Why you shouldn't buy a really cheap kids bike

Every so often I wonder if I'm being unrealistic by recommending that parents (and grandparents) spend a little bit more on a kids bike to ensure they get a bicycle that's decently designed, and safe for their son or daughter to ride.  I keep on going on about why you shouldn't buy a really cheap kids bike but some people still ignore what I write!

I know that many families are struggling, especially so at Christmas and birthdays, but it breaks my heart when I hear of kids who just can't ride their new bike because it's too heavy for them, or it's broken. Or even worse, that they get a bike that's unsafe for them to ride. I hate it when I see a kids bike that's been dumped instead of being ridden and enjoyed.

With this upsetting thought in my mind I visit the website of one of the big retailers that sell huge numbers of cheap kids bikes.  I find one of their best sellers which retails for under £75, and based on several hundred reviews is shown as being a great bike. As a start, I sort the reviews by "lowest rating".

These are, word for word, the 'one star reviews' for a child's bike with an RRP of £69.99 that shows as having 4.5 out of 5 stars overall from over 200 reviewers:

"BRAKES BROKE IN 2 WEEKS! SUBSTANDARD. Dont buy! Brakes are made of plastic and easily snaps! I just purchased it less than 2weeks ago and it's broken. I was advised i cant have it replaced or repaired. But even if it's repaired, it will potentially snap! I was planning to buy the other bike 16in for my older son but wont buy now! Not happy customer! I hope i could leave no stars but cant! It's not even worth 1 star."

"CHAIN KEEPS COMING OFF. I bought this bike for my 3 year old. After spending 2 hours assembling it we discovered that the chain kept coming off the cogs. (Chain comes preassembled behind the mud guard.) Got a replacement bike from xxx and that had exactly the same fault. Manager at xxx said it was probably a manufacturing fault."

"BROKE AFTER ONE USEAfter one use the back wheel jammed. Couldn't fix it so had to take it back. Tricky to explain to a 3 yr old how a bike from Santa can be taken back to the shop..."

"My husband tried to build it but it was missing parts and the brakes did not work. The next day was Xmas eve so we took it to a local bike shop to see if they could sort the brakes out and find us the parts (bolts). They managed to correct it but told us it wasn't easy and it was very poorly designed. I would of taken it back but my child would of gone without his Xmas present!!! Saying all this he loves his pirate bike and thanks to the bike shop, it rides very well!!!!"

This is selection of their 2 star reviews:

"POOR BUILD QUALITY - Poor build quality and poor quality control. The seat tube would not fit in the frame as the internal welds for the top tube and the seat stays were not smoothed out inside the frame. I considered returning the item but didn't want to spoil my son's birthday so instead decided to file the inside of the seat tube flush myself. In conclusion I was not impressed with the build quality and it is quite heavy. Having said that it looks pretty cool and I am sure my son will love it."

"VERY BAD BIKE - This bike had faulty brakes and it wasn't easy to assemble. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone."

These are a few of the 3 star reviews:

"CHEAP AND NOT TOO COMPLICATED TO BUILD - Assembled in under 2 hours. Wheels,seats and handlebars are OK to fit the brakes need a little bit of knowhow to stop one side rubbing all the time. The back wheel and the disk that drives the chain at the pedal end were bother buckled. Just enough to annoy. The chain rubs the chain gaurd each cycle"

"GOOD BIKE - bought this bike for my sons birthday hes had it one week been on it 3 times and the bearings have totally gone,and the stabilisers come loose so not at all happy,but a good bike overall,having to get in touch with xxx again"

"COULD BE BETTER - Bike didn't turn up on the day the delivery was arranged for so wasted a day waiting for it, turned up next day! When it came to putting bike together, it was very complicated, some of the instructions didn't even match the bike! Also, we got to the end of the instructions and there was none telling us how to connect the brakes! We had to spend an extra hour researching on the internet and trying different ways to connect the brakes to the handlebars!"

Here are a couple of the 4 star reviews:

"HEAVY - A great bike for my 5 year old grandson ..is heavy carrying back from school but stands out looks great"

"ISSUES ADDRESSED - Great product & my son is really pleased with the bike and I am more than happy with the price; excellent value for money. Read lots of the reviews before purchasing this bike-to confirm, it does have inflatable tyres. I would have given 5 stars across the board however I initially purchased this bike only to assemble it and find that, due to a manufacturing mistake, it could not be assembled(the forks had been welded incorrectly).I must say,xxx were great,throughout the entire process."

"BIKE IS PERFECT - This bike looks perfect except there was a problem with saddle which had to be replaced."

Why you shouldn't buy a cheap boys bike - this is what happens to a saddle on a really cheap kids bike

Here's a photo of a bike saddle I took recently - it's definitely seen better days.....

"STURDY BIKE - My son is four and he absolutely loves this bike. I mean, REALLY loves it! It's a little bit heavy, but build quality is pretty good and it was relatively easy to put together. The back wheel had been fitted off-centre in the factory, but once I realised this it was easy to sort it out. Brakes and stabilisers were a bit fiddly to get right. (It took me an hour or so altogether and I'm quite competent with a spanner). Based on other similarly-priced bikes I've seen, I'd recommend this one."

Strangely enough, people who have bad experiences with these cheap kids bikes, seem to leave 5 stars out of a possible maximum of 5 stars.

"STURDY BIKE, EASY TO ASSEMBLE - Exchanged for this bike after previous bike broke. Good strong frame.Good design ☺ 3.5 Year old loves it.

"GOOD - Brack (sic) snaps off but all good part from that"

This is why you have to be SO careful buying a really cheap bike online. A bike that supposedly has 4.5 out of 5 star rating has people giving it 5/5 after the previous bike broke, and the brakes snap off!!

Looking at a lot of the other 5 star reviews, quite a few are written before the bike has even been ridden.

"FAB QUALITY FOR THE PRICE - Xmas present for our little boy it’s great quality and easy to put together" (Written in November)

"MADE A LITTLE BOY VERY HAPPY! A great bike for a 4 year old who's mad on pirates. Looks smart, is sturdy and easy to handle. Just need the snow to melt so he can have a proper go!"

One thing you notice is that all of the above reviews are written within a short time of the bike being bought. I hate to think about how these bikes actually perform when the child gets out riding it.

It really is quite scary, and it's no wonder that the safety guidance states "To be used under the direct supervision of an adult. Protective equipment (helmet, knee pads and elbow pads) should be worn, not to be used in traffic."  

And it's not surprising that so many of these cheap kids bikes that created such excitement on Christmas Day, end up being dumped.  Those that don't make the local tip can sometimes end up thrown into rivers or abandoned at the side of the road - such a sad sight.

So, here at Cycle Sprog we will continue in our efforts to ensure children are bought a bike that is safe and fun for them to ride this Christmas.  If you're thinking of buying your child a really cheap bike, then don't forget to sort the customer reviews by the lowest first. Even better, check out the links below and buy them a bike that's going to fun, and more importantly safe, that allows them to ride for years to come.

Pick which one you want to read next: 

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