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J.Oxley 10-31-13 03:08 PM

New Bike for 7 1/2 y.o. Daughter
Right now my daughter's on a Schwinn Bantam, but she did that whole "growing" thing and it's time to upgrade. She's been asking for a little while when she'll be getting a bike with gears, and it looks like now's the time.

La la la laaaa Craigslist, laaaaa lalalala research, laaaa la la la huh. Seems I can count on it being relatively heavy with low-grade components. That's expected. Walmart stuff is out, just by default. Etc. You know the drill. I'm leaning toward something like a Trek Mountain Lion (sounds like a decent bike and they appear to be a dime a dozen around here), although there's also a gently-used (by a kid?! WTH??) and very cute Novarra Pixie up there. Both are six speed with 20" wheels.

But enough backstory. My question, for all you biking parents out there, is what experiences you've had with first-time gear-shifting bikes for your kiddos. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I could spend absurd amounts of time checking out bikes and googles (and I probably will anyway), but there's no substitute for firsthand experience from people who know stuff. Like you!

Thanks in advance! :thumb:

cafzali 10-31-13 03:38 PM

Why shifting? Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not sure I get the point on a bike with gears for a 7-1/2 year old. We just upgraded our 7-year-old's bike from a 16-inch Trek to a 20-inch Mystic and she's very happy with it. Although it's single speed, I can't really imagine her needing something else for quite some time given the terrain that a typical kid rides on.

J.Oxley 10-31-13 04:21 PM

Primarily for hills. They get somewhat steep and/or long around here. Beyond that, she wants to be able to carry more speed, longer, on the MUP where we do a lot of our riding. I'm sure it also has to do with the fact that our bikes have gears and she sees that as a more "grown up" component. Whatever the reason, she believes she wants and is ready for shifting, and there seem to be plenty of them out there designed for a kid her size, so I'm just looking to get a sense of what others have run into.

Perhaps that includes, "Shifting was a total disaster from the start. Should've waited another couple of years."
Yep. That would be a totally useful sharing of experience. :lol:
Seriously. Anyone run into that? Am I waaaay out in left field here?

sailor2 11-01-13 08:13 AM

My 6 y.o. occasionally shifts. When she feels like it. Or when the hill is really steep. Grip shifts are no problem for her.
Her 8 y.o. brother is better at shifting, when he wants to go fast, but most of the time he does not bother too much either, unless the hill is really steep too.
Both of them frequently forget to downshift before it gets really tough, leading to a lot of hard shifting under power.
Also it took a while to learn not to shift while stationary (IGH would be nice here, except for the cost).
But yes, they both like it and wanted the gears for the hills, roughly around 6 y.o.

cplager 11-01-13 08:18 AM

One of my two trail-a-bikes has gears. Next season I think I'll actually work on teaching my 6 year old how to shift. As to why, because compared to Illinois, it definitely ain't flat here. :D

J.Oxley 11-01-13 11:24 AM


Originally Posted by sailor2 (Post 16210106)
...Grip shifts are no problem for her.

I'm definitely limiting my options to grip shifts for a first-timer. What bikes do/did they have? Would you give them a thumbs up or down?

delcrossv 11-01-13 12:47 PM

The middle daughter(now 8) does shift occasionally on her Gitane (downtube shifter 3 spd freewheel). It's pain compared to gripshifters. Her 10 y.o. sister has triggers and uses them frequently.
For gripshifters, Just make sure she has enough hand and wrist strength to use it. Thumbies may be better. In any event little kids don't need a lot of gears- 1x5 at the most.

J.Oxley 11-01-13 05:11 PM


Originally Posted by delcrossv (Post 16211014)
In any event little kids don't need a lot of gears- 1x5 at the most.

Totally agree with you there, although for whatever reason it seems 1x6 is the new 1x5. Either way, a front derailleur is overkill at this point and would only confuse her.

atbman 11-01-13 05:30 PM

You don't say what your budget is. If you're prepared to spend rather more than usual, then I suggest you look at They're mail order only (based in Portland) and, in my experience, the best value kids bikes going.

