Buying a child’s first bike is a very exciting time, but it can also be very overwhelming. How do you know which bike is best? How do you know what they will like? And do you even know how to size a bike for a child?
Of all of those issues, the most important thing you should focus on is choosing the right size. The right-sized bike will make it easier for your child to learn to ride or ride around comfortably. As your child grows, their bike will need to be replaced with a bigger bike that is also the right size.
How to Size a Bike for a Child
One of the most important things to get right when buying a bike for a child is the size. Sure, you want them to like how it looks and feels, but there’s no chance of it being a useful bike if it doesn’t fit their body correctly.
Also, your kid will keep growing! Even if the first bike you get them works perfectly for a year or two, it won’t be the right size forever. You’ll need to know how to keep up with their growth and continue to find bikes that fit the size they are at any given time.
That is why we have created a simple sizing guide. With this guide in hand, you can easily take the measurements needed to choose the right sized bike for your child to ride around on.
The Size Is Decided by the Wheels
Many people do not realize at first that the size of a bike is determined by the size of its wheels. Often, there is the idea that the frame of the bike is what you need to measure when you are choosing a bike for a child, but the wheel diameter is what really matters.
Why is that? When the wheel diameter is changed, the rest of the bike is scaled up proportionally, so you can use the wheel diameter to make the decision about what size bike that your child needs to be riding. How, then, do you choose the right diameter?
Wheel Diameter Options
The most common wheel diameters for kids’ bikes are as follows:
While there are a few kids’ bikes that claim to have a 26” wheel diameter, 26” wheel diameter-sized bikes are typically considered to be adult-sized bicycles rather than kid-sized. In most cases, you'll be choosing wheel diameters between 12" and 24" in size.
Choosing the Right Size: Height
When selecting an entry-level bike for your little ones who are between three and five in age, you’re probably going to go with a 12-inch size. This is the smallest size and great for those just starting with a bike. Once they’re a teen, you’ll likely have them all the way up to a 24-inch bike.
This is our general reference chart that you can use to choose the right sized bike for your child no matter what age or size they are:
Approximate Age (years)
Recommended Wheel Size
Choosing the Right Size: Inseam
Everybody has a very different body, and your child’s body is no different. Some kids have legs that are longer and shorter than the average height, and that can make standard size selected bikes very uncomfortable to use for them.
If you notice that your child doesn’t seem to fit the bike size suggested by their height, it might be a good idea to select their bike based on their inseam instead.
Inseam is the length of the leg, usually measured on the inside of the leg from the top to the ankle. Using this measurement can ensure their pedaling is very comfortable.
Try measuring your child’s inseam and checking their size recommendation based on both inseam and height to make the best size selection:
Approximate Age (years)
Recommended Wheel Size
By using one or both of these sizing charts, you’re sure to be able to find the best fitting bike size around for your child to be able to learn on and then ride freely around your yard!
Fit Tip: Bonus Edition
Sometimes, you’ll find that even when you follow both of the sizing charts laid out above, the fit isn’t always what you or your child expects when they are using a new bike.
Despite bicycles being marketed as a this-size-fits-most type of experience, the simple fact is that everyone has different length arms, legs, torsos, and more. All of this affects the ride.
Does your child have trouble pushing the pedals? Is the seat in an awkward place? Or do the handlebars not quite make sense? All of these problems are very common, and sometimes, they can be fixed.
Look for Adjustability
If you notice your child having trouble with any of these things, you will want to check if their bicycle has any movable parts. Handlebar height, pedal position, and seat height can all be adjustable in some bike models, so you may be able to quickly fix the issue.
If they are not adjustable on your child’s bicycle, you will want to keep this in mind the next time you choose a bicycle for them. Selecting a bicycle with adjustable parts is always a good idea when you’re dealing with growing children. You can then help the bike keep up with their growing pains and needs.
Sizing a Bike: You Can Do It!
Don’t be fooled into thinking that choosing a bike for your child has to be a complicated affair. While you want to be sure you get the size right so that it can be used properly, bike sizing for kids is not too complicated.
Here is what you need to know:
- Child’s height OR
- Child’s inseam
By knowing just one of these two factors to guide you on how to size a bike for a child, you can use the complete charts that we have made above to choose the appropriate size. Remember, height and inseam are more important than your child’s age when you are choosing a bike. You want to rely more on your child’s size than their age to ensure the bike fits their body size correctly.