best kids bikes

Best kids’ bikes: tips for choosing a children’s bike

Having a kids bike conundrum? We compare prices, weight and components on bikes from top brands and help you choose the best kids bike for your little one as well as hand picking one or two deals to help you save this gifting season.

Choosing the best kids’ bike for your child is a serious business. If it’s your child’s first bike, you want to make sure that their first cycling experience is joyful, and that they have the best kid’s bike in order that they can discover how much fun life on two can be.

Helping the get the riding bug means getting the best kid’s bike for them; one that is safe and that they can control, and possibly a little bit racy, not that we’re competitive parents by any means. Oh and all this ideally without receiving a phone call from the bank asking if it was you clearing out your account.

>>> Best kids’ bike deals this Cyber Monday to grab a bargain just in time for Christmas

In order for your child to be comfortable and  in total control when cycling it’s vital to get the best kids’ bike for them, which ultimately means one that fits them.  With the cost of bikes and the speed at which children grow, there’s a huge temptation for any parent is to buy a kids’ bike that their child will ‘grow into’. But this will backfire and will have your child in tiers of frustration as they attempt the impossible task of trying to ride a bike that’s far too big for them.

How much should I spend?

Like most things in life, you really do get what you pay for with the best kids’ bikes.

The best kids’ bike will also be one that your child can handle on their own, and unless you grab a bargain of a deal price wise,  in general the cheaper the bike the heavier it will be. So always aim to get the best you can afford.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that although the best kids bikes can seem pricey, especially as children do grow out of them – they hold their value. So even once your tribe has earned their riding stripes with the mini bike, you can sell it for not a lot less on sites like eBay,  grab one from their in the first place, or even take advantage of these cracking deals this Cyber Monday.


Co-op Cycles REV 12 Kids’ Balance Bike (USA) $139.00 $110.93 
Get your little one used to balancing on two wheels without the fuss of pedals. The Co-op Cycles REV 12 kids’ balance bike has a maneuverable aluminum frame and a pack of stickers for personalization.

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Vitus Nippy Superlight balance bike £44.99 £35.99
The Wiggle house brand has impressed us with it’s adult bike offerings, so we’d expect the same when it comes to kids bikes. The Aluminium frame and fork weighs a featherweight 1.9kg and coming with 10″ wheels is one of the smallest balanced bikes out there. Perfect for starting your little shredder on as soon as possible.

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Cube Cubie 120 starter bike £250 £225
Coming with 12″ wheels, this starter bike is an ideal transition to cycling once they’ve mastered the balance bike. The aluminium bike also comes with a brake to add the next element of bike control skills

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Hoy Meadowmill 26″ bike £550 £385
This is the real deal and a grab it while it’s hot price. The much respected Hoy kid’s bike range is rear to see discounted before christmas. The road/ cyclocross/ adventure bike comes with an Aluminium frame, Shimano Claris 8 Speed groupset, 26″ wheels and Schealbe CX pro off road tyres.

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Features to look for in best kids’ bikes:

  • Pay attention to weight: heavy kids’ bikes represent a large percentage of the child’s weight (see table below for weights on recommended bikes)
  • Don’t buy a bike for a child to ‘grow into’ – it’ll gather dust and quality kids’ bikes hold their value in resale anyway
  • Look for bikes with gear and brake levers that are child specific, smaller and easier to use
  • Opt for single chainrings until children are at an age when they can physically and mentally grasp the concept. Double chainrings add weight and complication
  • Avoid suspension until children are in their pre-teen years. It adds weight and they often aren’t heavy enough in the upper body to use it

>>> The best kids bike helmets: a buyer’s guide

Jump straight to the best kids’ bikes you want…

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 some of the top brands on the market. Here’s our pick of the best kids’ bikes – look below for the table comparing weights and prices for bikes from major kids’ bike specialists.

