Buying a Bike
One of the most common mistakes people make when buying kids’ bikes is getting a bicycle that’s too large, so the child can “grow into” it. This might sound like a good idea, but it’s not. A child will have a hard time controlling a bike that’s too large and won’t feel confident as a result. A properly sized bike will be safer because it will be easier to control and a lot more fun. The first step in picking a bike is getting the right size. Where adult bikes are sized by the frame (measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube), bikes for children are sized by their wheels: 12”, 16”, 20” and 24”. The bike should fit the child. The rider should be able to get on and off the bike flat footed. The child should not be riding scrunched up with their knees hitting the handlebars and they should not be stretched out and unable to turn the handlebars easily. If there is a range of prices available in your child’s size, pick up a couple of bikes. It’s likely the heavy bikes will be cheaper. They are probably made of steel, where the lighter bicycles are built with some alloy metals. The most important mechanical parts of a bike, overall, are the brakes. Kids’ bikes usually have either coaster brakes (brakes on the back wheel that are engaged by pedaling backwards), or handbrakes (brakes engaged by a grip on the handlebars that pinches brake pads against the rim of the wheel) or both. Because of their small hand size and limited hand strength, the smallest kids’ bikes have coaster brakes. Until a child’s hands are large enough and strong enough to effectively use a handbrake, they should rely on coaster brakes. Before they move up to a multi-speed bike with a derailleur it is good for them to get some experience on a bike with both types of brakes so they get used to hand brakes, because bikes with a derailleur can only have hand brakes. Bike shopping tips: If at all possible, take your child with you when you shop, so he/she can try out the bike. For more information on safe cycling check out International Bike Fund website.