Bikes and Cycling

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2010 - 2013 Recommendations

Need help picking out my bike!

Aug 2013

I want to start riding a bike, but don't know where to start (I haven't ridden since I was about 12 years old). I want the bike primarily to take my daughter to preschool about a mile away from my house, to ride around town a few miles and perhaps to get some exercise. I don't plan to offroad or to go incredible distances. I went into a bike store but left overwhelmed by the different kinds of bikes. I did some research online and think that a 'hybrid' or 'cruiser' might be the best option for me. I like that the cruiser seems safe for riding with a toddler but the sales person told me it might be too slow and that I might feel constrained by the bike. What is the best bike for riding around town with a toddler in tow? Thanks so much! want to ride!

I just finally got over this hurdle. Hadn't ridden in 30 years. Moved to a town where everyone bikes. Took me three years to finally get a bike! Just did it a month ago and it's been great.

I made it harder than I had to. I lurked in bike shops and got ideas but balked at the high prices. I was afraid of doing a bike swap because I'd buy something that wasn't any good. I'm very short and extra short-legged, so I worried I wouldn't fit anything.

And then I saw a cute little red cruiser at a garage sale. Practically unused, and the owner had printouts showing value. I bought it for $120 with a helmet and basket included. I spent about $100 getting new handlebars, additional basket, softer seat, new grips, and a few other things that I began to want in the first couple of weeks. And it's going great. It is single-speed with back-pedal breaks. I added a hand-me-down tag-along trailer and my son pedals behind me. Suddenly I'm building in 40-60 minutes of exercise a day in the time I used to drive. Just wonderful!

I wish I had just jumped in sooner. Really, I was just afraid to. Maybe my first bike isn't perfect, but frankly a single speed is fast enough for me, especially with my son on the back. I found the cruiser handle bars to be a little wobbly for steering, but new, straighter handlebars were only $15 and really solved that. I like that I didn't spend much money. I can take most of my improvements to my next bike when I'm ready for something better.

I encourage you to just start somewhere. Look at garage sales, craigslist and swaps. Or, if you have more money than me, go back to that shop and pick up a bike. You'll never get started if you don't have one. happily back in the saddle

Take a look at XtraCycle. if you can afford it, it's a great way to toss a toddler or a bag of groceries on the back of your bike

I found Tip Top Cycle to be very helpful and low pressure - they are in Temescal area of Oakland

Consider taking some cycling lessons to brush up on your city cycling skills

ENJOY! Getting back on your bike will make you FEEL 12 again! Oakland Cyclist and Mama

As a former bike shop employee turned middle-aged mom, I would recommend the hybrid bike because it's lighter. There are enough small hills around here that the extra weight can make a difference... and if you're already schlepping a toddler why add to it? Of course, the best bike is the one you actually ride, so if you just feel better about the cruiser then you're more likely to actually use it, which makes it the right choice.

In terms of safety, there really isn't a difference between a hybrid and a cruiser. But whatever you get, I recommend getting a floor pump. This may sound silly, but underinflated tires make you work a LOT harder and make you more likely to get a flat. Having a floor pump at home means you don't have to go out of your way to top off at a bike shop or risk popping your tire at a gas station. cycling mama

I know this will come across as heretical, but in my experience you should find a cheap bike that can be adjusted to the right size, replace the seat and grips with ones that you are comfortable with and put slick tires on. Knobby tires are pointless and serve only to slow the bike down. Avoid things that complicate the bike like suspensions. Ignore the weight of the bike. It's a myth, especially if you are mostly riding on the flat. Wind and rolling resistance are what matter.

I ride my cheap, crappy bike at a sustained average of 19.5 MPH. Don't believe the hype. Expensive bikes are a source of worry more than anything else. Practical Biker


I work with Street Level Cycles in Berkeley. Street Level Cycles is a non-profit bike shop located at the Aquatic Park (84 Bolivar Dr.), that focuses on job training for local youth. We build and refurbish used bikes as a tool for teaching bicycle mechanics to our interns. These bikes are then made available for sale to the public every week, Friday-Sunday from 12-6pm. Proceeds from bike sales go toward furthering our job training programs. Our bikes range in price from $50-$500. The overwhelming majority of our bikes are priced below $250.

I would recommend getting a ''hybrid'' over a cruiser for a few different reasons. The East Bay has a lot of hills and cruisers are usually either single speed or have limited gears. Hybrids are often built with a much wider range of gears and can be considerably lighter than many of their cruiser counterparts. Although you are currently only planning to ride a few miles at a time, the limited gearing of a cruiser may leave you fairly tired by the end of a short ride. If you like the upright feel and comfort of a cruiser there are ways to make a hybrid have these same qualities. If you are interested in checking out any of the bikes that Street Level Cycles has available feel free to stop by on the weekend.

As for carrying your child, there are a few different options. Most people are familiar with the standard child carrier, but there are also options for trailers and ''tag-along-bikes.'' Each of these options has advantages/disadvantages but it seems like most people are moving toward the trailer or tag-along-bikes due to increased safety. If you have any further questions please contact me at streetlevelcycles [at] or (510)644-2577. Street Level Cycles

I use my bike to get around town, do errands, and go to the Marina. I recommend you get a hybrid, they're good for all that. A road bike has narrow tires, it's for road racing, and in my experience - although this may have changed - the tires are more easily punctured. A mountain bike has thick tires, it's for off-road riding, it doesn't sound like you're going to do that. A hybrid is in between these two and is a good working bike. I bought my bike at Velosport before it went out of business for $300. It's a 21 speed, works fine. You can probably find what you need at Performance Bikes on University near MLK Way, or at Mike's Bikes on Univ Ave up by campus, but I think Mike's is more expensive. I put a back seat on my bike when my son was 3, we had a great time riding up the shore trail to Pt. Isabel and places like that. Don't hesitate to ask questions at the bike store, they deal with beginners all the time. And the more you bike around town, the better you'll get at figuring out how to ride near traffic, where the bike trails are, and what you need to make biking a great way to get around, get things done, and have fun. Joanie

Where to purchase bikes without breaking the bank

March 2013

Has anyone seen the prices of new bikes lately? Wow, where have I been? I want to purchase bikes for me and my teenagers, but I cannot see shelling out $300-800 per bike, plus helmets, plus bike rack etc.. I also do not want to buy a bike that will break if it falls over(this actually happened with a Walmart bike). Does anyone have ideas or resources for getting my family rolling without breaking the bank? Thanks. Berekley Mom

Have you tried the Berkeley Parents Marketplace? you are reminding me that we have 2-3 bikes to sell ourselves and I should post them there! Feel free to email me if you're interested in ours:) Peg
Yes, a good bike is expensive. But there are a number of reputable bike shops in the area that sell used bikes: Mike's, Hank and Frank, Missing Link to name a few. DO NOT buy a used bike from Karim on Telegraph. google search Karim + police reports. If you buy used from an individual ask for proof of ownership, please don't patronize bike thieves. Probably not what you want to know, but I went for an expensive road bike and I love it. I really enjoy riding it and I ride it often. Poor quality, ill-fitting gear isn't fun to use and ends up unused. and always ride with a helmet

Bike for 10 year old girl?

