Things to Consider When Looking at a 20 inch Bike for your Child

A bike is a bike, is a bike, right?

Wrong.

While a bike that you buy off the shelf from your local department store could get your child from point A to point B and give them some fun times playing with their friends, serious riders need a serious bike. There is a lot more to consider when looking at a bike besides the convenience of buying it and the price – although those are two significant factors.

If you find yourself Googling 'kids bicycles for sale near me' and endlessly scrolling through the myriad of options available while becoming increasingly confused and frustrated, you need to stop. Now.

While buying a bike might not be as fun as actually riding one, it doesn't need to be a frustrating process. Here is a little tip: get your little person involved, and you will soon catch their excitement! And read on for some answers for adult questions about buying a 20 inch bike for your little adventurer.

First things first: let's clear up the confusion about the size. A bicycle for adults is measured based on the size of the bicycle frame. Bike sizes for kids work on the size of the wheels. The next size up from toddler bikes start at 12 inches, and the sizes increase by 2" up to 24". Big kids (over 4'10" or 147cm) can move on to adult bikes.

20 inch bike

Generally, 20 inch bikes are suitable for kids between 5 and 8 years old. Yes, that is the same size wheels you get on BMX bikes. 20 inch bikes are good for kids who have an inseam between 19" to 25" and are between 44" and 54" tall. The inseam measurement is the length from crotch to the floor when your child is standing with both bare feet flat on the floor.

Smaller kids will do better on a 16" bike while larger kids could need a 24" bike. Preferably choose the correct size bike for your child than sticking to thinking '20 inch for ages between 5 and 8'.

To gain maximum leverage on a pedal bike your child should be able to stand on the ground on tiptoes while seated on the adjustable saddle. Your child should also be able to stand flat-footed when straddling the bike and get on and off the bike comfortably.

As kids grow relatively quickly, you want to get a bike where your child's inseam falls in the lower range for the bike size to extend the length of time that your child can use the bike. Although it might be tempting, it is best not to buy a bike that is too big with the idea that your child will grow into it. A bicycle that is too big might not only be frustrating for your child to ride (where is the fun in that?), but it could also be dangerous.

All kids' bikes are not equal

Walmart kids bikes or Target kid bikes is an easy option – you can just pick one up while shopping for stationery. These bikes will work if your child is only going to potter around the neighborhood. Serious young riders would benefit from a bike designed with them and the terrain that they will be riding in mind. These bikes for kids are usually more expensive, but they last longer and would be good for younger siblings to use later on. They also tend to have better resale value if you want to sell it once your child has grown out of it.

kid's bike

It is a good idea to take your child with you when looking at purchasing a kid's bike for them. Excitement, remember? Let them sit on the bike and try it out if possible, especially if you are going to spend more money on a better bike.

Do your research and ask questions from knowledgeable salespeople and make sure that the person who will be assembling your kid's bike is a trained bike mechanic. This will all add to your child's riding experience and safety in the end.

Some manufacturers offer lifetime warranties to the original owner of their kids' bikes – something that you are unlikely to get if you purchase Walmart or Target bicycles.

A bicycle is not just made up of a frame, handlebars, pedals, and wheels. Other components can, and likely will, influence how comfortable your kid is on their bike, how quickly they get tired, and how much fun they will have when out riding.

Different kinds of brakes

Younger kids might benefit from coaster brakes, also known as pedal brakes. This type of brake works by pedaling backward and enables your child to focus on skills like balance instead of needing to focus on slowing down their pedaling while braking with their hands. On the other hand, your child won't be able to brake gradually, and by braking with their feet on the pedals, children could fall over. Coaster brakes also make riding downhill challenging as there is no way of slowing down without coming to a complete stop.

20 inch bike brakes

Most 20" bikes come with hand brakes where brake pads squeeze against the rim of the wheel to slow down the rotation. Bikes from manufacturers that specialize in children's bikes will have brake levers (and other contact points) that are better suited for smaller and weaker hands. Specially designed Handbrakes for children's hand sizes are more effective than coaster brakes and thus are safer.

