Teaching your child to ride a bike is one of the joys (and challenges) of parenthood, and it’s worth every minute. Seeing your kid master the skill of bike riding will make every parent smile. And going for bike rides together is a terrific family activity.
Choosing the perfect bike that will get your kid excited to ride, keep them safe, and stand the test of time, is super important.
A kid’s bicycle should be the right size for their height (and should accommodate them for a while as they grow). The tires should have high-quality treads, and come with hand brakes. The bike should have a solid frame, made of high-quality metal that weighs 40% of the child’s body weight.
To learn more about choosing the best bicycle for your child so they can begin that process of learning to ride without the help of training wheels, keep reading!
Things to Look for in a Kid’s Bike
When you begin the search for your kid’s bike, it’s important to keep your eye out for a few of the following features. They’ll make your kid’s riding experience so much easier and more comfortable, will keep the bike running well, and will leave you assured that your kid is riding one of the safest bikes out there.
Functionality is More Important Than Style
The first thing you’ll need to look for when choosing a bike for your child is the bike size. We will discuss how to choose the right size bike later on. If your child is going bike shopping with you, they might have their mind set on a pretty mermaid bike or the cool bike with the fire designs on it, but that bike may also be too small for them. This is one thing you shouldn’t budge on because riding a bike that is too big or too small can be both difficult and dangerous for your child to ride.
Related: Fantastic Bike Trails in Los Angeles for the Whole Family
The Wheels and Tires Matter
Next, you’ll want to look at the wheels on the bike. Do the wheels have reflectors? Even if you won’t allow your child to ride their bike alone or at night, sometimes the sun goes down during long family bike rides, and those reflectors on your child’s bike wheels may save their life and help you keep track of them. If it doesn’t, we would recommend purchasing reflectors that you can attach to the wheels.
Next, do the tires have good tread? The deeper the tread the better, as they won’t wear down as quickly and will allow your child to go on various terrains easily.
The Importance of Hand Brakes over Pedal Brakes
You’ll also want to choose a bike that has hand brakes. You’ll be able to tell if it has hand brakes if there is a trigger attached to one or both bike handles, with wires that attach to the back wheel. Pay attention to how far the brake trigger is from the handle, as some hand brakes can have triggers that are too far for your child to brake effectively.
The reason you won’t want to teach your kid to ride a bike with pedal brakes (even though kids’ bikes with pedal brakes are far more common than those with hand brakes) is that it will cause confusion for your child as they are learning how to pedal. Pushing their legs forward and then learning to reverse the motion of their legs to brake will take a lot more practice than squeezing the trigger of a hand brake.
Quality Construction Matters
Lastly, you’ll want to choose a bike that has been manufactured with good-quality metal (it should feel solid when you lift it up but not too heavy for your child to lift). The overall weight should also be about 40% of your child’s body weight. For example, if your child is 65 pounds, you’ll want to choose a bike that weighs 26 pounds.
The reason for this is that if the bike is too light, they will have a harder time keeping their balance and controlling the bike when they are first learning. If it’s too heavy, they will have a hard time lifting it up, and it may injure them if they fall off the bike or if the bike falls on them.
This Kids Bike Buying Guide from Two Wheeling Tots has all their favorite bike brands.
How to Choose the Right Size Bike for Your Child
To choose the perfect bike for your child, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right size bike for their height and age. This way, they’ll have an easier time both getting on and off the bike, as well as riding the bike. If the bike is too big, it can make learning to ride a bike scary and daunting.
You want your child to be able to get on and off their bike with ease (although this will take a bit of practice regardless of the bike’s size). If the bike is too small, they won’t be able to balance on the bike well because they are too close to the ground, and, depending on how long their legs are, their knees could hit the handlebars while riding, which will affect their ability to pedal.
The Bike Should Grow with Your Child – For at Least a Little While
Because bicycles (even kids’ bikes) are expensive, the bike should be big enough that your child won’t grow out of it too quickly. The bike size should accommodate their growing size for a couple of years so you don’t have to replace it too soon.
Take a look at this bike size guide from Two Wheeling Tots for reference, and then take your child with you to try out the different bikes at the bike shop or department store. Once they find a bike they like that is close to their size, pull the bike off the rack (ask an employee to help you if needed), and have your kid get on and off the bike to make sure they can do so with ease. Remember that you’ll be able to adjust the height of the bike seat to make this easier for your child.
All the Bells and Whistles of Bikes (and What You Should Buy with Your Kid’s Bike)
There are plenty of add-ons that a kids’ bike might include, but they aren’t necessarily important. Your kid might want a basket at the front or back of their bike to hold their toys or books, a bell to ding while they ride, or special embellishments like charms on the wheels or fringes on the handlebars. If you’re able to find a bike that fits all the other criteria for a perfect bike that has these accessories, then go for it.
Another thing you can purchase with the bike is a bottle of tire slime. This is a green substance that you can fill your child’s bike tires with. It will keep the tires sealed if they run over any sticker weeds or nails. It will also keep you from having to replace a deflated bike tire.
Bike Helmets Are Required By Law – And They Keep Your Kid Safe
It’s important to buy a helmet with your child’s bike. This is the most important protective gear that your child should have while riding, and it’s especially important that you train them to always wear their helmet while riding, no matter what. Other protective gear that will help keep them from suffering scrapes and cuts if they fall include elbow and knee pads, as well as biking gloves, all of which are optional.
Are Tricycles and Training Wheels Helpful?
Leading up to learning to ride a bike, there are some stepping stones that you and your child can take to make that learning process easier. The first thing is learning to ride a tricycle while your child is little, about 1.5 years old to 4 years old. This will help them to understand the mechanism of pedals and how to steer themselves.
Once they’ve gotten the hang of that, you can purchase their first bike according to the size chart. This bike will likely already have training wheels, but if it doesn’t, you can purchase them separately and screw them into the frame near the back wheel.
Training wheels will not only help your child learn the mechanisms of riding, pedaling, braking, and steering a bike, but it will also help them learn those things without worrying about balance. Once they’ve gotten this down and you feel like they’re ready to learn to ride without the training wheels, you can remove them with a wrench and begin teaching your child to ride on their own. You’ll find that your child will get the hang of it sooner than you may expect (after a few unavoidable falls), and they’ll be riding on their own before you know it.
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