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Best kids bikes 2024 — from beginner-friendly balance bikes to junior sized road bikes

Here's everything you need to know to find the best bike for your child, from toddlers to teenagers and for a range of budgets

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Children love to ride, and a brand new bike is one of those birthday or Christmas presents that a child will remember forever. There's probably never been more choice and quality in kids bikes, from balance bikes for toddlers to scaled-down mountain bikes, BMX bikes and even race bikes. 

A bike is an opportunity to get off the sofa and go outside to have some fun, and kids' bikes can be the gateway to a lifetime of exercise and adventure. Youngsters can start riding at any age from about three upwards, and can start on balance bikes even earlier.

Despite Islabikes ceasing production, credit has to go to Isla Rowntree of Islabikes for pioneering the production of really good quality bikes for children, understanding that the best kids bikes don't just have scaled-down frames, but smaller wheels, brake levers, saddles, cranks and even handlebar grips. 

It's worth buying a quality bike as the top kids bikes hold high resale value. To make the choice a bit easier for you, our selection has been split up into two sections: 

  • Balance bikes
  • Pedal bikes

So, what do you need to know before you buy a bike for your child?

Bike size 

Bikes for children are categorised based on wheel size rather than frame size, as the dimensions of the wheels dictate the overall proportions of the bike. The smallest kid's bikes feature 12-inch wheels, and are typically designed for children aged three to five years. 

Bikes with 12, 14 and 16-inch wheels keep things simple with single gears and no complications. 20-inch wheeled bikes are where you get into gears and sometimes suspension. Bikes for seven to nine-year-olds will take kids further afield, away from the garden and into parks and perhaps even to school. You'll usually find six or seven gears to make climbing hills easier, with a twist-grip shifter for simplicity.

The same comments apply to 24-inch and even 26-inch wheeled mountain bikes for kids as for 20-inch bikes. You also find double and even triple chainsets on these bikes, but there's a school of thought that this is extra weight, complication and cost that the child can live without for another year or two.

As with any bike, it's important it fits comfortably so that your child can easily stand across the frame, reach the pedals from the saddle and grab the handlebar without too much of a stretch. Having a bike that's too small or too big can compromise a child's ability to control the bike, making it harder to ride, and may discourage them from cycling. 

Handlebars: road or mountain?

Small-wheel kids' bikes have flat bars and mountain bike styling, but once you get into 24-inch wheeled bikes you have the option of drop bars.

At this point you're definitely into try-before-you-buy territory. Some kids simply don't get on with drop bars, and more importantly with their brake/gear levers, so don't try and surprise your youngster with a road bike if you're not certain they'll cope.

Cyclocross style extra brake levers are a definite bonus on any drop-bar bike for a kid and in our experience children will thank you for them. One other note on brakes for all kids' bikes: always check that the brake levers are proportionate to the size of the child's hand that's going to be using them, and ideally that they are reach-adjustable too.

Balance bikes

Balance bikes - steerable bikes with no pedals - have revolutionised the way kids learn to ride. By allowing a child to learn to balance and steer a bike without the complication of pedalling, balance bikes make a child's first experiences with bikes simple and fun.

Balance bikes are available at a wide range of prices, from around £50 or sometimes even less. The most basic models don't have brakes, but these days most have a rear wheel brake so junior's trainers don't get worn out stopping.

The best kids bikes: our top picks

The best balance bikes

Hornit AIRO balance bike

Hornit AIRO balance bike

Best overall first kids bike
Buy now for £129 from Hornit
Looks great
Light and simple to use
Lifetime warranty
Easy to set up
No brake option (yet)
No quick release on seat post

The Hornit AIRO is an ideal introduction to cycling for kids. It's a sleek, user-friendly balance bike that stands out in the playground, capturing both children's and parents' attention. It's easy to set up and involves removing the packaging, straightening the bars, tightening the stem with the provided 5mm Allen key, and adjusting the saddle.

The AIRO is equipped with 12.5in black aluminium wheels and 2.25in Compass Lite tyres which are much better than the foam or plastic options that come with cheaper balance bikes.

The bike's practical features include grip-taped foot plates on the base of the frame, handy for kids when they're up to speed on the flat or whizzing down a slope, and a neoprene cover on the stem to cushion potential impacts during adventurous rides.

