Kids who need to ride around a city like Chicago to get to school or somewhere deserve a bike that is well lighted and reflectored so they can ride day or night, that won't splash them or the rider behind them so it can be used in any weather, that offers a place for their baggage so they don't have to balance it on their backs and swerve when it moves, that changes gears and brakes effectively, and that offers a sensible upright riding posture.
This year, instead of buying a new department store (equals low quality) bike from a checkout guy, why not drop by your favorite local bike store and look at what they have? They are mechanics who won't sell you something crummy and they'll be able to fix it up just the way you want it.
If the small bike store option is too much money even despite the quality differences, why not check out one of the recycled bike nonprofits in your area? In Chicago, as usual, we suggest Working Bikes, the Recyclery, and West Town Bikes. Used bike shops like A Nearly New Shop are worth a look as well. Prices often beat the big box stores and the you can find a gem like we did yesterday. Look at our posts about buying a new kid's bike, kid's bike lights, and others...
If you go to a flea market bring your morality with you and don't buy anything that could possibly be stolen — one seller last weekend had wheels for sale with 3 or 4 spokes missing where the locks were clipped out; bet all his bikes were stolen, too. If they don't have the sales receipt to show you, think twice.
So we went shopping at the used bike store yesterday for a new bike to fit the 8 year old. His old one, a marvelous 1980s 20 inch Raleigh Mountie, found a new home with a smaller friend, and the bike-in-waiting, a 26 inch Raleigh Colt, was too large to ride comfortably. They didn't have a Raleigh Space Rider, the 24 inch model, so we were stuck looking at lots of current and former bike styles. There have been a lot of bikes made for 8 year olds over the years — practical ones like the Raleighs, silly ones like 35 pound shock-absorbed department store downhill mountain bikes, banana seat Schwinns, lightweight and not-so-lightweight racing bikes... We really prefer the upright style bikes like the old Raleighs, and so do our kids. They are comfortable and easy to ride in the city in all conditions. Unfortunately they were all sold out.
The bike was built for the German market in the early 90's when mountain bikes were The Cool Thing, but it was intended more for routine daily transportation than for mountain trails. Like nearly all bikes sold in Germany it fulfilled the legal requirements for use on public streets, the StVZO. I guess someone brought it over to Chicago and outgrew it. (This was considered a lowish end bike in Germany at the time.)
Finding this bike gives us a good excuse to compare. What makes the Jumpmaster a bike for transportation? In other words, what are the things you will need to add to your own bikes to make them good for city riding?
|Recent Trek Mountain Track 200 |
with cool spoke decorations (seat too low)
|The Jumpmaster has dynamo |
lighting front and back,
and full metal fenders.
The Trek needs these added.
|The Jumpmaster has a bell standard - |
again, nothing on the Trek
|While the Trek features a|
multi-speed derailer system...
|the Jumpmaster boasts a Shimano |
7 speed internal hub with coaster
brake in addition to the cantilever
brakes on each wheel.
This Inter-7 hub has a wide range for city riding, an 8 year old can easily find an appropriate gear, and it adds another brake that works in any weather. Internal hubs don't ice up and rarely need maintenance. They remain expensive in the US though. Our luck is generally good with them.
|Looks like this Jumpmaster was brought |
to be safety inspected in 1995. The func-
tional but low end rack is visible here too.
The Trek has nicer aluminum V-brake copies; the Jumpmaster makes do with plasticky cantilevers and levers. Both feature similar aluminum rims and silly thick knobby tires unsuited to road riding. We'll start improving both bikes by putting on smoother reflective sidewall tires like Kenda Kwests or similar. The Trek frame is better made, but the rough frame on the Jumpmaster is still working after nearly 20 years and it's a little lighter (though both are heavier than any 8 year old deserves to have to lift).
We'll be souping up the $75 bike in a future post if we get around to it.