Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

This is what happens when you ask Portlanders to build balance bikes

Posted by on December 5th, 2014 at 2:01 pm


Balance bikes for bid. See more photos below.
(Photo: CCC)

From the Bike Mechanic Challenge back in June to their successful Transportation Trivia Nights, the northeast Portland based Community Cycling Center has a knack for dreaming up great ways to support their cause.

But this one might take the cake.

In the spirit of the season when little kids dream of their first bike, the CCC challenged five of its staffers to compete in a “Balance Bike Build-Off”. For the uninitiated, a balance bike is a tiny bike for toddlers without pedals or gears and a seat so low it can be powered by running instead of pedaling. They’re simply the best way to learn to how to balance, and ultimately ride, a bike.

In the Build-Off, the five entrants were given three weeks to design and build, “unique, handcrafted, and totally awesome balance bikes.”

The results are fantastic. Check out more photos of the bikes and a learn more about each one below (descriptions from the CCC, photos by Charles Edelson):

‘Pearl’s Bike’ by Timothy “TimTim” Weeks

'Pearl's Bike'

In making Pearl’s Bike, TimTim tried to work from things that inspired him about frame building. In particular, he looked to the work of Claude Butler – a renowned builder in the 30s – mid 50s. He was an early adopter of bi-laminate construction methods. This method allowed for strong joinery, while at the same time being very pretty. Both of these qualities attracted TimTim when it came time to build his balance bike.

'Pearl's Bike'


'Pearl's Bike'

‘Ollie’ by James Keating


This bike is made completely out of skateboards. Even the steering bearings are made from skateboard wheels and bearings. James carefully shaped the rest of the bike from whole and partial skateboards using a band saw. No other kid on the block will have an Ollie like this one.


‘Lil’ Schwinner’ by Evan Burgad


Deconstructing a full sized Schwinn down to it’s bare components, Evan preserved much of the original Chicago Schwinn joinery in this balance bike. In reconstruction, Evan kept with Schwinn style, keeping all his new joints seamless and creating a miniature one-of-a-kind Ratrod. Original Schwinn parts include kickstand, handle bars, headset, and frame. The saddle is made from a cut down from a person’s banana seat – also from a Schwinn.


‘Bird’s Nest’ by Forrest Scott


Fascinated by the idea of using a non-traditional frame material and keeping things as natural as possible, Forrest built the body of his frame from bamboo while wrapping all of his joints with manilla rope fibers (from banana leaves) unwound one by one from the original rope. The result is semi-organic joinery that is way beyond cool, and, as far as we know, found on no other Balance Bike.


‘MicroFat’ by Gram Shipley*


The MicroFat has fully functional suspension, disc brakes, and 3 inch tires. Made from all up-cycled materials, the MicroFat’s wheels came off of a wrecked Schwinn electric scooter, the saddle is a carved down Brooks, and the suspension fork off of a bike that was too far gone for use in Holiday Bike Drive. The wheels proved as much of a challenge as inspiration; in order to make the wheel fit, he had to cut the fork up and make it wider.



(*Shipley is one of my favorite local builders. I’ve previously profiled his scraper bike and his 4-x-4 urban hauler)

The best part is that all money raised from bids on all five bikes will go toward the CCC’s Holiday Bike Drive and other programs. Swing by the CCC retail shop at 1700 NE Alberta to take a closer look at the bikes. You can place a bid at the shop, by calling (503) 287-8786, or via email at

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

Leave a Reply

9 Comment threads
7 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
Josue D. BolducMike CobbGasper JohnsonMattZaphod Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

These are all very cool and creative.

Unfortunately, like so many “bike concepts”, most* of the designers lost sight of the practical purpose of the bike — to be ridden by an actual child.

Ex: disc breaks on a balance bike? bamboo? made out of skateboards? brooks saddle? suspension fork?

I think these are all really neat; but do these things enhance the riding experience of the toddler? I’m willing to bet your average toddler would (in a heartbeat) trade in their brooks saddle & disc breaks for some ribbon streamers on the handle bars or a baseball card in the spokes.

* The first design is the notable exception.

Emily G
Emily G

Wow, these are all so cool! The lug detail on Pearl’s Bike is beautiful and the tiny kickstand on the Schwinn is just adorable.


These are really cool designs and works of art. I build my first balance bike out of PVC the PV Glider to prove my concept. It ended up being durable enough for kids to ride and spawned That was over 8 years ago now over 100000 kids have had fun learing to balance on our Mini glider and Go Gliders. Use coupon code DEC2014 to recieve up to 30% off your order and we will donate a portion of your sale toward CC holiday-bike-drive JUST MAKE SURE TO LET US KNOW IN THE NOTES FEILD

Gram Shipley
Gram Shipley

If you want a kid to be excited about bikes for life, it helps to start them out with a bike that is high enough initial quality to be worth fixing parts as they wear, but also (and maybe more importantly) it needs to be cool enough that a kid will be excited by it and want to ride it. In my mind that is Art + Function.

I built the bike with the disc brake and suspension fork, and though all those details might be over the top for what a kid needs to ride around the block (or the yard), those are definitely features that make the bike cool. I firmly believe that if the first bike a kid rides is that cool, they will probably be excited about bikes for life. That is what motivated me to build MicroFat, which I did out of salvage materials, donating my time and labor.

By bidding on one of these for a youngster you know, you are not only getting a kid a balance bike that is cooler than the rest of the ones on the block, you are also supporting an organization that gets lots of little people (and big people too) out being active together on 2 wheels. And that is totally awesome.


Any kid worth their salt could ride any of these like they stole it. Why there’s an ounce of negativity in these posts is beyond me.


I’d love a 58cm Lil Schwinner!

Gasper Johnson

So very cool! Congratulations to all the builders.

I even almost learned what “bi-laminate construction methods” means.

beautiful work Timtim!

Mike Cobb
Mike Cobb

Love ’em. And I love that the Microfat is likely to provide superior crotch comfort. Especially for the developing anatomy of young boys, this is important and woefully industry-neglected. Kids don’t know that a saddle can be comfortable and the industry doesn’t care much about hitting that mark. Just because they don’t complain much doesn’t mean the design is right.

Josue D. Bolduc

I love this type. These are really cool design. Congrats all builders for their good idea.