Monday, May 17, 2010

Found: The Perfect Kid Bike

Unfortunately is hasn't been sold since Al Gore won the vote for President.

Buying a capable kid's bike is difficult if you're an a opinionated cyclist. You want your kids to have a bike that's similar to your tastes and what you believe is the best style. For me this is steel with no suspension (rigid) with 24" wheels and a pretty low standover. Good luck finding that on the current market. There are lots of nice bikes available at your LBS, but none with the above features that I'm aware of. Big Box Bikes aren't really apropos to this conversation.

So let me suggest you look for a Trek 220. They still make them, and they're good bikes, but they are aluminum and have suspension forks. Why a bike meant for a 60 pound kid needs suspension is beyond me. But I digress. The 220 has a "boy" and a "girl" frame, which are completely alike except the girl frame has about two inches of extra standover. That's actually a pretty cool feature as long as your male-spawn doesn't freak over riding a GIRL'S BIKE.

almost a big kid bike

What I'm recommending is finding a used one. They're steel, have tons of adjustability in fit and are well made in Taiwan. Parts are pretty low-end, but well-enough made that you can adjust them. SRAM shifters, Altus front derailer, no-name rear, seven-speed freewheel hubs, alloy rims and bars, good tires. Tektro brakes, in particular, are really good. They'll lock up the front wheel and toss your kids if they aren't used to hand brakes (ask me how I know).

at least one crash on it

So the key is to trawl Craigslist to find a good one. It's gonna' be used of course, but for the most part these sturdy bikes are hard to abuse. That, and unfortunately, most kids don't really ride their bikes a whole bunch :-(

The minimum saddle height from the ground is approximately 26 inches, so your kiddo needs to be able to straddle that. At least until they figure out they can lean the bike over in order to put a foot down. My five and seven year olds are the same height, so technically can both fit this bike. That extra two years of bike handling comes in very useful as the seven y.o is much more comfortable. The five y.o. is kinda' freaked by the extra size and mass and doesn't like riding. Luckily there is a nice 20" bike that needs to get used for a few more years!

Speaking of wheel size, the 24" wheels are amazingly better at rolling over curbs and obstacles compared to a 20" wheel. A huge jump in performance and capability. It's the 29er of the kid-bike world!

I've still got my eye out for a Kona Jake 24, which is probably the best all-around kid bike out there, but good luck with finding that! Let me know if there are other similar bikes out there, particularly a 24" cross bike!

Update: Trek has a similar model, the 200 that is currently being sold. Looks like it could be a nice bike! Also, I've been able to get a Redline Conquest 24, which is a full 10 lbs lighter (The only unmentioned downside to the 220 is that it weights in at 30lbs!). The Redline also lacks the small triple chainring, which my kids use a lot when we're out on trails. Tire availability might be a problem later on as well.


Anonymous said...

take a look at
They offer great bikes for a reasonable price (depends of course on xchange rate)
Another one but quite expensive would be the All of them come with aluminium frame though.

cyclotourist said...

I've talked to the folks at Islabike before. They seem like a great company. I love the way the have so many sizes of Jr. bikes. But shipping to the States is prohibitively expensive. I wish they would find a distributor her and try to break into the North American market. Thanks for mentioning them!

cyclotourist said...

I need to update options and include the Redline Conquest 24 as well. It's still in production, while the Kona Jake 24 is not.

Anonymous said...

yes, the redline looks great. Maybe this one is also interesting for you
only 20 but look at the weight

cyclotourist said...

24" mountainbikes aren't so hard to find. It's just hard to find one w/out a sus fork. Aluminum is ok, I just prefer steel. It's the road bikes in that size that are pretty unique. A cross bike is even better, as you can put fatter tires in it and pretty much ride anywhere. That's why I'm attracted to the Redline.

somervillain said...

nice review. i'm at that point now where i'm trying to figure out the best solo bike solutions for my 4 and 6 year olds. my 6 year old is average height, so i don't think there's any way for here to fit a bike with 24" wheels. we've been eying the specialized hotrock 20". any opinions on it?

cyclotourist said...

My 6 y.o. is pretty tall, and can't quite fit a 24" bike. Technically she can, but just can't control all the extra mass of the bike. I think any 20" bike with gears and handbrakes is a fine bike. I have an older KHS with a very hard to find rigid fork. It's True Temper which is cool, but I'd rather have Al with a rigid than steel w/ a sus fork. Suspension on a bike made for a 50 lbs kind is just silly!

Gemma said...

Sorry, already have a cooler kid bike for my son. =P

I'll pass along the message to friends though.