For children a road bike is trickier to ride than a flat bar bike and a little perseverance may be required. But supposing you really do have a future Cav or Lucy Garner on your hands, then where do you start?
Kids bikes are measured in wheel size rather than frame size so we're talking about 24" (60cm) wheels for a beginner road bike.
Generally these would be suitable for 8 year-olds with a minimum height of 130 cms although some claim to suit even smaller children. I'd advice patience because children are easily put off if things don't work out straight away. A bad experience with a bike that's too big for them might lead them straight back to the PlayStation.
Starting with the cheapest:
B'Twin Triban junior (£230)
'for children between 125 and 150 cm'
Shimano 7 speed with 'ergonomic' shift levers
Double brake levers for safe braking
Comment: The Triban 3 (£299) adult bike has been picking up very good reviews, so don't be put off by the low price tag necessarily. I'm going to take my six-year- old to try the Triban junior as soon as I get a chance. Will update when that's happened. Bars look a bit big, so we'll see.
Islabikes Luath 24 (£400)
'for children aged 8+'
Shimano/ Tektro/ SRAM 8 speed groupset 11-32 cassette
Dual brake levers
Comment: Light and well made. Islabikes have a great reputation. Buy with confidence and they hold their price well. Notice how the bars are in proportion compared to some of the other bikes.
Dawes Espoir 3000 (£400)
'carefully designed to be a perfect junior road bike.'
Proportional frame, bars & cranks, but not levers?
Comment: On the face of it pretty expensive when compared to the Islabike which is more than 2 Kgs lighter.
Moda Minor 24 (£470)
'Geometry and components chosen to fit a junior rider'
Microshift/ Shimano 18 speed groupset
Comment: My 9 year old tried it but was put off by the fact that his fingers couldn't reach around the brake levers. I saw a boy who had just crashed at the Cycling Weekly Dorking Original Sportive last week because of the brake issue.
Looks cool, but make sure your child tries it properly first.
···UPDATE··· The Moda kids bikes have been re-designed to make them more child friendly i.e. more suitable for smaller hands. Give ´em a try!
Scott Speedster Jr 24 (£499-£579)
'perfect choice for the budding rider looking to make their first step into road racing'
Shimano 16 speed gears
As purchased by 'VeloMom'
Comment: Serious machine, looks great, very light. Quite expensive at full price but good value on sale at £499. Resale value will be high. I think your child would need to be pretty confident to ride this.
Felt F24 (£589)
'Big time performance isn't just for grown-ups anymore'
Microshift/ Shimano groupset
Kids’ bars and levers
Alex Rim wheels
Comment: Again, a very light, nice looking kids road bike with good components. Pretty much as above.
The Grupetto Primavera 24" (£575)
'a perfectly proportioned Road bike for young racers'.
KT Road wheels
'Just over' 9Kgs
Comment: Italian styling, decent weight, good geometry.
At the other end of the spectrum I found this on sale at Amazon:
Viking Boy's Giro D'Italia 24 (£260)
´Viking road bikes heritage was born on the road, today they come fully loaded with the latest components´. - I´ll bet they do.
Comment: All I can find out about this bike is that is has Shimano gears (14 of them). There´s soimething nasty about it.
**LATEST in 2015**
Specialized Allez Junior (£600)
This is for slightly older kids...maybe 11+
´The stiff, light, race-inspired Allez offers great acceleration and handling—perfect for an aspiring racer, keen to get into the sport´.
Microshift R482 short-reach levers, Claris derailleurs, 650mm wheels. Dual brake levers.
Comment: Looks great, couldn´t find a quoted weight, but I lifted it and I´d guess it´s around nine and a bit kilos.
Ideal for someone into the road more than cyclocross perhaps.
Well the old adage might hold true here: You get what you pay for. The Scott and Felt bikes look like scaled down pro-style road bikes and the Luarth 24 is a safe, reliable bet if you want a bike that is sure to be tailor made for a child's proportions. For an older child the Specialized combines the look of a classic road bike with child friendly features.
Dual brake controls might be essential if your child's hands are on the small side to enable safe braking when descending in particular.
At the Dorking Original Sportive I saw a dad with three boys on small size Triban 3s and they, dad told me, love them. So I'm off asap to Decathlon with my boys to try the B'Twin Triban junior and will report back shortly.
Reporting back: Never made it to Decathlon. Bought an Islabike for the 8 year old. They hold their value so well it´s almost like getting a free bike.
My 12 year old is next. I´ve sold his Jamis flat bar, and it´s either the Specialized or the Luath 700L for him (he´s tall for his age).
He tried a Vitus 979 50cm frame with a Shimano 600 groupset, but his hands were too small to reach the brake levers. So dual brakes are still important for him.
I might still get down to Decathlon to check the alternatives, as their reputation continues to improve.