Find your child the perfect bike with this handy buying guide – including a size breakdown, safety tips and advice about the different types of bikes available.
Getting a bike is a momentous occasion in any kid’s life. By giving them the independence to discover the environment around them, bikes unlock a whole host of new adventures, from family bike rides to days out with their friends. They’re also a great way for your child to stay fit and healthy, giving them an incentive to switch off the TV and head out to do some exploring.
Whether it’s their very first set of wheels or a new bike to replace one they’ve outgrown, buying a bike is a big decision – and there’s lots of things to consider. From size and safety to style and comfort, it’s important to find the bike that’s just right for your little cyclist. That’s why we’ve put together this handy buying guide, filled with everything you need to know about buying your child (or someone else’s) a new bike.
As well as a size breakdown to help you pick the right bike for your child’s age and height, we’ve also included safety tips, information on the different types of bikes, and some of our top picks for your young rider.
Different Types of Kids’ Bikes
First off, let’s take a look at the most popular types of kids’ bikes. The best bike for your young rider will depend on a range of factors, including their age, height, experience and confidence. Brand new riders – especially those under the age of five – may benefit from some practice with stabilisers, while more experienced riders can choose from an exciting range of big-kid bikes.
To make things simple, here’s a rundown of the different kids’ bikes available on the market.
If your little one is itching for their first set of wheels, a balance bike is the perfect option. Unlike traditional kids’ bikes, these nifty models don’t have any pedals or brakes to contend with. Instead, the bike is propelled and stopped by your child’s feet, encouraging them to take their feet off the ground when they’re going fast enough. By skipping the stabilisers, balance bikes teach your child about balance and coordination, making it easier for them to master the real thing when they’re ready.
Stabilisers are another good choice for your child’s first bike – especially if they’re too big for balance bikes, which tend to be best suited for children under the age of five. Stabiliser bikes come with detachable stabiliser wheels (also known as training wheels), giving your child the stability they need while they master the basics of biking. Although they’re more complex than balance bikes, stabiliser bikes have the advantage of growing with your child. When they’re ready to try riding solo, you can whip the stabilisers off – easy peasy.
Once your child gets to the stage of needing gears, they might be ready to be set up with a kids hybrid bike. A mix of a classic road bike and a mountain bike available in a range of wheels sizes from 16-26 inch wheel sizes, hybrids are the perfect all-rounder option to see them through their biking adventures, with easy-to-use gears to help them navigate a wider range of terrain.
If you’re a family of off-roaders, your child might be best off with a kids’ mountain bike. Designed with chunky tyres, suspension and a wide range of gears, these robust bikes are perfect for getting off the beaten track.
For budding BMX riders, set them up with a kids’ BMX bike. With a lightweight frame and a sophisticated braking system, these sporty bikes are great for the bigger kids that want to spend their day doing tricks at the skatepark. Although not great for long distances and everyday riding, BMX bikes are seriously good for jumps and spins.
Kids’ Bikes Size Guide
Choosing the right size bike is important for both the comfort and safety of your child – but with so many options to choose from, it can get a bit confusing.
To make things easier, we’ve laid out a comprehensive children’s bike size guide below, including what you can expect with each size. But remember, this bike sizing guide is just that – a guide. The best way to get the right bike for your child is to let them test a few out at your local store. However, if you’re shopping for a surprise gift, this guide will give you a rough idea of what you need to be looking for.
Understanding kids’ bike chart sizes
One important thing to remember is that, unlike adult bikes, kids’ bike sizes aren’t based on the size of the frame. Instead, the sizes are based on wheel size, with most kids’ bikes ranging between 12” and 26” wheels. Once your child is over 147cm (4’10”), they should be able to ride an adult bike.
Why is bike size important?
Bike size is an important factor in keeping your child safe, comfortable and in control of their brand new bike.
Although it’s tempting to buy a bike your little one can grow into, finding the right bike for your child’s height is crucial for their safety. One easy way to check is to see whether your child can touch the ground when they’re standing over the top tube, and if they can easily reach the handlebars. If they can’t, the bike is too big for them! Similarly, a bike that’s too small can be dangerous to ride, so make sure their knees aren’t hitting the handlebars.
