Buying a child a new bike in 2021? Finding it hard to pick the best one? Relax, we’ve put together a simple guide to help you choose wisely.
From finding the right size bike to product recommendations for a range of age groups, our guide to buying the best kids’ bike has it covered.
The best kids’ bikes in 2021
The most important factors to consider when choosing a bike for your child are age, height and ability. The weight of the bike will also affect its handling, and bikes at the very low end of the price spectrum are often the heaviest.
If you already know what size bike to go for, scroll down to see our suggestions for children of each age group.
Once you’ve found the perfect bike, why not check out our guide to cycling with kids to get things started. Before you know it, the whole family will be out enjoying life on two wheels.
What size bike should I get for my child?
Although it can be tempting to go for a bigger bike your child can ‘grow into’, this is best avoided. A bike that’s too big will be hard to handle and steer. Check out our guide to kids’ bike wheel sizes for more help on what size bike to choose.
For younger children of preschool age, balance bikes are ideal. These are simple bikes without pedals or gears that the child pushes along with their feet while sitting in the saddle.
The simple setup means that children get the feel of pushing off and balancing on the bike while it’s moving. This also means the transition to a pedal bike is much quicker – and they probably won’t need stabilisers when the time comes either.
As children grow, they will of course need bigger bikes. Children’s bikes grow in wheel size as well as frame size, and having smaller wheels for smaller riders makes the bikes easier to handle.
A few brands, such as Black Mountain Bikes, produce kids’ bikes that can be adapted to fit children as they grow, starting off as a balance bike then transforming into a pedal bike with a few simple swaps.
Ages 4 to 6
For children aged four to six, or roughly 105cm to 115cm / 3ft 5in to 3ft 9in, go for a bike with 14in to 16in wheels. Most of these are simple bikes with pedals and brakes, and many come with a small range of gears.
Ages 7 to 10
For ages seven to 10 (height 115cm to 135cm / 3ft 9in to 4ft 5in) choose a bike with 18in to 20in wheels. You’ll also start to see a wider range of gears appearing at this price point, and you may find bikes with front suspension, which are more suitable for rough terrain.
Ages 10 to 13
Children aged between 10 and 13 (height 135cm to 150cm / 4ft 5in to 5ft) will usually move on to a 24in wheel bike and, at this point, you’ll find bikes that are essentially a smaller version of an adult bike.
You’ll also start to see different types of bike, from junior-sized road bikes and mountain bikes to hybrid/leisure bikes. Choose a bike type that’s going to suit the majority of the riding your child will be doing – if it’s mostly going to be off-road, wide tyres with a grippy tread are a good choice, for example.
For teenagers, you’re going to be looking at adult bikes in smaller sizes. There are smaller wheel-size options for junior road bikes, such as 650b, but most bikes will have 26in, 27.5in or 700c wheels.
Bear in mind that these sizes are a guideline only. If your teen is taller or smaller than average, or more or less confident, they may be better off on a different size. If in doubt, talk to your local bike shop.
How to teach a child to ride a bike
Need to teach a child how to ride? We’ve got a separate guide on how to teach a child to ride a bike in just 30 minutes. Or just watch the video tutorial below.
We’ve also got a guide on how to teach a child to ride a balance bike.
Best bikes and balance bikes for ages 1 to 4
Once your child is up, toddling around and stable on two feet, they’re ready for their first set of wheels. There are two options at this point: a balance bike or a trike.
Trikes might seem like an attractive option because they are stable and allow children to start peddling along themselves, but in our opinion balance bikes are a much better choice.
This is because a balance bike will help your child develop key skills such as balance and steering first, so they are more likely to make the transition to a pedal-powered bike quickly, without needing stabilisers.
For younger kids, a wheel size of 12in is typical. There are also some pedal-powered options for two- to four-year-olds, and many will come with brakes – either lever-operated ones or coaster brakes that work by back-pedalling, and sometimes both.
Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike
The Strider Sport Balance bike is suitable for children aged from 18 months and up to four to five years. It features a long seatpost that can be lowered fully or raised high to fit your child.
A durable steel frame should withstand some rough treatment and the tyres are designed to be puncture-proof.
We like the built-in footrests, so when your child gets the hang of gliding along on the bike they’ve got somewhere to rest their feet. Perfect preparation for moving on to pedals.
The bike is also designed so the saddle and handlebar height can be adjusted without tools.
- £109.99 / €127.84
Islabikes is a British company founded by Isla Rowntree, who is dedicated to creating high-quality bikes designed so that children develop a passion for cycling. Great care is taken to ensure the bikes fit well, ride well and aren’t too heavy for little riders to manage,
Available in a range of bright, cheerful colours, the Rothan has a lightweight aluminium frame, chunky tyres with plenty of grip and it even features a brake designed for smaller hands.
- Buy direct from Islabikes (Islabikes offers international shipping to Australia and recommends you get in contact directly for a quote)
If your child has already mastered gliding and is ready to move on to a bike with pedals, the Frog 40 is one to consider.
The Frog 43 has an aluminium frame and fork, as well as quality Tektro brakes for plenty of stopping power. There are also 89mm bespoke cranks designed to make pedalling easier for little kids.
The 14in x 1.5in Kenda tyres are designed to work well on a wide range of surfaces. A five-year warranty on frame and forks should bring peace of mind.
Frog also makes a popular line of balance bikes and models for older children.
- £290 / $360
Black Mountain Bikes Pinto
Black Mountain Bikes are designed to grow as kids grow. This means one bike will last your child for longer and is designed to fit children even better as they get taller. The brand says its bikes are “three bikes in one”.
The Pinto can start off life as a balance bike, then work as a pedal cycle on the 14in wheel option. The frame is designed to be light (a claimed 6kg), which is easier for smaller children to handle, has a low-maintenance belt drive and short-reach brake levers for smaller hands, plus a raft of other features.
The gearing can also be made harder as your child grows thanks to a removable sprocket ‘jacket’.
There are four colours available including orange, neon green, purple, and sky blue.
- £349 (most international delivery available)
- Available from Black Mountain Bike
Cube Cubie 120 Walk
This cutely named alloy bike weighs 3.8kg, making it a good lightweight option for your child to get started on.
Cube has incorporated a special handlebar setup that limits how far the rider can turn the bar, saving them from some of the inevitable accidents when they’re learning.
Rolling on 12in wheels with Kenda Team Cube tyres, it has a low standover height and even comes with two different length seatposts to allow growing room.
- £179 / €169
Specialized’s Hotwalk comes with foot platforms, which are great for when little ones have got the hang of balancing, before transitioning to pedals.
It’s available with a step-through frame or a top-tube frame, and there’s also an adjustable bar-height option for growing children.
Specced with Specialized’s airless Rhythm Lite Sport tyres, it’s equally at home on dirt or tarmac and won’t suffer punctures.
- £139 / $175 / AU$220
Best bikes for ages 4 to 6
When your child is a bit older and taller they can move to a bike with 14in or 16in wheels.
If the bike was already supplied with stabilisers, and your child is confident riding without them, then remove them ASAP.
The key things to look at here are a low weight, so the child is able to handle the bike, and brakes that have an easy action and small size to suit smaller hands.
Most kids’ bikes at this price bracket should allow you to adjust the reach to the brakes. Many also have coaster brakes rather than lever-operated brakes, which are operated by back-pedalling.
Early Rider Belter 16in
The 5.9kg Belter from Early Rider is a fantastic first pedal bike.
Early Rider has chosen to spec a Gates rubber belt where you’d normally find a chain. This is a great idea on a kids’ bike as the belt requires no oiling and won’t get dirty like a regular chain.
The shiny aluminium frame looks good and is lightweight, and overall this is a bike that’s been built with care and attention to detail.
