10 best kids' bikes for all ages

03 September 2020

kids bike

Tears and tantrums, giggles and grazed knees: teaching them to ride a bike is no walk (or cycle) in the park, but it all becomes worth it the moment you see them flying down the street. From their first balance bike to bigger, more grown-up models, you'll have them confident on two wheels in no time with this list of the best bikes for kids, as recommended by parents.

From those first moments of promising you won’t let go (when you secretly let go a full 10 seconds ago), to watching them head off on their own adventures, new bicycles mark a new relationship between your child and the world.

With every bike they gain a little more independence, so we’ve rounded up the best for every age and stage so you’ll be confident that they’re always in good hands.

Here are the best kids' bikes to buy in 2020.

1. Best balance bike: Strider 12 Sport Kids' Balance Bike

“We had a Strider for our son, later inherited by our daughter, and it was fab. I often ended up carrying it in one hand while I wrestled a toddler with the other so it definitely wasn't too heavy. Both children loved it.”

1. Best balance bike: Strider 12 Sport Kids' Balance Bike

This versatile balance bike has an adjustable seat and handlebar that grow with your child from 18 months (when they can first get going on a balance bike) to around five years.

With its lightweight frame and mini handlebar grips designed for small hands, the Strider 12 Sport is easy for toddlers to manoeuvre. Built-in footrests also give them somewhere to put their feet when freewheeling.

It’s available in eight colours and, if your child gets on well with the brand, Striders can be bought in various sizes up to a 24-inch wheel. You can even buy a rocking base for your bike so that it can be used as a ride-on rocking horse from six months old. Nothing like getting them started early!

Pros

  • Puncture-proof wheels
  • Very easy to assemble
  • Ergonomic footrest

Cons

  • No brakes so can be hard on shoes
  • Doesn’t convert into a ‘big bike’

Need to know

  • Age range: 18 months – 5 years
  • Wheel size: 12 inches
  • Weight: 3kg

Price: £109.99

Buy now from Amazon

2. Best value kids' bike: LittleBig Balance Bike

“We have a LittleBig Bike, which seems good so far. We bought it because it transitions from a balance bike to pedal bike to bigger pedal bike so it should last for many years.”

2. Best value kids' bike: LittleBig Balance Bike

The LittleBig Bike has three modes that take it from balance bike to a bigger balance bike to a proper pedal bike, giving it impressive longevity. This means that your child could be on it for up to five years.

You simply expand the frame as your child gets too big for it and then add the pedal set when they’re ready to stop balancing and start pedalling. The pedal set is an additional £52.

It has a lightweight alloy frame, front and rear brakes, and is available in five bright colours. Perfect for zooming around the park or garden for years to come.

Pros

  • Has brakes – not all balance bikes do
  • Converts to pedal bike for longevity

Cons

  • Pedal set sold separately

Need to know

  • Age range: 2 – 7 years
  • Wheel size: 14 inches
  • Weight: 5.1 – 6.6kg

Price: £185

Buy now from LittleBig Bikes

3. Best lightweight kids' bike: Woom 2

“Try Woom bikes. Had too many cheap bikes and they are such hard work. A decent bike will keep its value.”

3. Best lightweight kids' bike: Woom 2

Designed in Austria, Woom is new to the UK but another great option for those looking for a high-quality, lightweight kids’ bike. In fact, Woom offers some of the lightest children's bikes on the market thanks to their aluminium tube frames.

The age-specific components of the Woom 2 are carefully thought out. This 14-inch bike has ergonomic handlebar grips and a full chain guard, for example. We also like the colour-coded brake levers for front and back brakes on the handlebars, which are helpful for learners.

If you like the look of the Woom 2 but your child is bigger or smaller than is recommended, you might like to know that Woom also sells models in varying sizes from the Woom 1 (a balance bike) up to the Woom 6 (26-inch wheels). The Woom 2 is available in five bold colours.