>>> The best balance bikes: a buyer’s guide

With each product is a ‘See more’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Best kids’ bikes: UK

Best kids’ bikes: Starter bikes for 3 – 5 year olds

HOY Bonaly

best kids bikes

The Hoy Bonaly straddles a couple of categories age wise, acting a great lightweight starter bike for children from four years old. It is available in wheel sizes up to 24″, gaining rear gears at the 20″ wheel version, allowing your child to grow with the brand. The 16″ version comes with aluminium tubing and uses micro-drive gearing to help reduce weight further still.

Islabikes Cnoc Starter Bikes

 best kids bikes

The Cnoc range is Islabikes’ smallest pedal bike. It suits children from three to four+ and wheel sizes vary from 14 to 20 inches. The bikes all feature a chainguard, to help keep little hands safe, and they’re singlespeeds – at this age, the focus is centred around learning to pedal without confusing the situation with gears, which also add weight.

Frog 40 starter bike

best kids bikes

Frog kids starter bike

Designed for three to around five-year-olds, this is a the smallest of the Frog range, which extends to Frog 48. The addition of brakes is an great cycling skill to master, but with just one gear it keeps the weight and riding complication low.

Vitus 16 Kids Bike

Vitus Kids Bike

Vitus 16 Kids Bike

Designed from three to around five-year-olds, this is a the second smallest of the Vitus Kids Bike range,  goes up to a 26″ wheel size bike eventually. This is a great progression from either a balance bike for a taller little one, or a size up grade from a 14″ wheel starter bike, without the overly complicating things or adding too much weight with gears.

Best kids’ bikes: Bikes for 5 – 10 year olds

Islabikes Beinn Multi Purpose Bikes

best kids bikes

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 – keeps the weight low, reduces maintenance, as well as minimising 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 hybrid bike

best kids bikes

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. Models start at the Frog 52, and extend to the 73.

Raleigh Pop 20

Raleigh Pop

Taking design cues from the 1970’s the Raleigh Pop is an aluminium framed bike and cro-moly (steel alloy) forks. The well known and loved brand has selected the highly regarded Shimano Tourney 6-speed to drive the bike with adjustable child specific brake leavers for stopping. 1.5″ tyres include puncture protection and are suitable for mix terrain riding. A great price for a bike from a highly reputable brand.

Kona Makena 20

Kona Makena 20

Kona say that the Makena is the perfect starter mountain bike with its 2.6″ tyres and 28t chainring. The well known mountain bike brand has equipped this mini Aluminium shredder with highly regarded Shimano Tourney, for a seven speed shifting experience on the 14-34t cassette and Tektro V-brakes.  A great option for the budding off roader in your life.

Best kids’ bikes: best bikes for kids over 10 and performance kids’ bikes

HOY Meadowmill

best kids bikes

The ‘do anything’ cyclocross machine from HOY bikes is named after a cyclocross course Sir Chris used to race on. This bike is designed to suit youngsters riding on mixed terrains.

The Q factor crankset on all Hoy bikes aims to ensure the rider’s legs are closer together and pedalling is efficient. The cranks have been shortened to avoid overstretching and pedal clipping, while handlebars are child size specific.

Frog Road

Frog Road

Frog Road 58

The Frog Road is available in both 20″ or  24″wheels for a 9-speed 34t – 12-27t geared road bike. Both frame and fork are 6061 Aluminium Alloy, making it reasonably lightweight. Despite it’s name, the Frog Road comes with plenty of tyre clearance so popping a pair of knobbly tyres for a bit of cyclocross action is easypeasy. The smaller bikes in the range have singe chainrings, whilst the larger model comes with a double chainring (34/42T). Sizes start at 58 and extend to the 70.

Islabikes Luath Road and Cyclocross bikes

Best kids bikes

 

A bike that’s popular among junior racers, 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.

Vitus 24 Kids Bike

Vitus 24 Kids Bike 

The 24″ wheel bike is a good balance between a road and off road option, with the aim of allowing kids to build confidence, control and agility on mixed terrain.  The Aluminium frame and fork is teamed with a mixed drive train, which has helped keep the over cost of the bike down. The 9-speed 32t x 12/32t cassette gearing ratio should be enough for most climbs, without sacrificing speed on the flat. Ideal for transitioning on to either road or off road adult bikes.