If the US experience matches the UK's, you'll find the net annual cost pretty low. In the UK they often sell on Ebay for 80+% of their purchase price after the youngster's grown out of it.

We bought 22 of them for use by our members and parents often bite the bullet when their kid has borrowed one for a club session or a race and bank of mum and dad (or grandparents) flashes the plastic. The only downside for us is that the current models are lighter than the ones we bought by about 0.5 kilo. Quite a few of our members have medalled at regional and national school championship level on them and all components are child size specific.

And no, I don't have any connnection with the company ;)

J.Oxley 11-02-13 05:19 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Re: Budget: Craigslist Used Bike Budget, i.e., less than $150.

After doing some reading I'm really intrigued by this Gary Fisher Cosmo, based on its being adjustable at several different points as she grows. Anyone have any experience with one of these?

Turbo231 11-02-13 08:06 PM

I took a scrap mountain bike with a cool click up/click down indexed shifter for my 7 yo 20" bike. The shifter is for 7 speeds and his bike is only 5, but made it so easy for him, he loves to shift now.

delcrossv 11-02-13 09:37 PM

Try to find one of these:

They occastionally come up on CL. About $100 or less. Little rockets, they are.

J.Oxley 11-03-13 12:16 AM

I'm staying away from the downtube shifters for now. Knowing what I do about my girl, they'd be a disaster waiting to happen.
And we wouldn't be waiting very long. :lol:

sailor2 11-04-13 07:25 AM


Originally Posted by J.Oxley (Post 16210756)
I'm definitely limiting my options to grip shifts for a first-timer. What bikes do/did they have? Would you give them a thumbs up or down?

Both bikes are Craigslist finds. DS has around mid-2000s vintage of Trek MT60. DD rides GT Scamp 20. While I would prefer something lighter and with rigid front fork, it's fine. The durability has been excellent so far. Kids are happy with their bikes. I even offered to change knobby mountain tires to something more appropriate for our rides (they ride pavement in our neighborhood, occasional gravel), but they told me that since they are faster then me anyway, these tires are fast enough :)
Our rides are short, up to 6 miles at a time so far.

TrojanHorse 11-04-13 01:03 PM

I got my kids both Trek "mountain" bikes when they were in the same range as yours... I don't recall exactly what age, but the bikes are 13" frames with 26" wheels, so not tiny.

My daughter did/does fine with the shifting and figuring out where she needs to be. My son wants to be in the "right" gear. When they had the same bike (or similar enough to be considered the same) they'd compare notes on what gear to be in. "Dad, should I be in 2-3?" I have no idea, but it was funny. I will gently prompt him to shift up or down based on circumstances but it still amuses me that he thinks there's a right answer for which gear to be in.

Shifting isn't that complicated, and it's really hilly near my house so there's no way they'd survive on a single speed bike.

mel2012 11-04-13 03:43 PM

Have you looked at the Specialized Hot Rock 6-speed? We have the 16" Hot Rock for our daughter and it's a pretty decent bike (as kids bikes go). It's a full 5 pounds lighter than the 16" Trek Mystic we initially bought her, which she had a hard time handling and didn't want to ride (we got both of them used--the Mystic for $20 and the Hot Rock for $25). Based on that experience, I'm firmly in the "weight matters" camp, so we'll probably bite the bullet and get her a 20" Islabike for her next bike. If I can't convince my husband, we'll be looking at the 20" Hot Rock.

This guy has put together a nice list of things to look for and a comparison matrix for 20" bikes:

J.Oxley 11-04-13 06:54 PM

Thanks for all the information and experience. I'm certainly considering a Specialized Hot Rock... but I'm not going to find one around here for $25, that's for sure! But there are several kid-sized shifty bikes on the local CL at any given time, so I'll keep watching. Seems the low point is $60, this being Portland. More likely I'll end up in the $90-100 range, but hell, that's not much when it's in the "best...Christmas present...EVER!" category. ;)

Re: Weight: I read quite a bit of stuff discussing bike weight as a percentage of body weight (adult bike vs kid's) and yeah, I'll be paying attention.

