For any biker, the prospect of offspring following in your footsteps is likely to fill you with pride and dread in equal measure. However, inevitably, their first steps are likely to be on dirt bikes (if they fall off, which they will, generally dirt is easier-going than asphalt). The range of options means that you can choose either electric or good old petrol motivation, as well as something easy to ride and get the hang of, while there is also a route for them to move onwards as their skills and experience develop.
One of the earliest choices to make will be, in regards to dirt bikes, do you (they) want a motocross-style bike or a trials-style?
Motocross is the more common style, is all about speed and if they follow that route, then they will start to learn balance and higher-speed handling. However, trials is more about balance and control and so, while sometimes a slower pace, they will still learn vital skills for later on.
Should I buy an electric or petrol kids' bike?
There is a growing range of electric motorcycles coming on, particularly for younger riders in both motocross and trials styles. There are bikes from a range of manufacturers, including some of the big names, as well as smaller ones that have been produced to a budget. A cheaper model can be useful as a gauge of whether children are likely to take to riding before you make a significant investment in a more advanced bike.
When it comes to engines, electric bikes are quieter, less smelly with no hot parts to get burned on and can be more progressive on the throttle, but batteries can be short-lived. Petrol bikes just need petrol (and probably some two-stroke oil as well) and they’re ready to go.
The bigger you go, the more extreme bikes can get. That’s not to say they’re all full-on sliding, screaming monsters – you can choose from a more-relaxed bike to continue developing skills on - but the main manufacturers will all have a competition-ready machine for youngsters who want to go racing.
Our favourite kidsu2019 motorcycles
This tiny motocross-style bike uses a 49cc pull-start engine with a proper twist-grip throttle and an automatic transmission to give kids from around six years of age a feeling for their first bike. It's an inexpensive route into motorcycling yet the Zipper uses a rear monoshock and telescopic front forks and disc brakes front and rear. It comes with grippy off-road-style tyres on ten-inch wheels and an emergency-stop cord just in case. Seat height: 620mm
Another MX-style dirt bike, this one uses a 1000W (1.3hp) electric motor with a two-speed transmission and the manufacturer states a maximum speed of 18 or 22mph. Charge time is quoted as 2-3 hours and it comes with chunky off-road-style tyres on ten-inch wheels. It uses a twist-grip throttle with an integrated battery charge indicator and rubberised brake levers for the front and rear brakes. Seat height: 610mm
Editor's Pick: We've tested this product and would spend our own money on itThis 50cc bike from Yamaha uses the same technology as the manufacturer's larger bikes, with a single-cylinder 50cc two-stroke engine paired with a fully automatic transmission for early riders. It uses handlebar-mounted brake levers for front and rear brakes and is both lightweight and rugged enough to withstand the rigours of a rider's first steps. It uses a separate two-stoke-oil tank so you just fill it and the fuel tank and they're ready to go. This was my son's first bike and brings back fond memories. Seat height: 475mm
The CRF50F is the smallest of Honda's CRF off-road series and is the brand's longest-running model in the range. It uses a 50cc two-stroke engine and a clutch-less three-speed manual gearbox so riders start to appreciate the workings of a 'proper' motorbike. It also has a foot pedal for the rear brake for the same reason, drum brakes front and rear for consistent performance wet and dry and chain transmission. Seat height: 548mm
Aimed at younger riders, aged from 5-7, the 16.0 is Oset's electric starter trials-style bike. It uses an 800W electric motor and adjustable front telescopic forks and rear shock. The brakes use hydraulic disc operation at both ends and the components are formed in alloy to keep the weight down. It wears 16-inch wheels and specifically-developed tyres and there's a magnetic cut-out safety lanyard on the bike, as well as a parental master key. Seat height: 480mm
Although it's small, the Husqvarna TC 50 Mini is a serious piece of kit – and a serious price too. It's a proper small motocross bike, using a 50cc single-cylinder engine which can be limited (limited!) to 5.5bhp if necessary. It has an automatic clutch and gearbox to allow the rider to concentrate on developing their skills and features upside-down front forks and a direct-action rear shock. Brakes are hydraulic operation on wavey discs front and rear with foot pedal operation. Seat height: 558mm
A very similar bike to the Husqvarna (they are siblings, after all), the SX is the larger version of the smaller 50cc bike for kids aged four to ten years of age. It's a bit more serious than even the Husqvarna, with essential the same 50cc engine, automatic transmission though with adjustable clutch characteristics. It too uses WP suspension with the front preload adjustable via air pressure and the rear has adjustable preload and damping as well. Seat height: 684mm
Essentially an electric version of the 50 SX, the SX-E is fitted with a 5kW/7bhp electric motor that delivers a smooth and linear output. The front suspension uses the air spring from its petrol sibling and then rear is also fully adjustable. Hydraulic disc brakes are fitted front and rear and there are six rider modes to tailor the power characteristics and the battery lasts between 25 minutes and two hours, depending on how fast the rider is going. Seat height: 665mm
The larger Honda offers a step up from the CRF50 but retains the easy-going nature of the smaller bike to allow riders to further develop their skills, including using a four-speed manual gearbox and clutch. Aimed at riders aged 10 and above, it has a 9bhp single-cylinder four-stroke engine for plenty of bottom-end grunt and it's paired with telescopic forks and a gas rear shock. With proper brakes, it forms an excellent bridging point between starter bikes and the more extreme, competition-inspired variety should riders wish to go further. Seat height: 740mm
OK, by this point we're out of kids and into youth territory and knocking on the door of full-on competition. The YZ85 uses a race-inspired 85cc two-stroke with the Yamaha Power Valve System to produce exceptional power. It's coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox and uses fully-adjustable KYB front suspension with monocross rear suspension. This is a serious bike for serious riders. Seat height: 904mm