Kids and Bikes

Kids and bikes. Like macaroni and cheese. They go together says Stirling Senior. A kid who grows up without a bike will miss out big time.

When he (or she) buys his first grown-up mountain bike and discovers how much he has missed out on he’ll never forgive his folks. It will be the first topic he blurts out to his life coach. Not even a substantial inheritance is going to fully compensate for Dad not buying him a bike.

So, that’s out of the way: you must buy your kid a bike. That said, some (very few) kids just won’t get it. Don’t force it – it will happen or it won’t. If it doesn’t work, he could become a trail runner. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

When should you buy your young child his or her first bike?

Easy! As young as possible. First that noisy plastic scooter. He’ll push, lift his feet and steer (and drive Mom and Dad and the Grandparents crazy). Lesson one, forward motion and steering, done.

The next two-wheeler is a balance bike – the best invention in the cycle of cycling. By now he can push, steer and balance. This stage pretty much eliminates the use of those little ‘fairy’ wheels (also known as balance wheels). These first two bikes should be ridden on flat surfaces as these ‘bikes’ don’t have brakes.

Bike number three: things become a little bit more complicated, this bike has pedals, attached to cranks and a chain. And, at last, brakes. Usually a back-pedal rear brake and front handbrake lever. Now he has to learn to pedal and use brakes to stop as opposed to pushing and dragging his feet/shoes on the ground.

To recap, he can now pedal, balance and brake. So riding on the flats and downhill (not too steep mind you) is now possible. Inevitably Mom is going to be a little bit more nervous.

Finally, the next bike introduces your kid to gears so that he can do some little rides with Dad (or Mom). Gears are mainly there to help him climb and go a bit faster on the flats. Initially it is a bit confusing for your child to change gears but he’ll get the hang of it in no time at all.

After this, the bikes just get bigger with more gears, better brakes and suspension. And a lot more money. Don’t worry, the real money will be spent when they start buying their own bikes.

Talking about money, here are some guidelines:

  1. Don’t buy your kid’s bike in a place with lots of wide aisles and bright lights.
  2. If you have more than one kid, hand-me-downs can be physically and mentally damaging to the younger kid. Make sure the hand-me-down is properly serviced and spruced up with little things like new handlebar grips and pedals.
  3. Do buy you kid’s bike from a bike shop. Even then don’t go for the cheaper option (unless it is truly all you can afford). Go for the brand you’d be comfortable buying. The more expensive bike is lighter and safer. And a better hand-me-down bike – bonus!
  4. Buy your kid a helmet. If it costs as much as your helmet don’t complain! Your kids head is worth as much your head. Ask your wife. And don’t be hurt by her answer.

Gotta go now. Chris has just walked in with his young daughter Keira – guess what? He is buying her bike. I kid you not.

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