With Christmas fast approaching, there are sure to be bikes on children’s wish-lists all over the country. The excitement for youngsters when testing out their shiny, new set of wheels is second to none, but it’s important to remember that kids’ bikes are a major purchase and it’s wise to do your research. But how do you know which bike is best for your little one? And how can you ensure you’re buying the right size when shopping online?

Don’t worry, we’re here to help! From choosing a kids’ bike to getting the right accessories for children's bikes, we’ve asked around Decathlon’s cycling experts to help bring you our complete guide for buying a child’s bike for Christmas, whether in store or online.

What type of kids’ bike should I buy this Christmas?

It can be quite a task when deciding what bike to buy your child - especially if you don’t cycle yourself. There are lots of different types to choose from, but it will largely come down to their age, height, and the type of riding they’ll be doing.

Find out what to look for when shopping for a kids’ bike this Christmas.

Just starting out - the balance bike

If you’re just introducing your little tot to the world of cycling, a balance bike (10” or 12” wheel size) will be perfect. Essentially a bike without pedals, balance bikes are ideal bikes for kids aged 2 - 4 years, teaching children how to maintain balance on two wheels as they propel themselves along with their legs. It’s said that starting with a balance bike can actually make it easier for children to learn to ride a bicycle without having to go through using stabilisers. It’s easy to become reliant on stabilisers, which can often make it more difficult to remove them. A balance bike is designed to give kids that ‘balance confidence’ earlier.

However, if your child prefers to pedal earlier, but wants the stability that comes with stabilisers then these tend to come as standard on bikes with 14″ wheels.

Taking the next step - kids bikes

From balance bikes and tricycles, the next step is their very own big kids bike. While the style of bike isn’t necessarily that important for young riders, as they get older their style of riding will change and as such more options will become available to them.

Mountain bikes are perfect for off-road riding. And road bikes are built for speed and distance. Slimline tyres and lightweight frames mean that road bikes are perfect for those long weekend rides. Hybrid bikes are a combination of a mountain bike and road bike - it’ll handle going from pavement to trail with ease, making it the perfect all-rounder. And for messing around in the park and practicing tricks, opt for a BMX.

How to measure your Christmas bike size

Whether shopping for kids or adults, getting the correct size bike is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a new bike for Christmas. Adult bikes are measured in frame size, whereas kids bikes are measured on the diameter of the wheels. But do remember that children all grow at different rates so it’s just a guide.

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The following kids bike size guide is a general guide to give you an idea of the size of kids' bike that your child may require. It's important that you don’t start them off with a bigger bike in the hope of getting more years out of it, as it may be too heavy and difficult for them to manoeuvre. Find out more about kids bike sizes.

Bikes for kids aged 4 - 7 years or child height: 3ft 5" - 3ft 9"

14” - 16” wheels - All these bikes have rubber tyres with inner tubes and provide a smoother ride than smaller bikes, ideal for when they’re starting to become a little more independent on their bike.

Bikes for kids aged 7 - 10 years or child height: 3ft 9" - 4ft 5"

20” wheels - Progressing a little further, these bikes will sometimes feature gears and maybe even suspension. By this point they’re likely confident on a bike and ready to hold their own on longer bike rides with mum and dad.

Bikes for kids aged 10 - 13 years or child height: 4ft 5" - 5ft

24” - 26” wheels - At this point kids are growing quickly, and bikes in this range are generally packed with the same features as an adult bike, but will simply have a smaller frame.

Bikes for kids aged 13 years and over or child height of 5ft +

Small adult frame bikes - As they hit their teens, most kids are ready for small adult bikes, which means the sizing changes from wheel size to frame size. 13" or 14" frames generally suit best.

Can children ride on the road?

Legally, no one is allowed to ride on the pavement, so that leaves either the road or off-road on the grass. For children, that can be dangerous, which is why it's a good idea to find a safe area to ride, like a car park out of hours – or, ideally, designated cycle paths. Even cycle paths are often split for both cyclists and pedestrians so be wary if your child is still finding their balance.

Do children have to wear a kids' cycle helmet?

It’s really important to keep your little ones safe when riding on their bikes this Christmas. So after the bike, a kids’ cycle helmet will be the most important purchase. In the UK there is no law that says children have to wear a cycle helmet but, of course, they are better protected with one on – especially in the case of younger children where their skulls are not fully formed and can be particularly susceptible to impacts.

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Properly-fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by nearly 70 percent – yet less than half of children aged 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet. If your child is riding on tarmac, and at any kind of speed, a helmet should really be a requirement. Falling off is a part of learning but it needn’t be dangerous as long as you take safety precautions.

