This is a love letter to Schwalbe. I love their Big Apple bike tires. If you have a mountain bike that is going to serve most of its life pounding the pavement these are for you. My Redline 29er mountain bike does 95% of its miles on the pavement, and it does it on Big Apples.
They’re big and fat so you keep the same look and level of comfort, it just lowers the rolling resistance because you’ll sound less like a jeep driving down the highway.
Changing tires has an immediate and apparent affect on how your bike handles. The same thing goes for toy cars and full-sized ones. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2-wheels or 4, those little patches of rubber are the only thing connecting you to the road.
More Big Apples
I got my son a set to put on his Haro Flightline. We’re going on some longer rides this summer – mostly on Minnesota’s expansive network of paved bike trails. He doesn’t have the luxury (or allowance) of keeping a separate road & mountain bike like dad.
It’s a relatively quick change (~30 minutes) to go back to stock tires if we’re going to head out to the single track trails.
Rode with Jules to a friend's party in EP. He did great on his Haro Flightline now equipped with Schwalbe Big Apples. Also convinced him to raise his seat!
He also was our lead out man for most of a 28 mile ride on the Heartland Trail. They really help him roll fast!
Because of my great experience with Schwalbe, when it came time buy studded tires, I went for the (terribly expensive) Ice Spiker Pros. They cost more per tire than the snow tires on my Subaru. But I wasn’t concerned about quality because I knew from my past experience it was going to be great.
My only gripe is that I wish they were cheaper, especially for the smaller sizes. I want to get a set of Big Apples for my cargo trailer – but they’d cost more than the trailer itself! But I can’t complain – whenever I buy their products it’s money well spent. 💸
I am not a gun nut, but this build was inspired by this comic and conversation:
Looking at it made me think that a similar, but more useful application of vertical bike rack storage, would be for fishing rods. Moore Lake is just down the hill from where I live, and it’s stocked with Bluegills and Bass 🎣
I made this fishing rod holder that attaches to my bike rack for less than $20, mostly from scraps I had in the garage. It holds four rods, but you could adjust it for as many as you’d like, as long as your bike rack setup will accommodate them.
I chose 1-1/4″ PVC because all of our rod handles will fit into that size pipe – you should test fit your thickest fishing rod before you buy.
I attached a PVC coupling to the pipe and then cut the pipe (with the coupling attached) using a hacksaw to 9 inches. This was both the size of my scrap wood and the size of the longest rod handle. You should go longer if your handles are longer than 9 inches.
To make a permanent connection, I used PVC primer and cement to bond the couplers to the pipes.
The couplers are there to serve as stops for the tubing straps – so they don’t fall through them.
To fasten the tube straps to the board I used #10 x 1/2″ sheet metal screws. I pre-drilled holes in the wood with a 1/8″ drill bit, then used a screwdriver on the screws.
I designed 3D printed hangers because I couldn’t find any readily available hooks that I liked at the hardware store. I like Topeak racks because of how their bag systems attach. I designed the hangars to conform to the Topeak’s 10mm rod construction – which I believe is a standard size for many bike racks.
To fasten the hangers to the board, I used #10 x 3/4″ sheet metal screws.
Backing and Hangars
The board I used was some leftover 1/2″ plywood. Mine was 9″ wide so I went with that – luckily that’s how long our rod handles are. You can cut the width to however many rods you want to hold. For my 4 rod holders it wound up being 15″x9″.
To make sure everything lines up well on the back, I used my Thule panniers as an example. The metal plate that sticks to the magnet is approximately 9″x4″ – so I cut a piece of sheet metal that size. You can use a hacksaw to (slowly) cut it. I used a cutting wheel to make quick work.
I also used the Thule pannier as a reference to gauge the placement of the metal backing position relative to the hangers so they’d be generally in the right place. It will ensure the steel plate is the right place so it will line up with the rack magnet without having to move it around on the rack.
I used 3/4″ screws to fasten the hangers, and 1/2″ screws to hold the steel plate. I pre-drilled the steel with a 3/16″ drill bit, and the wood with a 1/8″ one.
There’s no provisions on this rack for bait and tackle, but you can use the opposite side of the rack for a pannier, or just put your bait and tackle in a backpack.
When I’m fishing while paddling, I keep a very small tackle box on the boat with me, and that is also perfect for local fishing by bike.
