Just like clothes, beds, car seats and shoes, kids need to have the right size bicycles to ride safely and comfortably. The first self-propelled vehicle children often have are walkers that help babies develop leg strength and mobility. The next is likely to be a pedal car, a three-wheeled pedal vehicle or a standard tricycle. It is the bicycle-using years where more attention to size and features must be given in order to promote safety and permit children to enjoy the freedom that cycling allows.
✿ Choosing the Size of the Bicycle
Bicycles are most commonly sized by the diameter of their wheels. Adult bicycle choices additionally have frame types and size to consider. Where adults may be more comfortable pedaling bicycles where they have to stand on tiptoes to straddle the seats, bicycles for kids should permit them to straddle the seats with their feet flat on the ground. This is due to the issues of developing balance as beginner riders.
✿ Choosing the Correct Type of Brakes
Bicycles with hand brakes should only be operated by children with enough hand strength to use the brakes. Hand brakes, especially for the front rims of bicycles, requires skill development to prevent accidents that can send children tumbling over the handlebars. Coaster brakes that work by rearward pressure on the pedals are usually the best choice for bicycles for beginner riders.
Training wheels add stability to the rear wheel of standard bicycles for children. As children are learning how to balance on two-wheeled bicycles, training wheels help to prevent tip-over accidents. However, they are not as stable as a tricycle. The benefits of training wheels are that they can be removed, making the purchase of another bicycle once balance skills are acquired unnecessary.
✿ Multi-Speed Bicycles
Bicycles with multiple sprockets to switch gears should be introduced to children who have good balance and experience with hand brakes. The concept of how the gears work may be difficult for younger children to understand. This may cause unsafe riding conditions with the chain not fully engaging sprockets correctly. A broken or slipped chain can lead to an accident. Also, many multi-speed bikes do not have extensive chain guards like single speed and some three-speed bikes have.
✿ Children Outgrowing Bicycles
A circus clown riding a tiny bicycle is humorous, but it can be dangerous for children. Bicycles should fit the current physical development and riding skills of the children riding them. Just as you would not expect children to wear shoes that are too small or too big, the same goes for bicycles and the safety gear used for riding. This does mean you must be willing to replace equipment your children may outgrow in a single season, but it is the safest thing to do.
✿ Safety Equipment
All bicycles should have approved front, rear and side reflectors. Adding a flexible fiberglass pole and warning flag is a good idea too. The florescent orange flags and poles are unobtrusive yet serve as a visual warning to help motorists see cyclists of all ages. They typically are higher than the tops of many vehicles, allowing a motorist to see movement before an actual bicycle is seen. Proper fitting helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and even gloves should be mandatory even though most states only have helmet laws for minor children. Also, a headlight is also required in most states for riding a bicycle at dusk or night.
You do not need to fret over which brand of bike to get as long as it is well made and assembled correctly. However, it is necessary to regularly inspect components for excessive wear or damage, and it is necessary to follow the routine maintenance requirements recommended in the owner’s manuals of bicycles. Those desiring more information on choosing the right bikes for kids can learn more at www.usjcycles.com.