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  1. #1
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    bike recommendation for kids

    Hi. We have 2 kids, age 8 and 10. We are very casual, recreational family cyclists... We'll go out maybe a 12-20 times this summer for 5-10 mile trips on mostly paved bike trails.
    We can't afford higher-end bikes, especially since the kids will outgrow them in a couple of years (if we're lucky). So the big question is ---
    Are we making a mistake by buying the $120 bike at Target or Toys R Us?
    Are there any particular brands you specifically recommend to get, or to avoid?
    Any help would be much appreciated!

  2. #2
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rompix View Post
    So the big question is ---
    Are we making a mistake by buying the $120 bike at Target or Toys R Us?
    YES!! You get what you pay for.

    Stop by your favorite bike shop and explain your riding situation and budget to the owner/manager. You'll probably find that you aren't the first person to ask this question. The owner/manager can probably recommend some good quality bikes that will fit your needs.
    My bikes: 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2015 Cannondale Supersix EVO carbon

    I thought of that while riding my bicycle -- Albert Einstein

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    buy nice bike shop bikes for your older child. when he outgrows, hand it down to your younger child, when he outgrows, sell it on craigslist. If you have multiple children, buying nice bikes could save you money in the long run because they LAST. At 21, I still have a Trek 800 ($250 at bike shop) that my brother rode for 4 years, handed down to me ten years ago, and I've ridden since with no problems.

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    We went through this with two of our three sons.
    My oldest always had crappy bikes that fell apart. Something was always busted. As a result, he didn't ride much.
    Then I broke down and spend $250 or so on a nicer Haro bike for him. Nothing fancy - fixed gear, no fenders, no nothing. He rides that every single day. To and from school, through the neighborhood, etc. (He's 9 now)
    Having learned that lesson, we bought my 5yr old a nicer bike to start with. He got a small Torker from a LBS that he LOVES LOVES LOVES. Rides it every day. It's probably his favorite thing that he has. The training wheels are worn to a nub. The rear tire has bald spots from all the skidmarks he puts down.

    Neither bike has needed fixing, they just work.

  5. #5
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    Unless you have time and skill to adjust the brakes, bearings, and gearshift, avoid the Dept store bikes.

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    I'm of the opposite mindset. Its a "kids bike". The only requirement is that is has round tires. Its going to be beaten, jumped over ramps, rode through the mud and left out in the rain. By a cheap bike and if they get into riding, then spring for a nice bike if you can.

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    My kids got into riding once they got bikes that actually worked.

  8. #8
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt_E View Post
    My kids got into riding once they got bikes that actually worked.
    That is kind of my thinking. When I was about 9, my Dad chintzed out and bought me a bike from a garage sale. I remember seldom riding it, as even 1 or 2 miles was a real chore. It wasn't until a year or so 2 later when my parents finally went to a LBS and bought me a Schwinn 10 speed that I actually enjoyed riding.

    We have always gone to LBS for my son bikes. His last one was a 7 Speed Raleigh, purchased 3 years ago at a LBS for around $200 or $250. Though he has clearly outgrown it, he has gotten in the habit of riding with us for 12 to 15 mile rides.

    I just put a deposit down at a LBS on a used small framed Trek mountain bike for my son. It was a trade in. It needs a little work, new tires, chain, and maybe a rear derailleur, but I hope he will get as much out of that bike as he did out of his last one.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP View Post
    Unless you have time and skill to adjust the brakes, bearings, and gearshift, avoid the Dept store bikes.
    +1 The majority of times I've looked at a department store bike there is something major not put together right. The bikes that are under $150 are generally total garbage with parts that rust well and fall appart easily. The $150 to $200 bike tend to be on-par with the lower end $250 bikes at the LBS. The main difference is that you will get a bike that is sized to your child (not a one size fits all), it will be assembled right, and you get warrentee/support. For kids bikes you may get lucky with Craigs list or walking around on garbage day. My sister lives in a fancy neighborhood and has plenty of money to buy the kids a bike. She found a very nice Trek MT220 at a neighbor's garbage bin. It needed a new brake handle and a tune-up. The 1st son rode it for nearly three years and now the younger son has inherited it. Not bad for $80 in parts and labor at the LBS. A descent quality bike will provide fun and last a good long time. You don't need to spend a forture, but about $260 for new will get you something very descent.

