The first question to ask when buying a kids road bike (well this certainly applies to me) is 'am I buying this for me or for my child?' For children a road bike is trickier to ride than a flat bar bike and a little perseverance may be required. But supposing you really do have a future Cav or Lucy Garner on your hands, then where do you start?
Kids bikes are measured in wheel size rather than frame size so we're talking about 24" (60cm) wheels for a beginner road bike.
Generally these would be suitable for 8 year-olds with a minimum height of 130 cms although some claim to suit even smaller children. I'd advice patience because children are easily put off if things don't work out straight away. A bad experience with a bike that's too big for them might lead them straight back to the PlayStation.
Starting with the cheapest:
B'Twin Triban junior (£230)
'for children between 125 and 150 cm'
Shimano 7 speed with 'ergonomic' shift levers
Double brake levers for safe braking
Comment: The Triban 3 (£299) adult bike has been picking up very good reviews, so don't be put off by the low price tag necessarily. I'm going to take my six-year- old to try the Triban junior as soon as I get a chance. Will update when that's happened. Bars look a bit big, so we'll see.
Islabikes Luath 24 (£400)
'for children aged 8+'
Shimano/ Tektro/ SRAM 8 speed groupset 11-32 cassette
Double brake levers
Comment: Light and well made. Islabikes have a great reputation. Buy with confidence and they hold their price well. Notice how the bars are in proportion compared to some of the other bikes.
Dawes Espoir 3000 (£400)
'carefully designed to be a perfect junior road bike.'
Proportional frame, bars & cranks, but not levers?
Comment: On the face of it pretty expensive when compared to the Islabike which is more than 2 Kgs lighter.
Moda Minor 24 (£470)
'Geometry and components chosen to fit a junior rider'
Microshift/ Shimano 18 speed groupset
Comment: My 9 year old tried it but was put off by the fact that his fingers couldn't reach around the brake levers. I saw a boy who had just crashed at the Cycling Weekly Dorking Original Sportive last week because of the brake issue.
Looks cool, but make sure your child tries it properly first.
···UPDATE··· The Moda kids bikes have been re-designed to make them more child friendly i.e. more suitable for smaller hands. Give ´em a try!
Scott Speedster Jr 24 (£499-£579)
'perfect choice for the budding rider looking to make their first step into road racing'
Shimano 16 speed gears
As purchased by 'VeloMom'
Comment: Serious machine, looks great, very light. Quite expensive at full price but good value on sale at £499. Resale value will be high. I think your child would need to be pretty confident to ride this.
Felt F24 (£589)
'Big time performance isn't just for grown-ups anymore'
Microshift/ Shimano groupset
Kids’ bars and levers
Alex Rim wheels
Comment: Again, a very light, nice looking kids road bike with good components. Pretty much as above.
The Grupetto Primavera 24" (£575)
'a perfectly proportioned Road bike for young racers'.
KT Road wheels
'Just over' 9Kgs
Comment: Italian styling, decent weight, good geometry.
At the other end of the spectrum I found this on sale at Amazon:
Viking Phantom 20"
'Junior steel entry level road bike'
Shimano 7 speed
Comment: The cheapest, the smallest and the heaviest. Single brake levers. I can't imagine it can be any good,.? Treat with caution! It's heavy!
Well the old adage might hold true here: You get what you pay for. The Scott and Felt bikes look like scaled down pro-style road bikes and the Luarth 24 is a safe, reliable bet if you want a bike that is sure to be tailor made for a child's proportions. Dual brake controls might be essential if your child's hands are on the small side to enable safe braking when descending in particular.
At the Dorking Original Sportive I saw a dad with three boys on small size Triban 3s and they, dad told me, love them. So I'm off asap to Decathlon with my boys to try the B'Twin Triban junior and will report back shortly.