Learning how to ride a bike can be a significant milestone in a child’s life. But before the training wheels are locked and the helmets are strapped, you need to find the perfect bike for your child. Bikes that are too large or too small can be difficult to control and maneuver, so understanding what size bike to purchase can be crucial to their experience. Get a handle on the ins and outs of children’s bike sizing with this guide.
TAKE THE WHEEL
So, how do you know what size bike to get your child? Unlike adult sizing, where bikes are determined by the size of the bike frame, bikes for little ones are chosen by the diameter of the wheel. The wheels, in turn, set the proportions for the rest of the bike.
Bike wheels range from one-size balance bikes for small toddlers up to the 24″ wheels that may be suitable for pre-teens. Wheels that are 24″ are considered the last step before moving up to adult models. Bike wheel sizes tend to have corresponding age and height ranges, as seen in the chart below, but it’s important to keep in mind that children grow at different paces and a test ride is the best way to get the most accurate fit.
RIDE AND TESTED
While height charts are a great starting point, a test ride can be a great aid in choosing the right size bike for your child. To help ensure a comfortable fit, here are a few key things to watch out for when putting a bike to the test:
- Take a Seat – When your child is sitting on the seat of the bike, the balls of their feet should be able to comfortably touch the ground. If not, the seat height is too high which could make stopping more difficult.
- Level the Pedals – While pedaling, there are two potential problems that could arise if the bike is the incorrect size. The first is your child’s knees bumping into the handlebars. This is a sign that the bike is undersized. In contrast, if your child cannot pedal smoothly and looks to be hyper-extending their legs, then the bike is too large.
- Set the Bar – Standing up, your child should be able to straddle the bike’s middle bar with their feet flat on the ground. With a correctly-sized bike, there should be 1″ to 2″ of clearance. If the bike has to be tilted to fit under your child’s legs, it is too large.
- Handle with Care – Your child should be able to comfortably steer the handlebars while only slightly bending their arms. If they are overstretching, it can be another sign that the bike you are looking at is too big.
Children grow quickly and because of that, it may be tempting to buy them a bike that they can ‘grow into.’ However, doing so is ill-advised. It may also be more difficult for them to maneuver the bike, which could impact their confidence and make it harder for them to learn.
To account for small growth spurts, some bikes enable you to raise the seat and the handlebar stem to make minor customizations in size. Be sure to check the limits on the owner’s manual of whatever bike you choose. If the bike is adjusted to the farthest extent and you still notice problems with comfort and function, then it’s time for your child to move up to the next size level.
Now that you know how to find the right bike size for your child, you’ll have what you need to get them ready to ride and make lasting childhood memories.