Buying anything for children can be frustrating. You never know if they’re going to like it, and they’re most likely going to outgrow it almost immediately. Buying your child a bike can feel just as labour intensive as purchasing a car seat or stroller. We found that there were a few things we had to keep in mind when buying bikes for our kids.
The Right Size
Buying a kids bike is like buying kids shoes. They grow so darn fast that just knowing what size they are is a full-time job. When it comes to children's bike sizes, they’re based on wheel size, not frame size, as is the case with adult bikes. Children’s bike sizes generally range from 12-inch wheels to 24-inch wheels. Balance bikes, or toddler bikes, are generally 10-14”. There are charts, like the one found on Rascal Rides, that can help you to get a rough idea of which wheel size you should be looking at for your child. We all know a small 10-year-old or a tall 6-year-old, though, so don’t take a standard chart as gospel.
What you really need to be aware of when finding the right size for your child is their height and inseam measurement. You’ll need the inseam measurement to make sure that your child can comfortably touch the ground from the lowest seat setting of the bike.
Know the Specifics of the Bike
This goes hand-in-hand with knowing the size of the bike and your child. A bike’s specifics will help you to understand the lowest possible setting for the handlebars and seat. You have to make sure your child can feel comfortable manoeuvring and sitting on the bike with their feet on the ground. Comparing the bike’s standover height with your child's height and inseam measurement will also tell you if your child can easily clear the bike's frame when standing with both feet flat on the ground on either side.
The specifics of the bike is a deciding factor on which bike your child will need for their riding style and skill. Will the bike be too heavy for your little shredder to pick up, let alone pedal up a small hill? What kind of tires, brakes, and handlebars does the bike have? Remember your first time riding a bike with curved handlebars or the typical street bike handlebars? Nothing like mountain biking handlebars! What’s your little shredder used to? Biking with kids involves a lot of firsts. We found that throwing in a new style of anything could be enough to make them have a meltdown in the driveway. Best to stick to the familiar as much as possible when it comes to toddler’s bikes.
Match the Skill Level to the Bike
Sure, you need a bike that fits your child. A bike that’s built the right way for the kind of riding they’ll be doing. However, matching a bicycle to the skill level of a toddler is also essential. Does your little shredder already know how to pedal independently? Perhaps your very tall toddler hasn’t even started balancing on their own yet. A child’s size doesn’t always line up with their skill level as we’re sure you know. Matching a bike that may be the right size for your child's physical stature could be the wrong bike for their abilities. Like most things in parenting, there are just so many moving parts to consider.
What Kind of Riding Will You & Your Child Be Doing?
Biking with kids can take many forms and end up on many different terrain types. When purchasing our children’s first, second, or even third bike, we always had to ask ourselves, “Where are we going to be taking this bike?” Mountain bikes were the most versatile style for our family, and it meant wider tires for some extra balance for the kids while learning. Being a Mac Ride family, we always choose to explore trails over a paved neighbourhood route, so a mountain bike made the most sense for us.
What Are Other Parents Saying?
As with many things, reviews are a great way to choose a kids bike. What bike do you see a lot of at the park? What are your friend's kids riding? What are the online reviews saying? Many parents and kids have come before you and tried out brands and models and can tell you what they liked and what failed miserably in their opinions. There is no point trying to reinvent the wheel when you could ask others what they thought of the wheel first. Two Wheeling Tots and The Bike Dads are great resources to check out reviews based on age.
Picking a toddler’s bike is more frustrating and terrifying than choosing from the vast array of adult bike options. Of course, ours are definitely more expensive, but there's always the chance that the bike our kids loved in the store will be one they hate on the trail. You know the struggle. Something a toddler loves one day could legitimately be the end of their world the next. All you can do is try to keep all the specifics in mind, match the bike to the size and skill of your child, and let them test drive it first. After they’ve settled on a bike, letting them customize their bike is also a great way to help them make it their own.
Not quite ready to purchase your child’s first “big kid bike”? The Mac Ride kids bike seat is a great way to help your toddler pick up a few foundational skills for biking without having to commit to getting them their own bike. Shop online today.