Purchasing a bicycle for your child is the first step on the road to achieving lifelong health and fitness. While your child may be concerned with the look and color of the bike, your job is to focus on purchasing the correct size bicycle for your child. Stay away from purchasing a bicycle that is too big for your child right now with aspirations that your child will "grow into it." Your child will be safer, have more fun and ride more often if the bike fits right from the start. Here is a list of points, which will make the purchasing process easier.
Safety is of utmost concern. The child needs to be able to stand over the top tube of the bicycle frame with both feet flat on the ground. Sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, your child must be able to place the balls of the feet on the ground. Straddling the top tube, your child should be able to keep both feet flat on the ground with a little clearance between the crotch and the top tube. This can vary considerably depending on the style of the bike.
- Matching the bike’s wheel size and your child’s corresponding inseam length is the best place to start the process. Before you head to the store, measure your child’s inseam (crotch to floor) and take the information with you.
- 12-inch wheels are designed for kids at least 36 to 40 inches tall and a minimum inseam of 18 inches.
- 16-inch wheels are designed for kids at least 41 to 49 inches tall and a minimum 18-inch inseam. Both 12 and 16-inch wheels should fit children between the ages of two and six.
- 20-inch wheels are best suited for children who are at least 50 to 56 inches tall with a minimum inseam of 23 inches.
- 24-inch wheels are designed for children who are at least 57 inches tall with a minimum inseam of 26 inches.
- Bicycles come in all shapes and sizes. Your child’s first bicycle needs only to be simple. Single speed bicycles with a coaster brake and an additional hand brake will be easy to operate, inexpensive, and will provide your child with many enjoyable experiences. Buying a bike with gears and front and rear hand brakes will further prepare your child for healthy lifelong bicycling skills.
- A simple single speed 12-inch wheel bicycle can cost as little as $50 while a 26-inch mountain bicycle with 27 speeds and front and rear shocks can cost $500 and up. Choosing where to buy a bike is just as important as what bike you buy. Mass merchants will offer lower prices, while specialty bicycle stores stress quality, fit and service. Mass merchant bikes are a good value for occasional use. Go to a bike shop if your child will ride often and enthusiastically. If the bike will be passed along to younger siblings, it pays to buy a better one from the start.
- Don’t forget a helmet! They are lifesavers, and are required by law in many states. Helmet sizing is incredibly important. Your child can’t get the most protection from the helmet unless it fits well. Choose the size of the helmet which comfortably touches the child’s head all the way around with the helmet set level on the head, just above the eyebrows and stable enough to resist aggressive shakes. The helmet strap should not bind on the chin and should allow the child to be able to open their mouth. Don’t forget to use the extra set of foam fitting pads if necessary. Encourage your child to always wear a helmet by wearing one yourself.
Spend the time to find a bicycle that will properly fit your child right now and watch them start the journey to lifelong health and fitness.