After having test over 700 different products over the last 14 years, we’ve learned a lot about the world of kids bikes! From helmets to trailers and balance bikes to ebikes, we here to help you find the best products for your kids.
1. Is my child too old for a balance bike?
Nope. Balance bikes are available to fit kids of all sizes – from 18-months to adults. Balance bikes are NOT one-size-fits-all and are available in 5 different tire sizes. For older kids, usually about age 5 and up, you can remove the pedals from a pedal bike and have them use it as a balance bike. However, pedal bikes are typically much heavier than balance bikes and will likely take more effort to learn to balance on as compared to a balance bike. (See question 7 below for more details). As a result, we’ve found that for most kids, balance bikes help older kids learn to balance a bike faster and with less anxiety than a bike without pedals or a bike with training wheels.
See How to Choose a Balance Bike for more detailed information.
2. How do I measure my child’s inseam?
The easiest way to measure a child’s inseam (link to our video showing you how) is to have them stand against a wall with their legs together and their heels touching the wall. While they are standing up straight, gently slide a thin, hard-backed book up between their legs until it reaches their crotch (spine up). Make sure the book is parallel to the floor and then measure up from the floor to the spine of the book. This measurement can be taken with a pair of shoes they are likely to wear while riding a bike.
3. At what age is a child old enough to ride a balance bike?
Kids as young as 18-months-old can begin to walk a balance bike. Some one-year-olds successfully and quickly learn to run and balance a balance bike, but other kids can take several months to learn. Before they learn to run and glide while seated, toddlers stand over the seat and walk the bike. With time they transition to 1) sitting and walking to 2) sitting and running and finally 3) sitting while gliding.
For more information, read our article: How To Teach a Child to Ride a Balance Bike.
4. How long does it take for a child to learn to ride a balance bike?
It depends on the age and the athletic nature of a child. Most kids learn to sit and glide on a balance bike within a couple months, while really athletic kids can pick it up in less than a week. Before they sit and glide, kids first walk the bike while standing and then eventually learn to sit and run on the bike.
Balance bikes have a much larger learning curve than a tricycle, scooter, or a bike with training wheels, but once a child masters a balance bike, their enjoyment level is much higher than on other wheeled ride-on toys because they are much more efficient and can ride on almost any surface. A child also can then avoid the frustration and drama of learning to balance a pedal bike with training wheels.
For more information, read our article: How To Teach a Child to Ride a Balance Bike.
5. When is my child old enough to transition from a balance bike to a pedal bike?
If your child can easily run, balance, and stop their balance bike, they are likely ready to transition to a pedal bike. Balance bikes, however, are much easier and simpler for toddlers and preschoolers to operate, so unless your child is eager to ride a pedal bike, it’s generally best to allow them to continue to happily ride their balance bike and transition them to a pedal bike when they express interest.
A good percentage of kids ride on their balance bike until they are tall enough to ride on a 16” bike and skip a 12” or 14” bike all together; others transition to a 12” or 14” bike and then onto a 16” later. It also isn’t uncommon for really timid kids or even just kids who love balance bikes to transition from a smaller 12” balance bike to a larger 14” balance bike before they move up to a 16” pedal bike. See our Balance Bike to Pedal Bike article for more info.
See Balance Bike vs. Training Wheels for details on why it might be better for your child to skip the 12″ pedal bike phase.
6. What’s the difference between a $75 and $200 balance bike?
Quality and design. Most sub-$100 balance bikes are built with parts pulled off a shelf and never even tested on kids before going into production. The majority of higher-end bikes are built and tested specifically for a child’s smaller frame and are made with lightweight frames with lower minimum seat heights. Higher-end bikes also have hand brakes and usually have air tires.
The lightweight frames on these bikes are much easier for a child to balance. Lower seat heights are also key as they allow kids to start riding at a young age. In most cases, a bike with a lower minimum seat height also has a low center-of-gravity which helps the child balance the bike better.