Nov 2012

My daughter, 10, has been riding her bike to school on a one-speed bike and it's apparent she needs another few speeds to help her with the hills. I grew up riding a Schwinn Varsity 10 speed (yes, dating myself here) and was hoping to find something similar but to my shock it looks like bikes for kids her size/age go up to 20 speeds? And more? I can't fathom how she would possibly need that as she is riding on pavement and only moderate hills, so can someone please enlighten me? She just needs a good, sturdy, basic bike to get her around town. When I went into a local bike shop to discuss, they were a bit snooty that I was out of date on my bike references and didn't want to spend $500. So that's another question - what is a reasonable price range? We got her current ride on craigslist for $25, so that is not a good baseline... thanks for bringing me into the 21st century! Mom of bikegirl

Your loyal moderator's brother owns a bike store. One thing he always says in response to questions like this is don't buy a grocery store bike. This means the kind of bike you'd find at typical box store. This isn't due to snobbery or wanting to make a sale. It's because there are usually substantial real issues with these bikes that show up when they come in for repair.
I highly reccomend alameda bike on park street in alameda. Owned by a dad (hugely supportive of our schools). Great, knowledgeable staff. They have a program on smaller bikes where you trade up for the difference in cost. Our son (at 5?) got a $175 bike. I had many friends advise me away from bikes from Target etc - made things harder (don't know why exactly). My son has loved all his bikes and will be getting a bike with gears soon (he is going on 8, gear bike will be his 3rd). Good luck
First, I should say that the moderator's brother is very right - grocery/department store/ bicycles are generally assembled by people who don't really know what they're doing, and they're made with the cheapest of cheap parts.

Your daughter will probably want a small mountain bike - that's what I'd recommend for stability, versatility, and durability.

Most modern mountain bicycles have at least 21 speeds - that's 3 in the front and 7 in the back. Those made after 1992 or 1993 generally have 24 speeds, and those made after about 1999 have 27.

I'd just tell your daughter to only use the rear derailleur (she will just want to shift with her right hand - not her left) unless the hill gets super super steep. Shifting can get complicated for anyone, but be sure to make it clear that bicycles are designed to be shifted just like a car - start low, and move to higher numbers as you get going faster. That'll save her knees and muscles. She'll want to downshift (back to #2 or #3) as she comes to a stop, every time - it'll make it easy to start. Sorry if I'm insulting your intelligence - I just want to make this as clear as possible for everyone.

If you don't want to spend $500 at a shop, I strongly recommend browsing the used market for bicycles. Craigslist has lots of postings every day for them, but it also has a lot of people snapping up the deals just about as quickly as they come up. With apologies to my friends who work at custom shops and smaller brands, and in consideration of the original poster's budget, you'll want to look for brand names like 'Trek,' 'Giant,' 'Gary Fisher,' 'Novara,' 'Cannondale,' 'Bridgestone,' 'Raleigh,' 'KHS,' 'Bianchi,' and 'Specialized.'

There are some brand names that have been purchased by department stores - you'll want to avoid them. 'Schwinn' and 'Mongoose' are two of the biggest - 'GMC' is another that has popped up recently - and 'Huffy' and 'Magna' can generally be depended upon to break soon after purchase.

If in doubt, and you think you've found a deal on Craigslist, just type in the brand name + 'walmart' into Google - if links to purchase that type of bike come up, I have to recommend that you avoid it.

Specifically, to get a simple bike that will get your daughter reliably to and from school, I'd recommend a early '90s 21 speed bike with a rigid frame (meaning it has no shocks). Shocks look cool, but realistically need to be serviced every riding season, have no place in a school commute, and the good ones cost as much or more than your entire bicycle budget. I just searched for 'trek mountain bike' and found a bunch in the $100-$200 range. Any of the brands I mentioned may require a tuneup, but they'll last quite a long time, from frame to components. m

4 year old gift - scooter, Skuut or bike?

Nov 2012

My daughter is turning four and we want to get her the next step up from her tricycle. Grandma wants to get her a three-wheeled scooter. Some friends have balance bikes like a Skuut. Others seem to go straight for the two-wheeler with training wheels. She is pretty average in coordination, not super skilled, and she only rides her tricycle about twice a week, so wheel time has been a little limited. We want her to exercise, but not get hurt. What do you recommend, and is there a brand or style that is best? She has a helmet, but does she need kneed pads with a scooter? Thanks! Michelle

