What To Look For
The first and most important thing to look for when shopping for a child's bike is the right size. The manufacturers of these bikes base the size on the size of the wheels, and it's nearly impossible to guess the right size. The best thing to do is let the child try a few different bikes. You want one that feels comfortable; make sure your child can reach the handlebars and grip the brakes. You also want to ensure that the bike has coaster brakes, which respond faster than other types of brakes.
Buying the wrong size may result in injuries. You might think you'll save money by letting your child grow into a larger bike, but it's important that he be able to ride comfortably and reach the brakes. It's also important to buy the proper gear, including knee pads and a helmet. In many states, it's illegal for a child to ride without the proper gear, and you can be fined if she doesn't. Even if it isn't a law, you still want to protect your child.
Where To Buy
Don't buy a kid's bike from a mass-merchandise or big-box store. You're better off buying from a sporting goods store or, better yet, a specialty bike store. Employees at big box stores often work different departments and aren't knowledgeable about specifics. However, cycling-store employees know how to size a child for a bike and will have other answers and suggestions for you. These stores also typically sell higher-quality bikes and will fix the bike for you if it gets damaged.
When you're shopping for a kid's bike, you'll likely find a wide range of prices, based on the manufacturer and bike's features. In 2009, a Schwinn girl's bike retailed for $100 to $110, while a boy's bike with Spider-Man decorations retailed for less than $100. Schwinn and Kona Shred both make larger 24-inch bikes for boys and girls that cost more than $500. Expect to pay more for specialty children's bikes, such as mountain or dirt bikes.