7. Can’t I just convert a pedal bike into a balance bike?
Pedal bikes are generally much larger and heavier than balance bikes. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, the smallest pedal bike is too big and often too heavy for them to use as a balance bike. The average 2-year-old rides a balance bike with a minimum seat height of 12”. The average 12” pedal bike (the smallest pedal bike they make) has a minimum seat height of 17”.
For taller and older kids, the pedals on a bike can be removed to allow a child to learn to balance the bike without training wheels. The one downside of this method is that the child will likely not get much use out of the bike as a pedal bike. Once the child masters balancing and pedaling the bike (including stopping and starting the bike), for proper leg extension while riding, the seat height on the bike will need to be raised 2” to 4”. This will leave very little room for the child to grow on the bike.
8. What is the benefit of a balance bike over training wheels (or a tricycle)?
Balance bikes are simply easier and more fun to ride than a tricycle or a bike with training wheels. Tricycles are very inefficient and require kids to exert a lot of energy for very little movement. As a result, tricycles are generally only ridden a short distance or they come with a push bar for parents.
Bikes with training wheels are more efficient than tricycles, but they are difficult to use on uneven surfaces and don’t allow kids to explore jumps, curbs, or various terrains. In addition, training wheels don’t teach a child to balance a bike, they simply enable them to pedal.
Balance bikes are very efficient, they can travel over almost any surface, and they also teach kids how to balance so they never have to use training wheels.
9. What can I do to encourage my child to ride his balance bike?
Being around other kids who are riding their bikes is often the best encouragement for kids. When not possible, playing games with the bike using cones or sidewalk chalk can motivate them to ride longer and farther. Once kids get the hang of riding a balance bike, they usually are very excited to ride their bike.
Since balance bikes have a steeper learning curve than tricycles, scooters, or bikes with training wheels, competition from these products can inhibit a child’s desire and motivation to ride a balance bike. When possible, it’s best to remove the competition (at least temporarily) as many kids will want to ride the easier scooter or bike with training wheels versus taking the time to learn how to balance a balance bike.
10. Can’t my child just learn to balance on his scooter?
Balancing a scooter is completely different than balancing a bike. Riding a scooter relies on the child’s sense of balancing while standing, which they have already mastered. Riding a bike requires a child to balance while sitting and moving.
A child who can ride a scooter cannot transfer their sense of balance to a bike – a balance bike or a bike with training wheels will still need to be used. A child who rides a balance bike, on the other hand, can transfer their sense of balance to a pedal bike and will not need to use training wheels.
1. How do I know when my child is ready to transition to a pedal bike?
If your child can easily run, balance, and stop their balance bike, they are likely ready to transition to a pedal bike. Balance bikes, however, are much easier and simpler for toddlers and preschoolers to operate, so unless your child is eager to ride a pedal bike, it is generally best to allow them to continue to happily ride their balance bike and transition them to a pedal bike when they express interest.
A good percentage of kids ride on their balance bike until they are tall enough to ride on a 16” bike and skip a 12” or 14” bike all together, while others transition to a 12” or 14” bike and then onto a 16” later. It also isn’t uncommon for really timid kids or even just kids who love balance bikes to transition from a smaller 12” balance bike to a larger 14” balance bike before they move up to a 16” pedal bike.
See Balance Bike to Pedal Bike for details.
2. What size bike is best for my child?
While tire size is the most common size differentiator for bikes, your child’s inseam is the best way to ensure a proper fit for a pedal bike. This is in large part because seat height ranges and frame sizes for bikes with the same tire size vary greatly.
For first-time pedal bike riders, the minimum seat height of a bike should match the child’s inseam in order to allow them to stop the bike with their feet if needed. For experienced bike riders, the seat should be raised enough to only allow the child to touch the ground with their tippy toes, which places the seat height roughly 2” to 4” above their inseam.
See: Kids Bike Sizing Guide for more details and comparisons.
