Many of us remember our first bike fondly.
While it might be a stretch to say that one well selected bike will turn fledging peddlers into lifelong cyclists, getting it right first time can certainly make the difference between a positive early experience, and a negative one.
How have children’s bikes changed?
Firstly – adults’ bikes are evolving all the time and the same is true for their smaller stable-mates.
In the past, children’s bikes have been known for being very heavy. It’s worth bearing in mind that a heavy bike will be heaver as a percentage of the child’s body weight than the adult buying it, so if it feels hefty to you – multiply that a few times to imagine how it will feel to your child!
Heavy bikes can put children off cycling, and will have them struggling up any little ramps or hills on the way.
With this in mind, developers have sought to end this problem.Manufacturers have worked to reduce the weight of children’s bikes, while improving the gearing, frame and component quality.
Many children’s bikes are built to the same standard you’d expect from your own ride, and at Evans Cycles we pride ourselves on selling quality children’s bikes which can endure the same kind of thrashing as an adult’s bike.
Kid’s bikes aren’t simply scaled-down versions of adult’s bikes. They have their own geometry to make them fit better, so it’s no surprise that sizing works differently.
While adult bikes tend to use standardised wheel diameters and focus on the frame for sizing up individual riders, this isn’t quite the case for kids.
In fact, wheel size is all-important when working out which bike to choose for a child.
For the very youngest, ‘runner’ bikes as a great advancement, allowing toddlers to get to grips with the basics of balance and being in the cycling position for the first time.
Once your little one is out of the toddling stage, they can graduate to pedals. Depending on the child’s age and height, you will be choosing between tiny 12-inch diameter wheels (for pre-schoolers, pictured below), right up to 24-inchers, which should suit kids around nine to 11-years-old.
For 11-15 year olds, there are some very smart looking bikes with 650c wheels, such as the HOY Cammo.
What to look for when sizing
The best way to check the bike is definitely the right size is to pop to a store and let your child test ride a couple. You can order a bike to rest ride at any of our stores, and our colleagues will be happy to help you get the right size, too.
In general, the main difference you find in a larger wheel size is in the longer distance between the saddle and the handlebar, coupled with a longer wheelbase. If the bike is too long, when the child turns the handlebar, you will see they are force to stretch too far, reducing control.
A longer wheelbase also equals a longer turning circle, making the bike more of a handful to negotiate around corners or obstacles if it’s too large.
For more details, check out this link to a fuller sizing guide for youngsters – though bear in mind that it is a guide only.
It goes without saying, if you are buying a bike for your child, safety is of the essence.
Even the best of us fall off from time to time, and any self-respecting adult rider knows the importance of strapping a lid on. So, the first accessory you should think of is a helmet.
In terms of visibility, there’s no need to panic – all bikes come fitted with reflectors – and bells to warn other road users of their presence.
If you little ones are after some cool kit so they can match their mum or dad in cycling shorts and jersey, we stock a great range of children’s cycling clothing that will make them feel like a “proper cyclist”, if that’s what they want.
One final thing to think about are stabilisers. While 12 and 14-inch (and most 16-inch) wheelers come with stabilisers, they can also be bought separately for 20-inch wheels, allowing children up to about age eight to learn with the stability of a little extra help.
There are opposing opinions about stabilizers, Carlton Reid’s Family Cycling book explains the reasons. At the end of the day, it’s up to the parents’ personal opinion, use your best judgement.