The Gift of a Bicycle - Tips for Choosing a Childrens Bike

Once they've grown out of their child bike seat, kids bicycles can be one of the most exciting gifts a child ever receives.

Kids Bicycles Sizing Guide


Note: Because children grow at different rates, a sizing guide is not a great substitute for a proper fitting in a bike shop.

The basic bicycle sizing principles apply and comfort and safety are the priorities.

Depending on where you are, the most common sized wheel diameter on kids bikes may differ - ie Some bicycle manufacturers don't make 14 or 18 inch childrens bikes.

Age Child's Height Inseam Bike Size
(from wheel diameter)

2 - 5 years

26 - 36 inches
66 - 91 cm

14 - 18 inches
35 - 45 cm

12 inch

4 - 8 years

34 - 42 inches
86 - 107 cm

16 - 22 inches
40 - 56 cm

14 inch

6 - 9 years

42 - 48 inches
107 - 122 cm

20 - 24 inches
51 - 61 cm

18 inch

8 - 12 years

48 - 56 inches
122 - 142 cm

22-25 inches
55-63 cm

20 inch

9+ years

50 - 62 inches
127 - 156 cm

24-28 inches
60-72 cm

24 inch

Age 2 - 5 Years

Are They Ready for a Kids Bicycle?

Because levels of co-ordination and balance at this age vary greatly, it's best to make the decision on an individual basis.

Kids Strider Balance Bike.Some kids really take to using a balance bike (kind of like the original hobbyhorse bicycle.)
The advantage of starting with a balance bike is that it can help a child master balancing the bicycle without having to concentrate on pedalling.
When they move up to a bike with pedals, they might be better prepared to remove the training wheels or stabilizers sooner.
( has a range of balance bikes here.)

Kids who are less co-ordinated may be better off using a three-wheeler or tricycle until they reach about 4.

A lot of kids are ready between age four and five to take the plunge into riding without training wheels.

The smallest kids bicycles have a 12 inch wheel, and usually have back-pedal or coaster brakes and sometimes even a direct drive (which allows backwards pedalling).
12 inch bikes are generally sold with stabilizers.

Age 4 - 8 Years

Developing Confidence

Le Remorqueur du Champ du Mars Poster.The 14 or 16 inch wheeled bike will be the right size for most kids in this age bracket.

Beware of bikes with only hand brakes at this age, because most kids have trouble operating them properly, at least until after they're 5 years old.

Bikes up to 16 inches are usually all single speed bikes, and it is still good to look out for a model with a coaster brake even if it has hand brakes as well.

Unless they're starting late, by the time they're ready for a 16 inch bike, children should be ready to get rid of the training wheels.

Age 6 - 9 Years

They're Off and Racing!

Redline BMX BikeChildren are often ready for the first bmx bike with 20 inch tires at around age 7.

Be aware of the crank length on a BMX, or any 20 inch bicycle for that matter.
Ideally, they should only be about 20 per cent of the length of the inside leg measurement.

If it's a bmx designed for a larger rider, the cranks will be longer and the bike will be harder to manoeuvre.

Age 8 - 12 Years

Serious Cycling?

This is the age where, if so inclined, a kid can first enter the world of road bikes.

Felt F24 Youth Road BikeMany bicycle manufacturers are producing 24 inch kids road bikes, so if the growing sport of triathlon has taken grip over the family, then no longer do they have to clunk around the course on a mountain bike.

The second hand market is a good place to start too of you're looking to budget on a higher end model.

Between 8 and 12 years, most of the kids bicycles on offer will look like smaller versions of adult mountain bicycles.

Once again, it's important to take into account the child's riding preferences and fit those to the type of kids bicycle.

Over 12 Years

Needing a Cool Bicycle

Most kids at age 12 will fit a 24 inch bike, and those bigger for their age might be able to manage a small framed 26 inch wheel adult bike if they are more experienced riders.

However, it's always better to buy a bicycle that fits, rather than one to grow into.

There's also potentially pressure at this age to get a bike that's cool without regard for proper fitting.

Points to Remember

  • Even though smaller, it would cost nearly the same to produce a high end bike for a child as it would in an adult size, so ...
  • Because most people don't want to spend too much on something that a child will outgrow in a few years, the market dictates that most bicycles for kids are not generally manufactured to last, and are built with lower quality components.
  • If you are buying a bicycle at a department store or toy store, be aware that it will either need to be assembled by you, or that it might have been assembled in the shop by someone without any mechanical training.
  • Finally - remember that mental preparation for cycling is important as well as correct sizing.
    Some kids take longer to develop road awareness, and a for this reason a new bike should not be forced on a child.

Kids Mountain Bikes vs Single Speed Bicycles

Kids Mountain Bikes vs Single Speeed Bikes

  • 20 inch bikes with gears are now on the market, and they can be a good idea for kids who ride to school in hilly areas.
  • The most important thing to consider is how the bike is going to be used.
  • An all terrain bicycle with gears is suitable for commuting to and from school.
    A 20 inch bmx single speed bicycle is much better suited for doing tricks or bunny-hopping over kerbs.
  • There is less potential for maintenance issues to arise with a single speed bike as well.
  • Front suspension on 20 inch all terrain bicycles is notoriously bad, and if the bike is going to be used a lot, it's better to either invest in a more expensive kids mountain bike or stick with rigid forks.


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Bicycle Buying Guide

Kids Bicycles Crashes Compilation

Yep, kids bike crashes can be funny in retrospect, but these videos just show how important it is to wear a bicycle helmet when learning to ride a bike.

As a kid
I had a dream ...

... I wanted to own my own bicycle.

When I got the bike I must have been the happiest boy in Liverpool, maybe the world.

I lived for that bike.

Most kids left their bike in the backyard at night. Not me. I insisted on taking mine indoors and the first night I even kept it in my bed.

 - John Lennon

Cool Tricks on a BMX

Not something to try at home, but it's easy to see the attraction for kids and cool bikes, as this video of Corey Bohen's riding shows.