For many of us, the bike was a Christmas morning surprise we were lucky to have experienced growing up. And it’s still up there among the most popular gifts parents choose to surprise their children with – especially around Christmas. In fact, it totally makes sense. Nothing is more synonymous with the warm weather and the holidays in Australia than riding down a hill on a bike or taking off to the beach to watch the sunrise before it fades. For children, a bicycle opens up a whole new world of possibilities and gives them a sense of freedom unlike they’ve ever known before.Photo by Shelby
But before your child can ride down the street carefree, you as a parent will face an overwhelming task – What bicycle to choose? A cheap model from a local store for your child to toss around? Or a more high-end bicycle from a respected retailer that can give you a certain sense of security? Then, there’s also size, material, brakes and wheels to consider. You might even think it would have been easier to just get an iPad. But there’s no sentimental value in iPads, unlike bikes which can give a child the greatest gift of all – precious memories. So, don’t give up just yet. Instead, get informed and consider the following things when you buy a bicycle for kids.
Gears or No Gears?
One tough decision is whether to go for a bicycle for kids but with gears and hand brakes similar to the ones us adults use, or one with a single speed and coaster brakes. Of course, as a parent you’ll be worried that your kid might abruptly stop with the hand brakes and flip over the handle bars. But if your child is old enough and already knows the basics of cycling, mastering the brakes and speeds will easy. However, if the goal is to introduce cycling to a small child, perhaps it’s best to get one with a single speed which makes riding simpler. As for tyres, if your kid is big enough to go exploring nearby hiking paths, a knobby tyre will allow for better traction. On the other hand, if he/she is only supposed to be riding around the neighbourhood, a standard street tyre is the smarter option.
What About Training Wheels?
Training wheels are no longer considered a good option for learning to cycle. It’s because they teach children to pedal instead of how to balance, which is the first skill they have to master. As a matter of fact, in the last years the so-called balance bikes have become an increasingly popular beginner’s choice. A balance bike has no pedals which teaches children how to balance first by pushing their feet of the ground to make the bike move. However, it has a footrest which they can use to place their feet when the bike gets going. Once a kid has mastered balancing, it’s a lot more easier to move over to a bike with pedals, without the need of training wheels.
Find the Right Fit
Children’s bikes come in various sizes ranging from 12-inch to 26-inch. Although these sizes are meant to correspond to approximate age ranges, it’s always better to base your pick on the child’s height and weight, not age. Although a 24-inch bike is supposed to be suited for children aged 11, it can also be the appropriate choice for a 7-year-old who is a bit bigger than his/her peers. Don’t ever buy a bigger bike for your child to grow into. It must fit, for safety’s sake! A good way to ensure you’ve made the right choice is to have your child get on the bike. However, if you’re planning for the bike to be a surprise, make sure that the store you’ll be purchasing it from offers an exchange policy in the event that the bike ends up not being the right size.
Lighter is always better. Just consider this, for a three-year-old weighing about 16 kg, the heaviest bike could make approximately 20% of their body weight. Now imagine if you yourself were to ride a bike that’s 6-8 kg heavier. It would definitely be a struggle in both cases. Also, if your child is very young, you will end up carrying around the bike a lot. By picking a lighter bike, you’ll make it easier for your child and also save your back.
Make the Experience as Safe as Possible
Many kids will complain how it’s not cool to wear protective equipment, but you as a parent must teach them how important it is, especially helmets. The brain is the most important part of the body which controls all organ functions, so it makes sense to protect something this important, right? Besides protective gear, it’s also important to inspect the state of the bike. Performing regular checks can ensure that you catch any faults on time, before they cause an accident. In fact, the leading cause of problems and bike accidents are flat or under-inflated tyres. Regularly inspect the tyres to make sure the air matches the pressure rating listed on them. When you’re owning any kind of bike, it’s always a good idea to invest in a tyre gauge and pump so that you can perform a check on the tyres at any time.