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11 of the best first pedal bikes for kids

We've tried and tested loads of first pedal bikes for kids, in a wide range of prices, to bring you a list of the best bicycles to to get your child zooming off on two wheels

best first bikes for kids

At some point between the age of 3 and 8, your child’s going to be ready for their first pedal bike. Either they’ve grown out of their balance bike or trike or they’re just aching to pedal on 2 wheels – or both!

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But which first bike should you buy? There are so many to choose from that it can all get a bit baffling – especially if you’re not a cycle expert yourself.

The two most important things to bear in mind are that you need to pick the right bike for your child’s height, and you need to choose a bike they can lift up by themselves. For more tips, see Key questions to ask when you’re choosing a pedal bike for your child?, below.

Plus, to help you out, we’ve taken a good long look at a whole load of first bikes, tested them, listened to our testers’ feedback (from children who’ve ridden the bikes and the parents who’ve been with them) and whittled them down to the very best for you to choose from, as you’ll see in our list below.

Key questions to ask when you’re choosing a pedal bike for your child

Here are the key points you need to consider, according to experts at the national cycling charity Cycling UK. You can find the answer to many of these questions when you’re looking online but you may prefer to visit a store for an in-person check. Then if you’ve spotted a good price online and/or you’d prefer the bike to be delivered, rather than having to load it into a car, you can always go home and order it afterwards.

  • Is it the right size for your child now? Don’t buy a bigger-sized bike for your child to grow into; it’s a sure-fire way to put your child off cycling. All the bikes we’ve recommended in this article have size charts on their brand websites that either take into account your child’s inside leg measurement or their height: buy at the lower end of bike’s recommended range – that way, you can raise the handlebars and the seat as your child gets taller. Ideally, also look for short cranks (they’re the arms that attach to the pedals), too: about 90mm to 100mm is great.
  • Can your child lift the bike up? Some steel-framed heavy bikes are harder for kids to ride, especially uphill. And, at some point, the bike will end up on the ground, possibly because your child has fallen off but probably because they’ve put it there. Either way, they’ll need to be able to stand the bike up themselves.
  • Are the gears and brakes easy to use? If you’re buying in store, test them using your little finger, or look out for models that have a rear brake that works by back pedalling, as this comes more naturally to a beginner cyclist.
  • Is the ride nice and smooth? The wheels, bottom bracket and headset at the front of the bike should ideally use ball bearings (check the bike’s specifications either online or in the shop) as these make for much easier and smoother riding.
  • Can your child try it before you buy it? If so, know that your child should be able to stand astride the frame with their feet flat on the floor, reach the pedals when seated, and hold the handlebar easily without stretching too much.
  • Ignore the girls’ bikes/boys’ bikes thing. There really isn’t that much difference between them – apart from the colours, which, of course, your child may have a very firm opinion on.
  • Not sure about tyre width? Generally, slimmer tyres are better on smoother paths and thicker ones are great for off-road. If you’re looking for a good all-rounder, bikes with wider tyres are the ones to go for.

What about balance bikes that you add pedals to. Are they worth it?

Balance bikes (essentially bikes without pedals that your child can coast around on) are a great way to get children used to balancing, steering and gliding without having to worry about pedalling. And they do make the transition to pedals much easier. Companies such as LittleBig and Strider make balance bikes that you can add pedals to (included in our list of best bikes below) when your child’s ready for the transition; the only potential downside is that these bikes tend to suit taller and therefore older children, so you may need a different, smaller-size balance bike when your child is very young.

It’s also possible to use a pedal bike as a balance bike to begin with. Simply take the pedals off, and drop the saddle right down. Once your child has developed the confidence to glide along with their feet off the ground for more than 5 seconds, you can put the pedals back on, readjust the saddle height, and introduce peddling as the next step in the process.

Is it worth buying an expensive bike if my child will outgrow it quickly?

If you want to spend less, some single-speed pedal bikes are great for children to learn on but very cheap bikes won’t have the features that make a bike easy to ride.

It’s also worth knowing that good-quality bikes have a great resale value. Check on eBay before you buy to see what you will be able to sell your choice for when your child outgrows it in a few years’ time.

Alternatively, you could consider renting a quality kids’ bicycle for a monthly fee that you can then swap to a bigger bike when your child has outgrown it. The Bike Club, which operates across the UK, has a large range of first pedal bikes, including Frog Bikes, Islabikes, Hoy and Forme bikes, that can be rented for as little as 6 months and then exchanged. There are also smaller, local bike hire schemes that offer children’s bicycles for hire.

And don’t forget about bike safety, which includes making sure your child always wears a helmet on their bike. We’ve found the best bike helmets for kids here. Happy cycling!

Here’s our pick of the best first bikes for 3 to 8 year olds, as tested by parents and children…

1. Beehive Vintage Children’s Bicycle, £149.99

– Best for retro style

Age: 4 to 7 | Weight: 9kg | Wheel size: 16in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: Caliper and drum
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A retro-styled aluminium-frame bike with adjustable seat and handlebars, bell, reflectors, front and rear brakes and stabilisers. Also available in pink.

