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Learning to ride a bike is a huge milestone in a child’s life. From those first moments of promising you won’t let go (when you secretly do for a full 10 seconds) to watching them head off on their own adventures, a bicycle marks a new relationship between your child and the world.
As children grow and change, so do their bikes. They gain more independence and learn new skills, so it’s important to find the right bike to suit their individual needs.
If you’ve just started bike shopping and you don’t know what wheel size to get or how many gears they need - or you’re simply feeling overwhelmed with the abundance of choice out there - we’ve rounded up the best children’s bikes to cater for a range of ages and budgets.
We started our research by scouring the Mumsnet forums to see which were the best bikes for children from as young as 18 months right up to teenagers. We made notes of the brands they rated highly and cross-checked these with other review sites and specialist online retailers, such as Evans and Tredz, to see if they came out on top.
Here are the 11 best kids’ bikes to buy in 2022.
1. Best overall kids’ bike: Islabikes Cnoc 14 Large
Price: £399.99 | Buy now from Islabikes
“Definitely skip stabilisers and get an Islabikes Cnoc 14. Mine were riding theirs at two and three, they wouldn’t have coped on a cheap heavy bike, they sit them totally differently.” WoeIsMee
Ask around about the best children’s bike and Islabikes will come up again and again. High quality, lightweight and designed to make pedalling effortless for little legs, the Cnoc range is especially popular among children and parents.
Other starter bikes may be cheaper, but they are also much heavier, which can make it harder for children to start pedalling and stay upright. Weighing just 5.3kg, the Cnoc 14 Large is easy to move and control, with handlebars, brakes and pedals that have all been carefully sized to make this bike easy, comfortable and - most of all – fun for early riders.
The Cnoc range also includes bikes with 14 small, 16 and 20-inch wheels. The initial outlay is nothing short of eye-watering, but these bikes are so well made and popular that they certainly hold their value. So, when it’s time to size up, you can either pass it onto a younger sibling or sell up and you’ll get a good return – money to put towards their next Islabike!
- Lightweight aluminium to make it easy for early riders
- Chain guard to keep little fingers safe
- Available in range of sizes for young riders
- Very expensive for a first bike
- Age: 3+
- Weight: 5.3kg
- Wheel size: 14-inch
2. Best budget kids’ bike: Pedal Pals Street Rider 16” Kids’ Bike
Price: £89.99 | Buy now from Argos
“You’ll probably want something with 14-inch wheels. Pedal Pals and Apollo are good.” Ricekrispie22
If you don’t have hundreds of pounds to splash on a top-of-the-range children’s bike, the Pedal Pals Street Rider 16” is a much more budget-friendly option than the likes of Islabikes or Frog Bikes, yet is still a decent bike for young riders.
Children will love the gloss black and blue design of the robust, Y-shaped steel frame, but it’s a fair bit heavier than the Cnoc 14 so will suit children who are already confident riders or who are transitioning from a balance bike.
For those still getting used to two wheels, the bike can be used with stabilisers, which come included. Suitable for children aged five to eight, the handlebar and seat can also be easily adjusted as they grow.
- Good budget-friendly price
- Robust steel frame
- Cool black and blue design
- Heavier frame than the likes of Islabikes and Frog Bikes
- Age: 5-8
- Weight: 9kg
- Wheel size: 16-inch
3. Best kids’ balance bike: Carrera Coast Balance Bike
Price: £80 | Buy now from Halfords
“We had a Carrera Coast which DS2 loved.” ImFree2doasiwant
“DS has a Carrera Coast balance bike. He got it just before he turned three and his cousin has one that he's still using at five.” Motherofmonsters
For young children who want to build up their confidence without using pedals or stabilisers, the Carrera Coast balance bike will have them whizzing around in no time.
The bike is well-built yet lightweight so little legs can easily push it along. And while some balance bikes don’t come with a brake, the Coast has a high-quality Tektro handbrake so that little ’uns can stop themselves safely if they need to.
It comes in a fun, bright design – so you won’t easily lose sight of them when they zoom off in the park - and the large air-filled rubber tyres and steel rims make it great for off-roading. Suitable for use up to around age five, the saddle can be easily adjusted. We also like that the bike can be built in store, so there’s no faffing around with assembly at home.
