Choosing a Kid’s Bike: Focus on Quality or Price?


I’m crouching in the consignment store staring at two bikes. I probably look a little bit crazy. I lift one and contemplate it’s weight. I turn the handlebars, left and right, right and left. Does it move too easily? It definitely feels loose. It feels flimsy in my hands. I inspect the first one again. I repeat this process two or three more times with both bikes.

I’m wavering between the two options and eventually walk to the register to inquire about this store’s return policy. The cashier tells me “bikes cannot be returned” so I walk out empty handed. One bike was $29.99, the other $34.99, I can’t argue with those prices, but neither feel right. What if they are too small for my son or don’t feel right when he hops onto the seat?

Being the second born child I never picked out a bicycle I liked. I inherited an old red one after my brother outgrew it. I didn’t care. I was thrilled to have a bike; any bike!

I still remember my dad taking me up to the school parking lot on a warm summer day. On that flat, car-free surface he ran behind me for a second or two and then let go. I’m sure I fell a few times, but I don’t remember those details, I only recall the instant I was pedaling away from him and the way the air felt as I turned my head to look back and it rushed past my ear.

I don’t know where my parents bought that bike, how much it cost or why they chose that particular model. It worked for my brother and now worked for me. That’s all that mattered.

I wish I could say I felt the same way now. As a parent I want to provide the best experience for my child. I want a bike that feels steady and strong under his weight.

For the last two years my son has ridden a balance bike. He started riding around the house and later moved to the streets in our neighborhood. He’s now a pro on that little bike and seems ready for a real bike. So the question becomes what to buy?

Target, Walmart and Amazon all sell bikes that might work, but most of them have mixed reviews. I’ve seen brand new bikes as low as $50, but I don’t particularly want to buy a poorly made piece of junk that might be difficult to ride and won’t last beyond one child. On the other hand the local bike shop recommended a $220 Trek model which seems like an awful lot of money for a bike my son will outgrow within a year or two.

When it comes to children’s equipment when do you splurge on quality? Should I buy the cheap model knowing it doesn’t need to last or should I buy the more expensive model to ensure a fun and successful experience?

I’m not 100% sure how to proceed, but I’m leaning towards a used model from a local bike shop. It costs $75 less than a new high quality bike, but twice as much as a cheap one from the big box stores.

The pros: The bike shop claims its easier to ride, will hold up through two children, retain a decent resale value and keep a bike from making its way to the landfill. Plus it doesn’t have any silly characters on it and could easily be used by either gender. Although we have two boys we could eventually pass it on to future nieces or nephews.

The cons: Price.

I know there are a lot of parents who read this blog and I’m hoping someone weighs in on this topic. When do you spend money on quality and when do you focus on price?

Photo Credit

2 thoughts on “Choosing a Kid’s Bike: Focus on Quality or Price?”

  1. 9 yrs ago, when our (fairly tall) oldest son was 3.5 (and I was pg w/ the younger son) we bought the $200 Trek – a Jet 16. He rode it for 4 summers. The next summer the younger one started on it and we got a used 20″ Specialized for the older one at a bike shop for around $100. Both bikes have held up great – after 8 summers of riding the Trek still looked and functioned as new. We sold it for $50 – the younger one is now on the 20″. So net cost of less than $20/summer for the Trek! I admit, I am a bit of a bike snob – I would never buy a discount store type bike. I’ve seen other friends get them and have their kids complain they are much harder to pedal. My opinion – if you can find a used good brand one at a bike store that your son likes and fits him on the lowest seat position, grab it. But if you can’t, invest in the Trek since you have another one who will ride it as well.

    • Thanks for the comment! We decided on a used Trek bike. I know it’s a 16 inch, but I’m not sure of the type. I believe it might be a Jet 16. It ended up costing us nearly as much as a new one, (we saved about $50), because it didn’t have training wheels which were priced at $30. I wanted to skip the training wheels all together, but my husband thinks the little guy should ride for a week or two with them just to get used to pedaling. I think it’s the right choice, but we won’t know until he climbs aboard and tries it out. We plan to give it to him this weekend.


Leave a Comment