Why we love it: It looks great, has a great twist-and-turn bell and it’ll fit your child for a good few years: the seat easily adjusts from 52cm to 60cm and the handlebars from 65cm to 73cm (from the floor). Katherine, mum to our child tester Ted, 7, said, “We are delighted with this bike. It’s considerably cheaper than some better-known brands but good quality and sturdy, with a comfortable saddle, nicely positioned handlebars, and easy-to-reach brake levers. It also has lower gears than many children’s bikes, so it’s much easier to make those initial pedal strokes and build up momentum: Ted had found other bikes too heavy to pedal but he rode away confidently on this and did four laps of the road!”

Available from: Amazon and Beehive Toys

2. Strider 14x Sport Balance/Pedal Bike, £154.99

– Best balance-to-pedal bike for taller children

 

Age: 3 to 7 | Weight: 5.7kg (6.9kg with pedals) | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Steel | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: Caliper and drum
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: This balance bike turns into a pedal bike with a special accessory kit (sold separately for an extra £54.98) that includes pedals, cranks, chain and a chainguard. The bike has rubber tyres with all-terrain tread, removable footrest, adjustable handlebars and padded seat, front and rear brakes. Comes in blue, green, pink and orange.

Why we love it: This is a larger version of the hugely popular Strider 12X Sport balance bike and the same simple design and upright riding position make it intuitive for children to balance and steer with their feet off the ground, while the increased wheel and frame size make it ideal for older or taller children – and suitable for adding the pedal kit to when your child is ready. Our child testers loved this bike’s pedals – which are half-width and make pedalling much easier, although one parent did note that the bike has more drag once the pedals are added. We also love the adjustable handlebar and seatpost, which has a quick-release lever and can extend by a good 17cm.

Available from: Strider

3. Raleigh Molli 14″, £220

– Best for style and cute accessories

Age: 4 to 6 | Weight: 9kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: V-brakes
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A traditional bike with an upright riding position complete with a wicker front basket, tan saddle and matching handlebar grips. Features purple paintwork, high-rise handlebars, adjustable brake levers, and non-slip pedals with rubber grips. Comes with removable stabilisers, mud guards, colour-coordinated full chain guard and Molli soft toy dog. Also available in 12in (pink) and 16in (aqua).

Why we love it: It has a nice low step-though frame (making it easier for small bodies to get on and off the saddle) and excellent brakes. Be warned that the white tyres won’t be white for long, though, and it is quite a heavy ride, so your child might find it a bit of a struggle on an incline! Our child tester, Matilda, 6, was a big fan of the cute toy dog that comes sitting in the basket, saying, “I want to ride this bike every day!” Although it’s at the higher end price-wise for a first bike, Matilda’s mum Cali felt the quality speaks for itself and “it’s definitely a case of you get what you pay for”.

Available from: Raleigh

4. Forme Cubley 14″, £249.99

– Best for low-maintenance whizziness

Age: 4 to 6 | Weight: 6.13kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes

What it is: A lightweight single-speed bike with a compact frame, all-weather tyres, narrow handlebars, chainguard, bell, and light-action brakes. Comes in blue, pink, red and green.

Why we love it: We like the chainguard and light, low-stepover frame and we’re impressed how the narrow handlebars and small stem make this bike super easy to turn and manoeuvre. It doesn’t have gears – which may not suit some but at least makes it easier to maintain and less prone to damage. Laura, mum of our child tester Logan, 4, said: “The bike is light and really easy to steer and pedal, which is important as Logan as only just learning how to cycle without stabilisers. The bell is also a huge hit!”

Available from: Winstanley Bikes and (for rental) The Bike Club

5. LittleBig Balance Bike with Pedals Bundle, £225

– Best lightweight balance-to-pedal bike

Age: 2 to 7 | Weight: 5.1kg / 6.6kg with pedals | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes

What it is: A bike that converts from an adjustable balance bike with front and rear brakes (both the saddle height and the handlebar reach increase) to a pedal bike. Suitable for children with a minimum inside leg of 37cm (in ‘little balance bike’ mode) up to 51cm (in ‘big pedal bike’ mode). Comes in red, green, blue and pink.

Why we love it: It’s great quality, very well balanced and nice and solid, without being too heavy. It might be a bit big for the smallest riders but once they fit, it should last your child several years. Once they are confident balancing and gliding, you can simply add the pedals – no need to buy a whole new bike. And it looks very cool, too.

Available from: LittleBig Bikes

6. Royalbaby Freestyle 14″, £149.99

– Best durable budget bike

Age: 3.5 to 5.5 | Weight: 9.8kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Steel | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: Calliper and band

What is it: The steel-framed bike – which comes with 12in, 14in, 16in and 18in wheels – has a Unicrown front fork, adjustable handlebars, adjustable seat and adjustable removable stabilisers. Comes with a water bottle and holder. Available in blue, green, red, orange, pink and white.

