Friday, March 20, 2015

It's Spring: "Bike On!" (RAGBRAI reference)

I decided it was time to buy Char her first real bicycle. She's 45 inches tall, so I checked for online advice and decided she needed a bike with 16-inch wheels.

If I was shopping for myself, I'd go to a thrift store, but because my daughter doesn't have to have used stuff, I took her to Walmart to see what they had. I couldn't tell if we were early or late, but the bikes we're pretty picked over. The only bike with 16-inch wheels was a boys bike, but I had her stand over it to check for size anyway. It looked a little small to me, and a mother passing by confirmed my suspicions, "That bike's too small. She'll outgrow it in a week."

"You think so? She's only four."

"I'm four and a half, Dad!" Char interjected.

"It doesn't matter how old she is. She'll outgrow it in a week."

Sometimes you can trust the advice of strangers, especially when they have nothing to gain, so we looked at the bikes with 20-inch wheels. They were too big.  We didn't see any 18-inch wheels.

Super Target had even less bikes, so we went home.

Last Saturday we stopped by Toys R Us, and they did have some 18-inch wheel bikes, but they were made with so much plastic, it was hard to hand over $120 for something that would surely break in a few days. I thought about shopping Goodwill, but if I did find the right size, then I'd probably have to buy new tires, tubes, and whatever else would be needed.

That's when we decided to check out the Des Moines Bike Collective. Sure, the Bike Collective and Goodwill both sell used bikes, but the Collective sells bikes that have been inspected by a bike mechanic and are certified safe. In the front of the building there are some vintage and desirable bikes, but in the back there is a ton of everyday commuters.

They didn't have any 18-inch wheels ready, but we were assured they have some by next week. We went back yesterday, and they had one.

But that one was enough.

For $19.98 we had a bike with new tires and tubes for Charlotte. You might notice that there aren't pedals on the bike. That's because we were told that 18-inch bikes are a bit too big for training wheels, and it's better to remove the pedals and have the child practice their balance by scooting along with their feet touching the ground. We'll see...

When we got the bike home I noticed the bike seat was broken. It would work for a while, but I was afraid that eventually Char would twist it loose. That would be painful.

The handlebar grips were also pretty gross.

 I checked Amazon for replacement parts.

$17.10 isn't bad, but before I hit the "buy it now" button I remembered Goodwill. Maybe I could find a seat and grips there? 

This morning Char and I took a three hour tour of the local thrift stores. We struck gold at the third Goodwill. I brought along the original seat post to make sure the parts bike would be suitable. 

This Schwinn bike had a purple-lined seat and purple handlebar grips, and its price of $15.99 beat the price of the Amazon parts. Plus, the bike had all kinds of extra parts we could use. Score!

Best of all, I had a $20 gift certificate to Goodwill, so the parts bike was free to us. Awesome!

Side by side, I could tell the Schwinn bicycle was in better shape than the Kent bicycle from the Collective (except for the tires), and it would be a simple matter of switching wheels to make the Schwinn bike complete. But when given the choice, Char choose the "purple one!"

Exchanging the seat and the seat tube clamp was simple.

I couldn't add the rear brake from the Schwinn to Char's bike, but I was able to switch the handlebars and the pads, the front brake assembly, and the pedals (which I'll remove for the training).

It's a "Kent-Winn"!

A few years ago I accidentally bought a bell on eBay without knowing it was for a children's bike, and I added it and a new Walmart basket to Char's bike. I like the results! And we won't misplace this one on the playground.

Putting this Frankenbike together was fun. Teaching Charlotte to ride it will be a whole different thing...

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