It’s time to start the little one on their own bicycle, but you’re not sure where to start. To be fair, kids’ bike sizes can be difficult to discern. It seems like all these different brands have their own dimensions and just put a size chart on it.
Getting the wrong bike would feel devastating, especially if it’s too small. It’s so critical to make sure it’s going to fit just right, but it’s not like you can just have a bunch of bikes brought to your house so your little one can try them out to see which one fits (besides, if this is a surprise, it would ruin it).
We decided to simplify the process before you even put that bike in the Amazon cart. This is everything you need to know about bike sizes for kids, why they’re important, and how to tell them all apart. Let’s take a look.
Why is it Important for Kids to Have a Bike of the Correct Size?
There are three main reasons that you should pay extra special attention to your child’s bike size.
- Fun: It’s simply not fun to ride something that you’re cramped on or a bike that requires more power than you’re able to provide. Kids are thinking about riding their bikes fast, and without having to actually focus on pushing the pedals; it should be effortless once they get comfortable with riding.
- Safety: If your child’s legs are cramped up on a bicycle, they’re going to have a harder time pushing and their momentum can shift in the wrong direction easily. It’s also harder to maintain the balance of the handlebars when you’re constantly worrying about your knees hitting the handles. Last but not least, the right size means you can balance much easier.
- Development: Riding a bicycle is fantastic for muscle development, but as we said before if the bike is too big it’s not going to feel good for your child to ride on. They’ll end up feeling sore and having a negative experience, which will result in less activity and exercise. Getting the right bike size can be the difference between them loving it and benefiting from it, or letting it sit under a tarp for the next few months.
What Size Do Kids Bikes Come in?
Here’s a basic rundown of all the sizes that kids bikes come in. You’ll notice that it’s measured by the wheel size and inseam, which are powerful metrics that let us know how your child will fare with specific sizes.
- Age 2-3 Years: These bikes have a 12” wheel size and large tires, and an inseam measuring 15” up to 18”. Typically, the bike height will be 36” up to 39” in total.
- Age 2-4 Years: These bikes have a 14” wheel size and slightly smaller tire treads, as well as an inseam measuring 15” up to 20”. Typically, the bike height will be 37” up to 44”. This is a minor adjustment from the 2-3 year bike.
- Age 3-5 Years: These bikes have a 16” wheel size and slightly thinner tire treads, as well as an inseam measuring 16” up to 22”. Typically, the bike height will be 41” up to 49”. These measurements are a pretty big jump to cover the hyper-growth kids have around the ages of three to five.
- Age 5-8 Years: These bikes have a 20” wheel size and the tires get a bit bulkier again, as well as an inseam measuring 19” up to 25”. Typically, the bike height will be 45” up to 54”. These bike sizes cover the largest age gap between bikes for all adolescent bicycles.
- Age 8-11 Years: These bikes have a 24” wheel size and large tires, as well as an inseam measuring 23” up to 28”. Typically, the bike height will be 40” up to 59” or more. This is where your children will start to shoot up in height, so pay attention to this bike and the last size on this list.
- Age 10+ Years: After this point, children will ascend to a young adult bike when the time is right. These bikes have a 26” wheel size and large tires, as well as an inseam measuring 25” and above. These bikes have a height of 56” and higher. This could be a middle-of-the-road bike size depending on your child’s height.
How to Pair Them With a Height of Your Kid
Kids grow at different rates, but as long as they’re at or around the average height for their age, you can assume that their height is indicative of their bike size.
Some of the bike heights we mentioned earlier are quite tall, but that wasn’t by mistake. When you stand next to a bike, it’s typically pretty tall and the handlebars go near your chest, but never higher than your neck.
If your child looks like an absolute monolith next to their bike, it’s probably too small. If the bike looks really tall, then they’re going to have a hard time getting on it in the first place.
Other Things You Should Think About
Apart from just seeing how big the bike looks next to your child, you have to do some serious measuring to make sure it’s going to fit them properly. Let’s talk about that.
- Inseam: The inseam measures from the floor to the top of your child’s inner leg, just below the crotch area. This distance helps you when finding the right maximum and minimum seat height on a bike to know if it’s a good fit or not.
- Seat Height: How much of the seat height can be adjusted is pretty important. This can be a major comfort factor. Yes, you can replace the seat in a child’s bike, but replacement seats in children’s bikes are few and far between compared to the market for adult bicycles.
- Wheel Size: The information we gave earlier about wheel sizes is average, not exact. Be sure to know the inseam of your child so you can know how they’re going to respond to specific wheel sizes. The inseam directly correlates to this.
Having the right measurements in mind, such as the inseam and height of the child, can make a major difference in how long they’ll be able to use their bike without having to replace it.
You could actually skip an entire bike replacement as they age by focusing on this now, and improve their comfort and rideability while they have this bike. Just pay attention to the metrics.
What About Mini Bikes?
Mini bikes are intentionally small-framed bikes that come with various marketing attached to them. Basically, you’ll want to avoid these because the frame sizes, while small, aren’t correlated to a child’s height and inseam.
The novelty with these is that they’re supposed to be easier to control. A wave of these bike types rocked the 2000s, these so-called “chubby bikes” were mostly used by older teenagers to do stunts and showcase control.
However, they were a trend. You want to avoid intentionally small form factor bicycles for the sake of being small. You should always make sure that the bike fits your child’s size and dimensions, otherwise, it’s a waste.
Important Information if Your Child is Getting a Balance Bike
Younger children who are getting a balance bike before they get an actual bicycle have a slightly different set of size rules to follow. The inseam on a normal bike is there to measure how tall your child is compared to the tube of the top of the bike’s frame.
With a balance bike, it’s all about the seat height, since the design is different and the intention is slightly different as well. For a balance bike, your child actually needs an entire additional inch of bike.
The seats aren’t bigger, there’s just a different way that your child balances and this is important.
Children are going to outgrow their balance bikes a lot faster than they will outgrow a simple bicycle, so if there’s a slight bit of error on either the inseam or total bike height, it’s not going to be a deal-breaker. Just try to keep it close.
Bike Sizes Aren’t Tied to Age
Everyone grows differently. That’s why we have averages, although not every child fits into those molds. Be sure to get a bike that fits them based on their height, weight, and capabilities. Age is just a wayward marker that lets you know where to start looking.
While it’s unlikely to get a custom-fit bicycle for a child who’s going to outgrow it in 1.5-2 years, you still want to get something as close to their requirements as possible. Nothing kills the fun of riding a bike like having the wrong bicycle for your size. It makes things harder than it has to be.
Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic