Best kids' bikes: a buyer's guide

Our guide to getting your child the perfect bike for Christmas

Buying your child a new bike? Finding it hard to pick the best one? Relax, we've put together a simple guide to help you choose wisely…

The most important factors to consider when choosing a bike for your child are their age, height and ability. The weight of the bike will also affect its handling, and bikes at the very low end of the price spectrum are often the heaviest.

If you already know what size bike to go for, scroll down to see our suggestions for kids of each age group. 

Once you've found the perfect bike, why not check out our guide to cycling with kids to get things started. Before you know it, the whole family will be out enjoying life on two wheels

What size bike should I get for my child?

Although it can be tempting to go for a bigger bike that your child can ‘grow into’, this is best avoided. A bike that’s too big will be hard to handle and steer. Of course, you’ll need to teach them to ride too, so read our simple guide that should get them pedalling away in around 30 minutes.

Read on for tips on how to find the correct size bike for your child.

Preschool

For younger children of preschool age, balance bikes are perfect. These are simple bikes without pedals or gears that the child pushes along with their feet while sitting in the saddle.

The simple set-up means that children get the feel of pushing off and balancing on the bike while it’s moving. This also means the transition to a pedal bike is much quicker — and they probably won’t need stabilisers when the time comes either!

As children grow, they will of course need bigger bikes. Children’s bikes grow in wheel size as well as frame size and having smaller wheels for smaller riders makes the bikes easier to handle.

A few brands, such as Black Mountain Bikes, produce kids bikes that can be adapted to fit kids as they grow, starting off as a balance bike then transforming into a pedal bike with a few simple swaps. 

After a new bike for your child but not sure where to start? Let us help!
After a new bike for your child but not sure where to start? Let us help!

Ages 4–6

For children aged 4–6, or roughly 105–115cm / 3ft 5in–3ft 9in, go for a bike with 14-16in wheels. Most of these are simple bikes with pedals and brakes, and many come with a small range of gears.

Ages 7–10

For ages 7–10 (height 115–135cm / 3ft 9in–4ft 5in) choose a bike with 18–20in wheels. You’ll also start to see a wider range of gears appearing at this price point, and you may find bikes with front suspension, which are more suitable for rough terrain.

Ages 10–13

Children aged between 10–13 (height 135–150cm / 4ft 5in–5ft) will usually move on to a 24in wheel bike and, at this point, you’ll find bikes that are essentially a smaller version of an adult bike.

You’ll also start to see different types of bike, from junior-sized road bikes and mountain bikes to hybrid/leisure bikes. Choose a bike type that’s going to suit the majority of the riding your child will be doing — if it’s mostly going to be off-road, wide tyres with a grippy tread is a good choice, for example.

It won't be long untill your kids progress to independent cycling
It won't be long untill your kids progress to independent cycling

Teenagers

For teenagers, you’re going to be looking at adult bikes in smaller sizes. There are smaller wheel-size options for junior road bikes, such as 650b, though most bikes will have 26in, 27.5in or 700c wheels.

Bear in mind that these sizes are a guideline only. If your teen is taller or smaller than average, or more or less confident, they may be better off on a different size. If in doubt, talk to your local bike shop.

Best bikes and balance bikes for ages 1–4

Once your child is up, toddling around and stable on two feet, they’re ready for their first set of wheels.

There are two options at this point — a balance bike or a trike.

Trikes might seem like an attractive option, because they are stable and allow kids to start peddling along themselves, but in our opinion balance bikes are a much better choice.

This is because a balance bike will help your child develop key skills such as balance and steering first, so they are more likely to make the transition to a pedal-powered bike quickly, without needing stabilisers.

For younger kids, a wheel size of 12in is typical. There are also some pedal-powered options for 2–4 year olds, and many will come with brakes — either lever-operated ones or coaster brakes that work by back-pedalling, and sometimes both.

Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

Strider is a very popular make of kids' bike
Strider is a very popular make of kids' bike

The Strider Sport Balance bike is suitable for children aged from 18 months and up to 4-5 years. It features a long seatpost that can be lowered fully or raised high to fit your child.

A durable steel frame should withstand some rough treatment, and the tyres are designed to be puncture proof.

We like the built-in footrests, so when your child gets the hang of gliding along on the bike they’ve got somewhere to rest their feet. Perfect preparation for moving on to pedals.

The bike is also designed so the saddle and handlebar height can be adjusted without tools.