3. Should I get my child a single-speed or a geared bike?
The components on a geared bike add weight to a bike, often require maintenance, and can be hard for a child to use. As a result, we recommend only getting a bike with gears if your child truly plans on using them. The average neighborhood bike rider does not need gears, while a child going on a long bike ride or on a ride with great changes in elevation would benefit from gears.
Geared bikes are available on 20″ bikes and larger.
4. What’s wrong with coaster brakes (back pedal brakes)?
Coaster brakes (back pedal brakes) often delay a child – especially a balance bike graduate – from learning to master pedaling a bike. When learning to pedal, kids (and adults!) naturally pedal a bike backward in order to regain their balance. When doing so on a bike with a coaster brake, they inadvertently activate the brake which causes the rider to stop unexpectedly. As a result, they often fall, which can be very discouraging after working so hard to balance and gain speed on the bike in the first place.
On a bike without a coaster brake (a freewheel bike), the child can pedal backward, regain their balance, and then continue to pedal forward.
Additionally, balance bike graduates already know how to stop a bike with a hand brake (if their balance bike had one) or with their feet (when learning at low speeds), so as long as the bike has a hand brake, the functionality of the coaster brake isn’t needed.
Coaster brakes, however, are required on essentially all 12” and 14” bikes by CPSC standards. As a result, even higher-end brands, like WOOM and Islabike, have coaster brakes on their smallest bikes. Once purchased, the consumer is allowed to modify the bike, which is why many companies, like WOOM and Prevelo, sell “freewheel” kits that allow you to swap out the back tire for a new one that does not have a coaster brake hub.
5. What wrong with a $50 big-box store bike?
Big-box store bikes are notoriously difficult to ride. They are generally much shorter lengthwise than higher-end bikes. A bike with less distance between the wheels is harder for a child to balance than a bike with more distance (well, within reason) and therefore harder to ride.
In addition to a short frame, cheap bikes often have handlebars that place a child’s hands in a awkward and uncomfortable position, gearing that is so high that the bike is hard to pedal, and often weigh half the weight of the child riding them.
While kids certainly can and do learn to ride on these bikes, more than not, mastering one comes with a lot of frustration from both parent and child. Parents far too often place the blame on their child for not trying hard enough or being too scared to ride these bikes, when in reality, they should be blaming the bike.
Once a child masters pedaling, riding a lower-end bike typically isn’t as difficult, but the heavy frames, poor components, and high-center-of-gravity do tend to lessen a child’s confidence in riding and can limit them from becoming more adventurous on their bike.
6. How can I prevent flat tires?
Flat tires are a part of biking. It happens to all bike riders and is beyond frustrating, especially for kids and their parents who have to fix the tire. In addition to trying to be cautious about riding around areas prone to growing spiky weeds, applying tire sealant (such as Green Slime) to bike tires before you ride is the best way to prevent flats.
See our article: How to Apply Tire Sealant
See Kids Bike Helmet Sizes and Fit Guide for a more extensive information about kids bike helmets.
1. How do I know if my child’s helmet is properly fitted to their head?
If your child’s eyebrows shift from side-to-side when rotating the helmet on their head, the helmet is generally a good fit. If the helmet easily slides around the top of their head, it is either too big or not properly adjusted.
Additionally, the bottom of the helmet shouldn’t be more than two finger widths above a child’s eyebrows.
The chin strap should be loose enough under the chin to allow the child to easily get the helmet on and off, but tight enough that the chin straps become tight on the chin when the mouth is fully opened.
Lastly, the chin strap plastic slider (which holds the two straps together) should be directly below each ear.
Our Kids Bike Helmet Sizing and Fit Guide video walks you through every step!
2. How do I measure my child’s head for a helmet?
Using a soft tape measure, wrap the tape measure around your child’s head just above their eyebrows. Kids’ heads vary greatly in size, even from sibling to sibling, so it’s generally best not to use hand-me-down helmets.
