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Best Boys' Bikes

Updated July 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 25 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 97 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best boys’ bikes

    Last Updated July 2018

    Riding a bike with friends often gives boys their first taste of freedom. Whether he’s dreaming of catching air off a jump or ready to tear down a mountain trail, there’s a bike out there to fit every size and personality. However, there are many bike styles and types from which to choose, and finding the right one for your young boy can be a challenge.

    BestReviews is here to help you make an informed decision. We want to be your go-to source for honest product reviews.

    We’ve provided a shopping guide below to help you sift through all the options when searching for the right boys’ bike. Be sure to check our top five recommendations to see which boys’ bike models we think are the best value.

    Most seven-year-olds are big enough for a 20-inch BMX bike. It’s the perfect age because most boys are ready to start going over jumps at that age.

    Types of boys’ bikes

    Bikes with training wheels

    Bikes with removable training wheels fit boys as young as two or three, and enable them to develop the balance necessary to ride a two-wheeled bike. Training wheels come with most 12-, 14-, and 16-inch bikes. Bikes with adjustable training wheels give you the option of raising the wheels as your child develops better balance. The training wheels can be removed completely once he’s ready.

    Road bikes

    Road bikes have thin tires with little tread to reduce drag while riding on paved roads or smooth paths. These bikes can have one or multiple speeds.The handlebars are either straight or dropped, depending on the style of the bike. Straight handlebars work for most kids who ride around their neighborhood or on the occasional longer bike ride. Dropped handlebars are more aerodynamic and work best for boys who are more serious about cycling.

    Cruiser bikes

    Cruiser bikes are easy to spot with their wide balloon tires, fun graphics, and high handlebars. The fatter tires add stability but aren’t meant for rough terrain or high speeds. These bikes have one speed. Most have coaster brakes, but a few of the larger models may have hand brakes.

    BMX bikes

    You might think BMX bikes are only for dirt bike races, but they’ve gone mainstream, with many kids riding them everywhere. These bikes feature hand brakes, and some models have gyros that allow the front wheel to spin 360° without tangling the brake lines. The knobby tires get excellent traction. Most BMX bikes start at 20 inches, but there are a few 16-inch models.

    Mountain bikes

    Mountain trails have roots, rocks, and sticks that make for a bumpy ride. That’s why mountain bikes often have a suspension system. While adult mountain bikes have front and rear suspension, many kids’ models have only front suspension to cut down on cost. These bikes have gears, hand brakes, and deep treads on the tires. They do require some riding skill, so they work best for boys ages 10 to 13. There are a few 20-inch models, but most boys’ mountain bikes have 24-inch tires.

    EXPERT TIP

    Hand brakes allow the bike to freewheel, which means the pedals can turn in both directions. This makes learning to balance easier.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Boys’ bike features to consider

    Size

    The right size bike can make all the difference between loving a bike and hating it. Too big or too small and the bike will be hard to control. Bikes in the United States are categorized by tire size, with kids’ bikes starting at 12 inches and going up to 24 inches. However, finding the right tire size is only the first step in finding a bike that’s a good fit for a boy.

    Seat height

    Finding the right seat height, even more than tire size, will help you find the appropriate bike. It’s important to keep in mind that just because two models are the same size, such as 16 inches, it doesn’t mean that both bikes will fit your child. You might have to contact the bike seller or manufacturer to find the seat height because it isn’t always listed. Another option is to buy a bike with an adjustable seat.

    Determine the correct seat height for your boy.

    • Measure your child’s inseam from the crotch seam to the hemline.

    • Compare this measurement to the height of the bike seat. Beginning riders should have a seat height that matches their inseam. That means his feet will be flat on the ground when he’s standing over it. This enables him to stop the bike while he’s learning to ride. As the child grows, the seat height can be one to one and one-half inches taller than the inseam length.

    Standover height

    Boys big enough to ride a 20- to 24-inch bike need to be measured for their standover height. Your child should be able to stand over the top bar of the frame with one to two inches of clearance. To check the size, compare your child’s inseam with the height of the top bar.

    Bike weight

    In a perfect world, a child’s bike would never weigh more than 40% of his body weight. In reality, that isn’t always possible because of each child’s size and build. For ease in steering and starting a bike, look for the lightest bike within your budget.

    Mid-rise handlebars work best for beginners. Experienced riders can choose handlebars based on preference because their riding ability is less affected by design. Pull Out: Before your child rides a new bike with hand brakes, have her walk around and test how hard he needs to pull the lever to activate the brakes.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Frame shape and length

    Bike frames vary in shape and length, with some putting the rider up high and others stretching him across the wheelbase. Longer bikes are usually easier to control. Measuring the distance from the handlebars to the seat (called the cockpit) will give you a good idea of the frame length. A longer cockpit means your child won’t hit his knees on the handlebars. Even different bikes with the same size tires can differ significantly in the frame shape and length, so look for the longest frame that will comfortably fit your child.

    Handlebars

    Handlebars come in two basic types – straight and dropped – as well as a couple of variations.

    • Tall handlebars with handles that sweep back toward the rider are often found on cruiser bikes. These can reduce cockpit space and limit maneuverability.

