Why Buying a Discount Store Bike Is a Mistake
Most parents want their children to learn how to ride a bike. If you’re wondering how to get started, you’re not alone. There are lots of big decisions to make, such as what age to introduce cycling and whether to avoid using training wheels, but one decision impacts nearly all the others: what kind of bike will you buy?
Which Comes First: Cost or Quality?
Discount store bikes usually range between $70 and $100. When you just want to experiment with biking to find out whether your child enjoys it, this can seem like a good way to start. Unfortunately, what makes discount store bikes cheap is also what makes them very difficult for children to ride: they’re heavy and poorly designed.
Imagine buying a bike for yourself, especially if you’d never ridden before. Would you choose a bike that’s 50 percent or more of your body weight? For a 33-pound child, riding a 26-pound bike would be roughly the same as a 165-pound adult riding a 132-pound bike.
The low-grade, unreliable components found on discount-store bikes create additional roadblocks and headaches. Instead of prioritizing a child’s learning experience and safety, discount-store bikes are built to cut costs.
Quality kids’ bikes, by comparison, are lightweight, made of durable materials, and include features that improve a young rider’s comfort and confidence. The 14-inch woom 2, for example, is designed with beginner geometry for riders who are new to pedaling or have only recently learned to pedal—short crankarms and a low bottom bracket enable a rider to always put their feet on the ground without losing balance. Made of lightweight aluminum, the woom 2 weighs only 11.24 pounds and includes features that are meticulously customized for the safety of the smallest riders, such as small-hands-reach brakes, “knee-friendly” bolts on the stem that don’t protrude, a steering limiter to prevent overturning (and keep the bike going straight), crankarms that are ergonomically designed to fit children’s bodies, and tires that have optimal grip.
Additionally, at woom all adjustments are made by professional mechanics and technicians. Discount-store bikes are often put together and tuned by store employees, who lack experience and training.
The benefits of a freewheel (rim brakes) versus coaster brakes (check out our article Freewheel vs. Coaster Brakes (Explained) ) are an important consideration for many woom customers, as well; discount-store bikes often come only with coaster brakes, or their rim brakes function very poorly. woom’s high-quality, small-hands reach brakes are adjustable and color-coded for learning—the rear brake is green, which helps children avoid mixing it up with the front brake.
When parents choose a discount-store bike that’s unwieldy and scary, the result of “trying it out” is often negative. The child struggles to ride the bike, and the bike goes unused, gathering dust in the garage. The parents assume as a result of the experiment that their child doesn’t like riding bikes. In most cases, however, a child will quickly learn and enjoy riding a bike if given the right tools to succeed from the beginning.
As a company (and as parents and cyclists), woom staff recommend that you introduce your child to cycling at an early age with a high-quality balance bike. Make the process of learning fun by playing games, riding with other kids, and planning outings. (Check out Getting Started on the Balance Bike: Tips from Pedalpower Kids for ideas, and if your rider is 4+ years old, check out our tips for helping older riders in Why Training Wheels Don’t Make Sense.)
A whole generation of kids is starting with a balance bike, then skipping the training wheels step to go straight to a pedal bike. Balance bikes teach the most important and difficult skills of cycling first (balancing and handling), but they’re more than just an important training tool. A child can begin riding a balance bike as early as 18 months, which means lots more time for learning and having fun on the bike before transitioning to a “big kid’s bike.” Get ready to explore pavement, grass, gravel, dirt, steep hills—all those places training wheels and sometimes even strollers can’t go. Many woom parents talk about the newfound freedom (and exercise!) that the balance bike brings to their family.
A Kids’ Bike Is an Investment
Most bikes don’t appreciate in value, but while a discount store bike can rarely be resold and often ends up in a landfill, a quality kids’ bike can retain three-quarters or more of its purchase price (see Where Can I Find a Used woom Bike?) or can be passed down to siblings.
You get your money’s worth from a well-made, durable bike, and not just in terms of what you’re able to recoup when your child is ready to move up to the next size. A quality bike often means a very positive riding experience, whether the rider is just starting out or switching from a discount-store bike. On a lightweight bike, a rider gets less tired and has more fun, often riding longer and farther on an outing. Many children who ride quality bikes choose to be on their bikes every day, while discount-store bikes are so little loved or used that they’re quickly discarded.
At its heart, the purchase of a quality kids’ bike is an investment in active outdoor time, which numerous studies have shown pays very high dividends toward a child’s health and development.
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