  • £88 / $119.99 / AU$139

Islabikes Rothan

Islabikes makes everything from balance bikes through to race-ready bikes for juniors
Islabikes makes everything from balance bikes through to race-ready bikes for juniors

Islabikes is a British company founded by Isla Rowntree, who is dedicated to creating high-quality bikes designed so that children develop a passion for cycling. Great care is taken to ensure the bikes fit well, ride well and aren’t too heavy for little riders to manage,

Available in a range of bright, cheerful colours, the Rothan has a lightweight aluminium frame, chunky tyres with plenty of grips and it even features a brake designed for smaller hands.

  • £169.99 / $199.99 to $249.99 / AUS$TBC
  • Order now from Islabikes(Islabikes offers international shipping to Australia and recommends you get in contact directly for a quote)

Frog 43

Frog Bikes are designed for junior riders and come in a range of colours, including this cool polka dot design
Frog Bikes are designed for junior riders and come in a range of colours, including this cool polka dot design

If your child has already mastered gliding and is ready to move on to a bike with pedals, the Frog 43 is one to consider.

The Frog 43 has an aluminium frame and fork, as well as quality Tektro brakes for plenty of stopping power. There are also bespoke cranks designed to make pedalling easier for little kids.

Two more big selling points are that it comes with two sets of tyres — one for riding off-road and one hybrid set for riding on roads, pavements and parks, plus a five-year warranty on frame and forks.

Frog also makes balance bikes and bikes for older children.

  • £240 / $340 / AU£370.50

Black Mountain Bikes Pinto 

The PINTO from Black Mountain Bikes starts off as a balance bike
The PINTO from Black Mountain Bikes starts off as a balance bike

Black Mountain Bikes are designed to grow as kids grow. This means one bike will last your child for longer, and is designed to fit children even better as they get taller. The brand says its bikes are 'three bikes in one'. 

The Pinto can start off life as a balance bike, then works as a pedal cycle on the 14in wheel option. The frame is designed to be light (a claimed 6kg), which is easier for smaller kids to handle, has a low-maintenance belt drive and short-reach brake levers for smaller hands, plus a raft of other features. 

The gearing can also be made harder as your child grows thanks, to a removable sprocket 'jacket'. 

There are four excellent colours available including orange, neon green, purple and sky blue. 

  • £329 (most international delivery available, but Black Mountain does not currently ship to the US)

Cube Cubie 120 Walk

Two seatposts allow room to grow
Two seatposts allow room to grow

This cutely named bike weighs 3.96kg, making it a good lightweight option for your child to get child started on. 

Cube has incorporated a special handlebar set-up that limits how far the rider can turn the bar, saving them from some of the inevitable accidents when they're learning. 

Rolling on 12in wheels with Kenda Team Cube tyre, it has a low standover height and even comes with two different lengths seatposts to allow growing room. 

  • £149 / €130 

Cannondale Trail Balance 12

The instantly recognisable Lefty fork is good to see on a kids bike
The instantly recognisable Lefty fork is good to see on a kids bike

The Trail Balance 12 comes with Cannondale's single-legged Little Lefty rigid fork, Innova multi-use tyres, C4 lightweight alloy rims and kids comfort grips. 

With a light, strong alloy frame, it's a great option to get your little one rolling. It's good to see the Lefty fork make an appearance on a kids' bike too. 

  • £170 / $199 / AU$TBC

Specialized Hotwalk

The foot platforms are great for getting those feet off the ground
The foot platforms are great for getting those feet off the ground

Specialized's Hotwalk comes with foot platforms, which are great for when little ones have got the hang of balancing, before transitioning to pedals. 

It's available with a step-through frame or a top-tube frame, and there's also an adjustable bar-height option for growing children. 

Specced with Specialized's Rhythm Lite Sport tyres, it's equally at home on dirt or tarmac. 

  • £130 / $175 / AU$220

Best bikes for ages 4–6

When your child is a bit older and taller they can move to a bike with 14in or 16in wheels.

If the bike was already supplied with stabilisers, and your child is confident riding without them, then remove them ASAP.

The key things to look at here are a low weight, so the child is able to handle the bike, and brakes that have an easy action and small size to suit smaller hands.

Most kids' bikes at this price bracket should allow you to adjust the reach to the brakes. Many also have coaster brakes rather than lever-operated brakes, which are operated by back-pedalling.  

