Make sure your kids bike is set up perfectly so they can get the most our of their riding!
Words: Jared Rando Photos: Nick Waygood
The development of kid’s bikes over the last 5 years has been incredible. There are some truly amazing offerings from entry level all the way up to 20 inch wheeled mini trail bikes which would make most adults drool. While the bikes have come a long way, the setup of the bikes is really important as you’ll often find kids at the extreme end of the sizing spectrum for said bike and adjustments need to be made on a regular basis as they tend to grow pretty quickly.
Setting up bikes with kids can be a lot of fun and remember to involve them in the process which will also help them understand what can be adjusted as they grow. Also remember that it’s not your bike! Multiple reflectors, crazy colours, bells, randomly placed stickers and anything else are all part of the deal but if you can get the finer points right, it will make a huge difference. The reality is that kids’ bikes require a lot of attention to get just right and taking the time to do it is really important. Here are the key things to look for.
Brake Lever Adjustment
This is by far the most important piece of equipment on a kid’s bike. Being able to stop efficiently keeps them safe and confident. Brakes which are easy to pull, and have a good reach adjustment are critical in this space. With V-brake equipped bikes a simple upgrade to a quality brake and/or lever can make a huge difference and with disc equipped bikes make sure the brakes are easy to pull or have the capability to be adjusted. Cassidy has her brakes adjusted nice and close to the bar and the discs are set up nice and light to pull. Since she doesn’t have the strength to brake with one finger, she’s set up to pull the brakes with her middle two fingers which feels the most natural to her. When she’s big enough, we’ll shift to one finger braking.
The lever angle is also really important. Running the levers closer to flat will help with reach. Look for a natural angle from the arm or even up a bit from this. The front ends of kids bikes relative to an adults set up is really high so it’s important they don’t have to reach over the bar to get to the lever. This will also help them get their weight back as they begin to ride more technical stuff and start hitting jumps.
Seat Height and Position
Seats are best set up at a flat angle or ever so slightly tilted forward. Confidence is key so make sure the seat is low enough for them to reach the ground but high enough for a pedal stroke. For Cassidy, we also swapped out the offset post with a non-offset post to get her a little closer to the bars as she’s on the smaller end of the spectrum for the 20” Riprock. I’ve also noticed some bikes come with relatively long cranks for kids so keep this in mind – sometimes by the time the seat is low enough, the crank arm is so long it makes it awkward for a full revolution.
Bar and Stem
Like adult bikes, short stems are great for kids! Plenty of kid’s bikes come with stems which are way too long and bars which are way too wide. We swapped out Cassy’s stem for a 40mm version and trimmed her bars down to suit her shoulder width. Bar width is really important – if bars are too wide it will be hard for kids to get their weight back and forth over the bike (Think about what it would be like to ride with a set of bars twice the width of your current bars).
Kids are light and their tyre pressure needs to be adjusted to suit. Low pressures will help with grip and confidence and it’s unlikely they are going to pinch flat or dent rims. We’ve been going lower and lower with Cassy’s tyres but it does get a little hard to push if they are too low! Around 15 psi seems to work but just remember if your kid is the kind who likes to jump off stuff and land heavily, make sure there is enough pressure to support the tyre so it doesn’t roll when they are landing.