Like A Bike — A Must Have Item

by Katy on August 19, 2009 · 33 comments


I am very interested in the paradox of must-have consumer items.

If they must be had, where were they a few years ago?

A good example of this is the Like-A-Bike, an all wood and rubber kiddie two wheeler. These $315 training bikes are The. It. Thing. for the Portland, Oregon junior set, which brings me to ask:

“How did generations of kids ever learn to ride their bikes without them?”

I am first to admit that they are very cool looking, I get that. But aren’t they just tiny bikes without pedals, albeit cleverly designed ones? For my sons we just removed the pedals from their tiny bikes and then replaced them when they were ready.

No fuss, no muss, no $315!

Like the $600 stroller and the $20 water bottle, it’s in my category of keeping up with the Joneses.

What do you think, am I being too harsh and cranky? (I am tired, and my mother always told me that, “Cranky sounds like tired to me.”) Am I being a total killjoy? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela August 20, 2009 at 12:20 am

Ha! You guys up in Portland are way cooler than us folks down here in Los Angeles. I have never seen such a bike. Of course, it may just be my neighborhood.

There’s one must-have item I feel myself weakening on: an iPhone. I have a hilariously old-fashioned cell phone (at least 2 years old! shocking!) and I don’t want or need a Blackberry or iPhone, and yet… all those “apps”…. hmmm…


Mom and Kiddo August 20, 2009 at 12:25 am

I live in a neighborhood in which there is a lot of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” In contrast, we live very frugally and do not have many of the “it items” (such as the like a bike). However, I find that having a quality stroller is very important when, say, you don’t have a car. Unlike the rest of the country, most people here do not use a car every day and many people — like us — do not even own a car. Trips to the grocery, the park, school, the doctor, friends… all done on foot, with the occasional trip on the subway or bus. Fortunately, one can still find good, used strollers and while I still use the baby carrier as much as possible, it could be said that owning a $200 stroller is much more frugal than owning a car.


Leigh @ compactbydesign August 20, 2009 at 12:42 am

I saw one of these bikes at a high end kids store in a high end town and loved the design but also knew if it was in that shop it probably wouldn’t ever be in my home. Luckily my son seems to be very happy with his pedal-less radio flyer trike from a favorite consignment store.

But you are still being cranky!! 😀

I had one of those fancy strollers (not the $600 one though) because it did all the things I wanted it to do and it did it better than the $50 stroller. BTW, there’s a great used market for those super duper riding machines! And consider yourself lucky to have found Sigg-like bottles used, I’ve looked and looked and never found any. Luckily we bought ours before joining the Compact so now we just enjoy them guilt free!


Kristen@The Frugal Girl August 20, 2009 at 3:50 am

Oh, but the aluminum one is only $269. 😉

My kids just ride (handed-down) tricycles until they’re ready for a bike. Maybe we’re missing out, but they have all managed to make the transition to a bike just fine (Zoe just moved to a hand-me-down bike this past week, actually!)


Jessie August 20, 2009 at 5:05 am

I’ve never seen any sense in buying something that expensive for your kids, when they’re just going to outgrow it in such short order. When my first child arrives (just 4 1/2 months to go!), I plan to get by on whatever we can scrounge until he/she gets big enough to actually *keep* something for a while.


Kris-ND August 20, 2009 at 5:26 am

I am sorry to say, that while that bike is cool looking, it also looks like the bicycle version of a balsa wood plane…..something that will disintegrate in front of your eyes!

Our son went through the “I am going to be a BMX star” phase. I don’t think this bike would have survived that period in his life, as none of his other cheaper, yet sturdier, traditional metal bikes stood up to his dreams.


Kathy August 20, 2009 at 5:40 am

Obviously, learning to ride a bike has taken on whole new dimensions since the late ’50s, early ’60s when I was a kid. I never heard of removing pedals!


Lisa August 20, 2009 at 5:43 am

Ugh! I live in a town with many people who are Jonesers. I just wish I could tell them to relax and that the people who really matter aren’t keeping score as to how much stuff they have or how much they spend. I am afraid it can also lead to very entitled children.