Early Rider Trail Runner 14in

A balance bike that's rugged enough to take on mountain-bike trails
A balance bike that's rugged enough to take on mountain-bike trails

As the name suggests, this is a bike designed for adventure. Knobbly, grippy mountain bike tyres are perfect for giving grip on those thrilling muddy slopes, rolling over roots, or zooming across gravel.

The shiny aluminium frame looks good and is lightweight, and overall this is a bike that’s been built with care and attention to detail. It’s designed to be more responsive and manoeuvrable, with a saddle that can be adjusted in height without using tools.

  •  £149.99 / $TBC / AU$299

Liv Adore C/B 16

Retro patterns bedeck the frame, saddle and basket
Retro patterns bedeck the frame, saddle and basket

Liv, the sister company to Giant Bicycles, has in its range of kids bike the Adore.

Fun colours bedeck the aluminium frame, with a chainguard and stabiliser wheels already attached. It has low standover like the other bikes mentioned here, which allows the child to reach the floor with both feet when standing or sitting on the bike.

  • £199.99 / $215 / AU$249

Orange Pop

The attention to detail in the Orange Pop is impressive
The attention to detail in the Orange Pop is impressive

We love the name!

A great transition from striding to pedals, the 16in Orange Pop brings over the trademark Orange design, concentrated down to kids' sizing. It comes specced with Orange Strange finishing kit and has all the attention to detail we've come to expect from the Halifax brand. 

The bike has serviceable bearings, a 470mm bar, grips for little hands, 92mm cranks and no gears to worry about. This singlespeed bike is equipped with an SDG Junior saddle and Kenda 2.15in tyres for on and off-road use. The frame comes in one size, and a range of colours (for an extra cost). 

  • £350

Mondraker Leader 16

A great bike for getting familiar with gears and brakes
A great bike for getting familiar with gears and brakes

If you ride a Mondraker adult bike then the Leader 16 is a winner for aspiring mini-mes, looking just like a scaled-down version of your bike. 

It has a decent alloy frame, kitted out with Mondraker's own kids' handlebar, stem, saddle and seatpost, as well as a size-speed Shimano drivetrain and Tektro kids' brakes front and rear. This little 16in bike is an excellent starter for pedals and gears, and a fantastic intro to mountain biking over a range of terrain. 

  • £369

Black Mountain Bikes Skøg

Regal purple is one of four bright colour choices for the Skøg
Regal purple is one of four bright colour choices for the Skøg

Like its little sibling the Pinto, Skøg works essentially like three bikes in one. 

Without wheels, it's a balance bike. Pop the pedals on and it will work as a regular pedal bike except — and here's the cool bit — the frame and gearing can be adapted to suit the rider. So smaller kids can have as good a fit as possible and the bike can change with them. 

The bikes are designed to be light and therefore easier for smaller people to ride, and have good quality brakes with levers designed for small hands. 

it available in four bright colours including purple, green, light blue and orange.

  • £329 (international delivery available, but Black Mountain does not currently ship to the US)

Best bikes for ages 6–10

Look for bikes with 18-20in wheels. At this point you’ll start to see more gearing options and lever-operated brakes only. You’ll also start to see suspension making an appearance (usually front suspension forks only).

Bear in mind that cheaper suspension bikes can be heavier than their non-suspension alternatives, and if the bike is to be ridden off-road, some good-quality, wide, puncture-resistant tyres should be a higher priority.

Giant XtC Jr 1 20

Is your kid ready to venture off-road? Bring on the roots, rocks and mud!
Is your kid ready to venture off-road? Bring on the roots, rocks and mud!

There’s no missing this green machine. The Giant XtC Jr is a 20in-wheel mountain bike with a front suspension fork with 50mm of travel. It comes with seven gears with grip shift, which makes moving between gears easier for small hands.

The aluminium frame is designed for young riders, with low-rise handlebars and a junior saddle. It also has a bell and kickstand fitted.

  • £249 / $255 

Specialized Hotrock 20

The Hotrock from Specialized is one of the most popular bikes out there
The Hotrock from Specialized is one of the most popular bikes out there

The Hotrock is one of the most popular kids' bikes out there, and is another that's designed to tackle those beginner off-road routes, as well as being at home in the park, forest trails and fire roads. It’s also perfectly suited to the local pump track.

The aluminium frame is paired with SR Suntour XCT-JR forks with 50mm of travel, a good amount for getting to grips with rough surfaces.

Shimano Tourney 7-speed gears provide plenty of range for tackling climbs, and there's a grip shift for easier gear shifting. The rim brakes also have adjustable levers so you can adapt the reach as the child grows.

