We are looking to buy a new bike for our 3.5 year old. Right now we have her on an early rider balance bike and she is very comfortable shredding around. So, we plan on taking her right to two wheels. Wanted to see if anyone in the forum had recommendations on kid bike brands and/or models for a kid about to be 4.
Our boy is pretty small. He is 4 now but we gave him his first balance bike around 2.5 years old. He never was really super good with it though. His balance bike also had a brake. Reading online about bikes, I got a bit obsessed with finding the best light weight, long wheel base for him. American/European brands all seemed good, but I couldn’t get them here. Finally ordered him a bike from Wiggle for xmas when he was 3.5 years old. According to the website, it should have barely fit, but as it turned out it was way too big. He is 4.5 now and its only just starting to fit him. Anyway, shortly after xmas morning disappointment, my mate sent me a trashy tiny bike with rubber wheels which rubbed the brakes. It was one of those with side wheels and a handle on the back for the parent to push and steer, idea being to just let your kid pedal. It was also heavy being steel (but still small so not that heavy). However, this one, the handle had been cut off and the side support wheels were long gone. It had two wheels, a basket and it was blue. What’s more is that it was tiny and fit my kid perfectly. After a few guided hands on the saddle the first day, he rode it by himself with me running beside him in disbelief after about 30 minutes. Used to get lots of looks going around the neighbourhood on it as people always thought a bike like that was too small (as was he) to be riden with no support wheels. I guess the balance bike worked wonders.
Anyway - my point is. Don’t get too caught up in the brands, the specs, the lightness, the wheel base, or any of the stuff that drives the prices up and means very little in the end. Just get her something that fits her well and have her practice putting her feet up on the balance bike frame before you give her the bike and they she will fly along. The biggest part is getting both feet up on to the pedals to maintain momentum. Maybe one thing to avoid is a coaster brake though. Regular brakes and freewheel are the best. A basket also goes a long way to make a kid happy as they can put anything in there.
Also, that first bike is now too small so he finally rides his xmas present. yeah! My 2 year old is now eager to hop on the balance bike even though he has just turned 2.
I’ve had great experience with Frog Bikes (https://www.frogbikes.com), starting off with balance bikes and moving towards actual road bikes (https://www.frogbikes.com/lightweight-kids-bikes/road-bikes/). Thoroughly recommended.
The Early Rider bikes are fantastic. They are pricy, but they are so good. Our 6 yr old has just grown out of her Early Rider, the one with the belt drive. I’d take a slightly different view about the weight of the bike though. Granny got our lad a kids bike after he grew out of his first Isla Bike. It was so heavy that he lost interest as he couldn’t get up any sort of hill on it. I’d always advise getting the lightest bike you can afford for the little kids.
Whist Isla Bikes get a great review, I personally think they are over priced for what you get.
We got our son a Frog bike around that age and he excelled.
Isla bikes and Hoy bikes also review well.
Essentially what you want is something light as they get put off easily by heavy slow bikes. Unfortunately it comes at a premium but the resale value is decent enough.
We recently sold his frog for about £130-140 less than we initially paid after 2 years of use.
Light bikes, with purpose built small controls make a massive difference to kids. Imagine trying to ride a bike that was 50% of your body weight! For that reason, I would suggest you aim to buy a good quality bike (though as above - it has to fit). The great thing about quality kids bikes is that they hold their value.
If you buy a new Islabike, Frog, Hoy, or Wiggins, you will probably get a large percentage of your money back when you come to sell. That means if you buy a secondhand one and look after it, you are unlikely to lose very much money on it when it’s time to upgrade - that’s the avenue I’ve been down and it’s been really effective.
I’d definitely recommend buying a secondhand quality bike over a new clunker.
I would definitely recommend Islabikes as well. They may cost a bit more than a cheap ‘kids’ bike from the bike shop, are lighter and better set up for small people. Same goes for the Frog and Hoy ones.
If you don’t want to buy new, look at second hand ones - there is (depending on where you are) at least one Facebook group for second hand Islabikes. The second hand market is decent and you will get back a good portion of even a new purchase when you move up to the next size.
+5 for Isla Bikes.
We’ve put all 3 of our kids through them, and we’ve had all the different sizes. And they are so well made that you can easily eBay them when you eventually finish with them.
I’m probably the outlier here, but I couldnt justify 500+ for a heavy bike with non standard components, so I bought XS and S frames on ebay from older mountain bikes, particularly an early 90s Kona HooKooEKoo in XS that I built up with 9 spd XT stuff from my old MTBs.
Now admittedly, my kids were 7-8 years old by the time these bikes were viable, but before that we just went the BMX route. We had a slew of Redline BMX and Mini BMX in succession that were passed around between the four. As each got more interested in riding, they stepped up to a geared bike as described above.
My son is currently riding a small steel kona frame, with a SID fork, 26" tubeless wheels, and XT/LX 9spd and I probably have 400 in the bike, including the frame. We had it powder coated last spring to make it “his”. Plus to this is that 26" parts are DIRT CHEAP on the bay.
This is Jack on his shakedown cruise on the Kona. He picked the blue, and it still had a Marzocchi fork.
My one standout is my younger boy who just treats bikes as transportation and nothing more, he still rides a nice BMX.
We had a good experience w/ Cleary bikes (https://www.clearybikes.com), not cheap though (but with 2 kids, we can get the most out of bikes). Isla bikes (https://www.islabikes.com) seems to be the gold standard, but expensive. Pierre.
Me personally appreciate BIKESTAR as the most sturdy type (for hyperactive kids), but there are more if you search through some reviews like this in the link.
My kids (9 and 10 at the time) rode everything they had at SeaOtter 2018. Quality bikes I say.
Ditto, I have never bought either of my kids a brand new bike. They grow out of them so quickly it doesn’t make much sense to throw too much coin at them.
When my son was 6 or 7 I found him a 20" Specialized Hotrock from the early 90’s for $10 at a yard sale. That bike was 10x better than anything I could have bought him for less than $300.
That is not great that Islabikes is exiting the US, they were my next choice for when my son’s outgrow their current bikes.
I purchased a used Specialized HotRock 12’’ (bright orange) for $80, with trainer wheels. It’s great, although weighs something like 16 lbs, which is a lot for a 35 lb kid.
I also purchased a used Specialized HotWalk for $100.
Both the bikes I purchased are worth recommending if you’re buying used. If I’d paid full price, then I think they’re lacking. The front wheel doesnt have lock nuts for the bearing cones, so you cannot adjust the bearings etc.
If I had a choice between a used Islabike or Specialized, then Islabike all the way. Light, better quality, just great bikes (a friend got two for his girls, and they’re great).
I believe Isla bikes was originally from the UK so if their expansion to the US didn’t work out as planned I can see why they’d do this. Shame though as they are good quality (if a tad expensive)
My two older ones each had Wishbone balance bike and then one of these (without the training wheels and handle…), or a 350, I can’t remember now.
However neither of them really took off until they were big enough to ride a (second hand) 20" Giant around. TBH the smaller (6.5) one still jumps on his Wishbone for a blat around the yard sometimes.
Just bought my eldest (nearly 10yr old) a frog 69 and v pleased with it. But also bought bu youngest (nearly 7 yr old) a Vitus from Wiggle (for UK people) - really impressed. Was £189 for 24inch bike and 95% as good as Frog. Certainly worth a look.
After all the flips our son did on the road since we bought him his first bike, we’ve decided that we’re never buying a plane bike again. https://cutelittledarling.com/best-bike-for-4-year-olds/ is for the items that you should rely on the most. The heavy and resistant bike is the guarantee for your kid to be safe and sound.