Buying your child's first bike is a pretty memorable milestone in their lives. You are giving them a gift that will not only provide them with immediate entertainment but also give them a skill that will last a lifetime.
You might think that it’s just a matter of heading down to your local Argos and picking a bike out in your child’s favourite colour but choosing the right bike for your kid should involve a little more consideration than that.
We caught up with bike guru, Shannon Burrant from Pearson Cycles, who talked us through the main considerations for buying your kid’s first set of wheels.
When should your kid start cycling?
Children can start out on a bike from 1½ to 2 years of age. For this age group, there are two bikes you can consider:
Balance / Strider Bike
This is a bike without pedals that is propelled and stopped by your child’s feet. Riding a bike like this will introduce your child to the concept of balance, coordination and steering. Introducing a kid to cycling on one of these bikes will also help to eradicate the need for stabilisers when they move on to a regular bike which means they will progress far quicker.
If the child has problems getting to grips with the balance needed for a stroller bike and can’t grasp the concept then a scooter is a good place to start.
Unfortunately, the lifespan of these bikes is not very long so it is an investment. They will probably get a year or so out of it. While you can buy Stroller bikes for about £50, it is worth spending around the £100 mark if your plan to re-sell the bike or pass it down to younger siblings as the difference in durability is significant.
Child's bike fit
This is one of the most crucial factors to consider when buying your child's first bike. A bike that is too big, that they will ‘grow’ into can be dangerous and have a negative effect on your child’s riding confidence early on as they will find they bike difficult to control and uncomfortable.
If your child is between sizes, we would suggest holding fire for six months and purchasing the next size up when your child has grown that extra couple of inches. Buying within this cycle will increase the lifespan of the bike.
Your kid's bike should have a low stand over height so if they do fall, they don’t have far to go. The handlebars should also be nice and high so the child is upright and aware of his/her surroundings.
Child bike components
Keep it simple, the less fuss on the bike, the less there is to go wrong and the lighter the bike will be. Generally there is no need for suspension, kids are light with springy arms and legs so it is surplus to requirement.
When it comes to gears, opt for an alloy chainset with one ring, kids find front gears quite hard to change. If your child is under five, do not bother with gears.
A couple of brands like Specialized, Frog Bikes and Canyon have reflected this need in their products. Canyon, for example, have a two-speed hub gearing system on their smaller children's bike which automatically shifts under speed.
Young kids generally don’t have enough strength in their fingers to properly engage the brakes which can, in turn, hurt their confidence when they are trying to ride the bike if they have trouble stopping! Whilst many brands will factor this in and use soft-touch brakes, some lower end brands won't afford that luxury, or safety.
It is also important to consider what material is used to make the bike. A steel bike will feel light to an adult but can be blooming heavy for a three or four-year-old to lug around. Aluminium is much lighter and ultimately will be easier to manoeuvre.
Shannon is adamant that a helmet is all you really need to ensure your kid has a safe ride. Knee and shoulder pads can restrict a lot of free movement needed for cycling and will restrict their natural feel for the bike.
When purchasing a helmet, make sure it fits correctly. It is definitely worth heading into your bike shop with your kid to get the perfect fit. The helmet should not sit too far up the head of the forehead, not so low that it looks like a baseball cap as it will restrict their view. It shouldn't wobble too much, but there should be a little bit of movement.
Some bikes do come with stabilisers, but Shannon recommends that you leave them on the bike for no more than half an hour. This gives your child time to get used to the bike. You should then teach your kid to cycle sans stabilisers after that, this way they won’t become too reliant on them.
So what are you waiting for? Get your child off to a flying start into the world of cycling.
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