The Hotrock also comes in a range of colours, and there’s a larger version with 24in wheels for bigger kids.

  • £320 / $370 / AU$520

Scott Scale JR 20

The Scott Scale Junior packs in the features from the adult bike range into a junior package
The Scott Scale Junior packs in the features from the adult bike range into a junior package

Bringing together the simplicity of a rigid bike (no suspension) with the chunkier tyres of a mountain bike, the Scale JR 20 is a versatile aluminium frame bike designed for junior riders.

Shimano 7-speed gearing is grip-shift operated, and child-specific v-brakes provide the stopping power. Handlebars, saddle and pedals are all designed with a junior rider in mind.

  • £269 / $TBC / AU$399.95

Commencal Clash 20

This bike is pricey because it's a scaled-down version of a full-suspension bike
This bike is pricey because it's a scaled-down version of a full-suspension bike

The 20 is the kids' model in Commencal's 2019 Clash line-up. 

On this 20in weapon you'll get top-end kit for your money and a well-built bike that'll last years — and then fetch a good second-hand price once your young rider is eyeing up adult-sized bikes like yours!

  • £1,616.53 / €1,799 / $1,799

Trek Roscoe 20

Chunky tyres add bags of grip (and therefore confidence) to this ride
Chunky tyres add bags of grip (and therefore confidence) to this ride

Trek's mid-fat Roscoe 20 is designed to inspire youngsters' confidence with 2.8in tyres that are able to take on the trails and the streets. 

It has a rigid fork for simplicity and savings on weight and cost, but you'll spot plenty of details shared from Trek's adult-size bikes. These include a durable aluminium frame (with kid specific geometry), a fuss-free 1x8 Shimano drivetrain with wide-range cassette and Tektro mechanical disc brakes. 

All of this adds up to a great base for building young riding skills. The Roscoe 20 is relatively affordable too, making it a wise choice for the budget conscious. 

  • £350 / $489.99 

Early Rider Trail 20

All you need to do is pop the pedals and handlebars on, and this bike is ready to ride
All you need to do is pop the pedals and handlebars on, and this bike is ready to ride

The Trail 20 has a brushed aluminium frame and is equipped with a 65mm-travel Spinner Grind air fork, SRAM componants, Maxxis Max Daddy tyres and Early Rider's own grips and saddle, so it's ready to rip on the trails. 

Weighing 9.3kg, this 9-speed hardtail should help your youngster take on everything in their path. 

The bike comes assembled — you just need to attach the bar, pop on the pedals and add pressure to the tyres. 

  • £624.99
  • Shipping to Europe available. Check the Early Rider website for more information.

Best bikes for ages 10–13

With a wheel size of 24in comes many more features. These bikes are essentially smaller versions of adult bikes, with the variation, style and focus that goes with it.

You can get everything from drop-bar road bikes, front- and full-suspension options with disc brakes for budding mountain bikers, or sturdy and versatile flat-handlebar bikes.

Quality models will have light alloy frames, and the spec should be comparable to an adult bike at the same price point.

Scott Scale JR 24 Plus

Ready to give your kid all the zooms
Ready to give your kid all the zooms

With a race-inspired design and a light alloy frame, the Scott Scale 24 weighs a respectable 10.1kg. 

It comes specced with Shimano components, a rigid fork and Kenda tyres, making this seven-speed bike a real flyer on the trails. 

Available in a snappy blue and yellow, Scott has carefully put together a bike that'll suit those with a smaller budget and still ensure they get a great bike. 

  • £319 / €379

Transition Ripcord

Grown-up spec on a scaled-down bike
Grown-up spec on a scaled-down bike

With 100mm of front and rear travel, this full-susser is for young shredders who want to take on everything and anything. 

The Ripcord offers a low standover height, progressive geometry, RockShox Recon fork and Monarch R shock, plus Shimano brakes and a SRAM drivetrain. Transition say the bike is designed for everything from trail shredding to bike-park ripping. With an air fork and shock, there's a good deal of adjustability too. 

It's no surprise that the Ripcord is high on price with this spec, but if your child has gone as far as they can on their current bike, this would be a great option to continue that progression, 

  • £1,500 / $1,699

Kona Process 24

The Kona Process is a great bike for the young enduro rider
The Kona Process is a great bike for the young enduro rider

The Kona Process is a very popular bike with the grownups, and now kids can get in on the action too. 

