Kids bikes guide

Wrapped up kids bikeAsk someone to tell you one of their fondest gifts as a child and they may well recall their first bike.

With such an all important gift purchase at stake there’s a few things worth considering to make the right choice. Get it right and your child will fall in love with cycling. Get it wrong and they’ll soon be asking for something else!

Aside from some good tips to choosing a kids bike I’ve also included some popular choices at the end of the post.

Choosing a kids bike

The biggest difference between choosing a kids and an adults bike is how fast the child will grow out of it. However, don’t be tempted to buy something too large. This will make it difficult for the child to cycle as they won’t be able to comfortably reach the handlebars and pedals. The best option is to buy the size comfortable for the kid.

You’ll also have to think about how much to spend. If the bike will be used frequently then it may be worth upgrading to a better model and spending £150+. The advantage of spending more is you get better components that won’t break and a lighter bike. Which ultimately means a more enjoyable ride for your kid. Remember, a lighter bike makes a big difference when you weigh so little!

Ages 0-4: While kids are learning you can either buy a bike with no pedals or remove the pedals yourself and lower the seat.

Ages 5-6: These kids bikes will be without gears to keep things simple. They should also have a chain cage to prevent kids from putting their hands in the drivetrain. This tends to be a good age to be without the stabilisers. Ideally do this in the beginning.

Ages 7-10: At this age, kids bikes start to have gears. Don’t worry too much about rear suspension as it is a costly extra. If there’s front suspension then that’s a bonus but definitely not essential.

11+: At this age kids bikes are comparable to adult bikes. You’ll see much the same features and therefore you can expect to pay more.

When buying a kids bike check how it will be delivered. Ideally you’ll want a bike with the minimum amount of assembly at home as for the inexperienced it can be a little stressful. Also, it’s probably not want you want to be doing at times such as Christmas eve.


5 bestselling kids bikes according to Amazon

(Tends to be a good rank to refer to if you’re a believer in group intelligence! Here’s the full list..)

  1. Elite Panic 20” BMX (Ages 7-14, Boys, £69.99) – this kids bike has a ton of positive reviews although why they’d call a kids bike Panic?
  2. Flite Panic 20” BMX (Ages 7-14, Girls, £69.99) – the girls version of the above bike.
  3. Flite Punisher Freestyle 20” BMX (Ages 7-14, Boys, £88.00) – good specs!
  4. Raleigh Twinkle Girl’s 14” Bike (Ages 4-7, Girls, £69.99) – easy to put together
  5. Sonic Glamour Girls 16” Bike (Ages 4-7, Girls, £59.99)


Top 5 kids bikes according to Evans Blog

  1. Early Rider Classic Kids Bike (Ages 2-5, Unisex, £99.99) – good for kids learning to ride a bike as it doesn’t have pedals.
  2. Specialized Hotrock 20 Inch 2011 Kids Bike (20 Inch Wheel) (Ages 7-9, Boys, £249.99) – expensive but good quality. Perfect if there’s another kid on the way who can’t have the bike after it has been grown out of.
  3. Specialized Hotrock 24 Inch 2011 Kids Bike (24 Inch Wheel) (Ages 9-11, Boys, £269.99) – same as above kid’s bike but with bigger wheels and frame.
  4. Ridgeback Melody 2011 Kid’s Bike (16 Inch Wheel) (Ages 5-7, Girls, £119.99)
  5. Ridgeback Honey 2011 Kid’s Bike (14 Inch Wheel) (Ages 3-5, Girls, £119.99)

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22 Responses to Kids bikes guide

  1. Steve 16/11/2010 at 8:15 am #

    I got my first bike at 12 and still remember it now.
    A five speed Raleigh Europa. Red with dropped bars in white tape.

  2. Andrew 16/11/2010 at 10:06 am #

    Having done bike safety checks on over 200 kids bikes at my childrens primary school I would also ask the following questions when buying a kids bike:-

    1. How heavy is the bike
    I have seen cheap kids bikes so heavy that the child struggles to pick it up if (when) it falls over, or kids can not lift the front wheel off the ground to lift it over a curb. This also means that riding it is very hard work, not fun and will put them off cycling. The bike will hardly get used – when they out grow it it will have lived at the back of the shed and be in brand new condition. Parents will decide that the kids are not interested in cycling, not buy another bike and that is another generation lost to cycling.

    Are the brake handles scaled for childrens hands.
    Many cheap kids bikes use adult size components (they are cheaper) but children might not be able to get more than the ends of their finger tips onto the brake handles and thus not be able to put enough pressure on the brakes to stop the bike. Mum or dad might be able to put the brakes on, but can the kid who will be riding it. It might ruin the xmas day suprise but it is best if the child does a brake check before purchase.

    How many gears do you need.
    Very few children under 13 will manage multiple front chain rings properly. Get a wide range rear block of about 8 gears and single chain ring at the front. They will more quickly understand how to use gears and have fewer mechanical problems.

