For maximum safety, equip your child's bike with a safety flag. Often used by adults who bike on busy roads, flags are also a good idea for young cyclists who aren't as visible to drivers, especially if bushes or other obstacles block the view. A warning bell is a another good safety gadget; teach your child to ring it when he's passing another cyclist, skater, or pedestrian on a bike path.
The typical 3-year-old can master a tricycle. When kids get to be about 5 or 6, they're usually ready—and anxious—to try a two-wheeler.
Although it's nice to surprise your child with a bike for his birthday, it's better to take him along to pick out one that fits him. Because bikes are expensive, it's tough to have to keep buying bigger ones as the child grows. For this reason, you might be tempted to buy a bike that's a little too big so your child can grow into it. This is a bad idea because a too-big bike is harder for the child to control. It's safer to keep him on his smaller one until he's big enough for the next size.
A good used bike may be a more cost-effective answer while your child is still growing. But if you buy a new one, don't necessarily go for one of the cheaper ones. A more expensive bike could actually save you money in the long run if it's more adjustable so your child can use it longer.
Here's how to tell if a bike is the right size for your child:
- When he sits on the seat with his hands on the handlebar, he should be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.
- When he straddles the top bar and puts both feet flat on the ground, he should have at least an inch of clearance between his crotch and the bar. (Obviously this is only for boys' bikes, which have such a bar.)