Archived General DB Blogs
Bikes for Kids!
Posted: Apr 25 2008
Which bike is right for your child? How much should you spend? What is the difference between all the choices? Looking for a new kids bike can be overwhelming with all the choices. Here’s some tips to simplify your search and help with the right choice. Or you can drop in to any of our locations and we’ll help you pick a great new bike for that upcoming rider!
Most children’s and youth bikes are measured by wheel size. When the youth is ready for an adult bike, those models are usually measured by frame size. Here’s the progression of children’s sizes, with a few typical details and general age range.
Run Bike Just as the name implies, this beginner bike has no pedals and is pushed along with the feet. Usually with 8-10” non-scuffing wheels, available in aluminum or steel frames. Generally works best for children 2-4 years old and is a good alternate to a tricycle. Price range $99-119
12” Wheel Smallest typical pedal bike. One gear, coaster brake (push back on pedals), includes training wheels. Usually steel framed, usually available in boy and girl colours and styles. Age range usually 3-5 years old. Price range $119-129
14” Wheel Less widely available, generally the same features as 12” bike, but provides a beginner alternative for larger kids ages 3-5. Price range $129 and up
16” Wheel One gear, coaster brake, some versions introduce rear hand brake as well, some versions have simple front suspension, aluminum or steel frames, come in ‘BMX Style’ (raised handlebars) or mountain bike style with flatter handlebars. Most are equipped with removable training wheels. Generally fits ages 4-7. Price range $149 and up
20” Wheel First size with much wider choice of features. Usually the first size that will provide multiple gears (usually 6 or 12). If gears are included, brakes will be hand only. Single speed versions will have coaster brakes. Other features available are front suspension, girls frames with lower standover height, some have rear suspension. Range of frame materials from basic steel to alloy, to light aluminum. Training wheels can be fitted on single speed versions. Usually fits 6-9 years old. Price Range $189 and up
24” wheel Much wider choice at this size, from basic price point ‘larger kids bikes’ to more expensive ‘scaled down adult bikes’. Most have gears, range from 6 to 27 speeds. Most include front suspension, there are some choices with rear suspension as well. Disc brakes are available, but not common yet. Girls’ specific frame design and colours available in some models. Frame material choices are same as 20” bikes. Usually fits 8-12 year olds.
Price range: $199 to over $1000
Bike Fit for Kids
For kids to learn to ride more quickly and to enjoy it and progress their skills, good fit is essential. If the bike is too large, they’ll find it harder to control and may not enjoy the challenge, plus it can be unsafe. Too small is also a common problem and will limit the ability to progress by riding on grades, trails or keeping up with others. A too-small bike is also often unstable and unsafe.
Fit guidelines These simple rules-of-thumb will help pick the size. The above age estimates are just that. Actual fit will depend on the child, the particular model of bike, the intended type of riding and the child’s riding skill level. And of course we can help!
Young and beginner children
- When seated on saddle, both feet should be flat on ground, legs somewhat extended.
Confident riders, off training wheels
- When seated on saddle, both feet should touch tiptoe, legs comfortably extended.
- Reach to handlebars requires some extension or lean forward but not a stretch
Advanced riders, riding gear bikes and trails
- When standing on ground flat footed over crossbar, there should be minimum 1-2cm of clearance from the body to the bar.
- Saddle should be able to be adjusted so legs can be close to fully extended at bottom of pedal stroke
- Reach should be extended with some lean forward, arms bent not locked.
How to know if the bike is too small?
- Seatpost is fully extended and when seated the child is flat footed on ground with legs still bent.
- Knees hit or come close to handlebars when riding
- Very upright riding position
How do you decide how much is worth it? Especially at the larger sizes there is a wide range of pricing – what drives the differences? Generally the old cycling maxim applies:‘Light, Durable, Inexpensive – Pick 2’ This helps explain the trade-offs and also helps compare choices from various manufacturers.
- More expensive bikes are generally made with lighter frame materials which are also usually more durable.
- Parts and components are generally higher quality on pricier bikes and this again leads to lower weight and better durability
- Features and things like a wider range of gears, suspension or accessories like fenders and baskets can add cost to otherwise comparable bikes
So, deciding how much to invest in a child’s bike is really mostly about your budget and the intended usage of bike:
- Less expensive bikes are generally heavier, less durable and have fewer features. But if your child is just planning to ride a few flat blocks to school or the park a few times a week, that may be just fine!
- If you have multiple kids and plan on handing down the bike, durability may come into play as paying 20-30% more now may be better than a new bike for child #2
- If the planned use is more off road trail riding, frequent riding or lots of hills, then factors like weight, number of gears and performance of suspension may be more important.
- We’ll help you find the right bike for your child – not the most expensive one!
We, like most independent bicycle dealers, stock a range of price points in all kids sizes, but also try to ensure that we provide quality above a certain basic level. You can often find cheaper bikes out there at department stores and large sports retailers, but we encourage you to compare the product quality as well as the offered service. All of our kids bikes are backed by our free lifetime tune-up policy (just like our adult bikes) and all come with manufacturers warranties. And we will price match on any bike that we stock if you find it somewhere for less.
Other necessities to consider
Helmets! Not only is it the law in BC for all bicycle riders to wear a helmet, it is pretty widely accepted to be a good, sensible idea. But wearing a helmet that does not fit properly, is damaged or otherwise worn-out is almost the same as not wearing one.
Kids helmets are available for as little as $25 and rarely more than $50. We’ll help make sure they fit and show you how to care for them and inspect for damage.
We have a wide range of accessories for kids including bells, gloves, armour, and clothing that add to safety and enjoyment.
More questions for us about kids bikes? Additional insights or comments to share? You can share them here in our shop talk community forum
Here at Different Bikes, we encourage active lifestyles wherever possible, especially for children. We are a proud sponsor of Pedalheads riding camps , SPOKE and numerous local community school programs, bike events and fundraisers. We also contribute regularly to local and national charitable causes that benefit children and promote healthy active lifestyles including BC Children’s Hospital, Lion’s Gate Hospital, Athletics for Kids (A4K), Thinkfirst, and Canadian Diabetes.