How to choose a bike, where to buy a bike, safety tips, great places to cycle and more
Riding a bicycle in Singapore is fun. Watching your child ride a bike for the first time – not so much. While it can be a bit nerve-racking for a parent to see their precious cargo balancing on 2 wheels, it’s a rite of passage that every child deserves. By choosing the right bike for the maiden voyage, you can minimize heart palpitations and scraped knees. Here are a few pointers to selecting your child’s first bicycle here in Singapore, plus – once your little one is confident on wheels – here are the best places to go cycling with kids in Singapore.
When is a child ready for a bike?
Coordination and balance skills differ from child to child, so it’s important to evaluate a child’s readiness individually. In general, children below the age of four are less coordinated, and will need a tricycle or training wheels to get around. Those above four years old can be slowly be introduced to riding without training wheels, although these bikes should come with back-pedal and coaster drive functions.
Kids’ bikes are usually fitted with coaster brakes (which act on the back wheel), while bigger ones will also come with handbrakes or both sets of brakes. For very young children with limited hand strength, their bikes should come with coaster brakes. To test whether the handbrakes are easy for your child to use, pull the brake lever with your pinky finger.
Bike helmets are a must, no matter where your kids are cycling. There are two types – hard shell helmets and soft shell helmets and the essential part of either type is a thick layer of firm polystyrene that can crush on impact and absorb the force of a blow. Hard helmets are covered with a hard plastic/fibreglass shell provides a shield against penetration by sharp objects and holds the polystyrene together if it cracks in a fall or crash. Soft helmets have an extra thick layer of polystyrene and a cloth cover or surface coating. Both types meet various international standards including the US CPSC. The main difference is style and comfort: soft shell helmets are lighter, while hard shell helmets tend to be heavier and warmer. You can look for one that has air vents as well to combat humidity. The helmet should also fit snugly around the head, and cover the forehead up to 1 inch above your child’s eyes. Helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years and not purchased second hand. We recommend trying Nutcase or Melon helmets from The Bike Settlement, which have fun designs and don’t compromise on safety. Read our article on selecting a helmet here.
Take some time to educate your little biker about safe riding tips before he/she starts tearing up the driveway or corridor. Some useful techniques include teaching kids to dismount when crossing the road and making eye contact with drivers, ringin their bell to alert pedestrians of their presence, using lights or wearing reflective gear when riding at dusk, using hand gestures to signal turning or stopping, keeping to the side of the road or only cycling on designated pathways until they’re proficient.
Most kids’ bikes today are made of aluminium, which makes them significantly lighter and less prone to rust. The stem is the part that holds the handlebars, and the headset allows handlebars to turn smoothly. For smooth turns and easily replaceable stems, go for an alloy threadless stem (secured by recessed hex head bolts) as it can be quickly changed when adapting the bicycle for different sizes. Bicycles usually have a steel seatpost that uses hex nuts to crimp the saddle, or an alloy post similar to those found on adult bikes. Take note of steel seatposts which use a whole separate clamp head on a tapered steel shaft – these are harder to adjust, will rust easily, and may loosen over time.
Bicycles are like shoes: find a good fit now and you’ll have a good run in them. Don’t wait for kids to “grow into” a bike that’s too big for them. Choose good quality ones that won’t fall apart or rust easily. Suspension is largely unnecessary, and learning how to shift gears can take place on bigger bikes when children are older. Here are some important features to road test when purchasing a kid’s bicycle for different age groups:
For 2-5 year olds
When kids are just starting out on a bicycle, they should be able to straddle the bicycle frame comfortably and place both feet flat on the ground when stationary. FIRSTbike provides good training bikes for two to five-year-olds, and are designed with a flexible, absorbent high-tech frame for stellar posture support. Strider Singapore is a no-pedal bike that comes equipped with puncture-proof foam tyres, and will help your littlies ride confidently in no time. The Cruzee, which is “engineered for fun”, is only 1.9kg and has an adjustable frame to cater to children of varying heights. Find these great options and more at The Little Bike Shop (218 Loyang Avenue #01-04).
For 6-9 year olds
Bikes for slightly older children should be lightweight and durable, and can come equipped with 3 to 6 gears to help them tackle moderately tough terrain. Treknology 3 (14 Jalan Kilang Barat) stocks a good selection of bikes for girls and boys, which come with aluminium or high-tensile steel frames. Head to [email protected] (986 Upper Serangoon Road) for cool made-in-Taiwan Linus roadsters that the kids will adore.
For 10 year olds and above
When choosing a bigger bike, the geometry of the bicycle frame comes into play. The overall height of the bicycle will affect the stability and maneuvers your child makes, so be sure to choose one that has a comfortable crank arm length, i.e. the distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the centre of the pedal axle. The ideal length should be 20% that of the inside leg measurement. BMX bikes come with off-road tyres and have steel frames to ensure they are sturdy and secure. Trek kids mountain bikes, which are stocked at Treknology 3, come with adjustable components to grow with young riders, and are designed for competitive ones who love joining races.
A bicycle is an investment. While there are a lot of cheaper bikes on the market, they usually mean poorer quality and design. Cheaper bikes tend to be heavy and are difficult for little hands and feet to maneuver, and riding them will not be very enjoyable. It’s worth investing in something safe, light and comfortable. You get what you pay for!
Whether it’s an eye catching paint job, a girly shape or different coloured tyres, there are plenty of variations in style when it comes to bike frames. Just don’t be drawn by looks till you’ve covered of safety and suitability for your child first. The Fazer 16 from Byx (403 River Valley Road / 6 Hindhede Road) is a glossy black bicycle with bright red accents for little daredevils that needs not much else.
Remember Spokey Doke’s? Nothings changed! Kids still want to pimp their ride. Beyond bells, baskets, drink bottle holders, and tassles, there are some amazing products out there that your child will love to personalize their bike with. This bike planter from Wearable Planter on Etsy is a real statement and so, so cute! Who can resist a pair of flying trouser straps from Donkey Products– safe and cool! Go for eye-catching seat covers from Bikecap, which come with an anti-theft ribbon too. Wheeler’s Yard, (seller of retro-licious kids bikes), has just introduced Deuter kids bags in several bright colours. They come with a soft padded back, chest strap, and reflective details, and are suitable for kids below six years old.
Psst: if you’re hunting for good places to go cycling, read our guide to the best spots for pedal pushing – many of them are FOC!