My vote is for skuut; makes the transition to pedal cycling so much easier. If I can influence it at all I say avoid scooters, razors, and skateboards on the grounds of high fall risk and non symetrical repetitive motions in little developing bodies. kyle
My daughter got a scooter for Christmas 2 years ago, I think she was about 3.5. She still loves it and rides it everyday. Even though it is more money I highly recommend the Swiss scooter called Little Kick. It is easy to figure out, and much smoother ride than the cheaper ones. It was the best and most used present she ever got! I got a cheap razor scooter and sometimes we ride together!
I'd highly recommend going straight to a bike! Get one with a seat that you can lower all the way and have her feet flat on the ground. My son learned at age 4, by rolling down a gentle hill (we used Kensington Hilltop School's playground), with his feet 'walking', and he gradually started picking up his feet, as he got used to the feel of balancing. Then he started coasting with his feet on the pedals, and then he started pedaling. You can even take the pedals off, for the first stage. Just use it like a Skuut. heidilee
For a 4-year old, get a regular bike, ditch the training wheels, and simply take off the pedals for the first few months. Use it like a Skuut, then add the pedals later. Pedal-free/balance bikes are fantastic, but the thing is, while a 2.5-3 year old will get a year's use out of a balance bike, a 4-year old will be ready to move up pretty quickly, and may only need it for 1-3 months. Training wheels are slow going - kids only learn to lean left and right on the training wheels, they don't experience balance, are not gaining confidence, then they get super nervous when you take off the training wheels. Bikes with no pedals and no training wheels teach them to balance, and as they gradually get faster, they lift up their feet a little more, and gain lots of skill and confidence that way. So, the happy medium for a 4 year old is to buy a regular bike, but be sure to look at the pedals to make sure you can remove them (or when assembling the bike, just don't put them on). Leave the pedal cranks and other parts in place, just hold off on the actual pedals. Don't use the training wheels. Let her use it like a balance bike for a couple of months and then when she has some confidence and is able to lift up her feet and coast for several feet, you can ceremonially attach the pedals. The elementary school playground on the weekend is a great place to practice. 4 year olds can handle 2 wheel scooters too. You definitely need the helmet. Kneepads are not necessary - unless you have a speedy, fearless kid, the risk to knees at this age is about the same as running and falling down. Kneepads can be uncomfortable, so it depends on the kid even being willing to wear them. Kneepads might be useful if the child has bare knees, or if wearing long pants, might protect the knees of the pants from holes (which are inevitable anyway). Mom of a 5-year-old

Getting the first bike for a 4 year old

July 2012

My nearly 4 year old son is outgrowing his trike so I thought it might be time to get him on a bike. I looked at the REI site about how to teach a kid to ride and thought it was pretty good--and was planning to take the pedals off like they suggested. Knowing he's likely to outgrow it relatively quickly, I don't want to spend a lot but don't want something that is cheap---inexpensive is ok, cheap isn't... Where did you go to get your child's first bike and helmet? What bike did you get? Did you need to go back for any reason to return it or anything? ready to move on to the next step....

My daughter's first bike was a hand-me-down, but I'm pretty sure it was just a $45 Toys R Us bike, and it was great. She learned how to ride with pedals and without training wheels at age 4 because the bike was small enough that she could put her feet down and didn't have far to fall the couple of times that that happened (this bike was seriously tiny but had all the working parts of a bigger bike). All her friends who had bikes 'to grow into' didn't learn to ride without training wheels until they were 7, when their big bikes actually fit. Have Fun

Wanted!! Dutch bicycle - but where?

Sept 2011

I have been searching high and low for a Dutch bicycle - an Oma fiets. I see the one that I want online at places like My Dutch Bike; however, they are outrageously expensive (well upwards of $900). I've ridden these bicycles my whole life in Holland where they are not nearly so costly. I would also be very happy with the Chinese version - the Flying Pigeon. I have seen them on but am unfamiliar with that site and it seems I'd have to buy them in bulk (minimum seems to be 200 bicycles) which, even though I love them... I am a woman and am looking for a 28' wheel, medium - large frame (5'8')& full chain cover. Thoughts? Thank you! anon.

Google brought up this: $260 with free shipping. --bike rider
I feel your pain. I sold my Gazelle when we left the Netherlands, because I was told by several US bike shops that they did not think that they could service the fully enclosed chain. I ended up buying a 'Specialized Globe.' It had mostly enclosed chain, integrated light, mud guards on the tires, and a rack over the back tire for my saddle bag panniers. It also has of the great parts that you would expect on a Specialized. They are quite pricey, but you can probably pick up a used one for a decent price. I sold my '03 model for $325 in '06. It was a great commute bike. jan
Check out in SF Eileen

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Recommended brands of bikes for 5 year old

Oct 2009

I'm looking for a 16'' bike for my almost-5 year old, and am wondering if there are any brands that are particularly good (or bad...) I want something that will last until she's outgrown it.

Honestly, ANY brand is fine at 5 years-old. It is not like adulthood where you aren't growing and will have a bike for some time. Your child will likely go through 4-5 bikes by the time they stop growing so the brand really doesn't matter. Besides, your child may or may not ride a whole bunch, so perhaps it makes sense to gauge their interest with the first bike before going crazy. We started our 4 year-old with a $10 used bike, eventually removed the training wheels and he had a blast for a year and a half until it was clearly too small and we moved him to the next used bike. Our child was delighted just to to have a bike and rides several times a week. We can afford any bike we want but we figure as long as the kid is in the ''disposable'' bike phase, cheap is good. Used is good

16 bikes that are not hideous?

May 2009

Our daughter is about to outgrow her little 12'' Radio Flyer bicycle. Are there any 16'' bikes that are not hideous? I guess we will start looking hard at out of the way thrift stores for a vintage ride, but has anyone seen a little training wheel bike with a retro cool style? Note to bicycle companies--this is an over-looked niche! anon

We found a Giant 16'' mountain bike style bicycle at Hank and Frank's on College that is relatively gender neutral and simple compared to a lot of what's out there. We have a girl and a boy and wanted them to be able to use the same bike. My husband is a bike geek and former bicycle mechanic and nixed my idea of getting a vintage bike (I also wanted one for aesthetic reasons). The older bikes are heavier, clunkier and could have alignment issues, bends, cracks, etc. that will not be visible to the untrained eye. More stylish looking but probably not as fun or easy for the little ones to ride.

A store with a good assortment of bikes

May 2009

I would go to Alameda Bicycle Shop in Alameda on Park Street. They have terrific customer service and lots of different size bikes. They cost more than what you would pay for at Target, etc. But the bikes are made well and they have a trade in program where you can bring the bike back for the next size up (and have a credit towards the next bike). I think they donate the used bike to some charitable organization. This trade in program is good because we just bought my daughter a bike during Christmas and she has already out grown it! Alameda Mom

Good quality Bike for 5 year old

Jan 2009

Hello! We will buying a bike for our five year old in a few months. He has not yet learned to ride a two-wheel bike. Can anyone recommend a very durable two wheeler with removable training wheels? We would like to buy a bike of good quality that can withstand a lot of use and also be passed down to our younger son when our older son outgrows it. Thanks!