Islabikes Creig Mountain bike

best kids bikes

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 (with no front suspension) and 26 inch wheel versions available.

B’Twin Triban 100 Junior Road bike

B'Twin Triban 100 Junior Road bike

The adult  Triban bikes have almost a cult like following, with their performance and cost hard to beat, and with all scoring nines or tens in our cycling weekly reivews, we’re big fans too. The Decathlon house brand junior range uses 7-speed 40t/ 4×28 Shimano drive train, with double Tektro brake leavers, for stopping and speed modulation from the handlebars and hoods. The Aluminium frame and steel fork frameset sports 650b wheels (27.5″) with a quick release front wheel for ease of transport and storage. The bike comes with the Triban lifetime warranty as well as battery powered lights and a bell.

Frog 58 track bike

best kids bikes

Frog track bike. Image: Frog

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. Sizes start at 58 and extend to the 70.

Black Mountain bikes

Black Mountain Kapel

Black Mountain is doing something a little different. Launched in 2018, it offers bikes that grow as easily and quickly as children’s legs do.

The range is kicked off with the Pinto, which claims to fill the role of a balance bike, a 12″ and 14″ bike, the Skog replaces 14″ and 16″ bikes for children aged 5 to 8.

The range has since expanded  to include  the 18″ Kapel and 20″ Hutto added to fill gaps in the size range, with the latter available with disc brakes and front end suspension. The fit is dialled in via a ‘growing triangle’ frame and gears can be replaced as little legs get stronger.

Best kids’ bikes: what do the top brands offer?

We’ve stuck with a selection of top brands to help you compare kids’ bikes for a range of ages. That’s purely because we can’t outline every choice from every brand available.

Of course there are a wide range of other options out there. For example, Trek produce a range of kids bikes and Specialized has bikes from balance bikes up to junior racers. 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 by manufacturers.

>>> Looking for the best bikes for a toddler? Check out the best balance bikes for children aged 2 to 4-years-old here

Best kids bikes: model, age and price guide

Model Age Weight Cost
Islabikes
Rothan 2+ – Balance 3.1kg £179.99
Cnoc 3-4 – Starter 5.2-6.6kg
£319.99 – £349.99
Beinn 5-10 – Hybrid 7.4-9.2kg £399 – £499
Luath 8-13+ – Road 8.3-9.4kg
£699.99 – £799.99
Creig 6 -8 + – MTB 10.6-11.6kg £599 – £899.99
Black Mountain
Pinto 3-5 – Extendable 5.7kg £349
Kapel 5-7 – Extendable 8.1kg £449
Skog 4.5-8 – Extendable 6.1kg £349
Hutto 6-8 – Extendable 8.3kg £449 – £649
Frog
Tadpole 2-4 – Balance 4.2kg £170 – £200
Frog 40-52 3-6 – Starter 6.4-7.6kg £290 – £330
Frog 52-78 5-14 – Hybrid 8.5-10kg £350 – £420
Frog 58-70 6-14 – Road 8.2-9.3kg £485 – £500
Frog Road 8-12 Road 8.8kg £490
Track bikes 6-14 – Track 6.78-7.8kg £305 – 330
HOY
Hoy Napier 2-4 Balance 3.6kg £110
HOY Bonaly 6-13+ – MTB 5.9-10.2kg £300-£530
HOY Meadowmill 10-13+ – CX 8.8kg £550
Kona
Kona Makena 6-10 TBC £419
Kona Hula 7-11 TBC £429
Raleigh
Raleigh Propagana 2-4 Balance TBC £120
Raleigh Pop 6-10 TBC £250
Ridgeback
Scoot – Scoot XL 2-6 – Balance 4.9-5.2kg £114-£119
MX14 2-5 – Starter 7kg £179.99
MX16 3-6 – Starter 8.8kg £199.99
MX20 6-10 – MTB 10.2kg £279.99
MX24.99 9-13 – MTB 12.5kg £319.99
Dimension 16 4-6 – Starter 6.8kg £279.99
Dimension 20 5-9 – Hybrid 8.9kg £319.99
Dimension 24 8-12 – Hybrid 9.5kg £359.99
Dimension 26 12+ – Hybrid 10.2kg £369.99
Decathlon
B’Twin Runride 100 Runride 900 2-5 Balance 3kg – 3.8kg £39.99 – £79.99
Triban 100 Junior Road Bike 9-12 10.2kg £299.99
Triban 500 Junior 10+ 10kg £449.99
Vitus
Vitus Smoothy 2-4 Balance 3.2kg £89.99
Vitus 14 2-5 Starter 6.04kg £229.99
Vitus 20 8+ Hybrid 8.5kg £299.99

Best kids’ bikes: US

Coming soon…

When buying the best 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 the best 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;

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.

Shopping in the sales can get you a much better bike for the budget you have, as will checking auction sites such as ebay. It’s much better to take the best kids’ bikes with a few scuffs and scratches over something not as good but looks shiny. After one ride on the best kid’s bike, and you’ll all totally overlook any superficial marks for the superior riding experience.

If you are looking for a children’s bike that isn’t too expensive, try to  keep it simple – suspension and lots of gears be appealing to little ones, especially if they have seen your bike. Their enjoyment and confidence will be bolstered by a lightweight construction and in most they won’t need suspension until they’re ready to ride an adult bike anyway due to their light body weight. While a few gears are handy, they can sometimes prove complicated than expected, so perhaps stick to a single chain ring at the front for as long as possible.


Teach your child to ride in just 45 minutes


Best kids’ bikes: what to look for

Quality best kids’ bikes are definitely not simply scaled-down adult bikes, they have specific geometry and components optimised for the proportions of a child.

Should I fit stabilisers?

There are pros and cons to a bike with or without stabilisers, although nowadays all the emphasis is on balance bikes to teach a child to ride. Your can read more on the balancing Vs stabilisers here.

Weight of kids’ bikes

As mentioned above, cheap kids’ bikes will often have several flaws, most notably 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 represents a significant percentage of the child’s weight, which is why many don’t make our best kids’ bikes guide. 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.

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 manufacturers of the best kids’s bikes 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 of the best kid’s bike 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 helps to keep the weight down.

Best kids’ bike geometry

The best kids’ bikes will have optimum kids 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 best kids’s bikes will be proportionately shorter top tube, and a short stem.

>>> Saddle height: how to get it right, and why it’s so important (video)

The best kids’ bikes on the market will also come with custom-designed bars with a short reach and drop to maintain a comfortable riding position. Bike brand Islabikes also uses 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.

To create a closer foot placement, the best kids’ bikes companies will design bespoke 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, anthropometric data showed no notable differences between the measurements of boys’ and girls’ limbs.

Later life, some women might choose to opt for female specific bikes, at a young age this isn’t deemed necessary by most experts, or the best kid’s bike brands.

Most children will want a bike they find aesthetically suited to their own tastes, so most of the best kid’s bikes will come in a range of paint jobs to suit the tastes of young riders.

best kids bikes

Isla Rowntree Founder of Islabikes. Photo credit: Chris Catchpole


Best kids’ bike styles and wheel sizes explained

best kids bikes

Kids’ bikes need to fit if you don’t want them to gather dust. Photo: Chris Catchpole

Every child is different, especially in terms of height and development. To help you find the right ballpark, here’s a look at the common journey, but remember, only move to the next stage when your little legs is ready:

Best kids bikes: Balance bikes – ages 18 months 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 stabilisers, 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.

>>> Balance bikes: a buyer’s guide 

Best kids’ bikes: 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 sit at 14 to 16 inch.

Best Kids’ bikes: 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 at them. Single chainrings remain popular within this age group – with HOY bikes,  Islabikes and Frog bikes all sticking to one-by.

Best kids’  bikes: 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 cyclocross 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 cyclocross 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 your child won’t be paying for the shifting power with extra pounds.

Best kids’ bikes: 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.

 

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