The 16in Vee mountain bike tyres look the part at 2in wide and are perfect for carving on those thrilling muddy slopes, rolling over roots or zooming across gravel. There’s also powerful Tektro v-brakes front and rear with special short reach levers for small hands.
- £349 / $400
Orange Pop 16
A great transition from striding to pedals is the 16in Orange Pop. It’s a proper shrunken mountain bike for the promising young ripper.
The frame follows the same long, low and slack mantra of Orange’s big bikes. It’s a singlespeed, so there are no gears to struggle with or break, and the proper 2.15in Kenda tyres are another highlight. The frame comes in either the orange shown or a blue colour.
Black Mountain Bikes Skøg
Like its little sibling the Pinto, Skøg works essentially like three bikes in one.
Without the pedals and belt drive fitted, it’s a balance bike. Pop the pedals on and it will work as a regular pedal bike except – and here’s the cool bit – the frame and gearing can be adapted to suit the rider. So smaller kids can have as good a fit as possible and the bike can change with them.
The bikes are designed to be light and therefore easier for smaller people to ride, and have good quality brakes with levers designed for small hands.
It’s available in four bright colours including purple, neon green, sky blue and orange.
- £369 (some international delivery available)
- Available from Black Mountain Bikes
Best bikes for ages 6 to 10
Look for bikes with 18in to 20in wheels. At this point you’ll start to see more gearing options and lever-operated brakes only. You’ll also start to see suspension making an appearance (usually front suspension forks only).
Bear in mind that cheaper suspension bikes can be heavier than their non-suspension alternatives, and if the bike is to be ridden off-road, some good-quality, wide, puncture-resistant tyres should be a higher priority.
Specialized Hotrock 20
The Hotrock is another popular kids’ bike that’s designed to tackle those beginner off-road routes, as well as being at home in the park, on forest trails and fire roads. It’s also perfectly suited to the local pump track.
The aluminium frame is paired with an SR Suntour XCT-JR fork with 50mm travel – a good amount for getting to grips with rough surfaces.
Shimano Tourney 7-speed gears provide plenty of range for tackling climbs and there’s a grip shift for easier gear shifting. The rim brakes also have adjustable levers so the reach can be adapted as the child grows.
The Hotrock also comes in a range of colours, and there’s a larger version with 24in wheels for bigger kids.
- £335 / $344 / AU$480
Scott Scale/Contessa 20
The Scott Scale 20 and girl’s-specific Contessa 20 are very much shrunken-down versions of Scott’s hardtail mountain bikes.
There’s an SR Suntour suspension fork that offers 40mm of travel to maximise grip and take some strain off the wrists, while chunky 2.2in Kenda Booster tyres should make light work of muddy conditions.
Shimano 7-speed gearing is grip-shift operated, and child-specific v-brakes provide the stopping power. Handlebars, saddle and pedals are all designed with a junior rider in mind.
Trek Roscoe 20
Trek’s Roscoe 20 is designed to inspire youngsters’ confidence with large 2.8in tyres that are able to take on the trails and the streets.
It has a rigid fork for simplicity and cost and weight savings, but you’ll spot plenty of details shared with Trek’s adult-size bikes. These include a durable aluminium frame (with kid-specific geometry), a fuss-free 1×8 Shimano drivetrain with wide-range cassette, and Tektro mechanical disc brakes.
All of this adds up to a great base for building young riding skills.
- £515 / $489.99
Best bikes for ages 10 to 13
With a wheel size of 24in comes many more features. These bikes are essentially smaller versions of adult bikes, with the variation, style and focus that goes with it.
You can get everything from drop-bar road bikes, front- and full-suspension options with disc brakes for budding mountain bikers, or sturdy and versatile flat-handlebar bikes.
Quality models will have light alloy frames and the spec should be comparable to an adult bike at the same price point.
With 100mm of front and rear travel, this full-susser is for young shredders who want to take on everything and anything.
