Sunday, September 6, 2020

Early Rider Seeker 14: Introduction

It is new bike day again! However, this time it is not my new bike, but a new kids bike for my kid. Previously he was using the Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike, which is a really good way to learn cycling. I believe that once you know how to balance, you can go on to ride a proper bike with pedals.

He has already mastered rolling along on the Strider, with both feet off the ground. That means that he has already learnt how to balance on two wheels, and now it is time to move on to the next stage, which is to ride a bike with pedals.

There are many kids bikes with pedals, and many of them come with training wheels. These training wheels are for those who have not learnt how to balance on two wheels. Even if the training wheels are removed, these kids bikes are still really heavy! 

It is common to find a kids bike (no training wheels) that weigh 8 kg or more, which is considered really heavy for a kid. If the child weighs 15 kg (3+ to 4 years old), an 8 kg bike is more than half his weight. As an adult, I wouldn't want to ride a bike that weighs half my weight (30+ kg), unless it is an e-bike. Even then, it will be really cumbersome to handle or move around.

Therefore, I looked for a kids bike with a low weight, so that the kid can handle the bike more easily, and also pick it up off the ground without too much effort. To me, I am willing to pay more for a good quality bike.

I came across the brand Early Rider, which makes kids bikes for young kids (balance bikes) all the way to junior bikes (24 inch wheel size bikes with shifters). What caught my eye was the new model, Early Rider Seeker 14, which is a 14 inch kids bike that is designed for those who have just graduated from balance bikes.

There are many features which caught my eye, which I will explain below with the pictures. It costs me almost SGD 600 including shipping, from This was in February 2020, before COVID-19 wrecked havoc. To most people, spending this much on a kids bike is crazy, but I don't mind because there are many features which cannot be found elsewhere.

The new bike comes packed in a bike box, just like other adult bikes.

The model is Seeker 14, which has slightly different components compared to the Belter 14 model.

A lot of packaging materials is used! There is a gigantic pile of brown paper used to fill up the box. 

Here is how it looks out of the box. Pedals need to be installed, handlebar needs to be fixed to the stem and aligned.

Fixed up everything except the pedals. The claimed weight is 5.6 kg without pedals, which is probably the lightest kids bike for this size.

I like how low the saddle goes, which is good if your kid wants to start riding this bike when young.

Proper V brake calipers and brake levers from Tektro, which is probably the best you can get, as Shimano does not make kids specific components.

Special short reach brake levers, for the small hands. Very important feature of a kids bike.

Some quality components, with an oversized, 440 mm wide riser handlebar by Ritchey!

It also has a Ritchey stem with a short 35 mm reach, in modern MTB style. This is better than on many mid-range adult MTB.

Another view of the short stem, and the special top cap. The headset is the modern Aheadset threadless construction, not the cheaper threaded headset found on cheaper bikes.

Uses proper headset bearings for the fork. I also moved one spacer above the stem to make it correct.

Big chunky tires by Vee Tire Company! This is one spec where it differs from the Belter 14 model.  

14 x 2.25 inch tires are really wide, more than the Maxxis tires I have on my MTB. Presta valves are good as well.

Knobbly tires for some off-road riding. Useful as my kid likes to ride the bike onto the grass.

Proper Tektro V brake calipers that work well.

Sealed bearing front hub, but with bolts on the hub axle instead of a quick release lever for safety.

The brushed aluminium frame looks very good. The welds look pretty good, although I cannot expect smooth welds for kids bikes.

Rear brake cable routing

There is just a short section of exposed inner cable, for the rear brake cable routing.

More welds at the bottom bracket shell area. Check out the external bearings (Hollowtech II) of the bottom bracket! Virtually unheard of for kids bikes.

Although it has an external bearing BB, the crankarms still uses a crank arm bolt to fix the cranks on both sides. I'm curious to know how this construction works.

The biggest highlight of this bike, the belt drive system!

It uses a Gates belt, although not the bike specific Gates CDX Centertrack type.

Rather complicated looking rear dropout. This is a sliding dropout which enables the belt to be tensioned.

The belt drives a wide rear sprocket, which is attached to the rear hub. There is no backpedaling coaster brake which I personally dislike.

There are many more details which I will continue in the next blog post. For me, the highlights of this bike are:

1) Belt drive which means no drivetrain maintenance is necessary.
2) Belt drive means no bulky chain guard is necessary.
3) No greasy hands and legs as there is no chain.
4) Lightweight aluminium frame with a high quality brushed finish.
5) External bearing bottom bracket, although I doubt it makes a difference in performance.
6) Proper short reach brake levers that don't feel flimsy.
7) Good quality aluminium handlebar and stem, with a proper reach and geometry.
8) Big cushy tires for the kid that likes to ride everywhere.

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