As riders, we like to obsess over every component on our bikes from the groupset to the water bottles. We want the latest and shiniest things on our bikes.
Countless hours are lost researching the best tires to fit on our wheels to make us go faster, or ride more comfortably, or prevent punctures.
Why should we not pour the same dedication into kids’ bikes? Here we take a look at kids’ bike tires and how to choose the right ones to take their bikes to the next level.
Best Bike Tires For Kids Bikes Reviewed
12-inch Bike Tires
Bontrager Dialed – Kids will love the tic-tac-toe pattern on the tire, adults will love the durability of this tire. Smooth-rolling on the sidewalk with plenty of grip to give kids confidence. 12-inch x 1.7-inch
Continental Ride Tour – The extra puncture protection should mean less time patching tubes and more time riding. Designed for rolling along roads but has enough tread to tackle some gravel-riding. 12-inch x 2.5-inch
Kenda K-50 – Great value all-terrain tire that is just at home on pavement and dirt tracks. Some kids will love the white option to stand out amongst their friends. 12-inch x 2.25-inch
14-inch Bike Tires
Schwalbe Marathon Racer – Great tire for everyday riding on the streets with added puncture protection. 14-inch x 1.375-inch
Kenda Bicycle Street – Great value all-terrain tire with a relatively thin tread profile. 14-inch x 2-inch
Alta Duro – Another great value 14-inch tire that is full of lumpy tread for kids that like nothing more than tearing up muddy trails. 14-inch x 2.125-inch
16-inch Bike Tires
Schwalbe Marathon Racer – Same as the Marathon Racer above, but the 14-inch version. Awesome everyday tire. 16-inch x 1.375-inch
Kenda Street – This might be a basic tire for tackling some light off-road sections but you get great value for money and great tread life. 16-inch x 3.5-inch
20-inch Bike Tires
Schwalbe Marathon Racer Clincher – Lightweight and fast clincher style tire. It comes with Speed Guard puncture protection, Schwalbe’s most effective puncture-proof technology. 20-inch x 1.1-inch
Schwalbe Black Jack – Great value option with plenty of tread to bite when the terrain gets muddy. The low-profile treads don’t hold you back too much on the smooth sidewalk.
Maxxis Creepy Crawler Tire – The small block patterns makes these an excellent choice for the trails and the larger volume is great for comfort. 20-inch x 2.5-inch
24-inch Bike Tires
Continental Ride Tour – The extra puncture protection should mean less time patching tubes and more time riding. Designed for rolling along roads but has enough tread to tackle some gravel-riding. 24-inch x 1.75-inch
Goodyear Folding Bead Mountain Bike Tire – The flexible bead makes it much easier to get on and off the rim and the sidewalls are strong enough to withstand most of the abuse kids can throw at it. 24-inch x 2.125-inch
Schwalbe Black Jack – Available also in a 24-inch version with the same low rolling-resistance thread pattern. 24-inch x 1.9-inch & 2.1-inch
How To Choose Tires For Kids’ Bikes
If you are simply replacing or upgrading an old tire on your kid’s bike, the easiest way to find out the right size is to read the dimensions of the sidewall of the old tire. If there are none or they have worn away then it is time to get the tape measure out.
Measure the diameter of the wheel to get the right size or you can take it to a local bike shop for some assistance.
The width of the tire comes down to preference and the type of riding your kid loves.
If they like to get muddy on trails then look for a wider tire. They offer more grip, especially on loose, muddy terrain. The greater volume improves comfort since they can be run at lower pressures and there is less chance of pinch-flat.
For biking to school or around the block, the lower rolling resistance and weight of thinner tires are more efficient and ultimately more fun. The main drawback to skinnier tires is a lack of grip on rougher terrain and they don’t offer as comfortable a ride as wider tires.
If you do opt for wider tires, be sure to check that the forks and brakes, particularly if the bike uses rim brakes instead of disc brakes, on your kid’s bike can handle it.
When it comes to tread patterns, there is really no comparison between bike tires and car tires. On a bike tire, it is the rubber compound and the way it interacts with the surface that provides the grip.
