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  1. #1
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    High Quality Bicycle Needed for Child?

    Hi! I discovered this website by Google's directing me to one of your posts about the quality of Wal-Mart bikes. I was hoping my question would be answered by reading that, but it really wasn't. So, I hope you don't mind a similar question, after some background:

    I love to bike-ride, but am limited as to how often I can do it because I have two young children at home. Whenever my husband is available, my usual route is 8.5 miles around my very hilly neighborhood. Recently my 7-year-old daughter (tall for her age) has shown more and more interest in riding with me. I had her try just the first stretch of my route - a very long but not too steep incline. She was riding a 20" bicycle with no gears. She made a truly valiant effort. She would ride a bit, stop for a rest, repeat. At first I was thinking that she was just not strong enough. Then I remembered how tough this route was when I used to have a bike with no gears - and a 26" bike at that!

    I brought her to a bicycle store, and the knowledgeable saleslady said that she fits very nicely into a 24" bicycle. I asked if the gears would be doable by a 7-year-old, and she said they would be. THE only model they had cost $199. I have seen models that are MUCH more attractive that are MUCH cheaper - in the $50 to $100 range. First, I'd like your opinion as to whether or not such a young child can even build the muscles and stamina to go on such a ride. (She really, really wants to. I have already tested her on-the-road smarts and she knows how to ride on a road with cars. We are talking about very nicely paved rural roads, where 3 cars might pass us in an hour.) Second - if you think it's worthwhile for her to try - what style of bike should she get? (So far, all the 24" bicycles I've seen offered have been mountain bikes.) Third, would it actually be that bad to get a cheap bicycle? Her previous bicycles have been cheap and have worked just fine. They were assembled correctly and never needed repair. Is there a way to tell by LOOKING at a bicycle if something is wrong with it? Would a more expensive bicycle actually be easier to ride up hill? I'd really appreciate your advice.

    Thank you very much!

  2. #2
    Kev
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    I think she can build the stamina and muscles.. you are not asking her to do a century atleast yet

    Now if you can properly tune up a bike yourself, cheap bike might do for now to see if she really does get into it. But if you can not you might be better off spending the $199. Figure a x-mart bike will cost you around $100 for something half way decent.. then $50 for a tune up at your LBS you are up to $150.. so almost to teh $199 and you will have a cheaper bike.. then normaly after a few months due to cable stretch etc you need to get it tuned up again alot of LBS will give that to you when you buy the bike there.. YOu will not find a road style bike for your daughter in that size for a few hundred, unless you can find a used one. Just get the mtb and add some slicks and she should be fine.

    YOu can also look at tag along style bikes, but I'm betting your daughter is like my son bigger then most kids his age and tagalong bikes are only designed for kids up to 80-90lbs.. so limits how long they can ride them.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bikebuddha's Avatar
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    A couple of years ago I bought my little girl a Trek Mt. Track 220. It was expensive but worth it. Three years ago she couldn't even ride a bike and now she'll ride a metric with me. The quality of the components while not as good as some of Treks high-end bikes is certainly far above those of department store bikes.
    The few, the proud, the likely insane, Metro-Atlanta bicycle commuters.

  4. #4
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    Kids can do astonishing distances with the right encouragement and experience.

    As to what bike, cheaper bikes are heavier and have very little resale value when they grow out of them. Because they are heavier, children are more easily discouraged when they start to ride further. Any faults they have also show up more, because the components are lower quality, especially the gears.

    I've been coaching youngsters from 5 upwards for about 10 years and when they get their first decent bike (and I guess in US terms, that's about the $200 mark) they really love them and it boosts their enthusiasm and wish to ride, which in turn boosts their fitness and so the virtuous circle goes.

    Try the weight of the Walmart type bike against the better one and then compare it with her weight. You may get a nasty shock.

    If she's tall for her age, then a 5/10 speed 24" Trek, Scott, Mongoose or whatever at about the $200 level may well be the best choice in the long run. The only 24" wheel road bike at that sort of price level is sold by the Decathlon chain www.decathloncycle.com - they have several stores in the US, I think on the east coast. It's the Decathlon 7.0 model. Trek do a road bike but it is about 4 x the price.

