Aside from learning to drive, there is no bigger right of passage for a kid than learning to ride a bike. Remember that feeling of freedom as you pedal off down the road? For kids, bike fun and freedom is unmatched by anything else! When we were younger we spent all summer outside riding around the neighborhood on bikes. This year, we’re all focused more than ever on getting out of the house for some fresh air and fun. We’ve already stocked up on pool floats, kiddie pools and water tables, so it’s no wonder bike sales are up 100% from last year too! Now as the mamas we have to figure out how the hell to teach a kid how to ride a bike?! The saying “it’s as easy as riding a bike,” is all well and good once they actually learn!
For that matter, when do kids even learn to ride? Would you believe us if we said as early as 18 months? It’s true! (We know it’s mind blowing!) Kids balance bikes have become an increasingly popular trend for teaching our youngest kiddos how to ride. They focus on teaching the idea of balance before peddling, and most kids can transition to a regular bike much earlier than with traditional training wheel bikes.
Finding The Right Kids Bike Sizes:
One of the most important things to consider when looking for a pedal bike, is the bike fit. Kids bike sizes range from 12” to 24” tires and are generally geared towards kids ages 2-12. Ryan B, a two-time dad (aka he knows a thing or two), and spokesperson for Schwinn Bikes, explains what to look for when measuring for a kids bike. “The number one thing you want to make sure when getting a new bike for your little is that they are comfortable which translates to confidence while riding. To ensure the child is comfortable, they should be able to put a foot down to balance when sitting in the bike seat. He shared a simple, 3-step process to ensure you’ve got the right size:
1-Measure the child’s inseam with shoes on. This measurement is from the floor to the top of the inner thigh.
2-Check the measurement from the ground to the top of the bike seat (with the seat in its lowest position).
3-If the inseam is larger than the lowest seat height measurement, then the bike is a fit! This is more important when the rider is still a beginner because it allows them to put a foot down if they’re losing their balance or having trouble cornering.
We’ve scoured the internet and found 9 of the best kids bikes that come in a range of sizes to fit every rider from balance bikes, to classics, to even kids mountain bikes. And keep in mind, while we feature boy bikes vs girl bikes, it doesn’t mean we feel anyone has to pick a side. Bike brands, however, do market them this way not just for color choices, but for the genuine difference in build between traditional boy vs girls bikes (think center bar height).
Well mamas, strap on your helmet, inflate those soft tires, and get ready to hit the road for a family bike ride this weekend!
Here’s a kids bike size chart if you need help determining the right size to buy (by age and height).
Best 12″ Bikes for Kids; Toddler Balance Bike
Generally recommended for kids 2yrs+
We love the Schwinn Skip Toddler Balance Bike, and so do 1200 Amazon reviewers! Since 1895, the Schwinn mission has been to, “develop bicycles that allow people to experience the confidence and freedom that comes from riding a bike.” A balance bike for a toddler embodies this mission. What’s more freeing than being able to keep up with the big kids without having to learn to pedal first?
This 12” bike is designed for riders 28-38” in height or approximately ages 2-4 years old. The height allows our kiddos to still touch the ground as they push off and learn the art of balance. The handle bars have a limiter so keeping control won’t be an issue. The lightweight frame and tool free adjustable seat means frustration free riding for the whole family!
One reviewer notes, “I bought this for my 3 year old who is kind of tall for his age. He’s about 44 inches tall so he’s probably about the height of a 4 year old. He loves this bike because it looks like a ‘big kid’ BMX bike and I like it for it’s quality and ease of setting up right out of the box. A couple of wrenches to put the wheels on and it’s ready to go in less than 5 minutes.”
Strider’s best selling 12 Sport Balance Bike is a favorite for many looking to give their kids a high quality, long lasting, first bike. We love the design of this balance bike because it gives kids the right frame size for their small bodies to keep feet flat on the ground, while helping them to work on confidence, coordination, and of course balance. The seat and handlebar heights adjust to fit kids’ correct size from as young as 18 months up to 5 years of age.
