Whether for travel or leisure, bicycles offer an eco-friendly way of helping people navigate through roads and streets. Before being able to ride a bicycle properly, learning as an adult isn’t as different as a child. However, it’s a lot easier to learn cycling as a child, because childhood is the perfect time for development. Also, adults might struggle to find a good time to cycle since they’re occupied with other things to accomplish.
Thus, you should teach children to start cycling at an early age. Take note, though, that children require a bicycle that’s different from what adults use. That being said, there’s actually a wide selection of kids’ mountain bikes that you can choose from, such as the mountain bikes you can find in https://www.twowheelingtots.com/best-kids-mountain-bikes/.
If you’re planning to purchase a kids mountain bike soon, here are some essential tips that you should take note of:
Gather your options
Before having any considerations in choosing a good mountain bike, always make sure that you have plenty of options to choose from. Bicycles aren’t a scarcity these days, so you can find bicycles for sale everywhere. When choosing places to shop around, visit bike shops instead of kids bicycles inside the mall or supermarket. If you’re opting for the mall, then make sure that you’ll visit a reputable bicycle brand.
The same goes for looking at online stores. Research thoroughly in different marketplaces just like you’re buying from a physical store. Check every description provided by the seller and browse feedbacks and reviews from customers. If possible, message the seller inside the marketplace to talk more about your options.
Further, you have two options when buying a mountain bike for your kids:
- Brand new bikes: Getting a brand new mountain bike from local bike shops can ensure that you’re dealing with people knowledgeable about bicycles. They can also offer you a wide selection to choose from. Moreover, if you’re directly getting a bike from a manufacturer, it’ll be provided with a warranty.
- Used bikes: Dealing with private sellers, or buying used ones, gives you more space for negotiation. Since they’re used bikes, expect that they’re a lot cheaper than the original price since the bike might’ve already worn out.
Set your budget
Always exercise practicality when setting a budget for your mountain bike purchase. Instead of buying a bike that performs poorly and compromises your child’s safety, it’s more economical to buy a slightly expensive kids bike as long as it’s durable and long-lasting.
To prevent from spending too low or too much for the bike, set a price range that you’ll follow while shopping around. Kids mountain bikes are quite heavy on the pocket since they have geometry, frames, components that are ideal for small riders, and emphasis on safety.
Generally, kids mountain bikes cost around $1200. This price range should last long enough while your child is growing. Don’t exactly close your budget in this price, but make sure to allot at least 25% of its price for upgrading a few parts or keeping it for repair and replacement of chains, wheels, bolts, seat, and more.
Get the best fit
Right after following the general tips about getting options and assigning a budget, it’s time to narrow down the characteristics your kids’ mountain bike should have. Out of all the qualities to look for, the most important would definitely be finding the right size for your kid. Mountain bikes aren’t one-size-fits-all, so you should consider the size that’ll fit best on the rider.
Unlike adult bikes, which measure the bike’s body frame, the size of kids bikes measures the wheels, ranging from 12” to 24”. Thus, the taller the child, the larger the wheel size is required. For bigger children, they can actually start with the smallest size of adult bikes.
Finding the best fit for your child can be a little difficult, especially if they have unequal body proportions according to their age bracket. Moreover, some bike manufacturers slightly deviate from standard bike sizes.
Take note of these in order to find the right size for your child:
- Seat height: When seated, the child should be able to touch the ground with the balls of their feet. This is one of the most accurate indicators.
- Standover height: Your child should be able to stand properly over the top tube of the bike. The distance between the tube and the child’s crotch must be one to two inches.
- Reach: When riding the bike, the child should be able to comfortably reach and grip the handlebars without stretching the arms too much – but, the elbow can be slightly bent.
Opt for the lightweight ones
Aside from the bike size, another thing to consider is the weight of the mountain bike. Although you can still choose heavy bikes since it’s widely available in the market, choose a lightweight one, preferably 40% less than the child’s weight. From you options, get the lightest mountain bike.
However, you should exercise caution when looking at the bikes’ weight. Some cheap bikes have the same weight to top tier lightweight bikes, but these cheap ones are light because they lack essential components, such as hand brakes and the frame is too small and made of unsatisfactory quality.
Always take note that a premium quality and more expensive mountain bicycles prioritize a lighter weight, stiffer feel, and top-notch components. Aluminum frames are generally the lightest, as compared to titanium and carbon, so they present faster speed and non-corroding.
Choose between brake options
When talking about mountain bikes, brakes make a huge difference in the overall riding experience. In bicycle components, a brake is responsible for slowing down the bike that eventually leads to a stop. Having an effective hold with the bicycle’s brake is almost the same as pedaling efficiently, and the importance of brakes should never be overlooked.
Choosing the brakes of the mountain bike, at often times, is often associated with its build and quality. Generally, there are two types of brakes found in bikes: hand brakes vs. coaster brakes. Top-quality mountain bikes usually have hand brakes, while bikes with lesser build and quality have coaster brakes. But, how exactly do these brakes differ?
