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Cheap Kids' Bikes Buying Guide
When parents go in search of a cheap kids bike, they usually have three factors in mind: the child's size, gender (many beginning bikes are decorated in themes ranging from Spiderman to Dora the Explorer), and usage (e.g. stunts and off-road biking, beach cruising, or just around the neighborhood).
Cheap kids bikes are usually broken into four categories grouped roughly according to wheel size: 12 inches for ages 2-5; 16 inches for ages 4-8; 20 inches for ages 6-11; and 24 inches for ages 10 and up. To be sure you're getting the right size, experts suggest measuring the inseam of a child's leg and letting those results be your guide. Websites such as iBike.org provide a chart for inseam measurements in relation to the recommended bicycle size along with tips for safe and enjoyable riding at every age. Some vendors also stock less common wheel sizes, such as 14-, 18-, and 26- inch bicycles that may fit your child better and sell at prices that fall within your budget.
Of course, you can always go into a specialty bike shop and buy a fully customized bicycle that's at least three times the price of the cheap kids bikes you'll find at the mass merchandisers. At this higher end what you'll get is a bike with a frame made of aluminum or some other strong and lightweight metal, the best brakes and tires, expert adjustments to the gears and brake cables, and sometimes a free warranty tune-up, like the one REI offers in the first 100-200 miles or after the first two months. When you buy a cheap kids bike, on the other hand, you often wind up with DIY assembly and doing a good bit of maintenance yourself, which may include paying extra to replace worn parts made of plastic or lower quality steel. User reviews also indicate that these bicycles may come with poor assembly instructions, missing parts, and in colors that differ from what you thought you were ordering online; a cheap kids bike may also arrive damaged because of poor packaging.
Still, there are good cheap kids bikes to be had. The big-box stores offer low-cost options ranging from the widely available Huffy line to the Toys R Us exclusives Rallye and Avigo. Other names you'll come across at the lower end of the market include NEXT and Pacific, and occasionally Schwinn. Within this pool of discount kids bikes you'll find several acceptable options for the limited time your growing child will be riding his or her starter bicycle.
To help make your search more efficient, we focused on the four common wheel sizes and quickly noted that three brands stand out. Huffy offers the largest assortment of cheap kids bikes in all sizes, and for the most part, delivers value. Several of our picks bear the Huffy name: the 12-inch Boys Rock-It Bike (starting at $40) and Disney Princess (starting at $67) for easy DIY assembly, appealing features, and carefree riding; the 16-inch Boys Disney Toy Story (starting at $68) for price and stability; and the 24-inch Girls Cranbrook Cruisers (starting at $80) for its stripped-down comfort and ride-ability. Two models on our list are made by NEXT: the 20-inch boys Chaos Freestyle (starting at $80) and 24-inch boys Power Climber (starting at $100), both of which introduce the future possibilities of more intense riding. We also settled on a 16-inch cheap kids bike by Avigo that's available in both a boys and girls version: the Dirt Wave (starting at $73) and Waikiki (starting at $70), starter BMX-style bicycles that make youngsters feel cool. One more top choice is the 20-inch Girls Pretty in Pink (starting at $70), another BMX-style offered by Walmart that rides well and looks tough.
We also came across reports from consumers indicating that two models by Pacific, the 20-inch Chromium Girls Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike (starting at $113, Amazon) and 24-inch Exploit Front Suspension Girls (starting at $100, Amazon), suffer from problems with design and build quality. The few reviews of the 16-inch Micargi BMX Kids Bike (starting at $60, Amazon) likewise grouse about quality issues.
One more thing: While shopping around for a good cheap kids bike, be on the lookout for used top-of-the-line models from companies like Trek and Isla. These bicycles are made with intense attention to detail. Up-market Diamondback and Mongoose bikes also show up on the resale market from time to time. Higher quality materials mean less maintenance in the long run, although many cheap kids bikes keep children perfectly content for a couple of years before it's time to step up to the next size.
Best Cheap Kids Bikes
Huffy dominates the market for cheap kids bikes with a wide selection of boys and girls models in the primary size categories. Most reviewers are satisfied with the quality-to-price ratio despite some quibbling about components that don't hold up; young riders like their wheels.Read more »
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Good Cheap Kids Bikes
This brand includes entry-level bikes and models with more pizzazz; the smallest offering is an 18-inch two-wheeler with training wheels. Reviewers like the quality and aesthetics, and kids like designs that feed fantasies of stunts and power riding.Read more »
A Toys R Us exclusive, Avigo offers a limited line of 16-, 18-, and 20-inch bikes for boys and girls. Some reviewers grouse about difficult assembly, stiff hand brakes, and a bit of roughness in the ride, but most say these cheap kids bikes are sturdy and easy to adjust.Read more »
NEXT Bikes Review
Avigo Bikes Review
Huffy Bikes Review
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