Choose the best kids bike you can and your child will be set up for a life of amazing cycling adventures
The best kids bikes, and how you can get hold of some of them for less than the price of a Pokémon. Some great options to get your kids rolling.
How to choose wisely from the mass of kids mountain bikes that are available. We show you what’s important and what isn’t. PLUS tips on keeping kids riding.
Best kids bikes
- Vitus Nippy Balance Bike £44.99
- Strider Pro 12 Balance Bike £110
- Cube Cutie 120 £149
- Early Rider Seeker 14 £309
- Black Mountain Pinto £359
- Hoy Bonaly 16 £260
- Canyon Young Heroes £449
- Hope/Early Rider Academy £5 per month
- Frog MTB 62 £590
- Islabikes Imagine Project £799
- Cannondale Cujo 24 Kids £400
‘Buy Now’ links
You will notice that beneath each product summary is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on one of these links then mbr may receive a small amount of money from the retailer should you go to purchase the product from them. Don’t worry, this does not affect the amount you pay.
What wheel size does my kid need?
This will vary according to the height and inside leg of your child, but for most kids, the following guidelines apply:
- 2 – 3 yrs old = 12in wheel balance bike
- 3 – 4 yrs old = 14in wheel (pedal bike or balance bike if still needed)
- 4 – 5 yrs old = 16in wheel
- 5 – 7 yrs old = 20in wheel
- 8 – 10 yrs old = 24in wheel
- 12+ yrs old = Adult bike
Should I go for a balance bike or stabilisers?
Although most of us here at MBR progressed from stabilisers when we learned to ride, the invention of the balance bikle has revolutionised the process. With a balance bike, kids get the feel for balance way before they learn to pedal, so the transition to a proper bike is completely natural and takes a lot less time and practise. So, our advice is simple: AVOID STABILISERS.
What’s the most important thing I need to consider when choosing a kids bike?
Again, that’s simple. The number one factor that will ensure your kid wants to ride his or her bike and enjoys the experience is making sure the bike is as light as possible. Remember, kids have a fraction of the strength of adults, and anything that’s hard to pick up or maneuver will make learning how to ride a lot more difficult and they may struggle to find any enjoyment. As a parent you will also be thankful for a light bike when it comes to carrying it home or to the car when your kid runs out of energy.
What about gears, brakes and suspension?
Until they are very confident and riding miles, rather than metres, don’t bother with gears. They’re confusing and add weight. Once you get to 20in wheels they start to become worth considering. Balance bikes don’t need brakes – kids’ feet can do that job. Once they get to proper pedal bikes with 14in wheels and larger, then front and rear brakes are recommended, but you don’t need anything as powerful as disc brakes at that stage. Suspension is only really worth considering with 24in wheel bikes and above as most kids are simply too light to move the suspension when they hit a bump. A better solution is to go for wide, large colume tyres, as they add comfort and grip without increasing weight and complication too much. Belt drive, rather than a chain, can be a good idea as they require less maintenance and your child won’t end up with oil all over their hands.
Should I buy a bigger bike size so my kid grows into it?
While it’s tempting, our advice is don’t. They’ll just be scared and overwhelmed by a massive bike and never ride it. If you buy a decent bike that fits your child, you can always re-sell the bike once it’s done with. The second-hand market is bouyant for kids bikes, and if it’s a respected brand in good condition, it’ll fetch strong money.
Vitus Nippy Balance Bike £44.99
Incredibly light, unbelievably good value and brilliantly simple, the Vitus Nippy takes all of the elements that makes the Strider such a superb first bike and delivers it at a crushingly competitive price. It’s only 1.9kg, so your child will be able to pick it up and spin it around with ease, and the low frame means that even little legs can start to enjoy the thrill of two wheels. The Nippy should be suitable for most kids over 18 months, and thanks to the height adjustable saddle and bars, keep on providing enjoyment for a good year or so. Another great product from the Vitus stable.