This scaled-down version keeps the progressive geometry and high spec, and also offers a seriously fun and performance-focused ride for kids who want to race and ride hard. 

100mm of front and rear travel is tuned for light riders, with a Manitou Machete Comp Air fork and RockShox Deluxe Solo Air shock with Shimano drivetrain and Kendra Kinetics tyres. 

  • £1,799 / $1,999

Canyon Grand Canyon 24

The youth version of the Grand Canyon is a competent hardtail that's perfect for kids
The youth version of the Grand Canyon is a competent hardtail that's perfect for kids

Inspired by the adult Grand Canyon range, this 24in-wheel hardtail mountain bike is designed to provide a competent introduction to the world of off-road riding. It’s the largest size bike in Canyon’s Young Heroes kids bike range.

The aluminium frame is fitted with 65mm Spinner Grind Air 24 suspension forks while SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of easy-to-use stopping power. The Grand Canyon 24 has nine gears, made up of a SRAM X4 groupset.

Grips, saddle, pedals and cockpit are all Young Heroes branded, designed to suit smaller riders.

If you’re feeling flush, Canyon also produces the carbon Exceed CF with a 24in wheel-size — a serious piece of kit for kids keen to race.

  • £699

Frog 69 and Frog 73

Versatile enough for random adventures and cycling to school
Versatile enough for random adventures and cycling to school

Frog, a British company dedicated to making lightweight bikes for children, has a range of options including road bikes, mountain bikes and the ever-popular hybrid bike.

The 69 and 73 are both flat-bar hybrid bikes that are versatile enough to deal with the ride to school as well as after-school antics.

The number refers to the frame size, with the 69 suitable for ages 10–12 and the 73 for ages 12–14 (or thereabouts).

  • Frog 69: £340 / $500 / AU$TBC
  • Frog 73: £350 / $530 / AU$TBC

Best bikes for teens

For teenagers, you’ll be able to pick from a wide range of bikes including smaller sizes of adult bikes. You can also get junior versions of bikes that have a slightly smaller wheel size, such as road bikes with 650b wheels rather than the adult 700c wheels, and mountain bikes with 26in wheels rather than the now-more-common 27.5in wheels or even 29ers.

You may want to consult (stealthily if it’s supposed to be a surprise purchase) with your child about the type, brand and colour of bike they’re after.

If your teenager is getting really into their sport, there are now plenty of high-quality race-ready road and mountain bikes that will cultivate their competitive edge, produced by brands such as Commencal and Isla Bikes, and we’ve included a few of these below.  

Islabikes Creig Pro 26

The Islabikes Creig is designed for off-road use with a bespoke frame geometry for junior riders
The Islabikes Creig is designed for off-road use with a bespoke frame geometry for junior riders

The Creig is an aluminium-framed hardtail mountain bike with geometry designed to suit a smaller rider. High-quality RockShox 30 TK air forks can be tuned to suit the child's weight and the riding conditions.

An 11-speed SRAM GX groupset with an 11-42t cassette gives a huge range of gears for conquering hills and sprints, and powerful SRAM DB5 hydraulic disc brakes give smooth stopping power with levers designed to suit smaller hands.

Islabikes also does a 24in wheel size version of this bike, making the range suitable for children aged eight upwards.

The Pro series also includes the Luath cyclocross bike, with the 700c version coming with an alloy frame, carbon seatpost, Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset and Avid BB7 cable disc brakes.

  • £1,499 / $1,249.99 / AU$TBC

Specialized Allez Junior

The Allez Junior features smaller wheels for smaller road cyclists
The Allez Junior features smaller wheels for smaller road cyclists

If your kid is getting into road cycling and loves nothing more than hurtling along on tarmac, then the junior version of the ever-popular Specialized Allez is one to consider. It’s a road bike designed for younger, smaller riders, with 650b wheels, a smaller frame and suitable spec.

This includes shallow drop handlebars and short-reach brake levers/shifters to suit smaller hands, and a Specialized Youth saddle. The premium aluminium frame is also fitted with Tektro caliper rim brakes and 8-speed gearing with Shimano Claris and Sunrace parts.

  •  £400 / $800 / AU$TBC

Kids helmets and essential advice

Once you've got the bike, you may want to get a few other bits and pieces to keep your child safe, secure and comfortable while they're riding. 

Our buyer's guide to kids' helmets offers a few recommendations, as well as help ensure you get a well-fitting helmet for your child. 

Finally, if you are considering doing the school or nursery run by bike, we have plenty of advice for commuting with kids

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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