Category Archives: Kids’ Bikes & Accessories

Hub Gear Conversion

Hub Gear Conversion

Hub Gear ConversionIf you think about it, the quality of a child’s bike is really important. If a child grows up with a heavy, impractical bicycle, he or she starts life with the impression that bicycles are heavy impractical machines.The evidence from the current generation is that apart from dabbling with BMX, the vast majority stop riding bicycles just as soon as they can, and most never return. Rather disturbingly, there’s growing evidence that many in Alexander’s generation will never learn to ride at all.

When Alexander was old enough for a ‘proper’ bike we chose a German-made Puky. Children’s bikes with dynamo lights, a rack and mudguards are common on the Continent, but only the Puky is easily obtainable here, thanks to importer Amba Marketing. By the spring of 2005, our 18-inch wheel example (see A to B 41) had given great service for 18 months and 400 miles, but at six, the boy was growing rapidly, and trying longer rides.The time had come for an upgrade, but not yet to a bigger bike.


…any competent cycle engineering should be able to upgrade…to hub gear operation…

How would we define the perfect bike for a small child? For obvious reasons, it needs to be reasonably fashionable. If everyone else is riding Death-Squad BMX UXB MTBs, with unobtainium gussets and nobble-tooth mud pluggers, pushing the sensible, weedy option can be hard work.The bike also needs to be suitable for road use in all weathers, plus some modest off-roading, and come equipped with user-friendly hub gears, brakes, mudguards and lights. Quite a tall order, really.

Puky sell a range of fully-equipped 20-inch bikes, and a few 18-inch bikes, but none of the smaller machines have gears.The answer was to upgrade what we had, adding a Sturmey Archer S-RC3 hub to Alexander’s Puky 18-1B, producing, one assumes, an 18-3B. The beauty of using this rare hub is that it also comes with a back-pedal operated ‘coaster’ brake. Fitting something like this might sound complicated, but any competent cycle engineer should be able to upgrade a single-speed or derailleur-geared bike to hub gear operation.

Three-speed hubs used to be almost universal in Britain, but the arrival of cheap, sexy-looking derailleurs changed all that, and enclosed hub gears are now generally confined to roadsters and small-wheeled bikes. As we point out on a regular basis, this is most unfortunate. Few adults understand the principles of riding with close-ratio derailleur gears and for children, three gears are more than enough to think about.

Hub gears can be changed whilst stationary, making them ideal in traffic (or for those of a forgetful disposition at any time) and although the number of gears might sound modest in this number/size obsessed age, even the most basic hub provides a decent gear range. The range – for those who aren’t quite sure – is the difference between top and bottom gear. A wide range of gears enables the bike to nip along under a wide range of circumstances.

With Alexander’s friends acquiring MTBs with five or six derailleur gears, we found ourselves trying to explain that a SRAM, Nexus or Sturmey three-speed offers a gear range of around 180%, which is about the same as a cheap six-speed derailleur.There’s a widespread belief that hubs are less efficient, but a three-speed should return efficiency of 94-95%, a figure that a cheap derailleur would be pushed to achieve after a few weeks’ youthful abuse. It also comes with bullet-proof indexing and is almost immune from throwing its chain off.

Hub Gear Conversion


Coaster brakes have never really caught on here, but having seen a child grow up using one, we’re converts, and most parents on the Continent would probably agree.When you’re learning to make hand signals and keeping an eye open for traffic, there’s a lot to be said for controlling the primary The coaster hub looks brake with your feet. For as if it was made for dad, there are 33% fewer the bike. Note the ‘extra’ cables to adjust and spoke holes and rather lubricate.We hope you’re avant–garde spoke pattern convinced.


We won’t bore you with the fitting process – if you know what you’re doing, it’s easy, and if you don’t, we’d recommend visiting a good bike shop. Most of the shops that advertise in A to B can carry out this sort of work, but as usual, the real experts are Bicycle Workshop in Birdy rim will fit the larger 355m (18- West London, who regularly upgrade children’s bikes (and adult cruiser bikes) to this sort of spec. If doing the work yourself, the hub costs £65 with a lever changer, plus £8 for the twistgrip. Expect to add around £35 if the shop does the work for you.

The new hub weighs 400g, so with cables and twistgrip, the weight penalty for upgrading from a single-speed has been about 1kg. Starting with a derailleur, you’ll be removing sprockets, cables, a brake lever and a brake caliper, so the weight will be about the same. Gearing depends on circumstances – we fitted an 18-tooth rear sprocket, giving gears of 26″, 35″ and 47″. Broadly speaking, that’s one gear for the flat, and two hill- climbing options. Bottom gear will tackle 12.5% (1:8), taking care of most of the local hills.

Is the boy pleased with his gears? What boy wouldn’t be pleased with a TSS32 shifter, shiny S-RC3 hub, 178% range, 18-tooth sprocket and a host of other part numbers? At six, life is all about numbers. For Alexander, the back pedal brake is familiar territory of course, but the gears took a few days to get used to. Cycling mileage has since rocketed to about 60 miles a month, and the unusual machine, with its novel lights, rack and gears, seems to be much admired.

