Types of Kids Bikes
16- and 20-inch Bikes
Kids' pedal bikes are typically categorized by wheel size, and two of the most common are 16- and 20-inch models. It's best to have your child try a bike before you buy it to check for proper fit, but, in general, 16-inch bikes are best for 3- to 6-year-olds; 20-inch models are typically a better bet for 6- to 10-year-olds. Most 16-inch kids' bikes still come with training wheels and easy-to-use pedal-controlled coaster brakes; they may also have extras such as bells, horns, streamers or baskets. Once your child is old enough for a 20-inch bike, you'll have more "serious" features to choose from, including hand brakes, suspension systems and multiple gears. Training wheels are less common on this size bike, however.
Parents with very young children often start their children on a tricycle. On tricycles, children can learn to steer and pedal without fear. Trikes are generally low to the ground, and the third wheel adds stability compared with two-wheeled bikes. While classic trikes with metal frames and shiny chrome accents are still out there, others are made of heavy-duty plastic. Unsurprisingly, the former is usually more durable, but also more expensive.
Traditional tricycles can help teach your child confidence, pedaling and control, but they will not help develop balance. That's where balance bikes come in. These lightweight bikes look much like a regular pedal bike, except there are no pedals. Children scoot along using their feet to start and stop, learning how to balance during the brief time that both feet are off the ground. Most balance bikes have metal frames, but others are made of wood. Metal balance bikes are a bit more durable for outside play, while wooden models have equal appeal as an indoor toy.
If a trike or a balance bike doesn't seem quite right, there's a third option. Twelve-inch bikes with training wheels are also available for smaller riders (roughly ages 2 to 4). Steel-framed 12-inch bikes, often plastered with cartoon characters, are a common sight at big-box stores. But parents should note that those cheap models are often extremely heavy, making it hard for children to pedal and steer independently. Higher-quality 12-inch bikes with lighter aluminum frames are available through specialty bike shops or online, but they're usually much pricier -- up to $300 compared to $70 or $80 for a typical big-box store bike.
Finding The Best Kids Bikes
"Pedal Bikes: Comparison Charts and Ratings"
"Category: Pedal Bikes"
"The Best First Pedal Bike"
Expert reviews of kids' bikes are relatively scarce. An exception is Two
Wheeling Tots, a site run by avid cyclists with several comparative reviews of
balance bikes and pedal bikes, as well as the similar Rascal Rides. Comprehensive
product review site Wirecutter has recently published a guide to kids' first
pedal bikes, and some bike publications such as Bicycling also include
occasional recommendations and reviews of kids' bikes.
Sites from the International Bicycle Fund and IceBike include helpful
buying and sizing guides, but don't recommend specific bikes. Most helpful are
parents' reviews at sites including Amazon, Target and Walmart. We considered
reviewers' perspectives on bike performance and durability while evaluating our
sources to help you find the best kids' bikes.
bikes for older kids
Buyers who can afford to spend a bit more on a lightweight
bike that can help foster a love of riding should seriously consider the (Est. $215), reviewers say. Though it
technically has 18-inch wheels, the long, low frame is sized like that of a
16-inch bike. It's recommended for 4- to 6-year-olds who are roughly 38 to 46
inches tall, and it comes with removable training wheels and a bell. Seat
height ranges from 18 inches to just over 23 inches. Available colors include
white with blue, red, purple or pink accents.
At a bit over 17 pounds, the ByK E-350 is much lighter than
most bikes that are readily available in big-box stores thanks to its aluminum
alloy frame. Experts with Two Wheeling Tots say the ByK also has narrower tires and higher gearing than other similarly sized bikes,
making it ideal for faster riding on flat pavement. It has both a rear coaster
brake and hand brakes, but experts warn that the hand brakes may be tricky to
operate for small hands. There is a quick-release seat post for easy seat
adjustments, and while parents report few issues with assembly, some say the
directions are lacking.