- Lightweight frame for young riders
- Tektro handbrake for stopping safely
- Handle grips and saddle are a bit hard
- Only one design available
- Age: 3-5
- Weight: 3.9kg
- Wheel size: 12-inch
4. Best kids’ bike for 3-year-olds: Strider 12 Sport Kids' Balance Bike
Price: £109.99 | Buy now from Amazon
“I read a lot on balance bikes before deciding on a Strider (I think we have the ‘sporty’? one) for my son. It was a lot of money for us to spend, especially as DP was seriously sceptical/pro-stabilisers but he now says it was well worth it and recommends it (as do I).” Osquito
Robust yet light, the Strider 12 Sport is great for three-year-olds to practice nipping around on two wheels before transitioning to a pedal bike. However, it can be used from as young as 18 months - weighing just 3kg, it’s one of the lightest bikes around so is perfect for early riders and can last up until the age of five.
The bike’s lightweight frame makes it easy for you to carry when they get tired of all that racing around and, once your child gets more confident with balancing, there’s a built-in footrest for coasting along.
What’s more, the balance bike can be bought in a choice of seven colourways and comes with quick-release adjusters on the seat and handlebars - and tyres that the manufacturer promises will never go flat.
- Really lightweight bike for riding and carrying
- Quick-release adjusters on seat and handlebars
- Long age range – can be used from as young as 18 months
- No handbrake, like on the Carrera Coast
- Age. 18 months – 5 years
- Weight: 3kg
- Wheel size: 12-inch
5. Best value kids’ bike: Carrera Cosmos Kids’ Bike
Price: £180 | Buy now from Halfords
“We’ve had Carrera Cosmos. Very well made, light frame and fast. Kidding you not - the minute DS went to the park his friends were asking for a shot on it.” Leeeeemon36
If you’re looking for a bike that has many of the same features as the Islabikes Cnoc without the hefty price tag, then the Carrera Cosmos has plenty to offer.
The aluminium frame weighs just 6kg so it’s a great option for young children moving on from a balance bike or those just starting out on their riding journey. It also has Kendra air-filled rubber tyres and a Tektro handbrake for children to stop safely when they start to pick up some speed.
For children who need help balancing, you can buy stabilisers separately. We also like that there’s a chain guard to protect little fingers and to prevent clothes from getting caught or dirty. It can also be built in store (at an extra cost) for minimal fuss.
- Lightweight aluminium frame
- Good value bike
- Chain guard to keep fingers safe
- Stabilisers not included
- Age: 4-6
- Weight: 6kg
- Wheel size: 14-inch
6. Best 16-inch kids' bike: Frog 44
Price: £350 | Buy now from Rutland Cycling
“Frog Bikes here for my seven- and three-year-olds.” PinkWellingtons
“Frog Bikes recommendation here. They are really well-made and lightweight.” Poochnewbie
Another popular choice, Frog Bikes is the go-to for high-quality bikes with easy pedalling. The Frog 44 is suitable for ages four and five, with a lightweight yet durable frame so children can easily control it no matter how confident they are on two wheels.
Frog Bikes has designed this bike with comfort at its heart. The Tektro handbrakes are small and easy to reach, and the bottom bracket has been lowered for a more ergonomic riding position. The handlebars can be easily adjusted to ensure they’re at the right height and the distance between the pedals has been reduced for extra comfort.
The 44 comes in a range of fun colours and patterns. Frog Bikes kids’ bikes are pricey, especially when this one may only last a year, but the price includes reflectors and a bell - and, like the Islabikes, they have a good resale value.
- Lightweight frame makes it easy to control
- Pedals close together
- Brakes are easy to reach
- Age: 4-5
- Weight: 6.39kg
- Wheel size: 16-inch
7. Best 20-inch kids’ bike: Squish 20 2021 Kids’ Bike
Price: £379.99 | Buy now from Tredz
“Have a look at Squish too. I'm so impressed with ours. We had a Frog too which I liked, but Squish is my favourite.” Hohofortherobbers
With a lightweight frame and seven-speed gears, the Squish 20 is a great option for riders who are ready to progress to a bigger bike and pick up some new skills.
