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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Bikes for Your Kids + Our Top Picks

By Megan Flottorp

Cycling isn’t just a pastime; it’s a gateway to a healthier, more active lifestyle for kids. Whether cruising through the neighbourhood, tearing up the trails, or hitting the skatepark, there’s a bike out there for every young rider. But with so many options available, finding the perfect fit can be daunting for parents. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you pick the best bike for your child’s needs.

Choosing the right bike

If kids are going to reap all of the benefits of cycling over time, it is critical that their early experiences with a bike are positive ones. The first step in finding the perfect bike for your child is to consider their riding style and preferences. From BMX to mountain bikes to road bikes, there’s a wide range of options to suit every young rider’s needs. Here’s a breakdown of some popular styles:

BMX bikes: These have long been a popular option for kids, and they are perfect for aspiring stunt riders. BMX bikes are durable and built to handle the rigours of street and park riding. On the flip side, BMX street bikes do have some drawbacks. Their single-speed drivetrain and less efficient geometry mean they tend to be slower and have a more limited range compared to other bike types. That said, if your child’s interests lie in skatepark or freestyle competitions, they’ll require a BMX park bike. These bikes are specifically engineered to endure the rigours of landing on concrete, offering the durability and manoeuvrability necessary for confidently executing tricks and stunts.

Mountain bikes: Front-suspension mountain bikes are an excellent choice for most children, offering versatility and durability for various riding environments. These bikes feature a suspension fork at the front, providing enhanced comfort and control over rough terrain. Whether your child is exploring the neighbourhood, hitting the trails in the park, or simply enjoying general-purpose riding, a front-suspension mountain bike can handle it all. When selecting a mountain bike for your child, ensure it is appropriately sized to provide a comfortable and safe riding experience. Additionally, features like adjustable seat height and handlebars should be prioritised to accommodate growth spurts and optimise riding position.

Road bikes: While less common for kids, road bikes offer a lightweight option for young riders interested in long-distance riding or racing. Road bikes are designed for speed and efficiency on paved surfaces, making them ideal for long-distance touring or competitive racing. Just note that these bikes tend to be more fragile and require regular maintenance to keep them in optimal condition. Additionally, the cost of road bikes can be prohibitive for some families, especially considering the rapid rate at which children outgrow their bikes. Unless you anticipate embarking on long-distance tours or participating in competitive cycling events with your child, a road bike may not be the best choice. Instead, opt for a more versatile option like a mountain bike, which offers greater durability and flexibility for a wide range of riding activities.

Sizing and weight considerations

When it comes to kids’ bikes, size and weight are crucial. A bike that’s too big or heavy can be difficult for a child to handle, leading to frustration and discomfort. To ensure a proper fit, look for a bike that matches your child’s height and weight, and opt for the lightest model that meets their needs. Remember, a lighter bike will be easier for your child to control and manoeuvre, making for a more enjoyable riding experience.

And please be mindful that the old idea of letting kids “grow into” bikes might save you a few dollars now, but it can turn many riders away from cycling. It’s necessary to prioritise the right fit and weight to ensure your child’s safety and enjoyment.

Additional features to look for

In addition to size and weight, there are a few other features to keep in mind when choosing a kids’ bike:

Gears: For longer rides or varied terrain, consider a bike with multiple gears to make pedalling easier.
Brakes: While coaster brakes are common on kids’ bikes, hand brakes offer better control and stopping power, especially for older children.
Adjustability: Look for a bike with adjustable handlebars and seat height to accommodate your child’s growth spurts.
Safety features: Puncture-resistant tyres, reflectors, and a sturdy frame are all important considerations for keeping your child safe on the road or trail.

Now that you know what to look for in a kids’ bike, here are a few of our top picks to consider.

Specialized Riprock 20 Kids Bike

Specialized Riprock 20

The Specialized Riprock 20 stands out among its family for its superb handling and kid-friendly geometry, making it an ideal choice for young riders. Designed as a seamless transition from balance bikes, it empowers precocious riders to pedal easily. Its sleek appearance and reliable performance make it a favourite among hardtail mountain bike enthusiasts.

Priority Start Kids Bike

Priority Start Bike

For safety-conscious parents, the Priority Start bike offers peace of mind with its innovative features. Utilising a Gates Belt made of carbon fibre tensile cords, it minimises maintenance and reduces the risk of breakage. Puncture-resistant tyres and rustproof construction further enhance durability and longevity. Plus, its dual handlebar brakes are ergonomically positioned for easy use, providing added control and confidence for young riders.

Retrospec Koda Plus

Retrospec Koda

The Retrospec Koda Plus sets itself apart with its exceptional adjustability, catering to children as they grow. With a 6-inch seat height range and adjustable handlebars, it ensures a comfortable fit for every stage of development. Its grooved tyres offer versatility across various trail types, while thoughtful features like a cushioned seat and safety bell enhance comfort and visibility.

Guardian Ethos

Guardian Ethos

The Guardian Ethos 16 16-inch bike prioritises safety and comfort with its lightweight steel frame and innovative braking system. By activating both front and rear brakes with a single-hand lever it prevents sudden stops and promotes smoother riding. Its kid-friendly geometry encourages an upright posture, ensuring comfort during uphill climbs and adventurous rides.

REI Co-op Cycles REV

REI Kids Bike

While the REI Co-op Cycles REV 16 Kids’ Bike may not be as compact as other options, its reliable performance and adjustability make it a solid choice. It features easily removable training wheels and highly adjustable seatposts and handlebars, accommodating growing children with ease. Though it utilises a coaster brake, its superior braking power and control offer added safety and confidence for young riders.

Ultimately, remember that, as with most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to cycling. There are more affordable generics bikes available that can do the trick if that’s what the budget allows. If you can shell out a bit more cash, choosing the right bike for your child is an important decision that can shape their love for cycling for years to come. By considering factors like riding style, size, and features, you can find a bike that’s perfect for your young rider’s needs. So whether they’re tearing up the trails or cruising through the neighbourhood, give them the gift of adventure with a bike built just for them. Happy riding!