Raleigh Balance Banana bike

Raleigh Balance Banana Bike

Best value kids balance bike
Buy now for £89.99 from The Bike Factory
Limited turning circle for safer steering
Large gripper buffers to protect hands
Fun design
Heavier than others
More difficult for smaller children to mount than others

Raleigh's Balance Banana Bike, tailored for smaller children with 12-inch wheels, pays homage to Raleigh's iconic Team Banana bikes from the late 80s. Despite a slightly higher weight than other balance bikes, it offers clever design choices and is great value.

The bike's adjusted geometry enhances balance, featuring flared chainstays for wider tyres and added safety by keeping feet away from the wheels. Well-designed grips with buffers and handlebar stoppers ensure secure handling, limiting the turning angle to 90 degrees.

The Banana balance bike is highly adjustable, accommodating various heights. Raleigh's website specifies a rider height range from 88cm to 107cm for this 12-inch wheel bike.

Kidvelo Rookie 12 balance bike

Kidvelo Rookie 12 Balance Bike

Best balance bike for beginners
Buy now for £108 from Kidvelo
Very light
Good price
Easy to adjust for multiple kids
Lifetime warranty
No rear brake

The Kidvelo Rookie 12 is an ideal bike for beginners - it's well-designed, of impressive quality, and surprisingly light weighing in at 2.89kg on the Scales of Truth.

The Rookie 12 features 12-inch pneumatic Compass Lite tyres on alloy rims which provide a comfortable ride and the rubberised grips on the handlebars include end stoppers for safety, and a neoprene cover over the stem adds extra padding.

The Rookie is available in blue, green, pink or red, which should cover most kids' tastes and like several other bikes in its class, the Rookie 12 doesn't have a rear brake. It's certainly not essential on a first bike, but it's worth considering when investing. 

LittleBig 3-in-1 bike

LittleBig 3-in-1 bike

Best kids bike for longevity
Buy now for £175 from Little Big Bikes
A design that will set your children up for life on two wheels

The LittleBig bike is a brilliant concept that will see your child travel from the early stages of balance through to learning how to pedal and beyond. It's light, well made and above all so exciting to ride that you'll struggle to get them off it.

The LittleBig starts life as a balance bike with a very low saddle; that's 'Little' mode. As junior grows you turn the seat clamp section over to set it up in 'Big' balance bike mode, and when it's time to fly solo you fit the pedals. That should cover an age range from about two years old to around six or seven, depending on how quickly your child grows.

As well as being a great idea, very well executed, it's also just a very very good bike. The aluminium alloy frame means it's light, and its long wheelbase keeps it stable, making it very easy for youngsters to learn to balance and then pedal

Kidvelo Rookie 14 balance bike

Kidvelo Rookie 14 Balance Bike

Best balance bike that can be converted to pedals
Buy now for £235 from Kidvelo
Two bikes in one
Child learns to pedal on a bike they already know
Quick conversion process
No quick release on saddle
Some conversion bolts got worryingly stiff

Kidvelo's Rookie 14 balance bike is the larger version of the previously mentioned Rookie 12 and its big selling point is that it can also be fitted with pedals. This makes it a great way for kids to learn how to pedal on a bike that they're already familiar with and offers an extended period of use for the bike. And you'll be glad to hear that the process of converting it from a balance bike to a pedal bike is pretty straightforward. 

Whether set up as a balance bike or a pedal bike, the Kidvelo Rookie 14 is a really lovely looking thing, and perfectly functional in both arrangements. It's best suited as a transitional bike boasting front and rear V-brakes with short-reach levers, so your child can get used to operating them before you implement the big switch.

Black Mountain Pinto

Black Mountain Pinto

Best kids bike for adaptability
Buy now for £399 from Black Mountain
Loads of adaptability
Geometry suited to children's physiology
Good components
A big outlay

The Pinto grows with your youngster, starting out as a balance bike, and turning into a small pedal bike with the addition of cranks, and then a larger pedal bike with the clever built-in frame extensibility taking it from a 12in bike to a 14in bike. 

It's very well engineered, and a confidence-inspiring ride for a young cyclist. The belt drive is a nice touch, shedding a source of grime that always manages to find its way onto clothes and skin.

The Tektro V-brakes are very powerful on a bike of this size and will stop the bike instantly and the bike features a removable sprocket to up the gearing by about 20% as your child gets stronger. 

