Bike advice

If you have booked your child on to the Pedal Project course we guarantee to get them pedalling safely without stabilisers.

Once they have learnt it is essential that they are able to practise in the days and weeks immediately following their course. Forget the phrase “it’s like riding a bike” as the skill can easily be lost without practice straight away.

In order to practise, your child will need a suitable bike to ride. If you don’t yet have a bike, the best thing to do is wait till the course starts as we’ll be able to give you expert advice on bikes at the end of the first session and we’ll be able to size your child to a bike in person.

However if you’d like more information at this point, or you’d like to buy them a bike before the course here are some important things to consider before making the purchase.



There is a huge amount of choice when it comes to buying children’s bikes and a very wide range of quality. At the top of the range is Islabikes – the bikes we use at the course. We think that they are the best children’s bikes around.

Unfortunately Islabikes ceased trading towards the end of 2023 so it is no longer possible to buy Islabikes new.  However, there has always been a good second hand market in Islabikes, so you should definitely consider that.

The main thing about Islabikes is that they are really light. Some children's bikes are nearly as heavy as the rider! The lightness of Islabikes makes them a lot easier to ride.

They are also very well designed with high quality components - again making them much easier and more enjoyable to ride.

For example, the handlebars on Islabikes have a narrower gauge than other brands, making them a better fit for smaller hands. The brake levers have a shorter reach and the quality of the brake mechanism is excellent, which means it is much easier for the child to stop the bike when they need to.

With less good quality bikes you will often find that the child cannot reach the brake levers, or if they can the brake mechanism is really stiff and therefore impossible to use.

Also Islabikes have the shape of a normal bike. A lot of children’s bikes – especially ones with a cartoon design – have a very upright riding position, with the handlebars positioned so the child’s hands are up near their chest. This makes the steering very twitchy and the bike is a lot harder to control.

Islabikes look and handle like normal adult bikes - they have the same shape as a standard adult bike;  just smaller.

There are many other design features that make Islabikes easier and safer to ride.

So that’s the good news.

The bad news is that they are expensive. When they were trading, Islabikes sold for £400-£600 depending on the size.

However they have always held their value incredibly well. They hardly ever sell for half of the old price new. Now that it isn't possible to buy them new, the second hand market has probably gone up to around three quarters of the price they used to sell for. So c. £300 for the smaller bikes (14" / 16" wheel) and c. £400 for the bigger ones.

Given that you would be looking second hand initially, if you shop around to see what's a good price and manage to get one at that price, you will most likely sell it on for a similar price when your child has grown out of it.

Whereas if you buy a less good bike new, it will devalue a lot. Bikes that sell new for around £100-£150 are unlikely to sell for much at all second hand.


Other good quality options

Frog Bikes are a good alternative to Islabikes. They have always been a bit cheaper than the equivalent Islabikes model.

They are a bit heavier than the equivalent Islabike and – in our opinion – some of the design elements aren’t quite as good, but they are the next best brand we think.

Squish, Hoy, Boardman, Woom and Wild Bikes are also good. The Carrera Cosmos 14″ and 16″ are good value for the smaller rider.

In fact there are quite a few good quality options now from bigger brands that have woken up to the market in good quality children’s bikes, after Islabikes led the way.

Just be aware that it’s only really Islabikes and (to a slightly lesser extent) Frog Bikes that currently have the reputation that means you can be pretty sure of a good resale value.


Cheaper bikes

As with many purchases for your child, they will grow out of their bike sooner or later so we quite understand that it may be difficult to justify spending a lot of money.

There are a lot of options when it comes to cheaper children’s bikes and we can’t cover them all so instead here are the main things to look out for.

If it has a cartoon design it isn’t likely to be very fun to ride. Think Hello Kitty, Batman, princess (various), cupcake, firechief… Very little investment is given to the design of the bike so much as the decals stuck on to it.

If the bike feels heavy for you to lift, imagine what it would be like for your child to ride. Children’s bikes can be incredibly heavy – half as heavy as the rider in some cases. Most adult bike are 9-12kg, with the very heaviest being around 15kg, or just over 2 stone. Now imagine riding a bike that weighs half as much as you do.