3. My toddler/preschooler has a really large/round head and doesn’t fit into the “child” size helmets. What do I buy?
“Child” size helmets are typically smaller in size than “youth” size helmets. As a result, it is generally best for a toddler or preschooler to purchase a “child” size helmet, but often times that isn’t possible if your child’s head is larger. As long as your child’s head circumference fits in the range of a “youth” size helmet and comfortably fits on their head, “youth” helmets are perfectly safe for younger riders.
4. Can my child use the same helmet for skateboarding, scooters and riding their bike?
Yes, but only if the helmet is dual-certified for skateboarding and biking. Due to the multiple impacts they often experience, skateboarders need additional protection.
Helmets certified for skateboarding are certified by ASTM. Helmets for biking and scootering are certified by CPSC. A dual-certified helmet, which is suitable for all three activities, is certified by both the ASTM and the CPSC. Many skater-style helmets, like the Nutcase Street and the Bell Span, are dual-certified.
5. What is MIPS?
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and allows the energy from a crash impact to be absorbed by the helmet regardless of what direction the impact is coming from. Studies have shown that MIPS can decrease brain injury by 30%. The system consists of a non-obstrusive inner plastic cage that is attached to the foam core of the helmet.
6. Why type of helmet does my child need for riding in a trailer or a child bike seat?
While sitting in a trailer or a child bike seat, the back of a child’s helmet will come in contact with the back of the seat. If the back of the helmet is not flat, the back of the seat can push the helmet up, which uncomfortably pushes a child’s head down. To allow for a comfortable ride, several helmets such as the Giro Scamp and the Nutcase Baby Nutty have flat backs.
7. When do I need to replace my child’s helmet?
Anytime a helmet comes into contact with anything during a crash, it should be replaced. The protective foam inside the helmet is designed to absorb the impact by cracking. These cracks can be small and hard to see, but they do limit the amount of protection the helmet offers in the event of another crash. Helmets with any damage to the protective foam core, the buckles, or the chin straps should also be thrown out (NOT DONATED), and replaced.
See Kids Bike Trailer Buying Guide for more detailed about bike trailers.
1. Should I get a single or double bike trailer?
Many parents who have one child often opt for a double trailer versus a single trailer. In addition to providing space for a potential sibling or friend to come along for a ride, double trailers provide more room for a single rider.
If your child is prone to bringing along what seems like their whole bedroom during the ride, a double trailer might be best. Single trailers, however, are slightly easier to pull than double trailers and are usually lighter and fold up smaller.
2. What is the difference between the stroller and jogger function of trailers?
Stroller wheels are smaller and will swivel when you turn. Trailers come with various types of stroller wheels. Lower-end models have a smaller wheel that attaches to the trailer arm, while higher-end models have two stroller wheels that attach to the chassis of the trailer.
Jogging wheels are larger, air-filled and DO NOT swivel – this allows the trailer to track straight when traveling at higher speeds. In order to turn a trailer with a jogging wheel you must push down on the handlebar to lift up the front tire.
3. How functional are bike trailers as strollers?
Bike trailers excel as strollers in many areas, such as storage, use on uneven surfaces, privacy, and protection from the elements.
- With large storage areas in the rear and well as the front cabin, trailer strollers hold significantly more than traditional strollers without having to hang bags over the handlebars.
- The large rear wheels of trailer strollers allow them to go just about anywhere. From uneven grass at the ball field or rocks along a walking trail, trailer strollers rarely get stuck on obstacles.
- The mesh zipper door panels provide privacy without inhibiting air flow. They also prevent kids from throwing out their sippy cups and toys and keep out unwanted fingers from touching your child.
- Whether rain or shine, trailer strollers can help to keep your child comfortable. Most trailers come with a plastic zipper door to help keep the rain and wind out as well as keep the warmth in. On hot days, the mesh panel door as well as the top of the trailer provide some shade. Higher-end models such as the Hamax Outback, the Thule Cross and the Burley D’lite have adjustable sunshade panels to keep the sun out of your child’s eyes.
