So your child is ready for his (or her) first bike. What a great time! It has been said once you learn to ride a bike you never forget, so what a great thing to learn in childhood. However, you want to make sure you buy the right bike for your child. Obviously, you need to get the right fit, but it goes even beyond that. Here are some things you should consider when shopping for your child’s first bike.
What Should a Child’s First Bike Have?
1. Choose the right size. Children’s bikes are measured by the size of their wheels. If you have a child under the age of 4, a good place to start is with a tricycle. But when you’re beyond the tricycle stage you will find bikes come in 12î, 16î, 20î, and 24î sizes.
To get the proper fit you’ll need to have your child with you. Have him sit on the seat with his hands on the handlebars. If he can place the balls of his feet on the ground then it’s the right size. Go a little further and have him straddle the center bar. If he can have his feet flat on the ground with a 1-inch clearance between the bar and his crotch, then it’s a good fit.
2. Do not buy an oversized bike for your child to grow into. As tempting as that is to make the bike last a growing child longer, it will make it more difficult to learn how to ride a bike and it becomes a safety issue. A child is not going to be able to handle a bike that is too large.
3. Watch out for dangerous designs. You shouldn’t have a problem with this if you’re buying a bike in the US and many other countries as well, but if you are going to go with an older bike, then you’ll want to watch out for anything on the front of the bike which might impale a child who falls forward. This includes things like a spiky gear shift knob or large bolts. Also you want to make sure you have a well mounted chain guard on the bike.
4. One of the most important features on a bike is the ability to stop, so you will want to look for a bike with good brakes, and appropriate brakes for your child. Hand brakes are better suited for older children with a stronger grip and larger hands. Therefore you will find most smaller bikes for little children have coaster brakes (on the back wheel, engaged by pedaling backwards). You might find some bikes with both hand and coaster brakes. These are good to have for helping your child get used to the hand brakes.
5. Test the wheels. Even though bikes are required to be created so the front wheel won’t fall off even if the nuts on the axle come loose, you still want to test the wheels. To do this, hold the tire and try to wiggle the wheel side to side. You should not feel any movement. Then give the tire a spin. It should spin freely without any stopping or knocking.
6. Check the frame. An average adult should not be able to bend the frame by hand. You also want to check the frame alignment. To do this, stand either in front of the bike or behind the bike and make sure both wheels are on the same plane. Make sure the seat and handlebar bolts are tight and can’t be twisted.
7. If the bike has a chain then it should also have a chain guard to keep loose shoelaces or other things from getting caught in the chain.
8. Assembly required. Many times you buy a bike completely unassembled. Now you can either do it yourself at home, or pay the store to have someone put it together for you. Either way you will want to go around and check to make sure all of the bolts are tight and everything is in alignment before sending your child out on his maiden voyage.
9. To training wheel or not to training wheel, that is the question. Many people worry that a child will become dependent on training wheels. There are ways around this by gradually taking training wheels off. Also now something that is becoming popular is called a balance bike. This is a bike with no pedals or chains. You push with your feet and coast around on them, thereby learning the art of balancing before ever having to pedal. So that might be an option to consider when teaching your child to ride a bike.
10. Whatever you do, do not forget the helmet. It’s no fun having a bike you can’t ride because you lack the proper safety equipment. This is something you will need your child there to test as well, because you can’t go by the age ranges the helmets say. A proper fitting helmet will be tight on the back of the head and on the front parallel to your child’s eyes. It should sit one to two finger widths above a child’s eyebrows.
Elbow and knee pads might not be a bad idea either, especially if your child is just learning to ride a two-wheeler. There are going to be lots of falls and lots of tears otherwise.
Now that you are fully equipped to find the right bike for your child, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your family ride on.