Cheap kids bikes: The best kids bikes for under £250

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  • Finding the best kids bikes is a tricky task for parents.

    Whether you’re a keen cyclist yourself or haven’t ridden in years, picking a bicycle that will give your children the confidence to hit the road (or at least the local park) has become increasingly confusing. What bike is best for their age? Do they really need that fancy suspension? And most importantly if you’re on a budget, how much money should you really be spending on a bike that they’ll probably outgrow within the next few years?

    This cheap kids bikes guide covers the best kids bikes for ages three-11, as well as tips on the most important things to look out for when making your purchase.

    Best entry level kids bikes

    B’Twin 500 14” kids bike, £79.99, Decathlon
    Ages 3-5

    With 14″ wheels and detachable stabalisers, this is a cheaper option. However, plenty of attention to detail has gone into selecting grips that will suit little hands and a chainguard protects clothing and hands from dirt and grease.

    B’Twin Racing 320 20” kids bike, £109.99, Decathlon
    Ages 6-8

    A mountain bike – with a rigid front end so kids aren’t trying to operate suspension before their time. Rear cassette with five gears to introduce shifting and a chainguard at the front. A quick release saddle is easy to adjust to suit growing legs.

    Carrera Abyss Junior Hybrid bike, £225, Halfords
    Ages 8-11

    An aluminium frame with steel forks designed for junior riders. A triple chainset and rear cassette provides lots of opportunity to learn to tune the gears – and the hybrid tyres will suit mixed terrains. At 10kg, it’s not light – spending more with the brands below will lessen the weight if that’s an option.

    Muddyfox Divine 24 Mountain, £99.99, Sports Direct
    Ages 7-10

    Well-built and excellent value, this durable bike is designed with the more experienced rider in mind. As well as having dual suspension to make it hardy on any terrain, the bike is also equipped with dual Twist-grip shifter gears on the handle.

    Banwood First Go! Balance bike, £129, Bell’s Bicycles
    Ages 2-4

    The bike, which is similar to a Pashley for new starters, features an adorable retro basket as well as antique styling that will remind you of your own younger years. Manufactured in Germany, the bikes are designed to give younger children pedal-free time to develop their motor skills.

    Indi Krypt bike, £100, Halfords
    Ages 7-9

    With a strong steel frame that is designed to endure a bumpy ride, this bike a budding cyclist’s dream. The 20″ wheels with all terrain tyres ensures the Krypt is ready for adventure. And priced at just £100, this makes for a more affordable gift for you, too.

    More premium options

    If you’re looking for some of the very best kids bikes, and money is no object, our sibling title Cycling Weekly has pulled together a list of some of the best children’s bikes plus more tips on choosing one.

    Here are some of the highlights…

    HOY Napier Balance bike, £110, Evans Cycles
    Ages 2-4

    A pedal-less balance bike can teach children the basic skills of cycling, and experts say this approach builds confidence and is superior to stabilisers. This one comes with BMX styling which nods back at the early career of track sprinter Sir Chris.

    Pinnacle Koto, £200.00, Evans Cycles
    Ages 6 to 7

    Designed as a high-octane bike with trouble-free use, these bikes are described as light and simple. The 16″ frame is made of lightweight aluminium with aluminium rims to keep things light.

    Pinnacle Ash 20 inch kids bike, £230, Evans Cycles
    Age 7-10

    An all rounder kids can take on mixed terrain, with single chainring to keep things simple and six rear gears to get them used to shifting.

    Quality kids’ bikes: what to look for

    Quality kids’ bikes are definitely not simply scaled-down adult bikes, they have specific frame designs and components optimised for the proportions of a child.

    Here are some of the key considerations:

    Weight of kids’ bikes

    Cheap kids’ bikes will often have several flaws, most notable will be their weight. When cutting costs, brands will have to use heavier components and the frame will often weigh more too.

    Spend more if you want a lightweight bike that will provide a positive introduction to cycling – no one wants to ride a bike that weighs 50% of their body mass.

    Number of gears and suspension forks

    It’s common to see children’s bikes with suspension forks, but most quality manufacturers don’t provide this until children are at least eight years old.

    This is because a young child’s upper body mass is low and they’re rarely able to get the most from even finely tuned, responsive forks – and suspension will always add to the overall weight of the bike.

    When it comes to gears – these should be introduced gradually. Most brands opt for single chainrings, with a wide spread at the rear cassette. For learners, this makes the whole process easier – and for older children, even those on racing road bikes, the single chainring allows the brand to keep the weight down.

    Shaping bikes just for kids

    When creating quality a kids’ bike with optimum geometry, reach is the first thing to consider. With longer legs relative to their torso, and musculature that doesn’t allow them to lean forward as an adult would, a shorter reach is a must. As a minimum requirement the bike needs a proportionately shorter top tube, and a short stem.

    The better bikes on the market will also come with custom-designed bars with a short reach and drop to maintain a comfortable riding position. Custom designed brake and gear levers are also available on top end bikes, like those from Islabikes.

    When buying a kids’ bike, do:

    • Look for a bike with scaled-down components, not just adult ones on a smaller frame
    • Check the weight of the bike against competitors
    • Make sure your child can operate the brake and gear levers comfortably
    • Check for close pedal spacing and a low bottom bracket for comfortable pedalling and safe stopping
    • Take the bike to a shop if you are unsure of how to set it up and get the fit right

    When buying a kids’ bike, don’t:

    • Buy a bike which is too large in the expectation that a child will grow into it. They will have a nervous time until they do
    • Get a bike which is too heavy for a child to enjoy riding
    • Buy a bike without the flexibility for different types of riding
    • Just consider the up-front cost of the bike, longevity and resale value are important too

    Kids’ bike styles and wheel sizes explained

    There are several styles of kids’ bike, the wheel size will gradually increase as children grow – but there are some other elements that change as children move up through the ranks.

    Balance bikes for ages 18 months to five years

    These have no cranks or pedals, and teach children to push along with their feet. Experts believe learning to cycle this way inspires more confidence long term than learning with stabilisers.

    Starter bikes for ages three to five

    At this point, bikes will have pedals and a chain to drive the wheels. Gears aren’t usually necessary, so the bike may be a singlespeed and tyres will be suited to varying terrains – with 14 to 16 inch wheels

    Kids’ bikes for ages five to 10

    Wheel sizes usually start at 16 inches and go up to 26 inches – which is only a little smaller than a standard adult road bike wheel. Children grow at different weights but a size guide should tell you what height each wheel size will suit based on height. Gears will be introduced here, but usually a single chainring with some gears at the rear cassette.

    Kids’ road bikes and kids’ cyclocross bikes

    Got a little racer? Junior road and cyclocross racing are big news. These bikes may have drop handlebars, but often come with two sets of tyres – on and off-road, for versatility. Examples include Frog’s ‘Road’ range and Islabikes ‘Luath’ family.

    Kids’ mountain bikes

    Knobbly tyres that will provide plenty of traction are available from the starter bike category. Once you get over 24 inch wheels, front suspension can be introduced, but it’ll be fine tuned for lighter riders.