We compare prices, weight and components on bikes from three top brands and help you choose the best model for your little one
Navigating the market of kids’ bikes is a serious business. If it’s your child’s first bike, you want to make sure the machine you opt for will provide them with a good introduction to the world of cycling. If they’ve got the racing bug, you want to choose a bike that will be safe, comfortable – and competitive, ideally without clearing out your bank account completely.
The greatest temptation for any parent is to buy a bike that their child will grow into. But this will likely see them riding a poorly fitting bike until they hit that perfect size, at which point they may have already been put off cycling.
Best kids’ bikes: Popular kids’ bike brands
There are a lot of brands selling kids’ bikes – and we can’t outline every model out there. But we can give you some insight – and some comparisons – between three top brands on the market.
|Rothan||2+ – Balance||3.2kg||£169.99|
|Cnoc||3-4 – Starter||5.6-6.8kg||£290 – £330|
|Beinn||5-10 – Hybrid||8-9.9kg||£390 – £440|
|Luath||8-13+ – Road||8.9-10.1kg||£599.99|
|Creig||8-9+ – MTB||10.5-11.3kg||£799.99|
|Tadpole||2-4 – Balance||4.2kg||£115 – £135|
|Frog 43-48||3-5 – Starter||6.3-6.7kg||£240 – £250|
|Frog 52-73||5-14 – Hybrid||8.75-10kg||£300 – £350|
|Frog 58-70||6-14 – Road||8.2-9.3kg||£425 – £465|
|Track bikes||6-14 – Track||6.78-7.8kg||£270 – 300|
|Tineo||2+ – Balance||4.9kg||£90|
|Koa||4-5 – Starter||7.1kg||£180|
|Koto||6-7 – Starter||8kg||£200|
|Ash||8-10 – Hybrid||9.1kg||£240|
|Aspen||10-13 – Hybrid||10.1kg||£260|
|Kauri||13+ – MTB||11.6kg||£380|
Here’s a closer look at the brands and their ethos, before we go into specific models…
Islabikes kids’ bikes
Ludlow based Islabikes launched in 2006 and is considered a pioneering brand in the development of children’s bikes.
Founder Isla Rowntree comes from a racing background, and the bikes are popular among junior racers. They’re not the cheapest on the market by a long way, but are typically light and retain their value in second hand sales.
For those looking for the optimum in performance, Islabikes offers a ‘Pro Series’, featuring luxuries such as Shimano Ultegra shifting and disc brakes. These come in at higher price points, for example the ‘Luath Pro’ cyclocross bike with 700c wheels to suit a rider of 11+ years old will set you back £1599.99.
Frog Kids’ bikes
Frog bikes is a British based brand that places a major emphasis on keeping the weight of kids bikes low.
Uniquely, they use a fine tuned crank design developed by the engineer responsible for Team GB Olympic frames, Dimitris Katsanis. This design reduces the space between the pedals – called the Q-Factor – which Frog claim allows children to push down more directly on the pedals, getting more propulsion for energy used.
Most of the bikes are named after the inside leg measurement of the appropriate child – for example, a Frog 43 will suit an inside leg measurement of around 43 cm. Colour choices are numerous, with Team Sky and Union Jack paint jobs available on most frames.
Pinnacle kids’ bikes
Pinnacle bikes is the in-house brand at Evans Cycles. The frames are designed James Olsen, formerly of Genesis bikes, who also works on the HOY bikes range.
The brand is well known for offering good value for money and with stores all over the country offering free test rides, they’re a convenient option too.
Whilst brands such as Isla, HOY and Frog provide road, cyclocross and track bikes for budding racers, Pinnacle bikes are centered around mixed terrain fun – with a lesser focus on racing or tarmac use.
Best kids’ bikes: top models on offer
We’ve stuck with our three top brands to help you compare kids’ bikes for a range of ages – simply because the huge amount of choice means we can’t cover every option and these three brands are hugely well respected.
Of course, there are many more options out there – Canyon recently unveiled a wide range of kids’ mountain bikes and HOY children’s bikes, including track and road bikes, are well respected too. Trek produce a range of kids bikes, and you can find value orientated two-wheelers at Decathlon from as little as £35.
Age ranges are approximate – the best way to ensure the bike fits is to check you child’s inside leg measurement and use size guides provided my manufacturers.