Luckily, there’s lots of ways to make kids’ bike shopping more economical. Lots of stores have great deals on used kids’ bikes, and some also offer trade-in vouchers or discounts for your child’s old bike. Bikes that have been outgrown also make great hand-me-downs to siblings, cousins and neighbours, so ask around – you might even be able to arrange a swap!
Bike size by age
Age: 3 - 5
Height: 98 - 112cm
Aside from toddler bikes and tricycles, bikes with 12” wheels are the smallest model available. Although most balance bikes also feature 12” wheels, a 12” wheel bike usually refers to a traditional pedal bike. These bikes are perfect for children between three and five years old, whether they started out on a balance bike or they're a complete beginner.
Most 12” wheel bikes also come with removable stabilisers, giving your new rider the confidence they need to master their pedalling – without the fear of toppling over. Once they’ve learnt the basics of balancing and steering, they can ditch the stabilisers and ride solo.
Age: 4 - 6
Height: 105 - 117cm
Whether they’re a brand new rider with slightly longer legs or they’ve simply outgrown their first bike, 14” wheel bikes are a great option for kids aged four and up. Like the 12” models, most 14” wheel bikes come with removable stabilisers, helping your child to hone their balance and coordination until they’re ready to ride on two wheels.
16 - 18” wheels
Age: 5 - 7
Height: 112 - 127cm
When they’ve outgrown their very first bike, you can move your child onto something a bit more grown-up. Depending on their age and how tall they are, this might be a 16” or an 18” wheel bike. At this size, kids’ bikes start to look a bit more like adult models, giving them a sophisticated feel your growing rider will love.
At this stage of your child’s riding journey, which bike you choose will also depend on their experience. Some 16” wheel bikes feature detachable stabilisers, which is great for kids that still want a bit of support. For more experienced kids, some 18” bikes include a set of easy-to-use gears, getting them ready for those more adventurous family bike rides.
Age: 6 - 9
Height: 117 - 136cm
20” wheel bikes mark a big step up for your young rider. Also referred to as junior bikes, these models bridge the gap between typical kids’ bikes and adult bikes, with a grown-up design to suit their big-kid tastes. From this size upwards, most kids’ bikes have a set of gears, setting them up to tackle a wide range of terrain.
Although the exact size you’ll need will depend on your child’s height, 20” wheel bikes are typically suited to children between the ages of six and nine.
Age: 8 - 11
Height: 127 - 145cm
Like the 20” models, 24” wheel bikes are part of the junior bikes category, bringing all the best bits of an adult bike into a smaller, more manageable frame. Depending on how long their legs are, 24” wheel bikes are usually suited to kids between the ages of eight and 11.
Age: 9 - 12
Height: 138 - 154cm
The last stop before the grown-up bikes! Perfect for children and young teens up to the age of 12, 26” wheel bikes are the biggest model in the junior range. With all the fixings of an adult bike, the 26” model is ideal for kids that have mastered all the basics but aren’t quite big enough to hop onto the adult models.
Safety Tips for Children’s Bikes
Because they’re designed specifically for children, kids’ bikes include a whole range of features that make them easier (and safer) to ride. Equipped with a lightweight frame, these snazzy little bikes are incredibly easy to manoeuvre, which is perfect for new riders. Extra features like non-slip pedals, internal cables and easy-to-use gears also help set your little one up with the tools they need to learn how to ride safely.
But despite their kid-friendly design, there’s still a few other things your child will need to keep them safe on their bike. From helmets to bells, here’s everything you’ll need for your budding cyclist.
Just like grown-up cyclists, young bikers should never ride without a helmet. Not only will their helmet help protect them from serious head injuries, but it will also save them from some painful cuts and bruises if they happen to topple over. To keep them safe on their bike, make sure your child’s helmet fits their head properly. Many children’s helmets are adjustable, so they can be altered as your child grows.