Car tire tread is designed primarily to prevent water from building up which could lead to aquaplaning. We don’t tend to reach these speeds on bikes so this is much less of a worry.
In a lot of ways, tread patterns and knobbly tires are nothing more than a marketing trick to sell subtly different types of tires. With that said, they do serve a purpose when the trails get loose and muddy and help to dig into the ground by increasing the contact surface area.
Mountain bikers spent a lot of time discussing tread patterns to help them stay upright on the trails. If your kid loves riding off-road, and what kid doesn’t, then look for a tire with a knobbly tread profile.
The downside is that a bold tread pattern feels slow and sluggish on smoother roads and would not be ideal if your child uses their bike as transport to get them to school and back everyday.
If your kid does most of their riding around the block or uses their bike to get to school, then a slick tire is much more efficient. For a kid, this translates as more fun to ride and a lot less tiring on the legs.
Tires Vs Tubes
The tire itself is useless without the inner tube that sits inside it and holds the air.
Inner tubes are sold separately and come in different sizes to fit different combinations of wheel and tire sizes. Unless there is also significant damage to the tire itself, fixing a puncture is simply a case of either replacing the inner tube or patching the inner tube.
It is a good idea to have some spare inner tubes in the garage for when your kid has an inevitable puncture. Children and regular punctures are a fact of life but having a small supply means you can get them back out riding with their friends. You will become an expert at fixing punctures.
Once they are back out riding you can patch the punctured inner tube, ready to be used again when they come running to you with another puncture.
As the name implies, tubeless tires do away with the need for a separate inner tube and the tire itself creates the airtight seal.
They are the de facto tire for the pro-peloton thanks to their superior puncture protection and improved rolling resistance since they can be run at lower pressures.
This comes at a price and they are more expensive than regular bike tires and you need to ensure that the wheels on your kid’s bike are tubeless-ready. Fitting tubeless tires are also more time-consuming but this is usually compensated with less time fixing punctures.
Unless your kid is starting to get involved in racing and wants the extra performance, standard tires with inner tubes are more cost-effective and practical.
As adult riders, we know from experience what brands are good and what brands will fall apart immediately.
If you would avoid a certain tire brand for your own machine then it stands to reason that you should do the same for your kid’s bike. Look for a well-known tire brand and chances are you won’t go wrong.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Pump Up A Kids Bike Tire?
Most kids’ bike tires come with a Schrader valve for pumping air in. This is the same type of valve found on most car tires and is compatible with most pumps.
Simply remove the dust cap (but don’t lose it), attach the head of your pump, and pump it to the recommended pressure written on the sidewall of the tire.
Replace the dust cap as this actually forms a secondary seal on the valve.
Video: How To Pump Kids’ Bike Tires
What PSI Should A Child’s Bike Be?
Generally, between 35 and 45psi is a good range for tire pressure. Never exceed the maximum pressure indicated on the tire sidewall. Check the pressure every so often to make sure it has not lost too much air.
How Long Will Kids’ Bicycle Tires Last?
How long is a piece of string? It will depend on how often they are ridden and over what sort of terrain. In general, you should expect to get between 1000 and 3000 miles out of a tire. Look for tell-tale signs of wear and keep an eye on the wear-indicators if your kid’s tire has them.
What Size Tube For My Kid’s Bike?
When buying inner tubes you need to match the diameter and width of your wheel. The easiest way to do this is to look at the digits on the sidewall of the tire. Select an inner tube where the range of widths overlaps the width of the tire.
Once you figure out the type of riding your kid loves, you should be able to narrow down the choice of tire. For blasting around the neighborhood, a slick tire will be more fun and faster (and kids like to go fast).
Some kids a drawn like a magnet to mud and want to throw their bikes down challenging trails. If this is your kid then you need to make sure that their tires are up to the task. Look for an all-terrain tire with plenty of width and tread.
Upgrading tires is one of the best upgrades you can make to a bike. We know it as adults so why should kids miss out. Stick to the main brands and you won’t go wrong.