Not sure where to start? Read this buyer’s guide first.
Every kid deserves a great bike. The freedom a bike gives a child is an unforgettable ‘first’ for them, and a high-quality bike makes it easier for them to find that joy. That’s why it’s important to pick the right bike for your child, whether it’s their first, or their fourth. Like you, at Cannondale, we’re committed to making every ride great for kids, and this guide will help you determine which sizes and models are right for your family.
Buying a Cannondale kids bike
While many parents think they’re fitting their kid to a bike, in reality it’s the other way around. At Cannondale, our goal is to fit the bike to the child. Cannondale Kid Correct takes what we’ve learned from making premium adult bicycles over the past 50 years to make bikes that are easier for kids to learn on, helps them to build skills and confidence and most importantly, are more fun to ride.
Kid-Correct Weight is no more than 30 to 40-percent of a child’s weight, because a light bike is easier and more fun to ride.
Kid-Correct Standover makes it easier for kids to get on and off the bike.
Kid-Correct Reach keeps kids in comfortable control of the bike.
Kid-Correct Gearing; lower gearing and shorter crankarms are right for shorter, less powerful legs, with a narrower Q-Factor (width) for a more natural stance. All this makes it easier for kids to get moving and to stay moving.
Kid-Correct Parts are sized to fit kids’ anatomies, with smaller handlebars and grips, kid-specific seats and pedals sized for kids’ feet. Hand brakes are paired with coaster brakes on single speed bikes so kids can build the skills they will need for their next bike.
When discussing kids bike size, it’s slightly different than when talking about adult bike sizes. Kids bike sizes refer to the wheel diameter, while adult bikes refer to frame sizes. So, while a 16” kids bike will have 16” wheels, a 16” adult bike will have full-sized wheels and a 16” frame.
Most parents use a combination of age and height to find the right bike size for their kids.
This chart can help you dial into the right kids bike sizes for your children. If you find that your child’s height falls into two bike sizes, the smaller size should be selected for a Beginner rider, child new to riding or who has limited experience, and the larger size should be selected for an Advanced rider, child who knows how to ride, mounts and dismounts the bike without hesitation, takes turns and pedals with confidence and is comfortable with braking.
12”and 16’ bikes are all about teaching your child the fundamentals of riding. Once your child graduates into 20”, 24” and 26” wheels, there are more options with respect to bike type.
Does my kid’s bike need gears?
They definitely don’t need gears, especially at first. Here’s why. A single-speed drivetrain is simple, so it’s easier for kids who are just learning to ride to focus on finding their balance and learning how to safely ride the bike. Also, with no exposed shifting mechanisms to bend or break in a fall, single-speed drivetrains are extra durable, perfect for riders still finding their balance. For these reasons, all of our 12” and 16” bikes are single-speed and some of our 20” bikes are available with a choice of single-speed or geared drivetrains.
As your young riders progress, they will likely eventually want a bike with gears. Whether to help them keep up with the family or make it easier to get to friends’ houses in hilly neighborhoods, geared drivetrains help kids do more with their bikes. That’s why we offer geared drivetrains as an option on 20” Kids Trail models, while all 24” and 26” models use geared drivetrains exclusively.
Coaster brakes vs hand brakes
All Cannondale single speed bikes are equipped with coaster brakes, which work by pushing the pedals backward and all geared kids bikes have hand brakes. Some single speed kids bikes include a hand brake in addition to coater brakes so that your child can begin to get used to using a hand brake, which is a skill they will need as they move on to bigger bikes.
Balance Bike or Training Wheels?
While most cyclists today started on bikes with training wheels, today many parents are starting their kids on balance bikes, which allow kids’ feet to act as both the propulsion and effectively, the training wheels. The child is free to choose how much extra balance they need, and since the motion is much like walking, it’s a very natural learning process. Balance bikes enable kids to experience two-wheeled freedom, some even before their second birthday. For many kids who start on balance bikes, the transition to a pedal bike can be made without the need of training wheels.
That said, some kids want the added security, or need the additional safety training wheels can give, so we include tools-free removeable training wheels with all of our 12” and 16” kids bikes. This lets parents and kids collaboratively decide if and when the time is right.