How to Size a Kids Bike: Choosing the Perfect Bike

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Kids adore the thrill of adventure and the sense of freedom and independence that comes from having their own set of wheels. You can probably remember that exciting, joyful moment when you first laid eyes on your very first bike. It was most likely a present for your Birthday or Christmas and is in your mind and heart as a happy time.

Benefits of Gifting a Bike to a Child

Giving your kid a bike is more than just the fun and excitement that your child would feel. Learning to ride the bike, as well as riding the bike regularly comes with a lot of benefits your kid wouldn't even notice. Here are some of the most common advantages of gifting a kid with his or her first bicycle:

  • Helps Them Stay Fit and Healthy

A bike can help to keep your kid fit. You are encouraging them to spend valuable quality time outdoors, away from a screen or games console for a couple of hours.

  • Encourages Family Bonding

Riding together as a family can also be a fantastic bonding experience. With kids being able to start riding properly around three years of age, you can all look forward to enjoying many happy family cycling trips in the future.

To achieve those benefits, though, you need to find the right bike for the kid. As easy as it may sound, there are some considerations to ensure your kid's safety and comfort.

How to Select a Bike for Your Kid

When you are selecting a bike for your youngster, two things matter:

1. How It Looks and Feels

While mom and dad might be more concerned about the safety aspect, the kid probably wants to look cool but also feel comfortable. Don't buy them something in a color they don't like or with a cartoon character emblazoned across it that you know they're not remotely interested.

You might be hoping that because it was on sale, they might grow to love it in time! Maybe they will, but probably they won't! The more likely scenario is that the forlorn and unwanted bike will gather dust in the corner of the garage.

Plus, do you really want to be the parent who scars their kid for life emotionally? You've put them on a mermaid bike resplendent with handlebar streamers and spokes when what they really wanted was a Buzz Lightyear one.

2. The Size

A too small bike will make your kid feel silly sitting as well as look all cramped and hunched over. Too large and the bike will be difficult to control. They may struggle to reach the pedals and operate the breaks effectively.

Buying a bike for a kid is a slightly different process from purchasing one for an adult. As adults, our key reference is the frame size.

The way we determine whether the bike is the appropriate size or not is to stand over the bike, with feet planted on either side of the upper tube. That's not how you go about choosing a kid's bike.

Fortunately, most bicycle manufacturers will have a detailed chart which you can refer to when you buy one. As long as you have a couple of key measurements beforehand, then the process should be straightforward enough.

How to Size a Kids Bike

Rather than the frame being the most important reference point, the wheel diameter is used to determine what size bike your child will need. Bike wheel sizes are directly proportional to the rest of the bicycle and scaled up incrementally.

The options being 12", 14", 16", 20" all the way up to 24". Once you get to the 26" mark, you're in the standard adult size already.

Roughly speaking, a 12-inch wheeled bike is designed as an entry level bike for children ages three to five who are just starting on their cycling adventure. By the time they reach their teenage years, say 13 years old, they will probably be riding a 24-inch wheeled bike.

Below is a general sizing chart for your reference:

Wheel SizeAgeHeight
12″2-32’10”-3’4″85-100 cm
14″3-43’1″-3’7″95-110 cm
16″4-53’7″-4’0″110-120 cm
20″5-84’0″-4’5″120-135 cm
24″8-114’5″-4’9″135-145 cm
26″11+4’9″+145+ cm

(Source: Icebike.org)

Here is another useful sizing chart and perhaps even more accurate than the chart above because it is based around the inside leg length measurement:

Wheel SizeAgeInseamInseam
12″2-314-17′35-42 cm
14″3-416-20′40-50 cm
16″4-518-22′45-55 cm
20″5-822-25′55-63 cm
24″8-1124-28′60-72 cm
26″11+26+’70+ cm


Remember that the height and size charts are not the be-all and end-all guide when it comes to picking out the right bike. They should be viewed as a favorable starting position only.

By far the most important consideration is just how comfortable and confident your child feels when sitting on the saddle of their new bike. That's where having a test ride like when you're buying a new car can be helpful. That way you can observe first hand just how easy it is for your child to control and operate the bike.

Kid's body proportions are all different, even if they are of the same height. Thus, what might be appropriate for one child might still seem unwieldy to another. It's not a precise science, but it is crucial that your youngster feels and looks confident in the saddle.

Final Thoughts

It's an undefinable fact that kids will grow the soonest. That's why choosing the right bike might seem a little bit confusing. Should you choose a size bigger than what suits them since they'll grow after a year or two? Well, the answer is no.

Tempting as it might be to size up, it's crucial that you buy a bike that your child can learn to ride safely and confidently. That is because a bike too large will dampen their confidence and enthusiasm.

Fortunately, you're no longer wondering how to size a kids bike, since we have already established a few tips to help you get it right the first time.

What's important is not how your child fits their bike, but rather how the bike fits your child! There's also no substitute for expert advice, and a quick five-minute consultation in store with an experienced and reputable bike expert could save you hours of frustration and confusion.

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