Buying a bike for your little girl can be a daunting task. There are so many variables to consider, ranging from brand, size, height and weight, to color. Before you head out to the bike shop, start off by learning everything there is to know about kids’ bikes, and bikes in general, including the practical things like how to use a bike pump so that you can be fully prepared. After all, the last thing you want is to show up with a bike that the little missy does not approve of.
This blog post explains everything you need to know to buy the perfect bike for your princess.
Size Does Matter
The best way to judge the size of a bike is by checking the wheel size. This is measured by its diameter. Consequently, the overall size of the bike is measured by the size of the wheels.
Sounds confusing? Let’s elaborate: A bike with 14-inch wheels is categorized as a size 14 bike. Moreover, to get the right size of bike for your little girl, you will need to know her height. The taller she is, the larger the bike you need.
Most kids’ bikes will come in multiple sizes which include 12”, 14”, 16”, 20” and 24”.
But there is more!
Bikes from different manufacturers will have different frame designs. This causes differences in the seat height between bikes with similar wheel sizes. Therefore, the most important aspect when choosing the right size of bike for your little girl is not her actual height but her height from the crotch to the floor.
Seat Height And Standover Height
Many kids’ bike manufacturers do not provide the minimum seat height. Accessing this relevant bit of information can then become quite difficult, especially for online customers who are shopping remotely.
- Seat Height
The seat height is the most accurate way of determining which bike would be the best size for your kid.
When selecting the ideal minimum seat height for your kid’s bike, it comes down to whether she is an experienced rider or not. If she is just starting out, the minimum seat height should be the same level as her inseam. This would enable her to support herself with her legs when she is riding the bike.
On the other hand, if she is an experienced rider, you can then choose a bike with a minimum seat height that is two or three inches higher than her inseam.
- Standover Height
It is also crucial to figure out the bike’s standover height. This is especially so with bike sizes of 20 inches and 24 inches. Simply put, the standover height is the height your little girl will need to stand over the center tube of the bike.
The right standover height should leave a distance of 1 to 2 inches between the bike’s center tube and her crotch. This prevents injury in case the kid falls forward from the seat. Luckily, most bike manufacturers will provide the standover height.
Weight Of The Bike
On average, bikes for adults weigh around 20% of their body weight. On the other hand, many kids’ bikes weigh 50% of their body weight. Ideally, they should weigh less than 40% of the kid’s weight. Girls need lightweight bikes that they can handle with ease. Therefore, when shopping for a girl’s bike, look for the lightest bike in her size category.
On the other hand, be careful when analyzing a bike’s weight. Some cheaply priced bikes may weigh the same as some high-end girl bikes. However, in most cases, these lack essential components and have poorly constructed frames.
When deciding how much your little girl’s bike should weigh, make sure you consider only high-end bikes.
Frame Design And Construction
Different kids’ bike manufacturers offer a variety of frame designs. The bike’s frame will influence how comfortable the bike is while riding.
There are two essential factors to consider when getting a bike for your little girl. These include the wheelbase and the handlebars:
The wheelbase is the distance between both wheels of the bike. The longer the wheelbase, the more comfortable the bike is to ride, and vice versa. Moreover, your little girl will find it easier to maintain balance, change direction, and pedal.
The second thing to consider with the frame design are the handlebars and their distance from the seat. A shorter distance from the seat to the handlebars creates a small cockpit. A small cockpit subsequently limits the maneuverability of the handlebars and the bike. A child may also bump their knees against the handles as they try to change direction.
The shape of the handlebars can also result in a small cockpit. Handlebars that lean backward limit space in the cockpit. This also makes it much harder to maintain balance. The more comfortable sitting position is one where the handlebars lean forward a little. That makes it easier to achieve balance and pedal the bike.
That being said, the handlebars also need to be at the right level. Handlebars that are too low will cause your kid to learn forward aggressively, resulting in a strain on the neck. Your child will also tire much faster.
The Q-factor is the distance between the inner parts of the pedals. It has a huge influence on the simplicity and ease of riding the bike. Bikes with a larger Q-factor will have more distance between the pedals, causing your little girl to spread out her legs as she pedals. This turns out to be tiring, uncomfortable, and highly inefficient.
Contrarily, bikes with a small Q-factor will have pedals that are closer together. This results in efficient leg movement and makes it easy for little girls to peddle the bike. Special designs and parts are needed to create a bike with a small Q-factor. As a result, only high-end kids’ bike manufacturers make them.
That said, note that manufacturers will rarely talk about the Q-factor. Therefore, during the test ride, it is crucial to observe the leg movement closely as your young one pedals. What you are looking for is smooth and efficient leg movement. Also, ask her how it feels to pedal the bike.