Some bikes come with both coaster brake and hand brake systems. If you want to get your child a bike with a coaster brake, it is a good idea to look for a dual braking system bike. This way, your child can gradually get used to using the hand breaks, which they will be using once they move on to bigger, multi-speed bikes with derailleurs.

As far as hand brakes go, there are different types, including cantilever, u-brakes, side –, center - and linear-pull brakes. All of these braking mechanisms work somewhat differently, and you need to assess which will suit you and your child's needs best. The most critical aspect to consider is whether the brakes will be effective in slowing down the bike with the weight of your child on it if he/she were to ride at top speed.

Lighter bikes are better

20 inch bike lighter brakes

​While lighter bikes are more expensive, they are also strong and durable. So, why are more lightweight bikes better? They are easier to maneuver, and your child doesn't stand the risk of having half of his/her weight fall on them if they topple over on their bike.
Lighter bikes require less energy, which will allow your family to enjoy longer rides and bike paths without your little one getting too tired.

Lightweight frames most often crafted from aluminum, titanium, or a different alloy. Steel bikes are strong and durable – but they are heavier. The weight could be compensated with lighter wheels and other parts.

What are the best brands to look at for a 20 inch bike?

Which brand of bike you decide to buy should come secondary to your child's comfort on the bike. Some manufacturers specially design bikes with kids in mind and which makes them easy for kids to ride. Within this group, there are also that are specific to different terrains. The kind of riding that your child will do most should also be considered when investing in a bike. Yes, investing. Remember that bikes that are a bit more expensive have better features and benefits, plus you will get a better resale value when your child has outgrown their bicycle.

Here are some top brands to help you begin your search for the perfect bike for your kid.

Burley Piccolo

Burley Piccolo

Burley Piccolo is a 7-speed trailercycle that helps your child to learn to ride a bicycle. The Piccolo trailercycle is an excellent way to involve your child on longer (or faster) rides without being on their own bike and getting tired part of the way. The adjustable gears teach children to change gears and how it affects their riding without overwhelming them with many new skills.

It can mount onto the back of most adult bikes and is stable and secure, even when cornering. The stability comes from it being attached to a rack that is included, instead of to the Seatpost. Plus, it is lightweight and easier to pull than a trailer.

Your child is seated behind you and might want to lean to either side to see what is up ahead – this could throw your balance off.

Cannondale Trail 20 Kids' Bike

Cannondale Trail 20 Kids Bike

Cannondale bikes are on the heavier side when it comes to kid's bikes – although they are still lighter than steel bikes. The frames are made from aluminum while the bars, stems, and rims are made from alloy. The 20" comes with a suspension fork, which adds a bit to the weight of the bike but also works well if your child likes to do manuals and bunny hops.

Their kid's bikes have what they call a 'just-right' reach to the handlebars with narrow-stance cranks. When it comes to color scheme and design, they have gone directly to the source to find out what kids want -- from kids.

Cleary bikes Owl

Cleary Bikes Owl 20in

The Cleary bikes Owl 20 inch 1-speed bike is lightweight, tough, and sleek. It is the perfect bike for kids who love to ride (and stop) fast, go off-road, do tricks, and cruise around. The 20" tires give clearance for wider jumps and bigger stair drops.

It has an internal brake cable routing, with dual hand brakes and rigid fork. The OWl has a lightweight 1020 alloy steel frame and fork.

The geared Owl 20" 3 Speed's shifting mechanism is inside an aluminum shell which protects the gears. It allows for your little one to go faster on long flats and climb steep hills. The tires are 1.95" wide, which makes them heavier and better for off-road riding.

The Cleary bikes Owl 20 inch 1-speed bike is lightweight, tough, and sleek. It is the perfect bike for kids who love to ride (and stop) fast, go off-road, do tricks, and cruise around. The 20" tires give clearance for wider jumps and bigger stair drops.

It has an internal brake cable routing, with dual hand brakes and rigid fork. The OWl has a lightweight 1020 alloy steel frame and fork.

The geared Owl 20" 3 Speed's shifting mechanism is inside an aluminum shell which protects the gears. It allows for your little one to go faster on long flats and climb steep hills. The tires are 1.95" wide, which makes them heavier and better for off-road riding.

