I’m crouching in the consignment store staring at two bikes. I probably look a little bit crazy. I lift one and contemplate it’s weight. I turn the handlebars, left and right, right and left. Does it move too easily? It definitely feels loose. It feels flimsy in my hands. I inspect the first one again. I repeat this process two or three more times with both bikes.
I’m wavering between the two options and eventually walk to the register to inquire about this store’s return policy. The cashier tells me “bikes cannot be returned” so I walk out empty handed. One bike was $29.99, the other $34.99, I can’t argue with those prices, but neither feel right. What if they are too small for my son or don’t feel right when he hops onto the seat?
Being the second born child I never picked out a bicycle I liked. I inherited an old red one after my brother outgrew it. I didn’t care. I was thrilled to have a bike; any bike!
I still remember my dad taking me up to the school parking lot on a warm summer day. On that flat, car-free surface he ran behind me for a second or two and then let go. I’m sure I fell a few times, but I don’t remember those details, I only recall the instant I was pedaling away from him and the way the air felt as I turned my head to look back and it rushed past my ear.
I don’t know where my parents bought that bike, how much it cost or why they chose that particular model. It worked for my brother and now worked for me. That’s all that mattered.
I wish I could say I felt the same way now. As a parent I want to provide the best experience for my child. I want a bike that feels steady and strong under his weight.
For the last two years my son has ridden a balance bike. He started riding around the house and later moved to the streets in our neighborhood. He’s now a pro on that little bike and seems ready for a real bike. So the question becomes what to buy?
Target, Walmart and Amazon all sell bikes that might work, but most of them have mixed reviews. I’ve seen brand new bikes as low as $50, but I don’t particularly want to buy a poorly made piece of junk that might be difficult to ride and won’t last beyond one child. On the other hand the local bike shop recommended a $220 Trek model which seems like an awful lot of money for a bike my son will outgrow within a year or two.
When it comes to children’s equipment when do you splurge on quality? Should I buy the cheap model knowing it doesn’t need to last or should I buy the more expensive model to ensure a fun and successful experience?
I’m not 100% sure how to proceed, but I’m leaning towards a used model from a local bike shop. It costs $75 less than a new high quality bike, but twice as much as a cheap one from the big box stores.
The pros: The bike shop claims its easier to ride, will hold up through two children, retain a decent resale value and keep a bike from making its way to the landfill. Plus it doesn’t have any silly characters on it and could easily be used by either gender. Although we have two boys we could eventually pass it on to future nieces or nephews.
The cons: Price.
I know there are a lot of parents who read this blog and I’m hoping someone weighs in on this topic. When do you spend money on quality and when do you focus on price?