Outdoor Play

The Right Bike: Size, Brakes, Wheels, and More

Bikes are not like winter coats. You don’t buy them a bit too big and then wait for your child to grow into them. Finding the right fit is easy, once you know a few simple tips. Then, get onto the fun choices, like streamers, or a basket, or both?

STEPS TO SAFETY

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  • THE RIGHT AGE FOR BIKING

    • Children younger than 1 should not be passengers on bicycles. At this age, their neck muscles are weaker, and they may not be able to control their heads during sudden stops, especially with the added weight of a helmet. 
    • At 2-4 years of age, kids can start riding their own appropriately-sized tricycles and/or bikes with training wheels. 
    • Between the ages of 4 and 8 years, most kids have developed sufficient physical coordination and have mastered starting and stopping on a tricycle or a bike with training wheels, so that they are ready to learn to ride a two-wheeler.
  • BIKE SIZE

    • Bring your child with you when shopping for a bike. You should get a bike that fits your child now, not one that s/he will grow into. Also make sure you get a helmet too. For more information on how to pick the right helmet, go here
    • Check that the seat is the right fit. Your children’s feet should touch the ground when seated on the bike, so that they can control their balance when stopping. 
    • Bikes for children are sized by the wheels (vs. adult bikes are sized by the frame).

      Approximate Age

      Child's Inseam

      Wheel Diameter
      "Bike Size"

      2-4 years

      14-17 inches

      12 inches

      4-6 years

      16-20 inches

      14 inches

      5-8 years

      18-22 inches

      16 inches

      6-9 years

      20-24 inches

      18 inches

      7-10 years

      22-25 inches

      20 inches

      9+ years

      24-28 inches

      24 inches

  • BRAKES

    • The most important part of a bike is the brakes. 
    • Kids’ bikes usually have coaster brakes (brakes on the back wheel that are engaged by pedaling backwards), handbrakes (brakes engaged by a grip on the handlebars that pinch brake pads against the rim of the wheel), or both. 
    • Until a child’s hands are large and strong enough to effectively use a handbrake, which is usually around age 5, make sure they have a bike with coaster brakes. 
    • If the brakes utilize brake pads, make sure the pads are aligned over the rim and the nuts and bolts are tight.
  • TIRES AND WHEELS

    • Tires should be properly inflated and secure. If you hold the tire and try to wiggle the wheel from side-to-side, you shouldn’t feel any play, and the wheel should spin freely when you give it a spin. 
    • The CPSC requires the front wheel to have a safety mechanism, so that even if the nuts on the axle come loose, the front wheel won’t fall off.
  • FRAMES AND CHAINS

    • The frame should be in alignment. You can check this by standing a couple of feet in front or behind the bike to see if both wheels line up. 
    • Shoelaces, pant legs, dirt and more can get caught in the bike chains. If the bike does not have a chain guard, consider buying one to protect your child from falls and the bike from wear and tear.

Did You Know?


More than 600 children per year die from bike-related accidents. Having the right bike can make all the difference.

- Healthychildren.org



Thank you


Content developed in association with:

Nationwide Childrens Hospital

For more information, go to Our Role.