There are important factors when choosing a bike for kids. See also our Girls Bikes: Best of 2010. With the way kids grow, parents can be attracted to cheaper price tags or to buying big with the idea of growing into it, but this can actually turn out to be more costly in the long run. A bike made with cheap components or one that’s too big for a kid to maneuver will ultimately become stationary and send kids back to the video games. Experts recommend buying a bike that offers adjustments for growth within the manufacturer’s suggested age range and one that is made with high-quality frustration-free components. If you’re a cyclist yourself, you want your kids to embrace the activity at an early age in order to enjoy those family rides throughout their childhood. Of course kids are most interested in how it looks. The following bikes offer affordability without lacking in quality and safety and will keep kids riding. And don’t forget the helmet.
Strider PREbike Balance Running Bike
Balance bikes have been popular in Europe for teaching kids to ride and are now making their way into homes around the U.S. There are varying opinions about these with some parents swearing by them and others saying they are a waste of money. The Strider PREbike is designed for ages 1-5, which is the ideal age for these types of bikes. Any kid older than that you’re better off going with pedals. The idea is to teach a kid balance and coordination and build confidence without the “toppling” effects of a tricycle or training wheels. As soon as kids can walk, they can get on a Strider, which weighs just under 7 pounds. Features include an adjustable seat post and handlebars, launch pad footrests for gliding, and puncture-proof tires. The Stride PREbike Balance Bike has received a 5 star rating from 67 Amazon reviewers and Bicycling.com gave it a thumbs up in their annual buyer’s guide.
Comes in a variety of colors and sells for $99.00 on Amazon.
Raleigh MXR Mini 16″ Kids’ Bike
Raleigh is one of the oldest and highly respected bicycle companies dedicated to making a line of bikes that get kids out and riding. With a low stand-over height, the Raleigh MXR Mini Kids’ Bike is a perfect choice for the beginning rider. The rugged steel frame and fork provides the durability needed to stand up to rough kid handling. Safety features include a full wrap chain guard to protect from clothing entanglement, an easy to learn coaster brake, and a Cateye reflector set. A set of heavy duty training wheels is included. In general, 16-inch wheeled bikes are recommended for kids age 4-7.
The Raleigh MXR Mini 16″ Kids’ Bike is sold on REI for $159.00.
Diamondback Lucky 16 BMX Bike (16-Inch Wheels)
If your kid is ready to hit the local BMX or skate park, but not quite ready to maneuver a bigger size, then the Diamondback Lucky 16 BMX bike would make a great choice. Designed for kids under 100 pounds, the Diamondback Lucky is small enough for the beginner yet versatile enough to keep up with a developing rider. With high-end components such as a heat-treated aluminum frame and fork, Tektro U-brake, alloy rims, and knobby Kenda tires, this bike will withstand the abuse kids can dish out. Recommended for ages 4-8. The top tube stands at 16.5 inches. You can learn more about Diamondback Bicycles here.
The Diamondback Lucky 16 BMX bike sells for $254.99 on Amazon.
Marin Hidden Canyon 20″ Boys’ Bike
Marin, a California bicycle company and innovator in designing high quality mountain bikes, offers the Hidden Canyon for kids. Reviewers at Bicycling.com gave the Marin Hidden Canyon a thumbs up, calling it safe and speedy. Features a lightweight aluminum frame, double-butted for durability and a Spinner Grind suspension fork with 50 mm of travel for abosrbing the bumps and maintaining control. The double chainring powers a Shimano 7-speed drivetrain, making for 14 gear combinations. The SRAM twist shifters are easy to use for a kid just learning to shift. Also comes with durable Kenda tires, versatile for trail or street riding. Depending on their size, generally kids can begin riding the 20″ wheel size around age 7.
The Marin Hidden Canyon sells for $309.00 on REI.
Electra RatRod 1 20-Inch Boys’ Bike
For a more classic style that embraces simplicity, the Electra RatRod will fit the bill. Electra, a favorite of ours, makes cruiser bikes for the whole family with their patented flat foot technology, which allows for years of proper sizing while a kid grows. The RatRod is a single speed with a coaster brake, so no shifters or hand brakes to worry about. Comes with a chain guard and fenders for protection from dirt, a spring cushioned saddle, and custom red rims. The sturdy steel frame will stand up to years of use. The flames on the Electra RatRod will be sure to dazzle any kid.
Mongoose Spin BMX Freestyle Bike (20-Inch Wheels)
Mongoose is a bicycle company in California who are truly the pioneers of BMX bikes. The Mongoose Spin is a good beginner BMX bike, versatile enough for neighborhood riding, dirt riding, or beginning tricks at the skate park. Features include a handcrafted Hi-ten jumping fork and front and rear U-brakes. Also includes front and rear axle pegs for tricks and a 4-piece “knee-saver” handlebar. Recommended for kids ages 8 and older. Mongoose offers a lifetime warranty on the frame and fork.
The Mongoose Spin BMX Freestyle Bike sells for $147.39 on Amazon.
Schwinn Loop 7-Speed Folding Bike
Families who commute together are becoming more popular everyday. Folding bikes, though not specifically made for kids, are actually a great choice, especially if you drop your kid off at school on the way to work. The Schwinn Loop 7-Speed Folding Bike features a low stand-over frame, adjustable seat and 20 inch wheels, which are all important elements for kids. The sturdy alloy frame, city tires, front and rear fenders, and Shimano shifters will provide protection, stability and ease of use for riding on the street. Also features front and rear alloy brakes. Comes with a nylon carrying bag and rear rack for storage.
The Schwinn Loop 7-Speed Folding Bike sells on Amazon for $213.06.
Scott Scale Junior 24″ Bike
Scott, a highly respected name in cycling, makes a line of bikes for kids that boast attributes you’d find on their adult bikes. The Scott Scale Junior 24″ Bike is built to last with a lightweight aluminum frame and Shimano components. Features a front suspension fork with 50 mm of travel to soak up the bumps and provide control when kids hit the trail. The triple chainring offers 21 gear combinations with twist shifters. Front and rear Tektro linear pull brakes are built with safety in mind. Other features include a junior racing saddle and versatile cyclo-cross tires. The 24-inch wheel size is recommended for kids ages 9 and up.
The Scott Scale Junior 24″ Bike is sold on REI for $449.00.
Schwinn Midi Frontier Kids’ Bike
Chances are if you had a Schwinn as a kid, you’ll feel nostalgic about passing on the tradition of this bicycle icon. The Schwinn Midi Frontier is an entry-level mountain bike that shows off a cool retro paint job. The steel frame and fork offer durability for years of use. Uses a 7-speed Shimano drivetrain with Shimano easy fire triggers for shifting. Also includes alloy linear brakes, alloy rims and hubs, and tires for dirt or street riding. Schwinn puts the Midi Frontier in their 9-12 age category. Standover height is 21.8″. For more specs click here.
The MSRP on the Schwinn Midi Frontier Kids’ Bike is $299.00.
Trek FX Kids’ Bike
The Trek FX is a hybrid-style for those who tend to ride longer distances on pavement. Borrowing from the adult FX line, this smaller version with dial-in fit specific design will keep up with your kid’s growth. With 24 inch wheels, Trek places this in their 9-12 age category. Weighing in at around 25 pounds, kids will appreciate the lightness of this bike compared with other ones they’ve probably owned. Features an aluminum frame, Shimano 7-speed twist shifters, Bontrager hybrid tires, and linear pull front and rear brakes with alloy levers. The boys’ version is shown. Also comes in a girls’ style.
The MSRP on the Trek FX Kids’ Bike is $379.99.