What you need to know about kids bikes for road and triathlon

by kgsbikes on September 22, 2010

in Bicycle Fitting,Bikes

Triii US Kids Camp Triathlon, July 24, 2010

Kids at work in a triathlon, Triii US Kids Camp Triathlon, July 24, 2010, Photo: Kevin G Saunders

We had a question today from Facebook regarding children’s bikes. Here it is:

Kevin,

Can you please give me your thoughts/suggestions regarding kids road bikes? My 10 yr old daughter needs a road bike for next season’s tri’s and my 11 yr old son needs one for tri’s and possible junior road racing… Having a tough time finding much info. out there. Thanks,

Charles

Here is the answer:

At 10 and 11, competitive athletes benefit just as much as adults with good positioning. Because they continue to grow, however, the choices of bicycles can become very expensive and much money can be wasted if things are not done right.

1) The first consideration is whether the child’s commitment to the sport and the need to be competitive can justify the expense of a properly fitted bicycle.
2) Assuming the answer is yes, the equation is typically opposite what one would do as an adult. While an adult would want to get the best frame for the budget and compromise on parts, the child’s bike should have a less expensive frame because they will outgrow it soon. If a custom bike is chosen, better components can be purchased that can be swapped onto bigger frames as the child grows.
3) The benefits of custom bikes designed properly are as significant for younger people as they are for folks over 40. While young bodies are developing, riding an ill fitting bike can cause injuries and developmental problems that can plague the child in adulthood.

While there are no easy answers, bicycles are always a “get what you pay for” proposition and getting good advice and developing a plan for growth and advancement will help the child enjoy the sport more, perform better and be more likely to continue as an adult. If it is in the budget, our BalancePoint™ positioning will outline the type of frame that will work best, be it stock or custom. We always ask people to buy fewer, better bikes if possible and with growing children, the process is doable, but does take planning.
Do you have experiences, good or bad, with your child’s bikes as they go through the ranks of triathlon or junior bike racing?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Weiland September 23, 2010 at 8:19 AM

My 3 boys jumped into triathlon and road racing this year with my 10 year old doing 5 tri’s and the state championship crit and time trial races and if there’s no conflicts with cub scouts the state road race as well. While my 8 and 6 year old did a triathlon and the kids races at the Tour of Austin. A road bike will definitely be adventurous in the 9 and up divisions for tris as the top finishers in the bike leg are on road or full out TT bikes some even with carbon wheels. Now the road races/crits/TT is a little different and equipment will be even more paramount. Unlike tri’s where you’re going to get a higher percentage of department store bikes competing everyone has a road bike and they are typically full size bikes meaning 700c wheels and most with 53×39 cranks. Which can also get the youngster in trouble as there are gear restrictions in these events and the bike has to adhere to the 26 foot rollout guidline of USA Cycling, several kids got DQed at the State Criterium Championship when their bikes failed the rollout test. Another thing with road races for the younger kids 10 – 12 there are very few 10-12 year old specific categories so they are in the junior open competing against 18 year olds and younger. That’s one nice thing about the triathlons as there age specific categories and they are competing against kids closer to their age. Plus I hate to say it USA Triathlon does a lot better job of junior development it seems then USA Cycling, a quick example USA Triathlon youth license is $5 where the USA Cycling license is $30.
The road bike they all share, a Felt 24″ was purchased used from a post I found on the classified section of TXBRA.org. I’m always on the look out for good used bikes for the boys but the demand is high. I’ve also started looking at new bikes for the oldest two.

What price range are we talking for a custom youth bike?

kgsbikes September 23, 2010 at 2:07 PM

Great comments. From the bike perspective, a custom bike is a custom bike. The price tradeoffs to custom are simple. The bikes are built one at a time, and the parts are not purchased in volume. That Felt is manufactured and assembled overseas and is made in huge volumes, so the price is going to be much lower.

A custom steel or aluminum frame is going to run in the $1,600 neighborhood and then parts become commodities that get passed from frame to frame.

Some of the women’s bikes do work well and road bikes make excellent triathlon bikes. We have the ability at KGS Bikes to eliminate any questions about positioning, as our BalancePoint™ system is incredibly accurate and is independent of any production bike, so we can focus entirely on the rider.

Young folks are more adaptable, so they can handle bikes that don’t fit as well without complaining. That is not as much the point as is our focus on efficiency and proper alignment, which makes them faster and builds better technique and riding habits during critical formative years.

We find that there is not much gray in this topic. We find parents that believe that any bike is good enough and some parents that believe only the best tools are good enough for their children. If the parents fall into the latter category we can help tremendously.

Gemma October 24, 2010 at 9:29 AM

I just for my kids bikes and I can’t imagine them doing triathlons so early! That’s absolutely fantastic. I’d love for them to stay committed to cycling.

Thanks for the advice and insight.

kgsbikes October 25, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Hi Gemma,

Thanks a million for the comments. Starting kids out young gets them away from the TV and builds a great work ethic. I think it is fantastic as well.

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