    Happy riding,
    André

  10. #10
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrelam View Post
    +1 The majority of times I've looked at a department store bike there is something major not put together right. The bikes that are under $150 are generally total garbage with parts that rust well and fall appart easily. The $150 to $200 bike tend to be on-par with the lower end $250 bikes at the LBS. The main difference is that you will get a bike that is sized to your child (not a one size fits all), it will be assembled right, and you get warrentee/support. For kids bikes you may get lucky with Craigs list or walking around on garbage day. My sister lives in a fancy neighborhood and has plenty of money to buy the kids a bike. She found a very nice Trek MT220 at a neighbor's garbage bin. It needed a new brake handle and a tune-up. The 1st son rode it for nearly three years and now the younger son has inherited it. Not bad for $80 in parts and labor at the LBS. A descent quality bike will provide fun and last a good long time. You don't need to spend a forture, but about $260 for new will get you something very descent.

    Happy riding,
    André
    Wow. That is lucky. Basically, you should be able to save a few bucks by getting a used quality bike (avoid department store brands) locally out of the trash or more likely on Craigslist and take it to a local bike shop and have them tune it up, replace worn brakes, chain and/or tires. Or, alternately, you could just call local bike shops and see if anybody recently traded in a bike. That is what I did, and I am still waiting for the tuneup/repair to happen. Had I not asked the LBS to replace the tires, the bike would have cost around $140 but because I asked them to put new tires on the bike, that bumped up the price by $20 or so per tire plus tax. When it is all said and done, you should be able to save about 50 to 60% off the cost of a brand new quality bike; more if you can find a good bike in the trash. Thought of another way, you can get a quality used bike store bike and even with labor and parts to tune up and repair, you should still not have to spend more than you would at a department store.

  11. #11
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    rompix, It doesn't take a high end bike to enjoy, or to foster an enjoyment of cycling. My kids started of with various Huffys and Murrays. If they show an interest in cycling take a trip to the LBS. Haro, Diamondback and Giant have been great LBS available bikes that the kids got when they became older.

    Craigslist is an asset not available when my kids were young and worth looking at. A department store bike will likely take a little tinkering to get right as will a used bike, but with kids being kids a working knowledge if bicycle repair will be aquired if you don't already know some basics.

    Brad

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rompix View Post
    Hi. We have 2 kids, age 8 and 10. We are very casual, recreational family cyclists... We'll go out maybe a 12-20 times this summer for 5-10 mile trips on mostly paved bike trails.
    We can't afford higher-end bikes, especially since the kids will outgrow them in a couple of years (if we're lucky). So the big question is ---
    Are we making a mistake by buying the $120 bike at Target or Toys R Us?
    Are there any particular brands you specifically recommend to get, or to avoid?
    Any help would be much appreciated!
    You have not said much about your kids attitudes. That matters. Some understand that if they get a used bike than they can get more, others do not and may never ride a used bike.

    For a kids bike yuo do not need it to be light, you do not need a huge number of gears. You don't need much.

    BUT

    You do need the brakes to work and be dependable. And you do not want it to fall apart under stress. If either of those happen the cost may be far far more than any bike could cost.

  13. #13
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    I have done both. Bought a cheap department store bike and bought a nicer LBS bike (which is Local bike shop, for those of us that missed it the first 10 times we saw "LBS")

    My personal experience has been that department store bikes will not last past 80 miles without needing parts repaired. Brakes tend to be weak, derailers are really bad. Brakes aren't too terribly expensive to replace but derailers are next to impossible. Standard parts often don't work without modifications. And modifications are expensive, unless you do them yourself and that seems like a waste of time for a cheap bike.

    My brother recently took an $80 walmart bike that had 59 miles on it, to the LBS for shifting problems that he couldn't seem to fix. It was $49 just to check it out and needed $83 in parts and labor just to get it ridable again. So if you add up the cost of the bike and repairs, he could have just about bought the more expensive bike that he wanted and saved the headache.

