With holidays or summer always right around the corner, you may be wondering ‘is it time for a new kids’ bike’?
It’s not unusual for kids to ask for new shiny things as soon as they grow bored of their existing toys and gadgets. Sometimes it can seem like a never-ending stream of requests!
But when it comes to buying kids bikes, how can you tell if your child really needs a bike upgrade?
Sometimes kids will ask for a new bike because they’re bored and just want a different color or a bike with some fun stickers. These kinds of requests can easily be met with simple and superficial upgrades such as a frame wrap or some kids bike accessories.
But if your child has outgrown their bike physically or developmentally, it’s in their best interest to get a new bike. Kids grow fast and quickly outgrow their clothes, shoes, and yes, their bikes!
Most bikes will have adjustable seat posts and handlebars, so you have some flexibility for growth spurts. But if a bike is really too small physically, it can be challenging to ride and even dangerous.
Mentally, kids also benefit from a natural progression onto bikes with advanced features as they grow older. Features like gears and hand brakes should be introduced as children become more confident riders. These features aren’t mandatory, but they’re standard on adult bikes, so kids benefit from learning to use them as their riding skills advance.
Although a new kids’ bike certainly isn’t the cheapest purchase, it has many benefits. Riding bikes is excellent exercise and gets kids away from their screens and electronics. If you can occupy your children with a bike that fits, they’ll enjoy riding and grow more independent.
In this article, we’ll look at how long kids’ bikes last and how you can tell if your kid really needs a new bike.
Has your child outgrown their bike?
When you first teach a kid to ride a bike, it may seem like they’ll never get the hang of it. But before you know it, they’ve moved from balance bikes and trikes onto their first big kid’s bike. Then, suddenly, they’ve outgrown that as well, and it’s time for a bike with gears and handbrakes!
In just a few short years, children can grow in leaps and bounds and quickly advance through the first stages of cycling. You might start with bikes for 2 to 4-year-olds but quickly progress onto bikes for 5 to 8-year-olds, then before you know it, you’ve got a teenager!
Kids typically outgrow their bikes every one to two years. However, every child grows at a different rate. Some children grow slowly and steadily, but others can shoot up like beanstalks seemingly overnight!
If your child is rapidly outgrowing pants and other clothes, there’s a good chance they’ll soon outgrow their bikes as well. But sometimes growth spurts aren’t noticeable, even if they’re happening right in front of our eyes. So here’s how to tell if your child has outgrown their bike:
Knee & foot placement
When a bike fits perfectly, your child should be able to sit on the saddle and touch the ground with the toes of one foot. The cycle shouldn’t need to tilt to one side to accommodate this.
If kids can’t touch the ground easily then the bike is too big for them. But if your kid’s knee is bending a lot or hitting the handlebars as they ride, the bike saddle either needs raising, or the bike is too small.
A bike can be adjusted, so check you’ve raised the seat post as far as you can go before you size up to a new bike. You should buy a bike that fits your child initially when on the lowest seat post setting. Adjusting the seat allows for some room to extend the height of the post as your child grows taller.
If the seat post is at its highest setting, and your child is still uncomfortable, you’ll know they’ve outgrown the bike.
Another indicator that a bike is too small is an uncomfortable or awkward reach. Reach refers to how far your child needs to stretch their arms to grab the handlebars. If they can’t reach the handlebars then a bike is obviously too large and impossible for them to steer.
On the other hand, if your child’s bike is too small, you’ll see that their arms and elbows are at right angles to the handlebars. This indicates there’s not enough space for them to extend correctly. Cramped arms can become painful and make it harder to steer correctly. This posture can also put pressure on the arms and back and is a sure sign that a child is outgrowing their bike.
Kids should be able to ride with a relaxed reach. They shouldn’t be either stretching or hunching. Instead, they should ride with a relaxed upper body position. They shouldn’t have their arms locked, but just ever so slightly flexed.
Some bikes may also come with broader or narrower handlebars. If the handlebars are too wide, it can be difficult and uncomfortable for children to control their bikes.
On the flip side, if handlebars are too narrow, they can cause discomfort. Observe your child’s posture and ask them how their upper back and shoulders feel if you suspect the bars aren’t the right fit.
How long do kid’s bikes generally last?
How long a bike will last and how long it will fit are two very different questions. Some kids can outgrow bikes in what feels like the blink of an eye, but the bike itself may still be in excellent condition.
So if your kid isn’t growing anymore do they still need a new bike, and how often should kids’ bikes be replaced?
Most children and adult bikes have a lifetime of approximately five years if ridden every day, and longer if ridden less regularly. The lifetime of a bike can easily be extended through regular maintenance or the addition of new tires and other bike parts. A well-maintained bike can last for decades if lightly ridden, regularly upgraded, and well cared for.
A bike’s life can also be instantly shortened if it’s involved in a crash. Your child’s bike should be checked carefully after any significant crash, to ensure it is still in safe working condition. Check the bike’s condition regularly, even if your child just takes a little tumble!
Does the bike have a trade-in policy?
Most younger kids will outgrow a new bike while it’s still in good condition. If you have a larger family you may be able to hold onto a kid’s bike for their younger siblings – but make sure they fit well! Hand-me-down bikes aren’t worth the savings if they don’t work or fit properly.
If there are no younger kids in your house to inherit a cycle the question remains: what do you do with a perfectly good kids’ bike once your kid outgrows it? Luckily, many bike manufacturers, like Cleary, offer a trade-in policy. We’ve created ReRide, our trade-in program to help solve this issue. It’s a simple idea with big benefits.
If your child outgrows a Cleary bike, we’ll take the bike back, spruce it up and give it back to someone who really needs a bicycle. In return, we’ll also give you a sweet rebate for trading your kid’s bike back in. Then, you can put that rebate towards a shiny new bike in a bigger size! It’s a win-win situation that benefits both parents and the wider community.
Kids’ bikes usually have a lot of life left in them after they’ve been outgrown. So there’s no reason they should go to a new home to be enjoyed by a child in need. Bike riding builds confidence and is excellent exercise, so the more kids we get on bikes, the better the world is!
Buying the right size bike
Knowing that children outgrow bikes quickly, it’s often tempting for parents and grandparents to buy a bike that’s too big with an expectation that kids will “grow into it”. While this logic may be practical with a t-shirt, it’s not wise with a bike.
A too-small bike can be uncomfortable and unsafe to ride, and a too-big bike is no different. If a child can’t touch the ground with their feet or is struggling to reach the handlebars, they won’t be able to ride properly.
That’s why it’s so important to find out the right kids’ bike size before you buy. When choosing a new children’s bike, you always need to ensure it’s a good fit. A new bike should fit perfectly with the handlebars and seat post at their lowest settings. This will allow for some adjustment, creating room for growth before needing a brand new bike.
If you need some help finding the perfect fit, the Cleary kids bike size chart is here to help. Our kid’s bike sizes range is sized by wheel diameter, with bikes available in 12, 16, 20, 24, and 26 inches.
Find the perfect fit
Take the time to measure your child’s bike fit periodically as they grow, so you know when it’s time for a new bike. Check out our kid’s bike sizing guide to get all the tips and tricks you need for proper sizing.
A bike that’s the right size as children grow will ensure they always have the most fun, safe and comfortable riding experience.