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Slightly cheaper alternative to Frog Bikes and Islabikes

Cons

  • Difficult to get hold of when demand is high

Need to know

  • Age range: 3 – 5 years
  • Wheel size: 14 inches
  • Weight: 5.2kg

Price: £280

Buy now from The Little Bike Company

4. Best kids' bike that grows with you: Black Mountain SKØG Bike

4. Best kids' bike that grows with you: Black Mountain SKØG Bike

Black Mountain is a Welsh brand that makes attractive, hardwearing bikes for kids. The SKØG is a three-in-one model that transforms from a balance bike to a small pedal bike and then to a big pedal bike, so it’s great if you want your child to learn to cycle using the balance bike method but didn’t manage to start while they were tiny.

A tall four- or five-year-old will move quickly through the balance bike stage. You then attach the power pack – which includes pedals, cranks and a lightweight drive belt – and adjust the size. The seat goes just that little bit lower than on other bikes, which means that you can also start a smaller child on the SKØG or lower the seat for less confident cyclists.

The SKØG is a good alternative to an Islabikes bike if you're after something cheaper. We like the skinny handlebars and easy-pull brake levers, which make stopping less of a trial, and the handles are really easy for small hands to grip.

For younger or smaller kids, try Black Mountain’s Pinto bike from the same range which has 14-inch wheels. The SKØG is available in four colours.

Pros

  • Good longevity
  • Brakes and handlebars are easy to use and grip

Cons

  • Converting from a balance bike to pedal bike can be a bit of a faff, but you'll only need to do it once
  • Pricey

Need to know

  • Age range: 4 – 7 years
  • Wheel size: 16 inches
  • Weight: 6.1kg

Price: £349

Buy now from Black Mountain

5. Best intermediate bike: Hoy Bonaly 20

5. Best intermediate bike: Hoy Bonaly 20

Evans Cycles’ bestselling kids’ bike the Hoy Bonaly is, of course, designed by Sir Chris Hoy and named after his favourite childhood cycling spot.

Excellent credentials aside, this is a great first ‘proper' bike. It has six gears that are easy to use with one hand and wide, treaded tyres that mean the bike handles well both on- and off-road.

The Hoy Bonaly is very light so easy to lift whenever needed, and is actually a lot lighter than its sturdy, chunky style would have you believe. The short-reach brakes are easy to use, though a little stiff when new.

Pros

  • Small size but with gears
  • Handles exceptionally well

Cons

  • Brakes can be stiff when new

Need to know

  • Age range: 5 – 8 years
  • Wheel size: 20 inches
  • Weight: 7.9kg

6. Best bike for a six-year-old: Islabikes Beinn 20

“I would definitely recommend them. DD (a little below average height for her age) had the Beinn 20 small, which lasted her from age 5.5 until age 8.5. At the time we had a two-mile cycle ride to school with a 100-metre climb on the way home, hence why we wanted a lightweight bike with good gears. Having looked around at other bikes, it seemed like all the reasonable quality bikes weren't that much cheaper.”

6. Best bike for a six-year-old: Islabikes Beinn 20

Islabikes are endlessly popular with parents and it’s easy to see why. Their high-quality and lightweight designs makes them a completely different ride to anything you can pick up for half the price. So, while they are expensive, it’s worth the spend if you can afford it.

What’s more, they retain their value well so there’s a roaring trade in secondhand Islabikes. If you’re concerned about how quickly your child will grow out of the bike, it’s worth looking into the company’s rental scheme where you pay a monthly fee for your bike and then exchange for bigger sizes as you need them.

The Beinn range starts with this 20-inch model and is also available in 20, 24, 26 and 27-inch wheel sizes. The Beinn 20 is an ideal transition bike, for that first move to something less like a child’s bike and with a few more grown-up features.

You can kit the bike out to be a road bike, mountain bike or a hybrid, which gives you flexibility. If this is your child’s first experience with gears, they’ll find the Beinn really easy to use. It’s low-geared to make going uphill really simple too.

Pros

  • Versatile add-ons to make the bike your own
  • Lightweight
  • Low-geared
  • Available in a small or a large

Cons

  • Expensive

Need to know

  • Age range: 6 years+
  • Wheel size: 20 inches
  • Weight: 7.5kg

Price: £399.99

Buy now from Islabikes

7. Best all-terrain kids’ bike: Frog 55

“Frog Bikes are excellent and a cheaper (although far from cheap!) alternative to Islabikes.”

