This autumn we've dedicated all our spare time on a search to find the most innovative and exciting bicycles for children. We know that some of our most lasting memories are formed under the age of five and we want to squish them full of colour, fun and experimentation.
We've searched every corner of Europe and discovered some incredible bicycles that are intuitive and will support your little cyclists to be confident and natural riders.
We wanted to share our progress with you and see what you thought so far? We have already added Foxrider, Banwood and Creme to the Bell's family and we hope to have more in the near future.
Ready, Steady, Go!
George Dorsey once said that "play is the beginning of knowledge" and we couldn't agree more. It's the start of everything. Play gives a child the freedom to take their mind and body to outer space in a moment and let it fly.
Through play and experimentation, balance bikes have changed how a child can learn to ride by allowing them to explore their natural motor skills without having to think about brakes or pedals. By introducing our children to balance bikes we are allowing crazy, confident and natural cyclists to emerge. As Banwood say "play is the key to children's growth and lays the foundation for adult life"
Banwood, a family owned design company are dedicated to creating high end balance bikes for children from 2 - 4 years. They focus on every detail to guarantee that each bike is intuitive to the rider’s style of play. Whether they are chasing unicorns through night skies or tentatively collecting fossils in their basket, a balance bike can suit a child’s nature and plans.
We are thrilled to have Banwood as part of the Bell's fold and we can't wait to see how they shape the naturally strong cyclists of the future.
Another happy bike to emerge from our workshop. We've just completed the restoration of this late 1970's mixte vintage bicycle. It was unbranded on arrival so we're yet to find out who built it. There were quite a few brands following a similar spec at that time - although we suspect it's a Raleigh. I thought this would be a good restoration to share with you as it's a contrast to a previous blog we'd written called the Rebirth of the Raleigh All Steel.
The aim with the All Steel was to restore it to shop bought condition while retaining as many of the original parts as we could and sourcing new old stock where we couldn't. The restoration of this bicycle in constrast was about making it road worthy and looking great while working with a smaller budget. The results are still good and the costs are significantly less but it is historically inaccurate and there are noticeable imperfections.
This is how we received the bike. We did also have a complete (ish) box of parts including handlebars, saddle and grips. The frame was sound which is all that really matters but the parts were all well used, the frame had been repainted by hand and it was missing some crucial parts (the obvious being wheels)
The bike was stripped and dismantled before it arrived but it's worth mentioning that this doesn't necessarily make the job easier or quicker. It's common that we'll receive a bike stripped by the owner to save us time without realising that we photograph the bike in detail before stripping it and make a note of the component set up. We have no problem taking on stripped bikes (it's actually good fun to figure out the jigsaw without the picture on the box) but it takes a little longer and will cost more than if we had received the bike whole.
Here's a rough break down of what was required to complete the transformation.
Components: Most of the components were good and just needed to be stripped, cleaned and polished. The effect was good although minor imperfections were present.
Frame: The original paint work was metallic but as this is double the cost of gloss finish the decision was taken to colour match the original paintwork in a gloss finish.
Mudguards: Needed a little repairing and were powder coated with the frame.
Wheels: Both wheels are new "off the shelf" alloy with a new chain and cassette. New tyres and tubes.
Forks: Originally these were split chrome forks. This is possible to restore using the traditional methods but it requires the entire fork being chromed to start and then masked off and sprayed after. This was out of budget so instead the forks were powder coated along with the frame and mudguards and then we hand painted the "chrome" area with chrome effect paint. A little time consuming to get a clean line but still much cheaper than the alternative.
In this case the bike was owned locally so it could just be dropped in. We restore bikes globally and can provide an estimate from photos. We'll arrange to have the bike collected and then returned at the end of the job.
If you have a bike that you would like to restore then feel free to get in touch. We are happy to take on work of any level and just as happy to give out advice if you are doing the job yourself. We would also love to see what other work is going on out there so if you have your own restoration it would be great to see your progress.
Imagine a world where we could cycle with our kids every day happily and confidently. We realise that while Holland and many other European countries are already living in this cycling utopia, we in the UK still have some way to go. This shouldn't put us off though - whether we're cycling to school, the farm or going to the supermarket, it is possible to cycle with our kids in the UK and enjoy it, it just takes a little more planning.
If you are thinking of taking to the saddle with your little ones then we've put together a check list of essentials to get you going. Yep - we have pretty much exclusively looked to the Dutch for inspiration, but then they are the Kings and Queens of cycling with kids.
1. The right bike.
However many children you are planning on carrying you need a bike that is stable, can balance weight evenly and has plenty of room. The Gazelle Bloom fits the bill.
The Gazelle Bloom is a roomy bike so it's perfect for carrying a front mounting child seat. Even the longest of limbed riders won't find their knees knocking the seat. The oversized frame also means extra stability so it can carry both a front and a rear seat with ease.
The Gazelle Bloom has a low step through cross bar so there are no wobbly moments when swinging your leg over (tricky when you've got an extra passenger on the back!) We love that the Bloom comes in a whole range of sizes so that it's suitable for both mums and dads.
If you'd prefer to have everyone riding upfront then the Gazelle Cabby is the way to go. The Cabby can carry up to three children with room to spare. It's light, extremely stable and a comfy ride for everyone on board. We also like that it comes with the option of a rain tent so it can be cosy in there all year round.
2. The right child seat.
We are excited to see the new range of child bike seats from Bobike which seem to cover every age of child and type of cycling. Again Bobike are a Dutch company who have an intuitive sense of what we need from a bike seat. You can add a windscreen - which is worth every penny if you live like us on the windy south coast. There's also the option of an extra mounting bracket so you can quickly transfer the seat from one bike to another.
This is the BoBike Exclusive Mini which in it's short life has already won an IF Design Award and has been awarded Best Tested and Best Buy from the Dutch Consumer Organsiation.
We are really impressed with the new Bobike Exclusive mini. Bobike have poured all their knowledge of child safety, style and comfort into this seat, and then some. We love the unique contoured belts that are adjustable with one hand and will keep your baby upright, even when it falls asleep. Plus, the Click & Go mounting system not only allows for speedy installation, you are also able to quickly and easily switch the seat between bicycles.
Bobike have been thinking about big kids too and have created the Classic Junior which is aimed at kids from 5 - 10.
The Bobike Classic Junior seat is ideal for when kids are past having to be strapped into a large rear bike seat but you still want them on board with you. It can take up to 35 kilograms and even doubles up as a pannier rack when folded down.
The Actor Mark Gruffalo using the Bobike Classic Junior.
3. The right helmet.
Assuming you already have a helmet, we'll focus on the little ones. Sticking with Bobike they have just launched a range of safe, simple and stylish kids helmets called the Bobike One helmet. We love the soft colour choices with minimal graphics.
4. The right route.
When cycling with kids finding the right route is essential to creating a smooth, peaceful ride that avoids main roads. Apps like maps.me allow you to do this easily by plotting your route and then tailoring it to cyclists and to avoid main roads. It's suprising how easy it is to get across town along canal paths, through parks and along quieter back streets.
We the Bell's team cycle with kids regularly so we know the joys and the potential pit falls. If you are thinking of doing the same then we are always happy to talk through our experiences and discuss your possible concerns. Just get in touch!