Choosing a first bike can be daunting, but these tips can help narrow down the options.
At first glance, the wall of children’s bicycles at any area bike shop or big-box retailer can be paralyzing: Spider-Man bikes, Littlest Pet Shop bikes, bikes with streamers, bikes with bells, bikes with training wheels, bikes without training wheels.
“It’s overwhelming when you get there,” says Ashley Greiner, a mother of two from Forest Hill. “There’s a lot to pick from.”
When they arrived at Toys “R” Us about a year and a half ago, Greiner thought she knew what her then-3-year-old daughter, Peyton, wanted for her first bike. But that notion disappeared when Peyton saw the line of possibilities.
“She kept seeing all these new bikes,” Greiner says. “She’d say, ‘I want this one. Now I want this one.’ ”
Greiner is one of many parents who say it’s easy to get caught up in color or decorations, especially when buying a child’s first bike.
But there are ways to make the process easier. Experts say focusing on size, safety and bike assembly can help parents find a bike they are comfortable with — and one their children will like enough to ride.
Get the right size
“The main thing with kids’ bikes is having the right size bike for the rider,” says Jon Posner, store manager at Race Pace Bicycles in Ellicott City.
Children’s bikes are measured by the diameter of the wheel, with sizes ranging from 12 inches to 24 inches. The appropriate size depends on the child’s age and height or leg length. For example, most 2-year-olds start on a 12-inch bike.
To test proper fit, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children sit on the seat with their hands on the handlebars. They should be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground. To further test fit, the AAP recommends children straddle the center bar. They should be able to stand with both feet flat on the ground with about a 1-inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.
Posner recommends bringing a child into the shop so staff members can make individual adjustments.
Still, even with proper fit, some parents prefer to buy bigger bicycles so their child can have a bike to grow into, Posner says.
This can be difficult, given how quickly children between the ages of 3 and 11 grow, he says. On average, a bicycle for this age group will last only about two years because of a child’s changing height.
The AAP cautions against buying oversized bikes because children often lack the skills and coordination required to handle them.
If cost is a concern, many bike shops like Race Pace sell previously used bicycles at a discounted price. Others, like C’Ville Bikes in Catonsville, offer “buy back” programs. If a child has outgrown a bike bought at the shop, he or she can bring it back to the shop and receive 30 percent of its value to put toward a new bike. So if the average new bike costs $200, returning the old bike could result in a $60 savings.
“My recommendation is buy as much bike as you can for the little ones,” says Scott Westcoat, owner of C’Ville Bikes.
As long as they stay in good shape, bikes can always be passed down to family members, he says.
In addition to finding the correct bicycle size, the best way to ensure safety on the bike is a helmet, Westcoat says.