One mom notes, “I have a confession! I have a 4yr old, a 3yr old and I am in the market for yet another Strider Bike for my 9 month old for his upcoming first birthday. Yes, that is my confession! I put my kids on these bikes on their first birthdays. I have incredibly tall kids. They learned to push the Strider bikes around before they could walk on their own. The Strider bikes are like attached to the two older kids. This has prepared them for their dirt bikes that they received on their second birthdays and they have had no problem learning to ride a pedal bike.” Available in bright, fun colors, there is truly something for everyone in this style!
Best 14″ & 16″ Bikes for Kids
Generally recommended for kids 3-7yrs, 36-48 inches.
What if we told you that you could buy ONLY one bike and it would last for years? It’s true! Growing kids outgrow everything, but this bike grows with them. The Xtend bike by smarTrike starts as a balance bike for kids around age 3. Once they’ve mastered phase one, you can add pedals. Beyond that, the frame grows! Kids up to age 5 or 6 can zip around on their big kid bike, feeling tall and strong. The Xtend comes in red or black/blue and has a lightweight magnesium frame.
Not only will your kids get use out of this for years, but think about what a great pass me down bike this is for the next baby in the family— they’ll use it for years to come, too!
Ryan B, (2x dad) from Schwinn Bikes recommends this line for beginners which is known as Koen for the more boy-ish brand and Elm for the more girl-ish brand. “To help with shopping, Schwinn has created this line of bikes that grow with your child. From the first balance bike, all the way up through pre-teen, the Schwinn Elm and Koen have the solution for your child.” The Koen and Elm bikes come in a range of sizes from the 12” balance bike to the 20” mini adult bike for kids up to 5’ tall.
Make sure to check the kids bike size charts when deciding which size option to get. Schwinn’s SmartStart technology designs each size specifically for kids to use now, not grow into. When kids are on a bike that fits, they’re comfortable and that means they’re less nervous about learning. Us mamas are less nervous too letting go when we know it isn’t too big or too heavy for them. In addition to wearing a helmet and keeping bike tires inflated, having a right sized bike is one of the safest things we can do for our kids!
The Haro Shredder 16 Sidewalk Bike for boys and girls combine rider friendly geometry (better than us doing this math!) and high quality engineering. Designed with front hand brakes and a coaster brake, (for teaching younger riders how to use front brakes) this bike is for any rider regardless of their current ability (training wheels included). For girls, the top tube is lower, which makes the bike easier to straddle. Available in 5 colors for boys and girls, kids will have freedom of choice to make this really their own.
The Shredder series is available in multiple size options, so as the kids grow they can easily make the transition to the next size. One reviewer writes, “It’s a really nice bike. The green is almost a dayglo green. My son loves it…and so do his friends, which makes him love it more!” As an added bonus Sun & Ski Sports is offering curbside pick up in most areas right now, and free shipping on orders over $50 if you’d rather skip the store.
Best 20″ Bikes for Kids
Generally recommended for kids 7-13yrs, 48-60 inches.
If your kid wants to be the coolest kid on the block, we found their new summer bike. Schwinn’s new “classic” takes us back to our first bikes (or the one we wished we had) thanks to the banana seat and high-rise handlebars. But of course this 2020 version is better than what we ever rode round the block! This has a 16″ front wheel and a 20″ back wheel with Sting-Ray Slick tire (meaning they can SKID…and not get hurt). Kids 8 and up will ooze vintage cool with a bike that feels more like a rocket-ship than a kids bike. If your goal is to get them out of the house and riding for as long as possible (raises hand), we found your winning ticket.
This Walmart kids’ bike seems too good to be true at a price this good. We can assure you the Huffy 20” Sea Star Bike is every bit as good as it is true. All of us mamas who remember the good ole’ days of cruising around on our Huffys will appreciate the old school construction of this bike, complete with streamers and a classic pedal brake. The simplicity of this model keeps new riders focused on the basics without overloading them with too much to think about.
