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Need a transportation bike for your kid? Good options are out there

Posted by on December 8th, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Tour de Ladd-9.jpg
Most kids’ bikes available in the US,
like these spotted at Tour de Ladd this fall,
aren’t fitted out for city riding.
(Photo © J. Maus)

After an exhaustive search for a good city bike for my son, I have concluded that kids bikes in general are in a sorry state. Either they are poorly constructed and will last only a year or two or they are overengineered and just not equipped for a city-riding kid.

By the looks of the offerings on the US market, it appears bike manufacturers think that kids mostly go off road and need mountain-type bikes, or that all kids need is a way to cruise around their cul-du-sac with no gears and just foot brakes.

“He’s not careening down the side of a mountain — he is getting around by bike in Portland like many other civilized citizens do.”

But my family typically goes by bike year round and in most any weather. My son needs a bike that will get him to school and back with his stuff and not spew a line of wet road goo all over his back. He needs a bike that is comfortable to ride. He’s not careening down the side of a mountain — he is getting around by bike in Portland like many other civilized citizens do.

We wanted to outfit Griffin with a bike that would support his love of riding, a bike that would inspire him and take him not just where he wanted to go but get him there in style.

Here’s a rundown of the hard-to-find features we were we looking for:

    - Upright riding posture
    - The right gear ratio for hills and flats
    - Disc brakes
    - Chain guard
    - Fenders
    - Rear rack
    - Integrated lights

Story continues below

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After an extensive search, I found that there are two viable options for getting a good city bike for your child.

The first, less expensive, option is to find a suitable, basic bike on sale and cobbling together accessories (these can drive up the cost) that fit a child’s bike frame.

A friend gave me the lowdown on how she and her husband put a bike together for her daughter along these lines. They couldn’t find anything out there that came close to what they needed, so they put it together themselves.

The Marin Hidden Canyon

They wanted a bike with 24” wheels and the right gearing to get up and down the Interstate hill to North Portland. No bike was just right, but several came close. They looked at the Gary Fisher PreCaliber, the Specialized Hot Rock and the Marin Hidden Canyon. They finally went with the Marin and found a year-end model on sale. They traded out the knobby tires for city slicks, added lights, fenders, a rear rack, and panniers. Through savvy shopping, they kept the price of the entire set-up down around $300.

One BikePortland reader found a bike for his son at a garage sale for $20, then hit the bins at the Community Cycilng Center and elsewhere for an affordable, practical, and “fast” bike.

Spotted this Batavus kids bike
in Clever Cycles last week.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The second option is to go with a bike that is fully outfitted at a more expensive up front cost, but that will ideally be passed down to a second child or hold its value for resale.

When we started our search, this is what we were after — a bike that came with all the stuff we wanted. We looked at a ton of bike shops in Portland but none offered the all-in-one solution. We even considered getting our son a folding bike. But somehow that just didn’t feel like the right thing (even though from a practicality standpoint it was a brilliant idea).

The closet thing we found was the Trek FX, a good, solid, all-around bike for kids that is new on the market and has just now become available at Bike Gallery. It still didn’t come with all the features we wanted, but it seemed the easiest to build on.

The Gazelle Shark

We were almost ready to put the hammer down and buy it when on a ride home from school we noticed a very cool kid’s bike parked at a local school. It was a Gazelle Shark, imported from Holland.

I had heard about the Gazelle brand from BikePortland’s reports on Interbike and was interested to check them out. I discovered online that Clever Cycles was starting to carry them in Portland.

The one potential downside is that the Sharks are 3-speed bikes. But my son has never dealt with gears at all, and I think this will be a big enough change for him right now. The gears are chosen for varied terrain, and should be fine for our most traveled routes in the city.

It is a spendy bike at $700.00. But it comes with everything — and it’s an investment we think will hold value and give us some options for our younger child who will be needing a bike of her own in a few years as well. Of all the items on our ideal wish list, the only thing it doesn’t have is a bell, but I am sure we can figure that out.

What has been your experience with finding a good city bike for your child?


