Get your child riding confidently and safely with the right two-wheeler. Here are a few guidelines to choosing one.
What bike at what age?
Kenneth Wee, cycling coach at Singapore Bike School, says that if Junior is aged between two and five years, he can start off with a balance bike. This is a training bicycle without pedals, and it helps him acquire the balance related motor skills he needs to transition to a two-wheel bicycle. A regular bicycle is ideal for children over the age of five.
The bike must fit your child proportionally – not too long, not too short and preferably not too heavy, says Kenneth, who is also known as Coach K. “Bikes are not T-shirts. So don’t buy a bike that’s too big and expect your child to be safe while he ‘grows into it’. It should fit now, not later. If it is too small or too big, he will have trouble controlling it.”
The Right Ride
There are numerous categories to choose from, such as road, hybrid, city, mountain, BMX, tandem and foldable. Before deciding what to buy, Kenneth says to keep these questions in mind: what kinds of surfaces will your child ride on? What distances will he ride, and at what speed?
For instance, if you want him to be able to ride with you along East Coast Parkway, and you intend to ride a long distance, a bike with big wheels would be easier for him to control and keep up with you. If he shows an interest in stunts, get him a lightweight BMX bike, as it can withstand rough handling.
Good-quality bikes may cost more, but they are worth the investment for your child’s safety. Kenneth says to look for aluminium frames, forks, rims and V-brakes. Avoid gimmicky suspension systems – those on most kids’ bikes are nothing more than simple pogo sticks and not real suspension, he points out – mudguards, fenders, bolt-on fuel tanks, and other plastic bits that add weight without enhancing functionality.
Everything on the bicycle should work perfectly. There should be no skipping, screeching, squeaking or rubbing. Kenneth offers his “ABCD Quick Check” guide to help you make sure a bike is safe before buying:
- A is for air (in the tyres) – are the tyres adequately inflated? Is the tread badly worn?
- B is for brakes – are both brakes working and “pinching” together? The brake levers shouldn’t hit the knuckles when fully squeezed.
- C is for chains and cranks – when your child pedals backwards, does the chain move freely and smoothly? Is the chain clean and well lubricated?
- D is for drop – lift the bike 30cm off the ground and drop it, and then listen for abnormal sounds that may indicate a loose component.
- Quick – check that all quick releases (wheels, seat post clamp and hinges of folding bikes) are closed and properly tightened.
- Check – ride the bike around to check for general alignment issues. Make sure that the gears (if present) shift smoothly, one at a time.
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By Sasha Gonzales, Young Parents, July 2015