10 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Kids Bike
Kids love bikes. There's no doubt about it - it forms the backbone to many a childhood memory and many parents look forward to the moment they give their children their first bike.
But choosing the right kids bike can be difficult. You know yourself how you might buy your own new bike - you'd look at whether you can comfortably sit on the bike and touch the ground with your feet, you'd consider whether you can comfortably rotate the pedals and your legs don't hit anything and you'd want to reach the handlebars with the optimum bend in your arm so that it feels so comfortable you don't notice any strain anywhere. And of course, you have to like the colour and accessories it comes with or you can add to it.
Well choosing a kids bike is not that much different except of course, your child might not have ever ridden before so this is a whole new experience you will want to prepare for - managing their expectations, anxieties and fears, their ability and confidence - and your concerns over safety and ease of use. So here's our 10 things you need to consider to choose the right kids bike:
1. Age and Height
It is too easy to use height as the only measuring stick for a bike's correct size. Be careful: it can easily be misleading as an indicator.
You'll see on our kids bike range page, we list our bikes by age and then height so its a natural place to start. However, unlike many other brands, the age and height range overlaps dramatically for each of the bike ranges.
As most kids' balance develops at roughly the same speed, using age and height with ability is far more relevant. As parents, you know all too well the height differences of your kids' friends and peers. And height has absolutely no indicator of ability or confidence.
2. Ability and Confidence
Children learn to ride with greater ease, have more control on the bike and have a lot more fun if they are the master of their domain.
Almost every parent we have come across likes the idea of buying a bike that their kids will grow into. Of course this makes sense financially, but there are negatives - the extra size, height and weight are quite daunting, and often a child can't actually properly ride the bike or safely control it. Where's the fun in that?!
You know that not all the kids the same age have the same physical ability - just watch them in the playground and you'll see! So the same goes for riding a bike. Some will be able to manage the steering, pedaling or pushing (on a balance bike) and braking quite naturally yet others will really need to master each skill independently of each other. You have to subjectively judge, as a parent, what your child's ability is and this will help feed into your decision of what size bike is right for them.
Whether a kid has ridden a balance bike or scooter will also influence thier ability when they move onto a bike with pedals so this is a deciding factor as well.
Marion Turner from Essential Kids gives great insight into getting the E-450x3i for her 5 year old son. The bike looks huge under his small frame but judging his ability and confidence correctly meant she was able to stretch him to the next size bike. A good read for anyone who is still unsure about the right size bike for their child.
3. Physical Fit
A bike is the right size when your child can:
- Sit on the saddle and rest the balls of both feet on the ground.
- Straddle the top bar with a comfortable clearance and with both feet flat on the ground.
- Reach the handlebars with a slight bend in the arms when sitting on the seat. If there are handbrakes, your child should be able to grasp them and apply enough pressure to stop the bike.
As your child grows, you can raise the seat post and handlebar stem according to the owners manual limits. Another great tip is to set the handlebars back and with the seat put to the lowest level - this reduces the reach a little more and allows you more growing room.
4. Bike Weight
Would you ride a bike that is more than half your own weight? Could you imagine how hard that would be to not only propel the bike from stationery position, but to maneourve it around corners or up and down a curb? Well why would you expect your child to do the same, especially when they are learning to ride?
When we started ByK Bikes, one of the biggest design factors was weight. There just wasn't a range of lightweight kids bikes anywhere in the world.
5. Girls/Boys Specific Design
Girl/Boy Childrens Bike Design - does it matter? From a specific riding point of view, the difference in the girls or boys shape design absolutely has no impact on functionality. In fact, a lower step through (which is the girls design) is an advantage for most young riders as it is easier to get on and off. Strength-wise, there is also no real difference in the design either.
So it is more to do with the social aspect - there is an expectation in the market to have 2 different designs. We try to have as many gender neutral colours as we can in our range so there is enough choice for every boy or girl.
How long will my kid ride the bike before they outgrow it? As a parent, you need to be comfortable the bike will last quite a while too. On that point, the most common reason kids have to move up a size on a normal bike is because of the lack of knee room between the seat and handlebars.
This forces you to put up the seat and then your child loses interest or confidence in riding because the centre of gravity is really high and hence the bike becomes even more difficult to ride. A defining design feature of the ByK Bikes is the longer wheelbase - it is more ergonomically correct for a child's growing body and so, its almost like having the next size bike up for this knee space. In the end this means a ByK bike will last longer.
In the images below, Review Zoo compares their new ByK E-450 to the previous kids bike they unsuccessfully tried to learn on. The design differences are obvious, specifically the extra leg room for a growing body, and the better weight distribution of the lower-slung, ergonomic design. Read more of their review here.
7. Hand-me-down / Re-sale ability
Many parents buy bikes knowing they can be handed down to younger siblings or cousins, friends, etc. That's why we try to have a range of colours that can suit both boys and girls with most of our ranges.
With the explosion of ebay and gumtree and many new websites for specficially buying and selling bikes in Australia, many parents consider the re-sale value of products as an important buying criteria. Why not? If you buy a cheap bike for $100 with no re-sale value but alternatively you can buy a bike for $300 knowing you can resell it for $150 then you're kid is better off with a higher quality bike and you get a return on your investment.
8. Buying from a bike store vs a department store
You can do your reseach online and read every bit of info on even our website, but your local bike store experts can give specific advice for your child. This is something you will never get in a department store. Buying from a department store can sometimes mean the bike is not fully assembled but at a bike shop, it will be built by an expert who will ensure it is safe and set up specifically for the intended rider.
Once you buy from a local store, you then have somewhere to go back for support, advice, maintenance and safety checks - from readjusting gears, fixing damage, dealing with a puncture, and so on. Build a friendship with your local store and they will look after you.
9. Training Wheels, Bike Stands and Accessories
Does it come with a kickstand? We get this question often from parents - they assume that every bike comes with a kickstand but you can't have both - it gets too messy to use both at the same time! The bikes with training wheels (the E-250 adn E-350 ranges) do not come with a kickstand. You can buy after-market kickstands if your kid takes the training wheels off (or doesn't use them at all if they have learnt to ride on a balance bike.
Bells, baskets, spokey dokeys, lights, water bottles (and holders), bike racks (for bags or dolls!), knobby tyres, bike stands. We're sure there's more to this list. None of these are deal breakers but sometimes on the list of must haves for some kids!
All of our bikes come with a bell and all bikes from the E-450 range and above come with kickstands. However, we know that a lot of parents use the promise of new accessories like a speciality bell or spokey dokeys as an incentive to taking their training wheels off. Kids do so well when they have a goal to work towards - don't you too?!
Not much to be said here. Kids can be picky when it comes to colour. We have tried really hard to have a large range of colour choices for our models. You'll see the biggest range of choice on our E-350 bikes for kids aged 4-6 as this seems to be the age group that are most demanding of a specific colour!