- A year ago we wrote about the stark difference between the kids’ bikes available in Europe and the United States
- Want to learn more about bicycling with kids, from infancy to independence? Check out the rest of Marion Rice’s Family Biking columns

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Comments
  • Shetha December 8, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Clevercycles was mentioning that a 2nd grader could already use a Brompton. Maybe a new one would be out of the price range but is it conceivable that a used brompton would work for this application?

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  • Doug D December 8, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I got my son a BMX race bike (not a freestyle bike). These are built very light and have excellent clearance for fenders. I wasn’t too panicked about gears but I did want a reasonable geometry and most importantly light weight. With fenders, a front brake and a saddle bag, his bike weighs 16 pounds.
    I prefer a slight forward lean to the riding position and so I had to put a slightly longer stem on the bike to accommodate some swept back bars.
    Suitable race bikes run about $350 used or $500 new and so effectively cost about $150 once the high resale value is factored in. Frame sizes are available to fit small children.

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  • Shane December 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Great post. I thought I was going crazy looking for a daily school commuter for my 8 yr old son. All I could find were bmx/mtn bikes. The gazelle is sharp looking, but I agree that building up/re-purposing an existing bike may be the best option. Thanks again!

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  • Anonymous December 8, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Breezer Freedom, KHS Green.

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  • reuben December 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    while i have never seen one, i’ve read good things about isla bikes: http://www.islabikes.co.uk/

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  • cold worker December 8, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    when looking for a sensible city bike for your kid make sure you also pick up highwater pants, pomade to slick down that cowlick, some orthopedic shoes and whatever else you might think will complete the dork look you’re wanting to impress upon their classmates.

    maybe kids today are different than when i was a kid. i’m only 33 so it’s not like i’m some old timer. but i wanted to ride a bmx bike. my parents had 10 speeds and if i had been given a small 10 speed for me i would have been BUMMED. i rode bmx bikes for transportation up through high school. can you believe it?! without fenders! i was a kid. i gave no shits! unless your child is asking specifically for a commuter with a rack, fenders, mirrors on the handlebars, etc., why do this? get them the bike they will most want to ride, even if you think it’s silly. seems to me that’s how you’d get your kids to be passionate about bikes. worked for me…

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  • mykle December 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    I’ve been there. We bought our daughter a 24″ bike in Germany with all the trimmings, and it was perfect … until it got stolen.

    Now she rides a vintage Raleigh 24″, from the era when upright bikes with fenders and racks were the standard. We found it on Craigslist and got it cheap; it took some fixing up, but now it’s perfect and she loves it. So don’t forget to consider used bikes!

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  • mbsf December 8, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    A friend send me an article about the special saddle/posture needs for boys…
    http://www.junik-hpv.de/html/ergonomie.htm
    The LCI group (http://www.junik-hpv.de/html/ergonomie.htm) has an English translation of this article.

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  • mbsf December 8, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Sorry, wrong url for the LCI group: http://www.junik-hpv.de/html/ergonomie.htm

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  • jj December 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    My oldest shot up like a weed, and within about 3 months was at the upper limit of 24″wheeled frames. We gave her my wife’s townie, and she to genuinely love it.

    My youngest isnt’ the weed her sister is, so she was languishing at the 24″ mark. We gave her two options: new and keep it nice, or used, and create an “artbike”. She is working on plastering the thing with stickers.

    The new route was 315$ but without fenders, lights, rear rack, paniers. The used bike was 79$ plus all the above. No brainer.

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  • Jim F December 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Whatever floats your boat, but you don’t have to overkill it. Our 3rd grader commutes by bike every day. She rides a $150 bike with fenders we bought at Performance. Works just fine. Plus, at school there is no covered bike parking. I wouldn’t want to leave a $700 bike in the rain all winter.

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  • Brad December 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    What happened to kids having fun on bikes? Good lord!

    “Now remember son, a bicycle is a viable transportation option that makes you morally superior to those who do not ride them. Having the proper gearing selection and dynamo lights are essential for your half mile carbon neutral trip to elementary school.”

    “But Dad! All the kids at school laugh at my boring black bike and my neon yello jacket. Can’t I have a cool BMX bike or something?”

    “Son, those kids are stupid cager spawn! Now keep practicing your Dutch language skills for our summer vacation!”

    “But I want to see Disneyland!!!”

