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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 kids.
As parents, you want to give your child the most positive experience you can when it comes to their first interaction with a bike. With so many different options, it can become very overwhelming.
In an effort to calm your nerves and help find the perfect bike for your child, we sat down with two cyclist experts who recommended the best bikes for kids of all ages and skill levels. In addition, we compiled some bestselling and top-rated options that may work for your child, too!
To shop this article by category, simply click on each link below:
- Best balance bikes for kids
- 16 to 20-inch bikes
- Best tag-along bikes
- Best belt bike for kids
- Best mountain bike for kids
Best balance bikes for kids
When kids are small, Jamie McDonough, owner of Reedy Rides in South Carolina, 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."
"It's a fun, independent bike that young kids can ride on their own," added Natalie Martins, owner of the kids' bike review site, Two Wheeling Tots. "Your little ones can carry themselves — so it's possible to go on bike rides with your little 2-year-old running beside you the whole time."
Once your child masters riding a balance bike, it will make all the difference when you introduce them to a bike with pedals since they've already learned how to balance their bodies.
Perfect for kids ages 18 months to 5 years old, this balance bike by Strider has an adjustable seat and handlebar to grow with kids as they're learning.
"It's built on a well-designed frame so the Strider Sport easily adapts to fit a wide range of age groups," said Martins. "You get longevity and for those who want to take their balance bike to the next level, there are tons of accessories for you to customize the bike as well."
This pedal-free 12" bike made by Schwinn also adjusts and grows with your child, and we love the cute pink version!
For those who want to introduce biking to very young children, consider having them try out a ride-on first. This one from YBike is ideal for children as young as 9 months old and as old as 3 years old.
"It's a bike with four caster wheels that the child can sit and glide in any direction," said Martins. "They learn to steer with their feet because they don't have to worry about steering with a handlebar."
Martins recommends the Raleigh 12-inch bikes because they're designed to make sure the child’s weight is centered over their hips, which makes it easier for them to stay naturally balanced. They also come with training wheels if that’s something a parent is considering.
“It’s a quality bike that’s going to last through several kids, so the durability is there and because it comes in a girl and boy version, they have really cute designs that kids are drawn to," she said. While this Jazzi model is made for girls, Raleigh Bikes also makes a boy version that comes in bright green and blue.
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."
They'll be speeding around the neighborhood in no time on this monocoque bike. Perfect for riders less than 100 pounds, this model includes front calipher brakes, a quick-release seat post clamp and remo
This bike has over 3,000 verified reviews on Amazon and comes partially pre-assembled, making it quicker and easier to get kids out on the road.
Available in cool shades of teal, pink and purple, this Schwinn bike was made with young riders in mind. Not only does it come with a roomy basket for their favorite toys, but it was also designed with two types of brake systems (a rear coaster and front caliper brake), a light frame and narrower pedal positions for easier maneuvering.
Best tag-along bikes
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 going longer distances," McDonough told Shop 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."
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.
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."
With a glowing 4.6-star average rating on Amazon, this bike trailer is another great option for family rides. Note: This product ships in 1-2 months, but it'll be well worth the wait.
Best belt bike for kids
"This is essentially a maintenance-free bike," said Martins. "These are hands down the best if you don't want to worry about grease stains, constantly fixing the chain or your child's inquisitive little fingers."
They're good quality, ride very smoothly and so quiet that Martin's children even call them "Ninja bikes" because you can't hear them coming. Since this bike regularly sells out before it's even produced, we recommend ordering yours early.
Even though this belt bike is low-maintenance, it's made with high quality parts that'll make them feel like they're riding like a big kid.
Best mountain bike for kids
If you're looking to take your child on intense terrain, then it may be a good idea to invest in a bike with heavy-duty gears. This one made by Huffy has over 1,400 five-star verified ratings.
Who says you can't shred on a pink bike? This highly-rated Mongoose bike comes with 21 speed options, three-piece cranks, two brake systems and knobby tires that can take on any terrain.
For more stories like this, check out:
- How to shop for a bike helmet, according to a cycling expert
- Create a fun staycation with these kid-friendly swimming pools
- 35 Instagram-worthy pool floats to enjoy this summer
- From sprinklers to splash pads, these water toys are perfect for backyard fun
- 15 of the best sunscreens for kids, according to safety experts
This article originally published on July 29, 2019.