I will be posting about 24” wheel road bikes later, but what if you are looking for a 20” wheel? What choices do you have?
It turns out, you have very little in the way of choice. If you have a child up to the age of 7, and they want to ride a road bike you are a bit stuck. It really boils down to:
Islabike Reis 20” track bike
70s/80s era bike off eBay
The Reis track bike can be run as a fixed wheel, or it can be turned into a freewheel and have brakes added, giving a single speed road bike. The frame has a dropped top tube, and isn’t too long, meaning children from about 5 upwards can ride them. The Reis really is a great bike, and if you can afford it, something to consider. However it is only a single speed, and while ideal for the track, is not so good if you are wanting to take a child on the road.
The alternative is to have a hunt on eBay for a vintage steel framed road bike from Peugeot, Raleigh etc. In the 1970s and 1980s both manufacturers made 20” wheel versions of their adult bikes, and you can often pick them up for reasonable money. They are not as light as an Islabike (by a long way), but with a few modifications can work just as well.
We ended up going for the vintage bike option, and I will be documenting what we bought and the modifications we made shortly.
At the start of 2011, my two children (Arlo aged 6 and Greta aged 5) started attending Palmer Park Velo (PPV) cycling club. They have always loved being on their bikes and were keen to have a go on the track at the velodrome.
As most young children do at PPV, they started riding sessions on their mountain bikes. Key bike handling skills were taught in a safe, controlled environment by the wonderful coaches.
However, it wasn’t long before Arlo wanted to have a go on a road bike. You could see him watching the older children riding the track and longing to have a go. Luckily PPV has a supply of bikes in a variety of sizes for children to have a go on. They don’t charge for using the bikes, and it helps children give it a go, before parents have to pay out for one of their own!
Arlo started out by riding the smallest road bikes they have at the club — an Islabike Reis 20 converted into a freewheel with brakes. They are fantastic bikes. Very light and easy to ride, which is ideal when the riders are aged 5-7.
After a few weeks of borrowing a club bike, it was obvious Arlo was keen to continue going to training and I started to look around for a bike of his own. He could have continued to ride a club bike, but with the club having increased membership almost every week, and the small Islabikes in high demand it didn’t seem right. He now has his own junior road bike, as does Greta who still rides the club bikes whilst gaining confidence.
This blog will record the problems I had finding road bikes for children, how I fixed up battered eBay purchases, what bikes are on the market and more.