Brakes are a crucial part of your kid’s bike. There are two main types of brakes that you will need to consider—hand brakes and coaster brakes. Bikes from different manufacturers will have brakes that are easier to control than others, while some will be more responsive.
Most 12” and 16” bikes often feature coaster brakes. These involve stopping the bike by pedaling backward. This design owes itself to the fact that kids instinctively want to pedal backwards when they begin to feel like they are losing control. However, pedaling backwards instantly stops the bike, which can cause your kid to fall off.
Your little girl may be better off on a free riding bike with a hand brake. Take a look at these 10 best bikes for girls: 2020.
If your little girl is over three-and-a-half years old, she will already likely have developed the proper hand and eye coordination required to use a handbrake. These are easier and more intuitive to use. However, they require some maintenance. Also, low-end kids’ bikes may come with poorly designed handbrakes.
Some handbrakes are just difficult to use. Therefore, it’s important that when selecting a bike for your little girl, you chose one with a simple and highly responsive handbrake. The best way to test it is by using your pinky finger. If you find it hard to press, then it will definitely be harder for your child.
Alternatively, you can bring your little girl with you when shopping for her bike. Ask her to walk the bike and press on the brakes. If she finds it hard, then choose another bike with a more comfortable handbrake system.
Often a brake that is hard to use is a product of poor design. The best handbrake design is one that has a small reach lever between the brake and handle. This will allow your little girl to easily and comfortably slow down or stop the bike.
Getting a bike with a responsive and easy-to-use handbrake is one thing. However, it is also important to figure out what type of handbrake is best for your young girl’s bike. There are three main types of hand brakes and these include:
- Single Pivot Handbrake – This is the most common type. However, it is more fussy than the other types of handbrakes and has less stopping power. Moreover, it is not as durable as the disc handbrake or the V-pull handbrake.
- Disc Handbrake – This is common in adult bikes. In addition, some higher-end kids’ bikes will also feature this type of handbrake. They offer top-notch braking that is much more powerful than the single-pivot handbrake.
- V-Pull Handbrake – This is common in kids’ bikes of all sizes. They have excellent stopping power, are durable and simple to adjust. Kids will often drop their bikes as they learn how to ride them. Therefore, it is important that the bike and the brake system is tough and durable.
Chain Drive Or Belt Drives
There are two main types of drives to choose from: chain or belt drives.
- Chain Drives – This is synonymous with sticky fingers and dirty pants. Moreover, chains often come off and it’s annoying to get them back on. Even afterwards, they only end up falling off the teeth again.
- Belt Drives – These are more efficient. They don’t require maintenance or grease as chain drives do, and you don’t have to worry about the belt falling off all the time. Furthermore, dropping the bike will not cause the belt to fall off.
Many kids’ bikes do not feature a gear system. For instance, 12” and 16” bikes only come with a single speed option. Be that as it may, it’s important that you get the right gear speed for your kid. If your young girl is old enough to ride a 20” bike or larger, then you have the option of choosing a single-speed bike or one with gears.
Check the gain ratio. This is calculated using the dimensions of the wheel, the number of teeth in both the front and rear cogs, as well as the length of the pedal arm. A bike with a high gear ratio requires more effort to move. However, each pedal stroke results in more ground being covered.
On the other hand, with a low gain ratio, the rider requires less effort to move the bike, but each pedal stroke results in less ground being covered.
Simply put, a higher gear ratio results in a faster bike and vice versa. If your small one is a little timid, you may want to get a bike with a lower gain ratio. On the other hand, if she is more active, then a bike with a higher gain ratio is ideal. Bike riding is one of the best afterschool activities, and you want it to be fun for your little girl.
Keep in mind that many kids’ bike manufacturers will not provide a gain ratio. However, you can find out how the bike performs by asking your little girl to do a test ride. If you notice that it requires a lot of effort for her to get the bike moving, then you should probably choose a lower gain ratio.
Also, keep in mind that a geared bike may be difficult for your small girl to ride. Moreover, more maintenance is required with a geared bike than single-gear bikes. The shifting mechanism situated at the rear axle can easily get damaged if the bike gets dropped.
Ideally, only opt for a bike with gears if your little girl is an advanced rider and understands how to use the gears.
There are two types of gear shifters with geared bikes. These include:
- Grip shifters
- Trigger shifters
With a grip shifter, you simply change gears by turning the handle forward or backward. On the other hand, you can activate gears with trigger shifters by pushing or pulling on a lever near the handle. Grip shifters are easier and more intuitive to use compared to trigger shifters. We recommend getting a bike with a grip shifter for girls.
While there is no difference between a regular kid’s bike and a girl’s bike, you can make the bike more suitable for your little girl by choosing one with certain features, such as bikes with a lighter weight, easy-to-use brakes, and a small Q-factor. Bring her along when bike shopping and ask her to take a few test rides. Only then will you be able to choose the best girl’s bike for her.