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9 best kids’ bikes for budding cyclists, from off-road to hybrid models

Your little one will feel confident on two wheels in no time with these steeds from Raleigh, BTwin and more

Sarah Dawson
Monday 06 September 2021 13:49
<p>When it comes to machines for little legs, the lighter the better </p>

When it comes to machines for little legs, the lighter the better

Team GB’s incredible achievements at the Tokyo Olympics have once again made the nation go cycling crazy. But if you’ve been inspired and want to get your child kitted out with a new set of wheels, there are a few things you need to consider before you buy.

When it comes to choosing a child’s bike, it’s definitely not a case of “one size fits all”.  Although many retailers will give an idea of the age range suitable for different models based on wheel size, it’s always recommended to measure your child’s height and inside leg, then check these against each brand’s sizing guide to get an accurate match. Kids’ bikes are measured by wheel size, rather than frame size – usually anything from 12in to 26in – which is then matched to the rider’s dimensions.

You also want to consider how heavy the bike is, especially when buying for younger children. Patrick Wallace, buyer at Evans Cycles, explains: “It’s a case of the lighter the better. It’s not only helpful for your child when handling and steering their new bike, but also very handy for parents who will inevitably end up carrying it home at some point.” Buying a bike that’s too heavy and cumbersome is only going to dent your child’s riding confidence, and make them reluctant to get pedalling.

It’s worth thinking about your child’s cycling style. If they like family rides along cycle paths and flat ground, a road bike will do the job. For adventurous kids, a mountain bike may be a better bet. A hybrid bike is designed to manage on and light off-road terrain, so is a good investment if you are looking for flexibility.

Many of the bikes we tested have been specifically designed with brakes suitable for little hands. “Your child needs to be able to apply these comfortably from their seat position and without having to overreach,” adds Wallace. Some of the bikes have gears, while those aimed at the youngest riders have kept things as uncomplicated as possible, with single-speed gearing.

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How we tested

We tested these bikes over two weeks, with our group ranging in age from four to 12, tackling bumpy off-road trails and smooth paths, to give you our honest verdict.

The best kids’ bikes for 2021 are:

Woom 3

Best: Overall

Score: 10/10

We hadn’t heard of Austrian brand Woom before we tried out this bike and now we cannot stop raving about it. Set up in 2013 by two bike-mad dads, every little detail has been designed with kids in mind.

The 16in Woom 3 is incredibly lightweight, coming in at just 5.5kg. Aimed at four- to six-year-olds (but, as we’ve mentioned already, match to your child’s measurements rather than age) the chain is safely hidden by a chainguard, the seat and handlebars are comfy and pleasingly tactile, and even the brakes are designed for small hands to reach easily and, as a bonus, are colour-coded – it’s so much easier to shout out to use the green gear, rather than the left or right.

Our five-year-old tester ditched the stabilisers just a few months ago and has been doing well so far, but the moment they started using the Woom 3, their cycling skills shot through the roof. The light aluminium frame has helped to improve their balance – so much so they can now cycle at a slow pace to match the dog without a hint of a wobble.

The Woom 3 was a dream along cycle paths and uphill (even without any extra gears), but equally had no problems tackling bumpy ground thanks to its slim but robust, deep-tread tyres. We opted for a kickstand to be added to the bike, for an additional £14, which was worth every penny. If the sizing isn’t right for you, Woom also stock everything from balance bikes to 26in kids’ bikes. We’re completely won over.

Carrera hustle 26in

Best: For older kids

Score: 9/10

This mountain bike was met with universal approval when we unboxed it, with our 12-year-old tester declaring it “cool!”. To be honest, he has a point, as even the adults couldn’t resist the matte black paint job and chunky tyres.

Looks aside, this is an excellent 16-gear mountain bike that really impressed. The front suspension did a fantastic job of absorbing the bumps as our tester took it off-roading, and the aluminium frame made it relatively lightweight for a bike this size, which helped make uphill climbs less challenging. Easy to handle and switch between gears, the Carrera hustle offers a really high spec for a mountain bike of this price, and it’s definitely built to last.

You can opt to have your bike built for you at Halfords, or you can put it together yourself at home. They also offer free safety checks, which gets the thumbs up from us.

Raleigh pop 16in

Best: For style

Score: 8/10

Can we just take a minute to appreciate how good this bike looks? With its contrasting red and blue tyres, sleek blue frame and classic Raleigh crest, it’s without a doubt a looker and appealed to our young testers and adults alike.

We tried out the 16in pop bike as a first bike without stabilisers, and our four-year-old took to it immediately. It may not be as lightweight as some of the other models we tested, but at 9.9kg it certainly didn’t pose any issues with balance or speed, even when starting out. With no gears to contend with, our little one mastered independent cycling in less than 10 minutes, and we’re not sure that would have happened on any old bike.

The quality is undeniable, and it’s definitely built to last, so it’s a great choice if you have various family members to whom you want to pass the bike down – it works well as a gender-neutral option, too. We must give a special mention to the seat and handle grips, which were rated the most comfortable out of all the bikes in our line-up by our testers.

