The importance of a correctly sized starter bike
Common questions faced by the Islabikes customer service team on the phone, at events and with families in the fitting studio are about size and ability. Understanding these issues will really help parents get the most from family cycling.
Size is often seen as a moving target. Parents wonder when the best time is to buy when a child is constantly growing. In reality, children grow at different rates but there is a perfect window of opportunity between 3 and a half and 4 and a half when most children will learn to ride. Toddlers who have started off on a balance bike at 2 years old should be getting into the swing of this at 2 and a half and gaining confidence about their balance skills as they turn 3.
A 3 year old may be extremely proficient on a balance bike but may not be ready cognitively to pedal a starter bike. This is because they just haven’t quite developed the coordination skills necessary to learn to pedal and balance at the same time. Another 6 months spent balance biking will be time well spent.
At 4, most children are just ready to learn to ride. A single speed starter bike will give up to 2 years’ growth and in that magical time, a child will be gaining mastery in starting, stopping, cornering, learning how to apply the brakes with control and beginning to really enjoy going over lumps and bumps. This is a really key period of time and even if it’s only a year, it’s still such an important foundation experience and worth every penny spent on a lightweight bike.
If a child has missed the balance bike stage, the message is that it’s not too late! One benefit of older children learning to ride is that they often learn balance quite quickly and assimilate the action of pedaling quite quickly. The best way to learn balance is to convert a small bicycle with pedals to a balance bike by lowering the saddle right down so both feet touch the ground and there’s a slight bend at the knee…then remove the pedals (and stabilisers if you unknowingly went down this route).
Whizzing around should be fun and this is a great way to learn balance. When you notice your child appears to be rolling along and able to lift their feet up with glee, it’s time to invest in a good bicycle that fits well now with room for growth. If a child is not able to stand astride the bicycle top tube with a little clearance for safety, braking suddenly could easily cause injury. If a child cannot comfortably reach the handlebars with a little bend at the elbow, they may really struggle to manage cornering which is a major safety concern as children start to venture further.
It is a false economy to buy a bike believing your child will grow into it. Unfortunately, the potential loss of confidence can set a child back on many levels. It is such a shame to think that a misinformed decision on size can deny a child the opportunity to gain mastery of a life skill and all the confidence that goes along with this.