The bike has been designed for younger cyclists – from six up to age eight – with a light alloy frame, shortened crank arms and stem, Tektro V-brakes and Shimano rapid-fire gears to make the bike easy to control.
The Squish 20 comes in three unisex colours with tyres that are suitable for all terrain. A great bike for children who are ready to take their next step in the world of cycling.
- Lightweight frame
- Seven rapid-fire gears
- May only last for two years
- Age 6-8
- Weight: 8.36kg
- Wheel size: 20-inch
8. Best bike for 6-year-olds: Raleigh Pop 20 2021 Kids’ Bike
Price: £279.99 | Buy now from Rutland Cycling
“We had a tiny, decent little Raleigh. DH just took off the stabilisers and the pedals and they scooted around until they got their balance, and when he put the pedals back on they were away.” TinklyLittleLaugh
For a more retro design, look no further than the Raleigh Pop 20. Suitable for children aged six and above, it successfully bridges the gap between starter and older bikes.
While not as lightweight as other models on our list, the Pop 20 has some great features for children, including six gears for learning how to navigate different inclines and puncture-proof tyres for tackling a variety of terrain.
The brake levers are also adjustable to make the bike more comfortable and easier to control – a must when they’re whizzing off on a two-wheeled adventure. Choose from two retro-themed colourways.
- Six gears for beginners to get used to
- Puncture-proof tyres suitable for all terrain
- Attractive design
- Not as lightweight as other bikes of a similar size
- Age: 6-9
- Weight: 10.7kg
- Wheel size: 20-inch
9. Best 24-inch kids' bike: Pinnacle Aspen 24
Price: £335 | Buy now from Evans Cycles
“DD (seven, but tall) is on this. It's lightweight and goes well despite a fair bit of use by two previous users. The saddle goes down a good way.” Bathorshower
The Pinnacle Aspen really is the pinnacle of kids’ bikes. It feels like a bike designed for grown-ups, with all the fancy add-ons you could wish for but all sized down for a child to use.
It has six rear gears with easy shifters so children can get to grips with them, and the solid aluminium frame has a low bottom bracket to help with balancing. The short brake levers and BMX-style tyres also are a breeze to manoeuvre, whether you’re riding about town or off-roading in the forest.
The bike comes in four neutral colour combinations that will cater to more grown-up tastes and it provides a good grounding in using gears and other features you’d usually find on adult bikes. It’ll last all the way up to age 11, so your child will have plenty of fun improving their riding skills before moving onto a bigger frame.
- Lightweight frame
- Low bottom bracket to help with balancing
- Only six gears, but this is to help with balancing
- Age: 7-11
- Weight: 10.1kg
- Wheel size: 24-inch
Related: The best water bottles for kids.
10. Best kids' mountain bike: Specialized Riprock 24
Price: £500 | Buy now from Evans Cycles
“We had a lovely Orbea at that age. Then onto Specialized Riprock, then a Vitus. Now full suspension and loving his mountain bike.” PortHills
By now, your child may be bored of riding the streets and be more interested in zooming down hills and tearing through dirt trails. If so, then the Specialized Riprock 24 will make tackling any terrain fun yet safe.
The 2.8-inch wide tyres provide lots of traction and control for daredevils on two wheels, with a robust but lightweight aluminium frame and a suspension that absorbs 70mm of bumps to give a comfier ride. The bike has also been designed with a low frame to make it easier to get on and off.
This is a tough, well-made bike designed for children who want to take their riding to the next level – even if this does mean terrifying their parents!
- Wide tyres for tackling off-road terrain
- Suspension effectively absorbs bumps
- Age: 8-11
- Weight: Not specified
- Wheel size: 24-inch
11. Best 26-inch kids’ bike: Giant ARX 26 2021 Junior Bike
Price: £419 | Buy now from Tredz
“She had an Islabike when younger, then got a Giant last summer at nine years old. She's rather tall and it's a small adult/teen frame rather than a child one.” Aroundtheworldin80moves
Giant is one of the biggest manufacturers of bikes and their ARX range has been designed to be lighter, faster and more versatile for riding on roads, gravel or dirt – ideal for tweens or teens who like to go out and about with their friends.
With an aluminium frame and fork, the ARX 26 is thought to be one of the lightest bikes in its category, although its exact weight isn’t fully specified. It comes with eight gears and a low bottom bracket to offer more stability and help children control the bike more easily, which is important when nipping over kerbs and riding on trails.
