With technology quickly advancing, the choice and quality of BMX bikes on the market has increased. Gone are the days of having to ‘build your own bike’ from scratch to ensure the quality of the bike. Couple this with the introduction of eBay alongside the specialist stores means it has never been easier to purchase a BMX bike for your child.
The difficulty now lies in making the right purchase. It is vital that the choice of bike is both right and safe for your child to ensure many hours of happy riding. To do this there are a number of simple questions to ask at the beginning of the search to ensure the correct bike is purchased. These are:
- Where will the bike be ridden?
- What kind of terrain will it encounter?
- How often will the bike be used?
- What is the right size for the rider?
What is a BMX bike?
BMX is an abbreviation of ‘Bicycle Motocross’. The BMX bike is used for both casual activity and sport. The BMX name was traditionally used to describe bikes used on dirt tracks (i.e. motocross); however it now names a larger range of bikes that include:
- Dirt bikes
- Street bikes
- Park bikes
- Vert bikes
- Flatland bikes
BMX differ from other bikes i.e. mountain bikes, they are a simple design that has one gear only. BMX bikes are a great choice for children because of the position of the handle bars. The handle bars are curved and sit higher off the ground meaning the rider has to sit up straight on the bike. This is a safer position for children as their vision is straight ahead rather than down on the ground.
Where will the Bike be Ridden?
BMX bikes can be used for all types of terrain, however there are certain makes of BMX’s that will be more suited to specific activities. For example, specialist bikes can be purchased for:
- Dirt/ramp riding
- Street riding
- Flatland riding
Knowing where the majority of riding will take place will enable a bike specific to that discipline to be chosen. Ultimately this will ensure the largest amount of enjoyment and safety for the rider.
For a strong, safe BMX bike the best material to look for is metal. A great choice is chromoly which is a strong and lightweight alloy metal. A more affordable option is a steel frame but it is worth bearing in mind this will mean the bike is heavier, more susceptible to breakage and will not be as strong. Some bikes will use a combination of materials. When making the decision, ask the question:
Which bike uses the most amount of chromoly tubing? The bike that wins will be the strongest and therefore better choice.
Materials to avoid:
Plastic wheels and solid tyres with plastic bushes in the headset and bottom brackets. These are considered a ‘toy’, will break easily and be difficult to fix, if at all.
What Is the Right Size Bike for the Rider?
One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a BMX bike for your child is the size of the bike. Typically, bike sizes for children are broken down into age brackets and wheel sizes (inches) as detailed below. It is important to keep in mind that this is a guide only and even though your child fits into the age brackets, they may not fit into the typical ‘height’ or ‘size’ of their fellow aged peers. This is reflected in the breakdown of ages, often crossing over in age:
- 3 – 5 year olds: 12 inch wheels
- 4 – 6 year olds: 14 inch wheels
- 5 -8 year olds: 16 inch wheels
- 6 – 9 year olds: 18 inch wheels
- 7 – 10 year olds: 20 inch wheels
It is vital that the proper size bike for the rider is chosen. The difference of an inch may seem like a minor factor but can be the difference of the rider being able to handle the bike or not. The more control the child has on the bike, the safer they will be. This can be done by trialling a bike before the purchase.
3 – 5 Year Olds: 12 Inch Wheels
These bikes will have at least one brake operated from the right hand brake lever on the handle bars. The brake itself will sit over the front wheel as a ‘front calliper’. Some of the bikes in this category will also have a rear brake, again a wheel mounted calliper (but this time on the back wheel) which can be operated by rotating the peddles in an ‘anti-clockwise’ motion. Because both breaking systems have positive attributes, the best way to decide on which is best for the rider is by trialling the bike before it is purchased.
Dependant on the braking system is the chain drive. Traditionally the 12 inch wheel will have three options:
- Fixed wheel. Fixed wheel enables the rider to ride forwards when peddling forwards and backwards when peddling backwards.
