What to look for in a girls’ mountain bike
Hint: go for balance, coordination, and skill mastery
Taking a child for a bike ride has always been a tidy way to do an activity that will (hopefully) entertain her while at the same time almost guaranteeing an afternoon nap for both of you. What a ride really amounts to are multiple opportunities for her to experience success. Balance, coordination, physical literacy, and mastery of skills are just a few of mountain biking’s rewards but to earn them, she’ll need the right tool for the job.
What to look for when shopping for a girls’ mountain bike
- Size – This is the number one priority because a bike that’s too large or too small can be unmanageable and therefore dangerous. Our general rule is to correspond height with tire size as the winning formula for properly equipping a Little Bella with a bike that fits her.
We’ve partnered with Specialized to create the limited edition Little Bellas Pitch bike with Sport Trail 27.5” geometry and 80 or 100mm size-specific suspension. Here are the suggested sizing guidelines for this one-of-a-kind bike:
For more information about this special bike, click on Little Bellas Limited Edition Pitch by Specialized
- Seat height and standover height also warrant attention as accurate measures for choosing a girls’ mountain bike.
- Seat height: One huge difference we’ve found with girls is that their seat height isn’t always correct. When they are getting comfortable riding a bike, both feet need to be able to touch the ground. It’s more important that they are comfortable and confident than positioned for riding competitively. Once she masters balance and pedaling, the seat height can be increased but never too much that she’s at risk of losing control of the bike.
- Standover height: There should be 1-2 inches of clearance when standing over the bike’s frame with both feet on the ground.
Tip: Don’t buy a bike that’s too big, thinking that she’ll grow into it because if her mountain bike isn’t literally a good fit from the start, her bike handling will suffer and that will make it easier for her to abandon the sport out of frustration.
- Frame design – The way she is positioned on the bike will make a big difference on how well the bike handles. Look for a frame designed with a longer wheelbase for greater control and more stability. Her overall lower center of gravity will make balancing easier, especially when pedaling at low speeds.
- Weight – Bikes designed for young riders should ideally weigh less than 40 per cent of their total body weight yet many girls’ bikes can weigh an absurd 50 percent (or even more!) due to heavier parts and materials, and cheap construction. A well-made girls’ bike will prioritize good quality craftsmanship and lightweight.
- Brakes – More important than the ability to go is the power to stop. Before the start of each Little Bellas program, every participant’s bike gets checked out to make sure it’s in good working condition. We regularly adjust brake levers to bring them closer to the handlebar (aka “brake reach adjust”); this makes it so much easier for small hands to reach the brakes. Not every mountain bike has the reach adjust option so it may be worthwhile to find one that does.
- Her opinion – This likely outranks all the things to look for when shopping for her bike since ultimately, she will be the one who’s riding it. How easy is it to use, how comfortable is it to ride, and what color is it can be decisive as to how much she will enjoy riding a mountain bike so it’s best to get her opinion from the start.
Tip: When transitioning between bikes, keep the old bike around so that she can toggle back and forth between the new and old bike for some time. It will help her take confident baby steps instead of a giant leap onto a new bike.
Girls who engage in an outdoor activity like cycling are more likely to stay active in the outdoors as adults. Mountain biking is a lifetime sport that can be done individually or as a group activity that’s less about placing a premium on “winning” and more about sharing successes. When choosing a girls’ mountain bike, reaching the podium isn’t the target because, when she learns to ride a mountain bike, the rewards are far greater.