Best kids’ bikes: how to pick the right bicycle for their height
This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.
What should you consider when buying a children’s bicycle?
Lamentably, it’s not the colour scheme or whether there are decorations on the spokes. More practically, you need to consider your child’s height, age, and ability as a cyclist.
When looking at the bikes themselves, take a note of its weight. Heavier bikes don’t handle as well. There’s a correlation between the cheapest bikes and the heaviest, making the most compelling argument for spending a little more.
Best children’s bicycles at a glance:
Where to buy Deborah James’ Rebellious Hope T-Shirt, clothing line as campaigner dies of bowel cancer at 40
The best men’s thermal base layers for hiking 2021 - options from Patagonia, Helly Hansen, Decathlon
Marks and Spencer unveil their Christmas Food and Drink range 2021 -new and cult M&S products and when to buy
Best boxed mattresses UK 2022: the best mattresses in a box, from Emma, Simba, Nectar, Simba Luxe and OTTY
Best baby car seats UK 2022: best toddler car seats from birth to 12, including Maxi Cosi, Halfords, Cybex
- Best for toddler cyclists: Scandiborn Little Dutch Balance Bike
- Best for charging around on grass: The Micro Balance Bike Deluxe
- Best for a balance bike that’s easy to carry: Trunki Folding Balance Bike
- Best for kiddies transitioning to pedals: Carrera Cosmos Kids Bike - 14" Wheel
- Best for new peddlers who like cycling on bumpy surfaces: SPECIALIZED Riprock 20"
- Best for a pretty bike: Apollo Glitz Kids Bike - 18" Wheel
- Best for gaining confidence as a cyclist: Raleigh Pop 18 Inch Wheel Kids
- Best for speed freaks: Hoy Bonaly 20" Superlight 2021 Kids Bike
- Best for a budget buy: SCHWINN Shadow 20 Inch 2020 Kids Bike
- Best for taller kids who like to ride fast: PINNACLE Aspen 24 Inch 2020 Kids Bike
- Best for a light city bike for taller kids (around 9-12 years): Ridgeback Dimension 24"
- Best for adventuring: Apollo Interzone Junior Mountain Bike - 26" Wheel
What size bike should you purchase for your child?
Don’t fall victim to the fallacy of buying a bike that’s too big for your wee one with the rationale they’ll ‘grow into’ it. An oversized bike is difficult (and dangerous) to steer and handle.
To determine the right wheel size for your child, measure their height, then choose the corresponding wheel size on the below table:
If your child measures more than 145 cm, choose a 26-inch wheel.
1-5 years (toddler and preschoolers)
For younger children, a balance bike is a smart choice. These simple bikes allow children to ‘pedal’ the ground with their feet - the bike itself has no pedals or gears.
It allows the child to familiarise themselves with balancing while in motion and sitting in a saddle. It makes the transition to a pedal bike as they grow smoother (and may mean you can skip using stabilisers then).
What do I need to spend?
It is worth paying for a decent bike, as a cheap bike will make learning to cycle terribly difficult and may serve as a deterrent.
If you’re thinking “yes, but it’s only for a small period of time - I don’t want to spend too much” - you are buying a moving vehicle for your child, however slow they’ll go, it’s worth safe-guarding them by buying quality.
Consider organising a bike swap with fellow parents with differently aged/sized kids if you can, to get the best wear our of a bike.
You don’t have to spend a fortune, but a decent small bike is going to start at around £130 (for 12-inch wheels) and increase incrementally as the bike size increases.
When you get to teenagers’ bikes, the addition of gears means the prices jump considerably - close to what you’ll pay for an adult bike. The argument can be more easily made then (depending on growth spurts) to buy an adult bike.
Are stabilisers worth it?
Frankly - stabilisers will inhibit your child’s learning, as it takes away any impetus for them to learn to balance.
More cycling coverage:
Scandiborn Little Dutch Balance Bike
Best for: toddler cyclists
Gorgeous to look at, this balance bike is the perfect first bike for children 2 years and up.
The frame of this balance bike is made of steel, with a scratch-resistant coating. The handlebars are easy to adjust, the wheels puncture-proof, and there’s a sweet little bell (your child will love)
With 12” rubber tyres.
Key Specs: Wheels 12” wheels, Weight 4.5Kg, Frame, Steel
The Micro Balance Bike Deluxe
Best for: kids who love charging around grassy parks
Simplicity itself, Micro Balance Bikes stand out for having extremely smooth wheel-action.
The 12 inch air-filled tyres have great grip - making them ideal for rougher terrain, while the handle-bars handle extremely well. The back wheel has great suspension for bumpier bits, to keep your kiddie comfy.
With an ergonomically shaped, height adjustable saddle so it can grow with your child.
Key Specs: Weight 4.1kg, Tyres: 12 inches, Frame, aluminium.
Trunki Folding Balance Bike - Pink - 12" Wheel
Best for: a balance bike that’s easy to carry
Ah, this is ingenious.
This balance bike from family favourite Trunki collapses to an easy-to-carry, super light package - it even includes its own carry strap and protective bag (sort of Baby’s-First-Brompton).
You can easily fold it up and rest it on the back of a frame or over your arm when your wee one wants to walk. The handling is great and the wheels made from puncture-proof foam.