The Ripcord offers a low standover height, progressive geometry, RockShox Judy fork and Monarch R shock, plus Shimano brakes and a SRAM NX 1 x 11 drivetrain.
Transition says the bike is designed for everything from trail shredding to bike-park ripping. With an air fork and shock, there’s a good deal of adjustability too.
It’s no surprise that the Ripcord is high on price with this spec, but this is a bike that won’t be holding any child back.
- £1,699 / $1,699
Kona Process 24
The Kona Process is a very popular bike with the grownups, and now kids can get in on the action too.
This scaled-down version keeps the progressive geometry and high spec, and also offers a seriously fun and performance-focused ride for children who want to race and ride hard.
120mm of front and 100mm rear travel is tuned for lighter riders, with a Manitou Machete air sprung fork and RockShox Deluxe Solo Air shock, plus Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain and 2.35in Kenda Kinetics tyres.
- £2,049 / $2,099
Canyon Grand Canyon AL 24
Inspired by the adult Grand Canyon range, this 24in-wheel hardtail mountain bike is designed to provide a competent introduction to the world of off-road riding.
The sleek aluminium frame is fitted with a 65mm Spinner Grind Air 24 suspension fork for control as well as comfort, while SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of easy-to-use stopping power. The Grand Canyon 24 has nine gears from its SRAM groupset.
Grips, saddle, pedals and cockpit are all Canyon’s own, and are designed to suit smaller riders.
These are currently sold out and Canyon has yet to announce a restock, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for a used one.
Frog 69 and Frog 73
Frog, a British company dedicated to making lightweight bikes for children, has a range of options including road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids.
The 69 and 73 are both flat-bar hybrid bikes that are simple yet versatile enough to deal with the ride to school as well as after-school antics.
The number refers to the frame size, with the 69 suitable for ages 10 to 12 and the 73 for ages 12 to 14 (or thereabouts).
- Frog 69: £380 / $590
- Frog 73: £400 / $600
Best bikes for teenagers
For teenagers, you’ll be able to pick from a wide range of bikes including smaller sizes of adult bikes. You can also get junior versions of bikes that have a slightly smaller wheel size, such as road bikes with 650b wheels rather than the adult 700c wheels, and mountain bikes with 26in wheels rather than the now more common 27.5in wheels or even 29ers.
You may want to consult (stealthily if it’s supposed to be a surprise purchase) with your child about the type, brand and colour of bike they’re after.
If your teenager is getting really into their sport, there are now plenty of high-quality race-ready road and mountain bikes that will cultivate their competitive edge.
The Creig is an aluminium-framed hardtail mountain bike with progressive geometry that’s designed to suit a smaller rider. A high-quality RockShox 30 Gold air fork can be tuned to suit the child’s weight and riding conditions.
Four wheel sizes mean there’s a Creig for riders aged from just eight years right the way through to teens.
The Creig 27’s spec highlights include that adjustable RockShox air fork, SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes and a single-chainring transmission from SRAM.
- Buy direct from Islabikes
The Luath from Islabikes is such a versatile bike that you can order it with road, cyclocross or gravel tyres. Like the rest of Islabikes’ range, it’s a proper scaled-down version of a serious bike that will do justice to even the most committed of young riders.
Spec highlights include a lightweight aluminium frame with a carbon fork, Tektro cable disc brakes with levers designed specifically for smaller hands and a 1x drivetrain that keeps things simple, secure and light.
Four sizes mean there are options for riders from just eight years old through to mid-teens.
- Buy direct from Islabikes
Kids’ helmets and essential advice
Once you’ve got the bike, you may want to get a few other bits and pieces to keep your child safe, secure and comfortable while they’re riding.
Our buyer’s guide to kids’ helmets offers a few recommendations, as well as help to ensure you get a well-fitting helmet for your child.
Finally, if you are considering doing the school or nursery run by bike, we have plenty of advice for commuting with kids.