A buyer’s guide to kids’ bicycles

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Children’s bikes are a fast growing segment in bike industry. As buying a bike for your offspring is the best decision you can make for you and your child, we will answer several questions regarding these products: how to choose the wheel size, how much a kid’s bike should weigh or what size the frame should be. These are just a few of the topics that we approach.

From the very beginning, you should know that the bike for your child has to be strictly correlated with his or her age and weight. Think about what a 15 kilograms bike could mean to a child weighing 25 kilograms: it represents more than half of his body weight and translated for us, adults, this means that an 80 kilograms average person would to pedal on 38 kilograms bike. And that’s pretty impossible, isn’t it? Therefore, with regards to this first aspect, for a child weighing 25 kg, the ideal bike does not exceed 10 kg in weight.

Bicycles for children according to their age

For children aged between 1 and 4 years, bikes without pedals (Strider is an interesting example) or tricycles are to be recommended. These bikes will help them develop their moves and prepare them for regular bikes. It is recommended to keep their tire pressure low.

Between 3 and 5 years, you can buy your child a bicycle with 12, 14 or 16 inch wheels. If the first two categories usually come equipped with training wheels while being designed for children between 90 and 100 cm tall, 16-inch wheels bikes are recommended for children  between 105 and 115 cm tall. Training wheels are not necessarily recommended because when switching to a bike without this extra help, the child won’t know exactly how to take a turn,  risking injury. Also when purchasing a bike in this class, you must make sure it is equipped with a chain guard, this part being completely enclosed.

There are several bicycles suited for kids aged between 5 and 8 years. 18-inch wheels are recommended for those between 1.15 and 1.25 m tall while bikes with 20 inch wheels are recommended for children between 1.20 and 1.40 m tall. Also, bikes in this class are already equipped with complex transmission systems, featuring rear derailleurs.  Overall, 7 speeds should be enough for children, but parents can also opt for a 3-speed internal hub.

Due to the presence of a multi-speed transmission the weight of the bicycle increases proportionally with the level of equipment. This is why it is preferable to choose a single speed transmission (one chainring, one sprocket). Also avoid as much as possible suspension fork in this class because they fail to offer the expected comfort, only adding more to the bicycle. Maximum recommended weight for these bikes is 10 kg.

The penultimate category is represented by bicycles with 24-inch wheels, recommended for children aged 8 to 11 years. These are specifically designed for children with heights between 1.35 and 1.55 m, being actually very close to the most common bikes, equipped with 26 inch wheels. The price of these bikes is not very low as you may find them equipped with performance suspension, disc brakes and complete transmission systems. Weight for these bikes should not exceed 13 kg.

Children aged 10, 11 years or more can step to regular bikes with 26-inch wheels. It is important that the frame size does not exceed 14 inch and that the stem is as short as possible for the child not to lean too much over the bicycle. Maximum recommended weight for this class is 14 kg. Also, for this age group, mountain bikes designed for women are well suited because of their more compact, step-through low frame, offering a more comfortable riding position.

Components for kids’ bikes

How should bicycle components be chosen for your child in order to give her or him the best cycling position.

Frame – should be as small as possible, preferably 13 or 14 inch. It must also allow the saddle to be lowered so that the child can touch the ground with his feet anytime. A lower frame allows the child feel at ease on its new bike.
Fork and suspension – we strongly recommend a fixed fork without any suspension, as it only adds unnecessary weight to these bicycles. In addition, a child is too light for the suspensions to really work. A rear shock is out of discussion also.
Handlebar and stem – handlebar should not be wider than child’s shoulders. Stem should be as short as possible so that the child is able to put his hands on the handlebar, quick and in full comfort.

Brakes and brake levers – V-brakes are recommended in this class while pedal operated brakes are also suitable. Make sure that the brake levers are small, and are as drawn towards the handlebars as possible, ready to be used. Brake levers must be easy to operate and you can test this yourself: pull the brake lever. If you find it difficult, imagine how this should feel for your child! If you do not want to change brakes, ask the sales representative to grease the cables so that the brakes will work easier.

Crankset –check that arms length is proportional to the size of bicycle wheels. Longer arms, being very close to the ground, can lead to injuries and also, the child will have to stretch his legs more than normal. The shorter the distance between the two crank arms (Q factor), the healthier it gets for the child’s growing feet. For bicycles with 16-inch wheels, the arms length should not exceed 100 mm while for the 20-inch wheels arms should not be any longer than 125 mm. For the 24-inch wheels we recommend a maximum of 150 mm, and finally, for bicycles fitted with 26 inch wheels, maximum length for crank arms should not exceed 170 mm.

Pedals – these should be as wide as possible, and must not be equipped with additional metal traction pins.  Keep in mind that small kids are very likely to hit their legs on to the pedals, the foot being prone to sliding off, which might lead toskin injury. Straight surfaces will produce a more reasonable impact.

Do not forget about protections!

Protections must be taken into account when setting the budget for your child’s bike. If lights or a water bottle present no interest in this class of bikes, protections are important. A helmet is the minimum parents must ensure for their baby riding two wheels, but it is best to opt for both the elbow and the knee protections.

Conclusion

These are the most important aspects that need to be taken into consideration when purchasing a children’s bicycle. Remember, bike weight should be proportional to the weight of your child, choose the right bike according to your child’s height and do not forget about the protections.

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