Choosing a bike for your child

Choosing your child’s first back can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know much about riding. With hundreds of models in the market, it can be hard to choose just one. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the best bike for your child.

Every child looks forward to getting his first bike. For parents, however, choosing what bike to get their kids can be confusing. There are literally hundreds of brands to choose from, all promising the same thing. How do you know which one will work for your child? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Size

Children’s bikes are sized according to wheel diameter, unlike adult bikes which are measured by height. Wheels range in size from 12 to 24 inches and should be in proportion with the rider’s age. A three-year-old, for example, can start off with a 12” bike, while a ten-year-old will be more suited to a 22 incher. Wheel size also affects speed, so don’t expect a beginner’s bike to go as fast as an intermediate one.

Age

Each age group needs a different set of features. But kids outgrow bikes pretty fast, so it’s best to choose one that can be adjusted t your child’s changing needs. A two-year-old on a mini training bike can easily move on to a tricycle or a bike with training wheels, and as he learns to balance, you can gradually wean him off the trainers. Hand brakes can be introduced at age 5, and larger wheels are usually appropriate around age 10.

Brakes

Brakes are an important yet often overlooked feature of children’s bikes. There are two types of brakes used on most children’s bikes: coaster brakes, which are activated by pedaling backwards, and hand brakes, which are controlled by a lever on the handlebar. Coaster brakes are more intuitive and may be more appropriate for younger riders. Some newer bikes come with both types, which can be useful for a child moving beginner to intermediate riding.

Weight

Children’s bikes aren’t designed for more than five years of use, so manufacturers often lower the cost by using heavier materials. Steel and aluminum frames are fairly common and offer pretty good performance in most conditions. Generally, bikes should kept light for beginners as they are still learning balance and control. As they develop more strength and coordination, they can move on to heavier bikes, although it’s more practical to upgrade to a lighter, more feature-packed model.

Comfort

Comfort should be your top consideration when choosing a bike for your child. Even the most expensive features aren’t worth much if your child can’t sit comfortably on the bike. Take your child shopping with you and have him try on his choices to see which is the most comfortable. If he’s a first-time rider, gel seats are highly recommended as the first few rides can cause a sore hip and chafed inner legs.

Durability

Since your child is still learning, occasional falls and bumps are t be expected. Make sure your child’s bike is up to the challenge—you don’t want a bike that gets dented at the slightest impact. As a rule of thumb, an average adult should not be able to bend the frame tubing with his bare hands. Steel,  and carbon fiber are considered the most durable bike materials, although the latter is more common in adult bikes.

Safety features

No bike should be without at least a safety brake or some other safety mechanism. In children’s bikes, the most important safety features are the coaster brake and handlebar grips. Also watch out for dangerous features, such as a spiky knob that can cause serious injuries if your child falls forward.

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