The ARX 26 has been made with lightweight parts suitable for younger riders up to the age of 16, so it’s the ideal bike before moving onto an adult frame.
- Lightweight parts and frame
- Lower bracket for better stability
- Ideal for all terrain
- Only available in three basic colourways
- Age: 10-16
- Weight: not specified
- Wheel size: 26-inch
What size bike does my child need?
First things first, buy them a bike that fits them now, not a bike that they can ‘grow into.’ Bikes aren’t jumpers. If the bike is too big then they won’t be able to ride it properly.
Try and buy a bike that fits with the saddle and handlebars at their lowest point, which will give them a bit of extra flexibility. You can also buy bikes that transform for a growing child.
Also consider your child’s weight versus the full weight of the bike. Ideally you want the weight of the bike to be no more than 32 per cent of your child's weight. So if your child weighs 20 kilograms, you’re looking for a bike that weighs just under seven.
Before you go shopping, check your child’s height and inside leg measurement. Most bikes come with a recommended age range, but the sizes are based on those measurements so they will give you the best idea of which models to try first.
You'll easily find sizing guides online, but remember that brands can vary.
What type of bike does my child need?
There are a mind-boggling array of kids’ bikes around. The first thing is to narrow down the age range you’re looking for.
Balance bike or stabilisers?
If you’re after a first bike for your toddler, you’re looking at a choice between a balance bike and a bike with stabilisers. These come in small 10- or 12-inch wheel sizes but offer two very different methods of learning to ride.
You’ll likely know all about stabilisers from your own childhood – these attach to either side of a normal pedal bike to prevent it from falling over. Stabilisers allow your child to practice propelling the bike using its pedals. Once the stabilisers are taken off, they'll learn to ride on a bike they’re familiar with. The downside is that they won't learn how to balance during the toddler riding stage, which could hinder how quickly they take to riding without stabilisers.
A balance bike has no pedals. Instead, a child propels the bike with their feet, taking strides along the ground while sitting on the bike and holding their feet out when they get some motion going. In general, but not always, children who learn on balance bikes learn to ride a pedal bike quicker. Some balance bikes now come with pedal sets that you can add once they’re confident enough.
Usually in wheel sizes from 14 to 18 inches, first pedal bikes don't come with many bells and whistles. This stage is all about getting them riding, so you want a bike that's lightweight, a good size and really easy to use (avoid gears or double chains). Baskets, bells and other fun additions are, however, to be encouraged.
Intermediate bike (20 inches plus)
This is where the choices get interesting. There are a few different types of bikes, but the basic choice is a road bike (thin wheels), a mountain bike (thick wheels) or a hybrid (a mix of the two). Hybrids are often the way to go because they give your child flexibility on various surfaces.
As your child gets older, they might get interested in particular cycling sports such as BMX or cyclo-cross, and there are specialist bikes suited to this.
How much should I spend on a child’s bike?
Unsurprisingly, prices go up as bikes get bigger. You can find both balance bikes and 20-inch bikes for under £100 but, if you pay a bit more, you’ll get a bike that's higher in quality and easier to ride. On average, expect to pay between £200 to £300 for a decent kids' bike.
If you’re on a budget, you can walk into a bike shop, get lots of good advice from specialised sales people and walk away with a bike that won’t break the bank.
The main difference between a cheap bike and an expensive one at this stage is weight. The cheaper it is, the heavier it's likely to be.
Is it worth buying a premium kids' bike?
This will depend on how much your child will use it. If you aren’t a family of cyclists, you won't want to spend a fortune on something that will just gather dust in the shed.
With that said, bikes from premium brands, such as Frog Bikes and Islabikes, do retain their value well, so you might be happy to shell out for a bike that can be passed down to younger siblings. You'll also find numerous secondhand sites selling premium bikes for a budget price.
Renting bikes for children – how does it work?
Several of the more expensive bike brands can now be rented, which may be a good option if your child is between sizes.
Frog Bikes and Squish Bikes, among others, can be rented through the Bike Club. Islabikes runs the Imagine Project which offers a similar subscription-based bike scheme. The idea is that you pay a nominal amount a month – from £5 to £10, usually – and always have a bike that fits your child. When they get too big for the bike, you send it back and get another bigger one. It’s also a great environmental choice for eco-conscious families.
