How to Buy a Kids' Bike

Three Parts:Preparing to Buy a BikeChoosing a Bike SizeChoosing a Bike

Watching your child ride a bike for the first time can be a monumental and thrilling experience for both you and your child. If you want your child to enjoy bike riding, then set her up for success by purchasing the right bike. When the time comes to watch your child succeed in riding a bicycle, feel proud about the steps you took to get her there.

Part 1
Preparing to Buy a Bike

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    Buy a helmet. A helmet is standard equipment and should be purchased before buying a bike. Ensure the helmet fits the child's head size correctly and that the chin strap is snug, but not too tight.[1]
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    Choose additional safety equipment. You may consider buying a bell or reflectors for your child's bike. Other safety gear to consider includes knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards.
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    Consider the bicycle frame. Cheaper bikes tend to be made out of cheaper materials, which also tend to be heavy. Because children's bikes have a smaller wheel diameter, they are harder to pedal, so you want to choose a lightweight bike. Choose a bike frame made from metal alloys and not steel.[2]
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    Choose a braking method. Children under the age of 5 tend to lack the coordination and skill to work hand brakes and should use pedal brakes.[3] Pedal breaks are activated when the child pedals backward. If you choose a bike with hand brakes, make sure they can easily be grasped and that your child knows how to use them, as it can be dangerous if your child does not know how to stop her bike.[4]
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    Consider whether to buy a bike with gears. Gears will help your child navigate hills and different terrain. Using gears are for more advanced riders, so make sure your child has mastered basic skills such as hand braking, turning, and safety before graduating to more advanced stages.
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    Consider purchasing a bike second-hand. Many bikes are available for purchase from a garage sale or through an online marketplace. Children will outgrow their bikes, so consider purchasing a quality second-hand bike as opposed to a new bike.

Part 2
Choosing a Bike Size

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    Carefully choose wheel size. Children's bike sizes are determined by wheel diameter, not seat height and frame size (as is the case with adult bicycles). Smaller children's bikes have a smaller wheel diameter whereas bikes for older children have a larger wheel diameter.[5]
    • Ages 4 to 5: Wheel diameter of 12 inches, child's inseam 14-17 inches.
    • Ages 6: Wheel diameter of 16 inches, child's inseam 18-21 inches.
    • Ages 7-8: Wheel diameter 20 inches; child's inseam 22-25 inches.
    • Ages 9+: Wheel diameter 24 inches, child's inseam 26+ inches.[6]
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    Choose a bike that is size appropriate. The rider should be able to dismount easily and should be able to straddle the bicycle easily on flat feet. When riding, your child's hands and arms should rest comfortably, not needing to outstretch to turn the handlebars. Knees should not hit the handlebars.[7]
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    Do not choose a bike your child will "grow into". Children will have a difficult time balancing and maneuvering a bike that is too big and heavy, or may get frustrated or injured dealing with skills that are above their level. Don't put your child in this vulnerable position as it could prove fatal on an open road.

Part 3
Choosing a Bike

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    Check the bike's brakes. The brakes are the most important part to function on the bike. Make sure the brakes function properly. If the bike has hand brakes, make sure that the brake pads align on the back tire.[8]
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    Check the front wheel. Make sure the wheel spins freely, but doesn't move when pushing it side to side. A quality wheel will have a metal hub, spokes and rim.[9]
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    Check the frame. Make sure the metal cannot be bent by hand. Ensure that the frame is aligned by examining the bike head-on, so that the tires and frame all line up.[10]
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    Check the material of parts. Parts made with plastic will not endure as long as metal-based parts. Parts made of steel tend to be heavy, especially in the tire rims.[11]
    • If purchasing the bike second-hand, make sure it is in full working order before buying. Ask if any maintenance work has been applied to the bike, such as oiling the chain. Assess any wear on the brake pads.
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    Consider whether to use training wheels for young riders. Training wheel use is debated, and many parents choose not to use training wheels because they can encourage children to reach much higher speeds than their skills can handle. This can result in the child being unable to stop or steer, causing larger accidents.[12] However, other parents believe that training wheels can be helpful for very young children who need to build confidence or learn how to be cautious.
    • Make sure that your training wheels have adjustments so that you can move them higher off the ground as your child improves. You want your child to get a sense of balance while still having the support of the training wheels. Never push your child to remove the training wheels.


  • Bring your child along with you when bike shopping. This way you can have her size the bike out correctly, and build excitement for her new bike.
  • Encourage your child to wear her helmet each time she rides her bike. Set a clear example by also wearing a helmet.

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Categories: Parenting