Wheels of Justice in Montclair is a great bike shop. Good service, and they have a program for kids bikes where you can upgrade as they grow at a discount. Bryan in Oakland
Head down to REI. They have great bikes there. They assemble your bike and training wheels come standard w/ many of the smaller bikes. My husband researched reviews of Toys-R-Us bikes and there were some unhappy campers who felt that the quality of the Toys-R-Us bikes wasn't up to par. The bikes at REI are a bit pricier but as with most things, you get what you pay for. Happy biking
Hi, a couple of months ago we bought the Trek Jet 16 for my son, at a local bike shop. You can easily find pictures on the web. It's not cheap, a bit over $150 I think we paid, but it's VERY rugged and sturdy, it should last forever. He's using it with the training wheels now but they can be taken off. He loves riding it! Good luck. Matt
A great bike for your needs is a Huffy. Nothing fancy is needed. We got a free Huffy from another family that had used it for their 3 kids and we used it for our daughter. I put new tires on and rigged up a hand brake plus got a set of good quality training wheels. The bike is still in awesome shape and should last for many more kids. The kids grow pretty fast and soon outgrow the first bike and even the second bike so I wouldn't get too fancy until bike #3. We went overboard on #2 spending $250 for a bike with gears she soon outgrew. If you truly ride alot a Huffy should be fine. Any U.S. made bike should be adequate. There used to be a JC Higgins bike that was bullet proof too. Check out Sears, avoid the imports. been there

Bike for city use

Aug 2008

We're looking for something like what in Germany is called a trekking bike: something between a road (racing) bike and a mountain bike. Basically a bike for mostly city use but maybe some longer road trips. And we can't seem to find anything that fits the bill. Most of what are billed as city or urban bikes that we've seen are heavy-weight and have huge tires like a mountain bike. Any suggestions about where to find bikes other than road or mountain bikes? ready to roll

Maybe you've found it by now, but what you're looking for is called a touring bike in the US. It's more comfortable than a road racing bike, and can accommodate racks, fenders, and whatnot. Missing Link on Shattuck usually has a few, and the REI brand Novarra has a good touring model. Velosport on University Ave is a really nice bike shop; I imagine they have some touring bikes or can advise you well. There's actually a whole subculture built around good commuting bikes; check our for a taste (and beautiful, high-end bikes!). Surly makes awesome city bikes, too. As for the fat tires, don't hate on them too much. As long as they're smooth, not knobby, they can be super comfy for uneven pavement and occasional gravel. I just switched my tires out for big fat street slicks last weekend. Happy Biking!

Bikes - Get what you pay for?

May 2008

I'm going to be buying a bike soon (and a bike trailer for my 2 kids). My husband has a very nice bike but it cost a lot of money. Times are tight for us financially and I see all these bikes for sale at Target or Walmart. Is there anything wrong with them? They are a lot less money than going to a bike store. I'm looking to get a mountain bike or hybrid. I very much doubt I'll be doing any hard-core mountain biking - it will primarily be used as a tool for biking to the store and parks. I don't want to completely rule out use of the bike on trails though. Who knows, maybe someday I'll get fit enough to do that. Anyway, I was hoping to hear from some of you bike experts whether or not getting a cheaper bike isn't worth it in the long run (extra repairs etc). Also, if you had any advice as to what kind of bike I should look at (brand/model) that would be great too! thanks! Cheap yet Practical

Run, don't walk, to Recycle Bicycle on Sacramento Street in Berkeley. For the purposes you describe, there's just no need to buy a new bicycle--especially a low-grade one. For less than the price of a new bike at Target or Costco, you can get an excellent used bicycle that will be of higher quality and last you for ages. The folks at Recycle Bicycle are outstanding and will actually help to put together a bike from their vast collection of parts, suited precisely to your needs. They warranty their used bikes, and you can come back within three months for a free tune-up. We recently purchased a bike for my wife at this spot, and couldn't be happier. Save yourself the money and the headaches. Go used!
I don't believe that you always get what you pay for -- but when it comes to bikes, that's definitely been my experience. This isn't to say you need to spend thousands of dollars, but that paying a bit extra to get a bike from a good shop, and not from a big-box retail store, is well worth it in terms of service, fit and durability.

I wouldn't think so much about brand -- at a given price point, and if you're not looking to race or do anything terrible serious, the different major brands are going to be very similar -- but about the shop. Go somewhere where they don't make you feel like a jerk for asking questions and where they offer a service guarantee. All bikes break; you want to go somewhere where they'll fix it for you when yours does!

My best experience has been with CycleSports on Grand. They seem to strike the best combination of inventory, price, service and a friendly feel. And I promise I don't work for them! Mike

