Ever since my daughter was born 8 years ago I have been trying to get her out on the bike with me so that she can enjoy cycling as much as I do.
Sharing in the experience with someone, especially your offspring, is invaluable; and seeing how she hones her skills every time we head out makes me prouder and prouder.
As soon as she could hold her head up I strapped her to the seat of a Chariot Cougar 1. The Chariot was great for introducing her to cycling as a infant. Having her behind me on rides was perfect; I could get out on the bike and she could start getting the feel for what it was like to roll on two wheels.
I often felt that the experience was a little impersonal though. She was always “behind” me and interacting with her was difficult. I often regretted not getting the Chariot Sidecar instead, but the Cougar 1 served multiple purposes. With the jogging and hiking kits I could virtually go anywhere with her.
Once she outgrew the Chariot I went out and purchased a Novara Afterburner Single Speet Trailer Bike from REI. With the Chariot I was limited to paved cycling paths, easy singletrack trails, and fire roads. Anything more technical was simply very difficult to ride and made it uncomfortable for her.
The trailer bike allowed me to introduce her to actual singletrack riding, albeit nothing incredibly technical.
The trailer bike also allowed my daughter to finally start getting a real feel for what it was like to ride without training wheels. After a few rides on the trailer bike we were able to take the training wheels off her small 12″ Trek Mystic. This bike was a little gem, but she outgrew it rather quickly and promptly graduated to a its bigger 20″ sibling, the Mystic 20 S.
Now it’s time for a new bike; Her skills on the trail are growing by leaps and bounds and the single speed, coaster brake Mystic is simply holding her back.
My dilemma is now centered on getting her a quality frame and building a bike around it that will last her for at least 5 years or to simply go out and purchase a 24″ bike that she’ll once again outgrow in a couple of years.
For right now the decision is leaning towards saving a few bucks and going with the Trek MT 240. But at a retail price of over $400 I’m tempted to spend a couple hundred more (up to $600 total) and build her a bike she’ll grow into later on.
I’m curious to know what anyone else with a similar experience has done. Please post your thoughts in the comments below…
UPDATE: Since posting this the other day I’ve spent a bunch of time doing research on the subject of “small quality bikes for girls” and have found very little information on the net. I have found that there are lots of other people with the same dilemma I’m in and that there are lots of “creative solutions” out there.
With that in mind I am going to offer my solution in the next few weeks as I build Ari’s next bike. It will likely cost me more than what the Trek 240 retails for ($440), the bike that mostly matches what I think her bike should be, but it will be built for her and made so that she can enjoy it for at least 3-4 seasons.
I also found one manufacturer that makes quality kid specific bikes but unfortunately they only serve a UK market (IslaBikes), and getting one of the models I think will best suit my daughter to the States will be more than if I build her a bike – and the components that come with it not nearly as good as what I end up choosing. That bike is what I’m going to try to emulate so that she (well I) can enjoy the trails with me…