Buying a Kids Bike

To help kids who are aspiring athletes parents often want to buy the best kids bikes they can get to give their child the best chance in races.

Sometimes this can mean parents are so keen to get the best they rush out and buy and the most expensive bike they can afford or a bike they see another child winning races on, or they visit one shop and go on the advice they receive there. Most importantly they have forgot that what they need is a bike that best meets their child’s requirements, age and size. In this article I will attempt to highlight the most important factors to consider when buying kids bikes. I will not tell you which kids bikes you should buy but I will suggest some quality manufactures that are worth you looking at.

What types of bikes are available

The most important thing when buying kids bikes is to decide how you will be using the bike, is it for road racing, triathlon racing, off road or riding with the family. There are many types of bike available and they all have different attributes that makes them more suitable to one discipline or another.

The Disciplines

Before you can decide on buying kids bikes you should buy you need to decide which discipline you will be using it for most.

Road Racing

Road races are usual run on road or off road courses that are a hard smooth surface such as motor racing circuit. Bike most suitable for kids racing on the road are road bikes or cyclocross bikes, it should also be noted that most road racing enforce limited gears for children racing.


Cyclocross racing takes place off road on grass, gravel, dirt and mud over small lumps and bumps. Bikes most suitable are cyclocross bikes as these have tyres with tread for better grip and the correct gear ratio.


Triathlon racing generally takes place off road on grass or private roads as British Triathlon rules don’t permit kids racing on the road. Due to the amount of races that take place on grass cyclocross bikes that also have road tyres are the most suitable. Whilst you may find a road bike that can take off road tyres these don’t always have a durable enough frame for the off road riding.


Mountain bike racing are always off road with courses often going through woods with big bumps and lumps. The only choice of bike for this type of racing.

Types of bike

Road / Racing Bikes

Buying Kids Bikes Road Bike

Designed for racing on smooth hard surfaces with narrow tyres with little or no tread.

Tyres – Narrow with little or no tread

Drop Handle Bars – For a more aerodynamic position when racing

Combine Brake and Gear Levers – Enables gear changing without moving hands from the brakes

Brakes – Generally rim brakes are still standard although a few bike might have disc brakes these and generally not accepted for racing at this time

Gears – Rear Cassette 8 -11 speed – Front Chain Set 1-2 rings

Cyclocross Bikes

Buying Kids Bikes Cyclocross Bike

Designed for racing on grass, gravel, dirt and mud some bikes may also be supplied with two sets of tyres one for road and one for off road use.

Tyres – Narrow with tread for off road use but some bikes also come with a second set of tyres with no tread for road use.

Drop Handle Bars – For a more aerodynamic position when racing

Combine Brake and Gear Levers – Enables gear changing without moving hands from the brakes

Additional Brake Levers – Some bikes will have a second set of brake levers on the top of the bars.

Brakes – Generally rim brakes are still standard although a few bike might have disc brakes these and generally not accepted for racing at this time.

Gears – Rear Cassette 8 -11 speed – Front Chain Set 1-2 rings


Mountain / Off Road Bikes

Buying Kids Bikes Mountain Bike

Designed for racing on grass, gravel, dirt and mud a robust bike that can be used on almost any terrain. Some bike will be fitted with front suspension and a few may also have rear suspension.

Tyres – Wide with tread for off road and lower tyre pressures to take up some of the lumps and bumps

Straight Handle Bars – For better handling when going off road over bumps and lumps

Separate Brake and Gear Levers – Both mounted on the handle bars.

Brakes – Disc brakes are becoming more standard for mountain bike though some cheaper models still have rim brakes.

Gears – Rear Cassette 8 -11 speed – Front Chain Set 1-3 rings double or single chain ring are becoming more standard.

Key measurements

Obviously it is important to sit on and test ride any bike before buying one but in the age of the internet most of us browse online to slim to options down before hitting the shops. To make sure you get the right bikes on your short list and don’t waste time in shops looking at kids bikes that won’t fit you child it is important you know your child’s key measurements. Most manufacturers will having a sizing guide based on age, height and inside leg. The later inside leg measurement is the most important as your child must be able to stand over the crossbar with their feet on the ground in case they need to stop quickly otherwise they could sustain an injury.

How to measure your child’s inside leg.

With bare feet get your child to stand against the wall.

Hold a small hard backed book between their legs, as high as is comfortable

Get your child to move away from the wall whilst you hold the book and then measure from the top of the book to the floor (in centimetres)

Important features you need to consider and why

Wheel Size

Kids bikes tend to be sold by wheel size unlike adult bikes that are sold by frame size. It is important to note that not all kids bikes with the same wheel size will have the same frame size. The bigger the wheel the less rotations of pedal will be required to move the same distance and therefore less effort is use. Therefore optimum to get a bike with a larger wheel size and a smaller frame size. For example a bike with 26″ wheels and a 69cm top tube would require less effort than a bike with 24″ wheels and a 71cm top tube.

Key point – The bigger the wheels the faster you can go with less effort

Frame Size

Most importantly when buying a bike is that your child can stand astride the top tube. Therefore height of this should not exceed your child’s inside leg measurement. Also important is the distance between the seat and the handle bars, this determines the reach. Over reaching when sitting to hold the handles bars will give less stability and control.


There are different type of gear available that have different methods to change them.

Twist Grip – Normally fitted to more budget bikes as they are cheap but do present the following problems. Children struggle to twist them to chain gear especially when moving in to the higher gear. Normally require more adjustments as cables stretch more meaning the gears don’t change smoothly.


Trigger – Generally found on mountain bikes or other bikes with straight bars. Reliable and easy for kids to use, each press changes the gear one cog at a time. Some also display the number gear that is selected which can be helpful for children.

Buying a kids bikes trigger lever

Lever – Found on most road racing and cyclocross bikes the gear lever is combined with the brake lever. Harder for children to get use to when first using gears but enables the brake covered when changing gear. There are different quality of gear systems, some entry level kids bikes come fitted with shimano micro shift levers.

Buying a kids bikes lever


There are two different types of brakes used on kids bikes.

Disc brakes have a small disc fitted to the outside hub of the front and rear wheels. Disc brakes are responsive and give much better stopping in the wet. They are on some cyclocross bikes and becoming standard on good mountain bikes.

Buying a kids bikes disc brakes

Rim brakes stop the bike by gripping the rim of the wheel and standard on road racing bikes. Rim brakes can require a greater stopping distance in the wet. Water gets between the wheel rim and the brake block.

Buying a kids bikes rim brakes



Buying kids bikes isn’t straight forward, it’s easy to be lead into buying the wrong bike by sales staff. No one knows your child better than you so make sure you are sure before you buy. Your child might chose a bike based on the colour or the number of gears. When buying kids bikes speak to other parents with kids doing the same activities.

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