ByK bikes were designed for one main purpose, to make bikes safer for kids to ride. As a bike shop owner for 25 years, Australian Warren Key watched thousands of kids bikes leave his shops, but never realized how poorly designed those bikes were until he had kids of his own. “Sometimes it’s the obvious things that get neglected. Even though I have been surrounded by bikes for over 25 years, it wasn’t until I needed to help my son that the penny dropped; kids bikes were clearly lagging in design. The idea of an easier to ride kids bike pushed me. I knew there was a need in the market and more importantly my own children, especially one, needed it too.” After years of research and design, ByK bikes was born and have been a hit in Australia since day one. ByK bikes are now available in the US and are quickly putting smiles on kids faces.
What makes ByK bikes different? Lighter, longer and lower, ByK built their bikes around a child’s body. A lighter frame makes the bike easier to handle, a longer wheelbase provides more stability and a lower bottom bracket, allows the child to sit lower on the bike (in relationship to the wheels), lowering the overall center of gravity of the rider. As a result, ByK bikes are easier and safer for a child to ride. To demonstrate the difference, ByK provided an E-250, their smallest pedal bike, which has 14″ wheels to facilitate this review. When compared to the popular 12″ Walmart bike, which is designed to fit the same size child, the differences between the two is visually significant.
In addition to making the bike easier and safer to ride, ByK went one step further and included a push bar for parents. With a large number of kids still relying on training wheels (also included with the E-250), the push bar provides a natural transition for kids who struggle once they are removed. We also found the bar to come in handy for kids who already know how to balance a bike, but are having trouble learning how to pedal. By supporting our three-year-old tester with the bar, he felt more comfortable practicing pedaling as he didn’t have to worry about loosing momentum. Accidentally pedaling backwards (common for toddlers), also become a non-issue as the push bar prevented falls often caused by the unexpected activation of the coaster brake. Once a child is comfortable pedaling, the bar is easily removed by simply pushing a button, no tools needed.
The gear-ratio of the ByK also makes them easier to ride. With a smaller chain ring, it requires less effort to get started riding. For more aggressive riders, the lower gear ratio means they won’t be able to ride as fast, but for the average kid, the gear ratio was a perfect balance. To prevent greasy pant legs, the chain ring is fully enclosed, front and back, helping to prevent the chain from coming off the chain ring.
For added safety, ByK bikes also includes a pad to cover the threaded headset and a bell. The inset bolts of the headset, will additional protect from scratches when the pad is not in place. The bell on our test bike did brake relatively soon, which is typical with bells found on kids bikes. The overall quality of the bike also isn’t a high-end as the WOOM or the Islabikes, but considering its lesser price tag, it is certainly reasonable priced.
Compared to other speciality brands, the ByK carves out a place of its own. While the WOOM, Cleary and Islabikes (not shown) all utilize a long wheelbase, light frame and low bottom bracket design, the ByK offers the lowest minimum seat height of the four at 15.7″ (Islabikes 14″ bike minimum is 17″). It is also the cheapest of the lot. The ByK bikes, however, do no offer a freewheel option (no coaster brake). With the added push bar to prevent falls, the coaster brake is less of a problem with the ByK, as it would be with the other bikes. Lastly, compared to the Gecko, the 14″ wheels of the ByK allow for easier maneuvering and less rolling resistance.
The handlebar height of the three bikes is also a significant difference. The flat handlebars of the Cleary provides a much more aggressive body position on the bike, while the upright bars on the WOOM provides the opposite. The custom V-shaped of the ByK, make for a good in-between.
The variation in handlebar heights is particularly noticeable when comparing a child’s body position on a bike. For most kids, sitting upright is a natural, comfortable and preferable position, especially when just starting out on a pedal bike. Sitting upright on top of a bikes however, makes a bike hard to balance, which is a the common problem with cheap bikes. Sitting upright lower on the bike (in relation to the tires), as shown below on the ByK and the WOOM, allows kids to comfortably and easily balance a bike.
At 14.4 lb. (14 lb. and 6 oz.) the ByK E-250 is lighter than the Cleary and the WOOM2, but is slightly heavier than the Islabikes CNOC 14″ (MSRP $309). Ideally, a child’s bike should be less than 30% of their body weight, but since kids can weigh as little as 30 lb., that’s generally not feasible. At 14 lb. the ByK is especially light, considering it has larger and heavier 14″ tires.
The brakes of the ByK is certainly one item we would like to see improvement on. While child-sized, the brake lever was almost too far for our three-year-old tester to reach. As mentioned previously, we would also like to see a freewheel option, but since they are required on all bikes with a minimum seat post less than 17″, it would require selling a completely separate back wheel (which the user would have to install themselves, like the WOOM) or selling the bike with a extra long seat post and require the purchase of a shorter one (like Cleary).
Light weight with a larger tire size and low center-of-gravity design, the ByK E-250 packs a lot of punch into its $229 price tag. The “Best Bang for Your Buck” in bikes, ByK’s allow kids to ride easier, sooner and faster. Coming standard with a coaster brake, the ByK can be more challenging for balance bike graduates to learn to pedal, but the included push bar can certainly help to ease the transition. With its low 15.7″ minimum seat height, the E-250 is suitable for kids in size 3T to 5T pants.
Where to Purchase
ByK bikes are available on Amazon and online directly through their US distributor, Cycle Force Group. In addition to the 14″ E-250, Cycle Force Group also stocks the ByK 16″ E-350 ($259) and the 20″ E-450 ($289). For a complete list of all of ByK models (which are widely available in Australia and New Zealand, can be found at ByKbikes.com.