There are tons of differences between a kids' bike and an adult bike, but what are the defining features? What makes a bike suitable for a child?
We’ll explore how manufacturers market their bikes to different age groups other than the obvious size differences, and how they implement features that make children’s bikes safer and simpler.
Here is the full breakdown.
When a child first learns how to ride a bike they will inevitably fall. It’s important that the bike is designed in a way that prevents kids from hurting themselves. There are a number of different bike designs that can reduce or prevent a child from falling.
Training wheels are probably the most well-known example. Training wheels are made up of 2 small wheels attached alongside the rear wheel. They provide extra stability and prevent the bike from toppling over.
Balance bikes are a type of kids’ bike that doesn’t have pedals. Instead, kids push off from the ground using their legs. This type of kids’ bike allows kids to learn how to balance without the added complexity of pedalling. By pushing off with their feet, kids are able to reduce the likelihood of falling as they can brace with their legs if they become off balance.
Tricycles are a unique type of kids’ bike that has 3 wheels in a triangular geometry. Tricycles are naturally more balanced than a bicycle with 2 wheels, and so tricycles don’t often tip over. By using a tricycle, a kid can learn how to steer and pedal, while not worrying about balancing.
This is in stark contrast to adult bikes, which often have numerous gears. This is because adult bikes are used on a wider array of surfaces, trails and slopes and require more gear options suitable for different situations.
Kids bikes and even the best toddler bikes are often made using steel frames. This is because they are small and cheap. Some kids bike frames are made from aluminium, which is considerably lighter and has properties that make them resistant to rust.
In contrast, adult bikes are rarely made out of steel as this makes them too heavy. Instead, most adult bikes are made from aluminium. More premium bikes are made from titanium and carbon fibre, which are more expensive but considerably lighter than even aluminium.
Kids bikes generally have have standardised wheels. They are quite thick for their size, for better balance, and often have generic all purpose treads. Adult bikes on the other hand, have highly specialised wheels.
Depeneding on the type of bike, wheels can be both thin and thick, and can have a variety of specialised treads. Road bikes for example have very thin wheels and shallow treads for speed. Mountain bikes on the other hand have thick wheels and deep treads for better performance on rocky trails.
Kids bikes generally have pretty standard upright geometries. They are intended for safety and comfort. Upright bikes help maintain neutral posture and so there is less probability of falling over the top of the bike. The handlebars are also straight and allow for better balance.
Adult bikes tend to have more specialised geometries and handlebar positions. For example, road bikes lean heavily forward and have drop handlebars which make the rider more aerodynamic. Other bikes, such as BMX bikes maintain a low centre of gravity and have specialised swivel handlebars which curve in an 'S' shape and allow for various stunts.