Finding the best bike for teens can be challenging. You need to decide what type of biking you and your teen will be doing, what size you need, what is a reasonable budget, and where to purchase the perfect teen bike. Some teens are ready for an adult-size bike, but since most teens are still growing, the best bicycles for teenagers are also the same as the best bikes for kids. The bikes below are also great for older kids and tweens and many are considered the best bikes for smaller adults as well.
The first section of this post below describes the different elements and terms you may encounter when buying a bike, below that you can see examples of some bikes and links of places to purchase these bikes online.
Taking teens biking is a great way to get out and explore. For more about how to get outside biking with your teen, check out: How to Plan an Epic Biking Trip with Your Teen.
As an affiliate member, some of these links are affiliate links and I may make a small commission when you make a purchase that helps support this site.
Types of Bikes for Teens
There are many different types of bikes depending on the type of biking you will be doing. The best kids bikes are generally multi-purpose bikes, but as kids get older, the bikes get more specialized so finding teen bikes for older kids means deciding how and where your teen will be riding. This can make it difficult to find the best all-around bikes for teenagers. If you are looking for a general all-around bike you should consider a cruiser, road bike, or hybrid. Look in the sections below for more information about each bike type, but here is a quick snapshot of the different types of bikes:
- Road Bike – lightweight frames, low handlebars, and narrow tires make this bike fast – great for roads, not great for dirt or other riding surfaces.
- Mountain Bike – wider tires, good braking systems, and shocks make these bikes more sturdy and stable – they can also be ridden on a road but the wide tires make biking slower than a road bike
- Hybrid Bike – These bikes have elements of road bikes and mountain bikes and can be great for getting the best of both worlds, however, you will want to carefully choose the features that are important to you since some hybrid bikes are compromising certain features. These can be great commuter bikes.
- Cruiser Bike – these are the bikes you think about when you are taking a trail to the beach – high handlebars, comfortable seats
- Touring Bike – Similar to road bikes, these are meant for long distance travel and come with lots of places to attach bags, water bottle, and paniers. The tired are also typically wider than road bikes.
- BMX Bike – These bikes are made for tricks or track riding and usually have one gear and 20-inch wheels
- Fixed Gear Bike – these are typically for racing and are light and fast
- Recumbent Bike – This bike is very different and the biker sits low to the ground and pedals in front of them
- Electric Bike – these bikes have an electric engine that assists the biker to go faster and further. These are great for long-distance rides and commuting
Best Bikes for Boys Versus Best Bike for Girls
There are a few important things to know when comparing boys versus girls bikes. Quite often, especially with kids’ bikes, there is no difference besides the color. Feel free to buy whatever color your kids like regardless of their gender! As kids grow into teens and then adults, there is some subtle difference in body shape that translates to differences in bike design, but unless you are a serious bike racer there is no need to buy a bike based on gender.
The most common difference you will see is a lower step-over bar on girls’ bikes. This is because in the late 1800s these bars were lowered so women could more easily step over wearing a skirt. There is no reason in today’s society that you should be concerned with this unless you simply prefer a lower step over bar.
The takeaway: the best bike for a teenage girl is the same as the best bikes for a teenage boy.
How to Size a Bike for a Teenager
It’s helpful to understand the basics of bike lingo and sizing when looking for the best bikes for teens. It is very easy to get caught up in all the gear talk and some of the sizing specifics will depend on the type of biking you will be doing. It can be very helpful to go in and talk to someone in your local bike shop, but it can also be intimidating if you don’t know all the bike terms!
You do not need to go into a bike shop to try your bike and more and more people are sizing their bikes themselves and ordering online. You will want to look at the measurements for the specific bike brand you are purchasing since sizing charts vary and do a little research before purchasing a bike for your teen. Below is a basic overview of bike sizing.
The frame size is the size of the metal bike frame and is based on your height (or your inseam). If your bike is too tall or short it can cause knee/back pain, or poor performance. The information below is the fastest and easiest way to find your frame size. Note that many bike frame sizes are sold as S, M, L, or XL – you will want to look at the sizing chart for the specific bike since these sizes are not always for the same size bike frame.
HEIGHT = Frame Size
- 4’11” – 5’3″ = 13 – 15 inches
- 5’3″ – 5’7″ = 15 – 16 inches
- 5’7″ – 5’11” = 16 – 17 inches
- 6’0″ – 6’2″ = 17 – 19 inches
- 6’2″ – 6’4″ = 19 – 21 inches
- 6’4″ and taller = 21+ inches
The tire size refers to both the overall size of the tire as well as the width of the tire. The tire diameter is based on the bike frame, the type of biking your doing, and your own preference. Here are a few ‘rules’ when determining bike tire size:
- As your bike frame size goes up, your bike tire size will also go up
- Most kid’s bike tires are between 20-24 inches
- Mountain bikes often have a 26 inch or 27.5-inch tire
- Common tire widths: Fat Tire bikes (3-4 inches), Mountain Bikes (1.9-2.5 inches) Road bikes (less than 30 mm)
- There are many types of bike tread to consider as well – this is a great article that goes into more detail.
