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  1. #1
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    Help With Bike Choice For My Son

    I apologize now for the length of this post.

    My son has been riding for three and a half years now. He's going to turn 7 in December and is asking for a new bike, preferably one that has gears. He currently rides a 16" single speed and it's getting a bit small for him. He has done 15 mile rides with me without issue, so I am thinking that he's ready to move up to a 20" multi-speed. My budget is probably around $230 max. Of course, cheaper is always better and would allow for some additional birthday surprises.

    Obviously picking up a used bike via Craigslist would be ideal. Unfortunately, I live in a rather small market so my used options are extremely limited. I check Craigslist every day for bike deals (for myself more than anything, LOL) and haven't ever seen any kids bikes listed outside of the x-mart junk.

    We have three LBS available in our town. None of them stock any multi-speed 20" bikes (again, due to the limited market.) So, I am resigned to having to purchase a bike online. I do all my own maintenance, so I have no issue with assembling/maintaining whatever bike I purchase.

    Keeping my budget in mind and trying to stay out of the complete junk realm, I have narrowed down my choices to the following two bikes:

    Diamondback Cobra

    Diamondback Octane

    Both are similarly equipped. The major differences that I've been able to find is that the Cobra is a nicer color and $60 cheaper, and the Octane is a aluminum framed and about four pounds lighter.

    I know Diamondback is now owned by Raleigh and is no longer the brand it once was when I raced BMX thirty years ago. However I believe they are also a step above the Pacific Cycles manufactured bikes.

    Any thoughts on either of these two bikes? Or is there another bike/brand that I should be considering?

    Thanks ahead of time for any input you might have!
    '81 Panasonic Sport, '02 Giant Boulder SE, '08 Felt S32, '10 Diamondback Insight RS, '10 Windsor Clockwork

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  2. #2
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    I think either will be fine.

    One thing to expect is that your son won't quite get the shifting until he is about 8 or 9. Some get earlier, some later, but don't be surprised if you need to frequently let him know when to change gears and to what specific gears he should be in.

    Another thing to not be surprised about is how stiff shifting might be with the grip-shift style shifters. I have run into that on a number of kids geared bikes. I just swapped a grip-shift last week with an old 7 speed trigger shifter. If you go that route you'll have to make a few decisions on what you want to do. You can buy pods for about $20-40. You'll also need to replace the grip if you swap. You can find integrated 7 speed sets too. Occasionally you can find right side only 7 speed shifters but you have to be patient.

    I have a 5 year old that is just an early rider. Likes riding the older kids 20" bikes but will also hop on the 12" and 16". The shifter swap was for them when they kept getting into the higher gears (easy) and did not have enough strength to get back to the lower gears.

    I prefer bikes without suspension at this young of an age. They are typically poorly made, heavy and don't help the young rider. There are few instances where they can help the younger rider, but at that point you are probably more interested in a better made bike.

    The Diamondbacks you show should be okay. They will last through your son and probably others if taken care of. You can replace the cheaper derailleur and brakes if they go. Just hope the crankset does not go because they are hard to find.
    Last edited by masiman; 11-12-09 at 10:32 AM.

  3. #3
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    I'd heard that the grip style shifter is difficult for kids mainly due to grip strength. I wonder why most multi-speed bikes for kids use them? A trigger shifter does seem like a better idea.

    His current bike has a coaster brake, so my first order of business would be to teach him to stop using the hand brakes. We can move on to shifting once he is well versed at braking.

    Do you think the four pounds extra weight of the cheaper bike would be a significant problem?

    Thanks!
    '81 Panasonic Sport, '02 Giant Boulder SE, '08 Felt S32, '10 Diamondback Insight RS, '10 Windsor Clockwork

    Visit me at the Tundra Man Workshop

  4. #4
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    The bike shops won't order something for you? We have seven or eight shops here in Reno, and I'm sure at least three of them would be able to look at the specs and make a recommendation and special order what you need. Might be worth a drive to a larger city with more selection, if you have one in range.
    One that advertises itself as a "family" shop might be more accommodating than the local pro wannabe haven. There are two excellent pro-caliber shops here, but I find myself shopping in them less and less now that I'm a retired gentleman riding for fitness and recreation. I get tired of the 19-year-olds telling me I need to lower my handlebars, change my cushy Brooks saddle for something lighter and get rid of my fenders. Been there, done that before they were born. Now I'm just thankful for every day I can get on the bike. I don't need to suffer.

