How to buy a child's bike

Getting the right bicycle for your child can help make cycling fun — and safe.
Learn more


Boy fixing bike

In brief

  • The most important consideration when buying a kid’s bike is safety and size and fit — don’t be tempted to buy a large bike they can ‘grow into’. It may be hard for them to control and could lead to a crash.  
  • While all new bikes should meet the Australian standard for bike safety, it’s useful to know what to check for — especially if you’re buying second-hand.
  • Buying a better-quality bike can mean getting a safer bike, and it will also hold its value better if you want to sell it later on.

Getting their first bike is a big moment in many a child’s life. A safe and comfortable bike, along with lessons in cycling safety, can mean opening up a whole new world of fun, freedom and independence. It’s a comfort that new bikes sold in Australia must conform to the relevant Australian standard (AS/NZS 1927:1998 Pedal bicycles — Safety requirements) to ensure they’re safe and of good quality. But choosing a bike that suits your child and his or her needs is equally important.

Bike sizes are based on their wheel diameter, usually stated in imperial and/or metric measurements on the wheel itself, and are generally appropriate for the following age groups:

  • 3-5 years 30cm/12in
  • 6-8 years 40cm/16in
  • 9-11 years 50cm/20in

This is a guide only, and will vary according to your child's growth. We recommend getting your bike assembled, checked and adjusted at a bike shop; for a small fee it's a smart investment.

This article provides a checklist of things to consider when buying a new or secondhand bike for your child, with the aim of creating safe and fun times ahead.

For more information on Bikes, see Babies and Kids.

What about Balance bikes?

A balance bike is a modern version of the draisienne or hobby horse. It has no pedals, crankset and chain or training wheels, so the child simply scoots their feet along the ground to gain speed and then raises their feet to coast along. Some come with a rear-wheel hand brake, however if the child isn’t comfortable using it they simply drag their feet to stop.
The idea behind this concept is that the child learns to balance, steer and stop before they move onto the more challenging task of pedalling. This approach has been popular in Europe, and in recent years this method has become more accepted in Australia. 

Balance bikes are light and easy for children to move around, and have a low centre of gravity. The child needs to be able to walk and tall enough to straddle the bike before they can use one, generally around 18months is a good age to get started.

Manufacturers of balance bikes say that children can learn to ride faster and generally move onto a bike with pedals and no training wheels with ease. Kids may become dependent on training wheels, and could acquire bad habits that may take time to unlearn. If training wheels are not adjusted correctly they can become an obstacle to learning.

The concept is good, but balance bikes have a limited life span. You could achieve the same effect by simply removing the pedals from a normal bike and then attaching them again when the child is ready. It’s a cheaper option – avoiding the extra expense of a balance bike. Simon Vincett of Ride On magazine recently reviewed the ByK E-250 First Bike ($250) and gave it a score of 96%. It’s not a balance bike, however could be used as one with the pedals off.



Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments