HOW TO BUY A BIKE FOR A CHILD?
March 6, 2005
Back to questions
I am looking for a bike for
my 10-year-old son (411", 100 lbs.). Our budget
is $200. Any suggestions? We looked in Toys R Us and Wal-Mart
and are concerned about poorly made bikes. We have been
trying to read about the products but find the info contradicting.
I am a parent who wants a safe,
economical bike. Help!
Buying a bike for yourself can seem
complex enough. Buying one for someone else can make you
just wanna stay in bed.
But we can break the task down into
three simple chunks: where to buy, what size to get, and
what kind of bike to buy.
Where should you buy a bike? Chain
department stores sell lots of bikes because they charge
little, but the bikes they sell have cheap parts that break
easily. For what you want to spend you can buy a decent
bike at a bike shop, and I recommend that you do. Not only
will a good bike dealer make sure your son gets a bike that
fits right, theyll let you bring it back for free
To find a good dealer ask other
parents whove had a good experience. You can also
for a dealer in your area that belongs to the National
Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA). I think NBDA membership
demonstrates a certain level of commitment that can translate
to good customer service (tho exceptions always exist).
What size bike should your son get?
First, a little tutorial. In the U.S. bicycle retailers
generally describe a bikes size in inches (and sometimes
centimeters, but as Americans we have the right to ignore
the existence of the metric system). However, they measure
it differently for child and adult bikes. For adult bikes
the size equates to the height of the frame as measured
from the middle of the bottom bracket to the top of the
seat tube. (To see an illustration that shows these click
and scroll down to "Frame.") For child bikes they
simply measure the diameter of the wheels.
Some 10-year-olds will take a bike
with 24-inch wheels; taller kids can go with a bike having
26-inch wheels; some shorter kids will fit on 20-inch wheels, with
the shortest (4 to 6 years old) on 16-inch.
Your bike dealer should help fit
the bike to your son. When they do, first make sure that your son
can stand over the bike without it touching his crotch; if it does,
he needs a shorter bike. Next, watch
that when your son sits on the bike his feet can reach the
ground easily; if you adjust the bikes seat to its
lowest position and he still cant touch the ground
easily, this also indicates he needs a shorter bike. Last, make sure
he can reach the handlebar without stetching or bending
from the waist; if the dealer can't fix this by adjusting
the handlebar you should try a different bike. (All of this
says that you should never choose a bike for someone
without them present.)
What kind of bike should your son
get? For adults I recommend they get a bike suitable for
the kind of riding they do. Kids, tho, often have a different
criterion: what their friends ride. If your son has no preference,
I suggest an all-terrain or hybrid bike thatll make
it easy for your son to bike both on and off streetsbut
not a mountain bike, unless he plans to ride mostly on dirt.
And in your price range I recommend against child bikes
with shock absorbers on the front fork because they end
up as one more thing that breaks.
Last, to encourage your son to use
his bike for transportation, I suggest you budget at least
$30 for a good bike lock and another $15 for a rear carrying
rack. Then he can easily use his bike for going to the store,
friends houses, and schoolall habits that Id
like to see him continue long after he gets a drivers