7. Best all-terrain kids’ bike: Frog 55

A great all-rounder and another brilliant choice as a first ‘proper’ geared bike, Frog Bikes' Frog 55, made in South Wales, offers a lightweight and sturdy frame that’s a dream for children to manoeuvre as and when they need to.

TEKTRO brakes that are small and easy to reach give kids confidence as they ride, and the eight-speed gears have a short lever for easy changes. The seat post is quick-release, because all kids go through that stage where you’re adjusting their bike seat every other weekend, and the handlebars can be moved within a range of 54mm too.

The pedals are just a little closer together than on other bikes to make pedalling easier. The Frog 55 is available in seven attractive colours including a fun spotty design. While they’re pricey, like Islabikes, they’re very easy to sell on and will retain their value well. They also age well if you were thinking of picking up a secondhand version.

Pros

  • Pedals close together
  • Easy to adjust
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Pricey

Need to know

  • Age range: 6 – 7 years
  • Wheel size: 20 inches
  • Weight: 8.6kg

Price: £330

Buy now from Winstanleys Bikes

8. Best all-terrain kids’ bike: Pinnacle Aspen 24

“We got a Pinnacle 24-inch for my son. This is lighter than his 20-inch Ridgeback and he can pick it up to chest height on his own.”

8. Best all-terrain kids’ bike: Pinnacle Aspen 24

With six gears, an aluminium frame for easy manoeuvrability and an ergonomic saddle, 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.

BMX style tyres allow you to use different terrain with ease, and short brake levers and simple gear shifters make riding about town (or the forest) a breeze. The bottom bracket is fairly low down, which makes it easier to balance too.

This is an ideal bike for the last model your child rides before moving into adult frame sizes and also gives them a good grounding in using gears and other features on adult bikes. Available in four colours.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to balance on

Cons

  • Rear gears only, but this helps them to get to grip with gears

Need to know

  • Age range: 8 – 11 years
  • Wheel size: 24 inches
  • Weight: 10.1kg

Price: £310

Buy now from Sports Direct

9. Best kids' mountain bike: Specialized Riprock 24

“Pay a bit more and get a Specialized kids' bike. They re-sell easily when outgrown and don't lose all of their value.”

9. Best kids' mountain bike: Specialized Riprock 24

If your child is an off-road fan and loves the thrills and spills of a bumpy track, or going downhill at speed (just close your eyes and try not to look), this is an ideal choice.

The Specialized Riprock 24 is made from lightweight aluminium, but is tough enough to stand up to any adventure. A coil spring absorbs 70mm of bumps for a comfier ride, while the 2.8-inch Big Roller tyres offer lots of traction and fun for daredevils on two wheels.

The low frame means your child won’t have trouble getting on the bike when they first start using it as they won’t have to get their leg too high to mount it. This is a really tough, well-made bike that should see them through to their first mountain-biking adventures.

Pros

  • Robust and great for off-roading

Cons

  • Slightly heavier than some
  • Expensive

Need to know

  • Age range: 8 – 11 years
  • Wheel size: 24 inches
  • Weight: Approximately 10kg
Buy now from Leisure Lakes Bikes

10. Best kids’ bike for confident riders: Ridgeback MX26

“It’s been great, very light and they also keep their value.”

10. Best kids’ bike for confident riders: Ridgeback MX26

This robust and sturdy-looking bike is a good option if you can’t quite stretch to some of the priciest models, with lots to commend it.

The Ridgeback MX has nice, chunky tyres that will stand up to the roughest of terrains, a wide range of gears for a child to get to grips with and triple chains to keep everything steady.

A great choice for outdoorsy big kids, although slightly on the heavier side. Available in four colours.

Pros

  • Affordable last kids’ bike
  • Good for off-roading

Cons

  • Heavier than more expensive models

Need to know

  • Age range: 12 years+
  • Wheel size: 26 inches
  • Weight: 12.5kg

Price: £299.99

Buy now from Plush Hill Cycles

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 a bike that transforms for a growing child, such as the Mumsnet-recommended LittleBig Balance Bike or Black Mountain SKØG Bike.

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.

Starter bike

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.

Specialist bike

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.

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.

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