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I have two children age 6 and 8. In good weather we often ride 10 or 20 miles in a day to school and misc activities. I'd like to get them city / commuter bikes but almost all of the kids bikes I can find are BMX, MTB, or beach cruiser.

However we mostly ride on paved surfaces and these styles aren't as efficient as a hybrid or 3 speed with narrower, higher pressure tires. I'd also like them to have fenders, racks, and water bottles. But I can't find such bikes at stores I've visited in the US or online.

What type of bike would be a good city commuter bike for kids? I am happy to extensively modify what is available, but am not sure where the best place to start would be.

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    No mention of price, but it is possible to get 24", 26" and 650B road racing bikes designed for kids from the major manufacturers. These would be a good starting point as they are light (kids bikes are mostly way to heavy). – mattnz May 24 '17 at 5:00
  • How old/tall are your kids? I recently picked up an adult small for my 11 year old. Moving up to the adult bikes as soon as they are tall enough will open up a whole bunch of options. But don't try to force them into a bike that's too big for them. – Kibbee May 24 '17 at 10:31
  • I have great success with the BikeStar (on amazon) line for 16" bikes. For 20" I went with Islabikes. – BPugh May 24 '17 at 15:26
  • @Kibbee 6 and 8 – David LeBauer May 24 '17 at 15:31
  • Kids hybrid style bikes (rigid, hybrid/street tires) are now pretty common in the US. Check out the Diamondback ones for example. – Nathan Knutson May 24 '17 at 22:22
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So, if your kids are like most, they are going to be hard on bikes. They will jump off curbs, do wheelies, and likely toss them to the ground when they dismount. I recommend something that will take a bit of abuse. A bmx will take a beating but it is an awful commuter bike. Beach cruisers are not much better - and they won't take the abuse.

I recommend a hard tail mountain bike for most kids. A hard tail is one with only suspension in the front. You will want to make a single change to it, put on some slick road tires. A slick tire mountain bike can be fast, I recently had one fly by me on a 100-mile ride (and I am pretty fast)

A hard tail is a great choice because it is cheaper, lighter, and easier to maintain than one with suspension in the back as well. You can often find them for a good price used. They will accept all of the accessories that you mention.

Whatever you do, don't buy one from a department store. A used quality bike will be much better than a brand new one from a box store any day of the week.

You will need help finding a good one, quality varies a lot. Look for brands like specialized, giant, trek, Santa Cruz, though there are many others. Stop by your local bike shop and ask if they have one used, or bring in some ads from Craig's list. If you start by saying "I would like to get a bike and have you service it", they will be apt to help you more.

Also, pinkbike.com is a good source for used bikes and parts. You can filter for bike types, location, price, etc. Expect to pay at least $250 for a used one, and that is bottom end. Process will go up from there.

I hope that helps.

Cheers

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Here's a Devil's Advocate answer.

Your kids are still growing - blowing a lot of money on an expensive bike is going to be a waste because they'll grow out of it in short order.

Your best bet is to buy a used nice gender-agnostic rigid MTB that fits the eldest/largest kid and then let that trickle down as they grow.

For the younger child, whatever bike works will probably be good enough. If young enough, they're more interested in colours, flags, and maybe a basket on the front.

I hate to say it, but a batman or barbie BSO is probably ideal for the younger/smaller child.

A good older bike should not be discounted - maintenance might be a bit more... interesting.

In short - doing the ride together is often much more important than having a super-nice bike to do it on.

  • If budget is no problem then feel free to ignore my suggestions and buy nice new small roadbikes. When they grow out of them you can onsell, or store them for the grand-kids. – Criggie May 24 '17 at 6:53
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Kids bikes tend to have the worst of the worst knobbly tyres, even when they're blatantly not meant for serious offroading. So you can start there, and that's an easy upgrade. If you go for kids MTBs, check the wheel size is something sensible, and put better tyres on. My default choice for riding on road is the marathon plus. That comes in 16", 20" and 24" as well as the more common adult sizes. They're not cheap but I'd spend the money to avoid punctures when out with kid(s), and they're very durable. Other, cheaper options are available even with puncture protection.

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Trek has road, hybrid, and mountain bikes for kids.

Guardian specializes in kids bikes.

Look for a small frame and 26" or 650 wheels.

Some kids are not going to like drop bars.

You can put road tires on a mountain bike. Go like 32mm+ for kids as they are going to hit pot holes and jump curbs.

A bike they like is what is most important.

I usually buy used but in kids I don't find as good of deals as I do in adult.

A bmx is not going to be the most efficient road bike but it is strong and they can bmx in it and it fits a broader size range. You might find a nice one used.

Stay away from cheap BSO but some times you find them at garage sales for like $40.

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Another option would be Islabikes, they are a UK company but now have a US operation based in Portland.

They are a specialist children's bike manufacturer with an emphasis on low weight and child specific components.

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