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Thread: 18" versus 16"

  1. #1
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    18" versus 16"

    My 5 year old daughter has outgrown her 12" bike and "Santa" is going to get her a new bike. However, I'm undecided whether to get her a 16" or an 18". A 20" is definitely way too big.

    I want to get her something that is easy learn to ride without training wheels but that she won't outgrow in a year. Is there a difference between balancing a 16" versus and 18" (gyroscopic effects)? Also, is an 18" too much for a 5 year old to handle? Or is there really any discernable difference?

    Has anyone bought a 16" and wished they had gotten an 18" instead or vice versa?

    What say yea oh best and brightest of BF?

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    I don't think you can get higher-end 18" bikes. They only come in 16" or 20". That will limit your options, if you decide to go with the 18". My personal preference would be to get a 16" bike from a good brand. I'd rather get a used high-quality 16" than a sparkly new low-end 16 or 18". A more expensive bike will be a lot lighter and easier to use, which will make it easier for her to learn to ride without training wheels. It'll also have better re-sell value, so that you can recoup some of the cost when she grows into a 20" bike.

    It's easier to learn to ride on a smaller bike, though it's hard to tell which bike is the better fit for your daughter. It depends on her. My 4.5 year old rides a 16" specialized hotrock, and he still has plenty of growing space. We got it on Craig's list.

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    Good point regarding the weight. I hadn't thought of that.

    Come to think of it, her 12" Huffy feels like it weighs about as much as my 59" steel LeMond road bike.

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    Speaking as a former bike store manager who had this conversation over and over again, it used to drive me nuts that parents who otherwise worried incessantly about child safety would insist on the false economy of buying dangerously oversized bikes for kids to "grow into."

    If you want your daughter to enjoy riding a bike, buy the 16"; as she grows, raise the saddle and tilt the handlebars forward to accommodate. From now until she gets her driver's license, buy the next size only when she's truly too big for her present bike. This means that you'll buy at most only one extra bike. And probably not even that: she'll be able to go from the 16" to the 20" (if you adjust the 16" bike as she grows, she won't need an 18" bike), and many kids are happy to stick with 20" bikes (witness the 6'2" kids riding 20" bikes around your neighborhood).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
    Speaking as a former bike store manager who had this conversation over and over again, it used to drive me nuts that parents who otherwise worried incessantly about child safety would insist on the false economy of buying dangerously oversized bikes for kids to "grow into."

    If you want your daughter to enjoy riding a bike, buy the 16"; as she grows, raise the saddle and tilt the handlebars forward to accommodate. From now until she gets her driver's license, buy the next size only when she's truly too big for her present bike. This means that you'll buy at most only one extra bike. And probably not even that: she'll be able to go from the 16" to the 20" (if you adjust the 16" bike as she grows, she won't need an 18" bike), and many kids are happy to stick with 20" bikes (witness the 6'2" kids riding 20" bikes around your neighborhood).
    Interesting. My thoughts mirror yours, but the LBS I went to tried to sell me on 20" bikes. They looked waaaaaaaaay too big for her, though.

    I decided to go with the 18" (see's tall for her age) since the 16" seemed to be a good fit today (which means it will be too small a year from now).

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    You do have a bit of a trade-off here, though. A light-weight 16" is going to be much easier to learn to ride without training wheels. She can put her feet down if she panics, she won't have any trouble reaching anything. If you get a bigger bike, it may last longer, but it may take longer for her to get independent of the training wheels. My bias, particularly if you've got anyone else to hand the bike down too, would be to get a used, lightweight 16", let her learn on that, and then get her a bigger bike when she's grown a bit and gotten comfortable riding. You could even make it a prize for mastery of the smaller bike. I know that's a more expensive option, though.

    I went through this with 12" bikes. I decided to buy a fancy light-weight 12" even though it has a really short lifespan. My son learned to ride that bike without training wheels at 3, and at 4.5 he's a really good rider on a 16". We really enjoy biking together around Chicago. Meanwhile, my daughter is learning to ride on the 12", and I'm sure she'll be riding independently by her 3rd birthday. Does it really matter that that bike made it easier to learn without training wheels at an earlier age? Was it worth it? I don't know. But I'm sure that when we're done with the bike that if it's still in reasonable shape we'll be able to sell it on Craig's list for 50% of MRSP, and we've certainly gotten a lot of joy from it in the meantime.

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    Two things:

    1.) Stand her next to the bike. If the seat is in a lower position, and it's just below her waist, you're in the ball park. At, or above her waist, too big.

    2.) I really get tired of hearing from parents who want multiple years of service from a cheap bike. Forget about "her outgrowing it in a year", and put her on what fits -- this is your CHILD, she's not worth it? My 14-y-o daughter is two years into her fifth bike; she's stopped growing, but I kept her in the right size for her as she grew, and she had some sweet rides! (I had access to upgrade parts)

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