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.
COVID update - there is currently a national shortage of bikes if you are looking for them new. This is especially true of the better quality bike brands. As such it might be worth considering looking for a good quality bike second hand. As it mentions below, this is a good approach even in normal times. High quality children's bikes like Islabikes and Frog Bikes hold their value really well, so you are likely to sell them on for a good amount once you have made use of them. There isn't a specific place we can recommend for second hand children's bikes beyond the usual of ebay, Gumtree and so on.
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 on the market. They are lightweight and very well designed with high quality components. All of this makes them much more enjoyable and safe 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. Their smallest pedal bikes are £400 and their largest are £600.
However they do hold their value incredibly well. Obviously we cannot guarantee what you will be able to sell one on for but Islabikes often sell second hand for 60-80% of their price new. It is unusual to find an Islabike second hand for less than half its price new.
So if you factor in the resale value, they are good investments. For example, you may buy a Cnoc 20 for £400 new and sell it two or three years later for £290. Whereas a new bike of the same size for £120 would be far less good quality and not as enjoyable or safe to ride and when you sold it on you may only get £10 for it as it wouldn’t hold its value. In both cases you will have spent a net of £110.
Once again, one cannot predict individual second hand prices, but that is an illustration of how Islabikes can be worth the investment.
At this point we should point out that we don’t have any business relationship with Islabikes and we certainly don’t get any commission! We just think they are really good.
Frog Bikes are a good alternative to Islabikes. They are 15-25% cheaper than the equivalent Islabikes model.
They are about 10% 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.
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.
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.)
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″, 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 go the page for their Cnoc range here, and scroll down the page a little to the Sizing for your Cnoc section with the grey table of bike sizes. Just beneath this table is a button labelled Measuring advice. Click this button to reveal their clear size guide with the table of all the bikes beneath.
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 Small 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.
In this situation we tend to recommend the Cnoc 20 with one gear as it is simpler, lighter, cheaper and lower maintenance. The chain is encased in the plastic chain guard and there is little to worry about there, whereas the Beinn 20 Small has a gear mechanism by the rear wheel that needs to be looked after a little. It can get bent over if dropped on to uneven ground or bumped up against in the shed. If you are planning on lots of hilly rides then go for the Beinn 20 Small, but otherwise the Cnoc 20 is generally a better bet.
As we mentioned above, sizing is different across different brands. Frog Bikes generally come up bigger in the frame, so you are likely to find that your child needs a smaller wheel in the Frog range than the Islabike range. With Frog Bikes we’d recommend the First Pedal Bikes range or the Hybrid Bikes range depending on their height.
The Frog Bike size guide is here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or wait till the course starts and our instructor will be able to advise at the end of the first session.