Buying the right bike

With so many ways to ride on two wheels, how do you choose which bicycle is right for you or your child? If you’re planning on ditching your car for pedal power, consider something that gives you an easy, comfortable ride. For younger riders just getting started, consider a balance bike or pedal bike with training wheels. A fat tire bike makes for a great all-terrain cruiser. Once the whole family is outfitted with set of wheels, strap your helmets on and get everyone outside for a family bike ride. Read on for more on how to choose the right bike for you.

Bikes for kids and adults

Image of black and red kids BMX bike with red pegs in front and backBMX bikes

Durable, single-speed BMX bikes with 20-inch wheels are designed for tricks, generally featuring reinforced frames, brake rotors and pegs; these are at home on the street, in the dirt or at the park.

Black and white men's mountain bike with red lettering and red suspension spring

Mountain bikes

Agile, resilient mountain bikes can be ridden easily on a wide variety of terrain, thanks to responsive handling, large tires for stability and a comfortable — but athletic — riding position.

Fat tire bikes

Man on a fat tire bicycle

All-terrain bikes that get their name from the wide tires they use. The wider tires and deeper treads mean more contact with the ground and increased stability when riding on soft terrain, like sand and snow, which would cause normal bikes to sink into the surface. Bonus: fat tire bikes ride well on mountainous terrain as well as on the road. Keep in mind that this type of bike will be heavier than a traditional bike. Also, wider tires increase friction, which decreases agility and handling.

Girls' purple cruiser bike with white wall tiresCruiser bikes

Ideal for a more relaxed ride, comfort and cruiser bikes are great for bike riding on paved roads or the street.  Cruiser bikes feature retro-styled frames, oversized spring saddles, and swept-back handlebars that come together to create a comfortable, upright riding position.

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Bikes for adults

Hybrid & Comfort bikesLight green Womens' hybrid comfort bike with brown seat and storage bracket on back

Great for paved trails and street riding, lightweight hybrid bikes with slightly more narrow tires and multiple speeds provide an efficient ride that’s perfect for the fitness-conscious rider.  Comfort bikes are designed with soft saddles, suspension forks, and an upright riding geometry that keeps riders as comfortable as possible on their journey.

White Mens' GMC Denali road bike with red handle bars and water bottle holderRoad bikes

With narrow tires and a lightweight frame, road bikes are ideal for the rider who’s most concerned with fitness and performance on the road.

 

Bikes for young children

Balance bikes Red toddlers' Strider balance bike with black wheels

balance bike is a pedal-free training bike for toddlers and young kids that helps them learn to balance and steer for an easier transition to pedal bikes. Balance bikes, unlike tricycles and training wheels, allow kids learn to balance without assistance. Instead of pedaling, kids run the bike until they can coast along with their feet up.

Girls' pink and purple pedal bike with training wheels, basket and handle bar tasslesPedal bikes

After learning the feel and balance of riding with a balance bike, your child might be ready for a “big kid” pedal bike. With our without training wheels, these bikes help transition your child from pushing with their feet to riding with both feet off the ground. These bikes are typically suited for kids aged 5 to 11 years old.

Kids’ tricyclesYoung boy wearing a helmet riding a red kids' tricycle

Tricycles are the bridge between ride-on toys and bicycles. Once children have outgrown their kids’ trikes, they can use their new skills on regular bicycles or balance bikes. Best suited for children aged 2 to 5.

Choosing the right size of bicycle

When buying a bicycle, ensuring you get the right size will not only improve your comfort, but it will decrease the chances of an accident. Keep in mind, however, that sizing a bike for an adult requires different measurements than those needed for a child.

Sizing adult bicycles

  • Straddle the bicycle.
  • Note the clearance between your inseam and the top tube. There should be 1″ to 2″ of clearance between them.
  • Sit on the seat. You should not be able to stand flat-footed while seated.
  • If you can, raise the seat. Only your toes

Mountain bikes

Inseam Height Mountain bike frame size Mountain bike wheel size
Less than 27″ 5′ to 5’4″ 13″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
27″ to 29″ 5′ 3″ to 5′ 7″ 15″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
29″ to 31″ 5′ 6″ to 5′ 11″ 17″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
31″ to 33″ 5′ 10″ to 6′ 3″ 19″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
33″ to 35″ 6′ 2″ to 6′ 5″ 21″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
Greater than 35″ 6′ 4″ to 6′ 6″ 23″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.

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Road bikes

Inseam Height Road bike frame size Road bike wheel size
Less than 27″ 5′ to 5’4″ 49 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
27″ to 29″ 5′ 3″ to 5′ 7″ 52 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
29″ to 31″ 5′ 6″ to 5′ 11″ 54 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
31″ to 33″ 5′ 10″ to 6′ 3″ 56 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
33″ to 35″ 6′ 2″ to 6′ 5″ 58 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
Greater than 35″ 6′ 4″ to 6′ 6″ 61 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit ths rider.

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Sizing a child’s bicycle

Kids’ bicycles are sized to take growth into consideration and therefore use a different size scale than adult bikes. Because kids change and grow so quickly, bikes are designed to accommodate this seemingly overnight change. The rims of the bike tires serve as a good measurement for size. Always buy a bike that fits your child at the time of purchase rather than one they can ‘grow into.’ If a bike is too big, it won’t provide a safe ride.

Approximate age Child’s inseam Child’s height Wheel size Comments
2-5 years 14″ to 17″ 26″ to 34″ 12″ Most come with training wheels, some are direct drive.
4-8 years 18″ to 22″ 34″ to 42″ 16″ Most have rear coaster breaks and pneumatic tires, some have front hand brakes.
6-9 years 20″ to 24″ 42″ to 48″ 18″ Not commonly available
7-10 years 22″ to 25″ 48″ to 50″ 20″ Some models are multi-speed with hand brakes.
Youth (9+ years) 24″ to 28″ 50″ and up 24″ Can have most of the features of adult bikes.

Looking for more things to ride? Check out our kids’ ride-on guide for everything on 2, 3 and 4 wheels.

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