Two girls bikes, one 18 inch, one 20 inch, after we spent $11.50 total.
I should preface this with a little bit about where we live. We live in the country, on a dirt road. The nearest sidewalk is miles from here, so bike riding is generally done with me, on the dirt road, against traffic. There is not much traffic, but when a car's coming, we pull off into the grass until they pass. It's nothing like riding on sidewalks or at a park. We go slower because of the dirt, too. Bikes need to be sturdy, and it's a fact of life that they are going to get dusty.
I wanted the girls to have bikes they could ride, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money for them. In part that's because I know we won't be doing tons of bike-riding, and in part it's because, well, kids are kids, and they don't always take care of things the way we'd like them to. It's a skill to be taught, and I'd rather teach it before we spend big $ for new bikes.
I've been watching for used bikes for a while, and not having much luck finding the sizes we needed. Just when I was beginning to think I was doing it wrong, someone posted a 'curb alert' on freecycle for a bike for an 8-10 year old girl. I was the first one there, and I got the bike! Later that same morning, I was at Goodwill dropping off donations, and there was a bike, the other size that we are looking for, for $8. Both bikes needed some TLC, a good scrubbing, possibly even some parts, but they seemed like a great place to start!
The 20 inch bike 'before'. There is oil on the pedal (just where some dripped onto it from something else), the handlebars and seat are not the best, there's no bump pad on the handlebars, it's dirty and the tires were flat. $8 at Goodwill.
The 18" bike 'before'. The front brake doesn't work, there was no bump pad for the handlebar, no hand grips (we had already put the pad and grips on when I took the picture), it's dirty and both tires are flat. We will also need training wheels. Free on the curb, a-la Freecycle.
We aired up tires first thing. Good news - all of them held air just fine. We were missing one valve cover, which we salvaged off an old boy's bike that a neighbor had given us years ago.
The boy's bike also had a nicer handlebar than one of the bikes, so we switched them. The not-so-nice handlebars did have nice handgrips, and the smaller bike didn't have any handgrips, so we pulled them off the not-so-nice handlebars and put them onto the smaller bike. Neither bike had the 'bump pad' for the handlebars, but there was one on the old boy's bike, and there was a pad on another part of one of the girls bikes (it didn't belong there, someone had just put it there), so we re-worked those for the handlebars.
We didn't have Velcro/nylon covers for them, but we made covers with printed duct tape. We didn't have any, so we bought a roll for about $3.50. If you have to buy duct tape to 'decorate' like this, I would suggest a very busy print, because the seams will be much less noticeable. At this point, both bikes have improved handlebars.
The smaller bike had a front hand brake, but no rear one. After messing with it a bit, we discovered that it actually has the 'pedal backwards and you'll stop' type brakes. Husband inspected the front hand brake further and said he was fairly sure that someone had added it on at some point - it didn't appear to be original to the bike. So, we removed it. Now, both bikes have working brakes.
One of the seats was hard plastic. It was intact, but it was still just hard plastic. We switched it out too, but we're saving it, because it's functional, and can be used of one of the other bike seats gets broken. The replacement bike seat came from another bike that we had back in the junk pile. I admit I've been wanting that junk pile gone for a while, but it's been full of treasure when it came to making all these improvements! Husband and I decided that we will remove the pedals and reflectors from the bikes that are back there before we take whatever remains to the scrap yard.
I used a stiff brush and some dish detergent on the oily pedal, then gave both bikes a good rinse with the garden hose. Beyond that, it's up to the girls. :)
At this point, we have spent $11.50. A friend whose daughter is older and already accustomed to riding with just 2 wheels gave us the training wheels they no longer need, so we think we are set now.
$5.75 per bicycle is pretty good. Actually, I think it's awesome. But here's a little more info....When she was younger, Daughter had a little pink bike. I bought it at Goodwill for $15, and sold it for $20 after she'd ridden it for 3 years (it still looked like new), so we have done really, really well in the bike department!
If the girls decide they want more 'bling', we have ribbon they can use to make streamers for the handlebars. We have stickers and fingernail polish that could be used for embellishment too. At this point, they are functional, and I will leave the rest of the decoration up to them.
If you ever need to save money on a bike, keep in mind that almost everything on a bike is adjustable to some extent. The seat can be raised, lowered, tilted. The handlebars can be loosened at the base, adjusted forward/back (or up/down), depending on your perspective) and then tightened into place. If the chain keeps slipping off, get it back onto the gears, and then loosen the back wheel and pull back on it (away from the body of the bike) and have someone else tighten it. That will take up the slack. Do everything with an awareness that you have to re-tighten to make things safe and secure, look for tutorials online, read a book, whatever you have to do to learn what you need to know. Happy saving!
-Laura at TenThingsFarm