>>> Looking for a bike for a toddler? Check out the best balance bikes for children aged 2 to 4-years-old here
Best kids’ bikes: starter bikes for 3 – 5 year olds
Islabikes Cnoc Starter Bikes
- Ages: 3 – 4+
- Weight: 5.6 – 6.8kg
- Cost: £289.99 – £329.99
- Buy now: Islabikes Cnoc children’s starter bike
The Cnoc range is Islabikes’ smallest pedal bike – and suits children from three to four+ – wheel sizes vary from 14 to 20 inch. The bikes all feature a chainguard, to help keep little hands clean, and they’re singlespeeds – at this age the focus is centered around learning to pedal without confusing the situation with gears, which also add weight.
Frog 43 and 48 starter bikes
- Age: 3-5
- Weight: 6.3kg – 6.7kg
- Cost: £240 – £250
- Buy now: Frog starter bikes
Designed for three to five year olds, this is a first pedal bike available with 14 or 16 inch wheels. The seat post is quick release to make adjustments easy, there’s just one gear to keep the weight and complication low and Frog supply hybrid and off-road tyres.
Pinnacle Koa 14 inch kids bike
- Age: 4 – 5 (approx)
- Weight: 7.1kg
- Cost: £180
- Buy now: Pinnacle Koa 14 inch kids bike at Evans Cycles
A first pedal bike with stabalisers (that can be removed), and a singlespeed chainset with a chainguard to keep mucky hands to a minimum. There’s a grab-rail for parents and wide 1.75 inch tyres that will cope well in parks as well as on tarmac. Quality bearings have been used to prolong the life of the bike, giving it a hand-me-down potential.
Best kids’ bikes: bikes for 5 – 10 year olds
Islabikes Beinn Multi Purpose Bikes
- Age: 5-10
- Weight: 8-9.9kg
- Cost: £389.99 – £439.99
- Buy now: Islabikes Beinn multipurpose children’s bike
- Read more: Islabikes Beinn kids’ bike first ride
Children aged five to 10 are treated to a multi-purpose experience with the Beinn. Wheel sizes vary from 20 to 26 inches. At this point, gears are introduced – but with a single chainring and large cassette – this keeps the weight low, and reduces maintenance as well as shifting complication. The tyres are wide and knobbly enough for parks and off-road riding, but will still roll well on the road.
Frog 52 to 73 hybrid bikes
- Age: 5 – 14
- Weight: 8.75 – 10kg
- Cost: £300 – £350
- Buy now: Frog hybrid children’s bikes
- Read more: Frog 62 child’s bike first ride
Hybrid bikes are incredibly popular among adults, for their versatility in combining the best of road and MTB design – making them good performers on and off-road. All models feature a single chainring with 32-34 teeth, with a wide cassette to allow for plenty of gears. They all come with road and off-road tyres supplied.
Pinnacle Koto 16 inch kids bike
- Age: 6-7 (approx)
- Weight: 8kg
- Cost: £200
- Buy now: Pinnacle Koto 16 inch kids bike at Evans Cycles
Similar to the Koa, but for slightly bigger kids. The chain is now exposed, and the gearing has been adjusted to match the wheel size increase.
Pinnacle Ash 20 inch kids bike
- Age: 8-10 (approx)
- Weight: 9.1kg
- Cost: £240
- Buy now: Pinnacle Ash 20 inch kids bike at Evans Cycles
A multi sport, hybrid style bike that’s ideal for use in the park and on tarmac thanks to Kenda 1.95 tyres. A single chainring with six rear gears keeps things simple and stopping power comes from Tektro Mini-V
Best kids’ bikes: bikes for kids over 10 and performance kids’ bikes
Islabikes Luath Road and Cyclocross bikes
- Age: 8-13+
- Weight: 8.9kg – 10.1kg
- Cost: £599.99
- Buy now: Islabikes Luath road and cyclocross bike
A bike that’s popular among junior races, the Luath can support youngsters in their early road and criterium races as well of off-road and in cyclocross exploits. The chainrings remain single – ranging from 34 to 36 tooth depending upon wheel size – with large rear cassettes to allow for plenty of gear changes. Mudguards and pannier racks can be fitted, to make a perfect family-holiday tourer.
Islabikes Creig Mountain bike
- Age: 8-9+
- Weight: 10.5-11.3kg
- Cost: £799.99
- Buy now: Islabikes Creig mountain bike
The Creig is a proper hardtail mountain bike with weight proportioned 60mm air sprung front suspension, hydraulic disc brakes and a single chainring with wide tyres to make the bumps and rocks smoother. The bikes can suit riders eight to nine years old, with 24 and 26 inch wheel versions available.
