Kids grow fast! That is an undeniable fact. It is for this reason, it makes perfect sense to try and save money on items that they will grow out of - clothing, shoes, a new bike.... In this article, we are going to take a look at why a cheap kids bike might not be the best bike for your little one and in fact, spending a bit more money initially could actually work out better in the long run.
What we have seen over the past 5-10 years is a lot more care and attention being put in to the manufacture of children's bikes and kids bike accessories with particular attention to making the bike more child friendly. This includes balance bikes and pedal bikes, girls bikes and boys bikes. Thankfully, more and more children are able to learn to ride a bike on a lightweight bicycle with child friendly gears and brakes that can only increase their enjoyment.
Contents and Quick links
- Cheap bikes are heavy
- The brakes are hard to pull on cheaper bikes
- Kids bike resale value
- Better bikes are built to last
- Sale kids bikes
1. CHEAP KIDS BIKES ARE REALLY HEAVY
As an adult, you'll lift up a kids' bike without much thought, the same way you'd throw shopping into the boot of a car. As a child, that 10kg of weight is like moving a refrigerator.
Imagine you're a 7 year old child who weighs 22kg. On average, a 20-inch bike from the supermarket/cheap sports shop will weigh something like 13kg. That's over half their bodyweight! That would be like Sir Chris Hoy (who weighs approx. 92kg/14 stone) riding a bike weighing over 46kg!
Better kids bikes are lighter, such as the Frog Bikes who popularised the notion that a lightweight kids bike and better made children's bike will be more fun and will encourage cycling rather than putting the young ones off. Brands like Specialized, Giant and Ridgeback also make a lighter range of kids bikes, with options for kids mountain bikes there too for the more adventurous.
The reason these bikes are now lighter is because companies are dedicating more resources to producing these kids bikes. Gone are the days when these bikes are made out of left-over steel with no concern for little legs. Modern children's bikes are made from a butted aluminium frame to not only make use of a lighter material, but they even remove excess material from the tubes to make them lighter still while still retaining their strength.
Lighter kids bikes are great for a number of reasons - they will be easier for children to cycle and build confidence, especially up hills, they will have better handling meaning less off-piste adventures (unless that's the line they picked) and for the parents: when your little one decides that they are done cycling for the day, a kilometre from the car, it's less weight for you to carry back.
One factor to consider when choosing kids mountain bikes particularly is that some MTB's come with coil suspension forks and these add a significant amount of weight to the bike for little benefit to a younger, and much lighter, child. The reason that there is very little benefit is that coil forks are designed for adults who are heavier than kids and therefore, children do not get enough compression from the forks. If it is a kids mountain bike you are after, it would be worth looking for a bike with air forks as these can be tuned to individual weights.
2. THE BRAKE LEVERS ON CHEAP KIDS BIKES ARE HARD TO SQUEEZE
Another breakthrough with children's bikes was the realisation that you need to spec the bike with appropriate brakes and gears. In the past, kids bikes came with adult bike brake levers which are designed for larger adult hands. Now, a lot of children's bikes have specifically designed and smaller break levers to make braking much easier and, very importantly, safer.
If you are ever unsure - a good way to give you an idea of how the brakes would feel for smaller hands, try pulling them with just your pinkie finger (we have blown a few parents minds with this trick in store). Whether it is easy or hard using this trick is generally how this will feel for a child using these brakes.
Putting larger brake levers on kids bikes stems back to when these bikes were a bit of an afterthought. Rather than manufacturing a smaller lever, it was cheaper for companies to use adult brake levers on children's bikes. Thankfully, more thought is put into children's bikes these days (get me my violin and I will describe my experience of learning to ride a bike in the 80's - editor).
3. RESALE VALUE
A big difference between a good kids bike and a cheap one is that, yes, they are a bit more expensive up front but what is rarely mentioned is the improved resale value of an excellent quality children's bike with Frog being one of the best at this - with some sales getting up to 70% of the investment back. What we see, time and again, are parents selling the previous bike and re-investing in the next size up until it's time to move on to consider adult bikes.
With a cheap kids bike, it will either be given away or end up in the dump after a few years use so having a negative effect on the environment. A well made, more expensive bike will last through numerous kids and then be able to be sold on afterwards for a good price.
Better Bikes are built to last
For any item that is to be used for a child, there should be one characteristic that is non-negotiable - robustness. As we are sure you are aware, children are the ultimate stress test for a product and with bikes, it is no different. Dropping it on the ground, stunts (plank of wood on some bricks, anyone?), riding through streams - the list goes on. By spending more on junior bikes, robustness is one of the main benefits and by being more robust, they are also safer. Below are some of the ways better components leads to more robustness.
Gears - better quality gears will be made from more robust materials and will be manufactured to a higher level. With components that are mechanical, with moving parts such as the shifters and derailleur, they will withstand much more use before the potential for problems. Cheaper derailleurs particularly will get damaged by much slighter knocks than their higher quality alternatives.
Frame - With premium aluminium alloy frames, they will be tested to the highest standards for strength and, of course, aluminium does not rust. With cheaper steel (and any steel that is not looked after, for that matter), you could come back to the bike after a winter in the garage or shed for it to be rusted and rust will weaken any structure.
Bearings - Such a tiny component but can be responsible for wheels seizing or handlebars refusing to move. Higher quality bikes will have sealed bearings to keep the water, mud, or salt from getting into the bearings themselves that will potentially cause rust and wear. Sealed bearings will keep the grease in too to make everything run smoother on those important parts.
Another consideration on this point is if you have numerous kids for the bike to pass through, a better quality bike will last through 2 or 3 children much better than a cheaper bike. With a cheaper bicycle, what will likely end up happening is you will end up buying a bike for each child as the bike will not last more than a couple of years.
Pick up a sale kids bikes
You can find offers on at various times of the year and this can be a great time to pick up a great bike at a better price and this can make a big difference as your child grows. Here are our handy tips to getting a great bargain on many bikes of varying wheel size.
Secondly, if you're looking to buy a kids bike for Christmas, we offer a £10 deposit scheme – meaning you know you've got the bike you want but you have longer to save up to buy it.
Thirdly, we also offer interest free finance options if you're spending over £500 (easily done if you're buying multiple kids bikes) which means you can spread the cost in monthly repayments at no extra cost.
Hopefully this has helped argue that spending more on a children's bike will benefit the whole family - a bike that is more enjoyable for kids to ride and actually saving the parents money in the long run.
As always, if you have any questions or queries, please give us a call or pop in to any of our stores in Edinburgh (Bruntsfield, Canonmills or Stockbridge), Newcastle, Leeds or Aberdeen.