Gears or singlespeed on a nearly-5 year old's bike?

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  • Gears or singlespeed on a nearly-5 year old's bike?
  • Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    My eldest is about to outgrow his Islabike Cnoc14.
    He’s ridden a friend’s Cnoc16 and was very comfrotable on it, but I don’t really want to get one as he’ll outgrow it in a few months.
    According to the Islabike sizing (and takisawa2, he’ll be ok on a Benin20 (small) which has gears. But I’m not sure if he’s ready for them.

    As I was looking at 20″ wheels, I got hold of a Kona Shred 20, but it’s massive so wil be going on ebay soon.

    Other singlespeed options are the Frog48, which is like a larger framed Conc16, or possibly the Earlyrider Belter if a front brake could be fitted.

    Frog48 seems to be the best option, but if he seems ready for gears before he outgrows it, I’ll just have to buy another bike.

    Any thoughts?

    Premier Icon stilltortoise
    Subscriber

    No idea what your 5yo is like and how capable he is, but my gut feeling is avoid gears. Unless you have hub gears, the concept of pressing/pulling a gear lever whilst continuing to pedal might be a co-ordination feat too far. Anyone got one you could try first? My 4 1/2 yo is a nightmare! He has no fear on his Spesh, but is some way from instilling confidence in me that he knows how and when to brake 😯

    scruff
    Member

    Im in same boat, my 5yo has outgrown his MX14 , was thinking about a small 20inch BMX, although as can operate remote controls and computers fine I think he’ll managed with gears if he has them.

    edit- gripshift easier shirley ?

    Premier Icon cookies
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    My 4 year old daughter is fine with gears. Benin 20 small. Just make sure twist grip is well maintained

    bokonon
    Member

    Our 6yo has gears on Jamis X20, she’s not a massively confident bike rider and she doesn’t really like them/understand the concept – trying to explain that although your legs are going fast it doesn’t mean the bike is going faster seems to be a step too far for her, and I’ve basically left it as it is, in a middle gear and she is happy with it and leaves it alone – however, she’s at the bottom of the size range for the bike, and getting better all the time, so will, by the time she gets to the top size of the bike, be much more inclined to use them i’m sure.

    mrlugz
    Member

    My smallest was just over 5 when I got him a beinn 20 small.

    He kinda gets the idea of the gears, but still needs reminding when we are out on the trails to select a more appropriate gear. Has no bother changing gears though.

    When he first rode it he went everywhere in ‘Gear 7’ simply because ‘its the fastest one Dad’

    He occasionaly struggles to change down when wearing thick gloves, other than that, no issues.

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    He’s very capable on the bike, constantly amazes me tbh. Very controlled, uses both brakes correctly, gets out of the saddle for extra effort and freewheeling over bumpy bits and has got much better balance than me!

    But gears add confusion and weight….

    Any options for really lightweight and effective 2 or 3 gear systems?

    Premier Icon TomB
    Subscriber

    My lad got a Benin 20 small for his 5th birthday, and the gears have been brilliant. He was a confident rider, but now can go a lot further, especially if there are longish climbs as the low gear is pretty low. Looked at other 20″ wheel options but most (eg specialized, cube)are bigger frames and heavier and recommended from 7 years.

    No regrets, we went straight from the cnoc 14, and the 16 would have lasted no time at all.

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    TomB – that’s roughly the situation we’re in. His birthday is in June so may be an early present coming his way. I think he could cope with the gears. But I don’t want to stump up the extra £135 for the Benin over the Frog48 if he’s not going to get on with them initially.

    We bought him the Cnoc14 too soon, when hes was 3 1/2. He loved his balance bike and struggled with the concept of pedalling so just wasn’t bothered by it, until he actually tried properly 9 months later. 1 pedal stroke and he was off!

    Sorry for the thread hijack but we’ve got our 3 1/2 year old a balance bike and I’ve also got a second hand CNOC 16 which we bought off some friends of ours.

    He’s not shown that much interest in the balance bike so far – generally preferring his scooter, but I’ve got a feeling that if I stuck some stabilisers on the pedal bike he’d be away.

    Don’t want to force the issue either way – if he’s having fun then I’m happy but wondering whether to persevere with the balance bike or just get him straight on the proper bike.

    Premier Icon maccruiskeen
    Subscriber

    My nephew got the hang of gears in the first 100yds of the first ride on his 5th-birthday-present bike. 7 speed, grip shift.

    He got the hang of changing them straight away, didn’t necessarily get the point of them and didn’t take any account of speed or gradient, but they didn’t seem to make riding a bike difficult and if they did theres nothing to stop him simply not changing gears if he found them difficult or distracting.

    Puts the onus on the parent to be a cool dad and keep the gears running well though.

    Premier Icon cookeaa
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    I’d err towards simplicity and say go for an SS, but be mindful of ho strong their legs are and the fact that they need ot be able to turn the cranks.

    If you give most kids a bike with gears they’ll either not use them or simply leave it in the wrong gear anyway, if they get broken/out of adjustment it’ll only serve to put them off cycling a bit, also kids drop bikes all the time, it’s not in their nature to GAF about bolloxing a mech…

    plus it’s yet another Geared drivetrain for Daddy to maintain…

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    Kids can use gears ok, but then their bikes become a maintenance nightmare.

    If they learn to maintain a bike, then good, but the most likely prospect is it will end up unused because it’s always needing something fixed.

    They are well capable of riding singlespeed for long distances,

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    Cheers for all your thoughts. I wonder about going for the Benin but initially converting to singlespeed while he gets used to the size. Shame the Frog doesn’t have a mech hanger to allow me to do that.

    Alternativly, I could go down the route of a 2 or 3 speed hub gear, but they’re all fairly weighty.

    timovery
    Member

    I got my son a bein small for his 5th birhday. To start with I just put it in a gear for him and used as singlespeed – he was away using the gears properly after about 6 months

    Premier Icon Andy R
    Subscriber

    BITD all we rode when we were kids were singlespeeds.
    I still reckon it’s the way to go if all they want is a bike to thrash around the park on or nip down to see their mates. It’s why BMX bikes are ideal for kids, in my opinion.

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    all we rode when we were kids were singlespeeds

    But our parents weren’t riding mtbs, and if they were, they weren’t on child-friendly trail-centre trails.

    frosty87
    Member

    I’d say just go with singlespeed for now and worry about gears later.

    Of course if you’re going to do it properly it should be a fixed gear too 😆

    Premier Icon TomB
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    On the other hand, my experience with my son leads me to whole heartedly recommend gears. Good luck!

    Premier Icon bigblackshed
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    Trek Jet 20 if they are still available. Both my boys rode the one in the shed. Boy 2 is 10 and he’s outgrown it now. I’m a firm believer in small, light, SS bikes for kids. I like Islabikes but the sizing seems to want to get small kids on to large wheels quickly. Roll-a-bility I suppose. Much prefer to teach handling and the ability to move the bike around.

    YMMV.

    Premier Icon jonathan
    Subscriber

    Cnoc 14 on to a small Beinn 20 here, which was fine. He was switching between them a lot right up until the Cnoc was really too small for him (in a silly small way) – that was his “stunt bike”.

    Whether you need gears really depends on where/how far they want to ride. The SRAM gears with gripshift on the Beinn have been reliable and robust, but a bit stiff to shift when he was smaller. But it was never too much faff to stop and help him shift if he was getting stuck with it.

    Now in the position of really needing to move on to something with a wider range – either a double+bash or 1×9/10. But like I said, what you need depends on where/how you’re riding.

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    He rides at least 2 miles a day every day through the week – into school and back again. Its a fairly flat route on the whole, but with diversions down to the swimming pool or up to friend’s houses it can add some reasonably steep hills in.

    At weekends if we can we go out for “bigger” rides together. His target is to join me on the 50 odd miles back from the Lakes to home 🙂

    I think gears could be quite handy.

    Doh! swinging one way then the other…

    Premier Icon jonathan
    Subscriber

    Well I used to be in the “keep it simple” camp, but now I’ve swayed more into the “introduce them to it early” camp. I sort of wish our balance bike had a brake so they weren’t having to learn that at the same time as learning to pedal.

    Once our eldest got the hang of the gears on the Beinn the next bike he got was a Kona Jake 2-4 with 8spd Sora STIs which he has absolutely no problems ranging through the gears on, if anything the STIs are easier to shift for smaller/weaker hands than the Gripshift.

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