How to Buy a Bike for Your Child

So, your child is interested in bikes - time to welcome your little one into the sport you love! Whether your child is just three years old and ready for their first bike, or they're ready to explore roads or trails, we have put together a few tips to make buying your child a bike a little less confusing.

three girls on mountain bikes

Kids' Bike Sizing

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), they can ride an adult size bike with 26-inch, 27.5-inch, 29-inch or 700c wheels.

Wheel SizeInseamAge Range
12 inch14-20 inches (35-50cm)1-4 years old
16 inch19-23 inches (48-58cm)3-6 years old
20 inch22-25 inches (55-63cm)5-9 years old
24 inch24-28 inches (60-72cm)8-12 years old
26 inch26-32 inches (60-72cm)13+ years old
a girl on a 12-inch bike with training wheels

Balance Bike VS Training Wheels

When you go to purchase your child’s first bike, you will have two options: training wheels or balance bike. What’s the difference? We will break it down for you:

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 it could take the child longer to learn to balance if they are relying on those extra wheels to hold them up.

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

Children are constantly growing! You dress them in the morning and in 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.

  1. 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. They 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 lead to out-of-control riding and instability.
  2. 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. If your child is riding a bike that doesn’t fit, 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. 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.

a family riding bikes together

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.

When your child is old enough, it's important they are involved in the bike-buying process. Taking your kid to the bike shop for a test ride is a great way to find out what fits best and what kind of riding they are most interested in doing. The employees at your local bike shop 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.

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!"

a young girl pushing her mountain bike on a trail

Shop Bikes for Girls

Looking for the best bikes for girls? Check out our girls' bikes below.

Looking for the best bikes for boys? Find boys' bikes at

12-inch Bikes for Girls

(Ages 1-4)

16-inch Bikes for Girls

(Ages 3-6)

26-inch Bikes for Girls

(Ages 13+)