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Top tips when buying a children’s bike

Group of children playing together with a bike
Buying a kid’s bike is a magical experience for both the child and parent alike. It gives children their first taste of independence and adventure, with the added thrill of whizzing about. With these top tips, you’ll find the perfect bike that your child will love.

1. Choose the right size

All too often, parents fall into the trap of buying a kid’s bike which is far too big, with the expectation that their children will grow into it. Riding a bike which is too big is not only uncomfortable for children, it can be a safety hazard, forces them to adopt poor cycling technique (like constantly riding out of the saddle) and can leave a biter memory of the experience which puts them off cycling altogether.

To help you find the right size bike for your youngsters, take a look at our children’s bike sizing guide:

Rider Age Rider Height (ft/in) Rider Height (cm) Suggested wheel size (in)
2 – 4 3’0″ – 3’4″ 91 – 102 12″
4 – 5 3’4″ – 3’7″ 102 – 109 14″
5 – 7 3’6″ – 3’10” 107 – 117 16″
6 – 8 3’9″ – 3’11” 114 – 119 18″
7 – 10 3’8″ – 4’5″ 112 – 135 20″
9 – 13 4’4″ – 5’0″ 132 – 152 24″
13+ 4’10″+ 147+ 26″

2. Child-specific components

Components like brake levers and crank arms are very dependent on the rider’s size, and there’s no question that a small child’s hand will struggle to reach and operate a brake lever designed for an adult. Surprisingly, that’s exactly what you’ll find on many children’s bikes from less reputable brands.

A row of children's bike crank arms fitted to green frog bikes

Frog use size-specific crank arms on their bikes.

On the other hand, brands like Frog Bikes have worked extensively with component manufacturers and physiology experts to design brake levers, gear shifters and crank arms which are suitable for younger children. Across their range, Frog use a crank arms which are not only the appropriate length for children’s legs, they are spaced the appropriate width apart as well.

3. Safety first

Children learning to ride are prone to falling off and bumping into things, so it’s imperative they wear a helmet whilst riding. As for the bike itself, features like a chainguard, bell and frame padding not only look fun, they add an element of safety to the bike as well.

4. Aluminium vs Steel

It’s cheaper and easier to manufacture a bike from steel than it is from aluminium, but the resulting bike becomes very heavy as a consequence. To make things even worse, some of the cheap & nasty steel bikes are made with very thick frame tubing so that they look like aluminium, and that makes them even heavier again!

A genuine aluminium frame is far lighter than steel, making the bike much easier to ride for children. It’s also a lot easier for you parents to haul them up and into the back of the car too!

Quick tip: If you don’t have access to the bike specification and you’re not sure if a bike is aluminium or steel, you can put a magnet to the frame. Aluminium is non-magnetic.

5. You get what you pay for

Although good quality kids bikes may be more expensive to buy in the first place, they outperform and outlast cheap bikes and are much more fun in the process. A kid’s bike that lasts for years can be handed down to younger siblings as they grow older too, which makes the old saying ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ ever more accurate.

If you do decide to re-sell your son/daughters bike when they grow out of it, the resale value on quality brands like Frog bikes is surprisingly high. Frog bikes have their own ‘Leapfrog’ scheme which actively promotes the resale of Frog bikes amongst retailers, with selling prices reaching as little as £25 less than the original RRP.

6. Balance bikes or pedal bikes with stabilisers?

Balance bikes are so simple, yet they are an amazingly effective way to teach the youngest children how to ride a bike. Being able to balance on a bike is a more fundamentally important core skill than pedalling, so when a child moves up to a bigger bike with pedals they’ve already got the hang of it.

Early Rider Bonsai childrens balance bike made from marine plywood

The Early Rider Bonsai is made from weather-proof marine plywood

On the contrary, when children learn to pedal a bike with stabilisers they may come to depend on them too much, resulting in some nasty spills and tumbles when the training wheels come off.

Quick tip: If your child is too tall for a balance bike when they start learning to ride, you can start by using a larger pedal bike with the pedals themselves removed.

7. It needs to look good too

There’s nothing like the crushing disappointment you feel when your son/daughter takes one look at their new bike, and refuses to touch it because they don’t like the colour. Choosing a bike that your child likes the look of is an important factor towards getting them outdoors and cycling, so try and get them to choose the bike they like the look of if you can.

However, there is one caveat to this which is to remember tip number 4. Beneath a lot of funky kids bikes which look like police cars or have matching dolly seats & tassels, you’ll often find a heavy steel frame with thick tubing that looks like aluminium. Buyer beware!

8. Suspend the suspension

Unless you’re spending an awful lot of money on an awesome kid’s bike like the Kona Stinky 24w, full suspension kids bikes should be avoided. They’re very heavy, use cheap & unreliable components, and the suspension does little more than make the bike wobbly and uncomfortable.

On the other hand, a hardtail (a bike with suspension at the front and a rigid ‘hard tail’) can be an excellent choice for older children who take their bikes off road. Although they’re more expensive and will add a little weight to the bike, hardtails with aluminium frames can be bought new for as little as £250.

Children’s bikes we recommend

To give you a head-start in finding the perfect bike for your son or daughter, the kids bikes below are among the most popular and highly recommended children’s bikes from Wheelies.co.uk.

Frog Bikes

Frog children’s bikes are purpose built to make cycling more enjoyable for children. Each bike has been carefully designed with help from ergonomic experts at Brunel university to make them super lightweight and comfortable to ride. Frog bikes come in a variety of colours, including the official Team Sky livery

Frog Team Sky children's bikesTo help you find the right size, each model is named after its size – e.g. the Frog 55 is designed for children with a 55cm inside leg, the frog 62 for a 62cm inside leg, and so on.

Giant Pre Push balance bike

Two Giant Pre Push Balance bikes in blue and pinkThe Giant Pre Push boys and Pre Push girls balance bikes are incredibly lightweight – perfect for toddlers from 18-36 months. Along with the lightweight aluminium frame, the fork is made from a special thermoformed polymer, making the Pre Push even lighter.

Early Rider Belter 16

Early Rider Belter kids bike with 16 inch wheels silver frame and belt driveAlthough Early Rider’s marine-plywood balance bikes are real works of art, the Belter 16 is a futuristic looking bike that boys will love. What we particularly like about this bike (other than the child-specific brakes and cranks) is the belt driven rear wheel, instead of a chain. No rust, no black oil stains and no sharp metal parts to harm innocent fingers. The Belter 16 comes in two models – the slick-tyred ‘Urban’ and the chunky-tyred ‘Trail’.

Cube Kid 200 Street

cube Kid 200 boys and girls bikes in black & orange and white & pink

For youngsters who enjoy tackling the school run on their bikes, the Cube Kid 200 street is the street-smart option. Both boy’s and girl’s models come complete with a luggage rack, mudguards, and front & rear lights. The Cube Kid 200 is also available without all the added extras and costs £60 less.

Merida Matts Jr

Merida Matts Jr children's bikes in pink and greenThe Merida Matts Jr has been one of the best-selling junior bikes at Wheelies for a long time, and it’s not hard to see why. For riders age 9-13 the Matts Jr is lightweight, very competitively priced and comes with great quality components. Starting at £285, there are three options available:


Written by Guy Brooke