learn how to steer, brake and peddle while sitting on a saddle.

Soon after comes the first bike. Though generally fitted with stabilisers, some believe these give the child a false sense of security. But as the child grows, strength and coordination increases, along with the extra confidence, until eventually a new, proper bike is required.

Buying that first ‘real’ bike:

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules that govern age of child, to size of bike. Children grow at different speeds. One six year old may be a head higher than another. So when the kids are looking to get mobile, how do you go about buying children’s bikes? On an average basis, the following is a rule of thumb guide.

  • For ages 3 years to 4 years — 12”/14” wheels.
  • For ages 5 years to 7 years — 16” wheels.
  • For ages 7 years to 9 years — 20” wheels.
  • For ages 9 years to 11 years — 24” wheels.
  • For 11 years plus 26” wheels (Adult size).

The best way to ensure the bike is the right fit is to take the child with you. Alas, that’s a bit of a problem if the bike is to be a surprise Christmas or birthday present, but there are ways around it. You just have to be a little bit crafty!

Get the most value for your money:

No matter how deep, or not, your pockets are, most of us want maximum value from what we spend our hard earned cash on. If your child is going to outgrow the bike in 12 months, then buying the bike won’t be the best idea. Buying the largest size bicycle they’re comfortable on is a far better option.

The most important thing, with your child sitting on the bike, is that their feet can touch the ground. Some say with one foot, but it is better that they can place both on the ground (they don’t have to be flat). The tip-toe position is perfectly adequate.

Secondly, with arms loosely outstretched, they should be able to lean forward comfortably, and grip the handle bars. Using this process to buy the largest bike for the child’s size should allow for plenty of growth, adjusting the seat and handle bars as the child’s size increases.

Finally, no matter how much you intend to spend on the bike, ensure a small amount is left to buy that all important, life-saving cycling helmet. Hopefully it never happens, but the time may come when you’ll be glad you did.

Clare Macnaughton; a modern military mother; a feminist, British military spouse, and lifestyle journalist, writing about real life adventures.

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