By Brandy Centolanza

Many moms and dads enjoy family bike rides with their kids over the summer. So, which bikes are safe and appropriate for children who are old enough to ride?

Trending now for new riders, children are around 4 or 5 years of age, is a new style of bike called a Strider. Traditionally, children’s bikes have been equipped with training wheels, but often children who start off by riding on bikes with training wheels become too dependent on them and resist efforts to learn to balance on the bike without the training wheels. Strider bikes eliminate this issue.

“The idea behind the Strider bike is to introduce cycling to children in a different way,” says Geoff Murphy, owner of Olde Towne Bicycles, Inc. “Strider bikes do not have pedals. A child will learn to balance first and propel him or herself by pushing the bike along with their feet on the ground. The bike steers like a normal bike, the child learns to lean the bike in turns normally and when they get used to the strider, they can pick their feet up and coast and learn to balance. My grandchildren all learned to ride bikes using striders and never used training wheels.”

When starting out, Murphy suggests purchasing a trail bike or a mountain bike that works best for all types of riding, whether it’s on a trail, a sidewalk or the street. Olde Towne Bicycles carries Trek and Specialized brands of bikes in a variety of sizes and prices to accommodate most riders, with the Trek’s Marlin and the Specialized’s Rockhopper being the most popular. It is important to choose the right size bike for your child for safety reasons. Most bikes come in four tire sizes: 12-inch, 16-inch, 20-inch, and 24-inch. Children should have an inch of clearance when standing over a bike.

“Many parents desire to put their child on the biggest bike they can get to avoid having to replace it as the child grows, but this puts the child at risk for injury because they can’t safely exit the bike in extreme circumstances,” Murphy says. “The bigger bike makes it harder for a smaller child to manage safely. A good bike shop can help a parent decide the proper sizing of the bike for their child. A parent’s knowledge of their child’s skill level can also help ensure a bike is the right fit. If a child shows advanced biking skills, then advanced features such as adjustable gearing and handbrakes may make for a better choice.”

Proper storage of a bicycle is also key. Avoid accidentally running over a bike in the driveway by teaching children to store their bike and using the kickstand.

“Parents should also pay attention to their children’s bike periodically to make sure that the bike is working safely,” Murphy says. “Brakes can be checked, tires aired up and the handlebars should be tight. Most bikes shops offer free or low-cost safety checks.”

Murphy also recommends cycling in safe areas such as bike paths, parks and bike lanes, especially with beginner riders.

No matter what bike you choose for your little one, just get out there.

“Cycling has the benefit of giving the feeling of freedom and carefree exercise that is missing in most families these days,” Murphy says. “Cycling develops stronger bonds and relationships and cherished memories of doing things together as a family.”