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Choosing the perfect Kid's Bike

How to choose the right Kid's Bike

Do you remember your first bike? Perhaps you remember it waiting for you under the Christmas tree with a big shiny bow on it. If you're planning on making dreams come true for a special child in your life this holiday season, make sure you read through our tips for choosing the right kid's bike!

Size Matters

The wheel sizes you'll see on kid's bikes are 12", 16", 20" and 24". You will want to make sure that your child can stand over the top tube of the bike with both feet firmly on the ground. You want your child to feel in control of the bike - not overwhelmed by it! Because of this, we do not recommend buying a bike that is large so that your child can "grow into it." Doing this can set your child back in terms of riding skills and confidence. A correctly sized bike will be much easier for your child to handle, much safer, and consequently, a lot more fun.

If your tot is just starting out with bikes, you may want to consider beginning her on a balance bike - a bike in its simplest form. On a balance bike there's no pedals or chain, just wheels and a frame. A balance bike helps teach 2- to 5-year-olds how to coordinate steering and balance and can make the transition to a big kid bike much easier.

Braking Matters

When looking for a kid's bike, the most important mechanical parts of a bike, overall, are the brakes.  You want your child to have control of getting his bike stopped.  Kids' bikes usually have either coaster brakes (brakes on the back wheel that are engaged by pedaling backwards), or handbrakes (brakes engaged by a grip on the handlebars that pinches brake pads against the rim of the wheel) or both.  Because of children's small hand size and limited hand strength, the smallest kids’ bikes have coaster brakes.  Until a child’s hands are large and strong enough to effectively use a handbrake, they should rely on coaster brakes.  However, a bike with both brake options offers opportunities to for kids to practice the next style of braking before moving up in bike size.

Weight Matters

While most adult bikes are about 20% of the rider's weight, this ratio isn't really found on kids' bikes. Ideally, though, your child's bike should be 40% of their weight. The lighter the bike, the better for your child. The weight of a bike is often a first indicator of the quality of the bike.

Geometry Matters

A child’s body position on the bike plays a large role in how well they can ride the bike. Bikes with a longer wheelbase (distance from wheel to wheel) tend to provide more stability and control for the rider. In addition, pay attention to the handlebar position. Tall handlebars that sweep back, often found on big-box-store bikes, limit the rider's space and prevent them from applying more force on the handlebars. For the average young rider, a mid-rise handlebar is ideal.

The Bike Shop Advantage

You may be tempted to stop by the nearest box store for a kids' bike. He'll just outgrow it fast, right? Why not get a bike for a steal? We want to caution you though - most of kids' bikes are being sold at stores where the employees aren't familiar with important information like the difference between coaster brakes and side-pull brakes and which is needed. Similarly, they may not know very much about the quality of the bikes on the showroom floor. Another problem is that often these same employees assemble the bikes - with no formal training as bike mechanics - so even a good bike may be assembled wrong. Our staff is both knowledgeable and skillfully trained. You will leave with confidence that your child is both safe and on the bike that is best suited for him. Who can put a price tag on that?

Teach your kid to ride

teach your kid to ride Back in the day, the running-along-side method was the go-to technique to teach your kid to ride a bike. It's probably how you learned. It still works. But one big thing to keep in mind–DO NOT tell your kid you're not going to let go and then let go. If they crash, you break their trust and their confidence. However, there’s a newer method on the block. This method teaches kids to master a few different skills at a time, so they aren't overwhelmed. It might help you from going crazy too. Of course, there's going to be a few bumps and bruises along the way, so have plenty of fun cartoon Band-Aids on hand. The boring beige ones just won't cut it.

  1. Don't make the day you actually bring home the bike, or as we like to call it 'Bike Day,' the same day you take the training wheels off. Let your little one tool around the block for a few weeks on training wheels, or until he or she feels comfortable enough to take the plunge.
  2. OK, it's the big day. Remove the training wheels. Then, lower the saddle so it's low enough for your child to place their feet flat on the ground when sitting on their bike.
  3. Grassy field, here we come. Find a soft slope of about 30 yards. Ideally, the slope turns into a slight uphill or flattens out to slow things down. We're also looking for grass that's long enough to cushion a fall but short enough to keep things moving. (Yes, there are a lot of 'ideals' here, but just do your best to find a good spot.)
  4. Safety first. Always, always, always strap on a helmet. And make sure all shoelaces are tucked in.
  5. We're going to tackle balance first–we'll deal with pedaling next. Start halfway up the hill and hold the bike while your child climbs on. Now, let go of the bike and have your child lift their feet so they coast down the hill. Again, we're working on balance, so no pedaling. Avoid holding onto the bike. Instead, tell them to put their foot down when they feel unbalanced.
  6. Keep working on coasting 'til they are comfortable–make it a fun game and count the seconds 'til they put their foot down. There's no need to rush to the next step. You might be here for a few days or weeks.
  7. OK, it's time to put the pedal to the metal. This time, have your child just place their feet on the pedals and coast. Try a few runs, just coasting, and then have them start to pedal.
  8. Once they feel comfortable, raise the saddle seat and head to a flat space to try starting from a stop. A cul-de-sac or a loop in a park is perfect for practicing turning.

A couple extra little notes: Don't go from two training-wheels to one as an in-between step. One training wheel just makes the bike unstable and the key to teaching a child to ride is balance. There's no right age to teach a child to ride. Consider instead their interest in learning, how coordinated they are and their size. Children who are ready can usually skip, hop on one foot, and walk along a brick garden wall, parking-lot block or curb. Size-wise, kids with inseams of at least 17' means they can balance comfortably on a two-wheeler.