I’m a father of four young kids, ages three to 11, with varying levels of interest (and willingness) around the activity of bicycling. My garage is a mess of wheels, seats, frames, and accouterments to appease a mini peloton.
But it’s all starting to coalesce, with the baby bikes and a Burley trailer now pushed toward the back of the garage. This spring, a preferred fleet of bikes is emerging, including single-speed “neighborhood” rides, BMX-style bikes, geared road options, mountain bikes, and one fixie for my burgeoning tween.
We have cheap bikes and good bikes. Some are rusty; some we keep clean, wiping off the paint after each ride. The bikes in this article, all mid- to high-end options, have come out as the kids’ current favorite two-wheel picks.
Balance Bike: Yuba Flip Flop
Among multiple push-bike options, my littlest one loves this Yuba the most. Its swooping frame and straight handlebars offer performance and fit as he crushes out sidewalks miles.
After about a year of hard use, and with zero maintenance and much abuse, the bike shows few signs of wear.
The foam-filled tires cannot pop. A bonus: The lightweight aluminum frame “flips” over to transition the bike to a taller ride as your grom grows. ($120; more info)
Kid’s Belt-Drive Bike: Priority Start FW
A grease-free belt drive instead of a chain makes the Start bike from Priority Bicycles stand out. With a stand-over height of 16 inches, it’s made for kids up to about 7 years old.
Single-speed gearing offers simplicity, while the hand brakes (not common pedal-activated coasters) teach “big kid bike” skill and control.
The company touts a rust-proof aluminum frame, meaning your kid can stash it under a tree in the yard.
My boys use this bike as all-around neighborhood transportation and occasional BMX-like stunts. Caveat: The Start’s gearing is too low for serious bike rides with mom and dad. ($249; more info)
Child-Size Singlespeed Racer: Pello REVO 16
New this spring, and with a tag line of “the ultimate kids bike,” Pello offers high quality with its higher price. There’s a lifetime warranty on the frame and fork and a two-year warranty on parts.
The company touts a better geometry and an overall superior build. The 17-inch bike is a singlespeed model for kids ages four to about eight. I like the name-brand components, from the headset to the brakes.
The 16-inch wheels are from Kenda, and they come with presta-valve tubes, a nod serious cyclists, kid or grownup, will appreciate. ($299; more info)
Do-All Kid Bike: Cleary Owl 20”
Made for boys and girls with an inseam of 20 to 26 inches, the Owl is sold as suitable for riding “on the half-pipe, on trails, and on the way to school.”
The do-all design comes with 20-inch wheels, single-speed gearing at a 32×20 ratio, and front and rear hand brakes.
Stand-out features include a “race-style” vegan leather saddle and internal cable routing to keep the frame clean. While pricey, the design is clean. The bike functioned great for my kids, and Cleary gives a lifetime warranty. ($345; more info)
Kids With Gears = Faster Ride: Islabikes Beinn 24
Long rides with hills are no problem with this 8-speed bike. My 4th-grader loved the upgrade from his old, non-geared bike: With the Beinn’s 24-inch wheels rolling fast he can go twice as far on rides with mom.
The company built the bike to be versatile, from pavement to dirt trails. As a hybrid, the 19-pound Beinn has worked well serving as a transition from my son’s “little kid” bike to something he can pedal fast and far. ($550; more info)
Mini-Fixie: State Bicycle Co. Bel Aire 2.0
Fixed-gear bikes have attained mainstream acceptance, including with teens (and younger) who seek a streamlined, urban-aesthetic ride. My 11-year-old daughter loves her State Bel Aire, a cream-color city bike that rolls as a fixie or freewheel singlespeed.
The bike comes in frame sizes from 46 – 59cm, making this model rideable for kids about 4-foot-10 in height to full adult.
But the one-size-fits-all approach is not perfect. The gearing is high for kids, especially if there are any hills. Also, I replaced the stock bike seat with a smaller saddle that better fit my girl. ($449; more info)
MTB For Groms: Specialized Riprock Expert 24
On rocky trails and rough terrain, my kids aren’t yet quite high-performance enough for this crusher of a mini mountain bike.
But the 10-speed Riprock, with its fatter, 2.8-inch-wide tires, has been as fun as it’s been aspirational for my burgeoning singletrack-seekers.
Essentially an adult mtb shrunken down, the Riprock has 24-inch wheels and a swooping geomeprtry that gives a low stand-over height, allowing a child to grow into the frame over a few years.
The fork, with 70mm travel, the hydraulic disc brakes, and quality components from the headset on down, inspire confidence and give the kids a taste of how a bike should perform on singletrack and all-mountain terrain. ($1,000; more info)