Buying a kids mountain bike can be tricky. You want to purchase one that your child likes and enjoys riding, but you'll also want it to be the right size with the right features. You'll also not want to break the bank on a bike that they will quickly grow out of.
In this article, we give you top tips on what to keep in mind whilst buying your child a mountain bike, as well as recommending some of the best models on the market.
Why buy a Kids Mountain Bike?
Kids Mountain Bikes are drastically different from their road-based counterparts. It allows your child to go off-road and explore country trails and mountain tracks with ease. They perform well on mud, gravel, and pump trucks, and are a lot of fun to ride. They have the ability to nurture and grow your child's love of cycling whilst keeping them fit and healthy.
Is weight is a major factor in kids mountain bikes?
You don't want to buy your child a heavy bike. It will limit their ability as they will struggle with hills and mountains and most likely lose interest, never taking it out of the shed. Added components and features (such as gears and discs) will increase the bike's performance, but will also increase the bike's weight.
You don't need to buy your son or daughter an expensive carbon fibre frame but when thinking of weight, ‘Less is More’.
Buying the right bike for the right age
While your child is growing up, having the right size bike will help them progress and feel confident when riding. A lot of parents will purchase a bike with savings in mind, buying a bike that is far too large for their child hoping they will grow into it. Unfortunately, if they have a bike they don't enjoy riding then their enthusiasm for cycling will fade and their bike will go unused.
These are the recommended wheel sizes for the different age groups:
- 2 - 3 years old = 12” wheel Balance bike
- 3 - 4 Years Old = 14” Wheel balance bike or pedal bike (Depending on ability)
- 4 - 5 years old = 16-18” Wheel bike
- 5 - 7 years old = 20” Wheel bike
- 8 - 10 years old = 24” Wheel bike
- 12+ = Junior / Adults bike. (These will have various frame sizes to choose from.)
2 -3-Year-Olds - Balance Bikes
The best way for your child to start cycling is on a balance bike. A balance bike with 12” wheels will suit kids between 2 - 3 years old and will instantly get them hooked on cycling from an early age. A balance bike is a much better option that a trike or stabilisers, as it's main aim is to teach your child how to balance. You can get some balance bikes with brakes or brake mounts but there is no need if learning on a flat surface.
We love the Cannondale Trail Balance bike for its super stylish lefty fork and light Smartform C2 Alloy frame. It’s ‘kids friendly’ components such as the grips and saddles makes it a great contender for a balance bike.
3 - 4-Year-Olds = 14” Wheel pedal bike
After your child has mastered the balancing act, it’s time to progress to a bicycle with a single-speed drivetrain and brakes. The uniqueness of a smaller kid's mountain bike is that it has child-friendly parts such as smaller cranks and smaller reach brake levers. This will help with pedalling and braking, the two main areas where the child will progress on a 14” wheel bike. The frame geometry is designed to allow your child to adapt to a new cycling style, making the handling of the bike easier.
The Ridgeback Dimension 14 is a great option for this age range. The lightweight frame and friendly components makes it ideal for small riders who want to ride more often and in various off-road conditions.
4 - 5-Year-Olds - 16-18” Wheel Mountain bike
A 16-18” wheel bike is an ‘in-between’ bike that will allow your child to progress further in cycling. These mountain bikes offer disk brakes, gears and mountain bike specific products. Mountain bike geometry will also be enhanced to help stabilization over rougher terrain.
The Canyon AL16 has the perfect blend of both wheel sizes. With the front wheel being 18", it increases the stability whilst turning and allows for more absorption over rough terrain. The smaller 16" rear wheel allows your child to pedal easier and sit in a more upright position while riding. The AL16 also comes with SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes, perfect while riding off-road or in wet conditions.
5 - 7-Year-Olds - 20” Wheel Mountain bikes
This is the age range where kids mountain bikes start to get serious. Specific mountain bike components such as drivetrains, cockpit, tyres and hydraulic brakes start to creep onto the specification of the bike along with a more aggressive geometry. Some manufacturers will start to add front suspension forks which will be custom-tuned with a light coil spring to accommodate the child's weight.
Made in Britain, the Orange Zest 20S is a ‘no expense spared’ kids mountain bike that is ideal for every bike ride. From school runs, pump tracks and flowing singletracks, the Zest 20S is a perfect blend of components and weight to make the ultimate kids mountain bike. The lightweight aluminium frame accompanied by its confidence-inspired geometry makes it suitable for all abilities. The mountain bike specific drivetrain enables the young rider to ride uphill very easily.
8 - 10-Year-Olds - 24” Wheel Mountain bike
There will only be a slight difference between a 20” and 24” wheel kids mountain bike but overall the components will be very similar, such as the drivetrain and child-friendly brake levers. The main differences will be the geometry to accommodate the larger rider and an improved front suspension fork, which will have more adjustability and lock-out capabilities for longer rides
British bike company Frog have created the Frog MTB 62 which is a great choice for your child. Specialising in children's bikes, Frog have designed their bikes with components and geometry that makes them comfortable and satisfying to ride. Designed with their own frog cranks and child-friendly forks, they have allowed them to produce the ideal kid's mountain bike for 8 - 10-year-olds. Allowing the rider to push their limits and progress quickly while the bike performs at its best.
12+ years of age - Juniour / Adults Mountain Bike
At this age, your child should be confident enough to progress to bigger and better mountain bike trails. This is the correct time to take the leap onto an adults bike or a smaller junior specific bike which will allow them to feel comfortable on technical trails and whilst riding long distances.
A junior bike will be almost identical to an adult mountain bike in terms of geometry and components. The Isla Bikes Creig has some great components such as tubeless ready Stans Crest Wheelset, 7-Speed Sram drivetrain and RockShox 30 RL Air forks which will allow kids to easily ride on the road as well as mountain tracks. It also comes with Q-Factor cranks that has allowed Isla to create a 26t to 32t front chainring to make it easier to ride uphill. It is the lightest proportionally sized crank on the market.
How to keep your Mountain bike safe
Bike theft is a problem no matter how old you are. It is quite easy to think that children's bikes won't be targeted by thieves but that isn't the case.
Litelok Silver is the world's lightest insurance rated bike lock on the market, weighing 40-50% lighter than equivalent U/D locks, chains and armoured cables. It is perfect for children as they can wear it whilst cycling and it's lightweight style means it isn't going to affect their riding.