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Kid Bike Upgrade

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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

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