Buying a child’s bike can be quite a daunting task, even for those ‘cycling savvy’ parents. As with most parent/child shopping trips, what you want and what your child wants are not always the same thing. The ensuing shop floor battle between the two of you can often result in the wrong choices being made.
A simple pre-planning exercise can make the whole process a lot easier and a lot less stressful. Following these simple steps in the correct order will help you narrow down the choice beforehand and also keep control of how much you want to spend. If at all possible, visit the shop alone first with the following information:
- Is the bike for a boy or a girl and either way, do they have a colour preference?
- How old is the child and are they growing particularly fast at the moment?
- What size is their current bike (If they already have one)? For this, the wheel size of their bike is adequate in most cases and can be found on the side of the tyres.
- What is their inside leg measurement from their crotch to the floor when they are wearing their cycling footwear?
- Do they need stabilisers?
This should be enough to give the sales advisor a pretty good idea of what you need and to be able to identify a few potential choices. You now have the option to eliminate some either by colour, personal preference or cost.
You should ask the advisor to write down whichever models are left so that when you return with your child next time you can let them choose from the list rather than the whole shop. This way they will not be pestering you for something you either don’t like or would rather not stretch to financially.
Once you and your child have selected the bike you will need to have it fitted specifically to them. This may involve the advisor making adjustments to the saddle height, handlebar height, brake and gear lever position and the reach or length of the bike. Any good salesperson should be happy to do this and it should only take a couple of minutes. This fitting is essential to the purchasing process for the following reasons:
- Your child’s safety can be affected if incorrectly fitted.
- A correctly fitted bike will avoid your child developing any aches or pains and will allow them to feel more confident and have more fun.
- They will have a better chance of keeping up with the rest of the family on a bike ride.
- If adjusted correctly, your child may fit onto a bigger bike than expected, thereby saving you a lot of money in the long run.
- You will be safe in the knowledge that when you get home you won’t be fiddling around with spanners and allen keys trying to set up the bike and wondering if you've done it right.
Key points to look for should be highlighted by the sales advisor during the fitting and your child should ideally be given the opportunity of a test ride, even if that is just around the shop. Look out for the following:
- Can they touch the ground? Standing on tip toes is good, although depending on the balance and confidence of your child, some prefer to have their feet flat on the floor. Remember that confidence is key here and children can be put off things very quickly, so they need to feel secure.
- Can they reach the brake levers and do they have enough strength and grip to use them. Brake levers often have an adjustable reach nowadays so ask your child to use the brakes and make sure they are happy they can stop.
- Can they reach the handlebars? A common mistake made here is that although the child may look comfortable sitting straight on the bike, as soon as they turn the handlebars as if steering around a corner, one hand no longer reaches and they lose control. Of all the fitting concerns, pay attention to this one in particular.
- When your child straddles the top tube or crossbar of the bike, can they do so comfortably? If they cannot, the chances are they could hurt themselves if they stop suddenly and need to get off the saddle in a hurry.
- Check that they can get on and off the bike unaided as best possible. It’s no good if they can ride it okay but then fall over when they stop!
If stabilisers are fitted correctly, the bike should rock a little side to side. If the stabilisers are both touching the ground all the time, your child will never appreciate natural balance and will rely too heavily on them. As your child becomes more proficient, you will be able to see when the stabilisers can be taken off as you will see both stabiliser wheels occasionally come off the ground during riding, proving that a natural balance has been achieved. Your child will also feel this is easier when riding so will notice the difference and it will be a huge boost to their confidence.
Other longer term points to consider are re-sale value and whether the bike will be handed down to a sibling. Generally the higher priced kids bikes will depreciate much slower than your typical supermarket bike, so please do bear this in mind. Similarly there are many bike ranges now where the colours are not so gender specific, so if the bike will be handed down from a brother to a sister for example, choose a colour that may suit both.
Ultimately, your choice is driven by all of the above and more often than not, a child will fit two different sized bikes, hence why a proper fit and test ride are vital. A good sales advisor should help you decide and be able to explain why one bike is a better fit than the other and also give you a pretty accurate idea as to how long it should last. Of course, once you have the bike sorted, ask them to fit your child’s helmet too. It will be five minutes well spent.
Pearson Cycles Sutton-based store is the oldest bike store in the world. They also have a second store in East Sheen next to Richmond Park in London. To have a member of their sales staff help you find a well-fitting bike for your child, pop into one of their stores. You can also visit their website.
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