How to Choose a Kids' Bike

kids bike guide

Two Considerations to Buying a Kids Bike

There are a lot of sizes and styles when it comes to bikes for the little ones. There are two things to consider when picking out the best bike for a kid: the type of bike and the size of the bike. We will walk you through how to choose the correct type and size in this guide.

1. The type of bike

Choose the right type of bike based on their current riding skills and where they’ll ride.

Balance Bikes vs. Pedal Bikes

Balance bikes are for our youngest riders, 1- to 4-years-old, and can fit kids that are too small for pedal bikes. Balance bikes are bikes in their simplest form, no pedals or chain, just wheels and a frame. They help kids to familiarize themselves with the concept of riding while keeping their feet on the ground and in total control of the bike. It teaches them the concept of momentum and balance in a way that riding on a training wheel equipped bike cannot. Most kids go from a balance bike directly to a pedal bike, forgoing the need to learn how to ride with the support of training wheels. If they have the basics of balance down, then it’s time for pedals!

balance bike vs pedal bikes

Single Speed Bikes vs. Bikes with Gears

Single speeds are the most popular and come in a variety of sizes. The average neighborhood rider will not need gears and the single speed will provide them with a simpler, easier ride. If they intend to hit the trails or go on longer rides with changes in elevation, gears will make for a more enjoyable time.

Some Features to Consider:

Hand or Coaster Brakes
There are two types of brakes on kids bikes, coaster and hand brakes. Coaster brakes are activated when the rider pedals backward and found only on single-speed bikes. Children under the age of 5 may lack the hand strength and finger dexterity to safely work hand brakes and may want to start on a bike with pedal brakes. Hand brakes come on some of the larger single-speeds and all of the geared bikes. If you select a bike with hand brakes, make sure your child can reach them easily and is well-versed on how and when to use them. All kid’s bikes sold at Bicycle Sport Shop have brakes with adjustable reach for smaller hands to ensure easy braking for your child, and we’ll make sure they are dialed-in properly before you leave the store.

Training Wheels 
Training wheels may be added to most single speed pedal bikes, but the current trend for teaching young riders is to place them on a balance bike. If they’re bigger/older than kids that fall into balance bike territory, you may want to add training wheels to help them with balance. 

Off-road Features
Going to take these bikes off-road? You may want knobby tires to handle the rough terrain. You can also find bikes with front suspension and disc brakes for kids that are ready to rip through the Texas trails with confidence. 

BMX Bikes

BMX bikes are designed much differently than traditional kid’s bikes. Although BMX bikes come with 16”-24” wheels, they’re designed with the specific purpose of either racing within a closed track or riding in a course laid out with jumps and ramps that allow for sweet airtime. They can be lightweight aluminum for racing, or heavy-duty steel intended to be more durable for freestyle riding. BMX bikes fit slightly larger and kids should have more experience riding bikes before graduating into one. They also come without coaster brakes so your child will have to have the hand strength to use hand brakes. If your child isn’t interested in racing BMX or riding the local skate park, they will more than likely enjoy riding a traditional children’s bike.

2. The Size of Bike

Find the correct bike size using their inseam measurements, height, or doing a stand-over test.

Children’s bikes are generally categorized by the wheel’s diameter, unlike adult bikes that are sized by the frame dimensions. The child’s height and inseam will help determine what wheel size is best suited for them. Age is a rough estimate as kids as young as 9 could be started on adult bikes if they are tall enough and have the skills to ride them. Use the chart below to help determine which size will be best:

Wheel Size 12" 16" 20" 24"
Height Up to 3'4" 3'2"-3'11" 3'9"-4'5" 4'3" & up
Inseam 13"-17" 17"-21" 21"-25" 25" & up
Child's Age 1-4 4-5 6-8 8-12

The size can also be determined by having them stand over the bike. The child should be able to dismount easily and straddle the top tube of the bike frame without their body touching it while standing flat-footed over the frame. They also should be able to easily reach the handlebar grips and sit comfortably without needing to stretch to turn the handlebars, and their knees shouldn’t hit the handlebars.

We guarantee fit on any bike we sell. If you're shopping for a gift, we will help you get the right size and we can exchange a bike within 7 days if necessary to make sure your kiddo is on the perfect size for the most enjoyment. 

* To measure their inseam, you can have the child stand against a wall flat-footed with their shoes off. Place a book between their legs and slide it up to their crotch as if it’s a seat saddle. Mark where the top of the book touches the wall, then measure from the mark to the floor. You can also find their inseam by measuring a pair of well-fitting pants. Lay the pants flat on a table and measure from the crotch to the hem of the pants.

Why Buy a Kids Bike at Bicycle Sport Shop?

Superior Quality

All bikes at Bicycle Sport Shop are made by reputable name brands which means they are made with quality, serviceable parts. This ensures their durability, being ready for whatever adventure lies ahead, and makes them more lightweight, which is easier for kids to ride. As with all bikes bought at Bicycle Sport Shop, kids' bikes are backed by our 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Bikes purchased at Bicycle Sport Shop are also brands accepted by the Pre-owned Department, so you can trade your child's bike in for credit toward the next, larger sized bike as they grow.

bikes for all ages

Safety is Key

All bikes at Bicycle Sport Shop are assembled by our experienced, trained staff. To assure safety, every bike is inspected by at least three staff members before it leaves the shop.

Manufacturer Warranty

All Specialized and Trek frames at Bicycle Sport Shop are covered by a lifetime warranty. All parts are covered by a one year warranty.


We guarantee complete work on any bike you buy from Bicycle Sport Shop at any location. Our guarantee means you only pay for our service once. If you're not satisfied, we will continue to diagnose and service your bike for FREE (up to 30 days after the original service), until it's right as long as the problem is specifically related to our service. If you purchase a new bike from us, we offer a Safety Check and an Annual Service and Cleaning in the first year of ownership for FREE. That's a $195.00 value.

Holiday Storage

We want you to be able to keep the best gift under the tree a surprise, which is why we offer free holiday storage on kids bike purchases until the shops close on Christmas Eve.