The best kids’ bikes of 2023


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Updated Jan 24, 2023 8:39 AM

When you’re a kid, getting a brand-new bike is the epitome of excitement and the ultimate sign of freedom. From riding around the block with friends to going for a quick family pedal on the weekends, a bike is a great marker for growing up and getting more independent. Whether your kids are starting out on their first balance bike or getting ready to tackle tough terrain on a mountain bike, you’ll need to make sure you purchase a model that suits their size and experience. With so many options out there, it can be difficult to discern where to start. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of questions to consider, as well as some of our favorite picks, so you can find the best kids’ bikes for your youngster. 

The best kids’ bikes: Reviews & Recommendations

Best overall: Raleigh MXR 16

The Raleigh MXR 16 is an excellent option for older kids looking to learn how to ride a bike. The 16-inch has an adjustable seat height between 19.5 and 24 inches and weighs roughly 20 pounds. Back-pedal coaster brakes can help keep them focused on their feet, while removable training wheels will allow them to work on their balance once they’re comfortable with the basic functions. The MXR also comes in a 12-inch model for tinier riders ready to test out pedals and start the transition to a training-wheel-free ride. 

Best hybrid bike: Guardian Bikes Ethos

The Guardian Bikes Ethos is a bike that will do well for kids ready to ride on their own over various terrain types. Certainly a departure from the training wheel days of yore, the Guardian Ethos has six gears and a lightweight steel frame that provides extra stability. Designed for boys and girls from 45 to 53 inches tall, from ages 6 to 9, this bike has a sizing chart and video to make sure you get the perfect fit. It comes with a Surestop braking technology that controls both wheels with one brake lever for additional safety. 

Best budget: Schwinn Elm

Finding a safe, sturdy, budget-friendly kid’s bike can be a bit of a challenge, and of course, the bigger the bike, the bigger the price tag. The Schwinn Elm is available in multiple wheel sizes, including 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20 inches. Though not every size is available for under $150, each model is certainly on the inexpensive side of the kids’ bike spectrum. Each Schwinn Elm is designed with a light frame, coaster brakes, and one front-hand (or caliper brake) to help ease the transition to a full-size model. The seats are adjustable, with a forward, narrow pedal position to fit their bodies. The Elm comes in three different colors, featuring pink, purple, and light blue floral patterns and a basket on the front. For a more rugged aesthetic but almost identical specs, check out the Schwinn Koen

Best balance bike: Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

The Strider 12 Sport is a great way to introduce biking fundamentals to your little one. Suitable for kids as young as 18 months, this is one bike that will safely grow with your child. The seat and handlebars are adjustable to accommodate an inseam that measures anywhere between 12 and 20 inches. The bike itself weighs under seven pounds which is manageable for small children, and mini-grips will help them keep control. The steel frame is durable, and the tires are puncture-proof; all you need is a helmet, and your child will be ready for a super-safe spin. Available in ten fun colors, the 12 Sport will introduce your child to the freedom, power, and responsibility that comes with riding their first bike. 

Best mountain bike: Co-op Cycles’ REV DRT Bike 

The REV DRT Bike tops the chart when it comes to kids’ mountain bikes. The lightweight aluminum frame, extra-wide tires, hydraulic disc brakes, and suspension fork with 80 millimeters of travel will ensure your child can navigate rocky trails with ease. This bike is equipped with eight gears to give your kid plenty of options for climbing steep passages or coasting downhill. Weighing in at 31 pounds with 24-inch wheels, this bike is undoubtedly meant for older, more experienced riders. If the 24-inch wheels are a bit too big for your kids, you can check these bikes from Prevolo, which are designed to help kids of any size on any terrain.

Things to consider before buying the best kids’ bike

The best kids’ bike will vary depending on your child’s height, weight, and skill level. Generally speaking, you’ll be looking for bikes by seat height or wheel size between 12 and 24 inches, which will correlate to your kid’s age, height, and inseam. Beyond size, the next thing to consider is your kid’s skill level: Do they need training wheels, fixed gear, or a mountain bike? While all these components are simple enough, take the time to make sure your measurements are correct, and whether a classic pick of one of the specialized kids’ bikes is appropriate. 

What size bike does your child need? 

The easiest way to determine what size bike your kid needs is to measure their inseam (from where their feet touch the ground to the top of their crotch). Once you determine this number, you want to look for a bike with a seat height that is, at minimum, this number. For example, if your little one’s inseam measurement is 19 inches, then 19 inches should be the minimum seat height on their bike. As a child is learning to ride, they should be able to place their feet on the floor securely, so the correct seat height will keep them in control as they learn to manipulate hand breaks, etc. From there, you can consider wheel size and frame weight. 

Looking for a sizing shortcut?  