Buying a child’s helmet

The right size helmet will sit level on your child’s head, with an inch gap between their eyebrows and the helmet. The straps need to sit firm when buckled up, but not be too tight or loose.

Cycling helmets for kids aged one to three are more compact and shorter at the back, which makes them suitable for use with child seats. This type of helmet can also be used by children riding a balance bike. From ages three to nine years, kids' helmets are more like adult helmets. It's a good idea to go for a helmet with an adjustment wheel at the back for the best fit.

Kids’ cycle helmets sold in the UK go through rigorous testing, so even the most basic of helmets will provide plenty of coverage and safety. But spending a little more will get a lighter helmet with greater ventilation, good for those who are interested in cycling regularly, and going further. Get your little one to try a few different shapes and styles to find the one they like, and which fits them comfortably. And consider a fun themed helmet which your child may be more excited to wear.

Also consider knee and elbow pads for young children who are new to cycling to save scrapes and cuts. And you can also customise their bike with a few accessories like a bell, lights, or basket so they can stand out from the crowd.

Find out other ways you can keep your children safe while cycling.

Are bikes delivered fully assembled?

To avoid damage to the bikes in transit, Decathlon bikes bought online this Christmas will need some building. Balance bikes and smaller kids bikes take very little assembly, but small adults bikes may require a little more attention. There are two options for the build of your bike:

  1. Order for Click & Collect and we’ll build it for you. Click and collect orders are handled by our stores, which means that our team of in-store cycle experts will build your bike for you ahead of collection.
  2. Build your bike at home. Our bikes arrive with step by step instructions that will help you build your bike at home. In the majority of cases you will only need to attach the handlebars and the pedals to a child’s bike.

Take a look at the Decathlon UK technical support site to find your specific bike

Peace of mind when ordering your Christmas bike

Here at Decathlon we offer a 365 day return period and our online returns service is free. That means you won’t be out of pocket if you want to return your item, and you’ve got plenty of time to buy in advance of Christmas.

Decathlon bike warranty

We’re confident in the quality of our products and we want your bike to be right. That’s why we offer a lifetime guarantee on our metal-framed bikes, rigid forks, handlebars and stems. Our carbon bike frames also come with a five-year warranty. That means if anything goes wrong with the bike during that time, bring it back to us and we’ll see what we can do to help.

How do you teach a child how to ride a bike?

Learning how to ride a bike is an important life skill for children, and if you’re getting ready to teach your child, you’ll probably have some questions. It’s one thing knowing how to ride a bike, but teaching someone else can be challenging. With few of us able to remember the exact steps our own parents took to help us master the skill, it’s not always clear exactly where to start. So, what’s the best age for a child to learn to ride a bike? Are stabilisers useful? And what are the best bikes for a child learning to ride? We have all the information you need right here!

Children’s cycling clothing

When children are learning to ride a bike, normal clothes are fine when combined with a helmet. It’s a good idea for them to wear something with long sleeves, and close fitting trousers to protect them from scrapes, and to prevent their clothes getting tangled up in the bike. Trainers are also absolutely fine for occasional bike riding, just beware of laces coming undone. Gloves are also a good idea at this stage because their hands are usually the first thing to hit the ground.

If you have a keen cyclist on your hands, they may be more comfortable wearing proper children’s cycle clothing for longer rides. Wearing the wrong clothes could put them off riding their bike, so giving them the right start could lead to a passion for riding bikes that will last a lifetime.

The most important thing is to keep kids protected from the weather. They’ll need a windproof and waterproof jacket that they can put on if the weather turns - bike specific jackets are best as they tend to be less bulky. Proper padded cycling shorts will also make their ride more comfortable, and they can be worn underneath normal shorts or trousers on casual rides. A cool cycling jersey is also a good idea to wick sweat away from their skin, keeping them cool as they ride. Cycling jerseys are also quick drying which will help stop them getting cold when they stop for a break.

Kids will also need proper cycling shoes when they take their biking to the next level. Road cycling shoes will allow riders to use clipless pedals, so they can ride more efficiently. A good pair of cycling gloves will also make cycling more comfortable, improving their grip on the handlebars in warm weather if their palms get sweaty, and they will stop their hands getting too cold in cooler weather.

At DECATHLON, we have a huge range of kids’ bikes, helmets, clothing, and accessories for all ages. Whether they’re a keen cyclist or just finding their wheels, we’ve got all the essential gear they’ll need to stay safe and comfortable.