The best pedal bikes

Vitus 14 kids bike

Vitus 14 Kids Bike

Best budget kids bike with pedals
Buy now for £239.99 from Vitus
Value for money
Good components
Custom bar and short-reach brake levers inspire confidence on the bike
Long reach could reduce stability for shorter riders
Tyres could be grippier

The Vitus 14 Kids Bike is a lightweight first pedal bike that's ideal for young riders graduating from their balance bike. It features child-friendly components such as short-reach adjustable brake levers, smaller diameter handlebar grips and a bespoke chainset.

It's light and easy to handle, weighing in at 6.1kg on our scales and the Vitus 14 has good mid-range single-speed gearing featuring tan wall Vee Speedster tyres. 

The Vitus is available in yellow, silver and red and the reflectors and bell are a nice touch and Vitus offers a five-year warranty on all its frames, which is pretty standard, but on top of that Vitus offers an extended two-year warranty on all components excluding wear-and-tear items such as bearings, brake pads, chains, cassettes and the like.

Hornit Hero 16

Hornit Hero 16

Best kids bike with 16 inch wheels
Buy now for £379 from Hornit
Low maintenance
Wide colour range
Lifetime warranty
Lifetime warranty is non-transferable
Long cranks limit clearance

The Hornit Hero is a starter pedal bike for younger riders – roughly 3.5 to 6 years old – that's light and built to a high quality with sensible components. 

The Hero features a belt drive and, while this is not unique, most others use chains. The benefit of a belt drive is reduced maintenance and a slightly lower weight.

Other key details include the short-reach brake levers, a 22mm handlebar diameter more suited to smaller hands, and slim but soft and comfortable grips. The seatpost also gets a direct-mounted saddle that allows the lowest possible standover.

Boardman JNR Hybrid Bike

Boardman JNR Hybrid Bike - 26 inch Wheel

Best value junior bike
Buy now for £420 from Halfords
Light and manoeuvrable
Good range of gears
Robust wheels

The Boardman JNR Hybrid 26in bike is a well-made, versatile choice for young riders. It's well-kitted out for the money featuring Microshift's Advent gearing and disc brakes. The 1x setup means your child only needs to use one hand to change gear, and it's sized well for smaller hands. 

The JNR 26in has a tiple-butted aluminium frame with mounting points for a bottle cage, full mudguards and a rack too, meaning it's well-suited for various adventures. 

The 26in wheels have double-walled aluminium rims paired to alloy hubs and 1.5in VEE Speedster tyres. Additionally, the Boardman JNR Hybrid is offered in 24in wheels version and retails at £380. 

Giant ARX 24

Giant ARX 24

Best kids bike for aspiring cyclists
Buy now for £425 from Tredz
Impressive quality alloy frame and fork
Well chosen kit for small hands
Suited to a range of terrains
Not as light as some of the competition

Giant's ARX 24 is rather good for the aspiring junior cyclist. A great quality frame and fork matched to a well-chosen spec list make it an easy and fun bike to ride, and it doesn't cost the earth either. It's also available in four other colours if yellow doesn't do it for your young 'un.

For the ARX Giant has used its Aluxx grade aluminium alloy, not just for the frame but also the fork, and that means the whole bike comes in at a pretty impressive 9.02kg (19.88lb) on the scales. Weight on paper really isn't everything, and according to our 10-year-old tester Libby, the ARX feels much lighter than it is. She had no issues lifting the front wheel to hop up kerbs, and when we were out and about on the trails, ruts and tree roots weren't an issue either.

Merida MATTS J.24+

Merida MATTS J.24+ children's bike

Best kids bike with wide tyres
Buy now for £500 from Merida Bikes
Wide tyres give confidence
Brakes and gears are easy on small hands
It’s not exactly light

Merida’s MATTS J.24+ offers a very good frame and fork with sorted geometry that makes it fun and easy to ride – no matter what level of experience your child has. The Plus-size 2.4" tyres and good clearances mean a surefooted and comfy ride off-road, but while the lack of suspension and limited gears keep things simple, the result is still a bit on the weighty side.

As any parent knows, no matter how good any bike looks your child needs to find it cool. The MATTS J.24+ certainly doesn’t fail that test. Tester Libby absolutely loved the way it looks, commenting that the wide tyres and chunky black rims make it look like a proper mountain bike.

