Christmas is just around the corner, and we'd wager that many parents will be buying a bike for their child around about this time.
A bike makes a terrific present – who can forget waking up on Christmas morning to find a shiny new bicycle under the tree or parked outside the house all ready to ride? So we've picked out some of the better children's models that are currently available.
If you're thinking of encouraging your son or daughter to cycle, then you'll want to read our guide on on how to teach them one of life's great skills in just 30 minutes, or get them to learn using a balance bike if they're young. If they're already cycling mad, check out our article on how to help your son or daughter become the next road cycling superstar.
Video: kids' bikes buyers guide playlist
Although children grow quickly, we'd still recommend spending a decent amount on a child's bike – they're likely to be cheaper to maintain and will retain their cost for when you want to sell them on. They're also better to cycle, so your child will be more encouraged to use it – a great bike is much more likely to get used than a bad one!
With that in mind, here is a selection of some of the best bikes out there. They're suitable for kids aged seven to 10. We conducted this group test by getting several children to test them out as well as checking the bikes over ourselves:
The Worx JA24 is a pro-level cyclocross machine
This small British firm is making waves with its JA24. It's a masterpiece of kids’ bike design: a no-holds-barred, half size, pro-level cyclocross rig which, with spare 1in slicks, can handle the road with equal aplomb. It’s light and well built, with details such as a waisted head tube, oversize thin-wall alloy down tube, and flattened seatstays for added comfort.
Testers loved the super-shallow bar, promoting an efficient aero shape and lots of time in the hooks. The bike has great precision at all speeds, and with a single 32-tooth chainring and nine-speed 13-32 cassette, it’s designed to encourage supple spinning. Unanimously, the Worx was the most popular bike among the kids. “I’ll be gutted when I have to send this bike back” was heard more than once.
Scott Speedster JR 24
The Scott Speedster JR 24 feels almost pro level
Scott has a simple approach to its kids’ bikes: shrink the adult models and size the components accordingly. Which is why the Speedster JR 24 looks and feels like a proper pro bike. The frame is built to suit the needs of the rider, right down to details such as not having a chainstay bridge – it's unnecessary reinforcement, given the weight of the rider – which saves weight and improves the comfort of the 6061 alloy frame.
The components are bang on, with a proportionately sized bar, Shimano Claris levers and short cranks. “The Speedster made me feel like a proper roadie, it’s really fast,” said Alex, our sub-30kg tester. “I was comfortable from the beginning and I love the secondary brake levers.”
Formeula Road 24in
The Formeula Road 24in can take wider off-road tyres
Forme, in-house brand at distributor Moore Large, launched Formeula in response to the growing number of parents wanting ‘real’ bikes for kids. The Road 24in is somewhere between the Scott Speedster and Worx JR24 in terms of its style.
The Formeula can take wider off-road tyres than the Scott, which increases its versatility, and brings up the possibility of using it for cross. That said, it’s not as pure bred as the Worx. It uses a ‘less is more’ single 36t chainring transmission, which keeps it simple, but we’d like a lower bailout gear. “I’m not sure if it’s a road bike or a ’cross bike,” said a sweaty tester. “Yesterday I was lapping Castle Combe race track behind the big lads, today I’m pretending to be Sven Nys in the woods.”
Frog Road 70
The Frog Road 70 has an alloy frame
Frog is a small British company looking to build bikes for the sort of rides youngsters do – meandering adventures, on and off road. The 6061 alloy frame is built to be tough rather than light, so it's ready to fend off accidental drops and the normal collateral damage of being ridden by an eager child.
The ride is predictable rather than overly sporty – it's a bike for riding, and learning the art of cycling. Its go-anywhere appeal is aided by the speccing of wide, high-profile treaded tyres, great for new riders on potentially loose surfaces. You could squint and call it a drop bar mountain bike, or a ’cross bike, but it’s neither. “Ready for adventure,” said one tester. Pretty much what the designers at Frog would have wanted.
More great bikes for kids
It's also worth having a look at our group test of the best 20in girls' and boys' bikes. Other bikes to consider too:
- Islabikes Luath 700 (this scored five out of five in BikeRadar's review, and is still available) – £499.99
- Hoy Bikes Meadowbank kids' track bike – £450
- Boardman Junior bikes – Road Sport Junior (£329.99), Hardtail Sport Junior (£279.99) and Hybrid Sport Junior (£279.99)
- Pinarello Speedy T6 Junior Road Bike – £649