Our hands down favorite feature of this bike is the easy to assemble promise. Nothing is more frustrating than listening to “Are you done yet?” as our kiddo is desperate to ride and we can’t seem to finish. Three easy steps of inserting the handle bars, tightening the bolt, and lastly unfolding the pedals, and done. One mama we know assembled this bike in a little more than 10 minutes! Budget friendly and easy to do? Talk about win win!
We LOVE that RoyalBaby ships their Kids Freestyle Bicycle 95% assembled (you can thank us later)! Available in a variety of bright and fun colors and sizes ranging from 12” to 20” tires, we agree with the 3,000 Amazon reviews praising this purchase. For added fun, RoyalBaby includes a water bottle, bell and DIY decal. The super soft seat comes with an attached handle, which we like for grabbing the bike for learning kids.
RoyalBaby is newer to the bike game than some others, but they’ve built their brand around a safety model. Their front and rear brake design does double duty in keeping our kids safe, while the shortened grip length allows kids to brake more efficiently. The chain cover, non slip resin pedals, and wider tire size have also won us over. This may look like a baby BMX bike, but we can breathe easily knowing our kids are protected!
Trek kids bikes are some of our favs because of their Kids’ Bike Trade Up Program. Who the hell wants to pay hundreds of dollars for a new bike everytime our kid goes through a growth spurt? With the Trade Up Program, we can save money by cashing in the bike we already purchased within 3 years and getting them the next size up.
Trek’s Precaliber 20 7-speed girl’s mountain bike (and boy’s mountain bike) has both a lightweight aluminum frame and rugged look at the same time. Perfect for whatever adventure comes their way. This may look like an adult bike, but everything is sized down just right for our kiddos for high quality, long lasting, comfort. Our favorite features are the intuitive twist shift for changing gears and the lower frame for hopping on and off with ease.
One mama commented, “My kids love the bikes and their bike riding skills have improved. It is definitely worth paying more to get a better bike for your kids. Riding my bike is much more enjoyable for me and them now that they have a nice bike to ride. Also, I am getting a better workout since their pace has increased. Previously they were riding on a lower priced 16″ bike and I can tell a big difference between the two.”
Best 24″ Bikes for Kids
Generally recommended for kids 10-15yrs, 56+inches.
You already know how much we love Schwinn for the smart design strategies in bike building, but buying this option from Dick’s means free shipping and in store assembly of all bikes. No headache of putting this together? Sign us up! The Schwinn Signature Boys’ Thrasher 24 inch mountain bike is sized for kids ages 10 & up. This is the last stop essentially before heading into a grownup bike world, and quality really matters. Investing in an aluminum frame and a bike with good front suspension means the bike will be lightweight and will navigate smoothly over all terrain.
One reviewer noted, “My son loves the bike! The gears make the hills in our neighborhood much easier to manage, and I’m happy I purchased this particular bike since the frame is pretty lightweight.” The beautiful bright blue color doesn’t hurt either!
Trek’s Wahoo 24 is simple, lightweight, and practical for riding to and from school or out on a family ride. This hybrid bike is designed for a variety of surfaces with a wide range of gearing options. Fitting kids up to 5’ tall, the options of colors work for both boys and girls. One of our favorite features of the Trek website is the “help me choose” option for selecting bikes. It breaks it down by age range & height providing excellent options for each.
One mama commented, “I studied the market to find the best bike for my 7 year old grandson and the Wahoo 24 is the winner. The bike has just the right feature set and is not burdened by complexity that a child does not require. It’s incredibly light and he is now able to easily ride up hills. The gears are just right and braking is nice and smooth. In my opinion, it’s a perfect bike for kids.”
Now that the LOs have mastered pedaling, look for other ways to entertain them this summer. Check out all of our mom approved kid toys for even more fun!