It is one of the lightest 20 inch bikes on the market, but it is a bit tricky to assemble.

The Owl is stable and gives riders confidence while taking on a variety of different terrains from dirt and ditches, rocks to hills, and grass.

Co-Op Cycles REV 20

Co-op REV 20 6-Speed Plus Kids' Bike

Made by REI, Co-Op Cycles makes most of their bikes trail bikes.

The REV 20 is a 20 inch bike with 6 speeds. The front suspension has 40 mm travel, and the bike comes in 4 colors: red hot, teal blue, dark blue, and white.

If you purchase the REV 20 from a brick-and-mortar REI shop, it will come already assembled. If it is purchased online, you will have to do some assembly, and perhaps readjust the brakes and derailleurs. Most of the time, you will only have to attach the handlebar, wheels, and pedals.

Early Rider Limited

Early Rider Limited

Early rider focuses on kid's bikes and has a wide range of bikes from balance bikes (bicycles without a crank arm and pedals) to adjustable geometry full-suspension bikes.

The Belter comes in a range of sizes from 14 inches to 24 inches. The Belter 20 has a Sturmey Archer 4-speed hub gear. It has a grip shifter.

The Seeker is designed for dirt tracks and off-road riding. It is fitted with off-road tires, especially for this. The Seeker also comes in sizes from 14 to 24 inches. The Seeker 20 has cable disc brakes, a SRAM GX 10-speed drivetrain, and a X% shifter.

The Hellion model ranges in sizes between 16 and 24 inches and is good for mountain biking and cycling on rough terrain. It has ridged tires that are joined by suspension forks. The Hellion X range includes rear suspension. The Hellion 20 has a RST SPEX fork which gives 80 mm of travel. It has 10 speeds, hydraulic disc brakes, and a Zee rear derailleur.

Electra 20 inch Bikes  

Electra Firetail 1

Electra's 20" bikes all incorporate the company's patented Flat Foot Technology®. Electra has changed the frame geometry, adjusted the seat angle, and moved the pedals forward. This enables riders to sit upright with their feet flat on the ground. The lower center of gravity provides more comfort and control, and the pedals give you proper leg extension.

They have a range of unisex 20" bikes – yes, they have done away with traditional girls and boys bikes. Instead, they focus on incorporating the design and quality of their adult bikes into their kid's bikes.

The Enchanted Jungle 1 20 and Firetail 1 20 ranges are one single-speed bike with caliper brakes in the front and rear coaster brakes. Their Pocket range has a single-speed and 7D models. Both models have front and rear linear-pull brakes. The brake levers and crank arm can be adjusted to accommodate your child comfortable as s/he grows. The 7D model has a Shimano Revo 7-speed twist with an optical gear display.

Salsa Timberjack 20

Salsa Timberjack 20

The Salsa Timberjack 20 has 3" wide plus-sized tires providing more traction control - ideal for riding on dirt or snow. It has fork mounts, mechanical disc brakes, and grip shifters to work the 1 x 8 Narrow Wide drivetrain. As far as kids' mountain bikes go – the Timberjack has you covered. Your child will easily feel like a big kid whenever they get on this bike.

Raleigh Lily

Raleigh Lily 20

The Raleigh Lily 20 is designed for girls. It has 2.125-inch tires that work well on the road and trails while rear twist shifters work through 6 gears.

Trek Roscoe 20

Trek Roscoe 20

The Trek Roscoe 20 has 2.8" mid-fat tires with a 1x drivetrain. It is based on the adult Roscoe but built especially for kids and designed to build confidence on trail rides. The brake levers are adult-size so a bit big for little hands.

Trek has the Precaliber 20 7 speed for girls and boys. The Precaliber 20 has a front suspension fork and is lightweight.

A good quality 20 inch bike will give your child the freedom and confidence to take on a variety of bike paths – and to keep up with the bigger kids. By involving them in the buying process, the fun and excitement can start long before they put their feet on the pedals.

The perfect ride and best bike to buy is the one that your kid likes the most – it could mean the difference between a child who reluctantly goes riding or one who begs you to hit the trail.