Jinger August 20, 2009 at 5:59 am

This bike is almost like a piece of art work…beautiful enough to be on display, but as a a functional bike for a child…way too expensive. What happened to those adorable red metal tricycles that my children rode as little ones?


Sierra August 20, 2009 at 6:43 am

Some friends of ours have two Skuut bikes, which is a similar concept and I think not quite as pricey.

In defense of these objects, I have seen two year olds scooting happily along on them. I think regular kids’ bikes tend to be extremely heavy – my daughter’s is heavier than my adult bike – and these lightweight wood ones are easier for little bodies to handle. So if, like my friends, you are a serious cyclist who wants to share the most important hobby in your life with your kid at a very early age, it might seem like a reasonable toy. I’d spend $315 on The Perfect Toy for myself, and maybe the perfect toy for some adults is a little wooden bike their kids can scoot along on.

Probably most of their customer base is not circus freaks and cross-country cyclists, though. The rest of those parents are getting taking for a ride. These things don’t hold up to abuse well at all.


Jeanine August 20, 2009 at 7:41 am

When I first started reading your blog, I percieved you to be not only a killjoy, but also concieted, high minded, and condescending. I also thought that your scope of culture was pretty narrow….seeing as how most things you write about are from an urban middle class. Nothing at all like mine, which made it very difficult for me to relate to most things you wrote.

Why did I keep reading? Because what you write is relevant, pertinant, useful, and TRUE.

Truth probably wasn’t something I was too interested in hearing around that time.

The more I read, the more I expanded my thought process, the more willing I was to see other sides of different issues, and the more I learned.

So for that reason, if you want to be cranky, go right ahead.

If you “converted” me, you deseve a day.


Meg from FruWiki August 20, 2009 at 8:56 am

Well, at least they’re learning to ride bikes. Better a bike than one of those electric kiddie cars. (Though, come to think about it, I had both, lol — but neither was nearly that expensive.)


vis August 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Well this post inspired me to buy the following balance bike from Amazon –

I know it’s not the intended effect for your blog to inspire purchases (!!), but I’d been meaning to buy this bike for my 1.5 yr old daughter for a while. At $88 it’s definitely a splurge item for me, but I love that it is so close to the ground that she can start playing with it already.

I also added a copy of “Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air” by David MacKay to my shopping cart. It’s super interesting book about the energy footprint of all our daily activities and purchases. It’s available for free online (, but I thought it was thought-provoking enough to own.


hiptobeme August 20, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Who are they really buying the bike for? That’s always my thought when people spend gobs of money on children’s toys…


Emily August 20, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Almost all little kids in Germany use balance bikes like that. There aren’t really training wheels there, from what I’ve seen. Considering how pricey that bike is, you’d probably be able to buy one from Germany and ship it over for cheaper! Goodness!


Greta August 20, 2009 at 6:58 pm

You know, if I could afford that bike and I were certain that that would make my kid really truly happy, I’d think about it. But in my experience, the kids who tend to get the toys like that are also the kids who are happy for approximately five minutes before they suddenly decide they MUST have the next expensive thing and they won’t be happy until they do.

Materialistic children are miserable children. No question about it.


TryinginToronto August 20, 2009 at 8:01 pm

I’m not tempted by that bike. My experience is that kids like all things with wheels.

I have, however, weakened on buying a $20 reusable metal bottle. I bought my mother one for her birthday and she left it here and I use it all the time. And I love it. The bottle is light, indestructible, big, safe and the water is delicious. Previously I used a large glass jar but some research indicates there is chrome residue on the metal lids. Also it’s heavy and when I’m carrying tons of stuff for a preschooler and a baby, this matters. I’ve run out too (one jar of water is not enough for 3 people) and had to buy plastic bottle of water, which makes me feel gross. So eventually the fancy bottle will pay for itself in my case and reduce waste, provided I don’t lose it.


Jacquelyn August 20, 2009 at 10:44 pm

I don’t know about keeping up with the Joneses, but they certainly are trendy right now. I like the idea of just taking the pedals off their ordinary bike until they get the balance thing down. I think it’s funny how someone comes up with something that looks neat that performs the same function as something else we already have and we all have to have it. Whatev. I vote for not consuming.


PamKenn August 21, 2009 at 3:51 am

I am between the time of having children and the time of grandchildren (can’t wait!). We raised our kids pretty frugally with lots of and me downs and old fashioned toys (like blocks, the best) It was easier for me as we did not have a television and missed a lot of the advertising pressure. But I also think that the corporations had not learned to exploit our basic instict to want the best for our kids to the extent they have now. There will always be a new bike or other must have that makes you think twice, I’m glad you have this community to make you remember what it is important for your children and yourself! Keep on fighting!


Pat August 21, 2009 at 5:33 am

Get the balance thing down? Honestly how long does that take – 20 minutes tops. Both my kids were put on bikes and wobbled a bit, maybe fell once or twice and that was it. Presto! they learned how to balance. That’s how I learned way back in the 60’s and that’s how I taught them. And taking the pedals off – what is that all about? They aren’t learning to ‘ride’ a bike without pedals. I just don’t understand this ‘modern’ way of thinking. OMG I sound like my mom!


Mary Anne August 21, 2009 at 9:58 am

My now-18 yr old son’s first bike after his tricycle was a freebie: a hand-me-down from an older cousin of his. We bought the training wheels, then removed those when he was ready. I have spent my professional nursing life in peds, live in a subdicision in the burbs and have never once known anyone to remove the pedals from a bike for any reason. That must be a west coast consept.


Carla August 21, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I am remembering back — back further than most of you people were alive — to when my brother and I got bikes for Christmas in the mid 50s. Mine was new — a lightweight, sweet little blue Schwinn that I rode for years until my knees knocked the handlebars when I pumped. My brother got a used bike, but I don’t think either of us realized it at the time. My parents had refurbished it, painting it a cool black and cream themselves. It was HEAVY, real heavy, but I wonder if some of the muscles David has today can be traced to that monster of a bike he learned to ride on and subsequently lugged all over the neighborhood. Neither David nor I knew how to ride when we first got our “new” bikes. I promise you, we learned in spite of the fact that Daddy and Mother did not spend the 1950s equivalent of over $600 for a practice bike!


Christine August 21, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Wow- judgmental much? I usually enjoy reading your posts but this one was, yes a bit cranky.
Although the like- a- bike is quite pricey, both my kids transitioned directly to 2-wheelers from a ($89) skuut bike. Each one used the skuut for a good year and really enjoyed getting around much more than on a tricycle or their hand-me-down bike w/training wheels. So, maybe for some families the balance bike is a trendy, use for a day toy, but we got plenty of use to justify the cost.


Marj M. August 22, 2009 at 10:08 am

Cranky? Not in my opinion. Keeping up with the Jone’s has and always will be around. Too bad.
A child that young usually does not know the darn difference………..expensive or Goodwill, they just are glad to ride it.
Taking the peddles off was an excellent idea.


Jeanine August 22, 2009 at 10:08 pm


Exactly how does a child ride a bike that has no pedals?

I’ve never heard of such.


BohoBelle September 6, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I had to laugh. When I grew up (in Australia) we were just given a bike (with peddles) and then crashed into every tree and up and down the road until we got the knack of it.


Jenya January 5, 2010 at 1:25 am

OK, 500 hundred years ago people were also able to move from one point to another… by horses. Does this make the invention of the car worthless? I can give many similar examples:)

My point is that this bike is gooood!
It is light and easy to handle by a small child!
It is with a geometry which allows extremely small children to ride it!
Yes you can remove the pedals of a normal bike, but your 2y old most probably would not be able to mount it.
And YES, it is expensive. Consider then the fact that you can resell it and think “Does it make sense to invest some money and make the riding of a bike a fun and no stress to my child”:)

Every parent make his own choice and I don’t see the point why should we shout against these which has chosen the likeabike.


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