Strider Pro 12 Balance Bike £110
While the low weight is the defining aspect of the Pro 12, it’s the details that reveal the depth of knowledge of the people designing the bike. Details such as the reduced diameter handlebar that accommodates a thinner grip – perfect for smaller hands – the well-padded, but narrow, saddle that allows for slim hips and unhindered striding, the number board that stops the bars from spinning all the way round (and will come in useful if you decide to accept the free invitation to a UK Strider ‘race’ event), and the plastic foot rest for more-accomplished kids to rest their legs on while coasting downhill. At which point you may also want to invest in Strider’s rear brake upgrade.
Cube Cubie 120, £149
This is where it all begins for young riders, with a balance bike. Far better than using a three wheeler or despised stabilisers, a balance bike will teach your child to, surprise surprise, balance. Master this an pedalling on later bikes is usually a cinch and something they pick up in no time.
The Cubie 120 might is simple but very well thought out: some balance bikes come with brakes but not the Cubie 120 — for a two year old there’s plenty to learn without introducing brakes. Then the handlebar has an integrated steering angle limiter that stops the bars rotating too far round and causing an over the bars moment. Then there are proper air filled tyres for rolling ease and a carry handle on the seat for when it all gets a bit much.
Early Rider Seeker 14 £309.99
With zero slop, play or unwanted flex, the Seeker 14 really feels like an adult mountain bike that’s been shrunk in the wash. It’s certainly not cheap, but it feels impressively rugged and genuinely built to last. By that reckoning I think it’s worth every penny, particularly when you factor in what you may get back at resale. In a world where we should be increasingly focussed on reuse rather than replacement, the sleek sliver Seeker 16 is pleasingly green.
Black Mountain Pinto, £329
If you can’t rent a bike then buying one that grows with the rider could be the next best thing. Black Mountain is an exciting new kids bike brand from the UK building the Pinto here, a bike that starts out as a balance bike before morphing into a drivetrain equipped pedal bike. It’s pretty clever stuff, when your kiddo masters the balance bike just unbolt the seat tube and swap it for the beltdrive one that’s included in the box — hey presto, they can pedal the thing. That’s not all either, the bike has two lengths to accommodate growing riders, and the big sprocket on the back pulls off to reveal a smaller one underneath to reveal harder gearing for stronger legs. Go to: blackmountain.bike
Hoy Bonaly 16, £260
Ahoy there, Chris Hoy makes bikes, now that he’s finished with competitive track racing. They’re good too, with a focus on light weight and decent geometry — the Bonaly 20 has a really low BB to make the bike as stable as possible and get your kiddo used to proper progressive geometry. The bike comes with proper bearings for those times when it gets left out in the rain, and a 6-speed drivetrain, with the chain cosseted away behind a bash guard to keep trousers and socks away from sharp teeth. Go to: evanscycles.com
Canyon Young Heroes, £449
Just like on Canyon’s adult bikes, the Young Heroes machines are cleverly thought out and packed with innovative features. The Offspring Al 16 here is just about the coolest looking little bike you’ll ever see, so the overgrown kids in the mbr office think anyway. With three sizes to pick from and a ludicrously appealing carbon fibre version, there should be an Offspring for most ages. The Al 16 here has a 16in rear wheel but an 18in front wheel, the logic being your kid can fit it fine, but the big front wheel rolls more easily over the ground and dishes out confidence. There are two gears but there’s no distraction for the young rider because they’re automatic — SRAM’s AUTOMATIX hub switches between the two as and when you need it, using centrifugal force. Very clever. Go to: canyon.com
Hope Academy & Early Rider, £5/month
Join the Hope Academy and your little shredder could get hold of a bike for just £5 per month for a diddy balance bike, stretching up to £29 per month for a 26in machine. That’s basically cost price they and they don’t profit from the Academy, “but that’s ok because it’s putting kids on bikes,” says Alan Weatherill from Hope. You can use it for as long as you need it, get access to skills and maintenance courses, then give it back when the kiddo outgrows it. This bike is an Early Rider and comes with Hope’s custom length cranks for little legs, small grips and levers and even small flat pedals for microsized feet. So what’s the catch? “There’s a lot more interest than we’ve got bikes, with 900 people on the waiting list,” Alan says. But the plan is to release more bikes bringint the total up to 1,000 from a few hundred. Throw down this magazine and get your kids name down right now. Go to: hopetech.com or earlyrider.com
Frog MTB 62, £590
Making bikes that are easy and fun for kids to ride is about more than just flashy paint jobs, it takes dedicated child-friendly components and the lightest frames possible to let them progress and have fun, Frog says. Take the MTB 62 here, it has a specially designed narrow Q-factor to improve the pedalling efficiency of little legs, while the brake levers are dinky enough to be reached by small hands.
