When choosing a bike for young riders, the first step is to select the correct bike size. Kids’ bikes are classified according to their wheel size, from 12 to 24 inches.
How to choose the right kid’s bike
While it may seem confusing at first, finding the right bike for your kid is actually pretty simple. Here is what you have to take into consideration :
- Bike (wheel) size
- Training wheels or no training wheels
- Gears or single speed
In this blog post, we will go through everything you need to know to find the right bike for your child.
How do I choose the right size?
Bike sizes are determined by wheel size. Therefore, a 12'' bike has 12'' wheels, a 16'' bike has 16'' wheels and so forth. Because kids grow so quickly at this age, it isn't as crucial to get the perfect sizing as things can change a lot within one season. We usually recommend going for the biggest bike your kid can comfortably (and safely) use, meaning you won't need to buy a new bike every year (hopefully).
For children of age 6 and under, we suggest this quick two-step test:
- Once seated on the bike, the child can put both feet flat on the ground
- Make sure the child is able to turn the handlebars easily without letting go
Keep in mind that all bike sizes feature adjustable seatposts and handlebars, which will accommodate rapidly growing kids.
Bike size chart
This is the standard size chart for kid's bikes:
- 80-95 cm (2-3 years old): 12” bikes and push bikes
- 95-115 cm (4-6 years old): 14-16” bikes
- 115-135 cm (6-8 years old): 20” bikes
- 135-150 cm (9-13 years old): 24” bikes
Ages 2-3 years old (80-95 cm)
This is typically the time at which young ones dip their toes into the beautiful world of cycling. We definitely recommend starting out with a Push Bike, rather than a regular 12'' bike with pedals and training wheels. What is a Push Bike you ask? A Push Bike is a 12'' bike that has no pedals and no training wheels, which uses the child's legs as a means of propulsion. These are a better first step as kid's tend to catch onto the movement more naturally, sometimes even within a single session. Another huge advantage of Push Bikes is that they teach the balance aspect of riding early on, which may eliminate the need for training wheels down the road. We adamantly recommend going for a Push Bike as a first bike.
Here is our favorite selection of push bikes:
Ages 4-6 years old (95-115 cm)
At this age, the logical choice is a 16'' bike. Although 14'' bikes exist, we recommend skipping over this size entirely, as chances are your child will grow out of it within a single season, forcing you to buy, you guessed it, a 16'' bike. All 16'' bikes come with training wheels and pedals, but for the more adventurous kids out there, the training wheels are easy to remove and they can get to riding early on. Some 16'' bikes come with a hand brake but most will have a coaster (back pedal) brake. If your child is still struggling to learn how to pedal or handle the bike, we recommend skipping over the hand brake at this point.
Here is a selection of 16'' bikes:
Ages 6-8 years old (115-135 cm)
This is when the real riding begins. At this age, your child will start being able to keep up with you on longer bike path rides to the park or accross the neighborhood. 20'' bikes typically do not have training wheels, come with hand brakes and even gears in some cases. We recommend keeping an eye on your child's riding level to determine which accessories are suitable at this stage. 20'' bikes may start to have variations as well, such as road or off-road characteristics. Think about the type of riding your child will be doing, and choose accordingly.
In some cases, your child may be taller than most and may not be comfortable/ready to ride without training wheels. You can purchase them seperately here.
Here is our favorite selection of 20'' bikes:
Ages 9-13 years old (135-150 cm)
This is the point where kid riders are ready for a 24'' bike. 24'' bikes closely resemble adult bikes in that they often have hand brakes only, real gearing and are divided in the common categories such as road, hybrid and mountain bikes. Because 24'' bikes can last a couple of seasons, you will also see specialty bikes starting to appear, such as full suspension mountain bikes and lightweight road bikes. Similarly to 14'' bikes, there are some 26'' bikes on the market but we recommend skipping this size to go for a full size adult bike (in a smaller frame size) when your kid outgrows his 24". This will most definitely be a longer lasting purchase.
Here are a few 24'' bikes:
Helmets are a non-negotiable part of riding a bike. It is imperative that a helmet be well fitted and comfortable, in order to provide the best safety possible. Finding a helmet for your child is very simple. Helmet sizes are determined by head circumference, which you can measure with a soft measuring tape. You can then compare with the manufacturer's size chart to determine the correct model and size. Make sure the helmet does not move on the child's head and adjust the chin strap to a snug, but not tight fit and you're good to go!
Here are a few of our favorite helmets for kid riders: