Flow Convertible Kids Bike - Interbike 2016

Sep 21, 2016
by Rachelle Frazer Boobar  
FLOW Bikes
The Flow AM can switch between 16" and 20" wheels.

Truckee based husband and wife duo John and Jessica Groom started toying with the idea of creating kids bikes five years ago, when their son Finn became old enough to start riding bikes. "We felt like there wasn't really a bike we liked enough for him," says Jessica, "I was really stuck on this idea that we were going to have to buy a bike every single year and I was like, how can that be the case? Nothing fit him very well either. Jon's always been really interested in mountain biking so we started looking into it. Could we build a bike that fit kids better, that was light and that helped them be better riders?"


Details

• Converts between 16" and 20" wheels
• Customizable colors and decals
• 3 build options
• Reach adjust headset
• MSRP: $950 - $1400 USD
Five years on, after many design adjustments and prototypes later, their first shipment of aluminum convertible hardtails arrived. By switching between two sets of drop outs, the bike can accommodate 16" and 20" wheels. On top of that, the bike also features a reach adjustable headset so as the kid grows you can rotate the headset cup to increase the reach. The bikes are sent out with either a 30 mm stem or a 50mm stem depending on the size of the child, so ultimately the effective reach growth is 28mm.

FLOW Bikes
There is also 1.5 degrees of adjustable geometry via dual dropout mounting positions.
FLOW Bikes
Custom drop outs for the 16" version.

The bikes come in three different builds: single speed, a SRAM GX ten speed, and then the ten speed plus a carbon Answer bars and seat post plus BOX wheels. There are three different frame colours and the graphic kits are interchangeable. Parents and kids can get online, choose the colors, reach, wheel size then chose the fork suspension setting. All of the bikes including the wheelsets are then assembled in their Truckee, California, location before rolling out the door. "We're creating the best bike we can at the best price we can offer. If people think that's reasonable then their kid gets to custom design their bike. We haven't sent out one bike that's been the same" says John.

FLOW Bikes
The bike has adjustable reach.
FLOW Bikes
Thanks to this custom headset cup.

To make the bikes especially light, the rear bracing was removed from the frame which also maximized tire clearance. The tubes were thinned out and close attention was paid to the CNC'd parts to make sure they were light too. The frame alone including drop outs and the front headset weighs about 2.11 pounds. A full bike weighs around 20 pounds and the 16" wheel bikes much less.

Every bike ordered in the16" size is sent out with 20" wheels as well. "Every kid is going to eventually need them," says John. "That way they don't have to pay double shipping and they don't have to search for it and if they want 16 or 18 inch we have those available too."

FLOW Bikes
A stock kids fork chassis has been used here with slightly modified internals that includes full rebound adjust for the kids. The air pressure and rebound are set before the bike is shipped to mom and dad using weight and rider style as guidelines. Usually, it will ship with around 25psi and reportedly kids have been getting full travel out of the fork.

FLOW Bikes
A full Answer cockpit comes standard.
FLOW Bikes
Sun Envy Lite Rims are standard or Box Focus Carbon if you want to drop some weight.

The bikes range from between $950 - $1400. That might seem like a lot of initial money to pay, but the goal is to have a custom built bike that should grow with your child for around four years. The couple have other designs and plans in the works but are taking it one step at a time. "Our goal is to make affordable bikes for parents who want to go biking with their kids. We are trying to be slow and steady so customer service is truly there."


FLOW Bikes
  Finn is pretty stoked.

www.flowkidsbikes.com


103 Comments

  • 108 7
 Don't have kids, they are expensive! Buy yourself a new bike instead!
  • 30 1
 make this guy a coffee
  • 39 1
 fuck that, give that man a beer!
  • 53 0
 @nickTHEBEARcardone: Don't do that! That's how most people end up having a kid.
  • 8 0
 hhahahahahahhaahah Full circle!
  • 6 3
 That's why you don't talk to girls when riding. You don't want one thing leads to another.
  • 38 0
 Holding out for the boost/metric version
  • 13 1
 There are some great points here. I recently got a Spawn 24 inch for my two year old and put about another grand into it. People look at me like I am crazy to basically spend 2 grand on a kids bike. Took the weight of the spawn which already has a good spec from 23 to 18.5 lbs. You should see my kid dance up the hills compared to his buddies on 30 lb bikes. Before the haters call me a moron for spending so much cash - I have two boys and will get 4 years out of this bike, then will be likely to turn abound and sell it for a grand. Per year cost is 300 bucks if you consider interest etc... Not bad for a bike that gets ridden almost every day when there is no snow on the ground. I would have got this bike if it was available when my kids were younger.
  • 6 0
 24" for a two year old?
  • 12 0
 @LittleDominic: Opps Ten Year old - I was thinking of how he acts as opposed to his biological age........ thanks for the proof!
  • 1 0
 +1 on thinking this convertible bike is great idea. My kids could have stepped straight off the balance bike onto this: having two kids 3 years apart, I would squeezed 6-7 years out of a bike like this. It wouldn't have quite penciled out vs the two $300 bikes I actually bought, but even though both of them had aluminum frames, they were the better part of 30lbs, and this Flow bike would have saved me the trouble of bike shopping every couple years.
  • 14 2
 It's not the kids that are so expensive, but the ex wives that come with them.
  • 2 1
 That is the truth!
  • 21 10
 "our goal to make affordable bikes......" Yea £950.... affordable.....I see.....
  • 11 2
 Yes, but look at how stoked he is! Kids are already expensive, what's another £1k!
  • 73 0
 Fun fact, dollars and pounds aren't the same currency.
  • 45 1
 You would be able to sell for 50% of value after 4 years...cheaper than Hockey (most sports) on annual basis. Plus it's a bike and bikes are rad.
  • 7 0
 @cehemmes: Preach. Kids bikes hold there value like mad and this bike is designed to grow with your grom. A basic 20" Kona/Giant/Spesh is 3 to 4 hundo Canadian. If you get three years out of one of these bikes then you are getting pretty solid value with a way better build.
  • 5 0
 @src248: and neither are as fun to say as Loonies!
  • 2 0
 @Grmasterd: Fact!
  • 2 0
 @criscokid25: If you can get a seal kit for the fork...I'm sold!
  • 2 0
 @src248: they'll be close enough by the time the brexit deal is done
  • 2 0
 @cehemmes: We offer Enduro Bearings seal kits for these forks, contact us if you need some
  • 7 1
 If you're a serious rider and are serious about getting your kid into mtb then this seems like a really good option. I look at what parents spend on dirt bikes for their kids or all the expenses of a winter sport like snowboarding and think this is a drop in the bucket. Hell I spend more on boat gas to take my nephews wakeboarding all summer. I hope they make a full sus version at some point. I'd be in for that.
  • 2 1
 If you are serious about getting your kid into mtb you are going to fail. Keep it easy, fun, and as un-serious as possible and you just might have a chance!
  • 4 0
 Doesn't matter how "serious" you are, they will like it or they won't.
  • 1 0
 There is a new full suspension lightweight DH bike for ultra serious riding kids/parents. Prototype was on show in Whistler this August. See meekboyz.com
  • 1 0
 There is a new full suspension lightweight DH bike for ultra serious riding kids/parents. Prototype was on show in Whistler this August. See meekboyz.com
  • 7 1
 My kids 20" wheeled bikes lasted about 2 years. Even with unlimited budget I would never drop $1000 on a kids bike. I found used specialized hotrocks for the kids at $100 each and yes they were heavy but worked well. The big jump was to 24" wheels and I found a used Specialized hot-rock FSR. My son loved that bike, but he grew out of it in one year.
  • 1 5
flag Jwanamaker (Sep 21, 2016 at 12:52) (Below Threshold)
 yes, did the same thing; bought my 10 yr old a 24" and sorry I had a year later. At that age, start with at least a 26" but better yet, a 27.5" small and let them rip for several years to come!
  • 1 0
 Hotrocks are very well made and a shit sight cheaper than these. Buy an OSET if you've got this kind of money to drop on your kids. Nice bikes, understandably expensive, but too expensive for the majority. I'm not saying they're not worth it, because this bike looks super nice. Still, 10kg is 3kg heavier than my mate's road bike, and he's a man. I'll buy one if I win the lottery.
  • 2 0
 @Jwanamaker: you don't love your kids as much as some of us. The memories and skills kids develop with a proper bike is unbelievable. I got my 7 year old a Transition ripcord for 2 grand and it is among the best money I've spent.
  • 7 2
 Hmmmm - i would be cheaper to buy a 16" bike then a 20" bikes. You can sell the 16 and 20" for some money when the little grom grows. Now - 20" to 24", that would be something. All the big brands make a decent bikes for for those wheel sizes.
  • 5 1
 Not if you're buying good ones.
  • 6 1
 Lets sit and think about this for a second.....this bike weighs 20 lbs, most kids that a ride bike that size weigh like 60 lbs, aka that bike is 1/3 their weight....that's the equivalent of an adult riding a bike that's ~60 lbs. That would suck...I help do skills clinics for kids CX and watching them pick up their 25 lb bike over barriers is so discouraging....

When will the bicycle industry ever learn that if they're going to make bicycles that kids REALLY want to ride, not make them weigh the same as an adult's bike. They got it right with the Strider, making it weigh nothing, which got kids really confident, why doesn't that translate into the full bicycle? How about do the same thing with kid bikes? A kid that weighs 60 lbs doesn't need the same burly hubs, bar, stem, cranks, fork, or rims as an adult. I bet that fork weighs over 4 lbs. They're not going nearly as big or nearly as rough on the stuff, so why use the same parts????
  • 2 0
 Liability and low production numbers. A from scratch hardtail built for young kids could easily be 12 pounds. But there just isn't the production volume to make it economically feasible to make specific kids components. And no one wants to be the company that makes a kids part that fails and injures a kid. A scratch built mini BMX bike has been made that was only 6 pounds.
  • 1 0
 @rupintart: Isla makes a 14-pound bike with 1x9, hydro discs, etc. (www.islabikes.com/beinn-20-pro-series-product-page). It costs $1500 and to get it that light they had to spec it with a rigid carbon fork (with a 1" steer tube, which means you cannot swap in a suspension fork later even if you wanted to), a Ti/carbon BB, Ti pedal axles, and 1.4" tires. They also don't recommend using it for jumping or drops larger than 30 cm. Basically, it's a dirt roadie.
  • 1 0
 double post
  • 3 0
 Great point, Strider make an awesome balance bike, but because it has no pedals, it's not classified as a bicycle and does need to meet the same weight to safety standards as bicycles. There is not a separate kids MTB consumer safety classification and thus our parts and frames unfortunately have to meet adult design standards. You would see much lighter kids mountain bikes if there were separate weight to strength testing standards for kids MTB's.
  • 2 0
 @Flow-Kids-Bikes: There's loopholes. Sell it with ONLY pegs, even as a frameset, but "conveniently" make the bottom bracket a mtb standard so that people can buy the cranks separately and it's now a "bicycle conversion" since it was "designed" with pegs, not cranks. Now, you can make a lightweight object that can easily be "converted" into a bicycle. Come on guys....

Dan's Comp and all other BMX retailers get around the laws of a bicycle needing to be sold with brakes. How do they get around selling brakeless bicycles that don't even have brake bosses? Include a really cheap throw away cantilever brakeset that cost 30 cents wholesale in bulk. Voila, the bike was "sold with brakes."

Scalpers and ebayers have been doing this for decades "free tickets with purchase of $175 pencil." They're technically not selling tickets...you could technically not be selling bikes either.....

Loopholes are there...the market is there...
  • 2 0
 There is a new full suspension lightweight DH bike for ultra serious riding kids/parents. Prototype was on show in Whistler this August. See meekboyz.com
  • 1 0
 @donnamacintosh: Wow. I thought my son's Lil Shredder was pricy, and that was used. Always good to have more options on the market. Looks pretty amazing though.
  • 5 0
 It's our duty as parents to make sure our kids don't ride shit bikes. My sons balance bike cost about $200. My daughter rides a 20" mountain bike from Liv and I'm getting ready to buy her something like the transition ripcord. If the kids are happy I'll be happy.
  • 5 2
 So awesome to see quality kids bikes that grow with kids. The adjustable reach headset is awesome. Way to push the envelope in the kids bike industry without charging through the nose for it. There are lots of kids bikes in the $2000+ range
  • 8 2
 Naming your son Fin, so hot right now.
  • 3 1
 Higher-end kid's bikes are the only thing with any resale value, so although they are all expensive, you can get a lot of it back. Walmart bikes are give-away (or throw away) when you're done. I've used 2 spawn bikes (14" and 16") for 3 kids and got about 2/3 of my purchase price back after selling used. Unlike a skanky 5-yr-old DH bike, kids out grow them before they wear them out.
  • 2 0
 If you need a full suspension look at Lil Shredder. Prodigy uses 16" or 20" wheels, and the Phenom uses 24" wheels. They also have a hardtail, the Icon, but it's pricier than this one as the frames are made in the USA by Ventana. Good to see other companies coming out with decent kids bikes and lowering the price range.
  • 2 0
 A great idea that was done by Lil Shredder Bikes starting in 2011. Offering an American made bike with custom builds and colors. Look at the groms at the bike park and many have been ripping on LS bikes for some time. Not trying to be negative to Flow or the author, but this is not a new idea.
  • 3 0
 With 2 boys under the age of 3 right now, all these articles about kids bikes make it look like I need to start saving early.
  • 6 2
 And why does a kids bike need carbon bars or wheels? Put them on a beater and they will have fun and not know the difference
  • 5 0
 Why does anyone need a lighter bike? If anything a kid needs it more than most because his bike is already much heavier than an adults bike when you consider the bikes weight as a % of there body weight. So why should kids have good bikes...? IDK...like why do they play hockey, take dance lessons or snowboard...its all money.

If anyone wants to trade me an expensive carbon bike for a heavy cheap one, just PM me. You dont need it.
  • 2 0
 Because bike weight to rider weight ratio. We modified a Cannondale down to about 24 pounds for our son, and can't take it down further without serious $$$ dumped in. One of the kids in our club got a Trailcraft Cycles Pineridge 24 and it is 21 pounds stock with a Stans Crest wheelset. That extra 3 pounds is seriously night and day when going uphill.
  • 3 0
 @inverted180: that's the difference between kids and grown folks, they will have fun no matter what they are on. I worked at a summer camp years ago and we had bottom shelf khs bikes that I wouldn't want to ride and the kids all had a hoot, no complaints, and didn't even know that the bikes were shit.
  • 2 0
 @mrgonzo: yes and give a kid whos never played hockey an old pair of skates and take him public skatingand they will have fun. Yet Parents dump thousands a year on hockey. Why?
  • 3 0
 @inverted180: hell if I know, we don't play hockey in California. Haha.
  • 3 0
 @mrgonzo: Well that's your problem right there..lol
  • 1 0
 @mrgonzo: I agree! I rode my bike everywhere as a kid, would trade with friends etc, never complained. Looking back now, they were shit bikes, but I always had a blast riding.
  • 1 0
 The carbon bars/post and Box race rims (alloy, not carbon) are an optional upgrade if you want to get the weight down as low as possible. The cheaper builds have alloy posts/bars and moderately heavier Sun Envy Lite rims. I got the fancy build but only because I pre-ordered and got a substantial discount. The regular 10-speed build also wasn't an option yet when I pre-ordered. If I were buying now I'd get the regular 10-speed build. It really is a great deal for what you get.
  • 1 0
 @mrgonzo: The target market for these bikes isn't really kids who ride a couple days a year during their week at summer camp. We ride 3-5 days/week all season, which is typically Mar-Nov here.
  • 1 0
 Adult: we need to strategize the rider weight to bike weight ratio for enduro optimization

Kid: let's build a jump out of trash cans and plywood
  • 2 0
 @mrgonzo: Do you wven have kids. I doubt... too selfess and cheap. If you ewr have kids make sure to get him / her a piece of crap bike, and don't bother signing them up for any competitve organized sports either.. its expensive.

Im sure you have a decent bike though. Hey gotta look after #1.
  • 1 0
 @inverted180: my bikes okay. It would be newer and nicer but I have a college savings account for my son and I'm trying to buy a house with a big yard for adventure. He's too young to ride yet but when he gets a little bigger he'll have a workable bike. Probably no carbon fiber though
  • 1 0
 @mrgonzo: well your the Dad. I just dont like people with the attitude that kids don't need or care for a decent bike, meanwhile they spend money on lots of other things. Adults don't need a decent bike either. Plenty of people out there on crap bikes with a smile. Everyone can just buy their bikes from walmart....

If they like bikes an adult or kid would appreciate a better quality one period. Whether financially thats a problem for someone is an individual thing but dont pretend kids dont care so why bother.
  • 1 0
 I really like this idea. We probably spend enough money on our own steeds to know that a decent kids bike is important and something that - over the long term - would likely cost as near to buying 2-3 weighty machines anyway. LittleBig (www.littlebigbikes.com) have a similar idea for younger kids with their balance bike. Wish I'd known about this when the bairns were smaller. I've recently looked at Orbea MX Kids for my 12 year old. They look promising.
  • 1 0
 Thanks for positive and constructive comments. There are only a few companies offering high quality, real kids mountain bikes, in contrast there are thousands of brands offering average adult bikes. We think we can contribute to innovating kids bikes and we have a lot of respect for any other company fully committed to making real mountain bikes for kids. The reality however, is that that these are true mountain bikes and a kid has to be able to pedal them uphill as well as down. We designed and spec'd our bikes to meet that need and it's reflected in our design, prototyping and manufacturing costs which creates our retail price.
  • 3 0
 i'm usually skeptical of "grow with your kid" bike designs, but this looks really well thought out
  • 1 0
 or you could get a new Cleary Owl 16 inch for 340 and then upgrade to the 24 inch Meerkat for 640 and have killer resale value on both when done (or pass them down to little brother/sister)
  • 1 0
 @Wharfrat27: I like Cleary, my son's previous bike was a Hedgehog, but the Owl is not a comparable bike at all.
  • 1 0
 My kids rock Islabike Beinn's (20 and 24) and couldn't be more pleased. At this size, it's tough to find quality bikes with quality components - most kids MTBs have crap shocks and too many gears.
  • 1 0
 Nice looking bikes and if my kids show interest in mtb and hitting singletrack trails w me, you best believe I will work extra to afford them something of quality like these Flow.
  • 5 2
 Holy shit that price though
  • 10 2
 I feel that this is a reasonable price for a legit kids bike. You are getting 2 bikes in 1 essentially, with modern components, a decent fork and disc brakes. For reference my 5 year old has a 16 inch Cleary hedgehog that has a rigid fork, single speed and hand pull brakes. That bike was $325. I have been looking at 20 inch hard tails for him with a suspension fork and disc brakes and they are not cheap. This one bike for $1000 would as much or less than a 16 and a 20 with comparable specs. It also sounds like this comes with 2 sets of wheels which is awesome. Yes $1000 is a lot for a kids bike but I consider it an investment for developing my sons riding and getting a lot of quality shred time with me. Sign me up.
  • 2 2
 @jdsecan12: Agreed, I wish these were out when I was looking. My friend is looking at a 20 inch Spawn now.

Called him about this and he would have been all over this bike.
  • 1 0
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: Yep. There's no denying that Spawn makes nice bikes, but Homerism is the only reason to buy a Kotori or Savage 2 over the Flow. The Kotoris cost $1100 for SS and no front brake! For the same price Flow gives you a complete brake set and GX drivetrain.
  • 1 0
 @dd9433: Actually the Spawn is cheaper. Spawn - $950 Flow 10 Speed $1110

Not sure where you're seeing GX, on the Flow site it's X-7 same as Spawn. Like I said, if looking for a 16 to convert to 20 later- Flow is the way to go. But if you need a 20, the Flow loses the advantage to me.
  • 1 0
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: They need to update the specs on their site. My son's bike came with a Type 2.1 GX and if you scroll through the build pics on their Facebook page all the geared builds have a GX derailleur. The article also says GX so I think the GX is standard, compared to the non-clutch X7 on the Savage. The Flow has several other upgrades compared to the Savage 2 as well:

-Geometry: Look at the geo charts for the two bikes. The Flow has modern AM geo with shorter chainstays and a slacker HT, plus the adjustable dropout mounts and headset. This one is huge for me. You can throw money at a bike and make it lighter, shift or brake better, etc., but you can't upgrade the geo. The Kotori has comparable geo, but not a comparable price/parts spec.

-Fork: 80 mm vs 50 mm, and the Spawn's fork has well known issues with bad stiction and not getting full travel. The Flow fork is way, way better than that 50 mm Spinner.

-BB: External BB and 2-piece though-axle cranks vs. square taper BB.

-Tires: 2.0" MaxDaddys are way better tires than 1.95" SB8s

Overall, the extra $160 for a 10sp Flow is money well spent over a Savage 2, IMVHO.
  • 1 0
 @dd9433: FYI my buddies Son gets his Flow next week.
  • 2 0
 But I am stoked to see more small companies making kid specific bikes as its much needed
  • 1 0
 Carbon bars, seat-post and wheels on a kids bike? Mind you i suppose that's one bike you can leave lying on the front lawn without it getting nicked.
  • 1 0
 Don't forget these are designed and built in Truckee CA. To Most people there dropping $1000 on a bike is not a whole lot of money.
  • 2 0
 propain do a 16/20 inch convertable FS bike
  • 2 1
 It's not nearly as well executed. I say this because the Propain has the same CS length in both wheel sizes. Putting a small wheel in a 20 inch frame isn't the same as this. The Propain also doesn't come with the reach adjustable headset. This also has adjustable Geo based on the drop out mounting position- 1.5 degrees of adjustability. These guys put a lot of thought into what's needed to make a bike go from 16-20 inch and it shows.
  • 1 0
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: I think the axle moves forward on the stays of the propain shortening the length. Agreed this bike looks like a winner with the reach adjustment and geo options. If it ships with both drop outs and both wheelsets for under $1400...look out little shredder icon.
  • 2 0
 I have twins so if there was a 2 for 1 I may be interested.
  • 26 0
 Or you could just pick a favourite!
  • 2 0
 My kids are going to suffer on a bmx like I did
  • 1 0
 My kids are just passed this stage. Need a 24" that converts to 26 or 27.5".
  • 1 0
 Mondraker do a 24" to 26" one... lol its expensive tho.. £1,880
  • 2 1
 That kid has a 1x.....i dont even have a 1x!
  • 2 2
 Thats how old Kyle Strait was at his first Rampage
  • 1 1
 i like a lot this bike is so nice.
  • 2 1
 20" is the new 16".
  • 1 0
 This bike is Rad!
  • 1 0
 ????
  • 1 1
 I would scrub that bike!
  • 1 4
 A carbon bar on a 16" kids bike? Really?
  • 1 2
 Bars Best Bang for your buck to lower weight. But they would get scratched to sh$t.
  • 2 0
 I got the third or fourth bike Flow shipped. It's an incredible bike and an incredible value. There's no way my son would be riding like he is on 25% heavier hotrock with bad geo, rim brakes and a non-functional fork. Comparing it to a standard hotrock or similar is insulting. Hotrock pro and RM Vertex 20 are more comparable but still quite inferior and those both cost about $700. True comps are the Shredder Icon and Spawn Kotori and the Flow is cheaper than both. The fork is money, my son is 43 pounds and gets full travel on larger hits. IMO, Flow is a game changer in the kids bike market.
  • 1 0
 @dd9433: I have a 16 inch icon and it is amazing. Same experience, can't believe what my now five year old is riding. The one down side is the spinner fork which suffers from stiction and lack of seal kit...I think the new shredders come with new fork. This flow looks amazing and good value...but I still would go for alloy bars, my kid drops his rig anywhere.
  • 1 0
 @dd9433: Sweet. My kid has a Hotrock and I agree it's got bad geo, and the parts spec is rubbish. They spec a triple crankset up front and that's wrong. I have yet to see a kid who can deal with a triple, most kids can't figure out a double. A single ring up front is fine so they can learn how to shift gears only in the rear. It's frustrating riding with the kids when they have the gears all banged up.
  • 1 0
 @cehemmes: Whoops, I meant that as a general reply to the topic and not your bar comment specifically.

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