    Unless your budget is really tight, spoil her - it will pay off in the long run

  5. #5
    Fueled by Scoobie Snacks! Boatdesigner's Avatar
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    I took my wife to the LBS last fall to get her a new bike for her birthday. While there, we looked at bikes for our 7 year old as well. Trek makes some 26" frames in small sizes. My son at 8, rides a 26" Trek 820 mtn. bike (13" seatpost) and has no problem with it. We takes rides every morning and he uses the gears and does just fine. When he gets bigger, we will probably just get a longer seat post so he can ride the bike longer.

    My wife was a little shocked that I thought $230 was an acceptable price for a 7 year olds bike! I am figuring he will ride it for many years to come. The dealer talked us into the 26" because he figured our son would grow out of the 24" before he had worn it out. The funny part is, we got my wife the same bike, but hers is a 16" frame.

    The best part of buying a better quality bike is the dealer. No one at Xmart will be able to size the bike, you can't test ride them and if they break, they can't fix it either. His bike came with free adjustments for life!

  6. #6
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    My kids had the cheap murray 5 speeds 20" bikes while they were smaller/careless/left out in rain/etc. They would ride 25 mi charity rides no problem. Now that they are teens we got them decent (trek7100, raleigh M40) bikes which they like much better and take a little care of. My six YO has a cheap 16" for around the house, a trek tag a long, and will get one of the murrays when she is a bit bigger and can handle it. Eventually she'll probably get the trek 7100 because her brother will probably out grow it (15" frame) before she is ready.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by atbman
    Kids can do astonishing distances with the right encouragement and experience.

    As to what bike, cheaper bikes are heavier and have very little resale value when they grow out of them. Because they are heavier, children are more easily discouraged when they start to ride further. Any faults they have also show up more, because the components are lower quality, especially the gears.

    I've been coaching youngsters from 5 upwards for about 10 years and when they get their first decent bike (and I guess in US terms, that's about the $200 mark) they really love them and it boosts their enthusiasm and wish to ride, which in turn boosts their fitness and so the virtuous circle goes.

    Try the weight of the Walmart type bike against the better one and then compare it with her weight. You may get a nasty shock...

    Unless your budget is really tight, spoil her - it will pay off in the long run
    This really nails it, IMHO. We were given a cheap bike for my son, a department store two-wheeler, and the thing weighs more than my comuter bike (well...). We quickly moved on from that beast.

    Something I hadn't considered about the weight issue is that the five pounds you save is a much greater portion of your child's overall weight while on the bike. Think of it this way: 40# child + 25# bike+ 65 #'s, take 5# off you've saved 7.7% of their riding weight. Apply that 7.7% to an adult's weight: 180# adult (me) + 30# bike= 210# * 1.07.7= 226#, or 16+ extra pounds riding weight (and yes, I know the algebra doesn't quite work). As well, I'm stronger in the legs (proportionately) than my son, so the extra weight is easier for me to carry. That said, I sure wouldn't want to carry the extra 16 pounds on a longer ride, and it really is noticeable when comparing bikes (my commuter feels like a brick compared to my 24# trail bike).

    All that said, we will wait until he gets a little older, and onto two wheels full time (he's four and a half right now) before we spend the big money and get him a really good bike. That part of the equation, and how your child fits it, is up to you, of course .