Reviewers are happy with the quality of their ByK, but there
are few reviews that speak to long-term durability. ByK warranties most
components for one year, but extends that to 10 years for the bike frame and
Parents looking for a 16-inch bike that strikes a good
balance between price and quality will want to investigate the (Est. $150). Recommended for kids ages 3 to 6 and
riders 38 to 45 inches tall, this BMX bike comes with removable training
wheels. Seat height is adjustable and ranges from 20 to 24 inches. The bike
comes only in blue.
At a bit over 21 pounds, the Mini Viper is fairly heavy -- a
common issue with kids' bikes. Despite its heft, reviewers say it's easy for
their kids to maneuver and even carry as they get a bit bigger. Experts with Two Wheeling Tots say the
Mini Viper has a relatively upright handlebar height that may prove tricky for
newer riders, but it doesn't draw complaints from parent reviewers. The bike
has an easy-to-use rear coaster brake. It lacks the quick-release seat post
that some comparable bikes boast; adjusting seat height requires an Allen
wrench. The bike comes mostly assembled, and reviewers say it's easy to finish
the job in about 15 minutes.
The Mini Viper really shines when it comes to quality and durability,
especially compared with other bikes at a similar price point. Parents
say the steel frame feels sturdy, though a few complain the plastic training
wheels are flimsy. A handful of reviewers also say their bikes came with a flat
tire. The bike frame comes with a lifetime warranty; other parts have a
Parents who want a slightly lower-cost 16-inch bike that
still isn't as heavy as a lot of the competition will want to look at the boys' (Est. $125) or girls' (Est. $130). Both bikes are part of Schwinn's SmartStart series
and are recommended for kids 38 to 48 inches tall, or roughly ages 4 to 6. The
seat height is adjustable from 20½ to 24½ inches, and there are
different colors of SmartStart bikes available at different retailers.
At about 20½ pounds, the Schwinn Scorch and other 16-inch
SmartStart bikes are heavier than some pricier options, but for the money,
they're still among the lighter bikes you can buy, especially at major
retailers, experts with Two Wheeling Tots say. They also say the overall
geometry is better on these bikes, with pedals that are closer together and a
longer wheelbase that provides more room for kids' knees to move during
pedaling. The bike is equipped with both a coaster brake and a hand brake, rare
for a young kid's model; however, experts say the hand brake can be tricky to
use and adjust. The seat has a quick-release post that allows parents to
quickly adjust seat height without tools. The bike does require assembly, but
most parents say the process is easy.
Schwinn's 16-inch SmartStart bikes come with training wheels
but no kickstand. Additional accessories include things like front plates or
baskets, but they vary by model. Reviewers do report a few quality-control
issues here, including bikes that arrive with bent wheels and pedals that come
loose too often. The bike comes with a limited lifetime warranty on the frame;
other parts are warranted as long as the original owner owns the bike. The
exception is normal-wear parts such as tires or tubes, which are covered for 30
If you're looking for a 20-inch bike for a slightly older,
taller child, reviewers say the (Est. $225) will provide a quality ride at
a mid-range price – higher than big-box options, but still much lower
than many comparable-quality models, experts say. ByK recommends this
single-speed bike for kids 5 to 8 years old and 43 to 52 inches tall; seat height
is adjustable from about 23 to 29 inches. It's most widely available in white
with blue or green accents. A kickstand and bell are included, but there are no
The ByK's biggest advantage over cheaper 20-inch bikes is
weight -- its aluminum alloy frame weighs under 20 pounds. Experts with Two
Wheeling Tots say that can make a big difference, and combined with a low
center of gravity, kids can ride "easier, sooner and faster" on the ByK.
Reviewers echo this praise, saying those features help minimize frustration and
build confidence. Experts do note, however, that the ByK has narrower tires
than many other choices, which might mean a few more wobbles for hesitant
riders. The ByK comes with both a coaster brake and dual hand brakes. A
quick-release seat post makes adjusting seat height easy.
ByK warranties most components for one year, but extends
that to 10 years for the bike frame and fork. Reviews that comment on
durability are minimal. Though it doesn't come with training wheels, the smaller
ByK E-350, which we discuss above, has them. Parents can also add them