    After an initial break in period, department store bikes typically need to have everything "tightened up" at roughly 5 mile intervals. Things just get loose all the time. It seems like this isn't a big deal, but having to constantly tighten every little connection on the bike gets old really quick and can suck all the joy out of the experience of riding. Especially for kids. They don't want to do it and they also don't want to stand around while you do it each time. Kids need to just get on and go without the hassle.

    On the other hand a friend has a Specialized kids bike that has been through 5 kids that we know off and other than one minor tune up, it has never had a problem/service. It has a trip computer on it and has 1000 miles on it from their three kids that have used it. They bought it on craigslist for $125 and given how wonderful the bike has been, I would spend 3 times that. Just adjusting it to fit/be comfortable for the kid is so much easier. Kids need to feel comfortable and we need to protect their knees. I find that saddles, handlebars and just the basic mechanics are tons more comfortable on LBS bikes. Plus if a part goes bad, it is pretty easy to repair. LBS bikes, even kids ones, are designed to be used for many years and thus are designed with repairs in mind. It is just understood that certain things will need to be replaced in time. But in general the parts just last a lot longer.

    You get zero product support from a department store bike. Once you buy it, you are on your own! With an LBS bike you often get a free tune up at 1 year and free product support. I took my first "real" bike back to the store 3 times in the first few months that I had it. I was having trouble with my knees and I just couldn't get it right. They were totally happy to help me. Even if you buy a used LBS bike, you could go by the dealer with it and they would likely help you get it set up to "fit." Many will even do a free kids fitting.

    It should be noted that there are several brands of bikes sold at lbs stores. Some are really high end and some are middle of the road. It pays to shop around and talk to the store owners. We normally end up buying bikes in pairs and shop owner often will give a discount if you are buying more than 1, especially if you are getting an accessory of some kind. (we like mirrors and trip computers) I have found that the Trek and Specialized shops in my area are the two biggest rivals. I am very partial to Specialized, but feel that Trek bikes are just as good. Recently we were able to bargain our Specialized shop down on the bike and accessories that I wanted, by getting a quote from the Trek dealer. Once the Specialized shop saw the Trek quote and saw that we were reasonable, they were more than happy to accommodate us. Again, shop around and do your homework on what a bike costs. Also don't approach the bike shop owner on Saturday, they are super busy that day. Wednesday seems to the best time.

    Above all get the bike that will make riding a great experience for your kid. I hated bike riding both as a kid and as an adult. I thought every bike I rode was just stupid, painful, and a waste of energy. It wasn't until I just happened to try a Specialized bike that I realized that biking didn't have to be awful. I honestly wish that I had a nice bike as a kid/teenager, I think it would have been a wonderful thing for me and for my health.

  14. #14
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    My personal experience has been that department store bikes will not last past 80 miles without needing parts repaired. Brakes tend to be weak, derailers are really bad. Brakes aren't too terribly expensive to replace but derailers are next to impossible. Standard parts often don't work without modifications. And modifications are expensive, unless you do them yourself and that seems like a waste of time for a cheap bike.
    Totally agree. Every time I've gone cycling with my cousins, their dept. store bikes have always been barely operable. Their oldest son folded up the fork of a cheap "mountain bike" doing an enthusiastic curb jump- we're not talking 4 feet of air here- at all of 90 pounds. Fortunately he didn't incur serious injury.
    Last edited by rnorris; 07-14-10 at 01:31 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    That is kind of my thinking. When I was about 9, my Dad chintzed out and bought me a bike from a garage sale. I remember seldom riding it, as even 1 or 2 miles was a real chore. It wasn't until a year or so 2 later when my parents finally went to a LBS and bought me a Schwinn 10 speed that I actually enjoyed riding.

    We have always gone to LBS for my son bikes. His last one was a 7 Speed Raleigh, purchased 3 years ago at a LBS for around $200 or $250. Though he has clearly outgrown it, he has gotten in the habit of riding with us for 12 to 15 mile rides.

