Children’s bike buying can be confusing. Whether you’re looking for your child’s first bike or a bike with room to grow, it’s always hard to know what models are age-appropriate.
There are so many questions that come with buying bikes for kindergarten and elementary school-aged children.
What are the best bikes for 5 to 8 year-olds?
Should they feature big-kid components like kickstands and gears?
Training wheels or no training wheels?
Size up, or size down?
It’s hard even to know where to start.
This guide will help you learn about the best bikes for children aged five to eight. We’ll cover everything from picking the right size bike, adjusting it to fit just right, and which features are suitable for this age group.
How to Choose a Bike for 5-8 Year-Olds
Most kids learn to ride bikes between the ages of three and eight so some children in this age group may be just starting to learn. Or, they may be onto their second or even third bike. When it comes to bike buying, ability and experience matter more than just age.
If this is your child’s first bike, you’ll want to choose a more straightforward model for them to learn on. If your child has been riding for a few years now, they will be more confident on their bike and more experimental.
Consider the following factors when choosing the best bike for five to eight-year-olds.
Picking the right size
Children come in all shapes and sizes, and there can be a considerable variation in growth within the five to eight-year-old age bracket.
Children grow at different rates, so we don’t recommend choosing bikes based on age. Of course, an age bracket can point you in the right direction or narrow down your options. But, to find your child the perfect bike, you’ll want to measure them and get the right fit.
Parents should measure using their child’s inseam, then use our bike size chart to compare against the seat height of the bike. To calculate an inseam, have your child put shoes on, then use a measuring tape to measure the distance from the crotch of your child’s pants down to the floor. The inseam measurement will help you narrow down your bike hunt.
Most children aged five to eight will have an inseam somewhere in the range of 16 to 25 inches. These inseam measurements usually align to a bike model with 16-24 inch wheels. Only taller children in this age group are likely to be ready for a 24-inch bike. Most will be best suited to a 16 or 20-inch model.
Every parent knows that kids grow fast. Adjustability is an important feature that will enable your child to use their bike longer, even if they have a growth spurt!
You can raise and adjust seats and handlebars on some bike models, potentially adding years of use. Ensure there’s ample room for growth when choosing a bike. Aim for your child to fit a bike on for the lowest seat height setting when you first buy it. Adjustment allows for growth; if you have to raise the seat when you first buy the bike, your child will quickly outgrow it.
A bike that is too heavy will make learning to ride difficult and potentially dangerous for your child. A children’s bike should weigh around 30 percent less than your child’s body weight. If a child isn’t comfortable with riding, a heavy bike may impact balance or be difficult for them to manage when getting on and off.
Lighter bicycles allow for more control and more comfortable pedaling. As cycles move up in size, they get heavier, with bigger frames and added features such as shocks and gears. Judge your kiddo’s confidence to see if they can handle it.
Even if your child has owned a bike before, they probably won’t have used gears until they reach this age bracket. Toddlers and younger children don’t need gears, as they’re complicated to use and distracting.
But for ages five to eight, gears are optional. Some children may be confident and experienced enough to add this feature, but it’s OK if they don’t. Knowing when to switch gears can be challenging for a five or six-year-old. Many younger children in this age range are still not ready to use gears properly.
Children aged five to eight years old usually ride outdoors, so they need proper air tires, not ride on bike toys with plastic tires. If you’re mostly cruising around the neighborhood streets, then smooth tires will be suitable.
If you and your family like to ride on rougher terrains, such as dirt, grass, or gravel, the tires should be durable. A tire with more grip, such as deeply treaded tires, is best for ensuring superb traction.
If this is your child’s first bike, you can initially leave the pedals off and use your Cleary bike as a balance bike. Cleary bikes come with the pedals off, so there’s no dismantling needed, and the pedals are easy to add on at a later date
Learning to ride on a balance bike without pedals is a great place to get started. Learning in this way helps children avoid the need for training wheels when they progress to pedal bikes.
A child’s bike should be easy to assemble because as soon as it arrives, your child will want to ride it. Cleary bikes are easy to put together, and you can easily add or remove the cranks and pedals to help children learn to balance. Watch our assembly video to get started.
The Best Bikes for 5-8 Year-Olds in 2021
The best bikes for children aged five to eight are bikes in the 16 inch to 24-inch range. Most five to eight-year-olds will be best suited to a 16 or 20-inch bike, but taller or more confident riders may be ready for a 24-inch model.
16 Inch Hedgehog
The 16-inch Hedgehog bikes are well suited to kindergarten-aged children who have an inseam of 17 to 21 inches. A 16-inch bike is typically the best bike size for five-year-old or six-year-old children depending on their height.
This 16-inch bike includes a freewheel and hand brakes which take kids a step closer to an adult bike. The Hedgehog’s hand brakes are durable and small – designed for little hands.
20 Inch Owl
Taller kindergarteners and elementary school children may suit the Owl model. This 20-inch bike is perfect for early-grade-school adventurers in the five to eight age range.
A 20-inch bike like the Owl is generally a good fit to buy for six and seven-year-old children. However, the inseam measurement, not age, should be your guiding number. The Owl is a good size for riders with an inseam measurement between 19-23 inches.
The 20-inch wheels on the Owl mean it can roll fast over small obstacles and even attempt some little jumps. The Owl has a freewheel and a rigid front fork. All-terrain tires give your child more freedom to ride in the park or hit the trails.
The 20-inch Owl bikes are available in either single-speed or three-speed models. Younger children are better suited to a single-speed bike. But if your little rider is more experienced, then the three-speed Owl will introduce them to the world of gear shifting.
24 Inch Meerkat
Only taller or advanced children in the five to eight-year-old range will be ready for a 24-inch bike. The 24-inch Meerkat is bigger, heavier, and more challenging to ride than the Owl or the Hedgehog.
If your child is ready to manage gears, the Meerkat can provide the next level of bike sophistication. This model has a trigger shifter paired with a five-speed internally geared Sturmey Archer hub. Your junior shredder will be able to make quick, efficient shifts without worrying about being out of gear.
The Meerkat also allows your child more independence as they get older. This model comes with front and rear rack mounts, so you can easily add a basket or rear rack. The more advanced features of a 24-inch bike give your child their first taste of trust and responsibility.
Kids develop so quickly; it often feels they’re growing up too fast! Watching your child move up to a big kid’s bike isn’t always easy. You want to see them challenging themselves while still being safe. Choosing the best bike for your child’s age and height will give you the confidence that they’re on a bike they can handle safely.