It’s a childhood right of passage: getting a bicycle for a birthday or Christmas. Parents, especially inexperienced ones, also are going through their own tradition of sorts as they shop for just the right set of wheels. Choosing the right bike, though, can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Getting the wrong bike style or size could make riding a frustrating experience for the child or even be dangerous. If the bicycle is wrong for the child, he or she could be seriously injured in a fall. Even worse, the child could have trouble handling the bicycle and accidently steer into the path of a car. Here are some helpful tips to consider when shopping for the best bike.
Be wary of the cheapest bike in the store. On the one hand, kids grow up fast and in short order are too big for that new bike. So parents are often reluctant to spend too much money on something that won’t last. On the other hand, children really do need a reliable and sturdy bike for safety. The bottom line here is that if a decent bike is too expensive, then it might be wiser to wait until you can afford one rather than go for something too cheap and potentially dangerous. Also, keep safety a priority if you decide to buy a used bike. Take your time and carefully inspect it!
According to the American Automobile Association, the general bike size range should match the child’s age as follows: children under 5 years old should get between 12-inch and 16-inch wheels; between 5 and 7 years old should get 20-inch wheels; between 8 and 10 years old should get 24-inch wheels; and 11 years old and up should get 26-inch or 27-inch wheels. However, some kids can be bigger or smaller than the average kid for their ages. A proper sized bike should allow the child to easily balance it with both feet on the ground while seated. And the tips of the child’s toes should easily reach the pedal when it’s at its lowest position.
One of the most important parts of any bike is the brake, according to the International Bicycle Fund. Younger kids should always have coaster brakes, which are the ones that engage when the bike is pedaled backward. Small, weak hands of young children can’t properly squeeze hand brakes on the handlebars. Other important elements include a warning bell or horn; reflectors on the front, rear, pedals and wheels; a chain guard to prevent pants legs or shoelaces from getting caught; and a bright, tall safety flag attached to the rear wheel.
Oftentimes, bicycles will need to be assembled. This is not a task to be taken lightly. Take your time and pay attention to each assembly step. Make sure all parts are secured tightly and in their proper positions. Double check those brakes! It’s fine if you prefer to take advantage of a store’s free assembly service, but always check their work before your child rides. Are you sure that the person putting the bike together is any better qualified to do it than you?
Shopping for a bike for the first time should be just as fun as when your child rides for the first time. With these shopping tips in mind, the experience should be less confusing and more enjoyable.