- Ages: 6 – 14
- Weight: 8.2 – 9.3kg
- Cost: £425 – £465
- Buy now: Frog Road children’s road bikes
Road bikes from Frog come with road and cyclocross tyres, in a nod to the popularity of junior racing in both disciplines. The smaller bikes in the range have singe chainrings, whilst the larger model comes with a double chainring (34/42T).
Frog 58 – 70 track bikes
- Ages: 6 – 14
- Weight: 6.78- 7.77kg
- Cost: £270 – 300
- Buy now: Frog track bikes
For children who love to ride the track, there’s a range of three bikes from Frog. They all feature short drop handlebars, 114m patented short cranks, quick release seat posts and Kenda track tyres with a flip flop hub to allow for fixed and free-wheel riding.
Pinnacle Aspen 24 inch kids bike
- Age: 10 – 13 (approx)
- Weight: 10.1kg
- Cost: £260
- Buy now: Pinnacle Aspen 24 inch kids bike at Evans Cycles
A bike that will ride well off road and on the road, with a single 36T chainring with six rear gears and Tektro Mini V-Brakes with scaled down shifters. BMX style Kenda 1.95 tyres are in action as Pinnacle have veto-ed the idea of front suspension, which can add to the weight and can be ineffective for children with small upper bodies. Two chain plates prevent the chain from slipping.
Pinnacle Kauri 26 inch kids bike
- Age: 13+
- Weight: 11.6kg
- Cost: £380
- Buy now: Pinnacle Kauri 26 inch kids bike at Evans Cycles
This is an all-round bike that will still roll on the road, but hydraulic disc brakes and Maxxis Crossmark 2.1 tyres mean it’s got the pedigree to be a great first mountain bike. A single chainring with nine rear gears provides plenty of options on the hills and twin chain plates prevent slippage and greasy hands.
Cheap kids bikes
The options above are perhaps not the cheapest kids bikes, and though lightweight bikes with ergonomic touch points will offer the best entry point into cycling, we realise they’re not affordable for everyone.
There are plenty of alternatives on the market for those looking to spend a little less. Decathlon stock a wide range of kids bikes that will provide hours of fun, with prices starting at £35.
If you’re looking for a children’s bike that isn’t too expensive, try to look for one that keeps it relatively simple – some come with suspension and tons of gears which can look very appealing to little ones keep to emulate their parents. However, their enjoyment will be bolstered by a lightweight construction – and in most cases suspension won’t come into play due to their light body weight and the gears may prove more complicated than expected!
Teach your child to ride in just 45 minutes
Quality kids’ bikes: what to look for
Quality kids’ bikes are definitely not simply scaled-down adult bikes, they have specific geometry and components optimised for the proportions of a child. Here are some of the key considerations:
Weight of kids’ bikes
Cheap kids’ bikes will often have several flaws, most notable will be their weight. When cutting costs, brands will have to use heavier components and the frame will often weigh more too – creating an overall mass that often reflects a notable percentage of the child’s weight. Parents sometimes struggle to understand why every incline results in an outbreak of the waterworks – but we’d be crying too if our bikes weighed half as much as us.
One characteristic that is shared with adult bikes is the trade-off between low weight and robustness. Any child’s bike needs to withstand some rough treatment, but a heavy-duty bike which is difficult to get moving will likely put a child off riding.
Do kids’ bikes need suspension forks and lots of gears?
Some children want a bike that looks just like an adult version – and if they’re aspiring after an adult mountain biker, things can get tricky. It’s common to see children’s bikes with suspension forks, but most quality manufacturers don’t provide this until children are at least eight years old.
This is because a young child’s upper body mass is low and they’re rarely able to get the most from even finely tuned, responsive forks – and suspension will always add to the overall weight of the bike.
When it comes to gears – these should be introduced gradually. Most brands opt for single chainrings, with a wide spread at the rear cassette. For learners, this makes the whole process easier – and for older children, even those on racing road bikes, the single chainring allows the brand to keep the weight down.
Kids’ bike geometry
When creating quality a kids’ bike with optimum geometry, reach is the first thing to consider. With longer legs relative to their torso, and musculature that doesn’t allow them to lean forward as an adult would, a shorter reach is a must. As a minimum requirement the bike needs a proportionately shorter top tube, and a short stem.
The better bikes on the market will also come with custom-designed bars with a short reach and drop to maintain a comfortable riding position. Islabikes also use custom-made brake levers with shorter reach and greater leverage for smaller hands with a less powerful grip.
Get them started on a balance bike
Foot placement is equally important, and getting that right for narrower hips calls for more bespoke components.