Continuing the quest!! I'll keep you advised and return with any questions, and again, thanks for taking the time out to help.

BeginnerCycling 11-10-13 09:09 PM

My son got a 24" Raleigh Mountain Scout mountain bike with gears and grip shifters when he was 6 (big for his age), and he had really been asking for gears. He learned the basics pretty quickly. Now he's 8 and rides singletrack with me, so I upgraded his bike to a bike with better fork, lighter frame, and trigger shifters -- he really loves the trigger shifters, and I think for mountain biking he has less accidental shifts with them. He mainly stays on the easy crank, so I wouldn't mind a 1x7 set-up for him, but it's fine as is.

SkyDog75 11-10-13 10:58 PM

I picked up a Specialized Hot Rock for my 9-year-old daughter. She picked up on how to use the grip shifters in just a few minutes. If she didn't, I expect she would've just found a comfortable gear and left it there for the time being.

J.Oxley 11-11-13 11:59 AM

Well I went ahead with the Gary Fisher Cosmo pictured above. The overall condition is excellent. Shifting and braking is flawless, wheels are true, nothing's crushed or dinged or beat to hell. About the only thing I'm looking at doing to it is swapping out the big ol' offroad knobbies for something more MUP-friendly (and even that is purely optional, as the tires are in great shape). It's not the lightest bike ever made, but it's lighter than her old Schwinn so it'll feel light to her. In short, I'm happy with the purchase.

Now comes the hard part: Overcoming the urge to give her this supercool bike now instead of waiting for Christmas. ;)

Once she's spent some time on the bike I'll give a proper review for somebody's future reference.

J.Oxley 01-18-14 07:51 PM

Okay, so the follow-up review on the Gary Fisher Cosmo.

The shifting is nice and clean, and she can easily manage it physically. Brakes are good too. The bike as a whole seems pretty solid, and while it's somewhat heavy, it seems consistent with the other children's bikes that are out there. In short, it's a pretty nice ride. I got it for $125, which is a bit high for a used kid's bike (even if it's in great shape), but the quality seems there.

The only downside (relatively minor) is the smallish chainring limits her top-end speed when we're out on the path and she really wants to GO! ... or maybe that's a benefit. hahaha Anyway, it's not slow, but it could be faster. Oh, and it looks like my girl is instinctively a spinner, not a masher. She'll often drop it down a couple of gears on purpose, pedaling like crazy and maintaining speed. :lol:

Here they are. I'd say the bike is worth a look if you're in the intro-to-gears phase with your kiddo.

atbman 01-19-14 11:46 AM

She looks a pretty happy with-her-bike kid.

On a general note, out Kids Club experience is that youngsters vary enormously in the age at which they begin to change gear instinctively (anything between 7 and 11). I've even known kids do this off-road, but put them on their road bike in a race, the red mist comes down and they insist on using the "fast gear", i.e. the biggest one, in spite of shouted instructions by parents and coaches.

The only experience based tip I can give is that great attention must be given to cable lubrication. The slightest dirt or corrosion plays havoc with the stiffness of gripshifters, even more so than with the other kind.

Anyway, may you have many happy hours riding with her - until the day she becomes faster than you :(

Niloc 02-07-14 03:03 PM


Originally Posted by delcrossv (Post 16214392)
Try to find one of these:

They occastionally come up on CL. About $100 or less. Little rockets, they are.

What is that? I can't make out the marque. Sweet looking ride and nice color! I'm a bike fixer/nerd so I could probably figure a way to get the shifter up on the handlebar somewhere. Maybe even swap on a flatbar for my 8 yr old son.

delcrossv 02-10-14 10:42 AM


Originally Posted by Niloc (Post 16476588)
What is that? I can't make out the marque. Sweet looking ride and nice color! I'm a bike fixer/nerd so I could probably figure a way to get the shifter up on the handlebar somewhere.

Gitane. Google: Gitane Midget Racer.


Maybe even swap on a flatbar for my 8 yr old son.
:eek: Perish the thought! Get him used to riding the drops!

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