Ready to Ride: Cycling for Kids

Ready to Ride: Cycling for Kids

Lifestyle: Getting children interested in riding at an early age need not be a difficult thing to do. Below you’ll find some tips about finding the right type of children’s bike, as well as ways to motivate kids to take up and continue riding.

 

Trailer bicycles

Before children are ready to ride on their own, there are a few ways to get them involved in cycling. Trailer bikes have become quite popular as an inexpensive way to go cycling with kids. They can be purchased for around €250.

 

The lighter versions weigh around 12 kilograms, while heavier models can weigh up to 37 kilograms and can safely carry two children with a combined weight of 80 pounds. Some of models are also foldable, which makes them easy to store when not in use.

 

Some of the more expensive models priced at around €800 even feature adjustable suspension and full side window vents for temperature control in warmer conditions. Many of these pricier trailers can also be used as a jogging stroller as well.

 

For children that want the experience of riding a bike, but aren’t quite ready to cycle on their own, one option to consider is the half bike’ model, which is a different type of trailer bike. It has an inbuilt towing arm that can be fitted to the seat post of your bicycle to provide stability and security. This model is suitable for children from around four to nine years old, and allows the child to pedal on their own. Some models are also foldable, which means they can be made ready for transportation and storage with the aid of a simple quick-release system. Other features may include a full chain guard and bash guard to keep your little ones protected from chain grease and road spray. Depending on where you live, these types of bikes start from around €150.

 

Children’s bikes

Once children reach the age of around six, they are usually capable of riding on their own. Independent cycling offers kids a sense of freedom and achievement, as well as a great means of exercise, To make sure your child gets the most out of cycling, it’s important to ensure they start off on the right type of bicycle. Choosing the right model, size and kit will make for comfortable and more confident riding.

 

What to consider when buying a children’s bike

The first thing to look for is weight. Lighter bikes are easier to handle and children generally get more enjoyment out of riding if they can handle their bike with greater ease. The smaller the rider, the more important the weight of the bike. However, many kids’ bikes are far too heavy, often weighing half an average child’s bodyweight. If it’s within your budget, some of the more expensive bikes would be a good option. They tend to weigh around 6 kilograms, which is generally the ideal weight for a child’s bike. However, if you are buying on a budget, try to aim for 13 kilograms or less for 20 and 24 inch wheel bikes, especially if the bicycle is likely to be ridden off-road.

 

In addition to looking out for the ideal weight, it’s important that the bicycle you choose fits your child properly. There is no such thing as growing into a bike. A properly-fitting bike will make the entire experience of learning to ride and gaining confidence a much more enjoyable and speedy process.

So what size of bike if best for your child? There is of course no one size fits all solution, but as a general rule of thumb, you can use a sizing chart to help you make this decision. However, have your chid test ride the bike before you purchase it, to make sure they look comfortable and they like the way it rides.

Below is an example of a sizing chart that might help guide you in your purchase:

 

Age Child’s Inseam Wheel diameter Useful hints
2-4 years 14-17 inches
35-42 cm
12 inches Most models have training wheels
4-6 years 16-20 inches
40-50 cm
14 inches These are generally more difficult to come across
5-8 years 18-22 inches
45-55 cm
16 inches Most models have rear coaster breaks and pneumatic tires. Some have front hand brakes.
6-9 years 20-24 inches
50-60 cm
18 inches These are generally more difficult to find
7-10 years 22-25 inches
55-63 cm
20 inches Some models are multi-speed and have hand brakes.
9 plus years 24-28 inches
60-72 cm
24 inches Many models have most of the features of adult bikes.

 

In order to accommodate for the growing child, a long seat post and a steerer with plenty of spacer washers or a quill stem will provide adequate room for growing and allow the bike to be used even while your child grows.

 

It is also important that the child is able to touch the ground with his or her feet, and reach the handlebars with a slight bend in the arms when seated. If the bike is fitted with handbrakes, your child should be able to grasp them firmly and apply enough pressure to easily stop the bike. For younger kids, avoid buying a bike with too many gears. For them, simple gearing is generally best. As a guide, one gear is ideal for starter bikes, a three-speed hub for second bikes, and a 7-speed or 8-speed derailleur for pre-teens.

 

Safety and accessories

Having a working bell on the bike is essential when out riding, however it is important that children understand that ringing a bell does not always mean that people around them can hear them and will move out of their path. When cycling in dark lighting conditions (something that is most likely best avoided until your child is older and becomes a better bike handler), a white light on the front of the bicycle and a red light on the rear will make the bike more visible.

 

Kids also love gadgets, and you may think them to be unnecessary, however depending on your budget, it might be a good idea to look into baskets, spokey dokeys, lights, water bottle holders, racks for bags and toys, or knobby tyres. These are items which can enhance the enjoyment that your child derives from riding.

In the case of falls, which are an inevitable part of bike riding, there are some preventative measures that can be taken to minimise any injuries sustained. A helmet is one such precaution, and cycling gloves or mitts can also help prevent scuffed hands. If the helmet becomes damaged, be sure to replace it, as it will not offer the same protection as it did previously. The helmet should fit snugly, without pinching your child’s skin. There should be enough space for your forefinger to fit between the clip and his or her chin. Long trousers, rather than shorts or skirts, and long sleeved shirts will also offer protection from minor grazes and scratches. In addition, avoid sandals or open shoes, but rather encourage your kids to wear sports shoes or sandshoes, as they will provide a better grip on the pedals.

 

A sturdy backpack can also be handy, at least for shorter rides with a pannier being a good option for longer rides, to help carry bicycle equipment as well as snacks and drinks for the ride.

 

It goes without saying that it is important to select an interesting route for your kids to ride, to keep them motivated and continue getting enjoyment out of riding. Rather than riding in traffic, taking your kids off-road is a good way for them to develop bike handling skills away from the danger of traffic in built-up areas.

 

Last but not least, involve your kids in bike maintenance. Simple checks and maintenance can help ensure problem-free riding and also avoid expensive repairs down the track. Teach your kids simple tasks, like measuring tyre pressure, making sure the chain is clean and oiled, or checking that the front and rear brakes are working properly. This will not only instruct them about the mechanisms of their bicycle and how it works, but will also teach them the basics of bike maintenance, which can provide a further sense of achievement, and add another level of enjoyment to their riding experience.

 

About The Author

Stephanie Constand

Stephanie Constand has a law degree and a social sciences degree and is just about to complete her doctoral studies. Before getting into cycling, she worked as a writer and editor at a variety of magazines covering sports, politics and international affairs, was a legal commentator and wrote for books on economics and law. She is interested in anything to do with cycling and now spends her time doing media work for WorldTour teams, cycling magazines and UCI race organisers around the world.

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