One of my best strategies for keeping my kids off screens is finding something they love and for Thomas, it’s bike riding. We’ve always been a family who loves to bike so I’ll seize any free moment to invite him to choose our destination. Sometimes he wants to take the old rail trail turned bike path over to Georgetown Cupcake for a sweet treat. On hot summer days he likes going off-roading on dirt trails that are shaded by the trees. Other days he finishes his homework in a flash and heads off with his sister to the nearby park or cruises the neighborhood to find a friend to join him. Thomas loves the independence and adventure that comes with riding a bike.
This summer Thomas is really excited to be spending part of his summer at a mountain biking camp but as winter turned to spring and he hopped on his bike, I wondered if his bike still fit him. At age 10, he’s growing fast and the bike that once fit him so well seemed to be a bit small.
Since I’m no bike expert, I turned to my friends at Pacific Cycle the parent company of well known bike brands like Schwinn, Mongoose, and Ironhorse to figure out if the bike Thomas had was the right size or if we needed to get him a bigger bike.
Take a Look at Their Feet and Knees as They Ride
We know our kids are growing because all of a sudden their pants are too short but hopping on a bike is another indicator of growth. Pacific Cycle says kids tend to outgrow their bikes within anywhere from one to two and a half years, depending on how quickly they grow. If you think your child is outgrowing their bike, take a look at their feet and angle of their knee.
A child’s leg should be almost fully extended (but not locked) on the downstroke. Parents should look at outstretched leg, as opposed to at the knee angle when the pedal is up on the upstroke.
Measure Your Child
If you’re having a hard time telling if they’re outgrowing their bike based on their feet and angle of their knee, measure your child. A child’s height determines the tire size and this Children’s Bike Size chart from Schwinn serves as a helpful guide to know what size to look for when shopping for a new bike or what the next size is that your child needs.
Almost 11 years of age, Thomas’ height puts him right on the cusp of a bike with 20” inch tires and 24” tires. I was advised that a bike with 24” tires gives him more room to grow so in our case, it was better to size up.
4 Tips for Shopping for a New Kids’ Bike
Once you’ve determined that your child has grown enough for a new bike, here are a few tips for shopping for a new bike.
How to Find the Best Bike for Your Child
If your child needs a new bike, start by figuring out what styles your child likes and what is available. The best bike type for your child may be also determined by age. The children’s sidewalk bike is typically the only style available to younger children who need bikes with wheels 24” or smaller but there is a wealth of options for older kids.
Also consider these 4 factors as you begin shopping for a new bike:
- Bike weight— Bike weight is important because if a bike is too heavy, the weight will make it much more difficult for them to control
- Wheel size- Consult the Children’s Bike Size Chart to find the correct wheel sized based on your child’s height
- The age of your child— If you’re looking for bikes with wheels 24” or below, there will typically be only one style available- a children’s sidewalk bike that may or may not have gears. Parents of older children can consider getting them started on hand brakes.
- The type of riding they will do If your family likes to take enjoys cycling together like ours does, you’ll want to get a hybrid. If your kids are interested in trying out tricks on their bikes, BMX would be a great style for them. For those looking for some off-road adventure, a mountain bike will allow them to experience biking in a completely different way. If your child wants to try tricks or mountain biking, there are several different types of bikes out there (BMX, Mountain, Path/cruiser and road) that may change what you need based on where your child wants to ride.
Shopping Online vs at a Local Store?
The great thing about buying online is wealth of information at your fingertips. Starting your search online can help streamline the shopping experience and narrow your choices. Online retailers like Amazon allow manufacturers to add more easy-to-read details to help you better understand the features and benefits of different bikes. A good example is the level of detail provided by Schwinn for Scorch and Jasmine models.
Whether you’re shopping online or in person, the Children’s Bike Size Chart is the most important tool to have on hand because wheel size is the standard used for sizing bikes. The Bike Size Chart helps brands like Schwinn and Mongoose size bikes for people they don’t see in person. According to Schwinn and Mongoose bike fit experts, “This (Bike Size Chart) gets us as accurate as possible without being right in front of them.”
Get the Most Accurate Fit by Shopping In-Store
For the most accurate fit, your best bet is to visit a store. This allows your child time to sit on the bike and ride it around to get a feel for it. This helps gauge their comfort level with the size before making your purchase. Store employees are experts at knowing how to properly fit your child for a new bike and always have lots of great options to try. You may find just what you’re looking for there and if you don’t, you’ll at least have a better feel for the type and size of bike your child needs and can easily find exactly what you want online.
Don’t Forget the Accessories!
Whether you’re at your local store or shopping online for your new bike, don’t forget the accessories that will keep your child safe and protect your investment. Things like a helmet and bike lock are necessities but there are lots of other accessories you could add on to help your child feel a sense of ownership for their new bike. Someone in a local bike store can help you find the helmet that’s the right fit while your child can pick out a fun bell.
Other things you might want to get while you’re shopping include:
- Helmets are best bought in person at local stores where experts can help you find the right size for your child
- Bike lock because it’s never too early to teach kids to take care of their bike and your investment. Be sure to check out my video featuring 3 Kid Friendly Bike Locks for Young Riders.
- Water bottle cage and water bottle to help young riders stay hydrated on their ride
- Pump for the tires. When the tires start to look a little low, look at the side wall of the tire to inflate them to the proper P
- Reflectors or a light can help keep them safe during evening bike rides
- Bike bell to alert cars, pedestrians, and other bikers know that they’re coming
- Bike baskets are great to have as a place to keep things during rides
Why the Mongoose Rockadile Was the Perfect Bike for Thomas
As it turned out, Thomas had outgrown his bike and my friends at Pacific Cycle sent him the Mongoose Rockadile as a replacement for his old bike. With 24” tires, the boys Rockadile is considered a youth bike, the largest of the kid-sized bikes that he could get before having to move to an adult bicycle but it’s the perfect fit.
Thomas can touch the ground with the toes of one foot, without having to lean the bike to that side. When I watch him ride, I can tell that his leg is fully extended as he pushes the pedal down. Plus he’s comfortable on his new bike and it gives him room to grow.
Mongoose sent Thomas Rockadile to a local bike store who put it together, adjusted the seat, and made sure the fit was right before he rode it home.
Thomas has been looking for every opportunity to ride his new bicycle ever since it came home. He loves how comfortable he feels on the bigger bike (a sure sign that he was outgrowing his old one!) and the features like the aluminum frame that makes it light and easy to handle, 21 speeds that shift easily when climbing hills thanks to the Tourney ez-fire Shifters, and the suspension fork that handles bumps when he’s off roading.
I love that his new bike provides an incentive to want to enjoy the warm weather and be away from screens on a daily basis but he’s excited about having a new bike to take with him to mountain biking camp in just a couple weeks!
For more information about finding the right bike for your child, visit the Schwinn and Mongoose websites and Schwinn has a great article called The Guide to Kids’ Bike Sizes and Heights that’s definitely worth reading!
Huge thanks to Pacific Cycles for providing a Mongoose Rockadile for Thomas. All opinions are my own and based on the experience of my young rider. No compensation was received for this post but affiliate links are included in this post.