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A summer bike ride together as a family can be an idyllic and memorable experience, but it's normal for parents to have questions — and a bit of anxiety — when it comes to choosing the best kind of bicycle for their kids.
My family and I visited Greenville, South Carolina last summer and when it came time to rent bikes and ride along the 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail, we entered the bike shop feeling a little clueless as to which type of bike each of our family members needed for our adventure. Luckily, the folks at Reedy Rides — our bike shop of choice — were incredibly knowledgeable and patient and soon, we were on our way to make memories on a family bike ride through the beautiful town.
I recently chatted with the owner of Reedy Rides, Jamie McDonough, about the best kinds of bikes for kids of all ages and skill levels. We've rounded up an age-appropriate list of bikes for children — with McDonough's expert advice on each — below.
When kids are small, McDonough recommends balance bikes — bikes that teach kids balance by allowing them to push along with their feet rather than pedal.
"Balance bikes give kids confidence," said McDonough. "And it helps them work on balance."
Perfect for kids ages 18 months to 5 years, this balance bike by Strider has an adjustable seat and handlebar to grow with kids as they're learning.
This pedal-free bike also adjusts and grows with your child, and we love the cute pink version!
16 to 20-inch bikes
Once a child feels comfortable balancing on their bike, McDonough says it's time to move up to a 16 to 20-inch bike — with or without training wheels. During this time, kids can work on building their balance skills while moving using pedals.
"Sometimes kids like using training wheels to get used to using the brakes on the new bike, and also the size of the new bike may be a bit bigger than their balance bike," said McDonough. "Quickly, parents can take these off, once skills progress."
This Schwinn bicycle has both a rear and hand brake and comes with an adjustable seat so it grows with your child.
This bike gets high ratings on Amazon and comes partially pre-assembled, making it quicker and easier to get kids out on the road.
Between their first bike with pedals and a "big kid" bike of their own, McDonough suggests kids transition to a tag-along bike, an attachment to an adult bicycle that allows them to practice speed and balance.
"A tag-along bike that attaches to an adult bike is a great way to get the kids out on the trails with you and goinglonger distances," McDonough told TODAY. "This is a great way to build endurance and confidence for the children."
"Once they have those two things then they need speed to balance," McDonough continued. "Physics comes in to play — the more momentum you have — the easier it is to balance. It's hard to have speed if your not confident, so the tag-along is a great tool."
This tag-along model holds kids weighing up to 75 pounds, and is recommended for ages 5-9.
With a slightly higher weight and age limit — up to 85 pounds and 10 years old — this Burley model is a good choice for families helping older kids learn to ride.
"As kids move to 26-inch bikes, they have many options," said McDonough. "The type of bike they choose would be based on what kind of riding they will do — off road and mountain or side walks and streets? The bike we recommend for most is a hybrid type bike that will work for both."
This hybrid bike features Shimano components and can be ordered already assembled for an additional fee.
This cute women's cruiser bike comes in a variety of colors and is available in both 24 and 26-inch sizes.
Whatever bikes you purchase for your kids, McDonough recommends making friends with your local bike shop for continued expert support.
"As kids start to grow it is important to keep raising the seat on their bikes and moving up wheel size according to their height — a local bike shop is a great place to start to get the best individualized service for height," said McDonough. "If you buy your bike from a big box store, take it to a local shop and get to know them. They can do a safety check for you and also, tune it up if needed. Plus if any maintenance issue arises they will be your go-to shop."
For other recommendations like this, check out:
- The 7 best kids' helmets, according to a pediatrician
- The best kids' scooters from a mom who has tried them all
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