When purchasing a bicycle for your growing child, it is important to find the right fit for them. Children’s bikes are sized by wheel diameter as opposed to adult bikes, which are sized by the frame. In order to decrease the risk of overuse injuries from improper fit, here are some guidelines for how your child should sit on the bicycle:
- Your child should be able to sit on the seat with their knees extended and their feet touching the floor. They should not have to lean to either side to get their feet on the floor.
- When your child puts their feet on the pedals, they should have a slight bend in their knee and their knees should not hit the handlebars when pedaling.
- They should be sitting upright with a neutral neck and back position, not hunched over the handlebars.
- Their elbows should be slightly bent when gripping the handlebar.
- Their ankles should be in neutral to be able to generate enough force through their feet to pedal the bike.
Putting on the Brakes
There are two different types of braking systems for child bicycles. Children can either use coaster brakes, which are placed on the back wheel and are engaged by pedaling backwards, or handbrakes. When deciding which type of brake is most appropriate for your child, check their grip strength by seeing how tightly they can squeeze your hand or if their grip is strong enough to activate the brakes while in a bike shop.
Three wheels or two?
- Your child’s age will also determine if you should purchase a tricycle or a two-wheeled bicycle:
If your child is between 2 and 3 years of age, they are most appropriate for a tricycle. Make sure their feet can reach the pedals with a slight bend in their knee and that their knees don’t hit the handlebars while they are pedaling.
- Around age 4-5, try a two-wheeled bike for your child with training wheels.
- As they become more comfortable with pedaling the bicycle independently, they may be ready to remove the training wheels and learn how to balance on a two-wheeled bicycle between 5-7 years of age.
Don’t Forget the Helmet!
In addition to the bicycle, it is also important to correctly size your child’s helmet:
- The helmet should be level and sit no more than an inch above your child’s eyebrows.
- The straps should form a “V” shape around their ears.
- The helmet should be snug, not sliding forward or backward on their head.
Learning how to ride a bicycle can be a great experience for your child on a bicycle that fits them properly!
Jennifer Crane is a doctor of physical therapy and board certified pediatric specialist at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion. She is certified with the Neuro-Developmental Treatment Association. She is Assistant Section Manager in the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion.