I don’t remember my first bike, but my Dad sure does, he spent an entire weekend pushing me around the playing field behind our house trying to get me to ride, I was by all accounts pretty useless, which must have been pretty frustrating! Back in the 80′s kids bike were heavy, poorly made, difficult to ride & didn’t exactly entice me become a cyclist, thankfully I got over that!
These days bike manufacturers have realised that simply miniaturising an adult bike doesn’t help kids learn to ride or progress their skills and so a whole range of innovative bikes are now available to get your children into cycling.
Kids, like the rest of us, aren’t all the same – and when it comes to riding a bike there’s generally a split between those that have the balance & those that have the strength to push the pedals and of course there are those that aren’t particularly adept at either!
Many smaller kids just don’t have the strength in their legs to churn pedals round & due to the compact nature of the bikes (and the kids!) they aren’t really in the right position to pedal efficiently – this can be pretty frustrating & if they can’t ‘make it go’ they tend to give up pretty easy. Balance bikes are a great way to help them progress since there’s no drivetrain as such they just scoot around using their feet but still build the steering and balance skills needed to ride a bike. Most of these styles of bikes are aimed at ages 1-6.
Particularly good value in this category are the Wiggle Pedal-Free wooden bikes which are just £50 – they are sturdy & mechanically very simple so nothing to go wrong (or rust should it be left in the garden all week!) & come with adjustable saddles to grow with your kids. The steering is limited on these to prevent ‘jack-knifing’ and help build confidence.
Another option are the Wiggle Pedal-Free bikes with brakes – these are slightly more ‘bike like’ with a traditional saddle and a front brake (braking is a pretty important skill to learn!) they are just £40! Both of these options even come in an official ‘Tour de France’ design – so your kids can aim big!
Slightly higher priced is the excellent FirstBike range which is made from a toughened plastic to keep it light & durable, these are very adjustable so will last a good few years if need be and feature a reliable drum brake that can’t be easily damaged by rough handling (let’s face it, kids bikes don’t have an easy life!).
At the top of the Balance Bike range is the Early Rider – similar in style to the Wiggle Wooden bikes these are finely crafted with top quality materials & feature ‘real’ bike wheels with spoke laced rims & a comfy leatherette saddle, kind of like the family rocking horse these are made to be passed down through generations.
From about 4+ many children have developed strong enough legs to pedal a ‘proper bike’ though their slightly erratic balance will probably require stabilizers to start off! Good quality modern kids bikes feature lighter materials, easy to use brakes and tough paintwork!
For the under 5′s Raleigh make the great little 12″ wheel MX12 & Micro Miss (which has more petals on it than the Chelsea Flower show!) both feature tough steel frames, chainguards to keep little fingers safe (and trousers clean!) and lots of adjustment to fit the little riders. Raleigh are probably the UK’s most popular kids bike maker & you would be hard pushed to find anyone in Britain that hadn’t ridden one as a kid at some point! Over 5′s have a similar choice from the brand with MX16 & Kool Miss featuring the same styling but with a bigger frame & wheels.
At the 20″ & 24″ level FELT also enter the market with bikes that are essentially adult specification but on smaller frames, particularly great is the F24 which is a youth sized Road Bike – something very few manufacturers produce. It’s a carbon forked Aluminium frame which has special ‘small hand’ microshift levers for easy braking & shifting and an extra set of brakes on the flats which helps with control for those who aren’t yet comfortable on the drops.
With all these choices it’s easier than ever to get your kids into cycling, who knows, they might be the next Victoria Pendleton or Bradley Wiggins!