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Is it time to buy your child a bicycle?

It's never too early to get your kid on two wheels!Is it time for your little bundle of joy to take up two-wheeling?  Or is your "little one" not so little anymore and, mayber, ready for a bigger bike? If it's been a while since you've bike shopped, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

Today, there are more types of children's two-wheelers available than ever before. While this means you have a better selection, it also increases the possibility of purchasing the wrong bike or one that is lesser quality or poorly designed.

To help get you through this mine-filed of potentially relationship destroying pitfalls and blunders (the brave fear neither hyperbole nor mixed metaphors), Lakeside Bicycles has rounded up some fun tips to ensure that you get a bike your tyke, kindergartner, pre-teen and young adult – and every juvenile in-between, will love. And remember that the professionals at Lakeside Bicycles are always happy to help answer questions, show you and your child which bikes fit and how they differ, and handle any other issues that crop up as you get your whole family pedaling together. We can keep a secret, too, in case that new tot rod is a surprise!

Size matters
While adult bicycles are selected according to frame size, kids' bikes are sized (and referred to) according to wheel size (see our photos and chart below).

Also, fitting a bike to children involves more than determining their age and height. We will help you evaluate coordination and riding ability. For example, taller children lacking cycling confidence do much better on smaller bikes because they feel more comfortable and in control. On the other hand, a coordinated 10-year old with long legs who has ridden smaller bicycles growing up might be ready for a full-size bike.

The deciding factor is safety. You want a bicycle that lets your child ride easily in complete control. All Lakeside Bicycles' children's and young-adult bicycles are adjustable to fit as your child grows.

Don't make the common mistake of believing you should get a bike that's a little big in order to have growing room for your child. Genuinely oversize bikes can be dangerous and will increase the likelyhood of crashes. They're also harder to ride. These things can have the opposite effect of what you want, and instead of being fun for them, actually turn your kid off to cycling. And don't worry, once they've outgrown any quality bicycle, you can pass it down the food chain or easily sell it online, in the newspaper or at a yard sale.

Sizing by age and wheel size
Running bike
Age: 2 - 4
Wheel size: 12-inch (or smaller)
12-inch Age: 2 - 4
WS: 12-inch pedal bike (can include training wheels)
16-inchAge: 3 - 6
WS: 16-inch pedal bike (can include training wheels)
BMX bikeAge: 5 - 9
WS: 20-inch
24-inchAge: 7 - 11
WS: 24-inch
26-inch/700cAge: 10 - Adult
WS: 26-inch/700c

Proper fit
When you're checking a bike's fit, make sure that the child can sit on the seat and place both feet firmly on the ground, which means they'll be able to hold themselves upright and get on and off without difficulty. As is made clear in the section on Teaching Your Child To Ride, we are not big fans of training wheels, never-the-less, if the bicycle is equipped with training wheels, it's okay if the child reaches the ground with their toes only, because the training wheels provide the support.

As they develop their balance, gradually raise the training wheels so they get used to leaning the bike to turn. This is easy to do on our quality training wheels.

It's also important that children can comfortably reach the handlebars and steer. If the bars are out of reach, steering will pull them forward causing a loss of control. Plus, if the bicycle has hand brakes or gears, it's crucial that the child can reach and operate the controls. If the child doesn't have the hand strength to operate the levers, all of the kid's bikes we sell can be adjusted to make it easier for them, which we will help you with.

Running or Balance bikes
For children who cannot ride yet, and the youngest and least coordinated kids, Running or Balance bikes are a great way to start. These compact, uncomplicated and totally fun learning machines are also referred to as balance or push bikes. They are very intuitive for most children and inspire confidence because their feet are on the ground so much of the time and the bikes are small, light and easy for them to handle. 

These ingenious bikes have a sturdy frame, nice wheels and tires and a seat and handlebars, but they have no pedals, cranks, drivetrain or brakes. They are powered by the child pushing along with their feet, a natural motion they've already mastered. And, as they propel themselves along Fred Flintstone style, they quickly learn how to steer a bicycle and soon also get the feeling of balancing a two-wheeler. Once that happens they're well on their way to a pedal bike. .

It's important to note that even new riders can scoot along quite quickly on running bikes. So be ready to keep an eye on your little ones and make sure they only ride where it's safe. Also, these bikes can handle pavement and dirt, so they're great for learning off-road skills, too.

Children can enjoy BMX racing into adulthood!Pedal bikes
Children's pedal bikes vary as much as adult models. For tots, there are tiny brakeless "sidewalk" bikes not intended for street use. Once they turn about eight, many kids want BMX (Bicycle Moto Cross) models, which are ideal for everything from cruising to school and around town to trick riding, racing and dirt jumping. BMX also have the advantage of being one-size-fits-all, which means it's not going to get outgrown.  Also popular are cruisers, and mini mountain bikes with suspension, and full-on performance road bicycles.

If your child is very small, you might be able to pick out a bike for them. Once they get a little older, though, this gets tricky. It's their bike and keep in mind that they're more likely to want to ride and to get excited about biking if they've got their heart's desire.

To find out what they want, just ask them. Or bring home some catalogs or visit us online with them and have them point out models they like. Or, make a day of it and bring them in shopping so they can show you the models they think are cool.

If the new bike is a surprise gift, check what your child's friends ride. That should ensure that you pick a winner. In any case, at Lakeside we will gladly exchange a new bicycle (as long as it hasn't been damaged) for the correct size or for the little darling's prefered color.

We'll fit your child to the right bicycle and helmet!Lakeside Bicycles professional bike shop is the best place to buy
We hope that this basic information and the following videos on choosing, sizing and buying a children's bicycle has been helpful and that you'll come see us when it's time to share your cycling love with that eager little one. We carefully select the kid's models we carry and assemble every one by hand plus, we stand behind every bicycle with a full guarantee, too, should you ever have a problem. We also properly fit the bike to your child and can show you the adjustments you can make as your child grows.

We've got a full selection of accessories, too. You'll absolutely want to get them a helmet and we'll make sure that it is the correct fit.  If they're old enough to bike to school, you'll want them to have a quality lock and know how to use it. You might want them to have a light and bell or a rack for carrying books and clothing. We've got it all and are happy to show you.

This article was prepared in conjunction with our friends at People For Bikes who are working hard to make America more bicycle friendly.

Thanks for reading!

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