best kids bikes

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

We compare prices, weight and components on bikes from top brands and help you choose the best kids bike for your little one

Features to look for in a good kids’ bike:

  • 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

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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 the machine you opt for will provide them with a good introduction to the world of cycling.

If you aced stage one, and now 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.

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The greatest temptation for any parent is to buy a kids’ bike that their child will ‘grow into’. But this is likely to put them off bikes altogether – as will opting for a cheaper model which is about as heavy as they are.

>>> The best scooters for kids and adults

It’s also worth bearing in mind that whilst kids bikes can seem pricey, children do grow out of them – the result being that there’s a lot of good value options on sites like eBay.

Not only that, if you’re buying new, they do hold their value and there are likely to be plenty of parents eager to buy second hand a few years down the line.

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 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 ‘Buy Now’ 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: starter bikes for 3 – 5 year olds

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 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 44 starter bike

best kids bikes

Frog kids starter bike

Designed for three to five-year-olds, this is a first pedal bike available 16-inch wheels. The range starts at Frog 40 and extends to Frog 48. 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.

Ridgeback Dimension 16

best kids bikes

An all-terrain ready starter bike for little ones keen to explore. Rugged aluminium frame sports a singlespeed gearing system and Vee Rubber off-road ready tyres.

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 – 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 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.

Giant ARX

best kids bikes

A kids’ hybrid bike in a range of wheel sizes, from 16″ to 26″, with flat bars and semi-slick tyres that won’t feel slow in the road but will cope with a little off-road terrain. Single chainrings throughout the range, with gears at the back.

Ridgeback MX14

best kids' bikes

Ridgeback’s off-road ready MX models come with wide knobbly tyres, from 1.75-1.95. Models start at the MX14 and extend to the MX24. The 20 and 24″ models come with Suntour suspension forks, too and a wide range of gears, with triple chainsets. This range carries heavier weight penalties that others in similar age brackets, but the price tags are lower than those available elsewhere too.

Ridgeback Dimension 20

best kids bikes

Styled after the adult Metro hybrids, kids here get a triple butted aluminium frame which keeps the weight down, and the forks feature eyelets for mudguards. A single chainring is bolstered by seven rear gears, controlled by Shimano shifters. The Kenda Kwest 1.5″ tyres are wide and ready to go off road.

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

HOY Bonaly

best kids bikes

Named after an area of the Pentland Hills where Sir Chris Hoy used to ride his mountain bike as a child, the Bonaly is available in wheel sizes from 16 to 24″. The frame was completely redesigned in 2018 to make it lighter, and 24″ and 26″ options come with disc brakes alongside a weight conscious single chainring.

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.

A new Q factor crankset 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 size specific.

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.

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 and 26 inch wheel versions available.

Giant XTC

best kids bikes

Giant has a comprehensive range of kids’ mountain bikes, starting at the 20″ XTC and progressing to ATX models with up to 27.5″ wheels which will suit full grown adults. All the bikes come with front suspension, disc brakes and aluminium frames, save for the XRC Lite which skips the suspension in order to save weight.

Ridgeback Dimension 24

best kids bikes

Mimicking the brand’s adult hybrids, this 24″ wheel Dimension is carefully designed to suit the needs of smaller riders. A single chainring up front is supported by seven rear gears, controlled by Shimano shifters. This bike is ready to roll on or off-road, thanks to beefy Kenda Kwest 1.5″ tyres.

Frog 58 road bikes 

best kids 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). Sizes start at 58 and extend to the 70.

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 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 expanded in 2019, with 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.

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 MTB 62-72 8-14 – MTB 11.3-11.5kg £650 – £670
Track bikes  6-14 – Track 6.78-7.8kg £305 – 330
HOY
HOY Bonaly 6-13+ – MTB 5.9-10.2kg £300-£530
HOY Meadowmill 10-13+ – CX 8.8kg £550
Giant Bikes
Giant PRE 12″ – Balance Not listed £125
Giant Animator 2-5 – Starter Not listed  £199
Giant ARX 5-12+ – Hybrid Not listed £294 – £378
Giant ATX Teen MTB Not listed £365 – £449
Ridgeback
Scoot – Scoot XL 2-6 – Balance 4.9-5.2kg £114-£119
MX14 2-5 – Starter 7kg £169.99
MX16 3-6  – Starter 8.8kg £199.99
MX20 6-10 – MTB 10.2kg £279.99
MX24 9-13 – MTB 12.5kg £299.99
Dimension 16 4-6 – Starter 6.8kg £269.99
Dimension 20 5-9 – Hybrid 8.9kg £319.99
Dimension 24 8-12 – Hybrid 9.5kg £339.99
Dimension 26 12+ – Hybrid 10.2kg £379.99

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

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 and at a low price.

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 keen 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. What’s more, 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 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. 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 a quality 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.

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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 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.

“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,” Islabikes founder Isla 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 a 25 per cent increase in pedalling efficiency and better leg joint alignment.

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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.

best kids bikes

Isla Rowntree developed her own kids’ bikes. Photo: Chris Catchpole


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

best kids bikes

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

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 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 

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.

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 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 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.

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.