    “We’re touring the superior commuter cycling infrastructure and culture of Amsterdam this summer! No more lip from you!!!”

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  • Sarah C December 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    We bought our daughter the Marin with 20 inch wheels – she is small for her age and it was one of the few frames that would fit her in the 2nd grade. She loves it and we got it deeply discounted since it was last year’s model. The problem I am having is finding a rack for it. She desperately wants one so that she can be even more independent and carry her own gear with ease. Anyone have any ideas? Revolver where we bought the bike can’t find one and they called Clever Cycles for ideas and they did not have any.

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  • YOUR-INN.COM December 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    go to GOODS on NE MLK and Stanton or online at http://goodsbmx.com Not exactly commuter bikes, but cool BMX and freestyle bikes for all ages

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  • April December 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Boy, some people got really critical. I’m guessing the kids love the bikes (fenders and all) or they wouldn’t ride them!!

    Also: Three speeds is just fine for most city riding. I rode an older three-speed for over a year when I first started biking to most places, and my boyfriend often rides a three-speed around town as well. They’re also easy to shift and fairly low-maintenance, which are both good on a kid’s bike.

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  • BURR December 8, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    why would a kid need disc brakes on his bike when perfectly good bikes with coaster brakes and V brakes are available?

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  • Marion December 8, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks April, Yes it is amazing how times change and how kids are all different in their tastes, what is cool to one kid is not cool to another etc. I think that can be said for adults too. As a girl, I never identified with the whole BMX thing.. I had a bike very much like the one my son is getting. It was a blue Raleigh with fenders and 3 speeds, it also had an integrated light. I think my parents got it at a garage sale. I loved it. It was also a hand me down from my sister. I tried to find one on craigs list but I think this is the totally wrong season or something.

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  • April December 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    My first two-wheeler was a Strawberry Shortcake bicycle my dad rescued from the dumpster. It was rusted as hell but it had Strawberry Shortcake on it, and that made it just wonderful in my book. After that was a purple huffy with a banana seat and handlebar streamers–loved that bike. I hit seventh grade and I got an orange and turquoise Huffy ten-speed with drop bars. I never rode it in the drops the entire time I owned it–always on the tops with the “suicide” brakes!

    I’m really glad I rode that last ten-speed until late high school, as it had friction shifters. I didn’t know they were supposed to be hard to use, so they weren’t! And now I ride a Miyata that was probably made the same year as that Strawberry Shortcake bike…with friction shifters. :^)

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  • beth h December 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    While I hear the author’s concerns, her decision to spend $700 on a bicycle for her grade-school-aged child already puts her on another planet — or at least in another neighborhood — than where most parents live. (Most *adults* in Portland can’t afford to spend that much on a bicycle used for primary transportation, and a surprsing number can’t even afford the $300 that the author’s friend came up with.)

    There are certainly plenty of bikes out there for a fraction of the cost that will do just as good a job to promote safe and comfortable bicycle-riding at an early age. And since far too many parents are truly struggling to simply feed and clothe their children these days, I’m guessing that not many of them will be able to take this article as seriously as the author likely intended, especially with a $700 punch line.

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  • SAG December 8, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    April – #18

    Last year I sold a Miyata 610 with friction shifters that was the only bike I have ever purchased new (until my son’s bike). I loved that bike, did many, many miles on it. Sad that I sold it – it was a GREAT winter bike, I miss that bike.

    We went to Citibikes for used bikes and then we bought my son a Specialized entry level Mt. Bike. It was inexpensive ($300) and he seems to love it for riding for school.

    My daughter also rides a new Specialized Mt. Bike with 24″ wheels that is getting to small for her. We got it new a year or two ago, she has really liked it.

    Anyone want to buy it? We would need to find another bike for her before I could let it go… but make me an offer.

    Sheilagh

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  • Jeff December 8, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I agree with BURR that disc brakes seem a little silly on a kid’s bike, unless they weigh 150 lbs. and ride singletrack… V-brakes are more than enough for most adult applications, and already have enough stopping power to hurl kids over the bars!

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  • Brad December 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    The $700 kid’s bike is no different than the parent who buys a $50,000 luxury SUV to shuttle the kids when a Prius or Subaru could perform that task. It’s more about the parent’s ego and social status than function or safety.