Watching her take off on the Merida, it was clear it gave her immediate confidence, and she quickly adapted to the slacker geometry and wide handlebar.

Frog 61

Frog 61

Best kids bike for 8-10 year olds
Buy now for £459.99 from Tredz
Lightweight build gives good manoeuvrability
Child-specific geometry
Good price for the build

Everything about the Frog 61 is created for young cyclists from the geometry, the FrogFit gear shifters, easy-to-reach brake levers and the patented Frog crank arms. The Frog 61 is designed for 8-10-year-olds, with a recommended inside leg of 57cm to 74cm.

With its lightly-treaded tyres, the Frog is happy to be ridden off-road as well as on the road, and even on loose sections of gravel or mud the bike remained stable and easy to control. Full mudguards are included, as are the pedals, and in the accessories box, you also get reflectors, paint plasters and frame protection stickers.

At 9.3kg it's light too, especially as that's for the complete build you see here.

Frog road 70 road bike

Frog Road 70 children's road bike

Best kids road bike
Buy now for £576 from Winstanleys Bikes
Versatile and strong bike

A drop-bar bike with 26in wheels and Frog goes with chunkier tyres out of the box so that the Road 70 can handle trails and dirt roads as well as tarmac.

If it were an adult bike we'd be using lots of current hot cycling buzz words 'cross', 'adventure' or 'gravel'. In fact, it's some and none of those. It's just a kids' bike, built for kids to take on the sort of freewheeling, where-the-wind-blows sorts of rides they like to do.

Vitus Energie 24 Kids CX bike

Vitus Energie 24 Kids CX Bike

Best kids cyclocross bike
Buy now for £599.99 from Vitus
Geometry properly designed for children
Durable wheelset
Plenty of mud clearance
Good spec
Paddle gear shift isn't the easiest for small hands

The Vitus Energie 24 Kids CX Bike is a cyclo-cross bike so can be used both on and off-road. It features child-friendly geometry and a robust, well-specced build, topped off with an awesome paint job.

For the build quality and spec list, this bike is worth the money, and it's robust enough to be passed down through the family. Bikes like this often retain their value for resale too. 

The shifting is taken care of by Microshift's R8 cassette, R9 rear mech and R8 shifter, and keeping a 1x at the front drops weight over a 2x chainset, and keeps things simple too.

If road is more your child's thing then Vitus offers the Razor, which uses the same frame and fork and wears 1in slicks. Both bikes are available in 24in and 26in wheel sizes.


How to choose from the best kids bikes

How do I know what size bike my child needs?

When choosing the right size bike for your child, factors such as height, inseam length, and handlebar reach are more important than your child's age, and many brands provide size guides and tips to help you make an informed decision. 

When your child is seated on the bike they should be able to touch the ground with both feet as this will offer stability and control. They should also be able to comfortably reach the handlebars with both hands and operate the brake levers easily. 

How do I choose a bike for my child?

There's lots to consider when buying a bike for your child but broadly speaking children's bikes are split into two categories - balance bikes and pedal bikes. Balance bikes are a great first bike allowing a child to learn to balance and steer a bike without the complication of pedalling. 

Once they've got the grasp of that, pedal bikes are for more experienced riders and it's important to choose a type of bike suited to your child's interests and intended use. Categories of pedal bikes include mountain, road, cyclocross and BMX bikes. 

Handlebars choice is another important consideration and many kids' bikes feature flat bars rather than dropped handlebars. Some kids simply don't get on with drop bars, and more importantly with their brake/gear levers, so don't try and surprise your youngster with a road bike if you're not certain they'll cope.

How do you tell if your child has outgrown their bike?

As with a bike being too big, a bike that's too small can also be a safety hazard as it makes it harder for your child to control their bike. When a bike is too small, your child may not be able to reach the floor, pedals or handlebars comfortably. 

One of the signs that a bike might be too small is knee clearance. If their knees are consistently hitting the handlebars, it suggests that the bike may be too small. Another sign to look out for is if their knees are bent too much when they are pedalling as this can cause discomfort and affect their ability to pedal efficiently. It may also be time to consider another bike if your child is growing out of the seat or handlebar adjustment range. 

