Bikes for teenagers and small adults

Bikes for teens and small adults

In the past 15 years there have been huge advances in children’s cycling with more and more brands popping up and giving children a great start in their cycling life.

With this, we’ve seen huge leaps in the development of rider skill, and children are now used to riding well specified lightweight bikes all through their primary school years.

We’ve started to notice a trend of brands making great bikes for kids up to about the age of 12 and after that it has been the expectation of the bicycle industry that children will then be roughly big enough for adult sized bikes and all will be well.

Unfortunately this just isn’t the case.

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This isn’t to say that there aren’t options, once kids are sufficiently big enough to fit on adult sizes they have all the options that adults do.

The difference is when it comes to looking at the lower end of the price scale.

Searching for a more general purpose bike that can be used for getting to school, meeting with friends etc. can be extremely difficult, especially factoring in considerations that come into play with a bike for a teenager.

Things such as being less appealing to would-be thieves, having minimal, low-maintenance componentry, potentially being single-speed, tough or no paint, all things that can go towards being a hassle-free, more utilitarian ride experience.

Bikes for teenagers and small adults
small adults on kids bikes

Small adults need bikes too!

As well as teenagers being limited on choice when it comes to simple, uncomplicated bikes, there’s also a whole host of smaller adults who find it hard to find a bicycle that fits them well.

In recent years with the availability of quality children’s bikes being on the up, a lot of smaller adults have been looking to the children’s specialist brands to be the potential answer to their problems.

With many people finding that all the elements that kids had been deprived of for so many years were actually the same elements people of shorter stature had also been missing out on.

Most notably, lightweight, high-quality bikes that are sized proportionately and have a considered specification of components to suit the height of the rider.

Playing the averages

On lower-quality bikes that are aimed at consumers that “just want a bike” often manufacturers aim componentry at Mr and Mrs average.

Average height, average weight, average proportions. The trouble is this leaves a lot of people out in the cold, and often means people have to make a compromise on the fit and feel of a bike.

It’s when you start looking for something a little more refined, that things become more difficult.

Often bikes at the smaller end of the adult range are heavy, lumped with steel componentry, they tend to have heavyweight, gimmicky features, such as faux-suspension forks that are more akin to a pogo stick than a shock absorber.

Does this sound familiar? The same issues cheap children’s bikes faced, but even heavier and often even lower quality and hard to maintain.

bikes for teenagers and small adults

It’s a question of choice

Now don’t get us wrong, there are bikes available out there that attempt to bridge this gap, but they aren't currently as common as parents and older children / teens are wanting.

Or adult brands who have a smaller adult range aren't designing them and marketing them as being suitable for teens.

It can be the case that a child who has been on a brand through their younger years wants something a bit more "mature" when they reach secondary school.

Here at Cycle Sprog we feel that this is a very under-served area of the market and we’re throwing down the gauntlet to the bike industry to come up with quality, lightweight bicycles that meet teenagers/smaller riders needs.

We've highlighted below a few bikes from reputable kids bike brands that are suitable for teenagers and smaller adults.

Have you come across a brand that is doing all it can for teenager/smaller riders? Let us know in the comments!

A selection of bikes for teenagers and small adults

Frog 78

The Frog 78 is the largest of Frog’s three 26″ wheel bikes, and is an all round bike suitable for children (or smaller adults!) with a minimum inside leg of 78cm.   

The handlebars can be adjusted within a 54mm range and there’s a quick release seat post that makes adjusting the saddle height easy to do. Your kid should hopefully therefore get a decent amount of time on this bike, but some kids do grow very rapidly at this age. 

It’s comforting therefore to know the Frog Bikes really hold their value, so if you keep it well maintained you should be able to sell it on to fund the next bike. 

Vitus Nucleus 26

Designed from scratch for young mountain bikers but taking styling cues from the adult range, the Vitus Nucleus 26 looks every inch the part, with progressive geometry and components sized for the younger rider so that it fits just right.

The Nucleus 26 comes packed with a great specification including hydraulic disc brakes, a short stem and wide bars for rider control, plus an efficient ‘single ring’ gearing setup with a broad spread of ratios that should allow many a hill to be conquered.

Vitus has also specified a Spinner 300 air fork with 100mm of travel that can be tuned for the weight of the rider.

Pinnacle Kauri 26

The Kauri 26 is Pinnacle’s do everything bike, designed to be at home riding to school, as well as forays into off-road adventure.

Features such as the single chainring and wide ratio 9 speed cassette gives a good spread of gears whilst keeping things light.

With off-road exploration in mind, the Kauri 26 also comes equipped with Clarks hydraulic disc brakes which should be reliable brakes with plenty of stopping power.

Islabikes Beinn Medium

Islabikes Beinn medium kids bike 2021

Islabikes’ began life as a children’s bike specialist, but over the years smaller adult riders have found refuge in the brand as the cycle industry on the whole doesn’t cater well for smaller adults. 

At the upper limit of its Beinn range, Islabikes have the XS, S and M which merges seamlessly with the children’s Beinn range that goes from a 20″ wheel up to 26″.

The larger size Beinn’s starting with an XS and going up to M are suited to riders from 4’8″ up to 5’9″. 

The Beinn Medium is suitable for a height of 164-174cm and a inside leg range of 75-80cm. 

The above is a selection of the largest available bikes from some of the brands we know and love here at Cycle Sprog.  But we're all about kids bikes, and know there must be other options out there (which we're keen to find out about as our own Cycle Sprog's reach the teenage years).

We'd love to hear your other recommendations for teenagers and smaller riders, so we can expand our recommendations. Let us know in the comments!

Reader recommendations for bikes for teenagers and small adults

Thank you to everyone who has left messages on social media for us since we published this article.  Here's a selection of the comments we've received:

"Squish 26, 15 inch frame is a good fit for my 5ft 4 daughter 11yr old.   My now 15 year old daughter has been riding a small adult ridgeback bike since she was a petite 11yr old"  Anna  (See also secondhand Adult Ridgeback bikes)

My 12 year old recently got a Ridgeback MX2 26. I’m 5’2 and could ride it. It’s also a lot lighter than my specialized hybrid." Coral

"The Vitus Nucleus is a good bet - I did >6,000km on mine.    Also, as a “simple/robust bike for riding to school/messing about with friends” don’t discount a BMX. They are not great for riding big distances, but are cheap, robust and cool. "  Lewis

bikes for teenagers and small adults
teenagers riding bikes - bikes for small adults and teens


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