I highly recommend looking into used bikes! Craig's list, BPN Marketplace, etc. anon
When pulling a trailer or trail-a-bike, it can make a big difference to have a lighter bike with good gearing! If I were you, I would go to a bike store and get sized. While you are there, you can educate yourself about what is available and what things cost. Once you know exactly what you want, go to Craigslist and look for a bike there. I have seen a ton of reasonably priced, decent bikes there! Good luck and have fun! Suzanne
I would not recommend getting a bike at Target/Walmart for many reasons having to with corporate plundering of communities (you probably understand the issues involved with these mega-corporations). In addition, their bikes are of the lowest quality, unless they sell ''name brands'', which than I would still not recommend due to the above reasons. I would recommend going to a local bike shop, such as the cooperatively owned Missing Link in Berkeley. They have hybrid bikes at very low prices, plus you get personal service related to post purchase, bike maintenance; this is very valuable unless you wrench your own bikes. You will absolutely NOT GET post purchase bike care to count on at these places. Good luck & happy riding !! avantress
The bikes at Target / Walmart are crappy, and more importantly they are usually incompetently assembled (dangerously so) Many bikes shops are also worth avoiding for the sloppy/rude customer service and lackadaisical stoner dudes on staff. My advice is go to Missing Link at Shattuck / University and talk over the choices with their staff - they're all nice low-pressure folk. At least go look and ask their advice - you'll pay slightly more than at Target or Wally World, but it will be a much better bike with better components that has been properly assembled. I think Missing Link offer a free tune up in the first year. Remember, no bike shop is interested in adjusting and fixing that crappy Target bike that you bought purely on initial purchase price! Missing link also has another store across the street where they sell used bikes - might be worth looking. I have no connection to Missing Link, I just think they're straight shooters in a business that unfortunately has more than it's fair share of flakes. One last thing - DO NOT buy a bike at Karim Cyclery on Telegraph. Bike rider.
Great question! Yes, there is a difference between the bikes at Walmart etc. and bike shop bikes. Box store bikes are much heavier and the parts are lower quality. I live on campus and I see a lot of these bikes. They weigh a ton (which makes them much harder to ride) and their brakes and gear shifters are so cheap they are often frozen--totally unusable. If you need a cheap bike, check Craigslist. Good names are Specialized, Bianchi, Trek, Cannondale, Diamondback, Gary Fischer, Giant, Jamis, Marin, Raleigh. If I were you I would go to a bike shop and get fitted. Just find out what size frame they recommend. It will take 2 minutes. Then keep checking Craigslist to see if a bike that has that size frame is for sale. Usually, any bike that is even listed with the frame size is a ''real'' bike. Also, I think Missing Link Bike Shop in Berkeley has a used bike division where they sell used bikes that have been fixed up by their great mechanics. That will be a thousand times better than a Walmart bike and should last you a lifetime. Happy Trails!
I am no bike expert, but I do have a few tips that you might find helpful: I am tall, and I ride a bike that has a seat that is the right size... but the handlebars are too low, and it is very uncomfortable, so I would find out what a proper fit is for you, and then see if that Target bike works. Second, I have learned that tires make a difference -- I always thought those large, chunky tires looked cool... but turns out they're for the mountain, and the standard, smooth-looking tires are for city- biking, and believe it or not, it makes a big difference. That and correct tire pressure. FYI, I have a Blue Bird bike trailer, and am very happy with it! kevin
I think you do get what you pay for. Go to REI or Performance bike shop on San Pablo- talk to them about what you are looking for- get an idea for what you want as an entry level bike for your needs. Check out Craigslist for used bkies and the Missing Link in Berkeley. I would really discourage buying a bike from target or walmart for what you are talking about. Towing one,or two kids in a trailer or just groceries in a trailer is quite a bit of extra weight, I do it with a cruiser and it is quite a slog at times and I am reasonably fit. I push for finding a decent used bike that can suit your needs before a cheap bike. Be comfortable on it so you really enjoy those rides/errands and it will be far more enjoyable and easier to integrate cycling into your daily life. If you aren't comfortable on the bike you may really start to dread the ride- and that is not the point, right? pedaler
yes, you get what you pay for. I bought a 12-speed for my son at Target, and could never get the brakes adjusted properly so they would stop the bike. Tried to get professional help, and none of the ''real'' bike stores would even look at repairing a ''department store'' bike. I wound up getting another at The Pedaler in El Sobrante, and it's working great. Frustrated

Got little kids - Should I keep my mountain bike?

March 2008

For about a year I have had trouble trying to decide whether or not to sell my mountain bike and I thought the input of others farther along the parenting path could help me finally do it. Before I had kids, I was very active and invested in a really nice bike. I loved riding it. But I haven't done any serious riding for six years, ever since the kids were born, and now we will be moving and I'm wondering if it's worth it to keep this space-eating bike. My kids are still little, and still aren't able to really bike anywhere rugged. We don't take them farther than around the block a couple of times and I feel better just jogging along with them so I can grab them if they get too close to the street. I think that if I keep the bike much longer, there will be very little resale value (maybe it's already hopelessly out of date?), and I should just get a cruising bike after we move. But if I sell it, I might never spend that kind of money on a bike again. It's a really nice bike. I wonder if I will ever go back to my super active lifestyle. Now it seems to take so much just to schedule a couple of hours a week at the gym. Has anyone experienced something similar to this? Thanks for the ideas

Two thoughts about your bike: first, a well-maintained bike will last forever, and will be useful forever. It may not have the latest bells and whistles, but that will never stop you from having a great ride on it. Second, get a used Burley trailer, toss the kids in, and away you go. The kids will enjoy it (at least up to about age three or so) and you'll get a killer workout. And when the kids outgrow it, use it to go grocery shopping. If you sell your bike, I predict you'll kick yourself later. Steve
We have the same problem, lack of space, but for now we're keeping one bike around in case someone needs to run an errand with it. Kind of a pain, but I'm glad we have it once in a while (it's not super nice, but would be $$ to replace). suzanne
I'm more familiar with road bikes but there are things in common. First, go to your local bike shop and check Craig's List regarding how out-of-date your bike is. 6 years is old for a good road bike but I'm not familiar enough with mountain bikes. While you're there, look at new bikes in a similar price range and see how they compare to yours. If you really do love yours and it doesn't seem so deficient compared to new bikes, I'd say to keep it. In my bike club there are members who reminisce about the bike they shouldn't have gotten rid of.

One important consideration: if your bike isn't perfect for you, try to find out whether the parts in question are upgradable. Standard sizing changes over time, making some upgrades impossible. But in that regard, 6 years doesn't sound like a problem to me.

Hope this helps. E-mail me if you want more ideas. I've been there, with both road bikes and my hygrid bike (now 14 years old).

I forgot to reply to the parenting aspect of this question: I have only one child who requires a lot of my time now. I used my hybrid bike to shuttle her to preschool and now use it with a pedal trailer to bring her home from her afterschool program 2 days/week. When I want exercise, I use my road bike. It's easier to change into cycling clothes and go cycling straight from our house than to go to a gym for exercise. Even if that turns out to be once a week, it's worth it to me to have a bike I enjoy riding. Francesca

Family friendly local bike shop

March 2007

Despite the fact that there are a lot of well-regarded independent bike shops in the Berkeley area, I have yet to find one that is family friendly (outwardly encouraging and showing interest in young kids who walk into the store, and not just because they stock high-end kids bikes) and inviting to cycling novices like myself--seems like these places do a good job of supporting the local biking community, but make outsiders feel like non-entities. I think I'm civil and not shy at asking a lot of questions in the stores, but my experience has been that the guys who work there don't seem too forthcoming or enthusiastic about sharing information. Maybe they're so cautious about not appearing like they're doing the hard sell, that instead they act like they DON'T WANT to sell me anything at all! And I'm like, hello--I'm willing to BUY something if you'd just SELL it to me!

Does such a place exist in Berkeley? Been to Velo Sport, Solano Ave. Cyclery, Wheels of Justice (in Montclair)--haven't had bad experiences in any of these places per se, but just not stellar enough to make me a return customer, either. Trying to support local bike shops and not Wal-Mart

I don't know exactly what you're looking for but I like Mike's Bikes. I am a super beginner, don't know anything about my bike except how to ride it. When I go there they have never made me feel inadequate or in any other way defective because I don't know all there is to know about 2-wheelin' fun. Good luck! 2135 University Ave Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 549-8350
i think Left Coast Cycle is the friendliest shop in town. it's a joy just going through their front door, never feeling ignored or blasted by attitude. located across from the claremont hotel a couple doors from peets coffee. autumn
Try LEFT COAST CYCLERY in Berkeley, right across from the Claremont Hotel, on the same block as Peet's. I've had great experiences with them, though not specifically regarding kids bikes. They're a small locally owned shop, so they may not have a huge selection, BUT they are very helpful, friendly, good people and they may be just what you're looking for! Call ahead and pick their brain a bit. Definitely worth checking them out! Here's their info:
LEFT COAST CYCLERY 2928 Domingo Ave. Berkeley phone# 510-204-8550

Mike's Bikes in Berkeley on University is where we go now. Great for service, not sure how they are with sales. Hank and Frank on College in Oakland is OK for information, but I wasn't happy with their service. Bought bikes at Velo, but didn't like the vibe there; too ''professional recreational'' perhaps (they would probably be nicer if we were buying the $1500 ride!). Family of bikers
Montano Velo on Piedmont Ave is great -- their staff is really kind and easy to work with and are willing to work with people with a variety of needs -- they won't try to upsell you either. I highly recommend them. Christina
Had a great experience at Left Coast Cycle recently buying a kid's bike helmet. The person was very helpful and knowledgeable, showed me their least expensive helmet first, and explained what you get if you spend more. This was a contrast to my experience buying a kid's bike a couple months ago at Hank and Franks, where I got a teenager who seemed to know nothing about little kids' bikes, in fact seemed pretty uninterested in the whole notion of little kids on bikes, and suggested a wildly expensive bike without mentioning the many other less expensive bikes on display!
I just had a now-I-am-a-forever-loyal-customer experience with Solano Cyclery. We have a Burley trailer that someone gave us. I was taking it apart to replace some parts and discovered that a piece of the frame had cracked. Solano Cyclery was super- friendly, took time right away to inspect the trailer, and got me the piece for free despite lack of warranty info! Can't beat that. They also sell kids helmets, safety stuff, seats, and Kettler tricycles. They were great with my 11-month-old, too -- no attitude. Erika

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Buying a bike for a four year old

June 2006

I am considering a bicycle for my four year old daughter either this summer for her birthday or I'll wait until Christmas.

Not only do I not know what size to buy her, I don't know if it is too early for such a gift. While I know of kids younger and smaller than her with bikes (she is pretty tall for nearly four; wears size six clothes) my concerns are twofold. First, will she be old enough (motor skills and balance) to enjoy the prospect of riding even with the training wheels and how long will a small bike made for a four year old last her?

I'd like advice on how to fit a bike (should I decide to do it this year) and I'd like advice on what age kids seem to take to bikes. I'm not expecting her to learn to ride it solo, I just want it to be a gift she is old enough to enjoy. Last, when would I expect to replace this bike because she has outgrown it? If most four year olds outgrow their bikes by 5 1/2 I'd probably wait a year to get a bigger bike that will last us a while. Thanks for any advice. mama likes to bike

Try REI in Berkeley or Marin. They helped fit my 4 yr old daughter with her first bike with training wheels. She still uses it (one year later with slight adjustment to the seat) bike mom
Your daughter is surely ready to ride a bike. I suggest taking her with you so that the size is right. And, I also suggest getting the bike at Wheels of Justice in Montclair. They have a $25 upgrade for future bike sizes, as needed. And, the staff is extremely helpful and knowledgeable about kids and bikes and safety, etc -Have fun!!
Go to Wheels of Justice in Montclair. They know all about fitting kids with bikes and have lots of time to talk to you and answer all your questions. They also have an awesome program when your kid is ready for the next size bike you can trade your old one in for the full value of what you paid. bike mom
Hi - I encourage you to get your daughter a bike. We have had a ton of fun teaching our 4 year old son to ride his bike. He got a 15'' wheel size Trek bike for Christmas (his birthday is in March so he was a little under 4). He had no problem at all riding with the training wheels and in fact, we were so encouraged, that we took them off after 2 months and he is now riding along without training wheels. Admittedly, my husband spent alot of weekends taking him to the empty schoolyard and running alongside him, and we had to encourage him and praise him for getting back on after he fell down. I would recommend going to a bike shop to have your daughter try out the different sizes. I asked the bike shop the difference between the expensive Trek and the $30 Target bought bike and they said that cheaper bikes tend to be heavier and that can make it harder for kids to learn. Not sure if this is true or not but we got my son the Trek and he was riding without training wheels in less than 6 months. We have alot of fun and are now going for family bike rides together. Jennifer
we bought our kids bikes as soon as they seemed interested in trying to get on others when available. i think it was around 3, so 4 is certainly not too early to get a 2 wheeler with training wheels. both my kids rode before 5.

one thing you should consider is that if they don't practice, unless they are really extraordinary, they won't take to it magically at any age.

something that we noticed was that razor scooters helped tremendously with balance and/or a tag-a-long bike that attaches to your bike so you can ride together, was also a great learning experience. i think the combo really lent itself to comfort on a bike. i would also not even bother getting something too large to grow into. no matter the child's height, they'll be too far off the ground with a large bike, so get the smallest one that they can fit on, and raise the seat as they go. you can find them used and that's just fine for a learning bike, and then when they can ride well, get the lovely ''dream'' bike. with a growing kid, a year and a half per bike size isn't really unreasonable, they grow, and should have appropriate sized equipment to ride. happy riding cycling away

I have experience and a strong opinion on this. My advice is do not buy a training-wheel bike for the child to ''grow into.'' Doing so will only prolong the time the child needs training wheels. A four year old should have a 12'' bike, and start her on riding without training wheels right before she turns five. By the time she is 5.5 or 6, and proficient without training wheels, move up to a 16'' bike. I've seen a lot of sad six year olds who still need training wheels because their first bike was too big --mom of a little no-training wheel rider
4 years old is not too young for a bike with training wheels in my experience. We got one for my daughter at 4 and she could use it right away. My son got on my daughters bike before he turned 3, so we got him one for his third birthday. One friend advised me to skip the tricycle and go right to training wheel bike. I think the key is your child having lots of opportunities to ride the bike. As for size of wheel - both of my kids started on a 16 inch and they are both still fine sizewise 1.5 years later. My kid are very average sized, some friends who bought bikes later got 20 inch as they had bigger kids. Hope that helps Happy Riding
I have seen a children's bike called Like A Bike. Here is one link to try: It is a small wooden frame with two wheels, low to the ground, and no pedals. Your 4-year old can learn balance by coasting along and pushing with her feet. She'll gain confidence too, that will help her better adapt to her next bike. I think bikes are like strollers, you may get a bunch of them over time... good luck Jill
I think it totally depends on how interested your daughter is in bike riding. Most kids, it seems, ride with training wheels for a while before they take them off -- age 5 seems to be a common age for riding solo, though many do it later than that. I think it really helps to have them ride with training wheels for a bit before trying to get the balance thing down - -just learning how to steer, stop, look ahead of where you're riding, etc takes a lot of practice without trying to maintain your balance.

I bought my son his first bike with training wheels when he was 4, took the training wheels off at 5, and he STILL rides this bike now at age 7. He is a bit small, but I have found that he is much happier and more confident riding a bike that is a bit small than one that is too big. Those small bikes don't have to be a huge monetary investment -- I found ours through BPN.

Happy Riding! Tara

I recently took my almost 5 year old boy down to a bike shop with me to tune up a bicycle I planned to ride. I asked some of the very questions you are asking to the bike shop specialist and he fit a bike to my child while we were there. I ended up buying this bike for him on the spot and we were up riding that afternoon at the Lawrence Hall of Science! He absolutely loves it. His comments were something like, ''wow, I'm a bike rider!'' and ''this is the most fun I've had, ever!'' Prior to this, he'd shown very little interest in bicycles. My suggestion: take your child to a bike shop and try 'em out Richele

Bike for 7.5 year old

May 2006

about to buy my 7 1/2 year old daughter her first (new) bike without training wheels. it seems my choices are target for $30-$40 or else any of several bike shops for $100-$150. i don't particularly mind spending the extra money, but when i asked the bike shops what i would be getting for the extra money, the best they could come up with was that they will put the bike together better and i'll have less need for repairs. i'd much appreciate any experience or words of wisdom on this topic. thanks... doug

If you want to buy a bicycle for your child, do not -- DO NOT -- buy a bike from anywhere else than a bike shop. I have been working for an attorney who is representing families from 10 states who have purchased bikes at Target, K-Mart, WalMart and Toys R Us. Many of these children suffered serious injuries, including brain damage and loss of limbs. Why? Because the bikes sold from these discount retailers are made of defective parts and are put together by people who don't know what they're doing. While you may be saving money in the short-term, the actual costs are horrible to consider. It is a shame that many families have no option but to buy from these big stores because (a) that's all they can afford, or (b) it's the only bike shop within 50 miles. We have choices. Pay the money and save your child. Don't cut corners when it comes to a bicycle. It's not a toy. ms

Bike for 2.5 year old

May 2006

I am considering buying a 12'' bicycle for my 2.5 year old, and would appreciate recommendations for or against different brands. The prices range from $30 at toy stores to $120 and up at bicycle shops. I know you pay for what you get and the more expensive bikes are really nice and look they can last longer. but will my son tell the difference? are there any recommendations for specific brands/models? Thanks! anon

I highly recommend getting his first bike at Wheels of Justice in Montclair. About $120, but they upgrade to the next size (twice!) for $25 each time. 3-5 years worth of great bikes for $170! And, the service, tune-ups, and plain old knowledge the staff has is the best! WOJ lover
We bought our son a 12'' Specialized bike at Wheels of Justice in Montclair, when he was 2.9 years old. They have fantastic service and although the initial cost is a bit more pricey than a Target bike (for example) they have a buy up program. When your child outgrows the bike, just bring it in for the next size and pay only the difference between the new price and what you originally paid (probably around $20). They then donate the old bike to charity. Another perk is that your bike may be serviced free of charge. Jodi
IMHO a bike from Target, Walmart or TRU will work the best for that age or for the 7.5 yo in the next posting. At that age they outgrow bikes so quickly, I don't believe in spending alot of money. Better to save the nice bike for the 11-13 yo when they are hopefully more responsible and will take better care of it. Sometimes toy consignment shops will have bikes (try Toy Safari on Park Street in Alameda) or sometimes your local police department will sell bikes that have been recovered but not claimed by their original owners at a parking lot sale laura

Bike with hand brakes for 6 Year Old?

Jan 2005

My tall six year old daughter is ready for a 20'' bike. But my question is, should I get her a real bike with only handbreaks and gears, or should I get her one that still has a coaster brake and few to no gears. I'm thinking the former will save me having to buy two bikes instead of just one, but that the latter may be too much for her at six. Any advice from bike types out there? Also, any good places to find used bikes? Thanks. Hilary

My 6 year old son just learned to ride his bike without training wheels (yippee!). I took off the hand brakes a while ago because his hand grip wasn't strong enough to stop the bike. That's something you may want to consider! He uses coaster brakes and has a lot of fun skidding around. I imagine any kid's bike you'll find will have both options (hand and foot brake) on the bike. Laurel

Where to buy a bike for an 11-year-old

June 2004

I'm looking to buy a bike for my 11-year-old daughter and was wondering how much I should expect to spend and where I ought to shop. Is it realistic to get a bike now that my daughter will still be able to ride when she's older? This would factor into my decision about how much money to invest in this purchase. I'm hesitant to spend top dollar for a great bike if she'll out grow it in a couple of years, or perhaps lose interest in riding it. Yet I don't want to throw good money away by buying something cheap that won't work well and thus encourage her to give up riding. Are there any stores that sell a decent bike in the mid- range? And is it too much to hope that such a store would also have knowledgeable sales people to help me find the right size and features? Any advice/recommendations, both good and bad, are welcome. maria

We have bought bikes for both of our children at Missing Link on Shattuck (near University) in Berkeley. While they might be a bit more expensive than other places (bikes were around $120), we have been very pleased with the care that the employees take in making sure the bike fits now and that it will be good for the future. They are quite helpful and friendly. Lucy
Bikes nowadays are fantastic. A mid-range bike will last a lot longer nowadays than the mid-range bikes of ten years ago. I strongly encourage you to go to a local bike shop to make your purchase, not a department store. The salespeople will know what they are talking about, and their service plans are better. I once saw a bike in a department store with the front forks mounted backwards! Oops.

