At 5 years old, an active boy may have the strength and control to master pedaling and steering his tricycle, leading parents to consider buying his first bicycle. This is an important purchase. Parents want to buy a bike that is adjustable and grows with the child, giving him years of use. They also want it to be safe and appropriate for his current age, size and skill level.
Be Wise About Size
Take the child to the store with you to test out bikes. Depending on the child’s height, a 12-, 16- or 20-inch bike could be the right fit for a 5 year old. The size refers to the tire diameter. Smaller bikes are easier to handle and may be appropriate choices for reluctant, insecure bike riders. As a child grows in confidence, or if he is on the taller side, he may quickly outgrow a 12-inch bike. This could be within months or in years. On the other hand, a 20-inch bike could add to the mountain a 5 year old must conquer in learning to ride on two wheels. It isn’t safe for a child to teeter on a bike that is too big. A bike that is too small can also be hazardous. Have the child try out a few bikes to find the right size. He should be able to touch the ground while sitting on the seat, mount and dismount easily and be able to hold the handlebars comfortably.
Children under 7 years old may not have the hand size or strength to properly operate hand brakes. Look for a bike with coaster, or foot, brakes. Check that the seat and handlebars adjust for a customized fit that can change as the child grows. A chain guard covers the chain and helps prevent the hem of pant legs from getting caught in the gears.
Training wheels help a child still learning to balance. Learning to ride a bicycle takes more than balancing on two wheels. The child also has to learn to pedal, use the handlebars and brakes, and learn to balance himself on a bicycle, which has a taller profile than a tricycle. Smaller bikes may come with training wheel, or they can be purchased separately. Adjustable training wheels can be raised as the child’s balance improves. Confirm the training wheels will fit securely to the bike before purchasing.
Families who take bike rides farther than around the block can choose a trailer cycle for a 5 year old not ready to ride his own bicycle. Trailer cycles look like a bicycle without a front wheel. They attach to the back of an adult bicycle. Children can pedal and get a sense of balancing on the bike while riding with an adult.