4. Is a bike with disc brakes compatible with bike trailers?
As long as the bike has a rear through axle (a removable axle that travels through the rear tire hub), the bike is compatible with a bike trailer. Disc-brake rotors, however, have been know to wear on the backup safety strap that wraps around the chainstay of the bike frame (the lowest and most rear-positioned frame tube on the bike). A simple rubber band can help to prevent the safety strap from coming into contact with the rear disc brake rotor.
5. What is the best bike to use with a bike trailer?
For the average adult rider, hybrid style bikes with larger 700c size wheels are best for cruising around the neighborhood. In addition to larger wheels, hybrid bikes also have a comfortable seating position that is not too leaned forward (like a mountain or road bike) and not too upright (like a cruiser bike). Hybrid bikes are widely available in bike shops and online. One of our favorite online brands is Priority Bicycles.
Child Bike Seats
See How to Choose a Child Bike Seat for more detailed information.
1. Is my bike compatible with a bike seat?
Not all bikes are compatible with a child bike seat. With countless variations of bikes, it is not possible for companies to manufacture a seat that will fit ALL bikes. Whether a child bike seat will fit depends on your bike and what type of seat you wish to purchase. Please visit Child Bike Seats: How to Choose for specific details and photos to help you determine if your bike is compatible.
2. Are front-mounted bike seats safe?
From our experience, yes, but it all depends on your riding ability, your child, and your child bike seat. There are many variables at hand, but we’ve found that as long as the adult rider can comfortably ride their bike (without splaying their legs too much to the side to pedal) AND the child can stay still and not rock back and forth in the seat, front-mounted bike seats are safe to use.
In most cases, however, front-mounted bike seats are not safe to use on smaller-framed adult bikes as there simply isn’t enough room for the bike seat and the adult between the handlebars and the seat.
3. How old does my child need to be to ride in a bike seat?
Your child should be at least 9 months old, but several states legally require kids to be 12 months old before they ride in a bike seat or a trailer. Additionally, a child should be old enough to hold up their head with a helmet on and be okay with leaving it on while riding.
4. Can I use my existing bike rack with a child bike seat?
If your bike rack is in good condition (be sure to check the screws) and has a weight capacity higher than your child’s weight and the weight of the seat, then your rack will likely fit. Most seats that attach to bike racks have a universal clamp that will fit many different brands and styles of bike racks.
5. What is the best way to carry more than 1 child on a bike?
Front and rear child bike seats, rear Weehoo trailers, and Family Bikes.
- If you prefer not to use a trailer and would like to carry more than one child on a bike, there are several options. With my two youngest kids I preferred to use a front-mounted child bike seat and a Weehoo trailer cycle in the back. This combination allowed for plenty of room for all three riders, and the Weehoo trailer cycle with one wheel is much easier to pull than a standard trailer.
- Mounting a child bike seat to the front and the rear of the bike is also an option, but I found it to be more challenging to ride the bike as compared to using the Weehoo in the back.
- Lastly, several companies such as Xtracycle and Yuba have various types of family-style bikes that allow you to easily travel with 2 or 3 kids on the rear on the bike.
6. What is the best bike to use with a child bike seat?
Hybrid style bikes with larger 700c tires are generally best for riding around town with kids. Mountain bikes and road bikes generally place the adult rider in a leaned forward position that can be uncomfortable with time and also provides little room for a front-mounted seat (which mounts between the rider and the handlebars). Smaller adult bikes in XS or S frames can also be a problem as they provide little room for the child bike seat.
For rear-mounted seats, the bike must have eyelets for connecting a rack, or provide enough clear space on the bike’s downtube (the frame tube between the seat and the pedals) to mount the rear seat.
Please visit Child Bike Seats: How to Choose for specific details and photos to help you determine if your bike is compatible.