    Expensive bikes are the new pretentious cars!

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  • Julian December 8, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Hey now folks, take a breath, warm up a bit, and feather the brakes a little.

    If this family has $700 to spend now, they’ll use it through two kids and resell for $400-500 when they’re done, and consider it a wise investment. Just like a family who buys a bakfiets at $3,000, and resells for $2,200 after saving several years worth of car payments, insurance, and gas.

    The article also mentions used bike builds costing $20+ if *your* ego and social status (or finances) requires “keeping it real”.

    Besides, kids aren’t immune to adult bike trends, and have you not heard that city/transpo bikes are like, so hot right now? Heavy dept store kids bikes with ridiculous shocks and rustastic components suck. It would be nice to see more bikes with kid appeal that don’t.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) December 8, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    um. yeah. What Julian said.

    “another planet”? “pretentious”?

    Geez folks. Marion’s an awesome lady. She decided, that for her family, a $700 bike for the little one was worth it. More power to her.

    Folks can have whatever opinion they want, and I’m cool with that. But just remember that there are humans behind these stories and they have feelings. No one likes to be personally insulted.

    ok. carry on.

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  • WOBG December 8, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Agreed, mountain or BMX bikes do work fine for kid commuters; it’s just a little more challenging to fit lights and fenders for winter.

    As for disc brakes, I dunno. They would allow a kid with small hands/fingers to stop without panic, and it might beat blowing through pads (and rims) in the incessant gritty slurry of rainy season. Still pretty expensive for reasonable ones, though.

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  • Daniel December 8, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    i tend to side with the $150 crowd. i also feel that a coaster brake is the easiest/safest for a child, as their hands often are not big enough to work levers well. especially in winter gloves. as for putting slicks on my 7 year old’s bike…this kid goes over every puddle/curb/leaf pile/mcdonalds bag/freebox/squirrel carcass on and off the street. i’ll stick with the knobbies, thanks.

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  • Mark C December 8, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I’m kind of with Brad on this. Don’t get me wrong – I like expensive bikes as much as the next guy, but the most important thing is to get the kids riding. My third-grade daughter is on a used REI Novara 20-inch single-speed bike with coaster brakes and a hand brake. We paid $30 for it at a garage sale, and I slapped some mud guards from River City on it. She’s been all over on that thing, including out and back to North Sunday Parkways – about 15 miles total.

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  • Marion Rice December 8, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    It’s great that this post has encouraged the range of viewpoints expressed here. Julian your thinking is along the same lines as ours. The up front cost is more than we wanted to spend for sure. Yes buying a close out model or used bike and adding components may be a viable approach for many. However, we do have two kids who we expect will use this bike and we think the bike will hold it’s value over the life of it’s use even if it does get a few scratches and normal kid wear and tear. I have encouraged Clever Cycles to think about starting a consignment program for kids bikes so that parents can buy and sell used bikes more easily. We wanted a bike that our son could use not just for his one mile trip to school but for the longer trips our family will take as we bike commute and recreate around the Portland area, on and off busy streets.

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  • borgbike December 8, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    The previous owner of my daughter’s bike with linear pull brakes endo-ed over the handlebars after she locked up the front wheel. There might be something with the weight-to-brake-quality ratio that people need to be careful about here.

    I wrote a couple of blog posts about the difficulty of finding quality kids bikes on my blog here: http://tinygogo.blogspot.com/2009/08/study-in-kids-bikes.html
    Mostly another variation on the same theme with maybe a bit more of a used-bike angle.

    I’m building up a cool mixtie for her now based on an 70/80s era 24″ bike. Figuring suitable replacement tires for the original steel ones for this bike has been a crazy challenge

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  • Doug D December 8, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    a $150 bike has a $5 resale value, a $500 one $350, the $150 one is $5 cheaper. I would rather spend the extra $5 and have a good bike

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  • Evan Bacon December 8, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I don’t understand why we design kids bikes to be disposable commodities. Why not build your kids a bike using reusable components that they can grow with. Small kids can eaily fit on a 24″ dirt jumper with the seat all the way down. They are almost always single speeds so you can either run it simple with an easy gear or set them up with an internal hub if you live somewhere hilly. Simple rigid fork and bmx tires and you’ve got a decent commuter bike. when they outgrow the frame just buy a bigger one and swap the parts. If you use disc brakes you don’t even need to replace the wheels. You could keep riding the same components for the rest of your life and just upgrade to a larger size until you stop growing.