    I just put a deposit down at a LBS on a used small framed Trek mountain bike for my son. It was a trade in. It needs a little work, new tires, chain, and maybe a rear derailleur, but I hope he will get as much out of that bike as he did out of his last one.
    Update. Got the "new" bike back from LBS. It is amazing how it cleaned up, and how well my son rides on it. My wife even complained that she is having trouble keeping up on her comfort hybrid, and now wants to get her old touring bike back on the road.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joyfulmama View Post
    I have done both. Bought a cheap department store bike and bought a nicer LBS bike (which is Local bike shop, for those of us that missed it the first 10 times we saw "LBS")

    My personal experience has been that department store bikes will not last past 80 miles without needing parts repaired. Brakes tend to be weak, derailers are really bad. Brakes aren't too terribly expensive to replace but derailers are next to impossible. Standard parts often don't work without modifications. And modifications are expensive, unless you do them yourself and that seems like a waste of time for a cheap bike.
    <SNIP>
    Consumer Reports just tested a Huffy bike and rated it not acceptable. After TWO stops from a reasonable riding speed the brake pads were worn out beyond the wear markets. WOW stopping twice should not be a big deal. Did they accidentally install erasers instead of brake pads. My brake pads last a better part of a year and I commute 2500 miles year round in all kinds of weather. Very cheap bikes are generaly garbage. Better to find a good used bike than to to buy a super cheap bike.

    Happy riding,
    André

  17. #17
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrelam View Post
    Consumer Reports just tested a Huffy bike and rated it not acceptable. After TWO stops from a reasonable riding speed the brake pads were worn out beyond the wear markets. WOW stopping twice should not be a big deal. Did they accidentally install erasers instead of brake pads. My brake pads last a better part of a year and I commute 2500 miles year round in all kinds of weather. Very cheap bikes are generaly garbage. Better to find a good used bike than to to buy a super cheap bike.

    Happy riding,
    André
    Department store bikes are a good example of false economies. Department store bikes are not really functional for anything but the most casual neighborhood rides. It is frustrating investing $300 or more on kids bikes for 2, maybe 3 years of use. My 9 year old is on his 3rd bike. But in the scheme of things, I believe it is money well spent.
    Last edited by MRT2; 07-19-10 at 07:50 PM.

  18. #18
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    You can buy a BMX race bike used and in perfect condition for $350 and sell it in two years for about the same amount. The wallmart bike has a resale value of $0. This makes the BSO not only junk, but more expensive than a good bike.

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    Yeah, most discount store bikes are ending up in the land fill very fast. LBS bikes, get passed from owner to owner and enjoy much longer lives!

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    I am lucky that way - I have three boys about 3.5 yrs apart each. The Haro that my 9yr old rides right now will be passed along to my now 5 yr old, who currently rides a Torker EVERY freaking day. :biggrin:
    And that will get passed along to my now 2yr old eventually.

  21. #21
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    I just stumbled on this thread and had to comment. I have been buying and selling bikes pretty regularly for the past few years and I am a big advocate of a bike store quality bike even for young riders. I have had dozens of kids bikes and all have been sold on Craigslist for a fraction of new price. In fact, I have 4 Trek Mystic's in the garage now plus a Hotrock and they will all be priced less than $100 as compared to $179+ new from the bike shop. I have never paid more than $20 for any of them myself - and I usually can find at least 1 per week at the thrift store or garage sales. They sometimes needs some minor work but mostly they are ready to ride and in very usable condition so I think this is the way to go. Good luck.
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  22. #22
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    I think kids are all the more reason to buy a good bike because they are hard on them. Anyhow big box bikes seem lowcost but it will add up fast. A wallyworld bike for a 6 yo was about $70. 9 times outta 10 it will need new tubes, slime and tires by the end of the 1st ride. Thats about $50 (up to $120 now). I bought a Torker cherry for her at the LBS, good tires, free slime and a year of free adjustments and lubing for $139. I know it will bring $40 at least when she's outgrown it and it will still be a good bike. Used Treks, Specialized, Diamondbacks ect can be had for $50 or less from CL.

  23. #23
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    If (big if) they are not abusive of their bikes, a folding bike is quite adjustable, so will grow with them,
    and can be used by more members of the family to spread out its use/value.

    If they want to follow a Jump over stuff Peer group , the hinges on a folder will be broken.

    Gender matters , I don't see any Girls, practicing their BMX tricks in my town.

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