When fitting a bike for a young rider, the dimension that is most important is saddle height. It is usually the dimension that defines which bike a parent will purchase for a child. And as a general guideline, if saddle height is good other dimensions, like reach, are usually acceptable.
At Prevelo we think beginning riders need a special fit. Learning to ride a bike is an awkward and sometimes spooky endeavor. Help beginning riders out by fitting their bike in a way that makes the bike as unintimidating and confidence inspiring as possible. In that regard, bike fit for young riders takes into account two factors (1) rider size (most notably, inseam) and (2) rider skill level.
Note: This chart is useful for setting saddle height and for making sure your bike fits correctly. To determine which Prevelo bike will be fit a rider, look at the Prevelo Size Guide.
This fit is for riders who are new to riding. Typically, a child’s first bike will be fitted like this.
Fit: both heels are on the ground while seated in the saddle
This fit is for riders who are comfortable pedaling. Typically, a child’s second bike will be fitted like this.
Fit: rider is on tip toes of both feet while seated in the saddle (toes of both feet can touch the ground).
The two biggest indicators that a rider is ready for an advanced fit are: (1) the rider has very good control of the brakes and (2) the rider doesn’t look obviously scared or intimidated being high off the ground.
This fit typically means that when stopped the rider must either (1) lean the bike over and rest on one foot or (2) come out of the saddle. Make sure that when straddling the top tube in front of the saddle, with both feet firmly planted on the ground, there is good clearance between the top tube and the rider (this is often referred to as stand over height and the CPSC guideline is 2 inches of clearance). Many riders are not ready for this kind of fit until they are teenagers.
Fit: 80 to 90% leg extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke (roughly a 145° bend in the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke).
Problems with Sizing Large
Kids bikes are commonly sized too large for them to give the child room to grow into the bike. But, if a bike is sized beyond the rider’s skill level, the bike is going to be intimidating to its young rider. If the rider finds the bike daunting, it might be sentenced to the garage. It’s tempting to measure the value of a kids bike in the number of years it lasts. Perhaps a more relevant measure of the value of a kids bike is miles ridden. And a bike that is sized right is more likely to get those miles put on it.