Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Children's Bicycle Revamped

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
Visiting Nao of Tomii Cycles this morning, I finally saw this little gem in person  - the bicycle he put together for his son Fugo. It is really something to see a tiny children's bike this elegant!

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
The frame started out as a regular kid's mountain bike (Nao doesn't remember for sure what it was, but possibly a Schwinn). Stripped of the original paint, it was powdercoated a robin's egg blue and customised with some lovely components and accessories -

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
including the tiny stainless fenders with leather mudflap in front

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
and vintage-style reflector in the rear.

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
The drilled-out chainguard was powdercoated to match the frame.

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
The handlebars are the Belleville bars from Velo Orange, which are surprisingly proportional for the bicycle's size.

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
Caramel coloured basket-weave grips and tiny silver bell.

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
Prior to becoming a framebuilder, Nao had been making components under the 3RRR name, and often bikes in Boston can be found sporting his custom chainrings and headbadges. This propeller badge is one of his.

Children's Bike Customised by Tomii Cycles
I really like how this bicycle came out. It's beautiful and intriguing, but not "too much" for a children's bike. Recycled frame with decorative and functional touches, coaster brake, single speed, kickstand, nothing fragile or complicated. I like how the caramel accessories complement the pastel blue frame. The padded saddle has a scrap piece of leather stretched over it and matches the mud flap. The wide knobby tires are great for riding in the dirt and grass of the back yard, as well as in the nearby park. When I went to pick up the bike, I was warned that it would be heavy, but I didn't really believe it. How heavy could a bike this tiny be? "It weighs more than my own bike!" Nao clarified, referring to his steel roadbike, and he was right! 

Fugo's Bike
Fugo's relationship with this bicycle has been interesting. When Nao presented his son with the bike more than a year ago, the boy was not really impressed. He did not know how to ride yet and was not interested in learning. Then recently he suddenly wanted to try riding the bike. Nao was going to attach training wheels, but Fugo did not want them. He then got on the bike and began to ride, just like that.

Fugo's Bike
The trouble with nice children's bikes, is, of course, that children outgrow them fairly quickly. But looking at Fugo's bicycle and watching him ride it, I still can't help but think it is worth it. Great job, Nao, and happy riding to you both.

38 comments:

  1. that's one gorgeous bike! I'm so jealous. Thankfully, I don't let my kid on the internet.

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  2. Great looking bike. I don't usually go for customized kid's bikes for the reasons you stated, but even my 8 year-old liked this one. If the kid enjoys riding it, that's all that matters! And yes, inexpensive kid's bikes are super heavy.

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  3. As a parent and bicyclist, I don't know what to think of this post...it's loaded.

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  4. Nao, no dynamo lighting and integrated rack??? C'mon!

    I'm pretty blown away by this bike. Amazing how a generic mtb frame can be re-accessorized and painted a pleasing color, and transformed into something so eye catching.

    But you touch upon a real sticking point for me, and that's the heavy weight of children's bikes. They're assembled from mostly steel, including handlebars, cranks, and wheels. Only the slightly larger kids' bikes begin to use alloy components, and you're only going to find that in the name brand bikes like Trek and Specialized. Other than them, and it's massively heavy steel until adult sized bikes. And the unwieldy weight can really be a deterrent to kids learning how to ride.

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    1. One explanation I've heard about why small kids' bikes are so heavy, is that it's intentional - to make them more durable, since they are crashed and dropped a lot. Also, so the kids aren't able to pick the bikes up and throw them. Not sure how true this is though.

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    2. No doubt it's in part for durability...

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    3. I really doubt it's mainly an intentional design for durability. I suppose there's probably some liability aspect with kids' bikes that makes the manufacturer overbuild it "just in case". But I suspect the main issue is more to use such thick metal that you can't mess up a weld in the super fast, low skill factories that crank these things out. I'm sure they are using the lowest grade steel they can find so the cost/benefit of using excessive material is balanced by the ease of throwing them together quick without having to ever reject a frame that wasn't built up to QC specs.

      The weight on these things is truly stunning. Combined with the size of the frame, I suspect the strength is massively beyond what it needs to be for the use.

      If safety/liability was the main concern, you'd think they'd all have full chain cases. The finger/toe sucked into the cog seems a much higher risk than a frame breaking.

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  5. That is a lovely bicycle.

