Kid Bike Upgrade


Raise your hand if you grew up riding a Huffy bicycle. I had one — it was black with gold rims, bars, stem, etc. — and while it looked rad to me as a kid, the bike was built with cheap materials, constructed poorly and, maybe worst of all, it was terribly overweight.

At age 12, I scraped together lawn-mowing money, ditched the Huffy, and bought a used Schwinn Predator. What a difference! I could jump higher, pedal more efficiently and when tightened, all the parts actually stayed put. That bicycle lasted me until I took an interest in cars.


The author’s son, Jack, racing in a cyclocross event

Fast forward a couple decades. When my first child was old enough to ride a bicycle, I was faced with a decision. Do I buy a department-store bike in my price range, or do I sacrifice a bit to buy a brand-name bicycle? Department store bikes, which can cost $50 or less, play a crucial role in the lives of our youth. Without them, millions of kids would not experience the thrill of speeding down sidewalks, wind in their faces, hitting jumps, and cruising the neighborhood on two wheels.

Though a cheap bike would do, I wanted more than that for my kids. I wanted them to feel a well-made bike beneath them, one that stopped fast, didn’t rattle or wobble, and was able to be ridden beyond a few blocks at a stretch.

At the time, my budget could not afford an expensive children’s bike. But a quick look at my local classified ads unearthed some great options. I ended up purchasing an ex-race bike, a Redline PROLINE Mini, for $125. It is lightweight, well made, and handles great. Since then, my son has ridden hundreds of miles with only basic maintenance required.


Boone, the younger son, in a race

When the itch to race in some junior events hit him, I felt good about sending him down rugged trails on the Redline bike. Other than tires and tubes, after much abuse no parts have failed or needed replacement.

For my younger son, we found a similar used bike online. We got him a Haro BMX bike, a model that’s no longer made but has worked great for him.

If you’re contemplating a bicycle purchase for your wee rider, consider visiting your local bike shop — not a department or “big box” store — for a better-made option. If the prices exceed your budget, a look through the classifieds or Craigslist might reveal some good candidates.

Like most kids stuff, bikes hardly get enough use to wear anything out. When my sons have outgrown these bikes, I’m confident that another kid will get hundreds more miles of use out of them. Too bad the same couldn’t be said of my old Huffy.

—T.C. Worley

Posted by Tim Staton - 08/30/2010 10:47 AM

Where are the helmets on those boys!

In my opinion, almost more important than a good bike is teaching kids that they don’t ride anything without proper head protection.

Posted by jpea - 08/30/2010 11:08 AM

maybe things will change as I get older, but I did tons of stupid stuff as a kid, most (if not all) without any sort of head protection. I survived. Am I wrong thinking parents are too paranoid nowdays? (btw, I wear a helmet riding in the city)

Posted by Rob Brewer - 08/30/2010 05:00 PM

I too wear my helmet and I have convinced my 2-1/2 year old daughter to wear her helmet any time she gets on her trike, Burley trailer, or child seat mounted on my bike. I think this is a good idea and is the minimum safety gear in the city I live in. That said, if we lived in the country where I grew up outside of Helena MT, I wouldn’t have a problem is she rode without a helmet around the farm. Lots of open spaces with soft dirt or grass and zero cars. I guess my paranoia is situationally dependent.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 08/30/2010 08:46 PM

That particular day, mom and dad left the helmets at home by accident. Most every other time they wear them. Thanks for the backseat parenting, guys ;).

Posted by Josh - 09/02/2010 09:05 AM

I bought my daughter a 20” Specialized to help her learn to ride (about $180). The fit is great for her, and the 20” wheels really helped her out when learning to ride. However, it is still very heavy; it probably weighs more than my ‘cross bike. I will probably get a big box store bike for my son, and get him an upgrade when he gets older.

Posted by Editor - 09/02/2010 09:32 AM

Indeed, Worley wrote on his kids’ helmets last week:

Posted by Brian - 09/02/2010 09:49 AM

I’m glad you are a proponent of helmets for kids but if you don’t want to take crap about it, don’t post pics of them riding without helmets all over the internet. Maybe I’m just another overprotective parent but it was the first thing I thought about and it really took away from the story. What did you think would happen when you chose those pics?

I am of the age where no kid wore a helmet & we rode all day, every day & I wouldn’t have been the first kid to start the trend either. That being said, I have the scars to prove it. Got hit by a car at 10 and a helmet might have kept me out of the hospital. My kids (nor I) don’t leave the house without their helmets.

Posted by Aleks - 09/02/2010 10:57 AM

6 out of 7 comments are about helmets, or lack there of. Way to detract from the point of the article.

Purchasing used decent quality bikes is good for all ages. A few years ago I got hold of a nice but old frame for almost nothing for a fixie build because I wanted to see how I liked it. Fun bike, but it wasn’t fun enough to warrant purchasing new. Glad I went the used route.

Posted by Shane - 09/02/2010 09:41 PM

Great to see kids out having fun on bikes!!!

Loosen up helmet zealots, focus on fun first then work on safety, otherwise we’re gonna miss another generation of healthy, active kids!

Posted by Matt - 09/02/2010 10:37 PM

When you have five kids and the dad is a big bike guy who wants the best stuff for his kids, there really isn’t a choice but to buy used. I looked at a new 2011 Specialized Myka Disk for my 12 yr. old daughter and it was $500.00. I have found my 6 yr. old a nice 20” Scott Voltage Mtn bike, my 8 yr. old a Specialized Hotrock 24” Mtn. bike and my 2 yr. old a Specialized Hotrocks 12”. As the article states, there is really nice stuff out there for a very reasonable price. Also, my 2 yr. old wears her helmet all around the house in her diaper. She calls it her “Helmot”. Get up out of your chair and go ride with your kids!!!!!!!!

Posted by T.C.Worley - 09/06/2010 09:01 PM

Yeah, wasn’t terribly worried that they’d take a hard knock on the 1/8th mile course made entirely of grass. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to tell 2 excited boys they couldn’t race because I forgot their helmets. Critics, do your worst, because I can live with my decision. Anyway, its almost time to start looking for other bikes – these guys are growing fast!

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