Lightweight, high quality bicycles designed for children make a tremendous difference in learning to ride as well as encouraging developing riders to ride more frequently and longer.
They are safer- and a heck of a lot more fun! If you were forced to ride on a bike weighing nearly as much as you do, brake levers sized for a giant, and a geometry that made you feel 10 feet above ground, you’d probably be scared and apprehensive, fatigue easily and have poor stopping control.
Big box store bikes are toys, not tools- and this is one of those purchases where you truly “get what you pay for”. We are proud to work with brands that build award-winning bikes for kids, with thoughtful designs and components that support and encourage young riders!
Yes, it’s an investment! But the bike brands we work with build bikes meant to last through multiple kiddos and resale demand is high.
TOP PICK: WOOM Bikes
Woom Bikes are our absolute favorites for just about any kid, from first balance bike babes to teenagers. Not only the lightest weight bikes available, but Woom bikes include kid-sized components and numerous design details that make learning to ride easier.
Guardian Bikes uses an ingenious braking system called SureStop to prevent the dreaded “endo” (head over handlebars)- one simple brake lever controls both back and front brake- cool paint schemes and quality construction are an added bonus, and we find that Guardian bikes are particularly suitable for more cautious kids who might be “trigger happy” on the brakes.
For adventurous kiddos looking to mix it up between pavement and dirt, we love Cleary Bikes for super high quality construction and components, great handling and sharp looks.
We love this innovative NYC-based brand which got their start through crowdfunding because they make simple, top-quality, low maintenance for adults and children. Priority only sells online, keeping prices low, and we love their belt drive, grease-free bikes.
We’re fortunate to have an amazing local bike shop in Bike Doctor. The staff at their Arnold, Annapolis and Crofton locations are awesome and highly knowledgeable, and there is a wide selection of quality kids and adult bikes from brands like Trek and Cannondale. We proudly work Bike Doctor and their Bike Doctor Mobile van for all PedalPower Kids’ bike maintenance needs, and appreciate the on-site support they provide at local events like Bike to School days, Bike Safety rodeos, etc.
Our blog often features specific product reviews and buying guides HERE!
Here are our favorite local (and not-so-local) places to ride with kids- a mix of rail trails, dirt and paved, low-traffic options.
For families just starting to ride with kids- manage your expectations and think “slow, short and snacks”. Don’t turn back at the first complaint (pretending you can’t hear due to the wind works like a charm! HAHA) Many of our campers and bike club kids (and our own kids) complain, cry or whine in the course of a ride, but then BEAM with pride at their accomplishment upon completion and beg for more! We’ve all been there on a hill or a hot day, wanting to quit and asking why the heck we’re doing this- kids are sometimes just a bit more vocal about it. It will pass, especially with a cold drink and a “ride snack” (ask our Adventure Campers, jelly beans are the magic elixir!)
B&A Trail - Literally, our backyard- and an awesome, beginner-friendly and relatively flat rail trail spanning from BWI Airport to Annapolis. Our favorite “graduation” activity for PedalPower Learn to Ride students is a B&A trail ride to Fro Yo House. Lots to do all along the trail, and connection to Kinder Farm Park. Sometimes bike traffic from the spandex crowd can be high-speed and aggressive- practice passing and moving right with your kids.
WB&A Trail - Another awesome rail trail that continues to grow! Great option for our Piney Orchard/Crofton/West County friends.
Kinder Farm Park - Farm animals, paved and off-road trails, two great playgrounds, lots of awesome nature programs and events for families. Need we say more?
Quiet Waters Park - Another great Anne Arundel County option, accessible by bike for families in Hillsmere/Annapolis Neck- nice paved trail and a challenging and technical MTB trail option.
Downs Park - Beautiful waterfront location in Pasadena, lots of nice paved surface for new riders.
Greenbury Point - Past the Naval Brigade, this hidden gem is a favorite for practicing with new riders on quiet and flat paved roads. The awesome off-road perimeter trail sports incredible Bridge and Academy views.
BWI Trail - 10 mile perimeter trail around the airport that offers a lot for kids: playground where you can watch the planes land (never gets old!), a random horse farm somewhere in the middle, and some pretty scenic vistas despite circling one of the busiest airports in the area.
NCR Trail - 40 mile crushed gravel rail trail from Hunt Valley, MD to York, PA. Beautiful setting, places to tube on the river, some snack spots along the way- a really great spot for a longer family weekend ride.
GAP Trail - The Greater Allegheny Passage Rail Trail goes from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD and offers scenic beauty and mountain vistas with family-friendly easy riding. We recommend the downhill route from Deal to Cumberland, which includes passage through the creepy cool Big Savage tunnel.
Virginia Creeper Trail - A gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia!
Bike DC - Washington, DC is an amazingly bike friendly city as are neighboring Arlington and Crystal City. The Mount Vernon Trail, Anacostia Trail, W&OD and many protected bike lanes in the city offer lots of fun options for families. Coming from the Annapolis area, you can park in Bladensburg and take the Anacostia Trail into the Navy Yard area for a fun outing.
Bacon Ridge - An amazing and expanding effort by local mountain bikers, these trails in Crownsville offer up some beginner-friendly MTB options and camaderie- there’s almost always other local riders there and a Thursday Night S’MORES Kids’ Ride.
Patapsco State Park - Swinging bridges, endless trails for all abilities, waterfalls- there’s something for every active family to explore at PTap.
Rockburn Skills Park - Within PTap, the Skills Park maintained by MORE offers a pump track and all sorts of cool elements for the very brave and the not-so-brave to improve their MTB skills. The pump track is a super fun outing for balance bikers and pedalers alike.
Rosaryville State Park - Another vast state park with a variety of trails for all abilities.
Chesapeake BMX Track - This local track offers practice and racing for the little ones on balance bikes. These kids are amazing!
For Bike Families
PedalPower Pals - Our Facebook group for bike-friendly families. A great way to stay up to speed on local kids’ bike events, articles of interest, new PedalPower Kids programming, product reviews and more.
Bike Shop Girl Family Cyclery and Shift Up Podcast: We’re BIG fans of Arleigh and the work she’s done to make the bike industry better for women, kids and families. Rachel was proud to be interviewed by Arleigh for the Shift Up Podcast and we’re super excited for the next big Bike Shop Girl happening- Bike Shop Girl Family Cyclery opening soon in Denver. Check it out if you’re in the area.