You can’t win of course. Alexander knows a thing or two about hubs, and he’s already applying subtle pressure for a five-speed. Sturmey doesn’t make a coaster five-speed, but the indestructible SRAM P5 is available in coaster form…The perfect 20-inch bike?


The Sturmey S-RC3, like most hubs, comes drilled for 36-spokes, but children’s rims – including our rare-in- the-UK 355mm rim – are usually drilled for 20. Its unusual to find 305mm (16-inch) rims drilled for 36-spokes, but a inch) bikes. In the largest 20 and 24-inch sizes, there are plenty of rims and tyres to choose from.To make life difficult, we decided to re-drill the old rim to take 18 spokes, lacing the wheel using alternate spoke holes, braced with a single 13G spoke to prevent the wheel ‘winding up’ under braking.This arrangement would be too frail for an adult bicycle, but for a child weighing 22kg, a new rim and 36-spokes aren’t really necessary. On our single-speed bike, we also needed to stretch the rear drop-outs slightly, but it’s more likely that adjustment would be needed in the other direction on a derailleur bike.

Puky Child Bikes

Puky Child BikeBringing up a child focuses the mind in all sorts of surprising areas.Take children’s bicycles, for example. As an adult, you wouldn’t normally give them a second glance, but once with child, you’re obliged to buy the things.

In the UK, bicycles designed for children vary from poor to atrocious, both in design and execution. A typical specimen comes with trick suspension that barely moves, pearlescent paint masking agricultural tubing, derailleur gears that don’t index properly, no lights, no bell and no mudguards.

When Alexander was two-ish, we bought him a little 12-inch wheeled bike. It was heavy (7.8kg), had only one brake (on the front wheel, so we had to reroute it to the back), small hands couldn’t grip the adult brake lever, the componentry was poor and the finish was miserable. And that was a good bike from a reputable shop.

The problem lies with Far Eastern manufacture, importers and distributors who, frankly, couldn’t give a damn, and shop prices so low, the retailers aren’t interested. It needed be like this.The Chinese are skilled engineers, and they’ll build whatever we ask – we’re just not asking the right questions.

…Bicycles designed for children vary from poor to attrocious… In Germany, things seem to be different…

In Germany, things seem to be different. When Britain started on the road to wholesale de-industrialisation in the 1980s and ‘90s, the Germans were a bit more cautious. As a result, many mechanical and electrical things are still manufactured there (gasp, swoon).We don’t mean repackaged or badged, but manufactured in the metal-bashing sense. Look closely at most ostensibly German products, and you will usually find that they really are German products, from design through to manufacture.

Back in October 1991, we came across the wooden Like-a-Bike and fell in love with it, as indeed, did Alexander (see A to B 26).You really couldn’t produce a machine like this by franchising the design and manufacture to a company on the other side of the world, and of course, the Like-a-Bike was (and still is) made in Germany. It’s a well-designed, well-crafted product. It may cost a bit more, but you know it will go on pleasing children for years, if not generations, to come.

With Alexander fast approaching five, and already much too large for both the 12- incher or the Like-a-Bike, it was time for new wheels. Assuming, like many Brits, that Puky only produced toddler’s tricycles, we hadn’t given the brand too much thought, but a chance invitation from the distributor to try their bicycle range made us sit up and listen.


Puky Child Bike BrakePuky translates rather badly into English, especially if you’re feeling a bit the worse for wear, but when originally established in Düsseldorf, in 1949, the company was called Puck. A mischievous or evil sprite, says the OED, which sounds perfect. A few years later, the name was changed and the company moved a short distance to the little town of Wuelfrath, and has been expanding ever since.

Puky make just about every wheeled device imaginable, from charming frontier-style handcarts to some professional-looking go-carts for older children, complete with ‘Formula One spoilers’, plus a range of bicycles for children of all ages.The bicycles are broadly graded by wheel size: 12-, 16- and 18-inch for the tiddlers, and 18- or 20-inch for the over-fives.


The Puky Z8.You can’t usually tow a caravan with a child’s bike, but the Puky bikes accept the Burley trailer fitting.

The 18-inch bikes come in two styles: the Z8, a traditional child’s step-thru machine in monstrous red, yellow and blue, and the Cyke 18-1, a Y- frame ATB-style bike, in red or silver.These machines are designed to suit children measuring more than 115cm, or 3′ 9″ in that delightfully graphic language we used to use.

None of the 18-inch bikes has gears, but both are available in road-going trim, with wheel reflectors, stand and dynamo lighting kit, as the Z8B or 18-1B respectively.These things mean little to us, but for a five-year-old it’s the equivalent of a turbocharger and alloy wheels. Prices range from £125 for the basic step-thru, to £160 for the Cyke 18-1B, with the go-faster stripes and turbo.

For older children (broadly seven plus), 20-inch bikes come in four styles: City 20-3 (as the junior step-thru, for the less discerning), Cyke 20-3 (ATB-style, as in 18-inch), Skyride 20-3 (delightful curved alloy frame, aimed at girls), and Alu-Cyke 20-3 (as for Cyke, but alloy frame). Prices range from £205 to £240, according to spec.We might be able to report back on the 20-inch bikes in a year or two, but we’re ideally placed to try the 18-inch range.We settled on the basic Z8, and top-of-the-range 18-1B.

