Buyer’s Guide: Choose a Bicycle for Your Child

Buying a child’s bicycle can bring on shopper’s overload, given the volume of styles, features, sizes and prices. But all bikes are not created equal, so base your choice on safety and value.

Do not compromise safety by buying a bicycle that is too big. Take your child with you when you shop and have her try the bike in the store.

  • To fit the bike to your child – have your child straddle the bike with her feet on the floor. She should be able to sit on the seat and stand up again easily, and, for a boys’ bike, there should be an inch or more clearance between the top tube and the crotch. If there is any less, the bike is too big.
  • To check the seat – have your child sit and put one foot on the pedal at its lowest point; his knee should be slightly bent. Because of the particular style of most small boys’ BMX-style bikes this fit is difficult to obtain. You should have a professional fit your child to this bike. Once you’ve bought the bicycle, periodically assess the fit and adjust the seat and handlebars as necessary.
  • Look for bikes with a sloping top tube – the greater the slope, the wider the range of fit. Check that the handlebars clear the knees in a tight turn.

Look for these features when purchasing a bike:

  • Adjustable steel ball bearings – Check just below the handlebar headset for an adjustable nut. Inexpensive bikes have plastic bearings held by a clamp that is usually too tight or too loose, and difficult to adjust.
  • Frame design – A girl’s bike with an open frame or a boy’s bike with a sloping tube allow for a wider range of fit.
  • Weight – Inexpensive models can be heavy and difficult for a child to maneuver.
  • Seat – If you don’t like the one on the bike, it can be easily changed ($13 – $15, parts and labor). Check for comfort, height, and the up-and-down tilt adjustment.
  • Padding – The handlebar and top tube should have cushioning in case of falls.

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