When starting to learn how to use bicycles, hand brakes are more preferable to give the rider better control with the bike, provided with many downfalls and tripping over.
However, children with weak hand-eye coordination aren’t advisable to use hand brakes. They can be more efficient and intuitive than the latter type of brakes, but some are difficult to reach and activate.
Take note that higher-quality mountain bikes have easier brake activation. Through reaching the brake lever and minimal pushing, the bike should immediately halt. When choosing from your bike options, always let your child try reaching for the brake lever.
Also, let your child walk the bike before immediately riding it. In this way, your child can coordinate with the bike and get a feel of its weight and pressure when requiring a halt. Hand brakes require more maintenance than coaster brakes.
Coaster brakes are cheaper and maintenance-free than hand brakes, usually situated in 12” to 16” mountain bikes. Even though they’re more affordable, children struggle with using them, especially in pedaling.
During practice, children tend to pedal backward once they lose balance, and coaster brakes leads to unanticipated halts resulting to a fall. Don’t worry, falling from the bike is completely normal as a beginner, but falling because of coaster brakes can become a nuisance since they’ll delay learning on how to pedal.
Front or full-suspension
Suspension, or shock absorbers, plays a vital role in the comfort and control in riding. When cornering, turning, and braking, suspension absorbs the excess energy to maintain the stability of the ride and make sure that the rider is still in control.
Looking at the definition, you might think that suspension may only be applicable for intense adult cycling, but providing suspension for a kids’ mountain bike is important.
Depending on the terrain and type of riding your child wants, you can decide what type of suspension is best. Basically, as a beginner, the mountain bike should have a rigid fork without any suspension forks, which needs less maintenance and lighter. When having suspension in your child’s mountain bike, choose between front and full suspension.
If your child will only do simple cycling and off-road riding, rigid forks will do. As their intensity starts to elevate and desires more adventure in rocky trails, consider front suspension. Lastly, fast-paced, downhill cycling is best for full suspension.
Take a look at gearing
Single-speed bikes, even though they’re cheaper and require less maintenance, have low versatility and pedalling efficiency. Factors that affect the single speed of these bikes are the gain ratio.
If the gain ratio is low, your child will need less effort to start traveling, but needs greater pedal spinning before it keeps going. The exact opposite happens in high gain ratios.
However, mountain bikes used in medium and hard-driving intensity aren’t single-speed. If your child only fits in 12” to 16” bikes, the best advice is to go for single-speed bikes and let them ride slowly first. As the bike size increases from 20”, mountain bikes can be single or having gears.
If your child plans on making the most out of the mountain bike, such as intensive off-roading sessions, geared bikes are the most recommended. They can be more difficult to use due to the complexity of gears, but once your child gets used to it, shifting gears is going to be a piece of cake.
Going deeper with geared bikes, you can choose between two shifter categories: the trigger and grip shifters. Grip shifters are perfect for beginners since they’re convenient to activate requiring less effort. For adventurous riders, trigger shifters have levers that are pulled and pushed.
When choosing a fair-priced mountain bike according to its gearing system, the more expensive it is, the better. In lower-end bikes, the derailleur gears of the bike gets easily out of tune, especially with aggressive riders. With higher-end bikes, the systems are sturdier and more robust; it can maintain wear and tear for a very long time as expected with its price.
Prioritise ease of driving
No matter the price and build of a kids mountain bike, the rider should always feel the ease of driving without sweating at all. A factor that greatly affects the ease of riding is called the Q-factor, or the distance between the pedal’s inside edges.
If the Q-factor is higher, it means that the pedals are farther apart, which will give your child a hard and uncomfortable time in pedaling. Thus, always choose the lowest Q-factor as much as possible, while taking note of the size of your child.
If your child is smaller or younger, the more crucial role a Q-factor plays in. There are a few high-end bicycle brands that offer the narrowest Q-factors among other bikes in the market, as they require more work on the components.
Give your child a test drive
After looking at the build and quality of the essential components of the mountain bike, it’s time to put it into the performance test. If your child is starting from scratch, as mentioned earlier, it’s completely normal to fall over many times. Guide your child in sitting and pedaling slowly – observe how much comfort, control, and stability they have. If you have many bike options, it’s better to let your child test drive each one of them.
As much as possible, test drive the mountain bike in different types of roads and terrains, especially the harsh ones. Mountain bikes are created for these types of terrains so you can truly decide which bike is the best according to the factors you’ve considered above. Moreover, make sure to use all the functions and features of the mountain bike, especially the shifting and braking.
Finding the perfect kids mountain bike for your child comes with many difficulties. There are numerous factors to consider, as mentioned above, which will predict the overall driving experience of your child.
Since kids mountain bikes are really expensive, follow several bike care tips to keep your mountain bike in good shape. After all, you can still reap its benefits once your child outgrows the bike, like letting your other children use it or sell it for even 50% to 75% of the original price.
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