How to choose a bike for your child

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The biggest thing that parents overlook when choosing a bike for their child is how difficult the weight of a bike can make it for a child to ride comfortably. The typical ratio of  body weight to bike weight for an adult is somewhere around  6 to 1. That would mean a 180 lb. adult would be riding a bike that weighs about 30 lbs. Would you want to ride a bike that is half your weight? That’s usually what a child is expected to do. A typical 20″ youth bike will weigh about 23 or 24 lbs., which is exactly what the Specialized and Trek bikes below weigh. Cheaper bikes, like a Magna, will weigh even more. That would mean that your 7 year old who weighs 50 lbs. would be riding a bike that is half her weight.

Specialized HotRock
Specialized HotRock 20″
Trek Mystic
Trek Mystic 20″

Unfortunately, there aren’t many choices for lighter kids’ bikes unless you want to pay $400 or more. So what should you do? The single most important decision you can make is to buy a bike for your child that is the proper size. Since bikes can be expensive, we often “cheat” by buying a bike that is too big expecting that our child will grow into it an get an extra year or two out of it before outgrowing it.

Since we’re selling used bikes at the Harding ReCycle, we try to discourage parents from this line of thinking. A bike that is too big will be unsafe because it will be heavier than what your child should be riding. When a child feels unsafe on her bike, she will be far less likely to want to ride it. Without riding a bike regularly, a child cannot gain the confidence that makes them a safe and skilled rider.

When you come to the Harding ReCycle, have your child test ride a couple different sizes. Chances are you’ll see her zipping around the blacktop on the smaller size bike. And since you’re buying a used bike, at a reasonable cost, you don’t have to worry if she outgrows it quickly. Donate it back to the Harding ReCycle and come to next year’s event to get her the next size up.

For more tips on choosing a bike for your child, this is a pretty useful video (especially the advice on buying a used bike).


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