How to Choose a Bicycle for Your Child

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 04, 2022
5 min read

Not only is bicycling a fun childhood activity, it’s also a fantastic form of exercise. But bikes for children can be a bit of an investment — especially when your kids quickly outgrow them. 

You might be tempted to get one that’s big for your child so they can grow into it. But bikes that are too big or too small can make biking difficult and increase the risk of injuries. If you’re looking for a bike for your kid, make sure to carefully consider all of your options so you buy the one that’s right for them.   

There are a lot of different factors to consider when it comes to picking out the best bike for your kid. Broadly speaking, it helps to think about: 

  • The bike’s overall quality. A lot of manufacturers make high-quality children’s bikes that use lightweight, durable materials. These bicycles are pretty much guaranteed to last longer than your child will need them. They’re expensive but have a great resale value. Or look for a functional bike that’s much cheaper because it’s made with lower-quality materials. This isn’t a problem as long as the bike is the right fit for your kid.
  • The number of wheels that you want. Consider whether or not your child needs a tricycle or training wheels. Be patient when it comes to getting your kid down to just two wheels. Some children can learn when they’re as young as five, but others aren’t ready until they’re closer to 10 years old.
  • The type of brakes that your child can use. Children under the age of five need brakes that are activated by pedaling backward. Their hands are typically too small and weak to safely operate hand brakes. 
  • The bike’s weight. Ideally, a bike shouldn’t weigh more than one-third to one-half of your child’s body weight. Lighter bikes both move faster and feel better than heavy models. Cheaper ones tend to be a lot heavier than expensive ones.  

There are many different places where you can find a good kid’s bike. Examples include: 

  • At large retail shopping centers
  • At specialty bicycle shops
  • Online — both from large distributors and directly from manufacturers
  • Used — you can find posts online or in your local paper or try looking at second-hand stores and yard sales

You can find children's bikes in a few different price ranges. A new, high-quality, long-lasting brand can sell for anywhere from $400 to $600. You can usually find nice used ones for about half of the original price. 

Specialty bike stores tend to have the highest prices, but they also provide expert advice. You can find slightly cheaper new bikes online. But you’ll either have to assemble the bike yourself or pay your local bike shop to do it for you. 

Large retail stores have the best prices for new bikes, but the quality isn’t as good. You should be particularly careful when you’re buying a used low-quality model. Although this type of bike is the cheapest, it could have developed a number of problems when it was used by the original owner. You may end up putting more money into repairs than you expect. 

The bike size that your child needs mostly depends on their height. You can also estimate it by their age. Listed below are the best approximate child bike sizes for children who are: 

  • Four or five years old. The wheel diameter should be between 12 and 14 inches. Most of these bikes come with attached training wheels. 
  • Six years old. The bike should have a 16-inch wheel diameter. It can have foot brakes, hand brakes, or both. 
  • Seven or eight years old. Some of these bikes have hand brakes and can shift between different speeds. The wheel diameter should be around 20 inches. 
  • Nine and older. At this point, children’s bikes are nearly identical to adult bikes. These have wheel diameters of 24 inches and up. 

You know that the bike is the right size if your child can: 

  • Place the balls of their feet on the ground while sitting on the bike’s seat
  • Stand with their feet flat on the ground when the bike is straddled between their legs
  • Comfortably pedal without their knees brushing the handlebars or their feet dipping too low to the ground 
  • Operate the hand brakes safely and comfortably 

Your child should always have a helmet on when they’re riding a bike. Research consistently shows that wearing a helmet reduces your risk of head injury and death if you’re involved in a crash. 

In order to be effective, the helmet needs to be the right size for your child’s head. There are many different kinds of children’s bike helmets available on the market. They come in three standard child bike helmet sizes: 

  • Toddler
  • Child 
  • Youth

All children’s bike helmets are made from essentially the same materials — foam and plastic. 

Toddler helmets are designed for children aged 5 and under. They usually have large, domed exteriors and smooth surfaces. They provide protection on all sides of your child’s head and have extra thick padding at the back of the helmet.

Child helmets are best for kids between the ages of five and ten. These can have a variety of shapes, from the rounded toddler style to the most common kind of streamlined road helmet. 

Youth helmets are meant for people between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. They’re larger than child helmets but still have playful, colorful themes.

You should always have your child try on a helmet before you buy it. The exact fit of the helmet depends on your child’s head size. You should always prioritize the fit over the helmet’s recommended age range.   

Riding a bike is a fun, eco-friendly way to get around town and commute to work or school. It’s also a fantastic form of exercise that can benefit your child's overall health. 

Examples of bike riding benefits include: 

For the safest bike-riding experience, teach your child to: 

  • Pay attention to their surroundings — they need to be aware of all of the people, cars, and obstacles around them at all times
  • Always wear a helmet — even for short rides 
  • Watch out for cars backing out of driveways
  • Always stay on the correct side of the road
  • Pull over or slow down when passing pedestrians on the sidewalk
  • Use all of the proper hand signals when navigating traffic — this way drivers will know where they’re going