    Do you need Suspension.
    Yes all your mates have a bike with suspension and full suspension “must” be better than front suspension but it is fashion & peer pressure that is driving the move to have suspension on most kids bikes. On most cheap kids bikes with suspension the suspensin is of such poor quality that the only thing it does is add weight to the bike. You do not need suspension to ride on off road sustrans type paths. Look at what cycle cross rides do on a suspension free cyclo cross bike.

    We went for Isla bikes for our kids. They are not cheap, but they are good value, and there are plenty of people who will pay a reasonable price for your used isla bike when your kids have out grown it. Most importantly the kids love them, and when their mates who have chaep, heavy, suspension laden bikes have a go their eyes light up and they shout “this is great, its so fast, its so light….”

    • Andreas 16/11/2010 at 10:46 am #

      Good extra tips for buying a kids bike. Thanks Andrew for lending your expert advice 🙂

    • Fergus 16/11/2010 at 10:29 pm #

      I could not agree more. Weight and fit are the key… I swapped a nice looking Trek for an Islabikes Beinn 24 after I weighed the Trek and found it was heavier than my full suss MTB. Manufacturers are very cagey about bike weights (Islabikes being an exception – their website quotes accurate weights), so my advice would be to take some cheap luggage scales with you when you go shopping.

    • Mark Funnell 19/11/2010 at 1:10 pm #

      You say that kids do not need multiple gears. I agree, but it’s impossible to find a bike of 24″ wheel or above that does not have multiple gears, i.e., 3 lots of 5, 6 or 7. I want to get a bike for my 8 year old with 3, 6 or 7 gears and cannot find one anywhere. I’m so desperate that I’m contemplating going to Holland to get a 3 gear bike for him!

      Any suggestions?

      • Adam Edwards 24/11/2010 at 8:32 pm #

        Re multiple gears comment:

        Puky are 3 and 7 speed hubs, so an ideal solution for kids.

        See other post for the web link.


      • Mel 30/08/2013 at 8:02 am #

        Frog bikes are great if you can’t afford an islabike (like me!)

  3. maryka 16/11/2010 at 10:41 am #

    What, no Islabikes! On a UK blog! Very hard to beat Islabikes for all ages — quality bikes, intelligent and sensible design, and a company that ONLY does kids’ bikes so that’s all they focus on.

    Yes, they are a bit more expensive to start, but they keep an excellent resale value and are always in demand. And I believe they have an upgrade/trade-in deal too.

    No connection with the company, just a happy 2nd-hand owner of one (the largest kids’ sizes fit small women too). And judging from the overwhelming number of kids I see riding them everywhere I’m not the only one. 100% British owned.

    • Craig 16/11/2010 at 1:54 pm #

      @maryka I so agree – although in my area I seem to be the only one with kids on Islabikes. In fact, I couldn’t wait for my kids to grow up to ride so I could buy them one.

      They are actually no more expensive than a premier branded bike, but are far lighter and all the components are scaled to fit kids (no over large brake levers). Plus you can adjust some of the parts to suit your child’s riding needs (eg knobbly tyres/rioad tyres). Also the parts used are a high quality fit, so keeping the bike mechanically sound is less of an issue compared to a budget kids bike. They have a small bike building force, so it is worth ordering early for Christmas, (too late now).

      Sounds like there is a flourishing secondhand market for them, and Islabikes also do a part exchange on a new bike when you upgrade. There are also 2 sizes of 20″ wheel (5-10 yrs) which makes the smaller a suitable ride for smaller girls.

      I would heartily recommend them if you are keen on family riding. I’d also suggest investing in a trailgator for kids under 10. This allows you to take an ordinary bike and turn it into a tag-along. Very handy for longer rides and ones with roads. When you reach a child-friendly area then you can release your youngster and ride alongside.

      more info at –

    • Banjax 16/11/2010 at 6:18 pm #

      Absolutely agree. Islabikes are a top notch supplier. Their service is excellent (we visited them to buy my daughter’s bike) and e product is excellent.

      In fact if yip follow Andrew’s advice they make even more sense as they don’t suffer from any of the issues he mentioned.

  4. Adam Edwards 16/11/2010 at 3:47 pm #

    As a quality alternative to Islabikes, do also look at Puky.

    German bikes, well made which come with as standard things like mudguards, racks, hub dynamo lights, low maintenance hub gears, etc.

    We have so far had 5 starting with a push along for my son when 4 with the latest being a 24/7 (wheels/gear) step through frame bike with everything which my daughter uses for the school commute.

    Highly recommended


  5. Andrew 16/11/2010 at 4:49 pm #

    I gave my nephew/godson a tricycle without pedals (as you suggest) for his first birthday. He was a bit confused to start with but now loves it!

    As you say, kids growing out of bikes can be expensive…however, you can either keep the bike for the next kid or sell it.

  6. TheGee 17/11/2010 at 1:28 pm #

    My son had a Specialized Hotrock 12 for his 3rd birthday.
    He’s now 5 and riding a Specialized Hotrock 16.
    I can see us going for a Hotrock 20 next although already I can see the requirement for different types of bike for different uses.
    I say that as an owner of a ‘few’ bikes and fortunately a garage to put them in!

