20 May 2008

DIY pedal blocks help kids fit a slightly too-big bicycle

Nancy of Family On Bikes passes along this thrifty bicycle hack:

Is your child just about big enough to fit onto a bike you found at a yard sale? Want to buy a bike for your child, but you're afraid he will outgrow it too quickly? Pedal blocks may the answer you need.

A bike store will happily sell you specially made pedal blocks to raise your child's feet a bit, but you can make your own quite easily. Simply take a piece of wood whatever thickness you need and cut it to the size of the pedal. Bolt it on and voila - you've got a bike that fits your child! We actually used this method on our bicycle built for three when we took an extended family vacation in 2006-2007. We rode about 5000 miles before the boys were big enough for us to take the pedal blocks off.

Now we are getting ready to take another family vacation - this time we'll be pedaling 20,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina leaving in June. We now have a single bike that our two boys will share, but the seat post was a little bit too long for one of them. We ended up cutting the seat post a few inches so that it would fit lower in the seat tube. Now the bike fits him perfectly!

Can you imagine growing up with this life experience under your belt? By the way, you must visit Nancy's site, where she will chronicle the family's trip...and much more. I fantasize about taking a year off from everything and traveling with my family around the world -- her family's story reminds me that I could actually do it.

Related:
Talk amongst yourselves: How to teach a kid to ride a bike
Bungee cord "leash" helps pull novice bike riders over bumps

Your comments

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Hi Asha-

If you haven't read "One Year Off" by David Elliott Cohen, I recommend it: http://www.amazon.com/One-Year-Off-Round-World/dp/1885211651/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211301015&sr=8-1

Dylan

Add some velcro straps for the feet and you've got a pedal adapter used by occupational and physical therapists. With the feet attached to the pedals you can use both legs to pedal the whole time. One leg pulls up while the other pushes down. It's easier for kids who have low muscle tone. I don't know much about this. Just that they used it for my daughter in therapy and it really helped.

This doesn't sound like a good idea. If the child can't sit on the seat and touch the ground with the balls of both feet, then it's not safe for them to ride that bike

Dylan: thanks for the book rec. I've added it to my wish list.

(to clarify, my "this doesn't sound like a good idea" referred to the pedal blocks)

It's an old idea whose time has come to return. I used them as a kid with no safety issues. They might slip off the blocks sometimes but those great rubber grips work well on the blocks.
Great trip idea!

I love it! I would probably only use it on a bike that has training wheels though. We just bought a toddler bike w/training wheels and my son can reach the pedals, but an extra inch or more would give him a little better adjustment to help build up his leg muscles.

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