HOW TO CHOOSE A KID'S BIKE
There's never been as many choices for the kids of today. Our guide will tell you what's available for children of different age groups, from 3 to 12 yrs old. It will tell you what to look for, what to buy, and more importantly, what not to buy!
12" WHEEL FOR 3-5 YRS
Typically you start on this size at approx. 3yrs old and come off at approx. 5yrs old, so you could get about 2 years usage from it. At this size level there are basically 2 styles: BMX and Mountain Bike (MTB). The main difference between the two is the style and shape of the handlebars. BMX style handlebars are curved and higher up from the ground than mountain bike handlebars, which are low and straight. From a safety point of view, BMX style handlebars are preferred because of their "sit up and beg" style of cycling which makes for a more comfortable riding position, and helps focus a child's vision ahead rather than down at the ground! Having said that, mountain bike bars are seen to be a bit more fashionable than the traditional BMX bars.
All bikes in this category will have at least one brake, in the form of a front caliper mounted over the front wheel, and operated via a right handed brake lever on the handlebars. A lot of bikes will also feature a rear brake, either in the form of another caliper (over the rear wheel) or as a back pedal brake, whereby anticlockwise pressure on the pedals will operate a variable brake inside the hub built into the rear wheel. Both systems have pros and cons, and it is often a personal choice as to what you think is the best option.
There are 3 types of chain drive found on the bikes of this size. Firstly, fixed wheel: this is when the bike will advance forward when pedalled forwards, and backward when pedalled backwards. Secondly, freewheel: this is when the bike will advance forward when pedalled forwards, but won't go anywhere when pedalled backwards, ie. it freewheels (neutral). Thirdly, back pedal brake: as mentioned earlier, this is when the bike will advance forward when pedalled forwards, and operate the rear brake, which will stop the bike, when pedalled backwards. Which system is best? Again, personal preference probably dictates, but the freewheel system is the most popular, and is used on larger bikes as standard.
Finally, a word of warning. Don't buy kiddies bikes which have plastic wheels with solid tyres and plastic bushes in the headset and bottom bracket! These are classed as toys and will probably fall apart after a very short period of time, and are not generally repairable. Yes, they are cheap, but frankly are a waste of money. A good kiddies bike should always have metal wheels with FULL BALL BEARINGS, adjustable spokes, and pneumatic tyres. The headset and bottom bracket should be metal, be adjustable, and include full ball bearings.
Virtually all our bikes have these features, and as you can see from our prices, there's no need to spend any less on an inferior machine - a ridiculously cheap bike is also likely to be a cheap quality bike!
All bikes with 12" wheels are single speed, and come with stabilisers as standard, and will feature a fully enclosed chainguard
14" WHEEL FOR 4-6 YRS
You start on this size at approx. 4yrs old and come off at approx. 6yrs old, so you could get about 2 years usage from it. For choices on style, braking systems and chain drive systems, look at the details given in the 12" wheel for 3-5yrs section as the same rules apply. Stabilisers also come as as standard on this size of bike.
16" WHEEL FOR 5-8 YRS
You start on this size at approx. 5yrs old and come off at approx. 8yrs old, so you could get about 3 years usage from it. There are basically 2 styles, BMX and mountain bike, but in the case of the mountain bike, there are 3 further categories. Firstly, the standard mountain bike with traditional boys or girls frames. Secondly, the standard mountain bike with Y-frames for boys and girls. This is the latest style of frame which uses thicker tubing, and is also used in the third category, which is dual suspension mountain bikes. Yes, you can now get 16" wheel bikes with dual suspension, fully workable! These bikes cost more but are the bees knees in terms of design and fashion.
There are 2 types of braking systems fitted to bikes in this category.
Caliper brakes: Often found on BMX bikes. Generally work fine and are easy to maintain, but since this is the oldest design they are the weakest performer in terms of stopping power.
V-type brakes: This is the newest design and is found on many of the latest mountain bikes. It is easily the most powerful braking system, though a little more difficult to maintain.
All bikes in this size category should have full ball bearings throughout, 2 brakes and a freewheel system, but will probably only feature a chain disc or half chainguard, as opposed to a fully enclosed chainguard. All bikes will still be single speed. Stabilisers don't usually come as standard, but if the bike is suitable for stabilisers our website will give you the choice of selecting them as optional extra.
18" WHEEL FOR 6-9 YRS
You start on this size at approx. 6 yrs old and come off at approx. 9 yrs old, so you could get about 3 years usage from it. This size of bike is a relatively new addition to slot between the 16" and 20" wheel and as a result, you will probably have less choice than some sizes, and should expect to pay about the same as a 20" bike of similar specification. You will find the same styles as in the 16" wheel, although dual suspension 18" mountain bikes are still a rarity. What you can get though, for the first time, are gears! Usually, you will be limited to 5 or 6 gears, but all the systems are indexed via a twistgrip (called a gripshift) for changing up and down the gear range. The advantage of gears is that it makes the bike more efficient in terms of pedal power, which means children will be able to keep up with parents on a bike ride! The disadvantages are bikes with gears cost more, the rear derailleur itself can sometimes be damaged, and generally, stabilisers cannot be fitted. You will only find gears on a mountain bike (with the low-rise handlebars) and not a BMX (with the high-rise handlebars). This is the biggest size of bike to which stabilisers can be fitted successfully.
20" WHEEL FOR 7-10 YRS
You start on this size at approx. 7 yrs old and come off at approx. 10 yrs old, so you could get about 3 years usage from it. The only exception to this is the 20" BMX freestyler which has a starting age of approx. 10 years old, but has no age limit (adults who professionally race and stunt-ride use these bikes!) There are generally 6 types of bike in this category: mountain bikes without gears; mountain bikes with gears (5-18 of them); mountain bikes with gears and front suspension; mountain bikes with gears and dual suspension; standard BMX bikes; freestyler BMX bikes.
Freestyler BMX bikes differ from standard BMX bikes in a few key areas: the frames and forks are generally stonger; the wheels are more robust, especially if they have 48 spokes (instead of the usual 36); the headset unit is a GYRO type, which means that the handlebars can continuously be spun round without the brake cables tangling up. Finally, freestylers usually have stunt pegs fitted to the rear wheel axle and if you are lucky, to the front as well! BMX bikes are always single speed (ie. no gears).
Almost all the bikes in this size category will have either calipers or V-type brakes, a few may even have a front disc brake! Although cable operated disc brakes don't work any better than V-type brakes, there is no denying they certainly look the part!
HERE'S A TIP: If you wish to buy a bike with gears, try to buy one which features Shimano or SRAM branded items as these are widely regarded as the best quality components for your money. A cheap bike with cheap equipment suggests cheap quality. A bike whose rear derailleur, gear shifter and, if applicable, front derailleur are Shimano or SRAM branded is a sign of a no compromise, good quality bike.
Most our bikes are fully Shimano or SRAM equipped, and as you can see from our prices, there's no need to spend any less on an inferior machine.