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  1. #1
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    fixie for toddler > coaster brake to fixie?

    My son is close to 4 years old and rides a balance bike well. I'm thinking about the step up to a real bike, and have become convinced that a fixie would be the perfect start for two-wheeled pedaling. It makes a lot of sense to me. It's just like all the trikes. You pedal faster to speed up, you pedal slower to slow down. Very intuitive for kids.

    I have a fixie, but I'm not a fanatic or anything like that. I'm not looking for some mini-hipster bike. Just a regular old kid's bike that happens to have a fixed gear.

    I happened to have a neighbor who had an awesome children's fixie, which he had bought at Toys R Us about 10 years ago. He has like 8 kids, all of whom learned to ride on the thing at ridiculously young ages. Seeing his kids pick up the bike and learn was awesome. Unfortunately, his youngest kids still ride it, so I had no chance of buying it off him.

    I've looked around for a stock fixie, and all I can find is a radio flyer model. The only thing wrong with it is that its overbuilt from steel, making it very heavy. It's built for riding very slowly with training wheels. I think the weight would be prohibitive for actual balance riding, and I know that if my kid can't go fast, he won't bother with it, preferring his razor scooter.

    So, does anyone have any advice for how to acquire a usable children's fixie? Part of the problem is that kids bikes wouldn't be marketed as a fixed gear, even if they happened to be one.

    It would be ideal if I could do a conversion from a standard kids coaster brake bike. I've been scouring google, but I can't seem to figure out if coaster hubs can be converted to fixies like a freewheel hub can. I sort of doubt it, since the coaster hub has an internal freewheel mechanism, right?

    I don't imagine that there are affordable 12" track (or even freewheel) wheels available either. I don't know how to build a wheel, and don't really want to do it for a bike that will only be used for a couple of years.

    Thanks for looking!

  2. #2
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    I learnt to ride on a Fixie at age 2.5-3. Not sure why the bike had no coaster brake or anything. I just remember having to lift my legs when i went down big hills!

  3. #3
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    yeah, that's what I'm talking about! I've seen lots of people say they learned really early on a fixie. So how can I get one for my kid?

  4. #4
    curmudgeon psirue's Avatar
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    can you please stop saying "fixie" so much?

  5. #5
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I would go to your friendly neighborhood X-mart and buy a cheap kid's BMX with a rear coaster brake hub. Then open up the hub, take it apart, remove the coaster fulcrum arm, and fix it with JB Weld.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  6. #6
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    If you really want to give your kid a nice bike, buy him a mini BMX racing bike...the kind made for little kiddie BMX racing. They are kinda pricey, but you can find them on ebay relatively cheap. Mini BMX bikes are without question the best bikes for little kids who have cycling parents who want their kids to do more than ride around the block. My son is now five but learned to balance when he was four. As soon as he would fit it, I bought him a Redline micromini BMX bike with 18" wheels. Like this....



    It weighs less than 12 pounds (you can find them much lighter!) and has narrow rims that use high pressure tires, similar to road tires. They roll so well that you can gear it up high enough to really cruise. I've taken my son on 15 mile rides and we cruise near 10mph most of the way.

    You could easily convert such a bike into a fixie by rotafixing a cog onto a BMX hub. A 5 year old isn't strong enough to unscrew the cog so a rotafixed suicide hub setup would be fine.

    HOWVER, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND AGAINST forcing a 4-5 year old to ride fixed. It may be fine for a tricycle, which is much much simpler to operate, does not require balance, and is less likely to achieve the speeds that bicycles achieve. A bicycle, on the other hand, requires balance and has a potentially dangerous drivetrain. Little kids lack the coordination to ride with foot retention, which is an important safety feature on a fixie. Moreover, kids are not strong enough to pedal a high gear ratio and consequently must ride a much lower gear than an adult. Because of this, there is the potential to spin wildly out of control, sans foot retention (imagine feet and pedals flailing wildly), riding down the shallowest of hills and given the tendency for kids to crash frequently, there is a high possibility of getting hands or feet caught in the spinning drivetrain. Keep if safe, keep it freewheel, at least for a few more years. Don't rush it....focus on your kid learning to ride well. He'll easily adjust to a fixed gear DT when he is a little older.
    Last edited by mihlbach; 06-17-09 at 06:12 PM.

  7. #7
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I think you're right, mihlbach. And thanks for being the voice of parental sanity. And double thanks for posting that Redline. That would make a great Xmas gift for my 5 year old son.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  8. #8
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    thanks for the advice, mihlbach. What did your son learn to ride on at age 4?

