Saturday, June 13, 2015

Bikes for your young riders

I follow several bicycle-related, local blogs online and it seems that the author of one of them has moved to Northern Ireland where she can enjoy a perfect summer weather, wearing sweaters and tweed coats. Meanwhile, here in Boston, with outside temperature around 90F (32C) I wonder how many more layers of clothing I can remove without being accused of indecent exposure.

But sunny weather makes kids happy so I try to include my two little gangsters in any bicycle-ran errands whenever possible. Junior is 4 now and I am trying to teach him the whole biking thing but adoption rate seems very slow. Being a cautious kid he's just not that interested in trying on his own. Perhaps his time will come later. His little devil sister is much more eager to explore all the dangers of this world and I have a feeling she will be the first one to ride her own bike. For now, both of them love riding with me on big Eddie.
All this doesn't mean that I'm not trying to find the best future bike for my kids. Even if they are too young or not interested, it's still good to check what's on market. Fortunately, the situation has improved dramatically over the last years. We now have more options of quality kids bikes with new ones popping out each year.

That's good, because so far most children's bicycles were either BMX or some crappy and heavy pseudo-MTBs with really weird geometry. Also, too often, in my opinion, bicycles for youngest kids come with suspension forks and too many gears. Simplicity usually does the trick so let's not make bikes for 6-year olds look like miniature downhill machines, shall we?
A fairly typical bike for little kids. In order to ride this thing they would either have to lean back or have really short arms.

First of all, it's good to see the biggest manufacturers to come up with some new designs that may actually work quite well. For example, Trek sells Superfly 16 and Superfly 20 and both seem to be designed much better than an ordinary Walmart bike. Basic chainguards, better-suited sitting positions and aluminum frames should account for a stress-free riding.

But then I keep finding more and more examples of really well-thought children bicycles coming usually from new, small, family-run businesses. The biggest one of them is probably Islabikes. They have many models of lightweight and well-designed bicycles such as Cnoc 16 ($310) that comes with aluminum frame, lightweight wheels and fully-enclosed chainguard.

Another new player in this market is Cleary Bikes. They offer only a few basic models and, like Hedgehog 16, they are built from steel and as single-speed only. Interestingly, these little buggers have internal cable routing! Price is $295 for Hedgehog and $250 for a smaller Gecko.

Recently, we have also seen something new in this market coming from Linus - a classic-looking Lil Roadster (or Lil Dutchi for girls). For $290 your kid can roll around on a bicycle that resembles daddy's old Schwinn. You may question whether it's worth spending nearly $300 on a steel single-speed bike but this is one of very few that clearly doesn't have a mountain bike heritage, comes with fenders (even though they seem a bit short), bell and an optional rear rack. How many other children bicycles look like Lil Roadster? None, I think.

If you want to be even more original, how about a tiny cargo bike for your kids? You can have one from Republic for $350. It looks like a miniature Christiania bicycle and although its usability may be questionable since the box can hold only up to 10lbs (So no carrying another kid in it. Sorry.), you have to admit that it does look damn cute.
 Miniature cargo bike from Republic.

That's not all. There are more interesting kids bikes on Kickstarter. Priority wants to be a new player on this market with Priority Start - a bicycle with some interesting features such as aluminum frame, belt drive and solid tires. I don't think I'm sold on non-pneumatic tires idea but belt drive in kids bike makes a lot of sense. No more greasy pants and virtually no maintenance required.
Priority Start - a bicycle with solid wheel and a belt drive.

The second one you can find on Kickstarted is The Revo ($260 with discount) from Pello Bikes. It looks really good, I have to say. Aluminum frame with fender eyelets and low weight is a good start. Add a chainguard and we may have a winner.
The Revo from Pello Bikes.

Interestingly, the main motivation of all designers behind those Kickstarter bicycles is to build one with lower weight than an oridinary Walmart bike. That's not surprising given how much a tiny kids bike can weigh. And even though BikeSnob says that "children should not be exposed to weight weenie-ism at such an early age", it's great to see so many higher quality options showing up.

So far it looks like all of these bicycles are priced around $300. It may seem expensive, compared to Walmart's $129 options but in terms of build and ride quality, I'm sure they come from two different worlds. On the other hand, $300 is probably not that much for something our kids will use for a few years and will make them want more. It equals 2 sets of high quality tires or 2 leather Brooks saddles or just 1 Rapha jacket.

It is important for the first bike to be the right one and not discourage our little ones from bicycling by anchor weight or uncomfortable riding position.

Oh, and one more thing. If you happen to have way too much money you can always go full custom. How about a 14.3lbs (6.5kg) bike with a titanium frame, carbon fork, Chris King headset, hydraulic disc brakes and Tune hubs? It can be done. Just don't expect this one to cost $300 (More like $3000 is probably a good guess).
Skyde 246 - a titanium youth bicycle for those who already have everything.


  1. Thanks so much for this post!

  2. Thank you!
    Rony from SKYDE Titanium Bicycles! ;)

  3. Thank you!
    Rony from SKYDE Titanium Bicycles! ;)