Slimmed down pedals, dinky helmets and ridewear, and the latest lightweight bikes to get your kids rolling this summer.
Getting your kids into riding (and not football!) is a life’s work for some of us. It’s only natural; you want the next generation to get as much out of riding as you have, stay off the screens, and head out on the trails with you in tow. And ideally, you want them to get really bloody good at it so you can live out your dreams vicariously.
The best way to make that happen is obvious, you’ve got to get them out on the bike. And the way to do that is to make it easy and fun, with the best kids bikes, balance bikes and pedal bikes. A bike machine than Mum’s e-bike isn’t going to cut it, nor is the old styrofoam helmet you used as a youth that’s been sitting in the loft for 30 years. Thankfully though, there’s now a huge market in dedicated kids bikes and gear, so here’s our pick of 2023’s best… so far!
Early Rider Velio
The Velio looks so good it’s possible your little toddler won’t get a look in. An entirely new concept, the Velio is designed to get kids riding even before they’re capable of mastering a balance bike, which means 0-2 years old.
With spherical wheels there’s no abrupt tipping point to throw off the rider, instead there’s a gentle radius to make cornering as easy as possible. Both the front and rear wheels can pivot to make it easier for your youngun to heft the bike around, and there’s a push along handle so you can take over from tired little legs.
The wheels are clad in 8in wide soft touch tyres and they run on sealed cartridge bearings to make the bike roll more easily, while the one-piece magnesium alloy frame is ground-huggingly low for stability. The kiddo then sits on an adjustable 15mm foam pad. Finally, the wrap-around handlebars make gripping on childsplay.
Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero
Kids Ride Shotgun started out making those clever little seats that slot onto the frame or top tube of an adult bike, and let you take your little’un out riding in your cockpit. And just like your own children, Kids Ride Shotgun has now outgrown that core market and begun production of the Dirt Hero balance bike.
It’s good for kids aged 2-5, the Devon-based brand reckons, with an option to fit 12in or 14in wheels. Not all four and five year olds are ready to jump straight onto pedals after a year or so balancing, so it’s great you can buy the bigger wheels separately and extend the life of the Dirt Hero.
Kids Ride Shotgun says this is a slimmed down enduro machine and a dedicated off-road balance bike. That means it’s got 2.25in Vee Tires for suspension and grip, a Magura hydraulic rear disc brake with a rotor guard and short-reach lever, and slack geometry.
Propain’s newest bike is called the Barney, it uses 16in wheels, an alloy frame, and will fit riders aged 3-6 years, or 95-115cm tall. You get a choice of two frame colours, and separately four component colours, and the entire package is guaranteed to catch a five-year-old’s attention.
That’s not the best thing about the Barney though, it’s the well thought out components package, starting off with SRAM X5 singlespeed drivetrain (because adding gearing into the mix at this stage is just too complicated). There’s no junky, heavy suspension fork, instead big volume Vee Tires offer way better damping and grip, and there’s a mechanical disk brake with 160mm rotor on the back to take advantage of the traction when slowing down.
With little hands and feet, no conventional components will be right for the job, so Propain has gone straight to German brand Sixpack for its latest bits. The bike comes with small grips and plastic pedals, and lighter and more forgiving bar and stem designed for smaller rides. Look out for stock on the direct sales Propain site in June.
Kids on e-bikes… we never had anything like that in our day, we had to do our own pedalling, and we had to crack the ice on milk before we could eat our cornflakes. Now we’ve established it’s not 1984 though, we can get on and enjoy the Grommy, a kids e-bike available in 12 or 16in wheels that fits children aged 5-8 and weighs a scant 8.5kg.
This isn’t your pedal assisted eeb like mum and dad’s though, there’s a remote on the bar to turn the power on or off, while squeezing the Tektro kids-specific rear brake will automatically cut off the motor. There’s a 250W output from the dinky little brushless motor, or half that generated by a Shimano EP8 unit, although we have no idea of the torque or peak power. That’s all fed by an 80Wh battery which should last about an hour, Mondraker says.
Is the Grommy a bike to take out e-biking on proper mountain bike trails? No, but it could be a lot of fun racing round the park on.
Scott Spark 700
The Spark 700 sits in Scott’s Future Pro series, which means it’s the last step on the ladder before your kids get on to full size bikes. The frame is made from 6011 alloy and rolls on 27.5in wheels front and rear and Schwalbe Racing Ray/Ralph 2.25in tyres, while suspension comes courtesy of X-Fusion, with an RC32 fork and an 02Pro shock. You also get a 12speed Eagle drivetrain in the form of SRAM NX and SX, Shimano disc brakes and lightweight Schwalbe Racing Ray/Ralph tyres.
Abus Youdrop FF
Helmets with removable chinguards have been available for years, but you needed to have an adult sized head to use one. Now Abus has included one in the Youdrop full face, meaning kids can get maximum protection for uplift days, and maximum breathability on trail rides.
Construction is taken right from the adult Abus helmet ethos, with EPS moulded into the outer shell, ABS making up the chinguard and EVA foam lining the inside. Abus uses something called Zoom Ace retention with Ponytail Outlet, which is a fancy way of saying it has a 360degree fit and an opening at the back for a ponytail. The visor is attached with velcro to better break away in the event of a crash, and there are nine vents on the front and five on the back.
Ride Concepts Livewire Youth Shoe £89.95
The Livewire Youth flat pedal shoe uses the same Max Grip rubber found on our favourite adult shoe, the Hellion Elite. This gives little riders access to the same locked on feeling their parents have, helping them stay on the pedals and build confidence.
Ride Concepts also builds the shoe with its premium EVA insole and midsole to help cushion feet from the trail, there’s moulded heel and toe protection for rock strikes, and a gusseted tongue to keep out loam. And perhaps best of all, it comes with an anti-bac mesh lining, because children’s shoes stink worse than anything.
Altura Spark Kids Trail Pant
We ride in trail troos, why not the youth too? The Spark here has articulated knees, a relaxed fit and a stretchy nylon and elastane blend, making it more comfortable than the trousers kids are usually kicking around in. You also get a PFC-free DWR coating, a zippered pocket and there are four sizes. Twin it with the Altura Kids Airstream liner short and its 3D Plus chamois and there’s both comfort and style in spades.
Sixpack 1st Ride PA pedal
A shoe with a grippy sole is one half of the pedalling connection, and the other half of course is the pedal. Lots of kids bikes come with really crappy ones, without proper pins or bearings or oversized for adult feet. The 1st Ride plastic pedal is designed specifically for kids or small riders, it’s made from fiberglass-reinforced plastic for strength and weight, with 16 replaceable pins a side for grip. Most importantly, it’s the right size, the platform measures 90x90mm and it sits just 18.5mm tall.
SDG Junior Pro Kit
If your current kids bike comes with inappropriate and overbuilt components, the Junior Pro Kit could be spot on. Inside you get an integrated Lock-On Grip with 25-26mm outer and 115mm length for small hands; a 650mm wide bar with custom 19mm diameter bore for low weight; a short, narrow saddle, 90x90mm pedals with replaceable steel pins; and crucially, a shim kit so brakes and shifter will work with the skinny bar.