  8. #8
    What icy wind? Wind 'N Snow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascendor
    I love to bike-ride, but am limited as to how often I can do it because I have two young children at home. Whenever my husband is available, my usual route is 8.5 miles around my very hilly neighborhood. Recently my 7-year-old daughter (tall for her age) has shown more and more interest in riding with me. I had her try just the first stretch of my route - a very long but not too steep incline. She was riding a 20" bicycle with no gears. She made a truly valiant effort. She would ride a bit, stop for a rest, repeat. At first I was thinking that she was just not strong enough. Then I remembered how tough this route was when I used to have a bike with no gears - and a 26" bike at that!
    Ascendor, there has been some good advice here. My experience is get the best bike that your budget can afford (consider second hand, if available) and remember that kid's bikes have smaller wheels and usually smaller cranks, so more work is required to match your speed - this makes more that five or six speeds a necessity! Another thing to consider, if buying a pricier bike, is the chance of theft. You will have to get a good lock or teach your child to never, ever leave the bike unattended. A heavy, inefficient bike affects a kid's attitude about biking much like a cheap guitar does to playing. A cheap guitar buzzes, is hard to play and will not sustain a good, clear note. The kid will soon become discouraged and may even quit playing. So too with a bike that is hard to ride, doesn't feel agile and breaks down a lot. The kid will soon get tired of it and although may use it for basic transportation, will never take the next step to bike rider.

    As for your desire to get out and ride more often. Have you considered getting one of those one-wheeled ride behind bikes? Your daughter might be too tall for this, but it lets you both get out and do a good long ride TOGETHER! giving you a good workout and her satisfaction, some endurance and balance skills. Another option, of course is to get a tandem with a child kit, but that is really really expensive! Here is a picture of the ride behind bike. This one happens to be a Trek, there are a lot out there, make sure, if you get one, that it has a big enough chain ring so that your daughter can actually contribute to the peddling and not just coast.

  9. #9
    Walkafire
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    Get a Wally World bike for her and Tighten everything.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Get the bike from the LBS. It will have a warrenty and (hopefully) qualified and experenced mechanics working on it. When she grows out of it, go back to the LBS about selling the bike on a consignment basis. You may end up coming out ahead.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  11. #11
    Senior Citizen DiRt DeViL's Avatar
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    Lets shed some light into this topic. I'm the kids league manager in my area and deal with kids racing mainly XC but also include DS and DH; also my son races on the three of them. So I have seen plenty of kids bikes around here.

    An "adult like" mtb for kids are very rare, you could get a Kona, Titus, etc. expensive frame and built around it but kids grow so quickly that becomes a waste of money. I would recommend you to visit various LBSs and shop around, Specialized makes the best kid mtb IMO. They sell the Hotrock FSR, it's a full suspension 24" bike that really works, if you think that a FS bike is too much it also comes in the hard tail flavor. Another ones worth the mention are Diamondback, Trek, Gary Fisher and others. The Specialed sells around $600 while the others are around $200. My son rides a modified Diamondback Octane and really likes it.

    If your kid is tall enough to fit on a XS or S 26" mtb go that way, my kid is still not tall enough for a XS 26".

    Hotrock FSR
    Diamondback Octane 24
    Diamondback Coil 24
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    Pics of my kid rides attached.
    Last edited by DiRt DeViL; 08-04-05 at 11:39 AM.
    "Life is not like a box of chocolates ...
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    Whatever you do today,
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  12. #12
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    whatever kind of bike you get her doesn't really matter when it comes to riding with you. Even with the best bike you will be much faster and unable to get much of a workout. She may be able to go as far as you, but ut probably will be so slow you will find you don't do it much. The best answere if you want to bike with her is to get a tandem. Expect to pay at least $800 for the cheapest trek but it will be the best purchase you will ever make. My 9 year old and I can go 70 miles with no problem and as fast as I want.It is the best way for two people with different abilities to ride together. You also don't have to worry about your child in traffic. Children often seem competent riding on the road, but that is only when everything is going fine. They don't have the experience to be able to adjust to emergencies, traffic changes, potholes, dogs, or any number of other things that often surprise you on a ride.

  13. #13
    Senior Citizen DiRt DeViL's Avatar
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    I completelly agree with Jim, when you take your kid to a ride (dirt or road) don't even consider that you'll be exercising. The kid may have a workout but you'll prolly don't even break a sweat.

    I have designated Saturdays for my son's rides. I'll take either the road or singlespeed and ride with him, for him is fun and training for me is quality time with my favorite riding partner. After the ride a stop at the doughnut shop is mandatory, he loves doughnuts as a reward for his hard work.

