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The Ultimate Guide to Kids Bicycle Tires

Kenda Tires on the Alpha Three

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

Brands

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.

Tread

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.  

Woom 2 Kenda Tires

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

Tires Vs Tubes

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).

Tire Sizes

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.

Tubeless-Ready

Tubeless-ready tires are designed to be used without tubes. This cuts down on the number of flats your child will get. (We personally think all tires should be tubeless!).

That said, you have to have tubeless-compatible wheels to run tubeless tires AND you have to be able to find tubeless tires. You’ll notice on the list below, tubeless options are few and are limited to larger tires and are primarily MTB tires.


12″ Bicycle Tires

All-Terrain:

  • Kenda K50 – This is a good all-terrain tire that can be used on pavement, dirt, or at the BMX track.  12.5 X 2.25.
  • Schwalbe Black Jack – Plenty of traction and reflective sidewalls make this a good pick for 12″ pedal or balance bikes. 12x 1.9

Slick:

  • Kenda K125 – A well-made tire with low-profile tread.  Works best for kids that will be riding predominately on pavement.  12.5 x 2.25
  • Kenda Kontact – Made as a racing BMX tire, this one has minimal tread but maintains traction on dirt and gravel.
  • 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

MTB

  • Innova 14″ – A good tire for hard-charging kids, has plenty of tread and volume. 14×2.1

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 riding fast, both on and off-road, go with this one.
    14 x 1.5

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

MTB

  • Spawn Loamstar 16 – Soft rubber, aggressive tread. Expensive to ship to U.S. 16×1.9
  • Innova MTB 16 – A good tire for hard-charging kids, has plenty of tread and volume. 16×2.1

All-Terrain

  • Kenda Small Block Eight (K1047) – This is one of my favorite tires as an adult.  If you have a child that likes riding fast, on-road and off, go with this one. 16 x 1.5
  • Schwable Blackjack – A good budget option if you are looking for something that won’t break the bank. 16x 1.9

Slick

  • 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
  • Continental Ride Tour – A slick tire with some decent tread. 16 x 1.75

20″ Bicycle Tires

MTB

  • Brood Maxtion – Our favorite 20″ MTB tire. Tubeless compatible. Unfortunately, it’s expensive to ship to the U.S. 20×2.2
  • Vee Crown Gem 20 – Tubeless-ready. Huge volume. 20×2.8
  • 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 Small Block Eight – This is one of my favorite tires as an adult.  If you have a child that likes to ride fast, on or off-road, go with this one.  20 x 2.1

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
  • 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
  • Schwable Blackjack – A good budget option if you are looking for something that won’t break the bank.  20 x 1.9
  • Kenda K-Rad – High-volume, fast-rolling checkerboard design.  20 x 1.95 or 20 x 2.1

24″ Bicycle Tires

MTB

All-Terrain:

  • Kenda K-Rad – High-volume, fast-rolling checkerboard design.  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
  • 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

Cyclocross

11 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Kids Bicycle Tires”

  1. What about the Specialized Roller Sport which comes in multiple rim sizes? Maxxis now seem to have the Minion in 24 (if you can get it) with descent volume. Schwalbe is showing the Hans Dampf in 24…if you can actually get them…

    • Hi AJ, Yup, this post is a little old. I need to update it. There are a couple of additional good options out there including the ones you mentioned.

  2. Love your site! Want to throw out an alternative for 12″ wheels: Specialized Rhythm Lite – a faster rolling tread than the K50 (“Comp III?”) but with more knobs / gaps than the Kenda Kontact. And true to the name, it’s significantly lighter than either – helpful when a your almost 3 year old’s bike weighs nearly 50% of the rider himself.

  3. What’s your thoughts on the fastest rolling 20″ slick for a trailer? I was even thinking about looking into what the wheelchair guys use?

  4. I inherited a running stroller with 20 x 1.75 tires and I was thinking it might make for a smoother ride if I switched out the tires for something with a lower pressure. Do you think switching in an all terrain or mountain bike tire would make much of a difference?

    • The stroller in question is a Baby Jogger Baby Jogger Single II-20 from ~20 years ago. It is still in extremely good shape I just am trying to update it.

      • A higher volume tire at lower pressure would make at least some difference. Without seeing the rims, I’m not sure exactly how wide you can go, but I would think a 1.9 or 2.0 tire would work. Give it a shot!

  5. I noticed you skipped 18″ for kids. I purchased a redline micro for my son. Size shows 18″ x 1″, skinny and smooth tire. Was looking to swap out to a dirt terrain tire. No luck yet. Lol.

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