Children's Bicycle Sizing
Do you size a child to a bike the same way as an adult?
My daughter is 6 years old and is almost 45" tall. She is currently riding a 14" coaster with training wheels. The bike also has a hand brake that just this year she seems strong enough to use (couldn't squeeze it tight last year...bit it is a dept store bike). It seems too small to me (her knees come up too high when pedaling, and her leg pretty bent at extension), but she is comfortable because she can put her feet flat on the ground.
I was looking for a new bike for myself and brought home the Electra catalog. She saw a 20" 7 speed in there that she wanted. I told her perhaps in a few years. Then I started browsing the forums to get an idea of what age she might be ready for this size and some gears. I was very suprised to read that she might be big enough to ride the 20" now....and learn to use the gears. And like me, she will probably be comfortable with the flat foot townie-type bike.
We also have a 16" bike for her at grandma and grandpa's house. I think we might bring that back with us this weekend when we visit and get her going on the bigger bike. She is starting to warm up to the idea of no training wheels, with the thought of a geared bike in her future
I want to ride some bike trails with her. And we live at the top of a large hill in our neighborhood, so a geared bike for her would be nice. But it never occurred to me she might be tall enough and old enough for something like that. If she can learn to ride that 16" real well this summer, I'm thinking the 20" geared bike might be a great b-day gift (November)
I've seen a method for getting kids comfortable to removing the training wheels. Remove the pedals at the same time. Have your daughter just use her feet to push against the ground. This builds confidence and balance without her worrying about getting her feet off the pedals. Just put the pedals back on when she's got the balance and confidence built up.
I have found sizing to be similar to adults with a few caveats. When they are first starting out, ensure that the seat can go low enough that they can comfortably reach the ground while sitting on the saddle. This removes the fear of not being able to get themselves balanced when sitting. Whether you go the push/run bike or training wheel route, being able to comfortably get their feet on the ground makes for a lot fewer crashes. I think you will be pretty amazed at how effective the low saddle/no pedal push bikes are at teaching riding. It removes the steering/pedaling/balancing coordination problems and lets them concentrate on steering/balancing. Raise the saddle as they get better and more comfortable with riding until they are at the preferred slight bend in the knee height. How long it takes to get to that height will depend on the child. Could be as short as a few weeks or as long as a year. My experience is that the earlier they learn, the longer they need to spend with a lower saddle. But that is a rough generalization. My measure, is that if they are falling over too frequently, they need the saddle lower until their skills improve.
At 45", she is probably tall enough for a 20" maybe even a 24". However, she is still not riding, so there is probably a disadvantage to moving her to a bigger bike. The bigger bike will be harder to control and more intimidating. It could slow her progress. Without seeing her or how she rides, I'd say keep her on the 16" until she can ride comfortably, then get her a bike that better fits her. Kind of inline with your thinking. Although I would even caution against a November bike purchase. She may have a growth spurt and be ready for 24" by the following Spring (assuming you don't get much riding in during the winter).
I prefer gears also, but she likely will not be very good with them. You will likely need to direct her on which gears to use and when. Typically until they are about 8 or 9.
I would also recommend a bike without suspension. They are pretty useless on kids bikes. There are a few geared non-suspension bikes around but not many. You may have to search for one.
Last edited by masiman; 05-22-09 at 02:16 PM.
I also recommend dropping the seat very low and removing the training wheels once your child can pedal and use the hand brake. My son was able to balance coasting down a hill the first day we removed his wheels (took about two hours) and pedal on his own after two days with pedals and no training wheels.
He spent maybe a week on training wheels to get the coordination of pedaling and stopping down.
Until they can balance, a properly sized bike would be a burden with the extra weight and higher center of gravity, I'm guessing. At 3'8" my son was just at the starting hight for a 20" bike, which should last at least 2-3 years. Head to a local bike store and let her sit on a 16" and 20" bike, that's the only sure way to get the correct size.
If the bike with gears is in your price range, go for it. They'll def be more of a hassle then helpful starting out, but after awhile she'll get the hang of them. When she's a bit older they'll make life much easier, and a 20" is good until around 9-10 years old.
I can't stress how important the weight of the bike is to a kid. My son was hopeless on a cheap walmart bike, the thing weighed a ton. We found a used name brand bike for the same price as a new walmart job, the difference in his ability and safety is huge.
Last edited by MilitantPotato; 05-22-09 at 02:42 PM.
we got to grandma and grandpa's. she immediately went and found the "16 inch" bike I had for her. It looked like a perfect fit. I looked it over again (bought it last summer for $10 at a garage sale; schwinn petal patch). I was suprised to find it was a 20 inch !! So looks like she will be on this one for the summer, and I will probably be looking for a 24 inch next summer.
I will look at taking the pedals off. For now I told her to just scoot along and not worry about pedaling, just work on balancing. we'll see how it goes.
+1 for taking the pedals off. My daughter is about to turn 3 (friday) and she picked it up in a matter of days. Would have been faster but it's been a hectic week!