    • Mid-rise handlebars that allow the rider to lean into the bike are easier to use. These help prevent the fatigue that can come from using handlebars that are too low.

    Brakes

    Brakes come in two basic types with some variations.

    • Coaster brakes: Coaster or back-pedal brakes are inexpensive and simple to maintain. However, they aren’t always the easiest brakes to use when learning to ride. Kids naturally want to pedal backward when learning to balance, but with coaster brakes that will stop the bike. Despite the difficulty of learning to ride with coaster brakes, they are almost always used on the smallest beginner bikes.

    • Hand brakes: Hand brakes allow your child to stop the bike by squeezing a lever on the handlebar. These brakes take more maintenance, but because they allow the wheels to turn forward or backward, it can be easier to learn how to ride a bike with hand brakes. However, they do complicate riding because one hand controls the front brake while the other controls the rear brake. Pulling the front wheel brake alone could cause the front wheel to stop and the rear wheel to lift off the ground. Hand brakes come on a few 16-inch bikes and almost all 20- to 24-inch models.

    • Variations: Some hand brakes activate both the front and rear brakes at the same time, and some have color-coded brake levers to indicate which one controls the rear brake. Some bikes only have a rear brake.

    Gears

    • Single speed: Beginners learn to ride on single-speed bikes. There’s no need to worry about changing gears at that point. However,  when it comes time to pick out a bike, you do need to think about the gain ratio. The wheel size, pedal crank arm length, and the number of teeth on the front and rear cogs determine the gain ratio.

      • A lower gain ratio means the bike will be easier to start, but it won’t travel as fast with each turn of the pedals. Beginners do well with a gain ratio of about 3.0.

      • A higher gain ratio means the bike will be harder to pedal from a stop but go faster with each turn of the pedals at higher speeds. Advanced riders should be fine with a gain ratio of 4.5.

    • Geared: Gears provide more bike-riding versatility, but they add weight to the bike and complicate the experience. Geared bikes come in 20- and 24-inch models. For the most part, kids don’t need gears. The exceptions are kids who ride on mountain terrain or are serious about cycling.

    Q factor (bike width)

    The distance between the outside edges of the pedal crank arms is called the Q factor (or “stance width”). This measurement is more important for smaller, younger riders. A wide Q factor can make riding the bike more difficult and uncomfortable for kids. Most inexpensive bikes are made using adult-size components to cut down on costs, so the Q factor can be as wide as seven inches. Bikes especially designed for children have a Q factor of five inches.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most children between the ages of three and five have developed enough hand-eye coordination to use hand brakes.

    Boys’ bike prices

    You can expect to pay under $100 to more than $250 for a boys’ bike.

    • Inexpensive

    For less than $100, you can find bikes with training wheels and some cruiser bikes with coaster brakes. These bikes are meant for beginners and the smallest boys. However, some 20-inch models can be found at this price point.

    • Mid-range

    In the $100 to $175 range, you’ll see more variety with cruiser bikes, as well as road bikes, BMX, and mountain bikes. Some mountain bikes have front suspension. Hand brakes vary at this price point, so be sure your child can successfully use them before buying.

    • Expensive

    In the $175 to $250 range are 20- and 24-inch cruiser bikes and full-suspension mountain bikes. You’ll see longer frames and bigger cockpits on these bikes to fit bigger boys.

    • Premium

    At over $250, you’ll find boys’ bikes with smaller Q factors, longer frames, and hand brakes especially designed for kids. Road bikes and mountain bikes in this range are designed with the serious cyclist in mind.

    CAUTION

    The hand brakes on some inexpensive children’s bikes are hard to pull and too far from the handles for the child to reach. Make sure your child is strong enough to pull the lever before buying the bike.

    Tips

    • Buy a bike that fits your child now. It’s tempting to buy one that he’ll grow into, but if he can’t reach the ground, he won’t be able to safely stop.

    • Some bikes require assembly upon arrival, which means you’ll have to do it yourself or take it to a bike shop, adding to the overall cost.

    • The size and purpose of the bike are more important than its appearance. Most children need a sturdy single-speed bike that fits them well. While the colors and designs may make them look fancy, never choose a bike based on looks alone.

    Everyone should wear a bike helmet, even the most experienced riders. No matter the size and style of your child’s bike, teach him to wear a helmet.

    FAQ

    Q. I’ve seen some kids’ bikes for as much as $400. Are they really that much better than a budget bike?

    A. It depends. Kids’ bikes designed using kid-size parts that factor in gain ratio, seat height, and frame length are often easier to ride, especially if your child is just learning.  However, many parents don’t spend a lot on bikes because their children outgrow the bikes so quickly. If the model is expensive because of a fancy paint job, it probably isn’t worth the price. However, if its design makes it easier to ride, your family rides bikes a lot, and you have more than one child who may be able to use the bike, it might be worth the higher price.

    Q. What’s the difference between a boys’ bike and a girls’ bike?

    A. Most of the differences between bikes marketed to boys and girls have to do with the bike’s appearance. Some girls’ bikes have a lower top tube, which is a tradition rather than a necessary design feature. However, the top tube of children’s bikes sometimes slant downward in case the child falls forward on the bike. The slanted tube also keeps aggressive riders from leaning into the frame on sharp turns.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer