Bike needed for a huge, young kid.
August 29, 2018 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Kid needs a bike. More importantly, kid needs a simple bike. Problem; the kid is huge for his age.

He currently rolls a Cleary Gecko, which is just wildly too small at this point. He's right on the outside of a 20" bike being usable. He'd likely get less than a year out of it, so we're looking at 24" bikes for him. Cleary, at the 24" size, only has bikes with gears. I can't seem to find a bike that's both 24" and a single speed, and has real (no coaster) brakes. We're a city family and live in a very flat part of our city, we don't really use gears much, and he especially can't deal with the distraction of 'stuff' on the handlebars (once upon a time his new bell caused his one and only serious bike accident...uhg).

I would like to avoid buying a bike and then having the back wheel rebuilt for a 7 year old as a single speed, but it's looking like that's my only option?
posted by furnace.heart to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I looked at Fixed Gear ("fixie") bikes in that size, and they're expensive; I'm not sure if they're purpose built for athletes, or just well-funded hipsters.

Seems like it would be easier and cheaper to get any 24" bike, switch it to a mid-range gear, and then remove the gear shifters from the handlebars. I can't see why rebuilding anything would be necessary-- just crippling the extra features.

When he and his biking skills mature, you can look at replacing the shifters-- maybe start with just the rear, so he's limited to the midrange gears. If you're not precious about getting it working again later, then a pair of wire cutters will get rid of the cables that transmit the shifter position, and you can look at manually removing the derailleur so that it can't accidentally shift itself.

The kid will have to learn, as all bike riders do, how to deal with a chain that has jumped off the sprockets, and in the process he can play with his gear, but tell him that shifting is an advanced skill that he can earn his way to learning.

I would assume any bike with shifters will have hand-brakes, which is how I'm understanding "real brakes." Personally, I do miss those coaster brakes of my first BMX...
posted by Sunburnt at 4:47 PM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Beach cruiser style bikes are often single speed with coaster brakes. In a neutral color, there's nothing that particularly screams "lady's bike" on a model like this one.
posted by drlith at 5:06 PM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I misread your question as looking for a bike with coaster brakes and not one without them.
posted by drlith at 5:07 PM on August 29, 2018

No claims as to quality, but this has a single handbrake to operate coaster brakes.

I'm finding lots of grip-shift bikes for kids, which isn't really "stuff" on the handlebars. Disconnecting those might be as close as you're going to get.
posted by hoyland at 5:09 PM on August 29, 2018

To clarify, the criteria of what we're looking for is: 24" bike, Single speed, Handbrakes (and, well as mentioned, doesn't cost the GDP of a small nation).

For example, if Cleary made a 24" version of their Owl bike, we'd go that route in a heartbeat, only because the trade in on his current bike is relatively substantial.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:14 PM on August 29, 2018

There are 24" BMX bikes, which are single speed and have hand brakes. Example.
posted by misskaz at 5:17 PM on August 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

It looks like most 24" bikes have a 1x7 drivetrain. It would be trivial for a bike shop to remove the derailleurs and shift lever, and take the slack out of the chain. The one caveat here is that the dropouts (the part of the frame that holds the rear wheel) would ideally allow some fore/aft adjustment to fine-tune the slack in the chain, and it seems that's hard to find on the kind of bike you're looking for. Absent that, you can put a chain-tensioner in place of the derailleur.

The bike shop would do all this for free if you're buying from them, I expect. The chain tensioner would cost something. All in, you'd probably be looking at $300 or so for a bike purchased new.
posted by adamrice at 5:19 PM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

My 4yo is outgrowing his Cleary Gecko and we are in a somewhat similar position of having gotten him used to having two handbrakes, low gearing and no training wheels, yet he is still very small and there are few options available for a kid his size. If he got on a department-store 12" bike he wouldn't be able to reach the ground still, and that's not an option for a kid who rides totally independently. We are almost certainly going to get him a 16" Prevelo bike, which he will only barely fit at this point, but at least his toes will touch the ground. I realize this is absolutely not the solution to your problem, but I wonder if you are aware that the Cleary 20" bikes are, apparently, built like 16" bikes and have unusually low seats and geometry? There are 20" bikes that might be much more appropriate for him and fit him fine. Have you checked out the recommendations on Two Wheeling Tots? They have a ton of recommendations based on inseam length. For 20" bikes it can range from 18 to 28 inches! That's a huge range!
posted by Cygnet at 5:29 PM on August 29, 2018

Oh and BTW, pretty much all of the nice bikes for children cost the GDP of a small nation. We haunted eBay for like 2 months before we bought the Cleary Gecko. It's insane, but when I think about the hundreds and hundreds of miles of happy rides we've had on that wonderful bike, it's really worth it. It's a bitter pill to swallow, I know, and we're balking at the cost of the next bike, but having ridden department store bikes and very rusty junkers as a kid, I know how wonderful it feels to ride a great bike.
posted by Cygnet at 5:31 PM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, go with a BMX bike. The bike store misskaz linked to has a whole bunch of them.
posted by sideshow at 6:04 PM on August 29, 2018

What about an Islabike?
posted by rozee at 6:20 PM on August 29, 2018

If you have a local bike shop of the sort run by people who fix up a lot of old bikes, go there and see what they can do for you.
posted by yohko at 7:25 PM on August 29, 2018

Have you looked at Woom bikes? Those were recommended to us by a local bike coop and my son has been super happy with it. Link
posted by JenMarie at 7:59 PM on August 29, 2018

Here’s a recent post in CL, only $40. Since it’s a Mixte frame it may work tho it has 26” wheels.. It is trivially easy to fix the shifter so it doesn’t move. Is this the right idea?
posted by TDIpod at 10:23 PM on August 29, 2018

... I mean, set the limit screws on the shifter so it won’t shift; no need to remove anything
posted by TDIpod at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was thinking "get a bike, remove the shifter" but setting the limit screws to single-speed is the easiest way to go if your kid can handle a shifter that doesn't DO anything.

It involves literally just screwing/unscrewing a couple of screws down by the derailleur 'til the bike won't shift out of a certain gear. A screwdriver and five minutes is all you need.
posted by aniola at 7:21 AM on August 30, 2018

aniola--I had the same thought, but I don't think the limit screws will go that far.
posted by adamrice at 7:57 AM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you want to go super cheap, here is a 24" BMX on amazon for under $100, usual "you get what you pay for" warnings.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:02 AM on August 31, 2018

What about a beach cruiser? They make them with and without hand brakes.
posted by poppunkcat at 9:42 AM on August 31, 2018

I’ve seen people replace the limit screws with longer screws, or if setting the high limit is enough, you can remove the cable to prevent downshifts.
posted by advicepig at 6:39 AM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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