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Choosing the Correct Size of Bike

Hints & Tips

Choosing the correct size of bike is very important and should be done carefully; if a bike is too big for you then it can be dangerous to ride. A good bike shop will allow you to try out several different sizes when choosing the correct bike and frame size.

Sizing a child's bike needs to be done carefully, the child will need some 'growing room' however the bike should not be too big as this will be dangerous for the child to ride. Bikes for children are generally grouped into different age categories based on the average size of a child at a specific age. The general classifications are as follows:

  • 12" Wheel cycles – suitable for ages 3 to 5
  • 14" Wheel cycles – suitable for ages 4 to 6
  • 16" Wheel cycles – suitable for ages 5 to 8
  • 18" Wheel cycles – suitable for ages 6 to 9
  • 20" Wheel cycles – suitable for ages 7 to 10
  • 24" Wheel cycles – suitable for ages 9 to 12
  • 26" Wheel cycles – suitable for ages 13+

However the above classifications are not a set rule, a bigger or smaller bike may need to be chosen to fit the child correctly. To ensure that the child can ride the bike safely the child should be comfortable on the bike and not too stretched, their tip toes should be able to touch the floor and they should be able to reach the brake levers.

Children will normally start off with stabilisers on their bike when they are learning to ride; these will help stop the bike from falling over and help the child to keep their balance. Once a child has learnt to ride without stabilisers they can then move on to a 16" wheel bike, this is normally around the age of five.

Once a child has grown too large for a 26" wheel bike, the child will then have to buy an adult bike which is measured by frame size. The frame size can be measured from the top of the frame at the point where the seat is inserted, down to the centre of the axle carrying the pedal arms.

When purchasing your bike and trying it out for size, the following rules should be applied for both child and adult bikes. If purchasing a racing bike then there should be a 1" clearance between you and the top tube of the frame when you are stood astride the bike with your feet flat on the ground, however if purchasing a mountain bike then this clearance should be 3" from the top tube of the frame.

As the height of an adult bike increases so does the length, on average the distance from the saddle to the handle bars increases by 1" for every 2" increment in frame size. When purchasing your bike this should be taken into consideration, ensure that if you are on a bigger framed bike that you can still reach the handle bars comfortably. A bike can be adapted to fit you perfectly; the saddle can be adjusted between 4" and 10" to ensure that you are at the correct height and the handlebars can be adjusted also.

It is important to remember when initially trying bikes out for size that a bike which is too big can be difficult to control so ensure that you try out several sizes and choose the correct size for you.