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  6. Very nice bike. It is really unbelievable how difficult it is to find a decent children bike. Most of them are heavy as a tank, with features that are pointless on children's bike (such as front suspension) and ugly.

    I will have to find a bike for my son in a few years so I am looking around trying to see what is available.

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  7. Oh wow. My husband and I are considering doing something similar for our daughter. She wants a "princess" bike, but doesn't like anything we see in bike stores. So we were thinking to paint an old children's frame whatever color she wants, maybe even hand paint a princessy motif. I also want to find nice handlebars, grips and a big brass bell. It is very useful to see how those VO bars look on a small bike. Do you know if they were cut down, or is this their full size?

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    1. Good question, I will ask.

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    2. The Belleville handlebars are super tiny, and the pictures show plenty of room between the grips and the curved section. If the bars were cut at all, Nao might have shortened them by one or two centimeters at most.

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    3. That was my initial thought. But the same bars are pictured on a bike I used to own here, and looking at them now the gripping areas do seem longer.

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    4. Mary Anne,

      Our daughter wanted a "princess" bike and I spent many hours repainting and rehabbing a boy's black bike, which she never ended up riding. She ended up riding a totally trashed and rusted bike that a friend handed down to us, because she knew that another girl had ridden it. i.e., since another girl rode it, it's good enough for me.

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    5. Just heard back from Nao. He did not cut down the bars at all, and confirms they are the VO Bellevilles (these).

      somervillain - That is so funny! What bikes do your daughters ride now? You intrigued me with the description of them pedaling up that crazy hill on single speeds!

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    6. 5 year old rides a Fisher Price-branded steel bike with 16" wheels. bought used for $10. It's surprisingly lightweight for a kids' 16" bike. Here she is rockin' the Catskills:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/7164715149/in/photostream

      7 year old rides a Specialized "Hotrock" with 20" wheels. Bought used for $20. (No picture of this bike).

      They ride up this hill every day on their way to school:

      http://goo.gl/maps/LY0N

      And up this one on their way home:

      http://goo.gl/maps/fTJw

      They actually make it look easy, they stand the whole time.

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    7. Oh wait, there's this one of them on their current bikes:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/7229622674

      They're in the middle. Note that while both handlebars are steel, the red one (fisher price) is hollow. I believe the Specialized (in lavender, headbadge covered up with a "Massbike" sticker)handlebar is solid steel. It's crazy heavy.

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    8. Wow. That last shot looks like a great cycling team though.

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  8. Nao did a stellar job on that bike.
    Seeing Fugo stand up and grind on it must make him pretty happy.

    CK

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  9. That is a gorgeous bike! I found that the bike my son wante when he started to ride was what he saw other kids riding, I don't think he would have ridden a customised bike at all.
    I got a shot of a girl riding a lovely bike with white tyres last weekend, it's in this post, third photo down.

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    1. My link above didn't work, this is the post I meant ...
      http://bicyclesinnewcastle.com/2012/06/10/bikes-along-throsby-creek-today/

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    2. I like that girl's bike as well; simple and pretty.

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  10. That is the sweetest children's bike ever. My youngest girl would love it (if it were Barbie pink not blue).

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  11. That is so cute!

    We got a Jopo for our 3YO son at Adeline Adeline. The training wheels come off easily and the thing is way better built than most kids' bikes:

    http://www.adelineadeline.com/kids/helkama-jopo-12-children-s-bicycle.html

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  12. As a doting father who has spent considerable $$ on many bikes for his daughter (starting with an $80, pneumatic-tired, parent-steerable, freewheel-equipped tricycle when she was two) I have had considerable interest in children's bikes; rather more than does my daughter, to tell the truth, who crassly turned down a wonderful, sub 50 cm Bianchi Milano in favor of a pink, special-ordered, 24" wheel Electra Townie 3i for birthday nine. (Catie is quite tall) -- tho' the 3i is actually a decent bike, if you like pink. I've long laughed at the immense weight and huge Q factors of little bikes -- that on the tricycle must have been 250 mm!

    Given that little children on their first bikes don't weigh more than 50 lb, usually, I don't see why manufacturers can't make very simple and sturdy "boom tube" models out of tig'd aluminum that would be much lighter, I expect cheaper and certainly more graceful than some of the lead pipe tanks that they currently make for the small child market. My daughter's 3i is made from and equipped in aluminum and it is much lighter than the equivalent in cheap steel.