“I noticed that the cranks on many children’s bikes forced them to pedal with their legs in an inverted V, which is not efficient or comfortable,” Rowntree explained. “This also creates a turning moment when they pedal, so the bike has a tendency to zig-zag.”
Frog bikes, who commissioned research from Brunel University that involved measuring around 500 kids, found even more conclusive evidence. Narrowing pedal placement resulted in 25 per cent increase in pedalling efficiency and better leg joint alignment.
To create a closer foot placement, both companies designed their own narrow bottom brackets with cranks in multiple lengths. This has the added benefit of improving ground clearance when the bike leans over while also making it easier for the child to put their foot down.
Are boys’ and girls’ bikes different?
Some brands will offer separate models for boys and girls. However, when we spoke to Isla Rowntree she was clear that her anthropometric data showed no notable differences between the measurements of boys’ and girls’ limbs. Though in later life, some women might choose to opt for female specific bikes, at a young age this isn’t deemed necessary by most experts.
Though it’s understandable that any child will want a bike they find aesthetically suited to their own tastes, most brands making quality children’s bikes offer a range of paint jobs to suit the tastes of young racers.
When buying a kids’ bike, do:
- Look for a bike with scaled-down components, not just adult ones on a smaller frame
- Check the weight of the bike against competitors
- Make sure your child can operate the brake and gear levers comfortably
- Check for close pedal spacing and a low bottom bracket for comfortable pedalling and safe stopping
- Take the bike to a shop if you are unsure of how to set it up and get the fit right
When buying a kids’ bike, don’t:
- Buy a bike which is too large in the expectation that a child will grow into it. They will have a nervous time until they do
- Get a bike which is too heavy for a child to enjoy riding
- Buy a bike without the flexibility for different types of riding
- Just consider the up-front cost of the bike, longevity and resale value are important too
Kids’ bike styles and wheel sizes explained
The appropriate bike style and wheel size for your child will vary depending upon the style of riding they are doing, and their rate of growth. However, to help you find the right ballpark, here’s a look at the common journey:
Balance bikes – ages 18months to five years
In the last few years, balance bikes have become the most popular option for a child’s first bike. These have no cranks or pedals, and teach children to push along with their feet. Unlike the traditional method of starting on a pedal bike with stabalisers, balance bikes teach children to use their body weight to control the bike – a useful skill when they start to push the pedals. Experts believe children who started out on a balance bike often find the transition to independent cycling much smoother.
Starter bikes for ages three to five
At this point, bikes will have pedals and a chain to drive the wheels. Gears are often not deemed necessary, with children instead learning the basic skills – uncomplicated by shifting. Tyres will often be multi-use and wheel sizes usually sits at 14 to 16 inch.
Kids’ bikes for ages five to ten
Of course, children will grow a lot in this age bracket – and wheel sizes usually start at 16 inches and go up to 26 inches – which is only a little smaller than a standard adult road bike wheel. Most brands will estimate the wheel and frame size ideal for each age – but clearly children grow at different rates, so check the size guide and ideally organise a test ride so you can be sure the bike fits.
Children may start wanting to explore the world a little more – and often these bikes will have some gears to help them negotiate any obstacles the terrain throws up at them. Single chainrings remain popular within this age group – with HOY bikes, Pinnacle, Islabikes and Frog bikes all sticking to one-by.
Kids’ road bikes and kids’ cyclocross bikes
Junior road and cyclocross racing are big news – and of course having the right bike for the job will help to spur on your child’s enthusiasm. Versatility is key – Frog’s ‘Road’ range and Islabikes ‘Luath’ family both have enough clearance for mudguards, racks, and cyclo-cross tyres. Frog even supplies all its bikes with two sets of tyres: one for road use and a wider, knobbly set for off-road.
Both brands’ bikes have been used in criterium and cyclo-cross races, with their cantilever brakes and tyre clearance suitable for both. Parents have even reported children completing Land’s End to John O’ Groats on them.
At the younger end of the scale, most brands stick to a single chainring at the front, with a widely spaced cassette at the rear. If you’re looking at a double set-up, check the weight and make sure you’re child won’t be paying for the shifting power with extra pounds.
Kids’ mountain bikes
For those that want to enjoy a little rough and tumble through the woods, then a proper kids’ mountain bike might be on the cards. Knobbly tyres that will provide plenty of traction are available from the starter bike category – but it’s only at the 24 inch wheel size for kids over eight that you’ll start to see front suspension. These should be tuned for a lighter rider.