The Ultimate Guide to Kids Bicycle Tires

Kids Bicycle Tires

Pick up any bike mag, and you’ll find at least one article or review of bike tires.  Indeed, adult cyclists are constantly discussing the pros and cons of different tires – their weight, size, and tread.  Kids, on the other hand, generally have to make due with whatever tire came on their bicycle.
At some point as a parent, however, you’re probably going to need to buy your kiddo a set of new tires.  You might be the kind of parent that enjoys upgrading your child’s bike, or maybe your kiddo has simply worn thru the tires that came stock on their bike.  Whenever that day comes, you’ll discover that it is somewhat tricky to find good replacement tires for kids bikes.  Stop by your local bike shop and ask for 16″ mountain bike tires, and they will probably raise an eyebrow and leave you empty handed.
To save you lots of time searching, we’ve compiled a list of the best bicycle tires for kids in every size range.  You’ll note that the options are pretty limited in smaller sizes, and improve for bigger wheels.

How to Choose

A good rule of thumb is to buy tires from the same brands you would buy adult tires from.  If you don’t know what those brands are, don’t worry, we’ve picked good tires for you here.  You’ll also note that in the smaller sizes, Kenda definitely has a corner on the market which is actually a good thing since they make high-quality tires.
For young kids, particularly in the 12″ to 14″ size range, you want to look for an all-terrain tire that can be ridden on-road and off.  Young kids love to ride their bikes wherever they may take them – on grass, over gravel, thru the mud, etc.  For slightly older kids, you may continue to pick an all-terrain tire, or if your child has shown an interest in a specific type of riding — mountain biking, road bike, cyclocross, etc — you’ll want a tire with a tread specific to that discipline.
Bicycle tires are sold individually, so if you need a set, buy two.  Also, it is important to note, that this list is for the outer bicycle tire.  If you simply have a flat tire, you need to replace only the inner bicycle tube.  (In smaller sizes, these are easiest to find on Amazon.com.  Bigger sizes are more easily found at your local bike shop).
If you are unsure which size tire you need, you have three options: (1) Look on the sidewall of the current tire, it should be printed there.  (2) Get out your measuring tape and measure your child’s wheels, or (3) take it to your local bike shop and ask for help.  For each of the tires below, I’ve listed the wheel size (the first number) and the width/fatness (the second number).  Be more concerned with the first number than the latter.  As for tire width, the more off-road, trail riding your child is going to be doing, the fatter the tire you want.  If they are biking to school or riding solely on pavement, you want a skinnier tire.

12″ Bicycle Tires

All-Terrain:

  • Kenda K50 – This is a good all-terrain tire that can be used on pavement, dirt, or a the BMX track.  12.5 X 2.25.

Slick:

  • Kenda K124 – A well-made tire with low-profile tread.  Works best for kids that will be riding predominately on pavement.  12.5 x 2.25
  • Goodyear 12″ – This is a decent tire, but I don’t love slicks for kids this little.  12.5 x 2.25.

14″ Bicycle Tires

All-Terrain:

  • Kenda 103 – Small tread, good for riding on pavement and hard-pack dirt.  Go for a bigger tread if doing much off-road riding.  14×1.75
  • Kenda K50 – This is a good all-terrain tire that can be used on pavement, dirt, or a the BMX track.  14 X 1.25
  • Kenda Small Block Eight (K1047) – This is one of my favorite tires as an adult.  If you have a child that likes mountain biking, go with this one.

Slick:

  • Goodyear 14″ Tire – This is a decent tire, but I don’t love slicks for kids this little.  14 x 2.25.

