It's nearly that time again . . . when back to school means bike to school –


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Safety first … A boy with a cycling helmet going to school on his bike. Photo: Getty Images

With the new school year just around the corner, there is no better feeling as a cycling parent than seeing your child cycling to school. The benefit of physical exercise is common knowledge. These would include building a stronger heart, bones, and healthier muscles, improving academic scores, encouraging a better night’s sleep as well as improving self-confidence. So, when buying a child’s bike what should you look out for?
Size is key
A general rule of thumb is that your child shouldn’t grow into their bike, rather they should outgrow their existing one. If you decide to buy a bike that’s too big for them, it may lead to them struggling to pedal or control the bike, therefore losing confidence and falling out of love with the bike. As adults we choose our bikes based on frame size. This is not the case when it comes to choosing the right-sized bike for a child. A child’s bike size is determined by wheel size. (See panel)
Wheel Size Age Height (inches) Height (cm)
12″ 2-3 2’10”-3’4″ 85-100 cm
14″ 3-4 3’1″-3’7″ 95-110 cm
16″ 4-5 3’7″-4’0″ 110-120 cm
20″ 5-8 4’0″-4’5″ 120-135 cm
24″ 8-11 4’5″-4’9″ 135-145 cm
26″ 11+ 4’9″+ 145+ cm
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Why Spend More?
Buying a bicycle for your child can be a difficult decision. You can be bombarded with the many options available. It can be tempting to choose the cheapest one as your child will inevitably grow out of it. Choosing this option may seem the most logical but there is a catch.
Firstly, the weight, the bikes in general will typically be made of aluminium making them lighter than the cheaper version which can be made from steel.
Secondly, the parts and build quality are far more superior than the cheaper bikes. The cheaper bikes usually employ parts which are not designed for small hands to operate. The more expensive models, incorporate parts that are aimed at children. For children, it’s often difficult to change gears, so making sure that your child can easily work the gear shifters or pull on the brakes. Also, if you plan on buying a hardtail or full-suspension bike, look at the forks and shocks. Air forks and shocks are recommended, because they allow for some modifications like air pressure and rebound adjustment, which will greatly improve the ride quality
Thirdly, the more expensive bikes have a greater chance of holding their value if you decide to sell it on.
Children’s Helmet
A helmet is even more important than the bike itself. Like adult helmets, a more expensive helmet won’t necessarily offer better protection, but what it will offer is lighter weight, better ventilation, and more style. When choosing the helmet look out for the CE (EN 1078) mark. This indicates the helmet has passed all the necessary tests. We would advise you to purchase your child’s helmet in your local bicycle store and not online. Your local bike shop would be able to advise you on what helmet suits your child the best and talk you through the different options
When selecting a helmet for your child, style may be the biggest barrier to them wearing it, especially if they are teenagers. Ventilation shouldn’t only really be an issue if the child plans on cycling long distances.
If your child is planning on doing some off-road riding, you should consider a full-face helmet. They usually come with a detachable peak to help keep the sun and rain out of their eyes.
Before heading to your local bike shop, we advise you to measure your child’s head as not all children’s helmets are a universal size. Measure horizontally around your child’s head, just above the ears and about two finger-widths or an inch above the eyebrows.
When it comes to clothing there is an Aladdin’s cave of options. If your child is primarily using the bike to get to and from school all the major brands have waterproof commuter-style jackets and bottoms. If it is too warm there is always the option to wear a high viz gilet over their school uniform. If they are cycling their bike on or off road, there is plenty of choice. Brands like Bicycle Line and Endura all have ranges that are both functional, stylish and include padded shorts. Another piece of clothing to consider is gloves (mitts). These will keep your child’s hands warm during the winter months and if they do fall off the gloves will help protect their hands.
Other Accessories
When buying the bike consider a set of lights and a good lock. When selecting a lock remember a child will be using it, so you don’t want to select one that is too heavy to carry and is cumbersome to use and will employ either a key or combination to lock them.
Most schools will have security measures in place; however you can never be too careful. Other items to consider are bicycle lights and a kickstand for the bike. There are loads of lights currently and will be powered either using batteries or through a chargeable USB battery. We suggest you invest in a kick stand. This will ensure your child’s bike stays upright (most of the time) and will prevent unnecessary scratches or damage.
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