Shortly before Christmas we were at The Hub, where I was looking at bikes, YET AGAIN (the employees have been very patient and helpful, but I can only imagine the amount of eye rolling that happens when they see me headed into the shop for the eleventy-billionth time).
Anyhow, on this visit, Matthew and G were with me, and after a bit, G headed over to the kid’s bicycles and hopped on a 16″ bike (with training wheels). I knew he’d been working on pedaling his tricycle (which has been at my MIL’s house for the past few months), but I was unaware it was a fully acquired skill.
He needed just a bit of coaching on pedaling forward, not backward (to avoid the coaster brake), but within two minutes, he was riding that thing all around the shop, including some pretty decent steering maneuvers.
If that wasn’t enough to warm this bicycle mama’s heart, he started singing, “Bicycle boy, bicycle boy,” (an original song) while riding. Now, I’m really hoping to find a pre-loved, bike-store bike for him, but darn if it wasn’t tempting to just drop the money on a new bike then and there.
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t get just any bike-store quality bike, I’d go with an Islabike (featured over at Tiny Helmets Big Bikes), which many consider the cream of the crop, due to having the lowest weight of almost any kid’s bike and having all components nicely scaled for little people.* Of course, you pay top dollar for that (~ $400 for an Isla compared to ~$200 for a kid’s Giant or Trek), and, despite knowing the value of a good bike, I can’t see spending that amount of money on a bicycle for a three-and-a-half year-old!
Unfortunately, if we’re set on bike-store quality, this may end up being a new purchase, as almost two months of CL searching has yielded next to nothing in the “higher quality” department. CL has a plethora of discount store bikes, which, for now, for this first bike that he’ll outgrow in two years, is pretty tempting.
Matthew’s really pushing to get something sooner rather than later, and I don’t want to delay and miss out on G’s enthusiasm.**
*See Hum of the City’s post on their kids’ bikes, including the 16″ Spawn Banshee, which seems similar to the Islabikes (similar price, too, though).
**No joke I saw a CL ad for a 16″ [wheel size] bike (which means pretty small bike/pretty young kid) that said, “Like new condition. Kid would rather play video games.” And I’m thinking, “Really??? Really?!? As a parent, do you not have some control over this situation?” I’m not worried about G choosing screen time over a bike because in this house, it really isn’t an option.
Is this anywhere near you: http://stlouis.craigslist.org/bik/4874316351.html ? The Hot Rocks are the best (relatively) inexpensive 16″ bikes
Thanks for the lead! It’d be a bit of a drive, but certainly within reason, especially if I avoid doing it in rush hour traffic. I like the idea of a hand brake, but most 16″ bikes that have hand brakes ALSO have coaster brakes, which just seems confusing, so maybe I should compromise on this. But I do also like the idea of a chain guard (whether metal or plastic) on a kid’s bike, which this lacks. Not sure if there’s an easy option for adding one . . . .
You could ask your local bike shop if they have a spare chain guard around that would fit or if they could order one. Another alternative would be to ask Specialized if they can supply a replacement, since the bike originally came with one. Regarding the brakes, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has two sets of “bike” standards:
(1) “Sidewalk” bikes (generally 20″ and smaller, but it’s based on a maximum seat high of 25″). This is a bit of an over-simplification, but the primary safety standards these must meet are: (a) do they have a coaster brake; and (b) can they be dropped from a height of 1 foot with a 40-lb weight attached and not have the frame fracture?
(2) “Bikes” that have to be meet a wide range of standards for stopping distance, braking force, wheel strength, cable routing, fork and frame strength, etc, including a road test with a 150-lb rider.
Most manufacturers don’t want to go through the safety testing process for kid’s bikes, so they just throw a coaster brake on and treat it as a sidewalk bike. Cleary, Woom, and Spawn make the only 14″ or 16″ bikes available in the U.S. without coaster brakes. It is possible to retrofit a hand-brake, but the difficulty is finding a kid-sized brake lever that is easy to actuate. For what it is worth, both of my kids learned on bikes that only had a coaster brake and easily moved to bikes with just hand brakes (in my daughter’s case, from her 16″ Hot Rock to a 20″ Islabike, in my son’s case, from a 12″ Hot Rock to a 16″ Cleary bike).
I bought my custom Co-Motion through the Hub. My story may be apocryphal, but I seem to recall that somebody at Co-Motion made the observation that, while mine was not the most expensive tandem built by the company, it might have won the award for longest time between initial order and delivered machine–I presume because of the many email queries I generated.
Nonetheless, I greatly benefited from the patience of the folks at the Hub and Co-Motion and wouldn’t hesitate at making an impulse purchase from either party.
Yes, we love The Hub 🙂 But from an environmental perspective (as well as a frugal living one), I love the idea of buying used, especially for something that we’ll only use for a couple of years.
I haven’t bought used in a while, but I’ve picked up a couple of bikes free. In my case, free means I’m going to spend THIS much getting back on the road. And both times, THIS was gladly spent. So, used, yes. Frugal? I’m still working on that one.
Also, in my opinion, except for the Specialized Hot Rocks (and the more expensive Cleary Bikes, Spawn Cycles, Islabikes and Woom bikes), in the 12″ and 16″ size there is very little that differentiates a “bike store quality” bike from a cheap department store bike. Our daughter’s first bike was a Novara 12″ and it was a brick and she hated riding it. Her second bike was a 16″ Trek that was a brick with a high center of gravity thanks to really high handlebars and a short wheelbase and she hated riding it. Her third bike was a 16″ Hot Rock and she went from not wanting to even ride around the block to wanting to ride all over town. In our case, the combination of much lighter weight and better geometry was what made the difference, not that the bike had a metal chainguard rather than a plastic one (which is the chief differentiating factor, as far as I can tell, between a 12″ Target bike and a “bike store” bike).
I have no advice to offer on kids bikes, but I’m with Matthew – don’t wait! Partly because you don’t want to miss the enthusiastic moment, and partly because they grow sooooo fast at that age that whatever you get will most likely be outgrown fairly quickly – so there will be plenty of opportunities to figure out what works and what doesn’t.