This week’s Guest Blogger is our friend Henry Aarvold. He and his daughter have been trying out the Boomer Bike:
Paul’s Yard 2 in 1 Boomer Bike
Now, obviously this is a child’s bike so I can’t exactly test ride it myself. My daughter is only 3 1/2 years old, so she isn’t quite up to writing this review for me either. So, I will review the Boomer from the only useful perspective:- as a parent, looking to purchase “the right bike” for their own child.
A word on balance bikes.
If you’ve not seen these two-wheeled wonders before then I strongly urge you to check them out before investing in a ‘proper’ bike with stabilisers. The concept is simple really: riding a bike is all about balance. Until a child learns to balance on two wheels, riding any bike is impossible. In the day’s of my youth the only solution was to use stabilisers to keep a bike upright until the user grew enough to make the transition to two wheels. The logic behind the balance bike is that by making things smaller and less complicated (i.e. no pedals, crank or chain) a child can start learning from as young as three (or even younger if your little one is physically capable). The technique is simple too. Adjust the saddle so your child’s feet are flat on the floor, allowing them to hold themselves and the bike upright. Then they just walk whilst steering. I doesn’t take long before they graduate to a sort of gliding run, lifting their feet clear of the ground and, yep you guessed it, balancing. This builds confidence much faster than the old “stabiliser way” and allows your child to begin enjoying the world of cycling earlier and on their own terms. My own daughter took to her first balance bike from The Cycle Centre very well. Within a matter of weeks she had got the hand of steering and moving herself along. Six months on and she can easily out pace a walking adult.
So, in short I’m a huge fan of the balance bike and the philosophy behind it. It worked for my child, I believe it will work for yours!
But what do you do when your child is ready for the next step, or pedal in this case?
The Boomer aims to solve this problem for you with a bit of clever design.
Mine own – It looks like a mini-BMX (I’ve found memories of this class of bike as it was my first ‘proper’ bike I owned as teenager), which is no bad thing. Chunky frame in a bright metallic paint, chrome forks and handle bars, big chunky tires with black rims. Very cool I thought. Shame I can’t actually test ride it.
My daughter’s first impression – WOW. I love it. Can I ride it now?
I then noticed a few of the differences the Boomer has over a normal balance bike:- an extended seat tube section that stops where a crankset would be and additional drops outs for the rear wheel…. interesting.
The Boomer solves the problem that us [balance bike favouring] parents face in having to decide when to buy the “proper” bike with pedals because it comes with the parts (and tools) required to convert it from a balance bike to a mini-BMX.
Because of the clearance necessary for pedal arms and a crank the Boomer is a little bit larger than a standard introductory balance bike. Specifically the framer is taller and the handles bars wider and higher up. That said, the saddle has plenty of adjustment and a proper quick release pin, so it was no trouble to adjust it to fit my daughter. After a freezing half hour of balance type scooting about we decided to try it with the pedals and chain set fitted.
There are four additional components that need to be fitted in addition to having to remove and relocate the back wheel from a balance bike position to a pedal position. The bike actually comes with a multi-spanner tool and two allen keys, so you can fit the extras even if you don’t have any bike tools yourself.
These are, theoretically, all you need to fit the pedal bits. In reality a bit more “persuasion” was needed to get things to fit. The instructions that came with the bike were relatively easy to follow but I do a fair bit of bike maintenance these days so I expect it might be a bit more intimidating for someone who hasn’t ever taken a socket wrench to a wheel nut before. I’m certain that the guys in the Cycle Centre would do the conversion for you if you needed them to.
Twenty minutes of tinkering saw the crank and chain fitted with pedals attached. The Boomer was transformed.
This would be my daughters first attempt at a proper two-wheeled only pedal bike. Initially there was some trepidation, as you’d expect, and some confusion about which way the pedals go round. The Boomer has a neat feature in that the rear hub permits freewheeling but back pedalling will act as a brake. As the Boomer only comes with a front brake this is to be commended, as I find the one thing my daughter struggles to grasp at the moment is the concept of slowing down before hitting something or indeed someone. Brake levers are tricky for a three year old. Applying a little back pedal pressure is not so tricky, so it would seem.
Value for money: At the full r.r.p of £130, this is definitely an investment when compared to the price of a 12″ wheel stabiliser bike at around £90. But when you consider that a balance (or scoot) bike is a better bike to start on and these can cost anything from £60 to £160 and would only last around two years (if you’re lucky) before a pedal bike is “demanded” and the cost of that new bike, £130 is a bargain. 2 bikes in one is quite a big saving over two new separate bikes. 4 out of 5.
Style: Great looks. Definitely appeals to it’s intended user, even though this one wasn’t pink! It does come in pink by the way and red and blue. 5 out of 5.
Function/design: Brilliant idea. Can’t fault it, apart from the [possible] fiddle of putting on the pedals and crank etc. It’s the perfect solution for any parent looking for a ‘first bike’ for their young child. 5 out of 5.
Quality: The Boomer does appear to be put together well enough to stand up to the onslaught of a nursery age child. The frame is chunky, as are the tyres and forks. The wheel rims are plastic and definitely were a little bit out of alignment but this means they are light and probably fairly durable. 3.5 out of 5
Recommended: I would recommend this bike without hesitation. Definitely a better idea than a bigger bike with stabilisers. This bike grows with your child at a pace that fits them, helping their confidence and allowing the transition to “big bike” to happen at the right time without any added expense. If the pedals are fitted too soon, they can always be removed until the time is right, a feature which shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to the mind of a three year old!