How to Choose a Kids’ Bike

For decades, the bicycle has excelled as the perfect gift for a child, but it is also the perfect way to introduce children to sport and the outdoors and it promotes important values such as independence, self-esteem and physical strength.

That's why, here at Mammoth, we have prepared some tips to help you choose the right bike for each age group and make a memorable first experience and even inspire your child become a cyclist for good.

Kids’ Bike Sizes

The most important factors for choosing the right children's bike are: the size and type according to the child's learning phase or intended use: beginner, recreational, mountain, BMX, etc.

Children's bike sizes are defined by the size of the wheel and these can be 10, 12, 14, 16, 16, 18, 20 and 24 inches. Some brands go up to 26 inches for taller children and teens. The size of a bike should be chosen according to height, rather than age, as children’s heights vary quite a bit. In the following chart, we indicate the recommended wheel size according to height and age range, based on the average heights of children in Spain.

Size Chart

Children over 155 cm can choose either 26" wheels, or 27.5" wheels combined with a smaller frame.

Children over 160-165 cm, can choose from 27.5" and 29" wheels. However, the size of these bikes is not decided by the wheel size, but by the size and geometry of the frame and the rider’s leg length. We will talk about choosing the correct size of adult bikes in a future blog post.

The chart above is a good starting point for choosing a bike, but other important factors should also be taken into account, depending on the stages of our young cyclists.

First Bike: Stabilisers vs Balance Bike

Typically, children between 2.5 and 3 years of age, spend the first learning phase with a balance bike (or push bike), which features 10" and 12" wheels, although the age depends on several factors and can go up to 5-6 years, in which case the wheel diameter should be larger.

For many years, the traditional learning system has involved attaching stabiliser wheels to a bike to familiarise the child with the dynamics of pedalling and braking, until, in the final phase, they face the challenge of maintaining their balance without stabilisers while the child is held by an adult until they finally let go. This procedure undoubtedly works and most of us have learned in this way.

But the sector has evolved and other options are now available, such as balance and push bikes, which offer an easier, faster and more natural alternative for acquiring the balance and coordination skills needed for learning to ride a bike. The learning process with these bikes differs from the traditional method as children start developing their psychomotor and balance skills by pushing themselves along with their feet. They do not have to worry about pedalling and the freedom to put their feet down at any time, makes them feel safer. Once the skill are acquired, it is much more natural for them to take the next step, which is to pedal to keep moving, and avoids having to go through the stabiliser phase.

Whichever system is used, it is important that it is the child who decides when to start pedalling. Adults are free to motivate and encourage them to take on the challenge and really start to enjoy the magic of riding and balancing on a bike, but if the child does not feel confident, forcing them to progress can lead to rejection, which, in turn, delays learning.

The range of balance bikes has increased considerably in recent years and you they are available in a wide variety of prices, weights and qualities. At Mammoth our collection focuses on products with certified quality standards.

First Contact. Which Bike?

From the age of 3 to 6 or 7 years old, the wheel size options are between 14" and 18", depending on the physical maturity and height of the child, as seen in the size chart above. These wheel sizes will allow the child to start riding a bike for real. In this second section we will look at the options.

The size of the bike needs to be appropriate for the age and height of the child and it is important not to make the mistake of buying a bigger bike because it will last longer or taking advantage of a bike that is too small. The wrong size of bike can be an unpleasant and even dangerous experience, instead of something that is memorable and inspirational. Some children with special skills or physical maturity are able to control bikes of any size, but in most cases, a bike that is too big is a danger and does not contribute to the child's enjoyment of riding.

Children grow quickly and usually need to change the bike size every two years. A good option for this stage is the so-called convertible bike, which usually covers the first few years and allows you to modify the bike so that it adapts to your child's growth. Special attention should be paid to the LitleBig bike by Smartbikes, which starts out as a balance bike without pedals and increases in size by simply turning the rear part of the frame upside down. It can also be fitted with a bottom bracket, which turns it into a pedal bike. This is an ingenious design that extends the life of the bike from 2 to approx. 7 years.

Smartbikes LitleBig

These first bikes are usually very well-made and durable enough to be handed down to siblings, relatives or friends, or sold second-hand to help pay for your investment in the next bike size. What is not advisable, is to prolong its use and deprive the child of the opportunity to evolve as a cyclist.

Other factors also need to be considered, as these are important for the child's safety, comfort and riding experience.

