Multiple opportunities for your child to experience success. To get on that road to success, you’ll need the right bike.

Hint: shop for balance, coordination, and skill mastery

If you think that cycling is just turning the pedals around in circles to make the bike go forward (or for tiring out your child in time for a nap), what it really is, is multiple opportunities for your kid to experience success. Balance, coordination, physical literacy, and mastery of skills are just a few of cycling’s rewards but to earn them, you need the right tool for the job. As a parent, you’re already wise to the fact that “how to choose a kids’ bike” has slightly less relevance than how to choose your kid’s bike, so let’s get started.

What to look for when shopping for a kids’ bike

1. Size – This is the number one priority when shopping for a kids’ bike because a bike that’s too large or too small can be unmanageable and therefore dangerous. Tyre size is the measure that Decathlon uses for kids’ bikes. Also look at seat height and standover height as the most accurate measures for choosing a kids’ bike.

  • Seat height: The seat height for a child’s first pedal bike should match his or her inseam so that both feet can touch the ground. Once the child masters balance and pedalling, the seat height can be increased but never too much that the child is at risk of losing control of the bike.

  • Standover height: There should be 1-2 inches of clearance when standing over the bike’s frame with both feet on the ground.

Tip: Don’t buy a bike that’s too big, thinking that the child will grow into it because if cycling isn’t literally a good fit from the start, bike handling suffers and makes it easier to abandon the sport out of frustration.

2. Frame design – The way the child is positioned on the bike will make a big difference on how well the bike handles. No two frames are alike since frame designs vary significantly between manufacturers. Look for a frame designed with a longer wheelbase for greater control and more stability. The child’s overall lower centre of gravity will make balancing easier, especially when pedalling at low speeds.

3. Weight – Kids’ bikes should ideally weigh less than 40 per cent of their total body weight yet many kids’ bikes can weigh an absurd 50 per cent (or even more!) due to heavier parts and materials and cheaper construction. A well-made kids’ bike will prioritise equally quality craftsmanship and lightweight.

4. Brakes – More important than the ability to go is the power to stop. Brakes on kids’ bikes can be coaster brakes, which are activated by pedalling backward, or hand brakes, which transfer braking force when the rider squeezes brake levers mounted on the handlebars. All Decathlon kids’ bikes start with Decathlon’s own easy-to-use hand braking system to teach the proper technique from the start.

5. The child’s opinion – This likely outranks all the things to look for when shopping for a kids’ bike since ultimately, he or she will be the one who’s riding it. How easy is it to use, how comfortable is it to ride, and what colour is it can be decisive as to how much a child will enjoy riding a bike so best to get his or her opinion from the start.

Kids who engage in an outdoor activity like cycling are more likely to stay active in the outdoors as adults. Cycling is a lifetime sport that teaches mastery of skills and physical literacy (competency in motor skills and movement patterns) as opposed to placing a premium on “winning”. When choosing a kids’ bike, reaching the podium isn’t the target because, for a child learning how to ride a bike, the rewards are far greater.