Thinking of buying a child’s bicycle for Christmas?

3 Oct 2021

Here’s what you need to know.

Is it too early to be talking about Christmas? In 2021, it most definitely is not. Since the start of Covid in 2020, the bike industry has been under a lot of pressure, bikes and bike components have been in short supply for a long time, and there are no signs that this is going to change any time soon. In fact, my local bike shop gave me a 6-month waiting time for a new bike for my son and even that was an optimistic estimate, thankfully with a bit of perseverance I found the specific make, model, colour and size for my son in a bike shop over 200 miles away, who were happy to ship to us. Sadly, I had to shelve my ‘Shop Local’ ethos for this important purchase.

So, here are my five top tips for your important purchase of 2021:

1. Avoid getting a bike for your child to grow into. I see so many children arrive for cycle training on a bike that is far too big for them, lacking the desire and confidence to ride – when I put them onto the correct sized bike from my training fleet, for most children the difference is obvious within minutes. Always measure your child and follow the size guide for the make and model of the bike you are interested in buying – there is no industry standard, so every bike will be different. It’s important to know your child’s height and inside leg measurement – measure the inside leg by asking your child to stand upright against a wall wearing socks. Place a book between their legs, level with their crotch, then measure from the floor to the top of the book.

2. Buy a child’s bike and not a toy. Yes, your child may be obsessed with Frozen’s Elsa, Buzz Lightyear or Peppa Pig, but these gimmicky bikes are heavy, steel frames that are difficult for young children to handle. As the child’s likes move onto Paw Patrol, Spiderman or Trolls, the bike stops being interesting to the child, it sits in the back of the shed until a younger sibling comes along or until the shed space is needed for something else.

3. Buy a bike with a lightweight, aluminium frame. Compared to even just a few years ago, there are so many more options in this category, with bike brands that will suit even the tightest of budgets. My son is on his fifth Frog bike, my fleet of training bikes are predominantly Wild, with the odd Carrera, but there are lots of other popular brands to consider, including Isla, Vitus, Squish, Ridgeback, Strider and many more. Research is so important, spend time on this up front and you will benefit from it in the long run.

4. Buy second hand if your budget doesn’t stretch to new. There are lots of bargains to be had on eBay, Gumtree and local selling sites, but you need to exercise caution. Do lots of preparation in advance – measure your child, research brands, read bike reviews, get advice from your local independent bike shop and decide on the specific bike you are after. Don’t rush to buy the first one you see, make sure the bike looks clean and well looked after, no signs of rust from being left outside, check the wear on the tyres and stick to your budget. Be patient, the right bike in your budget will be there. It is always advisable to get a secondhand bike purchased privately checked out by a local bike mechanic, who can check the bike’s safety and replace key componentry relatively cheaply. Very recently I had a customer who purchased a bike from eBay for £70 and by spending less than £30, now has a bike in extremely good condition for well over half the price of purchasing the same bike new.

5. What if you can’t afford to buy a bike? There are a few bike leasing options, where you pay a small monthly fee and a new bike is matched for your child. As the child grows, you can sell your bike back to the leasing company and do the same again for a bigger bike. Depending on where you live, there may be charities or schemes that can help you get a bike for your child, ask at your child’s school, your local library or do your research online.

And finally…..once you have the bike sorted, don’t forget the bike helmet!

Jon Porteous
Cytech Technician Cycle Mechanic | British Cycling Coach | National Standards & Bikeability Coach