In the next couple of posts, you will get to hear some initial impressions from my kids about finding an out-of-the-blue surprise of a Niner bike frame under the tree. But what would possess any right-minded parent to do such a thing? Here is the idea, but settle in, because it is multi-parts.
First, my kids got "mountain bikes" a number of years ago that were fine for "little kids" who mostly rode around on level trails, asphalt and similar surfaces. These were nice bikes and probably better than average for their ages (owing to having a father who was a bike nut), but these were also steel-framed bikes with relatively inexpensive parts and a fork that looked like a fork, but which was really a slightly springy mill-stone on the front of the bike. Net result, they were heavy. I don't know the actual weight of the bikes, but I would guess that they are around 35 lbs. At the time these bikes were purchased for the kids, this was about 50% of their body weight. Think about that for a moment (please). Can you imagine riding a bike that is 50% of your body weight? For me, that would be like a Fred Flintstone sedan with rock wheels to get that much weight.
Next, they were outgrowing these bikes and it was time to consider replacements. The seat posts were getting extended to maximum and their size, weight and willingness to torture the bikes was all increasing. This did mean that the bike weight was decreasing as a percentage of their body weight, but it was never going to be fun to ride a bike with that much heft up hills.
Replacements then brought into mind a number of factors - size, weight, style of riding, utility and cost all spring to mind. Coming from the home of a bike-obsessed parent, these kids were fortunate to have relatively new road bikes that had been purchased in place of mountain bike replacements. As such, they had a two wheel option, but we happen to live near the bluffs which provide next door access to mountain bike riding. I also had in mind that in my own life, mountain bikes have proved to be very utilitarian vehicles, serving at times as mountain bikes, but also basic transportation, commuter bikes, and family outing vehicles. So, somewhere in this process, I got the idea it might be fun, a bit more cost effective and utilitarian in the long-term if I get them bikes that would serve a number of purposes over a number of years.
So, the idea was born to get single-speed frames with fixed forks that could be built up as a lightweight mountain bike, but that would also be convertible to a geared bike, would accept a suspension fork and that could also take racks and lights to carry these college-bound lads to and from classes and jobs if that need arose in the future.
Next, I got the idea that it might be fun to go through the process of "building" the bikes with the kids, so that they understood these bikes from the beginning and would look upon them as having many interchangeable parts and functions. If we got them completed bikes and said they could add a suspension fork or gears later, I think it would seem less possible than if they got them in pieces and helped create them. I also thought that they would have the opportunity to learn something as consumers. There are times that the incremental improvement is dramatically more money and I wanted them to have the opportunity to see, experience and pay for the differences. (Just for a fun example, I just compared two brakesets; for a price jump of over $250 I found a weight savings of 53 grams. Wow! 53 grams seems like a lot. Until you do the conversion and realize it is 1.9 ounces.)
And lastly, having done a bit of enjoyable blogging elsewhere, I thought the boys would enjoy blogging about this process. If, as a result, we had some fun and had an excuse to have new bikes and rides, all the better. So, with introductions out of the way, or at least partly, let's get on with the story.