Why we love it: It’s definitely not the lightest starter bike around but it’s reassuringly sturdy, and easy to assemble. We like the adjustable stabilisers and the safety reflectors on the pedals – and the water-bottle carrier is a surefire child-pleasing touch (although maybe not best positioned for children who’ll be biking down muddy trails).

Available from: Amazon

7. Islabikes Cnoc, £399.99

– Best lightweight bike for smaller riders

Age: 3+ | Weight: From 5.2kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes

What it is: An alloy-framed bike that comes in four sizes: 14in (small; minimum inside leg 34cm), 14in (large; minimum inside leg 38cm), 16in (inside leg 42cm) and 20in (47cm). It’s lightweight (5.2kg for the small 14in version), has chromoly forks, front and back mini V-brakes, ‘micro-reach’ brake levers, and a fully enclosed free-floating chain guard. Comes in orange, pink and teal.

Why we love it: We like the proper mudguards and how the nicely narrow handlebars are designed to be higher than the saddle – putting the rider in a more upright position that’s easier if you’re only little. The light-action fingertip braking means even the smallest hands can control the bike’s speed and the cranks are short for less wobbling. This is a carefully thought-out starter bike.

Available from: Islabikes

8. Frog 40, £340

– Best value high-end bike

Age: 3 to 4 | Weight: 6.46kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: No | Brakes: V-brakes

What it is: An aluminium bike best suited to children with an inside leg measurement of 40cm (there are other Frog models for bigger kids). It has easy-reach adjustable brake levers and a steering limiter to prevent oversteer. Comes with mudguard, bell and reflectors. Available in blue, green, orange, pink, red and white with multi-coloured spots.

Why we love it: It’s well made and competitively priced in the quality end of this market with several accessories included. The ride is nice and stable, the components top quality and the patented cranks reduce the distance between the pedals so your child can go further, faster. Oh, and the frog detailing around the pedals is very cute! Plus each bike is supplied with paint plasters to repair those inevitable scratches.

Available from: Frog

9. B’Twin Kids’ 14″ 500 Ocean, £109.99

– Best value budget buy

Age: 3 to 4.5 | Weight: 8.7kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Steel | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: Cantilever and drum

What is it: An 8.7kg 14in-wheel starter bike with a low step through, mudguard, adjustable-height saddle, integrated chain guard, removable stabilisers (no tools needed) and a patented braking system. It’s designed to fit children from 90 to 105cm tall.

Why we love it: It’s not the lightest of first bikes but it’s a great-value choice. We like the child-friendly slim handlebar grips, the step-through frame and the brakes, which are really excellent. Plus, the saddle and handlebars can be adjusted (from 43.5 to 50.5cm and 58-61cm respectively) so this bike will grow with your child. Retailer Decathlon offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, stem and handlebars.

Available from: Decathlon

10. Ridgeback MX14, £229.99

– Best for mid-range all-terrain riding

Age: 3 to 5 | Weight: 8.27kg | Wheel size: 14in | Frame: Aluminium-alloy | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: V-brakes

What is it: A mountain bike that has high-tensile steel forks, off-road tyres and reach-adjustable brakes. It features a coordinating chain guard and is designed to fit children from 100 to 110cm tall. Comes in black, yellow and red.

Why we love it: We like how easily adjustable the brakes are for small hands – they can be pulled with just two fingers. It’s not super-light but certainly isn’t the heaviest starter bike featured here and the rugged frame will hold up on paths and pavements. A decent, reliable, good-looking buy.

Available from: Ridgeback

11. Specialized Riprock Coaster 12″, £229

– Best for proper off-road riding

Age: 3 to 5 | Weight: 7.1kg (without stabilisers) | Wheel size: 12in | Frame: Aluminium | Stabilisers: Yes | Brakes: V-brake and coaster

What it is: An off-road bicycle that features a coaster rear brake, front V-brake with tool-less reach adjust lever, wide tyres with deep tread and a low standover height. Comes in Blue with Black and White with Pink and Orange. Also available in 16-inch version for older children.

Why we love it: More than a mini-version of an adult mountain bike, this all-terrain two-wheeler has top-notch components plus additional features that make it extra secure and even more fun to ride: The rear coaster brake is intuitive to use (pedal backwards) and great for safe stops and cool skids, while the extra-wide tyres give excellent grip and make pedalling over bumps a blast. The coordinating padding over the headset to protect your little rider in case of a tumble or sharp stop is a thoughtful touch.

Available from: Specialized

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About our author

Gabrielle Nathan has been working as a journalist for nearly 20 years. She began writing about parenting and family travel while pregnant with her first child in 2012.

A keen cyclist, Gabrielle loves pedalling around London, where she lives with her husband and 3 children. Since convincing her husband to ditch his Travelcard in favour of a bicycle, Gabrielle has bestowed a love of cycling on her 2 boys, who both now cycle to school. She’s currenlty working on her little girl, who is getting to grips with a balance bike. 

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