  7. Paul M 18/11/2010 at 12:27 pm #

    I am not getting commission, I promise!

    I have bought various models for my kids at various stages in their lives but the most recent purchases, made over the net although I think you can visit them in person, were from Islabikes ( They have got good reviews in the CTC mag a while ago and from my own experience I can thoroughly recommend them.

    They avoid trashy gimmicks like suspension (only adds weight and is of poor quality unless you pay big bucks) and triple front chainwheels (kids generally aren’t great with them). They spend the money instead on better quality components and keeping down the weight. One front chainwheel married to an 8 speed super-wide ratio rear block, and appreciably lighter than a typical Halfords-acquired kids ‘mountainbike’.

    Not cheap, at around £300, and funny names but if you can get over that well worth a look.

    Finally, I haven’t tried yet but I would imagine a fair resale value can be achieved.

    • Nell 18/11/2010 at 7:12 pm #

      I bought my nephew a wooden 2-wheeled, no pedal bike and he absolutely loved it. He moved on to a proper bike and was able to ride it at age 3 1/2 because he had learnt to balance on his starter bike – highly recommended!

  8. Pedals Cycling 19/11/2010 at 3:40 am #

    My three year old was so ecstatic when his grandfather bought him a bike last year. We never removed the pedals because I never looked for bike advices back then. We just pushed him while he pedals backwards.Now he is able to pedal the right way and even if he is still have trainer wheels, I love it when he tugs me outside to brag about his cycling.

    When he grows older I’ll bear in mind your advice about gears.

  9. David Cohen 19/11/2010 at 2:02 pm #

    As far as learning about balance goes, there is no question that taking pedals off, or buying a pedal-less bike (for toddlers) is the best way – stear clear of stabilisers if you can, as they just don’t teach you how to balance.


  10. Neil 22/11/2010 at 4:16 pm #

    The bike shop I work at part time sell lots of kid’s bikes. Here are a couple of tips to consider when buying:

    Regarding the single / multiple front gears – buy a bike with multiple chainrings on the front and ask the bike shop to lock the front gears onto the middle chainring. This can be done very easily by adjusting the screws on the front derrailleur. Most shops should not have a problem doing this and it makes it easier for the child to get used to using the gears at the back. Then you can enable the front gears when the child is riding confidently.

    Do buy a bike from a proper bike shop – not a Asda or Argos – and get them to assemble it. It takes me anything from 15 minutes to an hour to set up a bike out of a box and that’s using shop tools – not the useless ones supplied in the box! You’ll have peace of mind that it’s been set up correctly and it will also save you a lot of hassle. If you buy any accessories (e.g. stabalisers, lights, computer, mudguards), the shop should put these on for you – also saving a load of hassle doing it yourself.

    Buy a helmet! And ask if there is a discount on accessories. The shop I work at gives 20% off helmets if bought with a bike and also offers deals on accessory packs (mudguards/lights/locks etc).

    Try to avoid the character bikes (like spiderman / barbie) – they are usually made with cheaper components yet cost the same or more than better quality non-character bikes.

    I would avoid the full suspension models, as others have said they add lots of weight and are often not all that great quality.

    Many shops offer a free 1st service for up to 6 weeks after purchase. It’s worth using this as new bikes need fine tuning after a few weeks of riding and it will help your child get the most out of their new bike.

  11. Neil 22/11/2010 at 4:24 pm #

    One thing I forgot to add to my last post, with regard to brake levers being too hard to reach. If your child is having trouble reaching the lever, screw in the screws on the inside of each lever. These bring the lever closer to the handlebar and make them easier to reach for small hands. You might need to adjust the brake cable slightly if you do this as it is the same as braking lightly.

    Sorry if this was obvious, but plenty of people don’t realise what those little screws are for 😉

  12. GJ 13/03/2011 at 3:38 pm #

    @Mark Funnel and the rest…

    Have a look at our site – we sell exclusive “Burgers” childrens bicycles to the UK. (“Burgers” means civilians in Dutch btw.)
    “Burgers” is Hollands oldest and first bicyle brands and have been around since mid 1800’s. Also holds the Royal embleem.
    The range we provide are the high quality classic-retro & cargo bikes and come as a singlespeed and 3 speed and in size: 24″and 26″. All have the usual add-ons and come various colours.


  13. YBike Balance Bike 20/07/2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Really interesting and very useful guide. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  14. Jesper 13/05/2014 at 2:12 pm #

    IMHO even older children will enjoy cycling even more, and be safer by using hub gears and coaster brakes, as there is less distracting levers etc, and the coaster brakes frees up their hand for signalling. It also saves us parents a lot of money on bike repairs over the years. We have recently started importing Danish designed and German produced childrens bicycles, as we thought the selection was just not wide enough. They are more expensive, but as mentioned ref Islabikes, they last forever, and have a very high resale value.

    We would love to hear your questions and comments about these bicycles

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