    A way that a parent could excersice while riding with the kid is by pulling a carriage or tag along bike.
    "Life is not like a box of chocolates ...
    it's more like a jar of jalapenos.
    Whatever you do today,
    may burn your ass tomorrow."


  14. #14
    Toughen the pluck up! wannaride's Avatar
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    There are some good points made here. The range of bikes for 6/7 year olds is limited but you need to get the best bike you can. My 6 year old daugher has a Trek and she loves it. We rode 8 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday. We had a great time and I look forward to spending many more miles with her.
    Keep the rubber side down!

  15. #15
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    I buy second hand good quality bikes for my kids at my LBS. They cost about the same as a Walmart bike, but hold up better and have more resale value. They may not be the newest colour or style on the market, but they are a better investment IMO.

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    crazy Canadian
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    Another thing to add, find out if your local police dept has an auction, that is also a good place to find a good quality, second hand, or not, bike.

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    The other thing is to avoid getting full suspension bikes at that age, altho' the Specialised Hotrock isn't bad. They're almost invariably too heavy and they save money by downgrading the components.

    They also prevent kids from developing skills at appropriate speeds, because the bikes are more forgiving of mistakes. They can then find themselves going faster (esp.downhill) than their level of skill can cope with if they make an error. The resulting crash is therefore more painful.

    Rigid or front sus only is much better

  18. #18
    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    I saw your post a few weeks ago, and was at the time in the throws of upgrading my own daughters ride again. Now that we have had a few weeks with the new (used actually...) bike, I feel more 'qualified' to respond. Hope you don't mind a long winded answer!

    My daughter is now nine, and on her 4th bicycle. I strongly believe that size does matter - kids should be on a bike that fits them correctly, and the extra spent on moving them up as their ability improves is rewarded by their general enjoyment, and fewer injuries. The first two were purchased new from "Toys R Us", with wheel sizes of 16" (with training wheels) for age 4, and 18" for age 6. They were 'cheap' bikes, but after an hour or two spent carefully playing with the preload on bearings, adjusting spoke tension, etc., they rode and stood up to use extremely well.

    We also live in a hilly area, and I was anxious to move her onto a gear bike by age 7. I purchase a Pacific brand 5 spd 20" bike at a yard sale for $10, and again pretty much dismantled and reassembled it until it was just right. I believe it was also originally sold at "T R U". But I would not let her ride it for a few months. I first fitted a rear handbrake to the 18" bike, and worked with her to learn to break her reliance on the coaster brake. Then when she was 'rightsized', we moved up. Within a few weeks we were doing not only paved surfaces, but some 'fire trail' paths that lead into some more extensive dirt. I changed the front post and handlebars last year to ones that fit her better as she grew.

    This summer it was evident (now age 9) that she needed larger and better. 5 spds were a frustration on more demanding hills, plus we had max'ed out all adjustments. Off to the LBS for something better. The salesman tried to advance her right to a small framed 26" wheel, but it was evident to me that she was unstable and uncomfortable with this big a jump. She got on a demo/used Giant MTX 225 (24" wheel) and fell instantly in love. She zipped around, dialing thru 21 gears like she had been doing it for years. Yesterday we did a hilly development, then a few mile ride thru deep woods following some motorcyclist tracks. A good time was had by all. I'm the one who now needs a bike upgrade, as my Trek Navigator 200's stance and tires were not cutting it! Yes, I will probably be back for the 26" bike for her in a year or two, but that is fine. I have a second daughter coming up on her 3rd birthday, so my cellar 'inventory' will be put to good use!

    So what is my feeling on Walmart vs. LBS? If you are mechanically inclined, there can be decent value in dept store units. What separates them from the entry level LBS ride is, in my humble opinion, number one - service/assembly/adjustments, and number two - frame quality. A lot of the basic running gear (SRAM 3.0, Shimano Tourney, or the like) can be found on either. You have to go upmarket a bit to really break into better subcomponents. When the bike is taking hard knocks and occasional mishaps dealt out by younger kids, I felt better about it being the dept store stuff. Now that she is more responsible, the LBS makes more sense to me. The other day she razzed mommy about taking over her K2 Rosario bike in a year or so. I guess maybe both parents will need to get new bikes!

