In New Zealand, 20% of the population ride bikes on a regular basis. It’s not just a way of getting to a destination; cycling is also a wonderful way to keep fit and healthy for people of all ages.
With childhood obesity being an issue in New Zealand, it’s important to start your little ones on the path to wellness as young as possible. Riding a bike is perfect for this, giving them an added sense of freedom. It is easier to learn how to ride when you’re young and it’s a life skill that stays with you forever. All you need to do is buy your child their very first bicycle and get going.
Bikes for the early years
You may find that a balance bike from around aged two is a good way to get kids used to riding a bike. They have no pedals and are propelled by your child’s feet.
Most children have the coordination around the age of three years old to have a go at riding a two-wheeled bicycle with training wheels. When they are this age, if they have an inseam (the distance between the crotch and the floor) of between 14 and 17”, then a bike with a 12” wheel diameter is usually the right size.
Between the ages of four to six years old, look for a 14” diameter – these are sold at most toy stores, as well as mainstream sports and cycling stores.
At this age, children will have developed better balance and a little more self-confidence in their ability to ride a bike. Generally, children outgrow these bikes very quickly, so making a large financial investment isn’t worth it. If you are a keen cycling family, then wait until they are older before looking at more expensive models.
Moving away from training wheels
Many children start to ride a bike independently without the need for training wheels, over the age of six. For an inseam of between 18-22”, then a 16” wheel diameter is about right. Most stores will have an expert that can help fit your child for a bike, making sure that the frame of the bike is the right size. If the frame is too large, they may have difficulty controlling their bike and it can be tricky to manoeuvre. As a rough guideline, the frame is generally two thirds of the height of the inseam measurement. Coaster brakes (ones that are applied by back pedalling) are a good idea on bikes for this age group, as they are easy to use.
Advanced bicycle features
Don’t be tempted to go for advanced features like hand brakes and multiple gears when you are buying a child’s first bike. Hand brakes are fine for children over the age of eight, but any younger and they probably won’t have the grip or co-ordination to be able to operate them. Gears and multiple speeds are not a good idea when they are learning to ride, as they distract from the main purpose of simply being able to cycle without falling off and changing direction.
Buying a child’s first bike is a milestone in their development. Getting them into fun fitness early in their lives will help them to grow into healthy adults.
This article was written by Sally Sykes with additional content by Kidspot NZ. Sally is a freelance writer who left her corporate job for a life of freedom. She regularly travels with her family and absolutely loves camping in the great outdoors.