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Safety & Prevention

How to Choose the Right Size Bike & Helmet: Tips for Parents

A bicycle that's the wrong size for your child can be more than just uncomfortable. A bike that's too big or too small can cause them to lose control and get hurt. Making sure your child's helmet is the right size for them is also important to protect against injuries.

Here's how to keep your child safe with a bike and helmet that fits them properly.

Tips to help your child's bike fit them

  • Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until they are ready, at about age 5 or 6.

  • Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that they can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new bike.

  • Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to "grow into." Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.

How to test any style of bike for proper fit

  • Sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, your child must be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.

  • Straddling the center bar, your child should be able to stand with both feet flat on the ground with about a 1-inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.

  • When buying a bike with hand brakes for an older child, make sure that the child can comfortably grasp the brakes and apply sufficient pressure to stop the bike.

Don't forget a helmet

A helmet should be standard equipment with your child's bike. Whenever buying a bike, be sure you have a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)-approved helmet for your child that fits them correctly. Evidence shows that helmet use decreases head injuries and deaths related to bicycle vs. motor vehicle crashes.

How to make sure your child’s helmet fits correctly

  • The helmet should sit squarely on top of their head and cover the top of their forehead.

  • The helmet should sit parallel to the ground when your child's head is upright.

  • The helmet fits well if it doesn't move around, slide down over your child's eyes when it is pushed or pulled, or when your child shakes their head.

  • The chin strap should be adjusted to fit snugly.
More information
Last Updated
Adapted from TIPP—Choosing the Right Size Bicycle for Your Child (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2022)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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