By Patrick Gray
Most of us learn how to ride a bike while we’re still young, and while it has its fair share of challenges like scraped knees and some bruises here and there, it’s still an essential skill that every child should learn.
There are many reasons why a kid should learn how to ride a bike, one of which is its positive effects on their health – both physical and mental. However, to do so, they would need the proper equipment for it – namely a bike.
While a regular bike would suffice, a mountain bike offers additional benefits such as enhanced durability and longevity. Moreover, mountain biking also has many benefits that riding your bike around the neighborhood doesn’t.
However, unlike with adults, your children are still growing, so it can be challenging to find the best mountain bike for them. With that said, we have created a comprehensive guide to kids’ mountain bikes to help you with your search.
Best Kids’ Mountain Bikes – A Buying Guide
Buying a bike for your child, especially a mountain bike, can be challenging because as they’re still growing, they can quickly outgrow their bikes, especially during their growth spurts. Nevertheless, a mountain bike for your child can be beneficial and a significant investment. Find out the article they wrote on Trek Bikes.
Teaching them how to ride a mountain bike can serve as a great way to instill in them the value of fitness and can act as a fun activity to keep themselves in top shape.
However, there are some factors you need to take into account when buying a mountain bike for your kid, such as:
- Size of the Bike
This depends mostly on your child’s height and age, as there are different sizes aimed for each age group. Most kids’ mountain bikes have wheel sizes of 24 inches to 26 inches, which are built for kids aged eight and above.
However, there are also smaller sizes, such as 18 to 20 inches, while there are also large sizes reaching up to 27.5 inches. Since manufacturers often produce their products differently from one another, you must check their sizing charts and compare them to your child’s height to ensure that you’re buying the right bike.
This is an essential factor you need to consider, especially when pedaling along steep trails. If it’s too heavy, then they’ll probably have a more difficult time driving and pushing it in case of mechanical issues or when they don’t want to pedal anymore. You’ll want something that they can easily handle while pedaling or when they have to push.
A higher-quality kids’ mountain bike can be costly, and it’s an investment. If your child is serious about taking mountain biking as a hobby, then it might be worth getting them a decent-quality mountain bike. If you have budget constraints, you could consider buying a hybrid bike instead.
Hybrid bikes are bikes that are more affordable due to having fewer components than a full-fledged mountain bike. They are great if your child is engaging in light off-road cycling.
As with any bike, the brakes are a vital component. If their bike is going to be subjected to rough rides, then disc brakes might be a worthwhile investment. You can also go for linear-pull brakes on your child’s bike.
Your kid’s mountain bike will also require good suspension to ensure a smooth ride even on rough trails. Fork suspensions are the best for handling rough and uneven terrains, and this should be paired with thick tires to improve the traction.
Unlike with flat, even surfaces, riding up and down steep hills can be challenging without the proper apparatus. Proper gears can help your child remain as stable on uneven terrain, but if this is his/her first mountain bike, a model with 6 to 8 speeds will suffice.
Image: Markuss Piske/ Pixabay
What are the benefits of mountain biking for kids?
As we have already established, cycling offers many benefits, especially for growing children. Mountain biking takes these a step further, offering more benefits for your beloved child. Here are some of the benefits that mountain biking has to offer:
- It helps promote your child’s mental well-being as well as build his/her self-confidence and self-esteem.
Many studies have shown that exercise, such as mountain biking, is a great way to combat mood disorders such as depression, which can result from stressful situations and pressure your child undergoes each day.
Mountain biking can serve as a thrilling and fun activity or hobby for your child that he or she can enjoy with family, friends, or even merely alone.
- It can serve as a family or group activity for enhancing socialization skills and improving bonds.
Sharing an everyday activity such as cycling can help facilitate better bonds with family and friends. It also allows your child to improve his/ her socialization skills. Your child will learn how to work with a team and to stay in a group. For parents biking with their child, this can help improve their bond.
- It can keep them occupied and out of trouble.
Having a healthy hobby such as mountain biking can help keep children and teens out of trouble.
- It helps them deal with challenges and helps them become more decisive.
Mountainous terrain poses more of a challenge than your neighborhood streets. Through mountain biking, your child will learn how to face these challenges and make concrete decisions when faced with a particularly difficult one. Moreover, this is a skill they can apply elsewhere – not just in their hobby but in real-life situations as well.
- It helps them do better in school.
Studies have shown that engaging in physical activity such as mountain biking can do wonders for children’s academic performance. Scientists discovered that students who are more physically active tend to have improved performance in school compared to those who aren’t.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does my kid’s mountain bike need gears?
A: Yes, it does. If your child is going to engage in mountain biking and go off-road, then they would need gears to handle that type of terrain. Unlike the even flat surfaces of neighborhood roads, mountainous terrains are uneven and can also be rough.
The different settings of their bike’s gears will help your child successfully maneuver this type of terrain. However, before introducing a bike with gears, ensure your child has successfully mastered the fundamentals of biking, such as proper balance and steering.
Q: Why do they need gears?
A: As mentioned, they will need a bike with gears to handle the rough terrain of mountains. Aside from that, riding a bike with gears can promote better coordination – something they will need when handling off-road trails.
In general, children between the ages of 8 and 10 are ready to handle geared bikes. If it’s their first time, get one that only has a maximum speed option of 10.
Q: How will I know what mountain bike size to get for my child?
A: Going by the wheel’s diameter, they will need larger wheels as they age. Wheel diameters range from 12 to 24, with some going as large as 27.
For height, you can measure the inseam of their pants then add an inch. You can then compare them to the specification charts that some bike models have. Make sure to leave an inch of clearance above the top bar to allow him/her to stand comfortably over the bike.
Here’s a general guide of what wheel size is appropriate for what age group:
- 2 to 3 years old – 12-inch wheels
- 3 to 4 years old – 14-inch wheels
- 4 to 5 years old – 16-inch wheels
- 6 to 7 years old – 20-inch wheels
- 8 to 10 years old – 24-inch wheels
- 12 and above – 26-inch wheels
- Teenagers and adults – 26-inch to 29-inch wheels
Q: Do boys’ mountain bikes differ from girls’ mountain bikes?
A: This largely depends on the manufacturer of the bike. While most kids’ mountain bikes nowadays are unisex, there are some models designed specifically for girls. These models tend to have a step-through frame – a model that’s used for accommodating skirts. This makes it easier to mount.
Nevertheless, a gender-specific bike is unnecessary as their bodies are pretty much similar. The most noticeable difference you will see is the color of the bike. The gender differences are much more pronounced in adulthood as women tend to be shorter in height and lighter in weight than men.
Q: Should I get my child a larger model, so he/ she doesn’t outgrow it?
A: While seeing your child outgrow something quickly can be costly, especially something as expensive as a mountain bike, it’s not a good idea to do so. An over-sized bike can affect their comfort, safety, and self-confidence when riding.
Buying a mountain bike that’s just right for their size and weight is essential so they can successfully maneuver it, especially on rough trails.
Q: Which is better for children’s mountain bikes: suspension or rigid fork?
A: Both are suitable for children, especially in terms of safety. While suspension forks can handle rougher terrains and the bumps and shocks that come with them, a rigid fork can do just as well with off-road trails. It’s also better for learners as this gives your child direct feedback.
Nevertheless, what is more important is how your child approaches the trails. They should do so bit by bit so they can slowly build their skills and handle more challenging terrains.
Q: Can I attach training wheels on my kid’s mountain bike?
A: While not inherently wrong, as it can help your child to focus on how to pedal, each child is different. Some can do without training wheels. It depends on your child’s learning style. The best way to go about it is to encourage them without pressuring them so that they would develop their riding skills naturally.
Mountain biking can be a thrilling and fun activity for your child and presents many benefits that the neighborhood roads don’t offer. However, when deciding on the best mountain bike for your child, there is no right answer as it will mostly depend on your child’s age and needs.
Since off-road trails are different from the paved roads of your neighborhood, you will need to carefully consider the mountain bike they use to ensure their safety and comfort. The right mountain bike for your child will allow them to develop their skills in cycling slowly and naturally.
When cycling with your child, remember to encourage developing their skills by slowly going out of their comfort zone. However, make sure not to push them beyond what they can safely handle at their age and skill level.
Patrick is the Senior Product Manager of EasyTripGuides.com, a website that provides authentic reviews of outdoor tools and gear.