First bikes 

Choosing your child’s first bike is a lot of fun.  It’s hard not to grin as you imagine  the look on their face when the get their very own set of wheels.   First you have to decide what type of bike to buy: decisions, decisions……


Although not bikes in the strict sense of the word, ride-ons are often your child’s first wheels.  They love the ease of getting on and off and the thrill of speeding around.  They are great at burning surplus energy, and enormous fun.

Tips:  If your child is big enough for a balance bike, choose that option instead, enabling them to be develop skills alongside their need for speed.  

Choose a colour that you like, as if they are using it indoors your walls will soon have matching speed stripes.


Three-wheels of fun.  When you visit any early childhood centre you’ll quickly observe that these are the most popular and well-loved piece of equipment.  Kids love riding together, and being able to carry or tow is a much loved activity.  A good trike needs to be sturdy and stable.  Make sure it has a parcel tray or load carrying capability, as this is one of the main thrills of trike ownership.

Tip: If you want a sturdy trike that will last several children, ask your local kindy, daycare or playcentre to recommend a brand.

Balance Bikes

Two wheels and no pedals make balance bikes live up to their name: it is all about your child developing their balance, without having to get their brain around peddling at the same time.  Some can be converted from trike to balance bike.  On-line you will find information on how to take the pedals off a small bike: hey presto! a balance bike.  Initially I dismissed balance bikes as a fad, and didn’t use them with our first child.  By child two I had realised what a good idea they are.  We frequently borrowed balance bikes from our Toy Library until a birthday rolled along and she got her own.  She loved that balance bike.  She could join in the riding fun without the speed limitations of peddling a trike.  She could take it all the same places that her brother rode his bike: bike paths, bike parks, even mountain bike tracks.  She once rode a 3km beginners mountain bike circuit on it.

Tip: Look for one with adjustable seat hight so it can grow with your child.

Small Bicycles

Wheel sizes usually start at 12 inch, however you will find some 10 inch versions out there.  Look for a sturdy bike that is not too heavy.  Kids love having their own basket or bell.  The doll carriers on the back are fun, but break very quickly.  A stand is a handy feature that is hard to add later, so if you can find one with a stand all the better.  It will help your child in developing good habits when it comes to parking and looking after their bicycles.  If you are not sure what size to get, do some borrowing.  If the bike is not a surprise gift you can spend some time in your local bike shop trying different sizes.

Tip: Because a small bike can be outgrown very quickly consider your borrowing options.

Training Wheels

The smallest of bikes usually come with training wheels.  With the wisdom of hindsight I would suggest you take them off.  If your child has mastered riding a balance bike and then goes onto training wheels their balance perception skills will go backwards as they rely on the training wheels.  However that will really depend on you and your child.  Much has been written on teaching a child to ride a bike, and I will add to the mix in a later post.

Buying Tips

  • If it needs to do more than one child opt for gender neutral colours and great quality.
  • If you’ve got the skills to make sure it is safe, consider second hand or hand-me downs.
  • Accessories like bells, baskets, and racks make the bike really attractive to the child.  If they are part of the choosing process bear in mind they might be just choosing the bike for the colour or accessories.  Remind them that accessories can always be added later.
  • A hand-me-down bike can be blinged up with accessories: spokey-dokes, streamers, stickers, a bell or basket – plus a good polish – will make it as good as new in your child’s eyes.


Borrowing bikes from Toy Libraries or friends, and buying second hand can make it easier to try out different options.

Toy Libraries often provide a range of children bikes and ride-ons for members to borrow.  Being able to try different types and sizes of bikes before you buy is very handy.  Some types of bikes will only be useful for a limited time, so it is a good money saver to borrow rather than buy.  Similarly, if where you live has limited places to ride you may prefer to borrow occasionally rather than have a bike that will be quickly outgrown getting minimal use.

To find your local toy library check out: The Toy Library Federation of New Zealand: Find a toy library

…but they don’t like it….

Don’t be surprised or cross if your child’s initial excitement at getting a new bike fades and they prefer to ride the old one.  Adapting to a new bike, especially a different type, is a big change and they will need time to adjust.  If they love to go fast they will find the new one a bit slow and scary until they have mastered it.  Patience and gentle encouragement go a long way.  Given time they will adapt.  If after a reasonable time they are still spurning the new stead, then put the old one away where they can’t find it….tough love.

What questions would you like answered with regard to choosing your child’s first bike or helping them learn to ride?  You are most welcome to add a comment with your question.


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