  • The frame height should allow the child’s feet to touch and push off the ground while sitting on the saddle, because the most important thing at this stage is the child's safety and confidence. At this point, the bike is more of a toy and there is no need to worry about biomechanical factors. If you are unable to check the height by sitting the child on the bike, you can measure the inside leg length and this should be longer than the distance from the lowest saddle position to the ground. If this is not the case, the bike is unsuitable, as the child’s feet will not reach the ground.
  • Grips, brake and gear controls should be adapted to the size and strength of the child's hands. Using them comfortably facilitates bike control and ensures the comfort and safety of the child, so this should be checked carefully. If the child does not have the strength or reach to manipulate the controls, the bike will not be suitable.
  • The weight of the bike also affects the ease of use and this is the weakest point on most children's bikes, as the design and choice of materials are often more about the price than weight. The price of a lightweight bike is always higher, and understandably most parents try to spend as little as possible on a bike that will only be used for two or three years, in most cases. But a lightweight bike is much more manageable and requires less strength, resulting in greater enjoyment and control. In the following section, we will look at this more closely.
  • The aesthetics of a bike is at least as important, if not more so, for a child as it is for an adult. Once you have found the size and component requirements, if possible, you need to make sure that the child thinks it looks and feels great. This will also contribute to their enjoyment and help create fond memories.

The Adventure Begins. I’m a Cyclist

From aboutage 7-8, children begin to see the bike as more than just a toy for riding on pavements and in the park, and they want to go further afield and experience new adventures, especially if their family members enjoy cycling. Depending on the maturity of the child and the family environment, they will already consider cycling on the road with an adult.

They now feel they have a "real bike" with 20", 24" and 26" wheels, and this is the final step before moving on to an adult bike. We will now look at the factors to consider when choosing these bikes.

  • Bike size: It is still just as important to choose the right size of bikes with 20" to 26" inch wheels, and again, the chart showing the wheel size in relation to the child’s height can be used, combined with the advice on the frame height in the previous section. However, if the child is already planning longer rides and has gained riding skills, it is enough if the toes can reach the ground when sitting on the saddle and if there is enough space between the crotch and the bar when standing astride the bike, so that there is no contact with the bar when dismounting from the saddle. This will be sufficient to feel safe and will ensure a good pedalling position that will improve riding and efficiency over longer distances.
  • Type of bike: As with adult bikes, the type will depend on the use. If the child is unlikely to ride outside the urban environment, a touring or mixed bike is suitable, with knob-free tyres, mudguards and other accessories, and even with no gears. However, if you want to introduce your child to off-road rides, you should opt for a mountain bike, which is very versatile and will be suitable for both urban and off-road use. Children usually prefer the style of a mountain bike and there is a huge range of brands to choose from. BMX bikes are only recommended for urban use or for the specific use they are designed for; BMX circuits, pump track, dirt, etc. They are not designed for longer rides or off-road trips.
  • Components: the drivetrains usually use 7 and 8 speeds, combined with different chainring options, depending on the model. The number of chainrings and sprockets will be directly linked to the bike price range, but, unless the cyclist intends to ride on very steep terrain, we recommend a minimum number of chainrings, as children tend to use only the rear derailleurs, for simplicity.
  • Suspension: Front suspension can be found on children's MTB bikes with 20" to 26" inch wheels. Rear suspension usually consists of simple coils that do not fulfil their function and only add extra weight, except in the higher-end models. Forks offer a greater variety, not just in top of the range models, but we do not consider suspension to be an important factor, unless the child plans to tackle routes with a certain degree of difficulty. If this is the case, the quality of the fork is important and should not just be a decorative feature that is ineffective or adds significant weight. However, most children like the idea of fork suspension as it makes it look more like an adult bike, so you will need to consider the pros and cons depending on the circumstances and child's preference.
  • Bicycle weight: Earlier, we mentioned that a lighter bike will usually improve the control and safety of the child. But, from the age of 7-8, bikes are larger and the rides are more difficult, so the bicycle weight becomes even more important. The average weight of an adult bike is around 16% of the body weight. If the same calculation is made for a 9 year old, this can go up to 50-60% on the cheaper bikes, which would be similar to an adult riding a bike weighing 40 kg!

In this video from our Youtube Mundo Mammoth channel, we expand on this data and present Woom, a brand that has paid special attention to the weight of children's bikes by developing the lightest models on the market.

At Mammoth we have carefully selected our range of children's bikes so that it is much easier to find the one that best suits your child and your budget. You can see our extensive collection by top cycling brands and a wide range of prices.

Essential Accessories

After choosing the bike, you will need to add accessories to complete the equipment required and ensure comfort and especially safety.

  • The helmet is the most important accessory for cycling and you should never ride without it. It can prevent major injury and so, the price of a helmet should not be treated in the same way as the price of other components. Our advice is to choose a helmet that offers a snug fit, ensures good protection in the event of a fall and has an attractive design. If the child finds it cool and comfortable, it will be much easier to convince the young cyclist to wear it all the time. At Mammoth you can find a wide range of children's bike helmets that meet these requirements:
  • Glasses protect the eyes against foreign objects, caused by splashing, etc.. and we include them in the list of essential equipment, together with the helmet..
  • Gloves will prevent hand injuries in the event of a fall, which is very common, at first.
  • Protection, such as elbow and knee pads, provide extra safety.
  • Cycling clothing completes your cycling gear with items such as a jersey, bib shorts or jacket.

We hope that these tips will be useful for choosing the right bike for our youngest riders and that this will help inspire them to become cyclists for years to come.

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