Biking Gear Tips

Choosing Bikes for Cycling with Kids Part 4 Going Solo

Choosing Bikes for Cycling with Kids Part 4 Going Solo Age 6+
Written by Stuart Wickes

Ultimate Gear Guide
Choosing bikes for cycling with kids

Part 4: Going Solo -Age 6 +

Stuart Profile SmallThis post is one of a series in our Ultimate Gear Guide looking at options for cycling with kids at different ages. The series covers a lot of territory so to help you navigate we’ve split it up according to the age of your kids. Use these links to find the bits most relevant to your circumstances.

Going Solo: Age 6 +

When your child is a bit older, a first proper bike becomes an option. Not all children mature at the same rate, so it is difficult to give an age – but typically somewhere between the ages of 6 to 8 most kids have the physical coordination, agility and balance to go solo. 

First ‘proper’ bikes from 6+

A first solo bike (perhaps like this) will probably have six or seven gears. As with training bikes the key is to try and find something lightweight that fits well and is fit for purpose. Be aware though that the limited number of gears will make hills hard work so they won’t get up them as fast as the rest of the family and you’ll need to compensate for this in your planning.

First solo bike

The freedom of the first ‘proper’ solo bike. This six geared mountain bike style bike proved a good starter bike for developing skills and confidence, at first on traffic free trails and later on roads too.

First bikes: Pros and cons

  • Your child is fully independent.
  • Your child is fully out of your control. Go with it; and be there for them with help and guidance. It’s a rite of passage we all go through. Remember your first bike and how good it felt?

First bikes: What to look for

  • Pay attention to your child and make the decision about which bike to buy based on their skills and personality. Consider their physical strength, coordination, ability to be aware of surroundings, and maturity.
  • Make sure there is room to adjust the handlebars and saddle as they do grow quickly at this age but as with first bikes don’t buy something for them to grow into, buy something they fit now.
  • Unless your child has very strong fingers, click gears may be better than twist gears that can sometimes be sticky and hard to change.
  • Be sure the frame size is small enough for them to get on and off. You might buy their school uniform bigger so they can grow into it, but it makes for problems with a bike and may put them off cycling.
  • It might be worth looking for a bike with attachments like bottle cages. It’ll save you having to add all these accessories later.
  • Choose a soft and comfy saddle. There’s plenty of time for growing into the hard leather variety.

First full bike for going solo: 21 gears 8 years +

Raleigh DBR Mountain Bike

This Raleigh DBR Ridge Mountain Bike proved a great ‘big time’ first bike choice for an older child. It’s light, funky and modern with disk brakes, wide gearing and suspension you can adjust for on road or off road use. While advertised as a woman’s frame, the styling is neutral and the small frame size makes it a potential fit for an older child, maybe 10-12. Check out what one of the kids thought of it when they tested it. 

Obviously you won’t be the only one deciding which bike is for them. Unless it’s a birthday or Christmas present they’re bound to have an opinion.  And it’s important that they have some input as they’re going to be riding it. But you might have to steer them away from what is cool, or high tech, towards what is practical for the type of riding they’ll be doing. For example if you plan to use it for long distance touring, then ‘king of the mountain’ dual suspension may be a hindrance and end up sapping their energy.

Full size bike: Pros and cons

  • At this age, a bike means freedom, and who can argue with that? It’ll save you running them about everywhere in the car. It is good for their health, and gets them out of the bedroom.
  • But with freedom comes risk. Make sure they have done some cycle safety training, and go out with them a few times to check they are cycling safely. Check that they are wearing a helmet too.
  • Peer pressure might come into the equation at this age as they may want a bike that fits in with their friends. Resist it where it is inappropriate for your needs. But do pick your battles. Are you really that bothered about their choice of colour?
Raleigh DBR bike

Think about the kind of biking your kids want to do. A full suspension mountain bike is great for mountains, rough trails and downhill but could be inefficient for a long on-road tour.

Full size bike: What to look for

  • If you have a child who is small for their age then you may have problems finding something to fit. You might want to consider a ladies bike. (Yes, even for a boy! – choose a neutral colour and they may not even notice!)
  • If you are touring look for a bike with mudguards. Splashes up the back of your T shirt might be a badge of honour on the mountain but while travelling they can be an unwanted laundry problem.
  • Get something appropriate for their weight and fit- even if it means spending a bit more money. If they’re doing a lot of riding, a badly fitted bike can be uncomfortable, and even worse, damaging. An aluminium or alloy frame might cost more, but it is likely to be more agile and nippy and It’ll make life easier for them on hills.
  • If touring, choose  bike with racks and bottle cages, or choose from a range of bike accessories at Argos and be prepared to fit them yourself.
Raleigh Diamond Back DBR Bike

Kids will get a real taste of freedom on their first full size bike.  

So what are you waiting for?

If there’s one thing we have learnt about cycle touring with kids, it’s that as soon as you are all sorted with the bikes or configuration you want, someone will grow out of it. Don’t panic; it just takes a little bit of reshuffling and you’ll all be pedaling again.

Cycling together is one of the most rewarding things a family can do. We know that from 12 years of experience. So get out there and do it. Before it’s too late.

And most of all, have fun.

Boy with new bike

A bike is for life and for living. 

Navigate around this Gear Guide


Choosing Bikes for Cycling with Kids Ultimate Gear Guide

To navigate to other parts of this guide according to the age of your kids, use these links.

Disclosure Note: This post was brought to you thanks to support from Argos. The content, views, experience and opinions remain, as ever, entirely our own.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!

2 Comments

  • Hi Stuart, great long post 🙂 but nice job. We love to ride our bikes as a family and last year my son Lewis road over Snowdon, at 5 years old, so quite a feat. This year my 5-year-old wants her challenge and she is riding the Taff Trail, a distance of 55 miles in a day, another huge task and the training has commenced for the event in August 2017. You can read about it here https://www.littlepro.co.uk/riding-55-miles-aged-5-even-possible/

    Great post!
    Paul

  • […] If you have kids, you know that there are only 3 certainties in life: death, taxes, and kids outgrowing stuff. That’s where Santana travel tandems come in. These bikes are made with couplers, so that they’re easily adjustable depending on how many people are riding them. That means you could start with a 5-person tandem bike, like the Pedouin family did, and then go down to a 4, 3, or 2 seater as the kids outgrow riding with you and wanting their own bikes.  […]

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