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5 Tips for Buying Your Child the Right Bike

5 Tips for Buying Your Child the Right Bike

Which kind of brakes? What size wheels? How many gears? Parents are faced with many decisions when buying a child's bike, and it can be difficult to know what's best for different ages and skill levels. To help you find a safe bike for your child, we asked our Biking Familiy bloggers to tell us what parents need to consider when buying kids' bikes. Here are some of the smart tips they shared.

1. The Importance of Quality

"First, the bicycle should be well made. Unfortunately, many discount store bikes don't meet this criteria. Second, the bike should be in good working order. Check brake pads, tire air pressure, chain condition. Look for parts that are missing, damaged, or loose." -Melissa Brown of Her Green Life

2. How A Bike Should Fit

"New style kids bikes are often too long for the height, so kids are too stretched out toward the handlebars. They can't make turns or react to braking well then. Arms should always easily reach the handlebars with a relaxed and comfortable posture. Kids should always be able to step down on a bike with their feet flat on the ground, usually sliding off the seat to do so. Crossbars should clear a child's inseam by two or three inches standing over the bar. Oddly, even on a bike that's too big, kids usually sit too low. If their knees aren't almost straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke, think about raising the seat or moving up a size. It makes pedaling much easier."-Chicargobike

3. Gears, Wheels & Brakes

"Knowing that a child can easily overestimate her talents when it comes to sportive riding with a complicated gear set and a stylish mountain bike frame, a parent ought to find out what she really needs. Yes, good brakes with easy grips, definitely, for her safety. And if she is not the kind of person who likes gear shifting and experimenting for the sake of technical interest, she should get a 5-gear hub system with pedal brakes, and no mountain bike frame…My 6-year-old boy differs greatly. He loves gear shifting, he explores technical details and he has already much more riding experience than my daughter. Although he is younger, his riding is safer. During a family ride he goes down a steep hill without any complaints. He is more adventurous than his sister. Consequently, I bought a bike with a mountain bike frame, good brakes and a gear set with 12 gears." -Guenther Miklitz of My Folding Bike Brompton

"Once your kid can pedal, something with a coaster brake is good. We like older style, more upright postures more than the current knobby wheel style. You start with a 12 1/2 in wheel. When the kid seems as big as the bike you have waited too long – move up to 16-inch wheels, and add a hand brake. Next step is 20-inch wheels and at this point you should have two hand brakes to encourage learning to ride, maybe with a coaster too, and maybe more than one gear. Our kids have several gears, lights, reflectors, a rack, two hand brakes and smooth-ish tires at this stage, none of which costs a lot." -Chicargobike

4. Maintenance and Safety Checks

"If cost is a factor, you can look for a used bike, but here it would be a good idea to enlist a bike shop to give it a once over to make sure it's road worthy. You can also look for bicycle safety events (sometimes called "Bike Rodeos") in your community—many of these will offer bicycle safety checks for free." -Melissa Brown of Her Green Life

"If you don't know how to maintain a bike always take it to your friendly local bike shop to tune it completely and fit the seat correctly for your child." -Chicargobike

5. Helmets

"It goes without saying that kids should never be allowed to ride a bike without wearing a safety helmet. So buying a bike implies also buying a helmet." ." -Guenther Miklitz of My Folding Bike Brompton

"Don't forget a helmet for your kid, whatever you think about helmets for yourself." -Chicargobike

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