While some brands suggest that a child's bike typically lasts between one and two years before they're outgrown, you should regularly assess your child's bike size for a safe and more enjoyable experience for them. 

When is a child ready for a bike with gears?

Every child is different and their readiness to use a bike with gears will vary depending on their development and previous cycling experience. Once a child has developed a good level of cycling proficiency, including the ability to maintain balance, steer confidently, and pedal smoothly, they may be ready to move to a bike with gears. 

Gears can enhance their riding experience particularly if your child wants to explore different terrains and ride longer distances. 

A lot of kids' bikes have 1x gearing which features a single chainring for simplicity. This would be a good way of introducing the concept of geas gradually and as your child becomes more comfortable, they can progress to bikes with more gears. 

How much should a child's bike weigh?

Paying attention to the weight of kids' bikes is crucial for their enjoyment and overall cycling experience and arguably, it's more important that a child's bike is lightweight than it is for adults. 

A heavy kid's bike demands greater effort from a child, making it more challenging for them to control and manoeuvre, ultimately diminishing their enjoyment of cycling. Opting for a lightweight option not only eases the riding experience but also facilitates a smoother transition for a child from a balance bike to a pedal bike.

Kids' bikes used to be universally boat anchors and very cheap ones still are but, fortunately, many bike manufacturers now make sensibly priced, light machines for young riders.

What should kids wear when riding a bike?

It's a good idea to check out head protection on offer - especially for younger kids who may not have fully mastered the art of balance and proper pedalling yet - so a properly fitting helmet comes highly recommended. If your child is learning to ride a bike, it may also be worth considering knee and elbow pads for some added protection. 

Children should wear comfortable clothing, but avoid anything that's loose and could get caught in the bike's moving parts, such as the chain or spokes.  

Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.

Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…

Add new comment


Dogless | 6 months ago

As ever, don't know why wild bikes (go outdoors etc) are always missed off these lists. The equivalent of the frog 61 (identical in almost every way, probably the same frame) is £230 before 'sale' discounts. £200 cheaper than the Frog for the same bike.

Sennapod | 7 months ago

Surprised that there is absolutely no mention of Woom bikes here. They are lighter than Frog and close to Isla bikes in quality but with a more rugged tyre suitable for trails and tarmac. Frame is far more adaptable, low cog with adjustable handlebars. Plenty of good reviews from other sites which have discovered them, such as cyclesprog, also Bike club stock them.

momove | 7 months ago

I'd suggest that for balance bikes, a brake is really important. Initially the kid won't be able to use it, if they're young, but it becomes increasingly important as they get more competent. And then they'll be used to braking once they get a pedal bike.

Weight is something I thought was irrelevant until I realised you'll spend a lot of time carrying it! Go lightweight if you can!

We've had a Ridgeback Scoot 12 inch balance bike, which we were happy with. Currently on a 14 inch Vitus which is great.

Parodius | 7 months ago

Not a single review for 20 inch bikes. Mine have outgrown 16 but can't ride a 24 yet as they need another 6-8cm growth. I'm in market for a 20. Until they get to 8 years old. 

Simon E replied to Parodius | 7 months ago

Cnoc 20, currently £350:

The equivalent Frog would be a decent alternative.

gonedownhill replied to Parodius | 7 months ago
1 like

Vitus 20 is every bit as good as Frog and are quite cheap with wiggle/CRC right now

momove replied to gonedownhill | 7 months ago

Just wanted to second your comment on Vitus.

We've got a Vitus 14 for our kid, since the age of four. It's a great bike, robust, adjustable, and good value. I'm planning to just keep getting the next size up.

JMcL_Ireland | 7 months ago
1 like

The Decathlon Run Ride balance bike deserves a mention. Ours served our 3 kids and has since gone on to a good home to serve another 2 and is still going strong after about 12 years. The design has changed in that time (I preferred the old one) and it's gotten near to double in price in that time so not quite the steal it used to be, but it's still cheaper than any of the ones listed

Frog bikes are great. With the exception of 1 Islabike, all the progression has been to Frogs

cyclisto replied to JMcL_Ireland | 7 months ago

Agree about Decathlon basic balance bike. Having bought a few of them as gifts, it is indeed a good indicator how inflation works.

The lifetime warranty for a bicycle meant to be ridden for 2-3 years for each kid seems a bit funny to me.