  5. #5
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    I'm sure the local bike shops would order something for me, however looking at the web sites of the brands they sell I'd probably be looking right around the $300 range which is out of my budget. The next largest city that might have shops with more selection in stock would be Omaha, and that's 180 miles away.

    Anyway, last night I went back out on Amazon and for some reason the price of the Diamondback Octane dropped by about $50. That placed it only a few bucks more than the steel framed bike, which was a no-brainer in my book so I ordered it.

    Thanks everyone for your help!
    '81 Panasonic Sport, '02 Giant Boulder SE, '08 Felt S32, '10 Diamondback Insight RS, '10 Windsor Clockwork

    Visit me at the Tundra Man Workshop

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
    I'm sure the local bike shops would order something for me, however looking at the web sites of the brands they sell I'd probably be looking right around the $300 range which is out of my budget. The next largest city that might have shops with more selection in stock would be Omaha, and that's 180 miles away.

    Anyway, last night I went back out on Amazon and for some reason the price of the Diamondback Octane dropped by about $50. That placed it only a few bucks more than the steel framed bike, which was a no-brainer in my book so I ordered it.

    Thanks everyone for your help!
    I tried posting this on Friday but the site was having problems:

    I honestly don't know why they don't switch to trigger shifters. I am pretty sure that it is profit and supply driven though.

    He'll pick up the braking pretty quick. Keep him on easy grades with plenty of bailout options for the first hour or two of riding with rim brakes.

    The extra weight will make some things harder like slow speed maneuvers on and off the bike. It probably will not be as efficient as a lighter bike. But all in all, the extra weight should be more of a nuisance than something that will prevent him from riding.

    There are any number of means to finding a used bike, but they all involve time and effort and some extra cost on your part. At some point there is a diminishing return in all that. Having more than one child that will use the bike makes your choices alot easier in some ways. You can justify higher costs and time because you can kill multiple birds with one stone.

    The bike shop or mail order might be your best route for the money. I price my time cheaply at $20/hour and do the math from there. If I think it will take me 3 hours of time to make a purchase, I better be saving more than $60 on whatever it is I am looking for.

    I think you'll be happy with the bike. Hopefully you'll be able to resell it after your son outgrows it.

  7. #7
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    My 6 y.o. grandaughter has a nice 24" wheel Giant 21 sp with rigid fork (weight saving). She hasnt the strength to work the grip shifters, so I had to downshift for her before hills. I suggest getting a bike that can be converted to Rapid-fire shifters in a year or so when he is able to figure out when he needs to shift up or down.

  8. #8
    tcs
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    I've recomended for this situation in the past to pick up a suitably sized single speed kid's bike off Craigslist and add a gear hub and trigger shifter, and, if necessary, a front caliper brake.

    Illustrated examples only. No connection to suppliers. Support your local bike shop.

    With a more lavish budget, I'm impressed with the Fuji Ace bikes.

    tcs
    Last edited by tcs; 12-01-09 at 07:22 AM.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  9. #9
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by masiman View Post
    I prefer bikes without suspension at this young of an age.
    It does seem like nearly every kids bike has a heavy, cheap and nearly useless suspension these days. One multi-gear 20" wheel kid's bike with no suspension is the Electra Townie 7D.

    tcs
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    I've recomended for this situation in the past to pick up a suitably sized single speed kid's bike off Craigslist and add a gear hub and trigger shifter, and, if necessary, a front caliper brake.
    That is a good suggestion if one has the skill/patience/time to rebuild a wheel. Some are even put off by brake swaps not to mention shifters. You simply need pretty good knowledge of what you are doing to avoid making this option a hassle. Things like caliper, canti or V-brake, knowing which brake type mounts you have or can make, matching lever to the type of brake, compatible shifter for the hub if it does not come with one, running cables where guides likely do not exist. Probably some other little things in the process I did not mention. Doable but it can be a hassle. I remember someone on here did this. Time and money wise it was not worth it. But as their labor of love it was well worth it.

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    I am getting my 6 year old son a bike for christmas. Either a specialized or a giant, but I am not to worried about the gear part my worry is about which size to get him. He fits the 20" bikes just fine, and he is a few inches away from fitting the 24" bikes. Cause I bet in 9 months or less at his growing rate he can stand over the 24" ones with no problem. So which one do I get? Take the chance of hurting his groin area or go the safe way out and get the bike that fits for just a couple of years.

