Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Your Child and Bikes: How to Get Started

A bike is a wonderful way for a child to exercise and here in Portland, we see a lot of them. The environmental benefits of people picking a bike over a car are indisputable, however, just like a car, a bike is an investment. As adults we have a long term investment in bikes whether they be for competitions or leisure, but children outgrow their bikes and start to need new ones just as they grow too big for their clothing and their beds.

While we could tell you a handful of websites and stores where there are highly rated bikes for children there are a ton of lists online that do just that. What is more important is what to look for in a bike and for what ages since that will likely help you pick the right bike for your child.
Many bike retailers will have size charts available based on the child’s age and height and based on a “inside leg length approach” both of which let you know how large of a wheel you should consider getting for your child.

Height to wheel size chart.

Inseam to wheel size chart. This is often considered more accurate than height to wheel size.

While it is tempting to buy a slightly larger bike so you can keep the bike longer and not have to buy a new one as your child grows, if the bike does not have the right fit then it can cause complications and increases the likelihood of your child injuring themselves. While the size charts are a wonderful tool, testing out the bike and how your child feels comfortable on it as every child is different and very telling when it comes to the fit.

The best way to be able to tell if a bike is a good fit for your child is to ask a retailer, especially bike only shops. Bike-specific shops will have far more information for you and will not only be faster in answering your questions but also be able to help you and your child find the right fit specifically. These retailers tend to be well versed in cycling equipment and knowledge. It’s easier to figure out if something is the right fit by going into a shop and trying it out with your child than ordering online despite the convenience. Think of it as buying nice clothing—an investment that you want to be sure is just right when you buy it.

Chances are when buying your child’s first bike you’ll be buying training wheels as well unless you wish to teach them how to ride without training wheels if they’re slightly older. Again, it’s best to consult the retailer for advice.

While the bike buying process is daunting you can find a bike that works and fits best with your child. The right fit of the bike is the first step in safety and teaching children bike safety is very important. Head injuries are a thing to worry about but teaching a child to keep a helmet on at all times is vastly important and will help them to keep this healthy habit later in life. 10-14 year old children have been found to suffer from the most bike-related head injuries, often related to not wearing a helmet and boys are particularly more likely than girls to get injured as well.

In the United States all helmets that meet the proper safety standards have a sticker marked from the CPSC or Snell inside of it.

Example of a Snell sticker.
Examples of CPSC stickers on different Helmet brands.

While some helmets may look more attractive or be cheaper your child’s safety is more important, so try to find a helmet that meets your child’s preference and your budget for your bike spending as well as one that is built with your child’s safety in mind. Other things to look for when it comes to bike helmets are bright colors and easily adjustable straps that fit. The right fit increases safety in this case too.

Other items you can purchase for your child are knee-pads, elbow-pads, and even gloves. A child can get scared of riding a bike if they fall and hurt themselves, so having safety gear in place to avoid injuries will not only keep them safe but help them get back up again.

WeVillage's preschool program also knows how important it is to start a child's bike riding experience early and will aid in encouraging a child's growth of confidence. Including other outdoor activities, NorthWest-based WeVillage, also encourages bike riding at this age. More information about WeVillage's preschool program can be found on our website.

There are many comprehensive guides available online as you do the research needed for finding the right bike for your child so don’t feel overwhelmed! We hope this helped you get started on your journey.

Happy trails!

WeVillage Childcare Blog