Reflectors and lights
For those early-morning bike rides to school, make sure your child’s bike is fitted with the appropriate lights and reflectors. As well as keeping your child safe in low lighting, it’s also a legal requirement to have a white front light and a red rear light if they’re riding in the dark, along with rear and pedal reflectors.
All Raleigh kids’ bikes are fitted with reflectors, but it might be worth picking up some lights just in case.
Although there’s no need to buy your little one a whole new wardrobe, some protective and high-vis clothing may prove useful. If your child is going to be riding in low lighting, consider picking up some high-vis clothing or accessories, such as a vest or a backpack. For those extra rainy bike rides, a waterproof jacket may also come in handy.
Little hands might also appreciate some cycling gloves, which offer extra cushioning to keep them comfy on their ride. For younger riders, especially those that are still learning, elbow and knee pads can go a long way to protect them from any bumps in the road.
Another essential safety feature for your child’s bike is a bell. By letting people know they’re coming, a bell helps to keep both your child and those around them safe while they ride. If you’re shopping with Raleigh, we’ve got great news for you – all our kids’ bikes are fitted with a bell as standard!
Our Top Picks for Kids
Now you’ve got a better idea of what you’re looking for, you’re ready to find the perfect bike for your little rider. At Raleigh, we have a wide range of kids’ bikes to suit all kinds of cyclists, from toddlers and new riders all the way through to early teens. With a high-quality build and a choice of exciting styles, these are bikes both you and your little one will fall in love with.
From balance bikes to junior styles, here are some of our top picks for Raleigh kids’ bikes.
For little’uns that are just starting out on their cycling journey, you can’t do better than a Raleigh balance bike. With no pedals or brakes in the way, these little bikes let your kids focus on their balance and coordination, making it easier for them to progress to the real thing. All they need to do is lift their legs when they want to move forward, and place them down when they want to stop – easy!
And balance bikes aren’t just great for kids – they make things easier for parents, too. Without pedals to propel them forwards, balance bikes can only go as fast as your toddler can push, which means you won’t have to worry about any high-speed collisions. The seat is also much lower to the ground than standard kids’ bikes – so if they do topple over, they won’t have very far to fall.
Our Balance collection includes a range of fun, bright styles your kid will absolutely love. From the classic Propaganda Balance Bike to the vintage-inspired Sherwood, there’s something for everyone. Plus, they’re super easy to stash in your boot.
With a beautifully bright frame, a handy wicker basket and their very own Molli dog, the Molli is the perfect bike for little cyclists. Inspired by the iconic Raleigh grown-up models, this gorgeous bike pairs tan accents with a stylish basket – perfect for stashing all their toys. The lightweight frame and high-rise handlebars make the Molli incredibly easy to ride, with matching non-slip pedals to keep their little feet from sliding off.
The Molli is available in a range of sizes and colours, from pretty-in-pink to beautiful blue. Each one comes with a pair of matching stabilisers, helping new riders to build their confidence and master their balance before they go solo. When they’re ready for the big day, you can simply whip off the stabilisers!
From first wheels to big-kid bikes, our Pop range has it all. For young cyclists, our smaller models come with detachable stabilisers, giving them that extra bit of stability while they hone their balance. For more experienced riders, our junior bikes include easy-to-use gears and a range of sophisticated styles, helping them bridge the gap between junior and adult bikes.
Expertly crafted for young explorers, the Pop range includes a host of features to keep your little one safe on their wheels. Matching non-slip pedals keep their feet from sliding off, while internal cables help minimise the risk of accidents. With a robust frame and puncture-protected tyres, Pop bikes keep moving for years to come – making them great hand-me-downs when they’re outgrown.
Visit your local Raleigh store
The best way to find the right bike for your child is to let them try a few out in store. That way, they can test it out, see how it feels, and find the style that suits them best. It also gives you a chance to ask any questions you might have about your child’s new bike, such as size recommendations and details about the features.
To find your local Raleigh stockist, you can use our handy store locator.