Mountain bikes for kids have evolved into incredible machines that are purpose-built for specific riding styles. With a wide assortment of choices and features available, selecting the perfect mountain bike for your kids can be quite a challenge.
So let’s dive right into it.
First, Size matters. One of the determinants in choosing the right bike for your kid is the wheel size.
Here is a quick size chart to help you through the different sizes:
|12″||2-3||85-100 cm||35-42 cm|
|14″||3-4||95-110 cm||40-50 cm|
|16″||4-5||110-120 cm||45-55 cm|
|20″||5-8||120-135 cm||55-63 cm|
|24″||8-11||135-145 cm||60-72 cm|
|26″||11+||145+ cm||70+ cm|
The most common wheel sizes are 12″, 16″, 20″ and 24″. You need to ensure that your child can stand over the top tube of the bike while their feet are firmly grounded. Your child should feel comfortable and completely in control of the bike under all circumstances.
Buying a bike too big for your kids and then expecting them to grow into it is never recommended. Inappropriate bike height and size can negatively impact their confidence. Always go for the proper size.
Here are three things to consider while selecting the best size of bike for your kids:
Stand-Over Height: Regardless of wheel size, your kid should be able to straddle the bike with both feet flat on the ground.
Seat height: Your child needs to be able to touch the balls of her feet on the ground while seated on the saddle.
Reach: Your kid should be able to comfortably reach the handlebars with elbows slightly bent when sitting on the seat. Handbrakes should be easily reachable and squeezable while seated.
Keep It Simple
Kids are always tempted towards feature loaded bikes, more bells, and whistles. Here the golden rule is to help them learn the art of simplicity. More features mean extra weight and a higher probability of something going out of order. Stick with the simple, yet sturdy and reliable models and you would always find the bang for your buck.
Based on the age, here is a quick guide to pick the right bike for your kids.
2-5 Years Old:
For kids age between 2-5 who cannot pedal a standard bike – balance bikes are the best option. Balance bikes have no pedals but are fantastic to let your kid develop a sense of balancing and inertia. They learn how to steer the bike and apply the brakes. Balance bikes can be safely used indoors as well.
3-6 years old:
Basic small wheelers typically come in 12, 14 and 16-inch wheels are ideal for this age group. The most important part here is the fit, as explained above. Your child should be able to firmly ground the feet, while hands can reach the brakes and handlebars with elbows slightly bent.
Kids of this age get introduced to the 20-inch series which come with the proper set of gears with versions ranging from 5 to 10 gears, and suspension options..
Some bikes in this category comes with suspension forks. Be cautious. Yes, they look cool, especially if you’re a kid, but on many inexpensive models, the forks can be heavy and not very effective. Many fully rigid bikes at this level will not only be lighter but also be higher quality.
9-14 years old:
Kids of this age group can comfortably handle 24 inch wheels or bigger bikes with proper gearing, full suspension and disc brakes.
Coaster brakes can make it easy to slow down or stop by back-pedaling. On the other hand, coaster brakes add weight and your child will still need to learn to use a handbrake when they move to the next size bike. We strongly suggest starting with a bike that features hand brakes. Once your kid starts riding real trails, disc brakes can help them with increased control and stopping power.
On a smaller bike, most of the time a rigid fork is way better than inexpensive suspension. Suspension definitely benefits your riding, but suspension feature on most of the low to mid-range bikes does actually more harm than good. It adds extra weight, reduces stability and in some cases is ineffective. If your young rider is ready for the rough and technical tracks, you should consider purchasing a bike with air suspension.
Your neighborhood or beginner level trails can be easily navigated with single speed bikes. They are easier to manage and maintain. Single speed bikes are lightweight and fewer components mean less probability of something going out of order.
When you get to the trails with more advanced climbing and descending, this is the time when the gears become a game changer. The proper gearing can increase the fun, reduce the work and make the uphill climb a real accomplishment for your kids. Choose your gearing options wisely. Many kids bikes now offer a 1 x 10 drivetrain (1 gear in the front and 10 gears on the rear cassette) compared to some models with 3 x 9 options. There are also kids’ bikes with 2 gears on the crankset.
Shifters: Grip Vs Trigger Shifters
Gear shifters can be tricky for the little riders. We suggest child-sized components that are easy to operate and handle. The best option is to take your child to a bike shop and have them try different shifters. Invest in the one which is easy to use.