Key Specs: Weight 3.6kg, Wheel height, 12”, Frame aluminium.
Carrera Cosmos Kids Bike - 14" Wheel
Best for: kiddies transitioning to pedals
This lovely bike from Carrera makes the ideal transitional bike for a child moving on from a balance bike to a real bike - around 4 to 6 years old.
It’s designed with younger kids in mind, with an efficient, sturdy chain runner, Kenda tyres, and reliable alloy v-brakes.
With a great, unisex design, it’s light, easy to adjust, and simple to fit accessories to. A great bike.
Key Specs: Weight: 6.0 kg, Frame Material : lightweight aluminium, Tyres: 14”
SPECIALIZED Riprock 20"
Best for: new peddlers who like cycling on bumpy surfaces
If your child, now relatively comfy on a bike, is likely to head over bumpy terrain, this brilliant bike from Specialized will do them proud.
The sizeable 2.8in tyre width allows both bike and rider to tackle rougher road easily, while the 7 gear options are the perfect balance for those newer to inclines.
It’s not too heavy, either, and sleek enough for city riding.
Key specs: Weight: 12.2kg, Wheel size 12”, Number of gears:7, Frame Material: Aluminium.
Apollo Glitz Kids Bike - 18" Wheel
Best for: a pretty bike
A great bike for kids around 5-7 who adore all things sparkly.
With a girl’s saddle, this lightweight number will be beloved by any child who enjoys bling (though it performs brilliantly, too)
With a stylish rose gold frame, bright pink chain, and both front and rear V-Brakes, it handles easily and will keep your little one safe.
Key Specs: Weight 10.5kg, Tyre size: 18”, Frame, Aluminium.
Raleigh Pop 18 Inch Wheel Kids
Best for: gaining confidence as a cyclist
Lightweight and easy to handle, this is another terrific bike for children transitioning from more basic models to adult models. With an aluminium frame, and a low-bar making it easy for children to mount.
Raleigh’s internal cable routing minimises the risk of accidents, while the aluminium brake levers are designed to be easy for little fingers to operate.
With non-slip pedals and punctured protected tyres, so your child is kept as safe as possible as they ride.
Key Specs: Weight 9.9kgs, Tyres 18”, with puncture protection, Number of Gears 6, Frame Aluminium
Hoy Bonaly 20" Superlight 2021 Kids Bike
Best for: speed freaks
The Hoy Bonaly is named after Olympic legend Chris Hoy’s most beloved off-road cycling spots, and is a brilliant choice for children who have gained some confidence as a rider.
It’s akin to a mountain bike, but not as complex or heavy. With short cranks and rigid forks, it’s comfortable and supportive for child riders.
Semi-treaded tyres allow for off-roading if the fancy takes them.
Great for use on rougher terrains such as grass and uneven paths - if you want to go from road to park and back again, your child with love this.
Key specs: Weight 8kg, Wheel size 20in, Number of gears 6, Frame material, Aluminium
SCHWINN Shadow 20 Inch 2020 Kids Bike
Best for: a budget buy
Schwinn are a classic name in the cycling world, and have an earned reputation as making classic bikes.
This 20” model handles very well, has back and front brakes for added safety, and is easy to use for those who aren’t the most confident cyclists.
Key specs: Weight 13.4kg, Wheel size 20in, Number of gears 6, Frame material, Aluminium
PINNACLE Aspen 24 Inch 2020 Kids Bike
Best for: taller kids who like to ride like the wind
The Pinnacle is great for taller kids who adore cycling like the wind - it’s a light-weight little bolter.
Solidly enough built to withstand a kid’s typical slapdash approach to bike care, it’s nevertheless light enough to breeze up hillsides. All gears work perfectly and the brakes are terrifically safe.
Twin chain-ring plates avoid derailed chains and greasy hands, and rear-only gears keep the learning process simple.
In short - this is the perfect bike for a pre-teen. We love it.
Key Specs: Weight 10.1 kg, Tyres: 24”, Frame Aluminium
Ridgeback Dimension 24"
Best for: a light city bike for taller kids (around 9-12 years)
This fleet, light-as-a-feather bicycle is crafted to the highest possible specifications and perfect for taller/older children who love the prospect of (to use the technical term) going vrooming around like mad.
The impressively light frame makes it great for climbing hills in the city, and racing down at a total pace. That makes it easy to handle and turn, very responsive. It won’t handle rough terrain, though, but that’s not its intended use.
Rest assured, parents: our tester found the brakes effective and responsive, so your child will be able to slow down when they need to, too.
Key Specs: Weight: 9.2kg, Wheel height: 24 in, Number of gears: 7 Frame: Alloy
Apollo Interzone Junior Mountain Bike - 26" Wheel
Best for: adventuring
This is a bike that will see a child of around 10 (depending on height) all through their teen years.
This is a seriously robust and indestructible bike, with chunky tyres ideal for off-road adventuring, particularly if your child loves hillside terrain. The suspension handles bumpy ground well, making for a comfy ride.
The brakes are excellent (a serious concern) and easily accessed, while our tester found changing gears easy and thrilling. This is a high-quality bike for a taller child transitioning to adulthood.
Key Specs: Weight: 15kg, Wheel Height: 26in, Number of gears 18, Frame: Air Filled Rubber