Aside from seat height, there are a few other measurements you can take into account to determine the proper wheel size for your kid’s new bike. Here is a rough guide you can use to narrow your search: 

A child ages 2-4 between 30-39 inches tall with a 12-17-inch inseam will need a bike with 12-inch wheels. Children ages 3-5 between 37-44 inches tall with a 16-20-inch inseam will need a bike with 14-inch wheels. Next, a little one aged 5-8 between 42-52 inches tall with an 18-22-inch inseam will need a bike with 20-inch wheels. Finally, a kid who is 8-12 years old, 50-58 inches tall with a 24-28-inch inseam will probably do best on a 24-inch wheeled bike. 

Before purchasing, make sure you double-check the seat height, and before you know it, your little cyclist will be ready to roll on one of the best bikes for kids. 

How much does your kid weigh? 

It’s important to consider your child’s weight in relation to the weight of the bike. Kids’ bikes typically weigh between 25 and 45 percent of their body weight, which is a lot when you consider that most adult bikes weigh around 20 percent or less of their rider’s total body weight. If the frame is too heavy, your child will have trouble controlling their bike; they won’t be able to pedal properly, and steering may become a challenge. If possible, try to select a bike that weighs at or below 30 percent of their body weight, so they can get stronger while riding without struggling through the process. 

Is this their first bicycle?  

If you have a young child under four, consider trying out a balance bike before going straight for the pedals. As your child learns more about their center of gravity, a balance bike can help familiarize them with the concept of coordination, steering, and stopping. Instead of a traditional break and chain, they’ll use their feet to break as well as to propel themselves forward. A balance bike will help prepare them to pedal, and as soon as they are old enough, you can transition them to training wheels or skip them altogether. Many kids who start on a balance bike can transition straight to a two-wheel model. 

Considering letting your kids grow into their bike? 

Supplying your child with everything they need can be expensive, especially when they’re constantly outgrowing clothes, toys, car seats, and more. Depending on size, kids’ bikes can run you between $175 and $400, a pretty penny when it comes to something they will eventually be too big to use. While it can certainly be tempting to buy a bike that your kid will be able to grow into, a bike that’s too big can be dangerous, not to mention hard to use. It will be hard for them to reach the handlebars or touch the ground with their feet during a stop. What’s more, the extra weight will make it hard to pedal and they may get into more accidents. Instead, consider looking for a budget-friendly kids’ bike, or go to a reliable reseller. Well-maintained, used bikes work well, and your child will have an easier time riding, gaining confidence and strength on a bike that suits their proportions. 

Single speed or multiple gears? 

Single-speed bikes are less complicated than a bike with multiple gears. They’re great for those who have just taken off the training wheels and are focused on flat ground. A single-speed bike will let your kid get used to hand brakes, which are typically introduced with 20-inch models. Of course, single-speed models can definitely present a challenge for navigating tricky terrain or getting up hills. If your child has had the training wheels off for a while, they may be ready to try a bike with multiple gears.

If you’re training a little mountain biker, learning how to use gears properly will be especially important. Mountain bikes are generally wider, with larger, deeply treaded tires and front shocks to absorb the impact of rough terrain. They have more low gears to help your off-road adventurer climb steep hills. 

If you want a multi-gear bike, but you aren’t necessarily heading into the mountains, you can go for a hybrid bike, which features an array of gears suitable for roads, hilly bike paths, low-impact groomed trails, and more. 


Q: How tall should a child be to ride a 20-inch bike?

Generally, a child should be between 42 and 52 inches tall to ride a 20-inch bike. However, you need to calculate their inseam and compare that to the bike’s seat height before settling on a 20-inch model. You also want to make sure they can easily reach the handlebars; at 20 inches, hand brakes are introduced to the bike design. 

Q: What age can a child ride a bike without stabilizers? 

Stabilizers, or training wheels, help children get comfortable on a bike, preventing them from falling over and letting them focus on braking, steering, and speed. Statistically, kids will learn to ride a bike without any extra stabilization anywhere between 4 and 9 years old. There’s no set age at which training wheels should be removed, so you’ll want to monitor your child’s confidence on their stabilized bike and look for signs they may be ready to remove the supports.  

Q: What age is an 18-inch bike for? 

An 18-inch bike can be suitable for many ages depending on height and leg size. An inseam between 20-24 inches and a height slightly under four feet is usually suitable for an 18-inch bike. These measurements are traditionally attributed to kids ages 5 or 6, though any child this size can be comfortable riding an 18-inch bike. 

Final thoughts on buying the best kids’ bike 

Giving a kid their first bike is a fantastic rite of passage for all parties involved, a gift that represents fun, freedom, and future adventures. So whether they’re starting to toddle around on balance bikes or racing you down the trail on a mountain bike, make sure you pay particular attention to their height and inseam measurements before purchasing. As long as the bike fits their body and skill level, you can have as much fun as you want choosing the color, bike bell, and any other gear they may need — just make sure you include a helmet. 


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