- Free wheel. Free wheels will move forward when peddling forwards but will not move backwards when peddling backwards, rather it will just ‘free wheel’ (sit idle).
Back pedal brake – as mentioned earlier.
12 inch wheel bikes will also come with the following features:
- Training wheel stabilisers
- Have a fully encased chain guard
4 – 6 Year Olds: 14 Inch Wheels
5 -8 year olds 16 inch wheels
The 16 inch wheel BMX bikes will come with a choice of two braking systems:
- Calliper brakes
- V-type brakes
The most common on BMX bikes is the calliper brake system. Whilst they are the oldest and most common design, they do not always offer the best stopping power. V-Brakes are most commonly found on other bike designs i.e. mountain bikes. Even though they are a new design, they are harder to maintain and use. Most 16 inch wheel bikes will include the following features:
- Full ball bearings
- 2 brakes
- Freewheel system
- Chain disc or half chain guard (instead of a full enclosed chain guard found on the previous size bikes)
This size bike typically won’t be accompanied by training wheel stabilisers. It is worth checking if they can be added if it is required it for a first time rider.
6 – 9 Year Olds: 18 Inch Wheels
This is a relatively new size addition. As a result, the choice available is not as large as with the other sizes. Most 18 inch wheel bikes will include the features found on the 16 inch wheel model, with the exception of the training wheel stabilisers. Most 18 inch wheel models will not have this feature so it is worth checking before purchase if this is a requirement.
7 – 10 Year Olds 20 Inch Wheels
Whilst the 20 inch wheel bike has been categorised for 7 – 10 year olds, the 20 inch BMX freestyler is recommended for ages 10 + - with no upper limit. This model is used by adults and professionals in racing and stunt riding. The standard BMX 20 Inch wheel model is suitable for the 7 – 10 age brackets.
The difference between a standard BMX and a freestyle BMX are as follows:
- Frames and forks – Freestyler bikes are generally stronger
- Wheels – Freestyler wheels are more robust
- Headset on a freestyler enables the rider to turn the wheel 360 degrees without the brakes system getting caught
- Freestyler bikes will often have stunt pegs fitted.
Although the bike may be for a birthday or special occasion, try not to purchase the bike without the child. A BMX bike is a longer term investment and if it is uncomfortable to ride because it is the wrong size, braking system or, it is the wrong colour – then it won’t get the use it deserves and could be dangerous.
Other Points to Consider
Things will go wrong with the bike. Make sure the rider and parent know how to fix minor issues that may arise like a loose chain.
Check all the parts on the bike. Smaller less obvious components of the bike may not be taken into consideration, but if paid attention to, it may mean the better quality bike is purchased and has a longer life span.
Set your price limit. Once this is decided, it will narrow the choice and ensure the best possible bike is purchased within the price guideline.
Light weight is better. The lighter the bike, the easier it will be to control – a vital point to consider when buying a BMX bike for a child.
Although the aesthetic of the bike is important, try and encourage the child to pick a bike that both looks good and is safe and practical.
Does the bike come with a service plan? Do you want this? Some sellers offer a service plan with the bike which may come in handy in the future.
Does the bike come made or will it require construction? If it comes in a flat pack, do you have the required tools to assemble it at home?
Riding a BMX bike, there are safety considerations to take into account before getting out there. It is worth purchasing safety equipment for the rider including:
Helmet – fitted specifically for the child’s shape and size head. There are properly certified BMX helmets available to purchase on eBay. This can be checked through the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) which have outlined minimum standard for helmets. All certified helmets will carry the CPSC sticker.
Protective BMX gloves
BMX knee and elbow pads
BMX body armour for enthusiasts
This protective gear can serve as a life-saver in the event of an accident.
Purchasing a BMX bike for a child on eBay can be a difficult decision. Ask questions, read reviews but most importantly, ensure that the bike is the right choice for the child. This will ensure the child will be able to handle the bike and be safe while riding.