    Regarding the safety, those are interesting points. I'm not that committed to getting him to ride a fixie, just am excited about him riding. You know how it is. I figured that it'd be good to learn on, and that he could make up his mind about subsequent bikes after he rides other kids'. Wouldn't most of what you say about pedal retention apply to coaster brakes, too? Though I see your point about the low gear ratio/hill thing. But for a first bike that rarely leaves the apartment complex or park (I wouldn't take him anywhere near the street, since we live on a massive boulevard in LA), he probably wouldnt be going down too many hills. Though Lazarescu seems to have made it.

    but yeah, I can be convinced to bag the whole thing. Just an idea I'm kicking around.

  9. #9
    Get on your bikes & ride! xB_Nutt's Avatar
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    I just built up a bike (geared MTB with street tire) for my daughter and when she rolled it out for the first time she said: "Ah, man it's not fixed" Made me so proud.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeebu View Post
    thanks for the advice, mihlbach. What did your son learn to ride on at age 4?


    I switched to the mini BMX as soon as it fit.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeebu View Post
    Wouldn't most of what you say about pedal retention apply to coaster brakes, too?
    No because you can coast with a coaster brake. When things get out of control and feet leave the pedals, the pedaling stops. Its no different from a freewheel in that regard. Kids also love coaster brakes because its so easy to skid.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeebu View Post
    Though I see your point about the low gear ratio/hill thing. But for a first bike that rarely leaves the apartment complex or park (I wouldn't take him anywhere near the street, since we live on a massive boulevard in LA), he probably wouldnt be going down too many hills. Though Lazarescu seems to have made it.
    Just wait till he can really ride! Once my son learned how to ride without training wheels, we got off the sidewalk and started on the road...not busy roads, but roads with slow and infrequent traffic. Folks tend to slow way down when they see the kid on the tiny bike and he quickly developed basic instincts for how to deal with traffic, parked cars, etc. Of course, I'm always there to coach him and it goes pretty smoothly. We ride to daycare together several times a week....5 mile round trip. We'll be able to ride to school when he starts since its close. The more we ride the easier it gets. I used to ride to his left to act as a barrier between him and traffic, but now I even let him get ahead and lead the way.

    Good Luck!

  11. #11
    Harumph somegeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mihlbach View Post
    HOWVER, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND AGAINST forcing a 4-5 year old to ride fixed.
    But that's not hipster...
    Shut up and ride.

  12. #12
    Pants are for suckaz HandsomeRyan's Avatar
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    For a childrens bike, you can likely figure out a way to seize the freewheeling mechanism in the rear hub of an off-the-rack SS kids bike. Personally, I'd weld it in place, but pumping it full of epoxy or something should work similarly well if you don't have access to welding equipment. Since a child weighs a lot less, travels at lower speed, and likely won't be doing any skid stopping this solution should hold up just fine.

  13. #13
    is as Gurgus does. Gurgus's Avatar
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    Man, when I was a kid we learned to ride on a fixed gear. It had solid rubber tires and we called it the "schkreepa bike" because that was the noise it made when you rode it. "Schkreepa...schkreepa...schkreepa" I wish I knew what happened to it, because I've been contemplating the same thing for my five year old. He recently made the transition from tricycle to mini-bmx with training wheels.

  14. #14
    Senior Member devilshaircut's Avatar
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    Man, I would SO start my kid off on a fixed gear if I had a kid. Seems a great way to get your technique down right early in life.

  15. #15
    curmudgeon psirue's Avatar
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    technique? gross - talk about being an over-bearing parent.

    something lets me children and a fixed-gear bicycle isnt the wisest parental choice for the reasons already explained. get them a bmx and be done with it.

  16. #16
    Senior Member MrCjolsen's Avatar
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    My first two-wheel cycling experience was on a bike that belonged to the kid across the street from my babysitter. I specifically remember that it did not coast. Also, I rode the bike after he left it outside when he went in for dinner.

    So the first ever bike I rode was not only a fixed gear, but it was stolen as well.

  17. #17
    Senior Member devilshaircut's Avatar
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    Not really overbearing, it's just if I taught my kid how to do something, I would want them to do it right. Like if my kid wanted to learn how to draw, I would give him/her a book on drawing. Etc.

    Anyhow, I don't see how fixed gear is dangerous for a kid. Just make sure they don't put their fingers in the drivetrain, and you're good.

