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  1. #1
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    Stick with one-speed or buy geared bike for 7-year-old?

    My son has outgrown his 16" bike and will be getting a 20" bike for his 7th birthday next month. Mr Deplume and I just aren't sure whether to upgrade to a geared bike or stick with a one speed. We go on family bike rides of 5+ miles sometimes, and while he can keep up most of the time, he has to hop off and walk up some of the steeper hills near our house.

    I know that having more speeds would help that, but at 7 yrs old is he old enough to really get the benefits out of the different gears. In your personal experience with kids, do they use the gears they have, or do they tend to find one gear and stick with it most of the time?

    We've looked at some Specialized Hotrock options at the LBS, but we're also considering the GT bikes from Performance Bike: 20" coaster and 20" 7-speed. (If you have any opinions about the pre-built bikes from Performance I'd also welcome them. Knowing how rough the neighborhood kids are on their bikes, I really do like the smaller price tag, but don't want to buy my kid a POS, either)

  2. #2
    likes bikes estciclista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NormDeplume View Post
    My son has outgrown his 16" bike and will be getting a 20" bike for his 7th birthday next month. Mr Deplume and I just aren't sure whether to upgrade to a geared bike or stick with a one speed. We go on family bike rides of 5+ miles sometimes, and while he can keep up most of the time, he has to hop off and walk up some of the steeper hills near our house.

    I know that having more speeds would help that, but at 7 yrs old is he old enough to really get the benefits out of the different gears. In your personal experience with kids, do they use the gears they have, or do they tend to find one gear and stick with it most of the time?

    We've looked at some Specialized Hotrock options at the LBS, but we're also considering the GT bikes from Performance Bike: 20" coaster and 20" 7-speed. (If you have any opinions about the pre-built bikes from Performance I'd also welcome them. Knowing how rough the neighborhood kids are on their bikes, I really do like the smaller price tag, but don't want to buy my kid a POS, either)
    For what it's worth, we just bought my daughter (age 8) a geared mtb and she is LOVING it. When we go for rides together she's always asking me what gear I am in, and comparing with the gear she's in.

    Not sure if 7 is the right age or not as one year does make a big difference in a child's life, but I would recommend you go for gears as you'll be glad u did in the (not so) long run.

    At first my daughter was very nervous using the gears and wished she had her single speed, but after a little training and a little patience, she caught on pretty quick and now really loves it.

    Hope that helps.

  3. #3
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    It does help, thanks. In thinking about it this last week, we live in a hilly area (for the Midwest), and I really want him to be able to enjoy family rides. Now I just have to travel all over heck's half-acre letting him try out bikes. The one LBS that's only about 10 miles from my house puts an enormous markup on all their bikes, so I end up having to drive 25 miles in one of 3 directions to find a shop. Small town living has its advantages, but bike shopping is NOT one of them.

    side rant-- Why do so many kids bikes have suspension forks? The bikes we've been looking at are all more than half the boy's weight!

  4. #4
    likes bikes estciclista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NormDeplume View Post
    It does help, thanks. In thinking about it this last week, we live in a hilly area (for the Midwest), and I really want him to be able to enjoy family rides. Now I just have to travel all over heck's half-acre letting him try out bikes. The one LBS that's only about 10 miles from my house puts an enormous markup on all their bikes, so I end up having to drive 25 miles in one of 3 directions to find a shop. Small town living has its advantages, but bike shopping is NOT one of them.

    side rant-- Why do so many kids bikes have suspension forks? The bikes we've been looking at are all more than half the boy's weight!
    We have a similar problem here too, with hills and shops too. Have u tried craigslist? Newspaper? We bought our daughter's bike at a yearly bike swap at the local school for $30.

    And my daughter's bike is also pretty heavy, with full suspension, but she doesn't seem to mind it. She loves the shocks, and will challenge me to a bumpy ride laughing the whole time since I don't have shocks (and I like to exaggerate the discomfort I have with the bumps - to her great delight!)

    But the whole mtn bike thing was a bit of a fad for a lot of people, so there's a glut of mtn bikes out there that can now be bought for cheap thru the right channels.

    Happy shopping!

  5. #5
    Goodbye Leeroy Jenkins tagaproject6's Avatar
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    There is no time like the present to introduce your child to different gears. I introduced my son to it when he was about that age. I had misgivings in the beginning as I do not want to overcomplicate my child's enjoyment of cycling by giving a new set of things to tackle. He took to it quite well and has a great philosphy on gearing...if it it is too hard to pedal, change gears...if it's too easy to pedal, change gears.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by estciclista View Post
    We have a similar problem here too, with hills and shops too. Have u tried craigslist? Newspaper? We bought our daughter's bike at a yearly bike swap at the local school for $30.
    I've been watching Craigslist for a couple of months for the two bigger cities nearby, and haven't seen much of anything aside from old rusty junkers and pricey bikes that are never ridden, but will keep looking. I will try searching the local paper's online classifieds, too.

