All About Bicycle Riding

Buying a Bike

Before embarking on a family cycling trip, you'll need to find your child a bike that suits his physical needs -- and personal taste.

Where to buy

Kids' bikes start at around $100 at most bike shops, compared to $50 and up at discount department stores. Cheaper models, however, tend to be heavier and more prone to mechanical problems, says Jay Townley, executive director of the Bicycle Council, a Wisconsin-based biking-industry association. Townley also notes that bike shops often offer more personalized service than general department stores. Also, many bike shops offer a free 30-day "checkup" to ensure that everything is functioning properly.

Finding the right size

If buying from a discount store, you will most likely have to determine the right-size bike for your child. Finding a bike that fits is crucial to your child's safety, especially since both oversize and undersize bikes can prove hazardous. Bikes that are too large, for instance, can prevent a child's feet from touching the ground and keep his hands from reaching the hand brakes. Bikes that are too small, on the other hand, force a child to pedal awkwardly with substantially bent knees, which can cause knee pain and make a child's legs tire quickly. When fitting a bike:

  • Make sure your child, while seated, can touch the ground easily with both feet when the seat is in its lowest position. (The seat can be raised gradually as your child grows.)
  • Adjust the seat so that your child's legs bend slightly at the bottom of each revolution when pedaling.

Your child's taste

Besides fitting your child physically, a bike should match your child's personality. Let him choose the color and style of the bike, while you decide on more substantial matters, such as size and quality. It's important that a child like his bike because then he's more likely to ride it, notes Peter Moe of the Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Bicycling and Walking, a leading bike-advocacy organization.

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