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13 October 2020

The most popular bike and scooter brands

We asked parents about the scooters and bikes they've bought from retailers including Amazon, Argos and Halfords
Children riding bikes and scooters
JH
Jade Harding

A bike or scooter is incredibly handy to help your little one get exercise and gain some independence. But with such a wide array of options out there, what do you go for?

To help you pick the best bike or scooter for your child, we reveal the most popular retailers, average prices and the top scooter brands as rated by parents in our customer satisfaction survey.

Our expert bike and scooter brand buying guide includes big names such as Amazon, Argos and Halfords, while also offering insights into other parents' experiences and important safety issues.

The most popular children's bike retailers

As part of our latest survey, we asked parents to tell us where they were most likely to buy their child’s bike from. Three retailers really stood out. 

As you can see, while Argos and Amazon are popular choices, it’s Halfords that topped the list – and by quite a large margin.

When buying a new bike, it’s essential to get the perfect fit for your child, which is why Halfords' in-store fitting service could be an attractive draw for parents. Alongside its wide range of affordable models and in-store experience, which includes assembling the bike, Halfords also offers home delivery for parents who might not be able to reach a store.

It’s a different story for our runners up, Argos and Amazon. You can't try out the bike before you buy, which means parents are effectively buying blind. This is fine if you already know the right size and style of bike you’re looking for, but not so great for children who want to test-drive their new wheels. It’s also worth remembering that buying online will mean you’ll probably have to do some manual assembling of the bike when it arrives. 

Specialist bike retailers Chain Reaction Cycles and Evans Cycles are joint fifth with independent retailers. 

Price could also be a factor for parents. According to our survey, Amazon, Argos and Halfords were some of the cheapest retailers to buy from (on average £130 or less), beaten only by Smyth’s Toys (£105.45 on average). The most expensive was Evans Cycles (£167.15 on average). 

For details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty equipment, see our online shopping advice

Balance bike vs bike with stabilisers

Our survey also asked what type of bike children first learnt to ride on: a balance bike or a bike with stabilisers. The result was a pretty even split, just slightly tipping in favour of bikes with stabilisers.

Bikes with stabilisers

A bicycle with stabilisers attached has long been the traditional way of learning to ride a bike. You can buy a bike and attach the stabilisers yourself, or you can opt for a ready-made model. This type typically starts with 12” or 14" wheels, and children learn to pedal while the stabilisers keep them upright like a crutch. 

Pros

  • Once your child has learnt to ride, you can remove the stabilisers and keep the bike.
  • The child will be able to ride the bike straight away.
  • Gives instant confidence.
  • There’s no age/height limit. 

Cons

  • They're heavier and harder to turn.
  • Chlildren won’t learn the same balance skills as they would on a balance bike.
  • The child can start to depend on them.
  • Not suitable for children under three.

Balance bikes

These are basically lighter bikes without pedals or a drivetrain. Typically available in 10", 12" and 14" wheel sizes, children can push themselves along with their feet, steadying themselves as they glide. 

Pros

  • Available for children aged 18 months plus.
  • Helps to build the muscles needed to balance when riding a bike.
  • Lighter – easier to balance for the child and easier for the parent to carry when not in use.
  • Teaches the child to steer without having to worry about pedalling, too.

Cons

  • Doesn’t teach children how to pedal.
  • Most don’t come with brakes, which can be a safety issue.

Is your child still in a car seat? Here's our round-up of the best child car seats for older children

Bike safety for children

Shockingly, only 58% of parents we surveyed always make their child wear a helmet. This is an unnecessary risk. You should always ensure your child wears a secure, well-fitted helmet every time they ride a bike.

To really reiterate the importance of wearing a helmet while riding a bike, we also asked parents if their child had ever had an accident. Fortunately, 6 in 10 children had avoided any tumbles, but around 4 in 10 weren't so lucky. Not protecting your child’s head can turn a minor fall into a major accident.

Top tips for fitting a cycle helmet

  • Position the helmet squarely on the head, not tilted forward or backwards.
  • The helmet should sit just above the eyebrows.
  • It shouldn’t restrict the child’s view or cover their ears.
  • Ensure the straps aren’t twisted and are secure when fastened. You should only be able to fit two fingers between their chin and the strap. 

Here's all our expert advice on child safety at home

Common bike problems

The last thing you want after investing in a brand new bike is to find it’s plagued with problems and faults.

For the parents we surveyed, the most common issue was the weight of the bike. If a bike is too heavy, the child will struggle to balance. Test-driving the bike in a shop should help you to avoid this problem. But if that isn’t possible, always check the product description before buying online. 

Faulty brakes also seemed to be a cause for concern for a further 23% of parents, followed by faulty tyres and faulty gears (both 18%) – all of which reinforce the importance of regular bike maintenance and servicing.

Scooter brands rated by parents 

Our table below summarises the results of our latest scooter customer survey. Scooter brands are ranked by their customer score, which refers to whether customers would recommend the brand. 

Five scooter brands were included in our survey, with a difference of 18 percentage points between the top-scoring and lowest-scoring brands. 

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.