In perfect Bustamante fashion, we loaded up our bikes this morning: myself on the BionX, Jose and Little Brother on the Bullitt, and Big Brother on his Fire Bike (a Specialized Hot Rod, 16" bike I got at a garage sale for $10--score!!).
You may recall that Big Brother had been rocking the Cupcake Bike previously. That was a 12" Performance bike that we were borrowing from a friend because the Fire Bike was too big for him. It was the perfect bike for him to learn on because it was small enough for him to control. It was awesome to see him move from the Strider to a pedal bike so quickly. Now that he's been growing a bit and getting more comfortable with riding, we wanted to test him out on the Fire Bike. Big Brother was a bit nervous at first because he could only put the tips of his toes on the ground but after a few rides, he was fine with it and very excited to be on his "big boy bike."
However, now that I've been watching him ride, I'm noticing that this bike doesn't fit him any better. In fact, I think the Cupcake Bike might still be a better fit (even though it's about 15 lbs heavier and smaller). The Fire Bike may have bigger wheels but the frame geometry is ridiculous. The handlebars come up really high so they're either pinned against his chest or they're like ape-hangers. There is no way to adjust the handlebars so that he has secure control of his bike. The other big issue is that the crankarms for his Fire Bike are the exact same as the Cupcake Bike. This means that even though he is on tiptoe when he's stopped, he still can't get a full leg extension when he's riding. His knees are just as cramped as ever.
Of course, none of this bothers Big Brother. He just cares that his bike is awesome and he's riding it like Mark Cavendish. I know that he's going to grow through bikes like crazy and it's a toss-up between getting something that's functional and not breaking the bank every year or two. I would be happy to invest in a light, easy to control kids' bike that he'll feel comfortable riding. Looking into Isla Bikes just might be the perfect answer. They have a wide array of sizes and some great looking bikes. Even their balance bike has a hand brake! I think I'm in love.
As per Isla Bikes website:
Understanding the needs of a cycling family has lead to an obsessive attention to detail.
We believe we have built the best bikes available for children whilst recognizing that a growing family is expensive and they must be affordable. We have spent your budget wisely - every part is specified because it improves performance, safety, comfort or ease of use. Many kids (and some parents!) are dazzled by all the latest gadgets but we believe that these too often drastically reduce the performance of a child's bike. Buy your child what you think they need, rather than what they think they want.