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  • Tony Fuentes December 8, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    It is cool to see some options out there and some of the thinking on what is available.

    We have always gone the used bike route and I have to admit that most of our selection criteria has been limited to “does that fit?” and “do you like the color?”

    Anyhoo, my daughter is on her fourth bike (she out grew two and one was stolen – wtf?). Her current ride is a lovely vintage Schwinn that we picked up at the Community Cycling Center for $50 (including the only repair it needed to be 100 percent good). LOVE CCC!

    Maybe bike number five will be a new ride, we’ll see…

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  • Bike Olympia December 8, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    The problem with reselling a kids bike is that it will not be all pretty and craigslist-ready in four years when they’ve outgrown it.

    Kids ride hard, take stupid risks, and don’t care about scratches and dents. That’s the best part of being a kid.

    Kids also don’t care about low gears. They probably won’t even use them if they have them. Three speeds will be fine.

    More than $300 on a kids bike for most is excessive IMO.

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  • Jeff Parker December 9, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Unless I remember wrong, the bikes my friends and I rode as kids in the 70′s lasted us longer because we had banana seats and tall handlebars. As you got taller, you slid back on the seat and tilted the bars as needed (And of course we had to have sissy bars for some sweet wheelie action).

    My 4 yr old picked out the color he wanted and we sanded (by we, I mean me) the frame of an old Trek, replaced some parts and made him a nice clean looking cycle that weighs a lot less than most kid’s bikes- I could get lighter if not for those welded wheels! It inspired him to learn to ride without training wheels quicker and he loves to ride it with me to school –when it’s not freezing outside like now, of course.

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  • Tyler December 9, 2009 at 2:33 am

    I can’t wait for the day i can get my son a badass mini road bike. you know, fast is what’s fun. bmx/shitty walmart bikes aren’t fast, or reliable in anyway. buy quality.

    http://www.wiggle.co.uk/images/pro-lite-24bike-med.jpg

    i wish i had known about this when i was a kid.

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  • ksteinhoff December 9, 2009 at 5:09 am

    Here’s what kids were riding to school in 1964 and in Ohio in 1969.

    That was when bikes were used for real transportation. The bike I used to deliver a hilly paper route in MO when I was 12 years old had just about everything you described except gears. The old one-speed Schwinn was a bear to get up and down the hills when fully loaded.

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  • buglas December 9, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I like Marion’s thinking of getting the best you can afford and passing it along. I also like #30 Doug D’s cost analysis. In a perfect world…

    My first bike was its day’s version of the a department store bmx bike. After I outgrew it, it was donated to a school with a need. My next bike, the one that got me hooked, was a Schwinn my Dad pulled off the junk pile at work where the boss’ sons had left it. We sanded it down and when they were painting equipment at work it got a coat of genuine Caterpiller yellow. It had a single speed and coaster brakes but with its 26 inch wheels it could easily outdistance the Stingray bikes that were coming into vogue.

    Now I’m helping in the safety classes for fifth graders and I’m seeing behavior like #26 Daniel describes – boys who can’t resist bashing curbs and cutting across the parks for the sand of the volleyball courts.

    My view is that you need to know your kid. If they’re going to turn a bike into a beater no matter where it starts, then don’t waste money. If they’ll take care of it, then they’re ready for something as nice as you can afford. Or maybe two bikes? A $20 garage sale bike where you occasionally lube the chain and do a safety check that is “disposable” and a nice transportation bike with rack, fenders, lights, and the potential to grow with them.

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  • resident December 9, 2009 at 10:31 am

    For general lack of availability of tubes and tires, I’d stay away from anything with 24 inch tires. That was a bad choice on my part and am now glad that my son is 13 and as big as me and can ride my quiver of bikes.

