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Our Guide to Choosing Kids Bikes

Dave Martin, General Manager at Wheel & Sprocket Appleton, guides you through the right youth’s bike at the right time for your child. He shares the story of his two children, Izzy and Gabe, to illustrate how to approach taking that next step. 

Advice About Advancing Your Kid to the Next Level

  • Limit the worry and fear by sticking with one skill development at a time: 
    • 1.  Balance - Master this first before moving to pedals
    • 2. Braking - Introduce hand brakes only after they’ve learned to balance with pedals and coaster brakes
    • 3. Gears - ONLY after mastering these first steps can you introduce hand shifting.
  • Let your kid feel comfortable on their current bike before moving on.  It doesn’t matter what age, as long as they’re having fun.
  • Understand your child’s age and size. 
  • Consider having several sized bikes around so your kid can begin exploring for themselves.   Used bikes are a perfect solution for “short” bike years like when they are in-between size.
Stage (see descriptions)AgeApprox. HeightWheel Size
Starting Out
35 - 40”12” 
Starting Out/ Grade School3-636-46”16”
Grade School5-845-52”20”
Grade School7+51-63”24”
Pre-Teen and Teens/Sport Bikes Varies53-63”26”

Starting Out

Approximate Ages: 2-4 years old

Recommendation:  Balance Bikes - Start without pedals so they can learn the importance of simple balancing and move around.   AVOID tricycles at this age unless for a special needs child.  

Izzy:  She started her Balance Bike over 2 and kept with it until nearly 5 which is pushing the limits. 

Gabe:  My son was curious, started early, and went all over the house on his balance bike at 18 months.  He was ready earlier for the next step.

Recommendation: 16 to 20” bike with coaster brakes or training wheels

Get pedalling down pat with a coaster brake.  Most younger children lack fine motor skills to sync up their legs with a hand brake.    Remove the training wheels when your child lets you know they feel comfortable balancing, pedalling, and braking at the same time. 

Izzy -  She was very independent but a bit timid about taking off the training wheels and used them until growing into her 20” bike.  Though we also had a 16" without training wheels around which she eventu figured out how to ride without our help.

Gabe  - He did not use training wheels and instead was very comfortable with a 20” hand brake.  

Grade School Riding

Approximate Ages:  6-7 to 12-13 years old

Recommendation: 24”  “Neighborhood” Bike

“How long will this bike last” is a very common question since kids will have significant growth in  the next five to six years.   Make sure your child is comfortable before putting them on a bike that’s too big and scary.    After all, a bike should be something to enjoy especially with friends.  

Izzy:  She wasn’t comfortable yet and wanted the ability to touch the ground.  At 13 years old, Izzy has now moved to a 26” frame. 

Gabe:  He skipped this stage and went right to a 26” mountain bike frame.  Gabe’s really comfortable with balance and ability.   We have multi-bike sizes around so he can switch it up with the 24” to ride around the neighborhood.  

Pre-Teen & Teens

Recommendation:  26” Adult sized - Marlin 5 (beginning Mountain), FX, or 820 (hybrid)

A key question with teens is how tall will they grow as well as what are their interests.  The common myth It may not be the “last bike” for a while.    Your teen needs to be safe thus too big a bike can feel uncomfortable and they won’t ride it.   

Teens can have multiple bikes for commuting to school/job, mountain biking, road biking, and more.   Biking is a lifelong activity with so many positive possibilities foundation 

Kids Sport Bikes

Mountain and Road Biking has become a popular school sport with colleges now awarding scholarships to top-ranked athletes.     

A BMX, Mountain Bike, or Road Bike are used for competitive events and should not be used to ride to school.  Like any sporting equipment, these bikes are an investment for your kid to achieve maximum performance in that sport.