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    Our general experience is that a 7-year old can cope with gears, but may take a while for selecting the right gear to become automatic. It seems a bit peculiar, but a kid who can use the gears pretty well off-road may not do so on road.

    As far as sus vs rigid forks are concerned, I'm all for rigids. Cheap sus forks have no damping and bounce like pogo sticks, if they move at all. Those sensitive to respond to a 7-year old's weight are as common as rocking horse droppings.

    My preference for rigids comes from the fact that, unless exceptionally skilful for their age, children do better to learn their bike handling skills on a fully rigid bike, because it means they operate at slower speeds and then they crash/fall off, and they will, they will be riding more slowly. Sus forks can encourage them to ride faster than their skill level allows and when they carsh/fall off, and they will, they do it faster, harder and more frequently.

    Skills first, then sus, at which point the number of crashes will be much the same as before

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    As far as gears go, it depends on the kid. My nephew did fine with gears about that age. My niece, not as much. But my niece has little interest in riding independently in spite of being in a bikey family. My daughter at 2.5 thinks that her push bike is beneath her and wants one with gears, nevermind that she can't pedal yet.

    Decent used children's bikes are tough as the market is glutted with department store bikes and the people who buy decent ones often have friends who will take the used offerings as soon as they're available. I'm already daydreaming about the next 3-4 bikes for my little one with half an eye out for deals.

    The market has gotten much better with most companies offering at least one model in each size that suits real needs (aluminium, light, no suspension etc...) If you're close to Canada, you might look at a quick trip to a shop that carries Opus bikes. If one of the shops near you carries Raleigh bikes, the Rowdy looks reasonable, or at least the current model. It looks like the older ones had suspension forks. If there's an REI nearish, you may be able to order a Raleigh thru them and they have a liberal return policy. Trek has one too, I think the MT 60.

  9. #9
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Long ago, one issue I noticed with little kids is a tendency to assume that pedaling faster = going faster, so that lowest gear is your go-fast gear because you can spin like mad, which is just backwards. I assume they can unlearn that pretty quick, too. If you're used to driving cars and trucks, then it's a little more obvious how gears work, and kids don't have that advantage.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  10. #10
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lucienrau View Post
    Decent used children's bikes are tough as the market is glutted with department store bikes and the people who buy decent ones often have friends who will take the used offerings as soon as they're available. I'm already daydreaming about the next 3-4 bikes for my little one with half an eye out for deals.
    That's pretty much exactly my experience so far. A lot of half-broken "Next" brand bikes, but the good used ones are nowhere to be found.

    The market has gotten much better with most companies offering at least one model in each size that suits real needs (aluminium, light, no suspension etc...) If you're close to Canada, you might look at a quick trip to a shop that carries Opus bikes. If one of the shops near you carries Raleigh bikes, the Rowdy looks reasonable, or at least the current model. It looks like the older ones had suspension forks. If there's an REI nearish, you may be able to order a Raleigh thru them and they have a liberal return policy. Trek has one too, I think the MT 60.
    I'm not close to Canada, and nearest REI is over 3 hours' drive away, but my favorite LBS carries Raleigh, so I might be in luck there. I got a xsmall Raleigh mtb for my 9.5 year-old daughter (she is incredibly long-legged) and we're quite happy with it so far. We might manage to get there this week sometime.

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    I purchased a Specialized Hard Rock Street for my boy last year at age 7. It was a big step up in bike for him and he was a bit small on it originally. However, he figured out how to ride it pretty quick. Now he can blast away. We ride paved trails and in the neighborhood. When he is with my wife, she is the one that has to keep up. On the W&OD trail here in Northern VA, he can cruze the climbs at 8 to 10 mph and go 20mph in the reverse direction. There would be no way to do that without a geared bike. Now that he has grown a bit, the bike is a good fit. A 20inch fix gear would not do for us.

    I do suggest to get a bike like the HardRock Street if you ride similar to us. If you do more trails that are gravel or dirt, then get the off road version of the HardRock. The 20inch bikes at the bike shop seem to be two sizes - small kids and Lager Teen sized. Depending on how big your 7 year old is, the 20inch may only be a bike for a year or 2 before having to get something bigger. The 24in HardRock will last 4 or so years before a size increase is needed.
    Last edited by Bikeisdusty; 07-06-11 at 07:52 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone! We hope to spend Friday bike shopping and will keep y'all posted.