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  • Domes December 9, 2009 at 11:12 am

    $700 for a 3 speed kid’s bike? Must be nice. I didn’t see a bell in your original criteria… but I did see disc brakes and I don’t see them on the $700 3 speed. How is the weight of the bike versus the FX I wonder. Those kid’s trek FX bikes are pretty light and plush… and Bike Gallery has the fenders for them. Throw on some ree lights and a rack (all of which you can purchase and have installed at the one store) and you have more gears, superior functionality and you’ve spent hundreds less.

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  • martina December 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

    For the used bike crowd: If there wouldn’t be people like Marion, there wouldn’t be all these lovely old Raleighs, Schwinns and other decent quality used bikes around.
    I just noticed during one day putting safety flags on kids bikes at Sunday Parkways, that many of the kid bikes had loose axle nuts.
    I think that whatever bike you or your kiddo chooses, please make sure it is safe and maintained…
    Big nod to the CCC for the bicycle repair camps for kids!

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  • JayS. December 9, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Children who are raised bike commuting from before they can ride themselves tend to respect bicycles and care for them, not bash into curbs. Personally our bike friday Tandem is still treating us well for commutes where we have serious traffic to encounter.

    We bought a specialized BMXish bike for our daughter and will pass it on to her brother. Lights are cheap and easy to put on any size bike, Fenders, plenty of options if you are at all a DIY person. Brakes, I don’t see any reason to have disk brakes. Gears, we commute not just play so we have five, three would be fine. Brakes, linear pull have always worked fine for us.

    For her next bike I will strongly consider a folder that she can have in her bicycle quiver for the rest of her life.

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  • jv December 9, 2009 at 11:50 am

    #38 I disagree about 24″ wheels/tire. There are some great tires (Maxis Hookworm come to mind) available in this size for mixed city riding. I would say that he perfect frame to build a kids commuter/multipurpose bike is a 24” BMX cruiser (race bike). They can easily be purchased complete for less than $300, have compact frames with rigid forks, double wall rims, beefy bottom brackets, and are usually set up with rear V-brakes. Front brakes could be added easily, as could an internally geared hub, fenders and rear rack if you wanted. As an added bonus, this is a bike type that has some street cred, and that they could theoretically never grow out of– as they make great dirt jumping bikes even for adults. I rocked one all through college…and if I hadn’t broken the frame when I got hit by a car, would still ride it. These are perfect starter bikes that provide enough opportunity for skill advancement to be exciting – instead of some clunky single purpose commuter or department store deadweight bike.

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  • Patrick December 9, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I’m getting my 11 year old daughter the Redline Conquest 24 (they have a 24” and 20” wheel models). It’s a cyclocross bike which is good for commuting, touring, and knocking about. The larger tires (compared to racing) are more forgiving to keeping air pressure monitored as well as the banging off curbs that kids do. There’s more room for fenders and no problem fitting on both a front and rear rack. With 18 gears she will be better able to keep up on hills than her current 3 speed.

    http://www.redlinebicycles.com/bikes/cyclocross/2010-conquest-24

    Up till now she has been well served with a Fuji with an internal 3-speed Shamino hub (with rack and fenders). The 3 speed was also all the gears she could grok till recently.

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  • Jim O'Horo December 9, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Most of those posting here already know about department store bike quality. My attitude toward dept. store bikes (used or new) is: “If it has a ‘Made in China’ label on it, it’s a piece of ****.” Right from the factory they are often faulty to the point of being downright dangerous, and the dept. stores just slap ‘em together & put ‘em out for sale. I do a lot of volunteer work for CCC, and even when we get a dept. store bike brand new in the box, rather than just completing assembly, I tear it down to the last nut & bolt to check EVERYTHING. The list of safety defects we routinely find would fill several pages.

    A better alternative is a slightly higher priced bike made in Tiawan. The Giant MTX125 (7-spd, 20″ wheel) and MTX225 (21-spd, 24″ wheel) are used by the BTA and up here in Clark County for our bike safety education programs. They are rugged, look good (important to the kids) and with twist shifters are easy for the kids to learn how to operate. We’ve put them through YEARS of abuse & they’re still going strong. I know Bike ‘n Hike carries them at their 4 area stores. I think Performance carried them a few years ago – don’t know if they still do. On sale the bikes are available for $200+. I occasionally see used MTX125′s on sale at CCC, but I can’t recall ever spotting a used MTX225. I guess no one ever wears ‘em out or throws ‘em away.