Riding around with 6-foot fishing poles is like riding around with a whip antenna – it’s real tall. Just beware of any low tunnels or doorways, tree branches, etc.
Also, you’re not going to be able to put a leg over the back like you normally would. A pole (and hooks) will prevent you from doing that. Be mindful while you’re getting on and off.
I (perhaps stupidly) tried out the purple worm seen in my tackle box above – set up as a Texas Rig. I felt some serious bites, but I didn’t land anything. In the end I’m lucky because I didn’t bring a net if I actually had caught a tenacious bass.
While I didn’t bring one, you could certainly put a net in one of the holders. This is more of a catch-and-release type of rig, and I wasn’t planning on any big bites my first time out, just a couple of sunfish 🐟
So you’ve heard me wax poetic about the best 14″ bike and the best 20″ bike. Well today I’m talking about 26″ wheel bikes, and I’m not going to call this one the best, only because there are so many 26″ bike options out there. I just happened to find one that I feel suits my son best right now.
Let’s talk about bike sizes. Kids bikes are usually measured by wheels size. Once you get beyond 24″ wheels you’re into adult bike territory. With adult bikes you’ll typically be looking at both wheel sizes (26″, 650B, 700C, etc.) and frame sizes (14″, 17″, 54cm, 55cm). To make matters worse, some measurements are in inches, some are in centimeters, and some have arbitrary numbers from the (g)olden days of cycling. The bottom line is to pay attention to what the sales guy is talking about and don’t be afraid to ask!
Growing Like Weeds
You may have noticed we skipped the 24″ wheel size bike and went straight for a 26″. Technically my son’s height is smack-dab in the middle of the 24″ bike range. But after outgrowing his 20″ bike, he began stealing his mom’s 26″ Trek Navigator 2.0. He looks and feels comfortable on it, so why not entertain the idea of getting him a 26″ wheeled bike? I like that idea over buying a 24″ and having him outgrow it in a year.
Like I said there are many options out there. Here are several we considered:
This is not an exhaustive list, they’re just a few that are available near me at the time of writing. If you’re savvy, you may want to do some internet searching and calling around to find out what is available nearby. Visiting a local bike shop for a test ride is paramount.
We landed on the Haro with the step-through design. He could ride this slightly over-sized frame for his height, but he could still get on and off of easily.
It doesn’t have a front suspension fork. Ironically there are other Flightline models that do come with a front suspension fork, and they’re cheaper 🤔 I suspect they charge the premium for the Step Thru frame, not the fork. The reason I like a rigid fork is because it’s much lighter.
The step thru frame is sometimes marketed as a women’s frame, but Haro have wised up with the following marketing message:
Ladies only? Not the Flightline One ST…One of Haro’s most popular models, the FL One also comes in a step-thru frame (all genders welcome). While it is true the majority of these are purchased by women, men with difficulty lifting their leg over a traditional frame may want to jump on an ST.
I wanted it for my son because he’s only 10 right now and having the top bar lowered makes it infinitely easier to get on and off.
I’m not saying it’s the best, but it’s the best for us right now. Do you have any 26″ kid-bike recommendations? Let us know in the comments what it is and why you like it.
Today is my daughter’s 5th birthday and we got her a new bike. TL;DR? We settled on a ByK E-250. Want to know why? Read on…
As always, I did a bunch of research. One article I came across and revisited several times was Why You Should Never Buy a 12″ Bike! (with a few exceptions). Like everyone should be, I was skeptical of such a bold claim. Some might even call it clickbait. But I kept coming back to that article because of some valid points.
Kids that don’t yet ride on two wheels should be learning to balance no matter what their age. It’s the single hardest thing to learn on a bike. Why muddle it up with pedals, gears, brakes, and bells?
Marlo got a Strider for her 4th birthday last year. Despite her constant nagging that it didn’t have pedals, she finally warmed up to it. At first she cursed the “wobbly bike” but would still give it the occasional college try because she saw her brother riding on two wheels.
5 months later and she had balancing down-pat. No training wheels, no parent running awkwardly behind hunched over. Just turn ’em loose with no pedals.
If your young/small child is just learning, go straight for the Strider. My daughter is small. At 5 years old she’s still only 30 pounds. But she could always lift and move the Strider with ease. Now with balance mastered, it’s time for pedals.