Suspension becomes viable for the first time on a bike for this age of kiddo (eight years or so) as they get stronger and relatively heavier to the bike, so the MTB 62 is equipped with an airpsrung fork. It’s not quite as sophisticated as the Islabikes Creig though, without a rebound adjuster, but the rebound speed felt about right without any need to fettle. Go to: frogbikes.com
Islabikes Imagine Project, £799.99
Islabikes has been around for a dozen years, one of the first brands to make make proper bikes for children — lightweight, purposefully designed for smaller bodies and without any of the breakable parts supermarket bikes come with. The Creig is the next step on in sizing from the Hoy Bonaly or the Frog 62, a bike built from superb 7005 T6 aluminium to make it superlight — 11kg in fact. The Creig has an air sprung fork for proper trail riding and also comes with disc brakes and a 1×11 drivetrain with shorter custom cranks.
So for now you can buy a bike, but in the future the company hopes to move to a new model of rental only, with minimal impact on the environment. “The bike will be loaned out not sold, meaning nothing new has to be pulled out of the ground, something that’s not sustainable long term,” says Lee Garrington of Islabikes. It’s called the Imagine Project. Go to: islabikes.co.uk
Cannondale Cujo 24 Kids, £400
With a sleek hydroformed aluminum frame, Cannondale’s chunky Cujo gets larger volume tyres to add an element of suspension to the ride. With 24in diameter wheels and 2.6in wide tyres, there’s more rubber in contact with the ground and you can run lower pressures, so it generates more grip, comfort and confidence. This extra comfort and stability and makes them a surefire winner for beginners as well as light kids that won’t need the extra weight of proper suspension. It’s s a great bike for any adventurous kid looking to venture beyond tarmac and our tester was soon learning to ride no-handed, pulling little wheelies and regularly racking up fifteen miles without complaining about being uncomfy, and that’s got to be a total win in any parent’s book.
How to get your kids riding
Too busy childminding to ride? Follow our guide and take your mini shredders with you…
1. Know your route
Start with what you know best and don’t get fixated on finishing a specific route. If they can stop, play, or do bits again, that’s no problem. You can’t make it too easy for the first ride — your only goal on the first outing is to guarantee a fulfilled and happy finisher.
The first-timer distance calculator is half a kilometre for every year (so 2.5km for a five-year-old). Do a tiny loop you can finish in half an hour, tops — you can always add more if you think they can make it.
2. How hard?
Keep it easy. Being bumped about is tiring and demoralising, so stick to simple, smooth trails — they’ll soon go looking for challenges once ready. Dry trails on warm days are best — a bit of mud can be fun but wallowing through cold and wet is an acquired taste. Take the time to drop their saddles for obstacles; raise afterwards to make pedalling easier. Trail centres are ideal as there will be other mountain bikers cheering them on.
3. Bike choice
As we all know, wheel size matters — even more so for the tiny tearaway.
It might be a small step for you but their wheels are smaller and their bikes relatively heavier than yours. For 2 years + look at 12in wheels. 3+ go to 14in. 4+ should be 16in. 5+ to 20in. 7+ to 24in. 8+ to 26in.
4. Take the weight
Carry everything to feed them well, keep them warm and dry, replace their inner tubes, fix their bikes, bumps and bruises. Other than a (500ml) water bottle in a bottle cage, leave them burden-free. Kids on bikes can make The Tiger Who Came to Tea seem like a light eater, so take proper food: sandwiches, sweets, biscuits etc. Use energy products sparingly.
5. Accentuate the positive
We can all get a bit over-ambitious for our little loves but it’s not fun for them if we’re constantly coaching ‘at’ them and highlighting problems. Give a couple of broad tips before the start (the attack position/cruise on the pedals position and outside pedal-down on turns) and ‘big them up’ from time to time when they put the theory into practice.