  18. #18
    curmudgeon psirue's Avatar
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    the notion of pushing a child to "do it right" in regards to drawing or having fun on a bike is being over-bearing. that is simply taking the fun and creativity out of an activity - as if they were doing something wrong in the first place. take a child development class - you obviously have little experience with raising children. a child does not care about "proper riding technique" - they just want to have fun on the bike, not be forced to be the next theo boss.

    the reason why a fixed-gear drivetrain would be potentially dangerous is explained quite well by mihlbach. re-read what he posted and think about it this time.
    Last edited by psirue; 06-18-09 at 12:07 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member devilshaircut's Avatar
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    So I guess being taught how to write correctly is a waste of time in schools also?

    My mom is a second grade teacher and has been since before I was in second grade. Sorry, but I see the value in giving kids the opportunity to do something correctly. It's not like you put them under any *pressure* by simply giving them the knowledge to do something right. You become a crazy parent when you force your kid to do things your way.

    P.S. Who needs foot retention when you have brakes, anyhow? As I said before, the only dangerous thing on a fixed gear is the possibility of things getting caught in the drivetrain. This is when you teach your kid proper safety. If the kid is old enough to ride a bike without training wheels, imo, s/he is old enough to ride a fixed gear. Of all the things a kid is exposed on a daily basis, bicycles rank low, if they rank at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by psirue View Post
    the notion of pushing a child to "do it right" in regards to drawing or having fun on a bike is being over-bearing. that is simply taking the fun and creativity out of an activity - as if they were doing something wrong in the first place. take a child development class - you obviously have little experience with raising children. a child does not care about "proper riding technique" - they just want to have fun on the bike, not be forced to be the next theo boss.
    I couldn't have said it better

  21. #21
    curmudgeon psirue's Avatar
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    reading and writing are not the same as riding a bike. a human needs to read and write correctly in order to function and succeed, but they do not need to having "proper riding technique" -- they do, however, need to have fun. turning a fun activity into the next violin lesson is simply bad parenting. the most important thing to teach a kid in regards to bicycles is how fun they are. pushing "proper riding technique" is on sure way to alienate a child from bicycles.

    and I think the idea of even bringing up "proper riding technique" with a child seems like such a downer. do you honestly believe any 3rd grader actually cares about their spin and what muscles they're pedaling with or if they're getting aero enough? I think they're more concerned with going fast down the street, ghostriding their bikes, and jumping off stuff -- as they should be.

    as far as foot retention is concerned: they could easily have their foot slip off the pedals from being wet and have the pedal come around and entangle their leg. a crash and/or injury would probably ensue.

    a freewheel or coaster-brake seems to be a better and more obvious solution. I see no benefit from a parent forcing a child to ride a fixed-gear other than some weirdo "proper riding technique" obsessed parent or some sort of hipster mini-me thing.

  22. #22
    Senior Member devilshaircut's Avatar
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    So by giving your kid a fixed gear bike, you are being "overbearing"? Wow.

  23. #23
    Senior Member devilshaircut's Avatar
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    Being able to read and write is one thing. You can do it, if not "correctly". As an adult, you should know plenty of adults do NOT read OR write correctly. Grammar mistakes are common, even in the professional world and most adults have illegible handwriting.

    And yes, in school, you are taught to write "correctly". When I was learning to read and write, we learned the Zaner-Bloser and D'nealian styles of writing although we did not know this at the time. This is what would be considered "correct" writing technique. You don't just hand your kids paper, pencil, and a newspaper and say "make it look like this". In fact, teachers discourage kids from writing cursive at all until they have proper education.

    And your argument of entanglement, how are you any less likely to let your foot fall off a bigwheel/trike than you are a fixed gear?

    EDIT: And it's not like you start teaching your kid by saying "Son, today you will learn proper pedaling technique.". You just make sure they can ride safely. Being on a fixed gear has the benefit of incidentally encouraging good pedaling technique passively. This has nothing to do with the parent's teaching them.

  24. #24
    curmudgeon psirue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by devilshaircut View Post
    So by giving your kid a fixed gear bike, you are being "overbearing"? Wow.
    by pushing "proper riding technique," as you suggested, you are.

  25. #25
    Senior Member devilshaircut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by devilshaircut View Post
    Man, I would SO start my kid off on a fixed gear if I had a kid. Seems a great way to get your technique down right early in life.
    ^ Actually this is what I suggested. I didn't say, you sit your kid down and have a long talk about proper pedaling technique. I said that fixed gear riding implicitly has the benefit of teaching proper cycling techniques.

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