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What makes a good Kids Bike?

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What makes a good Kids Bike?

Old 12-25-23, 07:29 AM
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What makes a good Kids Bike?

Hi everyone, I was hoping to come on here and get parent’s opinions on what makes a good bike for your child, I would preferably like opinions on a 16” kids bike. What are your preferred materials, styles if you could add or take away anything? Basically if you could create a bike from scratch for your child what would you include / take away. Thanks in advance 😊
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Old 12-25-23, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by stacey_julieann
Hi everyone, I was hoping to come on here and get parent’s opinions on what makes a good bike for your child, I would preferably like opinions on a 16” kids bike. What are your preferred materials, styles if you could add or take away anything? Basically if you could create a bike from scratch for your child what would you include / take away. Thanks in advance 😊
I’m the ‘bike guy’ both at work and in the family, so I buy and recommend bikes for a lot of little ones. And I service a lot of bikes at the co-op.

I despair at the state of kids bikes new and used. I know that parents are under cost pressures, and manufacturers and marketers must appeal to kids and parents that may not know what they should want or why. So manufacturers are basically forced to produce bikes that look flashy, with all the trendy accoutrements, and have a marketing tie-in to the latest movie or hot toy. But all of these are expensive, and detract from the actual performance of the bike, with the added pressure of making this at the lowest possible price.

For example: suspension forks. These are less than worthless on a bike that isn’t being used for real mountain biking – as in a heavy rider hitting big rocks on steep slopes. Even worse: full suspension, as these bikes are very heavy and the loose suspensions provide imprecise scary handling and energy-sapping suspension bob. Disc brakes: costly, heavy, fussy and unnecessary.

Weight: the weight of kids bikes is both amazing and appalling. I was doing shopping for a 6-year-old, and all of the bikes is checked out (in a real bike shop) were heavier than any of the road bikes that I owned. Department store bikes are worse, in that they weigh more than the kids they were designed for. Imagine an adult riding a bike that weighs 150+ pounds.

If I were to offer one high-level recommendation: get a bike that is light as possible. Poor quality dysfunctional bikes and components are heavy, so one key filter/criteria to look for product that is light. No useless suspension, or fat knobby tires, overbuilt steel frames etc. Lightweight kids bikes are invariably higher quality and bought by folks who appreciate functionality over flash.

Finally, marketing tie-ins. I would stay away from bikes or accessories that are tied-in superhero movies or toy sponsorships. These are expensive and drain money away from what should be the higher objective of building a better-quality bike. Finally, would a parent circa 2024 buy a bike sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes, as in circa 1955? Or a Davey Crockett themed bike with tomahawk and pistol accessories? Or fast forward to now, themed bikes that parents that I know who are avoiding because of the studio politics and they are also boycotting all associated product past and present and forever? Not good resale value.
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Old 12-25-23, 12:04 PM
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3-4 years old, a balance bike, no pedals, no drive train at all. No training wheels.

4-ish, 16” single speed, hand brakes. Light weight. Check out Woom and Prevelo for good examples. No training wheels, the child will already know how to ride, balance and turn from riding the balance bike.

5-ish, 20” wheels, rear derailleur bike.

This has worked great, so far for my grandson (now 5-1/2). I’ve ridden with him on rides up to 17 miles (over the course of a few hours, visiting playgrounds, the river and ice cream store). So far my granddaughter (3-1/2) is following along well. She’s transitioning between the balance bike and the 16” now. They both love to ride.

Balance bikes are a game changer, the kids learn to balance naturally, at their own pace, and don’t feel scared because their feet can be on the ground. As they get better they naturally start lifting their feet off the ground and balancing. training wheels should be banished, the kids can still fall with them, they don’t let the bike turn naturally, so they impede the learning process. Solid tires, relatively inexpensive is fine for balance bikes. Just my NSH opinion. 🙂

The somewhat more spendy kids bikes like Woom and Prevelo are a lot better than stuff from Walmart, etc. Decent components, made of AL so light weight. Look at the bikes we ride as a % of our body weight, then look at the heavy cheap kids bikes as a % of their body weight.
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Old 12-25-23, 07:50 PM
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I never bought my children bicycles with training wheels. I purchased my 3 year old grandson a Woom balance bike a while ago. It has a rear V brake and a child size brake handle. The springs on that V brake were to difficult for him to use.I put on a Deore XT V brake and he learned how to use it.He is three and now wears 5T clothing. I like the Woom 16" bicycle but really like the Priority 16" bicycle better. The Priority weighs a few pounds more but has a Gates belt drive. It is over $100.00 cheaper also.
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Old 12-28-23, 07:19 AM
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What do I look for? Ages 3-5 here is my list
- light weight (preferably aluminum)
- predictable steering response
- Upright seating position
- easy to roll and pedal

The Trek Precaliber 16 is hard to beat. She rode the wheels off of it and was sad to move to the 20" I picked up for her. That's a sore subject...