How to check if a bike fits your child
Ideally you’ll have taken measurements and already have an idea of which wheel size and weight you’re looking for before you go shopping. Once in the shop, let your child try a few different bikes to see how they ride them.
Get them to pick each one up first to check they can lift it themselves. You need to check the frame height as well as the size of the wheels, so get them to put one leg over the bike and check that they can stand with both feet flat on the ground without the top tube touching their crotch.
Then get them onto the saddle and check that they're sitting upright. When their foot is on the pedal at the bottom of the rotation, their leg should be slightly bent. They should also be able to hold the handlebars firmly with a slight bend at the elbows and be able to use any gears or brakes on the handlebars easily.
How to size a child for a bike bought online
Many top bike brands sell largely online, which makes it hard to try a bike out for size, though most will give you lots of help over the phone and be happy to arrange returns and re-delivery to help you find the perfect size.
Measure your child’s inside leg accurately to get an idea of where to start. Get them to stand close to a wall, put a book between their legs at the very top of the inner thigh and make a mark on the wall where the top edge of the book lies. Then measure from the mark down to the floor.
Generally, you should go for a wheel size that’s the same or smaller than that measurement. So if they have a 22-inch inside leg, you’d pick a 20-inch bike rather than a 24-inch bike. Look to see if the frame height is listed and ensure that it's smaller than your child’s inner leg measurement.
Things to look for when buying a kid’s bike
Try to put aside ideas of getting more for your money. You’re better off with a simple bike that does one job well. You can add on baskets, panniers and bells later on.
The features to look for will change depending on the age and ability of your child, but keep things simple with this handy list:
- Weight – too heavy and they won't be able to manoeuvre the bike
- Wheel size – this will be dependent on age
- Tyre thickness – the thicker the tyres the most robust the bike (after all, kids’ bikes can get driven into trees, walls, other kids’ bikes…)
- How comfy the bike is – look for seats with a 'scoop' saddle for optimum comfort
- Single chain rings for young riders – multiple chains are best left until they are much older and can understand how they work
- Easy-to-use hand brakes for older riders – some bikes, like balance bikes, won't have handbrakes
- Material – steel and aluminium are the most commonly used materials for bike frames. While steel is stronger, aluminium is lighter
Avoid any sort of suspension until they’re almost in their teens as they won’t have the strength for the added weight.
Gears are another thing best left until they can really make use of them. They just complicate matters when they’re still learning and becoming confident. If in doubt, go for a single-gear bike. If you’re going for a bike with gears, make sure they are designed specifically for children.
Brakes can also be complex. Above all, make sure they are easy for them to use and not too big or too stiff to grasp. While foot brakes (or coaster brakes) can be easier to use for little ones, generally they require your child to pedal backward to stop, which can be confusing when teaching them to pedal forwards. A hand brake may be easier and gives them more control. If you can find a model with both, even better.
The wider the tyres the easier it will be to balance and, unless you’re definitely after a mountain bike, avoid any tyres with too large a tread as these are harder to get used to as well. A hybrid bike with wide but fairly smooth wheels is the best option for both on- and off-road.
What is the best kids’ bike?
When it comes to a high quality, lightweight bike, we think the Islabikes Cnoc 14 is the best kids’ bike to buy right now. The range comes highly recommended by Mumsnet parents as they have been designed to help make pedalling effortless and fun for young children.
The bike is pricey but it will hold its value, so if you can afford the initial outlay, it will be a worthy investment.
How we chose our recommendations
Before we began, we looked at in-depth reviews of children’s bikes online, particularly in the cycling press, to see which brands were impressing the experts most.
Armed with a longlist of more than 50 bikes, we then trawled the Mumsnet forums to find out which of those bikes Mumsnetters themselves were recommending, looking at how easy they were to ride, how well they lasted over time and to what extent they retained their value after use.
We consulted expert advice from the likes of Which? as well as bike retailers such as Evans Cycles on safety, durability and what to look for in a kids’ bike. We then applied those criteria to our shortlist to come up with a final list, which we think offers the best bikes for every age and stage.
Why you should trust us
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