If you are up the Oakland way, Cycle Sport on Grand Ave near the movie theatre is one of the best bike shops around. Out Berkeley way, I would probably drive out to Oaklan, but if not, check out Mike's Bikes on University near Shattuck. A lot of people like The Missing Link, but I have always found them to be not as helpful. After the sales people give you their schpiel, any mid-range bike will keep you happy for many years. Go with the one with the best colors! And buy a helmet!! Good luck and happy biking. nicholastaylor

We've had great luck at Hank and Frank's on COllege. They are very helpful, have a wide range of prices, and the salespeople actually talk to the kids and find out what they want/need, and do so very respectfully. They also will repair any bike bought from them for free (you may have to pay for parts) for the lifetime of the bike.

Where to buy a bike in Berkeley

Jan 2004

I've seen the bike-store reviews on the website, but am curious re two shops close to my home that I didn't see mentioned there: Solano Avenue Cyclery in Berkeley/Albany, and Velo Sport Bicycles, on MLK in Berkeley. The reviews for The Missing Link are so glowing, is there even any reason to try these other shops? Thanks!

Both Solano Cycles and VeloSports are Excellent stores. If you're a serious road cyclist, Peter Rich of VeloSports is your man. Solano Cycles has a bit more of a ''family cyclery'' feel to it. While I like the CONCEPT of Missing Link, my experience with customer service there has been a little sketchy. Better you should patronize someplace local, IMHO. Disraeli Gears
My ex-husband has been a bicyclist for many years and the owner of Velo Sport is an old bike buddy of his. He has always gone there to get advice and even track down a custom bike builder. He would defintely recommend it. Nancy
My husband and I have been using Velo Sports on MLK for several years, both to purchase and to modify bikes, and we have been very satisfied. They are very knowledgable and down to earth folks who won't try to sell you something you don't need. Dianna

2003 & Earlier

Where to get a bike for a 3-year-old

April 2002

I am in search of a 12'' bike with training wheels for my 3 year old daughter. I would like to find one that isn't too gender specific. Most of the bike stores in which I have shopped do not have a wide range of kids bikes in stock -- or the bikes start at size 16''. Does anyone know if there is a store in the Bay Area which specializes in kids bikes-- or at least carries a few 10'', 12'' or 14'' bikes? I have also checked the Parents website to no avail. Thank you in advance. Tabitha

You probably can't find small bikes in a bike store, because most of them are sold at mass-market toy stores. TRU in Emeryville has a huge selection of bikes, Target in San Leandro also has a lot of little bikes. You don't need a high end bike for a three year old, save your money for the bike that they get at 7 or 8 when they are riding it all the time. A friend who used to work at a bike shop says the main difference between a lousy bike and a good bike is how well it's assembled. You can get one of the more expensive bike shops to assemble the bike you bought at TRU and check for tolerances. Given that, I am assuming you have checked at Missing Link and asked them the same question. They seem to be genuinely helpful and could direct you to the right place.
Bike Riding Mom
Someone asked recently about where to buy non-gender specific bikes. I was in Hank and Franks on College (near Claremont in Oakland) on Saturday and they had a few red and blue bikes in small sizes with training wheels. We also had a very nice experience with the staff there... We brought my sons four year old bike in and they were very good with my son (addressed him directly, helped him to give the information that they needed and were generally nice). They have a lifetime labor warranty on the bike which ends up being a very good deal for kids who are very hard on their bike with somewhat inept parents. Myriam

Where to Get a Bike with Training Wheels

Feb. 2000

Hello everyone,
My daughter turns 4 this spring and we want to get her a bike with training wheels. She's tall for her age, 43 in height. Where have other parents shopped for a bike? I know some of our fine local bike shops carry children's bikes, but they are very expensive. Where can a person find a nice little bike (decent quality) without breaking the bank?

Toy's R Us or SportsMart
We bought a purple Little Mermaid bike at Toys R Us in Pinole for our daughter (then 3 1/2 years old) for about $40. She has been successfully riding it for 18 months now. My husband wasn't very happy about the Little Mermaid stickers all over the bike, so we took some of them off to give it more of a gender-neutral. less promotional look. It's very hard to find a bike that doesn't look too feminine or too masculine. The bike seems to perform very well - she can ride pretty fast and stays steady on the bike. Her friend, who got a cheaper bike at Target -(a Huffy I think?) has had more difficulties riding because his bike is hard to pedal and the chain does not stay on the bike well. He is often frustrated by riding - and often doesn't want to ride at all. I would advise staying away from the models that have the chains covered with a plastic shield like that of my daughter's friend. If you go to a specialty bike shop (like Missing Links, Start to Finish ) you'll end up paying over $100 for a bike of great quality like Trek -but my husband felt it was too much to spend for I bike that wouldn't be ridden for long.

Where to buy electric bicycle

August 2003

Hi, Is there anywhere in the East Bay to test drive one of those electric bicycles (e-bikes)? I can find plenty of shops down around San Jose but nothing up here. And does anyone have experience with an e-bike? I want something for zipping around the perimeter of the Cal campus... Thanks, a lazy environmentalist

Have you tried The Pedaler in El Sobrante? See for phone number and directions. Sally

More recommendations for bike stores

From: Peter (9/98)

Recently, I discovered The Bent Spoke (a few blocks south of Karim on Telegraph). They too carry used bikes and clunker bike parts but are always helpful and pleasant. A few weeks ago, they had their first annual garage sale at which they sold lots of bikes and bike paraphernalia for super low prices. I recommend them (and Missing Link) heartily.

From: Wendy (9/98)

Responding to the posting about Karim's Cycles, I would also like to plug the Missing Link. The Link is also a long-time locally owned business, a cooperative, and very supportive of do-it-yourselfers. They offer classes in bike maintenance, make space, advice and tools available for bike owners, and are generally helpful. For those with older bikes, Walt is a particular resource. We've been patrons here for about 15 years, and if we've occasionally paid more (which I really doubt, overall), it's been well worth it.

From: Heather (9/98)

Regarding Karim, your experience does not appear to be exceptional. Also like you, I have nothing but good things to say about the Missing Link. Happy cycling!

From: Jocelyn (4/98)

We've had good luck with Missing Link (on Shattuck, just north of University, on the west side of the street). The people who work there are really friendly and knowledgeable, and have always been willing to give us advice when we go in there (I bought my bike there).