Bikeability Scotland tips for buying a road-worthy bike

13 December 2019    

Cycling Scotland team member, Dan, shares his earliest Christmas memories and provides Bikeability Scotland top tips for a festive bike purchase.

For many children, getting a bike for Christmas is top of the Santa list.

And unlike fads which change every year - from Cabbage Patch Dolls, to Tracey Island to the Furby - the humble bike is an enduring gift.

Memories that last a lifetime

I still remember the day that I came down the stairs to see a shiny red BMX sitting proudly in the living room, next to a half-eaten mince pie and sooty footprints. With a piece of my dad’s twine tied to the handlebars and carefully draped across the floor leading to the fireplace.

These are memories that stay with you for a lifetime, as were the moments that followed – excitedly riding my bike around the garden, imagining all the places this bike was going to take me.

A bike for Christmas is the gift of adventure. Suddenly I had this amazing thing that could take me from the garden, into the neighbourhood and beyond (I was also a big fan of E.T.!)

Little did I realise at the time, but my parents were giving me the gift of independence, the gift of health and activity. And those things have stayed with me throughout my life.

Set them free

If you are a parent reading this, you too might be contemplating buying a bike for your child this Christmas. Like many parents today, you might think they spend too much time indoors and in front of a screen. A bike for Christmas could unlock their potential, encouraging them to get out and be active. Whether that be family bike rides or them cycling to a friend’s house (even if it is to play Xbox!).

And bikes do not need to be expensive. There are many options available, including good quality reconditioned bikes from the likes of The Bike Station (Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee), Bike for Good (Glasgow), Recyke-a-bike (Stirling) and Bike Revolution & Outfit Moray (Lossiemouth). Take a look at Zero Waste Scotland for bike upcycling services near you.

Cycling Scotland has provided funding to many community-based initiatives and cycle hubs throughout Scotland, so please get in touch if you want to know those closest to you. 

Bikeability Scotland tips for buying a road-worthy bike

Your local bike shop will provide expert advice on getting the right size of bike for your child to be comfortable. Different brands have different dimensions so always try first. The table below is an approximate guide.

Other things to look out for

As well as getting the correct size of bike, there are several other features you should be looking out for. Most important are independent working front and rear brakes. The brake levers should also be within easy reach for your child to provide safety and control. Other features such as adjustable saddle and handlebars are a good idea so the bike can be adjusted to your child as they grow. Having a good number of gears and a bike that is not too heavy will both aid the enjoyment and fun of riding.

Training for life

Having a bike is only part of the picture. Cycle training is often the missing link, which stops children from cycling throughout their childhood and into adulthood. Learning the skills and confidence to cycle on roads can unlock the door to a lifetime of active travel.

Cycling Scotland manages the national cycle training programme for school children called Bikeability Scotland.

Bikeability Scotland is usually delivered in schools between P5 and S2, teaching children to cycle safely, to learn how to deal with traffic and that, above all, gets children excited about cycling.

If your child's school doesn't currently offer Bikeability Scotland cycle training, why not speak to them and ask if they can consider doing this?  They can visit the website to find out how.

Final thoughts

Good luck. I hope you find the perfect bike for your child and in 30-odd years they recall the memories as fondly as I do today. It really is the best gift you can give this year.