Also available in: French
What size, for what age, what fit and what accessories do you need? Like most parents, you may have a lot of questions when it comes to choosing your child’s new bike. Follow this buying guide to make the best choice possible and pick out the most suitable kids’ bike for your little one’s needs.
In this article, learn about the important elements to consider when picking out a kids’ bike:
- How to choose the right kids’ bike size
- What to know when shopping for a bike
- Size chart for kids’ bikes
- Four adjustments to consider
- What type of bike should you choose for your child?
- Which kids’ bike accessories should you look into?
1. How to choose the right kids’ bike size
What to know before shopping for a bike
Many parents are tempted to buy a slightly larger bike so that their child can keep it longer. However, this is a bad idea! Your child may have difficulty straddling the frame, may be too far from the handlebars (and therefore from the brakes) or may not be able to put his or her foot down safely. The same thing happens if the child keeps a bike too long and it becomes too small, knee pain can then become an issue. This is why it’s important to choose a bike that is perfectly suited for your child.
Next, you should know that the size of a bike is expressed in inches. And unlike an adult bike for which the frame size is measured (Small, Medium, Large, etc.), a kid’s bike is defined by its wheel size (12″, 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″).
A child’s size must be measured to know the right size of wheels that will fit. Age can be important, too, but not all children of the same age are the same size, so this is secondary.
Size chart for kids’ bikes
Less than 90 cm (under 2 feet 9 in.) – 2 years to 3 years old = 12 inches or a bike without pedals
90 cm to 1.05 meters (2 feet 9 to 3 feet 4) – 3 years to 4 ½ years old = 14 inches
1.05 to 1.20 meters (3 feet 4 in. to 4 feet) – 4 ½ years to 6 years old = 16 inches
1.20 to 1.35 meters (4 feet to 4 feet 4 in.) – 6 to 9 years old = 20 inches
1.35 to 1.50 meters (4 feet 4 in. to 5 feet) – 9 to 12 years old = 24 inches
1.40 meters and over (5 feet and over) – 10 years old and over = 26 inches (adult bike)
Four adjustments to consider
A child who rides a perfectly fitted bike will learn to pedal much faster and more easily, as well as gain confidence. Here are four things to look for and adjust to make sure your child is comfortable on the bike:
- Seat height: The adjustable seat post allows the bike to adapt to your child as he or she grows (until a larger wheel size is needed). The seat can be low when your child is first riding (feet flat on the ground) and then higher as your child becomes more comfortable with the bike (only the tips of the feet touch the ground).
- Knee position: The knees are the engine of your little cyclist. They can be slightly bent to offer more power when he or she starts pedaling a new bike. They should be at almost full extension once your little one learns to pedal.
- Standing frame height: It is important that a child can stand comfortably when stopped, with both feet on the ground. To do this, make sure there is a minimum of one to two inches between your child’s crotch and the bike frame.
- Foot position: As with adults, the front part of the foot should be in contact with the pedal. This ensures maximum power and control for the cyclist.
2. What type of bike should you choose?
Stability and comfort are the two most important elements to look for in a kids’ bike.
For toddlers (less than 90 cm, 2 feet 9 in. – generally before 3 years old), there are bicycles without pedals, such as those from Garneau and Evo, which allow them to acquire a sense of balance and the first sensations of speed and independence while remaining in control with their feet.
Then, small bikes (12″ to 14″) are usually equipped with small stabilizing wheels to teach very young children to propel themselves by pedaling without worrying about balance on two wheels. It is time to remove them when your child feels confident (often between 5 and 6 years old).
Bikes in the 16″ to 24″ range generally have relatively wide tires, straight handlebars and first gears. They are similar to hybrid bikes and can be ridden in the city or the country, on asphalt or gravel.
Your preteens and teenage cyclists will probably want their first experience on a road bike (with curved handlebars) or a mountain bike (with one or two suspensions). There are models specifically designed for young people (usually starting at 20″).
When your teenager exceeds 1.40 meters (4 feet 7 in.), it’s time to get an adult bike (from 26″).
3. Which kids’ bike accessories should you look into?
To ensure your child’s safety, here are three important (nay, essential!) accessories for biking:
Helmet: Mandatory for children, the helmet is the first safety gear to get for cycling. It’s important to choose a model that fits your child’s head size and has the most advanced safety features.
Lights: If your child rides to school early in the morning or late in the day on sometimes unlit roads, it may be important to equip the bike with front and rear lights to make him or her visible to other road users. A reflective vest and a light on a helmet can also be complementary.
Bell: Finally, the bell is a fun sound element for your child to use to indicate his or her presence to pedestrians or other bikes on the bike path or trail.
Also available in: French