How to Pick the Right Bike for Your Kid


Knowing how to pick the right bike for you kid isn’t easy. I often take for granted that I’m married to the owner of local bike shop, Tosa Bike Garage, who can answer all of my silly questions – like, what purpose does a balance bike actually serve?

Some people are car people. Some people are football people. My husband is a bike person. Which means, in our house, we live and breathe bikes at all times of the year. My husband has more bikes than any one person needs and our kids have been attached to their balance bikes since 18-months old.

Balance Bike for Toddlers

Now that bike season has {finally} arrived and it’s time to break out the helmets and start riding, I’ve found myself with one question – what bike do we buy for our toddler who grew like a weed all winter?

Well, mamas, I went straight to the source and got the run down from my hubby on everything you need to know about how to pick the right bike for your kids.

First, consider a balance bike for the youngest riders. A balance bike is a pedal-less bike that is designed to teach kids 18-months to 3-years old how to balance on two wheels. By using their feet to stride, kids learn how to keep their balance and become comfortable maneuvering their bike. With these skills, kids often bypass training wheels and graduate straight to a traditional pedal bike.

What to look for when picking a pedal bike

Wheel Size and Inseam

When you purchase a pedal bike you’ll start with the wheel size, ranging from 12” to 26”.  The two most important measurements to consider are your child’s height and inseam. The chart below includes an overview of the ideal height to wheel size. Height is more important than age when you’re choosing what size will work for your child.

For inseam measurements, a good rule of thumb for younger riders is that their inseam should match the bike inseam. They will have their feet flat on the ground when they are seated. If you have an older, more experienced rider then you want the seat about 2-2.5” above their inseam and lean towards the larger wheel size.

Wheel Size Age Height Kids Inseam
12″ 2-3 34”-40″ 14-17”
14″ 3-4 37″-43″ 16-20”
16” 4-5 43″-48″ 18-22”
20″ 5-8 48″-53″ 22-25”
24″ 8-11 53″-57″ 24-28”
26″ 11+ 57″+ 26”+­

Geometry and fit

In addition to the wheel size, the fit is also important. You want to make sure your kid’s feet touch the ground and their hands are comfortable on the handlebars.


Weight often plays a major factor in the price of a bike. Most of the more affordable bike options are double the weight of slightly more expensive bikes. When considering the weight of a bike, think about the relation of how much your child weighs. A 20lb bike with a 30lb kid can require them to move nearly double their body weight when riding. A lighter bike will be more nimble and easier to maneuver and accelerate/decelerate. More control often leads to safer riding.


In picking the right bike, you should consider the type of braking that is best for your kid’s skill level. Bikes will either have a coaster brake where you back pedal to stop your momentum or handlebar brakes where you learn to brake from the handlebar. If your toddler is going from a balance bike to a pedal bike, you can consider skipping the training wheels and go straight to a bike with handlebar brakes. Some balance bikes even have a brake at the handlebar to help teach the skill early on.


As your kid transitions to a geared bike, usually around age 6-8, there are options between 5 and 10 gears. Learning gearing on a bike is an important riding skill and It is something to consider teaching from a young age – especially on hilly roads and rides.

After you pick the right bike for your kiddo(s), don’t forget about the helmet, bell, and light. Teaching bike safety from a young age is an important life lesson. Stay safe out there! We hope to see you at one of our favorite parks this summer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here