Kids have many options to choose from when choosing a bike, more so than adults in fact! How do you know which bike to choose for your little one? This handy guide will take you through the lingo used and steps needed to find the perfect ride for your little human!
The #1 rule of choosing a bike - How comfortable does your child feel?
This involves having your child sit on, and ride a number of different size bikes in a Cycles Galleria store. This way, they can feel the handlebar height, test the balance, use the brakes, and make sure they can reach the pedals.
With recent restrictions in Melbourne, and more people choosing to shop online, its becoming popular (and sometimes necessary) to purchase based on the bike spec alone. While this is not as reliable to riding a bike in store, it can still be a reasonably reliable method if the measurement process is carried out correctly.
What size kids bike?
Kids bikes come in five different sizes, and older kids can also ride adult bikes (which also come in about five sizes). However, unlike adult bikes that normally use the frame size, kids bikes are measured by the wheel size.
The common kids bike sizes are 12 inches, 16 inches, 20 inches, 24 inches, and 26 inch.
Measuring your child's in-seam
Inseam is the critical measurement for accurate bike sizing for children. Quite simply, it is the distance from the base of your foot to your sit bones. A simple way to measure in-seam length is as follows:
- Have your child stand against a wall, put a book spine up between your child’s legs.
- Use a pencil to mark where the spine of the book meet the wall.
- Measure the distance from the floor to the marking
Once you have this distance, these are the recommended sizes:
Kids Bike Types
|Inseam (cm)||Bike Type||Child Age|
38 - 46
|12" or balance bike||2-3|
|41 - 56||16"||4-6|
|48 - 64||20"||5-8|
|58 - 71||24"||8-11|
|64cm and up||Adult Sizing||10-12+|
Remember, different manufacturers can have different size frames for a given wheel size - so not all 16” bikes are the same, for example. As we mentioned, it’s always best to try a bike before you buy!
You'll also notice overlap in size and age - meaning kids can often very comfortably ride two different size bikes for any given inseam or age.
There are three main things to look for when test riding a kids bike
Standover height - the distance from the top of the bike frame (called the top tube) to the ground. Your child should be able to stand over the frame flat-footed without their crotch sitting on the frame.
Reach -The ability to reach the handlebars, operate the brakes and turn, whilst sitting comfortably on the seat. You should aim for the elbows to be slightly bent.
Seat height -When sitting on the seat, your child should be able to turn the pedals in a full pedal stroke easily, with only a slight bend in the legs when the pedal is at its lowest point.
A bit more detail on each type
12 inches, and balance bikes, ages 2 to 3 years old
Small wheels and low seats make it easy for very young humans to gain the basics of riding and balancing on a bike. Bikes with pedals normally come with training wheels, that can be removed as the confidence grows. The 12" kids bike collection can be seen here.
16 inches, ages 4 to 6 years old
This is often a child's first pedal bike. They typically have a rear brake that is applied by pedalling backwards (called a coaster brake). The Precaliber 16 has a number of features that make it better than other kids bikes, such as a built-in handle in the saddle so you can guide them off training wheels, and tool-free removal of the training wheels themselves. See the collection of 16" kids bikes here.
20 inch bikes, ages 5 to 8 years old
As you probably know, kids are very busy at this age! This category starts to offer options for multiple gears, a choice of brakes, and even suspension forks to take the bumps out! They are just like adult bikes, but smaller. Look for a lightweight frame and quality components as the kids are starting to put more power through the bike. Look for integrated kickstands, as with a little training this will discourage your child from the ‘throw abandon’ once they’re done riding that can wear out components, especially the rear derailleur. See the collection of 20" bikes here.
24 inch bikes, ages 8 to 11 years old
Bikes in this category have nearly as many options as adult bikes, and you should consider where your child wants to ride. This is because there is really a choice between ‘mountain’ and ‘hybrid’ styles. A ‘mountain bike’ style will be slower and harder for your child to keep up with their friends if they all have hybrid bikes and are riding around the suburbs. Likewise, if their friends are riding off road and on trails, the ‘hybrid’ bike won’t have as much grip or be as comfortable. See the collection of 24" bikes here.
There are many accessories for kids bikes that make riding bikes safer and more fun. The bare essentials is a quality fitting helmet, and lights if you intend to ride anywhere near a street or cars. You should also consider gloves if you're planning to go off-road, your child is a little more adventurous, or you want to ride for longer without tears.
Need more advice? We are child bike experts, and understand how important finding the right bike is. It can be the difference between years of joyful and safe riding, or the bike sitting in the corner of the garage gathering dust! Feel free to jump down to your local CG store and we can show you the different models and most importantly get your child on the seat before deciding!