I picked up the used Specialized Hotrock 20" for.a great price on FB Marketplace but it was a poor choice. Why? It was the antithesis of the Precaliber 16...
- Steel frame and suspension fork (super heavy for the size)
- aggressive riding position
- hard to operate hand controls/multispeed setup

Her current Cannondale Quick 24 is light weight, has predictable steering, but has a be more aggressive riding position. In hindsight, the weight and related handing were the real issue with the Hotrock...
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Old 12-29-23, 04:53 AM
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I got my 3-year-old an 18” bike. It was a cheap, Chinese-made Princess-type bike which I got on Amazon. It was a bit big for her, but I figured she would have more room to grow into and out of it, and I could bypass a 20” bike and her next bike would be something bigger.

When she turned 8 (last year), I got her a Trek 24” Precaliber. These are hardtail mountain bikes with a suspension fork, 1x8 driveline, and very big tires. I could lower the seat far enough so her feet touched the ground, and while she looks rather small on it, the big wheels are more stable, and she has no issue with it. For the past month we’ve been riding together almost every day, and she is now comfortable with the gears, being able to shift up and down when necessary.

For myself, I got my first bike, a Scwhinn Orange Krate when I was 6. It was stolen pretty quickly, so I rode my best friend’s older brother’s old newspaper delivery bike, a 26” Schwinn from the 50’s. I wasn’t tall enough to sit on the seat, so I sat on the top tube when riding it (not very comfortable).
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Old 12-29-23, 06:56 AM
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I went with a 12" balance bike (can't remember the brand) then 16, 20, and 24 inch used bikes from Giant and Trek. Got just about what I put into the balance and 16" bikes back when I sold them. Going to be selling the 20" (and maybe 24") this spring. Having slightly higher end parts that are less likely to break and lighter frames is helpful in preventing avoidable frustration when the kids are learning to ride. Don't want to get them turned off because, whenever they want to ride, Dad has to fix their bike again. The fact that I can get just about what I put into them (minus some new pads and a bell), which you can't usually do buying cheap big box is a nice bonus.
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Old 12-29-23, 08:07 AM
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I wish I would have explored balance bikes when I went through the learning to ride a bike thing with my boys and grand children. I ultimately had to remove the pedals as well as the training wheels for my grandson and in less than an hour, he was ready to put the pedals on and ride.
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Old 01-01-24, 10:16 AM
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I removed the crank / pedals to create a poor man’s balance bike for my oldest kid

but not required for the next kid

finding quality lightweight affordable bikes was a challenge - especially tough to find quality kids ATB with a rigid fork - but had success at flea markets and garage sales … they grow through them quickly so did not want to spend too much money

at one point both kids primarily rode BMX bikes and BMX racers (with lower gearing) - these bikes were a tad spendy (not too bad actually) - but they hold their value (and some actually increase in value) … one of the BMX racers pictured above

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Old 01-01-24, 10:33 AM
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two of the little Gary Fisher bikes we had - top bike is a 20” and bottom is a 24”

installed Maxxis ‘Holy Rollers’ on those bikes to decrease the rolling resistance - big difference … (not installed on the bottom 24” bike for the picture)
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Old 06-19-24, 09:13 AM
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Training wheels if needed to keep up with others.
Light weight/simplicity
Low step through
Lots of seat adjustment, preferably without tools
Looks cool with regular black tires/good tires for type of riding
I don't understand hand and foot brake on rear wheel
On bigger bikes, grip shifters and quality components
Reflectors required by me
No kick stand
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Old 06-19-24, 09:20 AM
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Another giant consideration is whatever mom and dad can keep operational with the least down time. Kids can deal with 15 minutes for a flat or a shot of lube vs. three weeks until it gets to a shop.

Of course, I taught myself how to change flats and do laundry as a kid because my parents were butt-slow about it.

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Old 07-02-24, 10:52 AM
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I have two boys age 4 and 7. We never went the balance bike route, though I have nothing against it and believe it is probably a quicker way to get kids onto 2 wheels. The first bike we bought was a 12" Raleigh with training wheels from amazon. It was very heavy but my oldest son loved it and learned to ride on two wheels with it at around 4 years old. For his 5th birthday we got him a new Cannondale trail 16 which was very light weight and worked great for him but he quickly outgrew it and now has a GT grunge 20. My 4 year old was not as interested in biking as his brother and never took to the Raleigh because of the weight so he also has a Cannondale trail 16 with training wheels (we could have given him his brother's bike but felt bad he's always getting hand me downs and thought getting him his own would increase his desire to ride - which is has for the most part though he's still not as into biking as his bro - I'm hoping to get him on two wheels this summer). The newer Cannondale came with coaster brakes and a hand brake while the older one had only the coaster brakes.


Based on my experience with my kids, I would say the most important things are that it be lightweight and I like that most of the newer kids bikes come with the hand brake so they can start getting used to that. Obviously, having cool colors that kids can choose to suit them is a plus too but the lowest priority.


We didn't go this route but I understand that REI has a buyback program on their Coop brand. When your child outgrows a bike you can turn it back in for a discount on a larger model.
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Old 07-04-24, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by WhatIPostLike
I have two boys age 4 and 7. We never went the balance bike route, though I have nothing against it and believe it is probably a quicker way to get kids onto 2 wheels.
My youngest actually finally learned to ride on two wheels at five by removing the training wheels and towing around the kiddie trailer that he used to ride in. It helped keep the bike up.
One way to lesson the stigma of hand-me-down stuff is to start kid #1 on used stuff.
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