The other main point that article makes is that most 12″ bikes are heavy. I’m talking more than half the weight of your child heavy. Could you imagine trying to ride (let alone learn to ride) on a bike that weighs 100 pounds?
14″ wheels. It’s just a little bigger than her Strider and she can grow with it.
The seat height can be slammed to 15″ – great for shorter kids and amazing considering the 14″ wheels size.
Here’s a comparison shot of the seat height compared to the current seat height of her Strider:
Is it light? Yes – all the bikes recommended from that article are light. Also the crank arms are nicely shaped to stay out of the way when the pedals are removed. I recommend this to any parent with an older child that hasn’t yet learned to balance. Just leave the pedals off until they’re ready.
And about the push handle and training wheels that are included…
Do not, I repeat, do not install or use them. You’re doing yourself and your child a disservice. Take the damn pedals and training wheels off and let them learn to balance on their own! These items are included to placate parents who remember their first terrifying day with the training wheels off. Their parent hunched over with a backache. Forget about it. Those two things are still sitting in the box brand new.
OK, so why is this thing only 3 stars? It comes down to 2 things:
1. Delivered with a flat tire.
I get it. This is a bummer. Do yourself a favor and order some 14″ tubes right when you buy this bike. This is an odd size so there’s even a chance that your local bike shop won’t carry it unless you special order it.
2. Bad / No Instructions
Also a legitimate complaint. The bike comes with a manual that seemingly covers every type of bike that ByK makes. So you have to figure out, is this a single-speed or a mountain bike because there’s no specific section for the E-250. Yes it’s lame. I was able to quickly work through it because I’ve put together a couple of bikes myself. This bike is rather unique and it could use a model specific manual.
Hopefully ByK figures this out, but it shouldn’t stop you from putting this bike at the top of the list. Take my daughter’s word for it.
I told Jules that once he learned to ride a bike, I’d buy him whatever bike he wanted. A quick conversation with his cousin led him to start looking for bikes made of gold or diamond 🙄 Then at the beginning of April, Jules dedicated himself to learning to balance with no pedals on. He spent about 2 hours on one day, and a couple of hours the next and had balancing down. On the 3rd day, he asked me to put the pedals on and he took off!
I kept good on my promise, except that it wound up also being his 8th birthday present. We looked at several bike shops and online to see what sort of offerings were out there. Since Jules is 8 years old, I suspect many of the bikes we were looking at were second bikes. As such, many of the 20″ kids bikes have a ridiculous amount of features like suspension that kids don’t need and they make the bike heavier – much heavier!
Since he had been riding for less than a month (we didn’t do any training wheels), I consider this his first bike. We didn’t need any of these extra features – and likely neither does your child. Also, the switch from a coaster brake to hand brakes wouldn’t be an issue as he’d only been on a coaster brake for a few weeks. Some bikes offer both to ease the transition – which might be a consideration if you child has been riding on a coaster brake for a significant amount of time.
My one plea to parents out there is to spend a little extra money on a bike if your child really enjoys riding. It will make their experience (and yours by association) much better. You don’t need to get a $650 internally-geared, belt-drive bike, but instead of spending the normal $80-100 at a big-box store, consider spending around $200 at a bike shop. You’ll get a better product and have a better experience.
It was one of the few 20″ kids bikes that offers multiple gears without front suspension.
BTW, I’m annoyed at the fact that kids bikes are measured by wheel size (16″, 20″, 24″) but once you’re on a full size bike it switches to frame size (17″, 19″ – 54cm, 56cm). I don’t think this is going to change anytime soon, just do your homework and be clear with the bike salesperson if you’re specifying frame size or wheel size when shopping 🙂
The gears on the XTC Jr. were a little difficult to change at first. Jules just needed to figure out the best way to grip the handlebar shifter, and buck-up a little bit. The Giant also has a lightweight aluminum frame and a relaxed top tube angle which keeps the stand over height low.
My only complaint is because the top tube is so low, there’s not enough room in the triangle for a normal water bottle cage (nor do they provide mounts to even attempt). Instead the solution was to buy a Topeak handle-bar bottle mount. I raised the stem slightly and attached it there to keep the relatively small handle-bars clutter free.