  13. #13
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    Maybe I'm too late to contribute but I would vote for a multigeared bike. I would also vote for a used bike because face it, in a year or two he'll need the next size up. My kids are 14 and 15 and are finally on adult sized bikes ... whew!
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  14. #14
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    Maybe I'm too late to contribute but I would vote for a multigeared bike. I would also vote for a used bike because face it, in a year or two he'll need the next size up. My kids are 14 and 15 and are finally on adult sized bikes ... whew!
    I'd love to buy used, but I just don't see it happening. There is just *nothing* around here in the way of used kids bikes.

  15. #15
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I hear ya. We're lucky in the suburbs of Boston. Always lots of used bikes around. It takes some time and diligence looking on craigslist to get the best bike.

    Finally got my kids onto 700c hybrids with smooth tires. They are so fast now. We still think back to the days of training wheels ... and giggle.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  16. #16
    Goodbye Leeroy Jenkins tagaproject6's Avatar
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    If it is at all possible, check out the at the Fuji Ace 20. Excellent little road bike for the young ones.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tagaproject6 View Post
    If it is at all possible, check out the at the Fuji Ace 20. Excellent little road bike for the young ones.
    That was recommended to me by a friend, as well. My favorite LBS carries Fuji, Raleigh, Kona and Specialized, so I'm really hoping for something magic to happen when we get there. *fingers crossed* There's a Trek dealer 20 miles the opposite direction, but they seem to have moved toward selling mopeds and ellipticals these days, so I don't know how many bikes they stock any more. Sad.

  18. #18
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I forgot to mention that my kids don't shift much. ever since they got gears I've been coaching them on cadence etc but they really like to pick a gear and stay there. They are getting better but really they don't have much need to shift on paved trails as I do out on the street.

    That's a sweet looking little road bike. I wound up getting my kids better tires with less rolling resistance cuz they didn't need full out MTB tires. I got them BMX tires and also a set for my MTB so we would all have the same. MAXXIS Holy Rollers were fun for the years they used their 24" bikes.
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    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  19. #19
    likes bikes estciclista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    I forgot to mention that my kids don't shift much. ever since they got gears I've been coaching them on cadence etc but they really like to pick a gear and stay there. They are getting better but really they don't have much need to shift on paved trails as I do out on the street.
    That comment made me smile - my 8 yr old enjoys shifting, but rarely does it and usually needs reminding. For whatever reason, she loves those high gears!

  20. #20
    Senior Member kengrubb's Avatar
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    Something else to consider is the reach to the brake levers.

    My 10 year old son has a 20" Redline Raid single speed that we added a front hand brake onto recently. I figured with coaster brakes and hand brakes he could get into the habit of using hand brakes now while he has both. He still forgets about the coaster brakes and puts down his feet. At times I get him using the hand brakes. The work continues.

    My 6 year old daughter has a 16" toy store Schwinn single speed that came with coaster brakes and both a front and rear hand brake. I recently noticed the tires were getting pretty worn, and the brake pads weren't much to begin with, so I put on new tires and Kool Stop Continentals. Been trying to get her to use the hand brakes, but she just doesn't have the hand strength and her fingers can't quite reach. She's probably a little small for her age, but still very much in the center of the bell curve. For now I'm content to have her use the coaster. Still several years worth of riding before she'll be ready for something bigger, and time to get acclimated to hand brakes.

    A single speed with coaster and two hand brakes might be a better choice for a 7 year old, but each kid is different. Just a thought to consider.

  21. #21
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    Get gears if you are asking the question! I love that you do 5 mile rides!

    Marin Hidden Canyon is a nice 20" bike with gears and hand brakes. REI sells them. We loved ours.

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  23. #23
    Senior Member NormDeplume's Avatar
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    Wow. If only our Craigslist looked like that. Here is a sampluing of my local one: http://peoria.craigslist.org/search/...inAsk=&maxAsk=

    And we ended up getting him a Raleigh Rowdy 20" 6-spd. He is deliriously happy with it. He's getting the hang of shifting now and everything.

  24. #24
    likes bikes estciclista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NormDeplume View Post
    Wow. If only our Craigslist looked like that. Here is a sampluing of my local one: http://peoria.craigslist.org/search/...inAsk=&maxAsk=

    And we ended up getting him a Raleigh Rowdy 20" 6-spd. He is deliriously happy with it. He's getting the hang of shifting now and everything.


    Have fun and good luck with it!

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    Get riding! I just did a ride tonight with my two kids. My son feels obliged to ask every few minutes what gear I am in, as in 1,2 or 2, 4 (front, rear).

    Even tonight, when I was riding my single-speed...

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