A Guide To Buying Your Child’s First Bicycle

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.

What are your best tips for buying a bicycle for a child?

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Sally Writes

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.


  1. dawnblyth 01/12/2019 at 11:28 pm

    A bike that fits and that is comfortable to ride is key. Kids don’t need all the bells and whistles so don’t get caught buying b one with added extras they won’t use

  2. MuddledUpMolly 01/12/2019 at 9:25 pm

    Unfortunately we did things the wrong way around and bought a two wheeler with training wheels for our 2 year old and now that she’s 3 we bought her a balance bike! She absolutely loves her balance bike and we have noticed a noticeable improvement in her balance and coordination since she got it less than four weeks ago. Definitely the way to go 🙂

  3. SarahBlair 01/12/2019 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks for this article, it’s incredibly timely as my daughter had her birthday just after Christmas and really wants a bike! I now feel more confident that I can make an appropriate choice for her first bike!!

  4. Alezandra 01/12/2019 at 1:47 pm

    We went from balance bike to a 2 wheeler. We didn’t go through training wheels because using the balance bike is the way they learn to balance. Having training wheels just makes them dependent on them instead of learning to balance straightaway. This is my opinion. 🙂

    • gcnz02 04/05/2022 at 4:00 pm

      Agree with this. Our boy got a balance bike for his 2nd birthday and when we got him a new bike when he 3 he was able to ride it without training wheels, it was quite amazing to see.

      Our 3 year old took a while to get the back pedal brakes working so it was very useful having hand front brakes. he is now 3 and 3/4 and is awesome at biking, recently did 14km on the Otago rail trail and can bike up and down the short hill to our house.

  5. Micht 30/11/2019 at 11:46 pm

    Honestly…i dont have any tips as my girls dont have their bikes sorted and havent ridden them properly..
    Working on it.

  6. Shorrty4life1 28/11/2019 at 9:19 am

    Best tip I have for mums of little ones is buy a balance bike it makes life so much easier when kids need to go to no training wheels bikes. My daughter and son both managed to get on a bike with no training wheels and ride straight away due to using a balance bike from 2-4 years of ages. It honestly does help gain their balance.

    • Jen_Wiig 29/11/2019 at 9:20 am

      I love this. We just brought my youngest first 2 wheeler bike for his 5th birthday. With my older 2 we didn’t do the balance bike thing, I think at the times I thought they were a gimmick… How wrong was I… We got one given to Mykah when he was 2.5 and that was it he was off, now he’s 5 he has literally just taken to riding like a fish to water… I think because he only needed to worry about learning to pedal already having that balance sussed… Its too cute as well seeing this little person joining around on his bike with the hugest grin… Our biggest challenge is getting him to wear his helmet… Properly… No issues wearing it but he likes it pushed back off his head abit so he can see better 😔 I reckon bikes are great but do wish they were abit more affordable and accessible to kids so more of them learn to ride and get outside cruising aeou d with mates.

  7. Bevik1971 27/11/2019 at 4:26 pm

    As we have lived in an apartment in the middle of town since our daughter was 3 (she turns 7 in Dec), she hasn’t had a bike yet, but loves her scooter 🙂 We are going to get her a bike soon though as we won’t be living here for that much longer and will have somewhere with an area for a bike. Good points for buying a bike and I will definitely take them into account 🙂

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