  12. #12
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by masiman View Post
    That is a good suggestion if...
    It's not for everybody, and if a person's sum total of life skills is sitting on the sofa watching TV I'd be loathe to suggest anything that would cut into their quality time continuing to do just that. But really: it's 100 year-old technology and a few hand tools. Involve the kid in the project.

    tcs
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  13. #13
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    Stop and think for a minute, he's 7; how long is he going to fit on the bike? 1 or 2 years. How is he going to treat the bike? He's 7, so my guess is not very well. These are the questions I asked myself when my son was 7 and needed a new bike. And as much as I like ot get them quality bike from the LBS, it made much moe sense to ge him one from the Toys-R-Us. Like you, I do all my own work, so making sure it was safe to ride and adjusted well wasn't a problem. He was happy with the new bike, but quickly grew out of it. His next bike was a better quality bike. The same was true with my daughter, but she had to have the 'Barbie" bike, so deciding which bike to get her was a no-brainer. Both kids now ride sherrif sale bikes.

    After he got his new bike, I came home from work to find him riding his new bike back and forth through a mud puddle. "WHAT are you doing to your new bike?!?" I asked. He said "Dad, I want it to look just like yours!"

  14. #14
    Freewheelin' Fred dwilbur3's Avatar
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    I got a used Diamondback Photon (BMX) for my daughter (now 7) last xmas. She loves it and she won't outgrow it for at least 2 or 3 more years. It's a very solid bike.

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    So at what age do you try your kid on a 24inch bike?

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    That's going to be somewhat of a parental choice. Depending on how much value you put into a bike or how much value you think you will get out of it will help. If it were me, I'd probably get the 20". Even if it is only for a few months. A kid on too large of a bike is a real hassle for them and can contribute to accidents. If the kid is not going to ride it much then yeah, get a 24. If they are on the bike a few times a week, they like going in the dirt or doing tricks or even if they are not very good bike handlers, then I'd strongly consider the 20" just to help make their riding experience more enjoyable. Buy a cheap 20" bike off craigslist. You'll be able to get almost all your money back on it.

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    When it gets to be summer time we ride at least every other night, and we try for a 10 mile one or so on the weekends. So by summer he might be an inch or so taller, at his growing rate. And by then, comparing to how he fits on a 24" bike his groin are will be touching the top tube. Instead of him resting on the top tube like he is now. If we went with either bike he would only ride it on the weekends pretty much until spring. Just don't know play it safe with a 20", or gamble that he does'nt hurt him self on a 24" ?????? Safe sounds like the way to go.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tclong03 View Post
    When it gets to be summer time we ride at least every other night, and we try for a 10 mile one or so on the weekends. So by summer he might be an inch or so taller, at his growing rate. And by then, comparing to how he fits on a 24" bike his groin are will be touching the top tube. Instead of him resting on the top tube like he is now. If we went with either bike he would only ride it on the weekends pretty much until spring. Just don't know play it safe with a 20", or gamble that he does'nt hurt him self on a 24" ?????? Safe sounds like the way to go.
    He'll probably have an easier time controlling the 20". If he likes riding he'll probably find that when he moves to the 24" bike that it will be much faster than the 20". That will likely give him a thrill. Your luck will be that he won't ride the 20" much at all and then you'll hold off getting him a 24" because he just does not ride much . I have a pretty nice 20" bike that does not get ridden much right now. But I have 2 more coming up that will inherit it so the cost is well amortized.

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    You are most likely to be right about the controlling the bike part. That is one thing that slipes my mind when I get to thinking about these things. And about the speed, the geared verson of the 20" bikes I think have a little lower gear on them so he can go faster on the flats. I believe that the 20" bike is in his future.

  20. #20
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    My son is six going on 7 and I'm not even close to considering a 24" bike. I'm likely going to go from his 16" bike to the Gary Fisher Precaliber 20. One bonus for this bike is the ability to mount fenders. http://www.fisherbikes.com/bike/model/precaliber-20

  21. #21
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    If you can, have your son test ride the bike before purchasing. This one has grip shifters, and he might find it hard to work them. If it is a good shop you might be able to work out a deal to have them put on an easier to work shifter.

  22. #22
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    when i was younger (probably 9 or so) my dad found me a bianchi road bike with a 650c front wheel and built it with 7spd rx100 components with indexed down tubes and 105 pedals with the integrated toe clips. every year from there i got hand me down upgrades:

    look pedals
    bar end shifter
    brifters

    then i outgrew the frame and i got a hand me down frame and helped switch the components.

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