    I agree that 24″ tires are harder to find than 26″ tires, but virtually any decent bike shop carries 24″ tubes & tires, and how often do you have to buy them anyway. For many kids, making the jump from a frame size appropriate for 20″ tires all the way to a frame with 26″ tires is just too much, so the intermediate 24″ size is the only realistic choice.

    As someone else stated above, the child has to be a big part of selecting the bike. If he/she doesn’t like the bike, they’re not going to ride it, so take them with you when shopping for a bike.

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  • Marion December 9, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks Jim for the great post! I also wrote an article about involving your child in the bike purchase. You can find it here:
    http://bikeportland.org/2009/05/27/keeping-everyone-happy-with-your-childs-first-bike/

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  • Zaphod December 9, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    When compared to my own childhood, my kids will put on far more mileage in their daily routine. The scrappy bike I had would have been ugly to summit the Col de Broadway Bridge daily.

    I’ve pondered this very question and was thinking about how one could build an absurdly expensive (from an up-front cost perspective) chris king outfitted disc rig that would be rebuilt and altered as the kid grew. When he reaches his 21′st birthday, the Chris King hubs/BB/headsets will still be rolling strong. There’s no way to keep the cost down when swapping out frames and rims as the boy grows that I can resolve. Sooo…

    Instead I’m thinking a light single speed bmx with rain fenders will be the biz and not be too costly.

    All of this thinking comes as a result of picking up his tiny little bike and damaging my back… it’s a brick, my 700c adult sized cyclocross bike is wayyy lighter. It’s one thing to roll around on bikes in the summer as I did. It’s quite another to roll 6 miles round-trip to school daily + whatever other stuff he does.

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  • Evan Bacon December 9, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    The only problems I can see with a bmx crusier over a 24″ dirt jumper are that they have less standover clearance and your internal hub choices are more limited with 110mm spacing. With a dirt jumper you can just put the seat down all the way and maybe use some swept bars like North Roads or moustach bars and be good to go even with a much shorter rider. Plus they are cro-mo so it’s unlikely they would be unsellable after they were finnished with the bike. Kids just don’t weigh enough to really mess them up too much.

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  • Natty December 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    reuben (#5)

    I have seen several Islabikes – they are a well made boutique bike. On the pricey end of youth bicycles, but there is a buy-back / trade-in program.

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  • fredlf December 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    My second bike was a handsome Raleigh folder with chrome fenders. But what I really wanted was a BMX bike.

    I wrote it about a while ago: http://the-fred.blogspot.com/2009/08/bmx-rated-pain-of-adolescent-fred-dom.html

    That’s just one kid’s perspective, of course.

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  • kenny December 11, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Ahhh…my 1st good bike. BMX bikes…Redlines, GT’s, Diamond Backs…all the rage back in the early 80′s.

    My shiny chrome moly, light weight, JMC Shadow.

    That bike rocked. Used it for many years…school, launching off sweet ramps.

    Wish mom did not toss it when I was in high school. That thing would have commanded BUCKS now likely.

    I personally think that bike was excessive for a 4th grader though. Back in about 1983 when I received it, that bike was over $400. Translated to today’s dollars?
    Also, it was a booming time from what I recall so maybe affordability is relative.

    Personally, I do not think I would buy a $450 new bike for a kid. Even the $600 bikes I have owned have all been pre owned and $200 used.

    That type of arrangement will be how raising my child will differ from what my parents did.

    Unless we win the lottery or something…

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  • Atbman December 13, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Reuben (5) and Natty (48) have got it right. We recommend them to our kids bike club parents and they are just about the most popular make around.

    Perfectly proportioned cranks, bars, brake levers, gear ratios, where relevant, carefully thought out. Reasonable weights and good choice of models.

    Website kids sizing table.

    No suspension, except for a junior sized 26″ wheel mtb, since kids don’t need it, by and large.

    UK value for money is excellent and resale value ditto. Don’t know what shipping costs would be.

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