14/06/2017 10:58:03

Words by Simon Nurse

Sizing your child’s bike: Getting the most out of family outings


We’re flowing through the woods. The trail undulates beneath my wheels, rising, falling and rising again. I’m using an Orbea Oiz 29er, light responsive and fast, it’s perfectly at home here. The trees loom in and out of view. There’s a carpet of bluebells bordering the singletrack, a violet blur against the earthy colours of the wood. Roots and rocks activate the suspension. In front of me, my riding partner stands and shifts her weight around. Her riding has come on so much of late and she tackles increasingly difficult terrain with growing confidence. It’s easy for me to forget this. She is, after all, only 10.

When riding with my daughter recently, it struck me how wonderful it is to watch and help a rider develop. From toddler outings on a trike, to a tiny Isla bike, then a bigger one and now to a 27.5” Orbea. The time – like the trails – has flown by. Kids generally, love to ride. We all have shared memories of breaking free on our own two wheels. I vividly remember rides to Heath Park and Blackweir, a longer trundle toward Castell Coch and mucking about at the Wenaullt (that was a big old hill for a youngster). That was the 70s and 80s, so I missed out on the mountain bike scene by a few years. These days the bike options for youngsters and families is almost bewildering; from sleek and fast road bikes to adaptable cross bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes. Whatever type of family riding you want to engage in, there will be a rich vein of bikes to tap into and often, incredible locations for taking the family to cycle. When I was the same age as my daughter, the Taff Trail was but a twinkle in a transport planners eye and some of the finest trail centres in Britain were industrial areas in decline. These days it’s not coal their shifting – its great trail experiences followed by social engagements at the trail centre café.


But whichever type of riding floats your shocks, it’s important to get a bike for your child that fits, feels and looks right, but still offers some scope for development. Let’s illustrate this through the medium we considered at the top of this article - mountain biking. Kids grow fast and to buy a bike that’s absolutely spot on for them at age 9 is to be selling it on ebay at age 10. Similarly, if the bike is too large, it will inhibit their development and crucially their enjoyment. The key is to find a bike that strikes balance. Components can be swopped out – think of shorter stems – or spacers can be added or removed to increase or reduce height. Wheel size should also be considered. Kids mountain bikes come in 20”, 24”, 26” and eventually, 27.5” sizes (29” being a wheel size more generally suited to mile eating riders 5ft 10” and above). A bigger wheel rolls better, but can make the bike unwieldy for little people. Again, consider where they are in this cycle of selection – are they close to moving up a size? If so, go with the bigger size and adjust; the bike will last that tiny bit longer. It’s always a balance however and try and ensure that you don’t saddle them with a king-size bike that’s a struggle to ride.

Of course, it isn’t all about the fit. Oh no. Of equal importance to the child is often the aesthetic. My daughter’s Orbea simply had to be in that fine burnt orange. I don’t blame her, it’s rather fetching. In our experience, it’s best to get the child involved where colourway is an option as it can make the difference between cherished steed or becoming apathetic garage furniture. Once you’ve nailed the style, frame size, wheel size and colour you’re good and ready. Explore those trails. Ride those paths. Share those experiences. Supporting a child with their cycling development is one of the finest gifts a parent can bestow - health, fitness, freedom. What more is there?

From the shop

I ride an Orbea Oiz full suspension X/C 29er, while my daughter rides an Orbea MX 27.5. The Orbea range starts from £219

Original source of top image: Jake Lloyd, Cardiff JIF