16″ Bicycle Tires

All-Terrain

  • Kenda K50 – This is a good all-terrain tire that can be used on pavement, dirt, or a the BMX track.  14 X 1.25
  • Kenda Small Block Eight (K1047) – This is one of my favorite tires as an adult.  If you have a child that likes mountain biking, go with this one.
  • Schwable Blackjack – A good budget option if you are looking for something that wont break the bank. 16x 1.9

Slick

  • Maxxis Hookworm – Designed for use at the skate park, this tire will work equally well for riding to school.  16 x 1.95
  • Kenda K123 – Another “street” BMX tire, this one has a bit more tread and is great for commuting around town and even hitting the gravel bike path.  16 x 1.75
  • Kenda K-909A – These are designed for strollers and bike trailers, but work well for bikes in a pinch.  16 x 1.75

20″ Bicycle Tires

Slick:

  • Schwalbe Marathon – This tire is lightly treaded and perfect for biking to school and around town.  20 x 1.75
  • Maxxis Hookworm –  Designed for use at the skate park, this tire will work equally well for riding to school.  20 x 1.95
  • Michelin Protek Urban – Great for commuting, the Protek performs well in wet conditions and low light thanks to the reflective stip on its sidewalls.  20 x 1.50
  • Kenda K126 -Fast-rolling, high-quality slick tire.  20 x 1.75
  • Continental Ride Tour – A slick tire with some decent tread. 20 x 1.75

Road

  • Schwalbe Durano – Here’s a hard-to-find 20″ road tire.  Same high quality as the 700cc Durano.  20 x 1.1
  • Continental Contact II – Good fast-rolling tire at a low price.  20 x 1.75.
  • Schwalbe Kojak – A nice lightweight tire with wire bead.  20 x 1.35

All-Terrain

  • Maxxis Torch – The torch is my top pick for kids who are going to ride both paved and dirt paths.  20 x 1.75 or 20 x 1.95
  • Kenda K50 –  This is a good all-terrain tire that can be used on pavement, dirt, or a the BMX track.  20 x 1.75
  • Maxxis Holy Roller – A BMX tire that works well for biking to school and for light off-road riding.  20 x 1.95 or 20 x 2.2

Mountain Bike

  • Maxxis Maxx Daddy – Maxxis markets these as a BMX tire, but I know a bunch of little rippers that use them on their mountain bikes.  A top pick.  20 x 2.0
  • Maxxis Creepy Crawler – A trials tire but I like them for the mountain bike thanks to the small block pattern and larger volume.  20 x 2.0 or 20 x 2.5
  • Kenda K-Rad – This is a tubeless compatible tire, so if you can convert your kiddos 20″ wheels, it is a great choice.  20 x 1.95 or 20 x 2.125
  • Kenda Small Block Eight – This is one of my favorite tires as an adult.  If you have a child that likes mountain biking, go with this one.  20 x 2.1
  • Odyssey Aaron Ross V2 – This is a BMX tire that works just as well for pedaling on around town or at the pump track.  20 x 2.3 or 20 x 2.4.
  • Schwable Blackjack – A good budget option if you are looking for something that wont break the bank.  20 x 1.9

24″ Bicycle Tires

All-Terrain:

  • Kenda K1052 Kranium – If you are looking for a tire that will let you do it all on one bike, check out the Kranium.  20 x 2.3
  • Kenda K905 –K-Rad This is a tubeless compatible tire, so if you can convert your kiddos 24″ wheels, it is a great choice.  24 x 1.95 or 24 x 2.3
  • Kenda K52 – A street BMX tire that works well for its intended purpose, or for all-around riding.  24 x 1.75
  • Maxxis Holy Roller – A BMX tire that works well for biking to school and for light off-road riding.  24 x 1.85
  • Kenda K50 – This is a good all-terrain tire that can be used on pavement, dirt, or a the BMX track.  24 x 2.125

Mountain Bike:

  • Maxxis Sniper – A top-notch tire intended for little mountain bikers.  24 x 2.0
  • Schwalbe Tabletop – A lightweight tire with a little extra volume.  24 x 2.25
  • Kenda Small Block Eight – This is one of my favorite tires as an adult.  Glad they make it in smaller sizes.  24 x 2.1
  • Schwable Blackjack – A good budget option if you are looking for something that wont break the bank.  24 x 2.1

Slick:

  • Kenda K40- A great tire if your child is going to be doing a lot of riding around town.  24 x 1.4
  • Continental Ride Tour – A slick tire with some decent tread. 20 x 1.75

Kristen

Kristen is a project manager and writer. She spends all her free time mountain biking with her family on the trails in Salt Lake City and Park City, UT.

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