Avoid any extras on the bike that add unnecessary weight. The worst example of this for children’s bikes is suspension on so-called mountain bikes. These suspension forks, and sometimes rear suspension as well do nothing but add considerable weight. They are never of good enough quality to actually provide proper suspension, and in any case suspension is only needed on a bike for serious off-road cycling and downhill racing. Without exception, avoid suspension on children’s bike.

(Well ok, there are exceptions where suspension is appropriate, but these are expensive children’s mountain bikes with high quality suspension that works, to be used for serious off-road and downhill trails, such as the Islabike Creig range starting at £800.)


Buying second hand

If you are looking for cheaper alternatives our advice is always to buy a better quality brand second hand.

It will be a far more enjoyable and safe bike for your child and the chances are you will get most of your money back when you sell it on. If you spent the same amount of money on a new bike, the bike would be of poorer quality and it will most likely devalue far more than the better bike bought second hand.

As we mentioned above, for an investment Islabikes and Frog Bikes have a better reputation than all other brands and as such are most likely to hold their value.



Children’s bikes are sized according to their wheel size. 14″, 16″, 18″ (rare), 20″, 22" (rare), 24″ or 26″ in diameter.

However, this isn’t a universal measurement. So if they fit a particular wheel size in one brand, that doesn’t mean they will fit the same wheel size in another brand. If you are checking sizing online, make sure you check for each brand separately.

For Islabikes’ sizing, see their sizing guide here. However, in our opinion the Islabikes size guide is a bit too optimistic. So if you child's inside leg measurement is at the minimum or just above it for a particular size, it is likely that this bike size will be too big for them and they will be on their tiptoes. The Islabikes size guide assumes the rider is very confident. If you are unsure, do send us an email.

If you are buying an Islabike, you will want to get either a Cnoc (for younger children) or a Beinn (for older children). We don’t recommend the Creig or the Luath range for new cyclists, as these are mountain and racing bikes respectively.

The Cnoc range has one gear and the Beinn range has seven gears. The Cnoc 20 is the largest in the Cnoc range and the Beinn 20 is the smallest in the Beinn range. These two bikes are exactly the same size so if your child is in this bracket then you have the choice of one gear or seven gears.

The Cnoc 20 is good as it is simpler, and a bit cheaper, lighter and lower maintenance. But we think the Beinn 20 is a better option as they will have it for a good while and the gears make it better for hilly and longer rides that your child will probably do after a few months. For their first few rides as they are gaining confidence on the flat, you can leave it in a middle gear.

As we mentioned above, sizing is different across different brands. Other brands to Islabikes generally come up bigger in the frame, so you are likely to find that your child needs a smaller wheel in a different brand.

If you are buying from a shop, our rule is that when your child is sitting on the saddle, both their heels should be able to touch the ground. Shop assistants always try to sell bikes that are bigger than this, saying that the child should be on tiptoes. This is completely the wrong advice for a new cyclist that is still gaining confidence - their heels should be touching the ground, or at the very most 1cm or 2cm off the ground. If you buy a bike where they are on tiptoes, they will really struggle to start and stop it safely and it will make the bike near impossible to ride. The shops no doubt have your best interests in mind as they want to sell you a bike that will last for longer, but please ignore this advice suggesting being on tiptoes – it is wrong.

If a child has been riding for years and are very confident, then they will be able to manage a bike that is bigger, where they cannot fully touch the ground. But if they are a new cyclist they will find it very hard – if not impossible – to start and stop a bike on which they cannot touch the ground with their heels.

Please stick to our advice on this and insist that the shop assistant finds you a bike where their heels can touch the ground.


A lot of information! There is quite a lot to consider when buying a bike for your child. There are an increasing number of good options out there but there are still far more bad ones. If you are unsure about bikes or have any further questions, do email or wait till the course starts and our instructors will be able to advise at the end of the first session.