Tips for Buying the Right Bike for your Child
You love cycling. Now that you have a little one, it is time to get them into the sport you love! You have probably already sparked their interest by showing them how cool mom is on the bike and by taking them for rides in the trailer you pull all over town. But now it is time for your little guy or gal to have wheels of their own. We have put together a few tips to make buying your child a bike a little less confusing.
Unlike bicycles for adults, children’s bikes are not sized based on the frame height or length, instead, they are offered in sizes based on wheel size. Below is a chart you can use to determine the approximate size your child would need. Although children who are taller for their age may be able to size up to a larger wheel, they may not be as well equipped to deal with other changes as the bikes get larger: like multiple gears and hand brakes instead of coaster brakes. Sizing charts are a good place to start when choosing a bike for your child, but not a definitive answer. Once your child is over 4’10” (147 cm), he or she can ride an adult size bike with 26, 27.5, 29 or 700c wheels. Liv offers great options in XS and even XXS sizes.
Balance Bike VS Training Wheels
When you go to purchase your child’s first bike, you will have three options: tricycle, training wheels or balance bike. What’s the difference? We will break it down for you:
Tricycle: A bicycle with three wheels! Children’s tricycles are usually very low to the ground and therefore very stable. However, unlike a bicycle, trikes do not develop the skill of balance and are a bit hard to maneuver. They sure are cute though!
Training Wheels: An add-on part that can be attached to a two-wheeled bike. For a lot of parents, this is how you learned to ride a bike. Training wheels sound like a great deal, because the child can learn to ride with the training wheels on and when the time comes to pop the training wheels off, you have a regular bike. The downside of training wheels is that the child does not learn to balance, but instead relies on those extra wheels like a crutch. Training wheels can also be a bit unstable for young riders.
Balance Bikes: With only two wheels and no pedals, these bikes require the child to sit on the saddle, scoot, and balance. Many resources say balance is the hardest part of learning to ride, so transferring to a pedal bike is easier for children that start out on a balance bike.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you and your family. Your local bike shop can also help you make the right decision for your child.
Buying a Bike for a Growing Child
It seems like your children are constantly growing! You dress them in the morning and by the afternoon it looks like their clothes have shrunk. How are you supposed to buy a bike for a kid when they won’t stay the same size?
Although buying a bike that your child can “grow into” might seem like an economical choice, there are some major disadvantages when trying to cut costs when purchasing a bike for your kid.
- Safety: If your child cannot touch the ground when standing over the top tube or cannot comfortably reach the handlebars or brakes, then the bike is not safe for them to ride. He or she will not be able to adequately control, stop and steer the bike. Likewise, if a bike is too small for your child you will notice they are hitting their knees on their handlebars and look crunched on the bike. A bike that is too small can seem out-of-control and unstable.
- Comfort: Although kids are a bit more resilient than adults sometimes, think about what it would be like to ride a bike that did not fit properly. If you are not comfortable, you are less likely to ride the bike. The same goes for your child. You want cycling to be enjoyable so that you can all ride together, but if your child is riding a bike that doesn’t fit him/her it will not be quite as fun for them.
If you do not have the extra funds to buy a new bike every year (who does?) there are some great ways to save money while still giving your child a fun and safe bicycle. Many bike shops will sell used bikes and offer a little trade-in money that could go toward your next bike purchase for your child. And, keep in mind that as one kid grows out of a bike, there is always another child growing into that size bike… even if it is not your own. Make friends with other parents in your biking community or donate your child’s gently used bicycle to someone who really needs it.
Buying a Bike as a Gift
Alright, you are armed with tons of knowledge about kids bikes and now you are ready to go buy them one to put under the tree this holiday or tie up with a bow for their birthday! Right? Well, maybe not quite yet.
In our article on How to Buy a Bike for a Woman, we talk about how important it is for the person you are buying a bike for to be at the shop to test ride the bike and get a bike fit from the professionals. It is really no different for your child. Yes, there are fewer options for kids and you are sure you know them well enough to pick a bike out for them. But, you are not a professional bike salesperson. They are experts on how your child should fit on a bike, what kind of bike they will need for the riding they will be doing and they can save you tons of time scouring the internet for answers.
If you want to get your child a bike so they can ride it around and enjoy it THAT DAY, there are some tricky ways you can get it done. If you, like many of us, frequent the bike shop for your own shopping needs, bring your child along one day. Talk with the salesperson ahead of time to tell them your scheme and have three kids bikes set aside for your little one. Tell your kid that you are going to be a while looking at some new gear and say, “You can play with these bikes while Mom is trying on clothes.” Have the salesperson go outside with your child (I am sure they are trustworthy) and size up your kid for the best fit and see which bike he or she has the most fun on. When you leave that day, your sales guy will know exactly what bike your child wants and needs.
However, you decide to give your kid a bike, make sure you plan ahead for this purchase. Some bike shops may not have the exact bike you are looking for in stock, but they can definitely order it if you give them enough time.
Don’t want to risk buying your child the wrong bike? We don’t blame you! Why not wrap up a new helmet, a new kid's cycling outfit, or a fun bike bell? "Surprise, honey! We're taking you to the bike shop to get your very own bicycle!"