    Steve

  19. #19
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    When she was 7, I got for my daughter a 10 year old MTB. Red (proper colour helps), without suspension (it saves about 10 lb and lots of technical problems), 12 speeds and aluminium rims (better braking when wet). She got a funny animal for a horn, so that was a great morale booster. I also asked the bike shop to replace the original tires with narrower slicks, which means less resistance and less noise. I also added fenders, a rear rack (just like dad) and lights.

    As I looked at my parts bin, I decided to change the original 1x-28 freewheel for a 12-32 7-speed freewheel I had, so she would have an easier climbing gear. Right now at 9 years old, she is about to outgrow her bike, which now has a 400-mm seatpost, high drop bars (narrow 20-year-old bars) and bar-end shifters in friction mode.

    As for distance, at 7, she was able to ride 20-25 km on her own, and now she is able to ride 40-70 km on her own (as opposed to stoking the tandem), depending on weather, traffic. Since we live in a not too hilly environment, the most challenging aspect is actually finding routes that are not too hilly. She doesn't have any problems climbing hills (up to 4-6%, I guess), it's going down that she finds a bit frightening. It's only this year that she has started to go downhill at more than a crawl speed.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

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    Look for a 650c wheel bike for her if your riding mainly road and paths.

    I started my sons on 24" and later 650c single speed road/track bikes and geared them pretty low, about a 4 - 4.5m rollout for general riding and let them spin.

    I always kept in mind that most studies involving weight bearing exercise with juveniles work on a maximium load of 10% of body weight.

    Heavy overgeared bikes can be very taxing on a young body, I've also noticed under 10 years the multiple gears are confusing more than aiding the riders.

  21. #21
    Senior Member willieb's Avatar
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    I was trying to make the same decision. I weighed the options and decided to get a Trek instead of a Wal-mart bike for a few reasons. The main reason is the Trek trade-up program. I'm not sure if all Trek dealers do this so check with your LBS. When you by a Trek kids bike, you can trade it in when they grow out of it. They will give you 50% of the original cost back to go toward the new bike.

    So if you pay $180 for a Pearl White or Metallic Pink Mystic 20 (1-speed) then you'll get back about $60 when it's time to upgrade.

    Or $240 for the girl's purple Mt. Track 60 (6-speed) and get $120 for the next bike with the trade-in. Try getting 50% of a Wal-mart bike at a yard sale, lol.

    Again I don't know if all Trek dealers do that but the ones in Jacksonville, FL does and it works out great for us. And our kids (all 3) get to ride quality bikes equalling less things around the house I need to fix.

    You may can also buy a used bike from the trade-up program as well for the same 50% price as it was traded in for. When my son was 3yrs old we bought him a Jet 12 for only $60. And when he grows out of it, we can still trade it in for $30! I can't wait to pick out his new one in a couple years, lol...

    Good luck...
    Last edited by willieb; 10-21-05 at 11:44 AM.

  22. #22
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    I second Michel Gagnon's post.....


    Shop around for a XS or S MTB (26 in wheels), one with no suspention if possible. Depending on where you live, it's possible to buy one for as little as $20-$30 if you shop around a bit. Smaller used bikes are worth less than bigger ones because they fit less riders.

    Old Treks are good, but Raleigh M-20 or better (M-30, M-50 ect..) fit smaller riders really, really well. You'll have to change tubes and tires, maybe brake pads and cables. Do it yourself-- the local bike shop will help you. Your total costs should be about $100 (more in some markets) and a weekend of shopping/fixing.

    What you'll get is a quality bike that will be paty of your family for years and years-- plus maybe a few tools and basic bike repair knowledge that will pay for themselves 20 times over.

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