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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 generally 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.

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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 bike may also arrive damaged because of poor packaging. Still, there are good cheap kids' bikes to be had.

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 girls' Disney Princess bike (starting at $67) for easy DIY assembly, appealing features, and carefree riding; the 16-inch boys' Disney Toy Story bike (starting at $68) for price and stability; and the 24-inch girls' Cranbrook Cruiser (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 bike by Avigo that's available in both a boys' and girls' version: the Dirt Wave (starting at $73) and Waikiki (starting at $70), both 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) and 24-inch Exploit girls' front-suspension bike (starting at $100), suffer from problems with design and build quality. The few reviews of the 16-inch Micargi BMX kids' bike (starting at $60) 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.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

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In this review:
  1. Cheap Kids' Bikes
  2. Kids' Bike Reviews
  3. Kids' Bikes Brakes
  4. Kids' Bike Sizes
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