If you’re thinking about buying a children’s bike this Christmas we’ve got some simple tips and advice that can help make the process easier.
For those of us who aren’t cycle fanatics the option and price ranges available can be a little confusing so here are a few things we suggest you consider before making a purchase…..
Bike Type and Geometry
The style of bike and it’s frame geometry defines the bike and how it will ride and perform. A mountain bike has geometry tuned to control and performance in more lumpy terrain whereas a road bike’s geometry is tuned to get maximum speed and efficiency from its rider.
In between these two we have the best allrounders, hybrid bikes, they offer a versatile mix of performance and control.
Hybrids are the best bike for recreational riding, family rides and journeys to school and as such are usually our best recommendation from general cycling. Hybrids are usually tough enough to take on the rougher cycle paths or forest trails but are not build to take on more demanding mountain bike trails.
So unless you know your going to be taking on more demanding terrain or your child is set on being a future Tour de France winner then we’d usually recommend a hybrid.
Bike geometry isn’t consistent across brands or models so when buying any bike its important to know how that bike’s geometry will fit and perform for your child.
Correct sizing is crucial to getting the best from any bike and this is where a good bike shop comes in.
With a few simple measurements and the right knowledge you can have a bike that will fit safely and properly in order to help your child progress.
Finding the right size is crucial in getting a bike that will ride safely in a controlled and predictable manner. Children grow fast at times but while it might seem tempting to the wallet to get them on the largest size possible it’s important not to compromise on safety and control and a frame that isn’t a good fit can seriously hamper a child’s progress. Just like buying a new pair of shoes, having a good fit is important and ensures good development.
There is no hard and fast rule that goes for all bikes and manufacturers with wheel size and some manufacturers will have multiple bike frame sizes using the same wheel size so its important that wheel size is considered alongside the geometry and intended fit. This is where a good bike shop comes in as they will be able to discuss your requirements and guide you to an appropriately sized bike.
One of the biggest challenges for smaller riders is manoeuvring the bike and this is commonly what can put children off riding their bikes. In recent years the appearance of lightweight children’s bikes like Frog have revolutionised the experience of young riders these bikes handle better and are easier to manoeuvring both on and off the bike leaving their riders more energy to pedal and progress.
Components need to be of a good quality. If the bike has gears, these should be simple and easy for the child to operate. Gearing selection needs to be appropriate for the terrain the bike will be ridden in. Mountain bikes or bikes ridden in hilly terrain will need to be equipped with lower gears to allow their riders to tackle hills with less effort. Likewise bikes taking on tougher terrain should be built a little sturdier with appropriate wheels and tyres for their intended terrain.
Brakes should always work well and stop the rider efficiently on any bike but again the most appropriate style will depend on the intended use of the bike.
There are two style of brake commonly seen on bikes today: Rim brakes – these come in a number of varieties but unless its on a road bike we would always recommend what is known as a V-brake style as they are simple to use and service and offer the best stopping power and control.
Disc brakes – Becoming more common on children’s bikes now, a good quality disc brake can deliver the best performance and lowest maintenance but come with a higher price tag and when they do eventually need maintenance, are usually a little more complicated to service.
It is also important to note that not all disc brakes are created equal. Some cheaper disc brakes don’t offer the same performance and reliability as better quality models so disc brakes aren’t always the best option on a price-point bike where a sound quality set of V brakes may often give better performance and value.
Whatever style of brake you have, it is vital that they are installed correctly and safety checked for good function.
It’s also essential that the brake levers fit the hands that will be using them. Small hands require leavers that are properly sized adjusted so they deliver safe and dependable stopping.
Better bike brands, like Frog, ensure bike component are appropriately sized for their riders. This means saddles will fit little bums, handlebars will be the correct width for shoulders and pedal cranks match their riders leg and hip width. We’ve found this attention to detail to be a crucial component in allowing a child to progress and feel comfortable on a bike.
In our experience, a bikes fit and comfort is probably the most important thing to get right in any bike purchase and, as children grow and change fast, getting the size and fit for happy riding can be both an art and a science.
So while we’d rarely recommend our precision bike fitting services for our young riders, it’s this knowledge and experience combined with years of good bike matching and an intimate knowledge of the bikes that we sell that allows us to ensure the best possible match for your child.
That’s why the best piece of advice we can give to any parent looking for a new bike for their child is always to speak to an expert who knows the bikes, their geometry, design, components and fit.
This will usually mean a visit to a local bike shop (like us) where you’ll be asked the right questions to ensure you get the best bike model and size for your child.
Which comes down to our final category… Price.
Children can outgrow bikes pretty fast so price is always going to be a factor
First of all, consider intended use – is it bumpy mountain trails or a smooth commute to school that the bike will be used for.
Buy a mountain bike to ride to school and you may be paying for features you don’t need. Likewise buying an allrounder and pushing it beyond its capabilities can end in some costly repairs or worse so be careful to select the right style of bike.
Next think about care and storage – bike service costs can be dramatically reduced if a bike is stored well and serviced regularly. Kids inevitably grow out of their bikes at some point but if you buy a good quality bike, store it indoors somewhere dry and service it regularly it will serve you well and when it comes time to sell will retain a good resale value.
It’s important to consider that the price tag on that new bike is only part of the equation. How much that bike will cost you in terms of its reliability, service and running costs are another matter.
Certainly there are cheaper options than the bikes we sell but In our experience we have always found these bikes cost more in the long run. Lower quality components may not be serviceable or may fail and need replacing. In some cases parts can be non standard fittings that are difficult to replace. Buying a good quality bike from a reputable brand ensures you avoid these pitfalls. We only sell bikes we know and trust and we know from our experience and that of our customers that what look like a bargain today might come with hidden costs down the road.
Buying a new, quality bike will get you a warranty. Buy from a good local bike shop and you get expertise, experience and a smiling face thrown in. That means, if something does go wrong you have someone to turn to help put things right. All good quality bike brands will offer a warranty but in our experience we’ve found that only the best offer the kind of backup and support that we’d want for our customers. So while it might cost a little more its piece of mind that we know is worth it in the long run.
And something else to consider….
Buying your bike is only the beginning, to ensure a long and happy life your bike will need good care and maintenance. Even enthusiastic home mechanics value a local bike shop for their go to bike essential and spares for those unexpected emergencies. For the rest of us it means trusted, qualified mechanics who can ensure the safety and smooth running of your child’s bike.
We’d love to say that the bike alone would guarantee your child endless hours of two wheeled adventure but the truth is you are going to need a few extras along the way. We would always recommend that you consider a few of these as part of your bike purchase as some really can’t be skipped. There are all manner of bike accessories but these are a few we consider as essentials:
• Cycle shorts with pad (for comfort)
• Water bottle
And if you don’t have them in the family already we’d recommend the essential to fix a puncture which are bicycle pump, puncture repair kit and tyre levers. To this, a simple compact multi-tool containing essential allen key sizes for basic adjustments is a great addition.
That just about wraps it up but remember the best advice comes when you visit us in store where we can help you find the right bike for your child.
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