Hornit hero 16in

Best: Lightweight bike

Score: 9/10

Considering the hero only weighs 5.7kg (the 14in model weighs just 5.4kg), it packs a serious punch. The corrosion-resistant aluminium frame means it’s built to withstand plenty of all-weather rides and inevitable tumbles, but can easily be carried home when your little rider has had enough – although we found our tester could ride for longer than usual on this lightweight model. In fact, they picked up some real speed riding the Hero, and we had a job keeping up!

We loved the belt drive system, in place of a traditional metal chain. Needing zero maintenance (so no need to faff around with grease and oil), it also made the bike particularly child-friendly. The brakes were easy to use with just the gentlest squeeze – ideal for little hands – and with a kickstand and mudguard as optional extras, everything is covered.

Each bike comes fully inspected and adjusted by Hornit’s mechanics, with only simple assembly needed when it arrives.

BTwin original 100 kids’ 24in hybrid bike

Best: Hybrid bike

Score: 8/10

With six gears to switch between, this hybrid bike is an easy-to-ride model at a really great price.

We found it to be a good all-purpose bike for cycling days out and rides around the park, and although we wouldn’t recommend it for true off-roading, it did perform well on uphill climbs and uneven terrain.

The lowered frame made it easy for our tester to get on and off and the adjustable saddle and handlebars mean you’ll get a good number of years of use out of the bike.

Both the saddle and the brakes are designed to be as comfortable as possible for children to use, which we put to the test on a long ride. The result? No complaints from our tester at all, which, to be honest, is unheard of.

Oyama JM20 kids’ mountain bike

Best: Mountain bike

Score: 8/10

While the Carrera hustle (£300, Halfords.com) is an excellent mountain bike for older kids, this cool offering from Oyama is perfect for younger off-roaders.

Fitted with Shimano six-speed gears, our tester found it easy to switch between them using the shifter, despite it being the first bike with gears they had ridden. It’s robust without being weighty – you’ve got the aluminium frame to thank for that – and our tester loved how easy this bike was to control as they took on some wet, off-road terrain.

Despite being such an excellent mountain bike, the Oyama also performed really well on more relaxed family rides, and our eight-year-old tester raved about how comfy it was.

We also loved the neon green paint job and detailing on the saddle and grips – handy for keeping track of your child at the skate park or in the woods.

Raleigh molli 14in

Best: Bike with stabilisers

Score: 7/10

The cute factor is strong with this one, thanks to the fun watermelon print, mini wicker basket and the cuddly Molli dog, which arrived with the bike and was a huge hit with our littlest tester.

Coming in at 9kg, it’s not the most lightweight starter bike in our line-up, but with the addition of the stabilisers, our four-year-old had no problems whizzing along to the park on these stylish wheels.

Other kid-friendly features, like the chain guard, pink front and rear mudguards and non-slip pedals, were a welcome touch, but if you ask our tester, it was the wicker basket that was the best thing about the bike, being the perfect place to carry important sticks and leaves we discovered on our rides.

If you’re looking for a first bike with stabilisers, we’d definitely recommend the molli; however, if you have already gone down the balance bike route and want to encourage cycling without the stabilisers, they can easily be removed.

Ridgeback MX16

Best: For adventures

Score: 7/10

The Ridgeback MX16 feels like a high-performance adult bike, shrunk down to diddy size. Managing to feel seriously robust and indestructible, but light and easy to handle at the same time, it’s a top bike for little adventurers.

Although the bike comes with stabilisers, we only tested it without and our five-year-old made light work of bumpy country lanes and grassy routes as he sped around on this – especially as there were no gear changes to worry about.

The chunky tyres look like they mean business and are built to withstand years of racing around – in fact, everything about this bike feels high quality. As with many of our other models, the brakes are easy to reach and operate and the handles are built for little hands, although our tester wasn’t a fan of the bumpy texture of the hand grips – you can’t win them all.

Forme cubley 14in

Best: First bike

Score: 8/10

This single-speed bike, weighing an incredibly light 6.13kg, is the ideal next step for children who’ve mastered a balance bike. Everything is perfectly kid-sized, from the handlebar grips made just for small hands, to the easy-to-reach gears and mini saddle and pedals.

Despite being small, the Forme cubley is mighty, and our youngest tester took to it immediately, putting the all-weather Kendra tyres through their paces on some very rainy rides. For such a little bike, it’s built to withstand a lot and includes some great safety features like a chain guard to keep little fingers away from danger.

You can order this bike through The Bike Club – a genius kids’ bike subscription service where you pay a monthly fee to hire a bike for your child, before exchanging it for a different model once they grow out of it.

The verdict: Children’s bikes

We were completely won over by the Woom 3, with its well-thought-out, child-friendly design that noticeably improved our tester’s cycling abilities. Built to last, it’s a bike to invest in and pass down through the family. For older kids, the Carrera hustle ticks all the boxes when it comes to style, handling and comfort.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on kids’ toys and other essentials, try the links below:

If they prefer running rather than cycling, check out our round-up of the best kids’ running shoes that are comfy to wear on all terrain

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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