Other Bike Terms to Understand
There are several different types of brakes that will change the bike’s function and the cost of the bike. When choosing the best bikes for teens, make sure you consider the best and safest option.
- Caliper Brakes – these are traditional brakes that clamp down on the tire when engaged
- Cantilever Brakes – similar to caliper brakes, there are two opposing brakes on either side of your tire, making it easier and faster to stop
- V Brakes – these brakes use a larger surface area and are better at stopping wet or dirty tires quickly and easily
- Disc Brakes – these work slightly differently as the brake mechanism works at the center of the wheel. This can be more controlled and reliable
Shocks are important on a bike, especially when you will be riding on unpaved/bumpy surfaces. The shocks are what keep the bike ride smooth and give you more control, but they will also add to the price of a bike. You can get front shocks (sometimes called a hardtail bike) or both front and rear shocks. If you plan to do mostly mountain biking, it is worth your money to invest in shocks. There are lots of specific types of shocks that become more important the most serious of a biker you become.
Bikes come in a range of materials that can add strength, durability, and speed to your bike. In general, the more expensive the bike the lighter the bike. You will see bikes made from carbon steel, chomoly steel, aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber.
Bike Pedals and Shoes
The main terminology you will see when selecting a teenager’s bike is whether the bike has clipless pedals or toe clip pedals. Most of the time you can take on and off the bike pedals and adapt for your preference and the type of biking you’re doing. Biking with toe clip pedals is faster since you can get momentum when you pull your foot up, not just push your foot down, but it does take practice and is best for more serious bikers.
The Best Cruiser Bikes for Teens
Bike Use: hybrid, road surfaces, multi-purpose
Frame Size: 17 inches (for riders 5’ 4” to 6’ 2” tall)
Wheel Size: 26 inch x 2.1 inch
Why We Like it: It’s a smooth ride and a simple, easy-to-maintain bike. The 3 speed gives you some options when riding on hills.
Bike Use: Cruiser Bike
Frame Size: 17 inches
Wheel Size: 26 inch x 2.1 inch
Color: Teal with Black
Why We Like it: A fun and beautiful bike to cruise around town. A single-speed bike that is great for bike trails and a well-priced starter bike. There are several similar options by Sixthreezero for both girls and boys.
The Best Mountain Bikes for Teens
Bike Use: Mountain Bike
Frame Size: Small
Wheel Size: 27.5 inch
Color: Green Aluminum
Why We Like it: Disc brakes, 21 gears and a forward suspension fork make this a great starter mountain bike for the price.
The Best Road Bikes for Teens
Bike Use: Road Bike
Frame and Wheel Size: Multiple size options
Why We Like it: 24 speeds and lightweight makes this a great road bike.
Bike Use: Road Bike, commuter bike
Frame Size: Multiple size options
Wheel Size: 29 inches
Color: black with green
Why We Like it: This is a very affordable road bike with 21 speeds. It is more of a commuter than a true road bike but can easily be used on long distance rides.
Best Bike Brands
There are so many bike brands out there that it can make looking for the best bikes for teens a challenge. You will want something high quality but also affordable, especially if you want to resell the bike or if your teen is a beginner. The list is just a few of the bike brands you are likely to come across and some of the most common bike brands. Don’t be afraid to research and try some of the more specialized bike companies or newer bike companies that aren’t on this list.
Cannondale – these bikes are well made and are generally affordable for the quality of the bike but they can be on the higher end.
Trek – Trek makes a range of bikes from kid’s bikes to adult bikes. This is a huge and high-quality bike company
Specialized – this company has been around a long time and has bikes for beginners to advanced riders. They have recently focused on electric bikes as well.
Marin – Lots of bike options for all riders – this is a good quality bike for the cost and is currently what our teen daughter rides
Scott – another big bike company that is reliable and covers all types of biking types
Giant – Giant makes all types of bikes all themselves without outsourcing parts and they have a bike for every rider
Schwinn – Schwinn has been around for decades and build reliable and affordable bikes
Fuji – a Japanese company they offer many types of higher-end bikes
Once you’ve selected the best bike for your teen, it’s time to look into all the bike accessories. Some of these items are safety-related (helmet), other items are bike accessories to make it more enjoyable and there are also items to improve bike performance. The items below make great gift ideas for teens.
Looking for more gear suggestions for kids, teens and adults? Check out the gear portion of our site for more ideas.