A well-fitting bike for a kid is critical for them to enjoy the ride. The right bike will let them pedal easy, start and stop effectively, control the bike, and be confident putting their feet down. Just like a bike for adults, the bike should be an extension of the kid where riding becomes second nature. But kids bike sizing can be tricky – there are so many sizes. Here is a breakdown.
Kids Bike Sizing
If you have not started your kid on a balance bike, read this. It covers balance bikes and how you should set them up. Once your kid is ready for a bike with pedals, this is what is available in kids bike sizing:
|12 inch||2-4||26-34 inches|
|16 inch||3-6||34-44 inches|
|20 inch||4-8||44-56 inches|
|24 inch||7+||56-62 inches|
The measurement refers to the diameter of the wheel as opposed to the size of the frame with adult bikes. Generally, frames are similarly sized within a wheel size, but there is no standardization. This range will cover your kid’s growth and is available from nearly every major brand. There are bikes that exist outside of those sizes, say fourteen and eighteen inch, but they are uncommon. It is best to avoid them because of the difficulty you may find trying to get a spare tube or tire.
The age ranges are approximate. The best way to get kids bike sizing right is to get them on the bike. Their confidence and ability are more important factors than their chronological age. For a novice rider, choosing a slightly smaller bike will benefit them more than going to the next size up because it will allow them to have more control over the bike and give them the security of putting their feet on the ground easily. For a more experienced rider, you can get a bike that is slightly larger as they will have the skills to ride it.
Kids Grow Quickly!
If you are a parent reading this, you already know how quickly kids grow. They will grow out of their bikes quickly – even as quickly as once per year with some. If you have a few kids, it is easy to pass down the bikes. Getting a new bike for each size can turn into an expensive proposition especially if you factor in the years of use and then the resale value after they are all done. Another great avenue is to get a used bike. It is very rare that a kid will ride a bike into the ground so used bikes are often great deals.
Bike Shop Bikes
It is worth it to get a brand name bike that was originally sold in a bike shop. It will be of higher quality and designed by a person that understands human dimensions, making it easier for your kid to ride. While wheel sizes might be the same, the difference between a bike shop bike and a department store bike can be staggering. The bike shop bike will have a frame that is appropriately sized to the wheels while the department store bike will have whatever was the cheapest way to get the bike out for sale, even it does not appropriately fit anyone. In addition, things can and will break on any kids bike but they will be sure to happen much quicker on a department store bike.
Gears or No Gears For a Kids Bike
Smaller kids bike will come with one gear as kids need to be more focused just on the riding and not yet have to worry about shifting. On 20-inch bikes you will start to find gears, often with a grip-shift. If a kid is just learning to ride while on a 20-inch bike, make sure the bike is in a good, easy gear and don’t have them shift. Once they are comfortable riding, then teach them how to shift.
When To Graduate From Coaster Brakes
Smaller kids bikes will come with coaster brakes which is where you pedal backwards to stop. This is used because of the simplicity for kids and the difficulty in pulling a brake lever with smaller hands. As you get to 20-inch bikes, they will switch to standard hand brakes as kids hands will be of sufficient size to safely operate a brake.
Doing the Best for Kids
Give them the bike that will allow them to control the bike like a natural. It will increase their love of riding and increase their skills and confidence. Kids bike sizing is relatively simple when you realize there are only four sizes and that you need to get them on the one they can control the best.