When buying a bicycle for your child, experts generally advise purchasing it at a bike shop. The high-quality inventory and the knowledgeable employees, who can fit the bike to your child, are reasons for this recommendation. However, the thought of spending a couple hundred dollars on a bicycle that your child may outgrow might discourage you from heeding this advice, and your local big box store's bicycle offerings may look better. These cycles are typically lower in quality and may be set up incorrectly. However, there are several standout models that get very good user reviews when compared to the name-brand kids' bikes sold in bike shops that often have few professional or user reviews,, making it difficult to evaluate them. If you do buy a bicycle at a mass retailer, it's worth your time to pay for a tune-up at a specialty bike store to ensure that the bike is assembled correctly.
Kids' bikes are classified by their wheel size, usually starting with 12-inch wheels suitable for toddlers between the ages of 2 to 5. These bikes usually come with removable training wheels. Sixteen-inch bikes are recommended for ages 4 to 8, while 20-inch bikes typically fit ages 8 to 12. However, height or inseam measurements are a better way to determine how a bike fits than age, which is why a fitting at a bike shop can be so valuable.
Most children start with a tricycle or 12-inch bike with training wheels. The exploding popularity of balance bikes, however, has affected that conventional wisdom. Balance bikes (also known as push or running bikes) have low seats and lack pedals so children can propel themselves forward with their feet. Experts particularly like balance bikes because they teach children how to balance on two wheels -- a skill they won't learn on tricycles or bikes with training wheels. Reviews indicate that most kids can transition from a balance bike to a regular two-wheeled bicycle fairly easily. The biggest downside to balance bikes is that they tend to be more expensive than other toddler bikes, with the best models costing close to $100.
The best professional review of kids' bikes comes from Babble.com, a parenting website that tests and evaluates a number of kids' bikes, tricycles and balance bikes. The best models receive a Babble Best award, and several bikes earn a Readers' Choice award. The analysis is balanced and discusses the pros and cons of each bike. Other sources, like Parenting and Bicycling magazines, are useful, but their reviews aren't very detailed. Aside from Babble.com, the most useful reviews of specific kids' bikes are generated by consumers at retail websites, including Amazon.com and Walmart.com. When it comes to kids' bikes, information provided by parents is very useful in narrowing down the best models.