    An aside: her mother, my ex, crassly traded in the wonderful, 49 cm Trek Elance 400 3speed/Priest Ba/sprung saddle conversion I made for her way back when that I was hoping she'd pass on to Catie -- traded it in for a front suspension hybrid for Catie at her household. Damn!

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  13. A truly beautiful bike. I hope Nao doesn't mind when it gets dinged etc. through a child's normal hard use. That's what it's for.

    As for whether the bike is heavy, that's in the eye of the beholder, or arms of the b[ik]eholder if you will. A child won't think it's heavy unless some adult tells him it is. One should look at this through the child's eyes - does it ride well? Is it tough? Sometimes a bike is just a bike. Still, it must be cool to be able to say "my dad made this."

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    1. Ha, he definitely does not mind if the bike gets dinged. He even built a mini MTB course in the back yard. Fugo rides the bike constantly, it's very cute.

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  14. Wow, that bike came out really well

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  15. Replies
    1. coaster brake, very common on kids' bikes

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  16. Starting with a Micromini BMX bike (Redline, Haro amongst others) would half the weight.

    See for example: http://www.harobikes.com/bmx/bikes/race-series/2012_micro_mini

    14lbs stock.

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  17. Oh yes! I remember the constant search for decent childrens bikes and replacing the steel parts w aluminium. Sometimes a folder can do the trick, some of them are small and short wheel base. Got one tucked inn in the basement at present ;?)
    badmother

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  18. My daughter currently rides the Raleigh Lil Honey - super cute bike and it is well made for a children's bike. It is working out very well for her. She is off training wheels and super fast now. Actually, she gets a bit daredevil-ish with it! I've noticed over the years, kids do not take care of their bikes like an adult would so spending over $100 on one is questionable to the pocketbook. My daughter is by no means a destroyer of her toys and other items, but when she's out biking in the neighborhood with her buddies and they all stop to get off their bikes and do something else, they all stop and drop the bikes to the ground and run off on their merry way. She even has a kickstand but sometimes that gets forgotten about. I don't know if the next bicycle we purchase for her will be over $100 like this Raleigh, ha ha Actually, I have a used 1980's bubblegum pink Schwinn Caliente that I picked up off Ebay for $50 waiting for her. After we fix it up a bit, it will be awesome! ;-)

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  19. All of us began our riding careers on very heavy bikes. Most of us didn't care; we had boundless energy and big plans, which are much nicer things to have than race fantasies and extensive knowledge of component specs. Kids don't know or care if their bars are steel or aluminum, nor do they know/care that there are lighter bars available. They just ride.

    I think it's sad when parents try to pick their kids' bikes for them. It'd be a shame if a kid wants a gaudy pink cruiser or a badazz bmx, and the parents instead get them something "elegant". That'll likely discourage the kid from riding.
    -rob

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  20. He is asking me every single day for ride around the pond, trails, to the park. He crashed the bike at least 50 times already. That is why powder coated :) haha.

    He always says "My bike is cool!" :) and use kick stand.

    I spend $60 to customize this bike. Free paint, parts from ebay...... It was fun to build.

    I can't wait to build small road bike with Miche kids group :)
    http://www.miche.it/en/catalogo/catalogo-miche/gruppi/gruppo-young

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  21. Just catching up here: great post. I like this little bike, and as his dad could do it cheaply and enjoy the process of creating it, it was clearly worth it. But I agree that as kids get older, they need to pick their own bikes. I think my son's sub-$100 monster-green BMX wannabe bike is ugly and heavy and horrid: he LOVES it and rides it all the time. So there you go. Not what I would have picked, but he enjoys it. He appreciates my bikes, though, and since the Shogun I rebuilt for The Handsome Man doesn't fit him, I'm going to hang it from the garage ceiling and refit it for The Boy when he's older and taller. Of course by then he'll probably want a $1000 race bike, but that's why God invented summer jobs, right?

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  22. Wow! I cannot believe that bike was made from a recycled frame. I thought it was brand new because of its shiny surface and obviously excellent form. Nice! Is this Fugo’s first bike? Mr. Nao did a good job polishing it. I’m sure Fugo is going love biking more and more as he grows up. Have a good ride Nao and Fugo!

    Nelson Heimer

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