If you have been reading our blog for a while now, you know we love biking. We do it on a daily basis and encourage our kids from a young age to ride. So far (knock on wood), they have taken to biking well and share our love for it as a family. Our rides are daily around our neighborhood (both paved roads and dirt trails) and less often on roads for further distances or more technical trails.
As we have looked at a variety of bikes, our biggest challenge has always been the fact that kid bikes in the U.S. in general are really heavy in relation to the size of the child. Most people just write it off as just the way things are and take hold of the motto, “it will just make them stronger”. Often children are put on whatever bike their parents can get ahold of and, unfortunately, in many cases are battling a bike that is too heavy, too big (“they’ll grow into it”), and/or with poor geometry. Parents are certainly well-meaning and just want to get their child riding – we get that!
While there have been many a child that learned to ride on a “clunker” and succeeded in excelling and teaching themselves, the obstacles are maybe just not necessary. For a child just learning to ride, finding success and mastery of their new-found skill can be a little sensitive. If they are not only learning to ride, but also their bike is working against them, the process can be very frustrating for all involved.
Our boys have been on some great bikes over the past few years, but are now completely spoiled (or maybe that’s me?) by WOOM bikes. Based out of Austria, and brand new to the United States, WOOM bikes are lightweight bikes built specifically for kids with quality components and impressive geometry. The bikes went through literally years of building and testing before they were released in Europe in 2013. The result is some of the very best kid bikes you can buy.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical as to whether a few pounds would make much of a difference for either one of our boys. They learned to ride on quality, albeit heavy, bikes and I figured that was good enough. However, I was blown away by the immediate differences we saw in their riding up some impressive hills here in Mammoth Hot Springs. What once was a whine-fest became do-able and nearly easy. The focus was turned from the bike and their struggles to propel it to the actual ride and the world around them. This is huge for us.
This table from WOOM shows just why those few extra pounds make such a difference for kids:
While our family doesn’t feel the need to have the very best of everything (which is good, especially for our pocketbook), we have a brand new appreciation for the value of quality bikes for kids that lets them ride instead of wrestling against an almost impossible load to push.
It’s also notable that WOOM bikes do not come with the option for a front shock. Since we ride trails often, it was one of the first questions I asked the company. Their response was thorough and, through our testing, we have come to fully understand their thought-process. Basically front shocks are more a marketing thing than anything else. Here’s the reasoning behind no shock:
- There are no good quality suspension shocks available for 20 and 24″ bikes on the market. In fact, a good and quality suspension shock for adults costs at least $400. There will be no market for a kids bike with a fork that expensive. In turn, manufacturers offer low quality and poor performing shocks on children’s bikes with the hopes of “tricking the customer” into thinking that it’s a good choice.
- Suspension forks add unnecessary weight and bike weight for children is critical. This is especially important for our young riders. Why would we add additional weight to the bikes when bike weight is one if not the most important factor for our young riders at that age?
- The width and thickness of tires on 20 and 24″ bikes compared to the actual wheel size is proportionally larger when compared to adult bikes. This in turn allows for better absorption of bumps when riding on trails. In fact, we just discussed this with a bike shop owner whose kids race and he also recommending to adjust the tire pressure to ride with low tire pressure. Do not be afraid to bottoming out or hitting the rim. Our kids don’t weigh that much……
- Long term maintenance. Forks need to be maintained and serviced and occasionally repaired. Do we want parents to spend more money on a bike that weighs more and the young
rider doesn’t even benefit from a shock?
One other huge advantage to the WOOM bikes is the fact that the do not come with coaster (AKA “pedal” or “foot” brakes). Instead, they introduce a “small-hand reach” hand brake from the very beginning on their balance bike. While U.S. law requires the smaller bikes be retrofitted with coaster brakes, we worked hard to switch it out as quickly as we could for a freewheel. The reasoning behind it is outlined below:
- The coaster brake is heavier than the freewheel. The bike is just easier to pedal without it.
- When using coaster brakes, an emergency stop is only possible whenever one of the pedals is positioned at the 1 o ´clock position while riding. This contains significant risks as the child can only perform an emergency stop whenever the pedal is in the right position. In case the pedal is in not in the correct position in an emergency situation, your child might not be able to brake adequately. We’ve seen this be an issue for both of our boys.
- Introducing the concept of using the break will make their life much easier in the long run and most important of all, much safer. Especially important is the front brake, which delivers the braking power. Learning how to work both brakes is essential for children as they grow up. P (aged 3.5) wants to ride all the trails that his older brother does (go figure). However, until he is proficient using BOTH handbrakes at the same time, we will not let him ride them. The coaster brake is just not safe because it only brakes one wheel.
P is very small for his age (he’ll be 4 this summer). He isn’t even 30 pounds yet and is barely outgrowing size 3T clothing. However, he is easily able to use the handbrakes with no issue of reach at all (see photo below). This is a really really big deal for a small kid with a big sense of adventure and drive!
WOOM carries 5 different sizes of bikes. This table shows a rough outline of what ages/sizes of kids should be riding which bikes. The only difference we see is that our (almost) 6 year old easily rides the WOOM4.
Also shown on that table is the WOOM Supra. The same size as the WOOM4, the Supra is the best of the best. More on that coming….
Our reviews of the bikes we have had an opportunity to demo are coming shortly. I will also link up to other published reviews below.
As is often the case, and is no exception here, you definitely get what you pay for. These bikes are not cheap, but, they are VERY reasonable for the quality of ride they are. While we don’t believe in going into debt for anything, if you can afford them, these bikes are worth every penny.
They also have a great UpCycle which allows you to get 40% back on your original bike purchase when you buy the next size up within 24 months. All the details are here.
Check back for our review of each individual bike and feel free to ask questions in the comments!
© 2015, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.