Choosing the Right Size Bicycle for Children

Posted by: Judit

2014-03-07

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If you want for your child to cycle safely, you have to take the following guidelines into consideration. A bicycle that is the wrong size may cause your child to lose control and be injured. You must ensure that you buy your child a bike that is the right size for them to be safe.

  1. Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until he or she is ready, at about age 5. Smaller kids, toddlers can use a  Balance Bike without pedals so that they can learn balancing and steering before they sit on a proper bike.
  2. Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new bike.
  3. Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes aare especially dangerous.
  4. How to test any style of bike for proper fit
    • Sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, your child must be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.
    • Straddling the center bar, your child should be able to stand with both feet flat on the ground with about a 1-inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.
    • When buying a bike with hand brakes for an older child, make sure that the child can comfortably grasp the brakes and apply sufficient pressure to stop the bike.
  5. A helmet should be standard equipment.
  6. Consider the child’s coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster brakes until your child is older and more experienced.

Kids grow so if they are in a child seat or trailer it won’t be long until they outgrow it.  At 2-4 years they can move on to their own appropriately sized tri-cycle.  On a bicycle, kids can experience/learn the laws of inertia, pedaling, steering, braking and sitting on a saddle.  Tricycles don’t do much to develop a sense of balance.

Most kids try a two-wheeler with training wheels around age 3 years.

Between the ages of 4 and 8 years most kids have developed sufficient physical coordination and agility, good balance, and master starting and stopping on a tricycle or training wheels so that they are ready to learn to ride a bicycle.  (Note: Kids generally lack the coordination and strength for hand brakes until at least 5.)  But, along with physical skills it also takes mental readiness (self-confidence) and motivation to learn to bicycle.  Some kids don’t develop this until they are 10 or more years old.  It sometimes takes a lot of patience on the part of parents.  Interest and readiness to learn to ride a bike can manifests itself as questions about bicycles, a desire to ride with friends, talk about tricycles and training wheels as things for “babies,” etc.

Children’s bike sizes are determined by wheel diameter, not seat height and frame size as is the case with adult bicycles. Ask an expert helping you find a bike that is most suitable.  A critical factor is the brakes.  Coaster brakes tend to be easier for young kids to use but they become less common as the bikes get bigger.  It can be dangerous when kids who are tall for their age fit bigger bikes with hand brakes that they can’t operate well.  After kids outgrow children’s bikes they’ll move into small-framed adult bikes with 26 inch, 27 inch or 700c wheels, which are sized by the length of the seat tube.

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