On the Road

The first impression – for better or for worse – is that these are not light bikes. It’s slightly disappointing that a basic child’s bike like the Z8 weighs 11kg (24lb), or just a shade lighter than a decent adult folder. On the other hand, 15kg is not unusual for a Chinese machine, and the Puky bikes are clearly well made, with the sort of frames and componentry that should see out several generations.

The Z8 is styled much as children’s bicycles have always been styled. Mudguards and frame are steel, there’s a neat rack with a spring-thingey, and the chrome certainly appears to be thick and lustrous. Brakes are unusual in UK practise – Shimano cantilever at the front and back-pedal hub in the rear wheel.The arrangement makes sense though, because the back-pedal brake can be applied quickly and precisely by even the frailest child, and overall brake force and controllability is Light Years ahead of what might be considered the norm here.

Alexander has always wanted to be let loose with our G-force meter, and this was his chance.The rear brake turns out to be much less aggressive than back-pedal devices we’ve known. Getting the pedals in the ‘quarter past three’ position took some practise at first, but Alexander still managed some stops in the .26G region, with a best of .31G. With plenty of weight at the rear, the wheel is still some way from locking up at that sort of level, which is probably best on a junior machine.

The front cantilever brake is more powerful, causing the tyre to scuff with a best stop of .5G, but still some way from locking the wheel.The best combined brake figure is a little higher – .53G, or perhaps a little more with practise. Generally speaking, that’s excellent. Provided the front brake is fed in with care, the bike stops smoothly and rapidly, but a poorly-trued front wheel on the Z8 (the 18-1B was OK) made adjustment tricky.

At 45 inches, the gearing would be ideal in Holland, but it’s much too high for Castle Cary, giving a rare old turn of speed on the flat, but failing to clear everyday gradients in these parts. Fortunately, the rear hub is fitted with Sachs/Sturmey splines, so a good cycle shop should stock a range of sprocket and fit one in a few minutes.We settled on a 17- tooth, giving 37-inch gearing. That’s low enough for our five-year-old to stomp up a 7% gradient and just fail 9% (1:10).

Unusual in Britain, the Impac Street Runner tyres are 18-inch (actually 47-355mm), and they look good for many miles, with enough tread to see of the pearlescent-frame jobs on the rough, but fast on the road too.

Fittings and fixtures

puky-child-bike-chainguardAdjustability is a bit limited, but perfectly adequate for the intended 115 – 125cm height range.The saddle adjusts from 57cm to 66cm, and the handlebars from 71cm to 83cm.Typically, children will be ready for this sort of bike somewhere between the ages of 4 and 81/2. Alexander, just over average height, needed both saddle and bars near the bottom of the range.

puky-child-bike-hubLike some step-thru folders, the rear frame tubes of the Z8, curve up and around to create a substantial rack – well up to carrying chunky panniers (they’re available as extras), or even a tiny passenger if they’re into acrobatics. As this is the non-road version, there’s no dynamo, reflectors or stand, but the Z8 is well equipped, with substantial ‘bell end’ handlebar grips to protect tiny hands, a proper bell, full chainguard, and a ‘crash pad’ of fabric-covered foam wrapped around the handlebar stem.The bike comes with trainer wheels too, although the more ‘grown-up’ Puky machines like the 18-1B do not.

All in all, the Z8 is broadly recognisable as the sort of machine that most British parents and grandparents will have learnt to ride on from the 1930s to the 1960s: safe, dependable and much more effective than it looks.



The Puky 18-1B. Fashionable ‘Y’ frame with dynamo lights, rack, stand and substantial mudguards

As for the Z8, except…The frame is completely different, the girly step-thru being replaced by thumping great ‘Y’ shaped ovaliod tubes painted (on our example) in bright red, complete with flame graphics.Tyres are the same size as the Z8’s, but chunky off road Schwalbe Cruiser 11’s, with a narrow slick section in the centre and substantial knobbles elsewhere. Downmarket versions of these sort of features can be found in any British bike shop, of course. But the rest of the fittings are almost unique. Like the Z8, the 18-1B has substantial steel mudguards, but with a bit more clearance for off-roading.Then there’s a spindly steel rear rack (the same design is fitted to all bikes above the Z8), partial chain guard, stand, and all the other safety equipment from the Z8, including those chunky grips.The dynamo is noisy and inefficient, but the (un-branded, non-halogen) front light works surprisingly well,The rear light is too dim, and it protrudes beyond the rear tyre, which looks vulnerable (ours was cracked in transit). If doing any amount of poor weather road work, we’d fit a better quality and more compact standlight. Generally, the lights are a great safety aid, even during the day, when they can be used as Volvo-style ‘day-running’ lights.

At 11.5kg, the 18-1B is heavier than the Z8, and rolling resistance is a little higher (some parents might see this as an advantage, of course).Where this unusual machine really scores is in pushing all the right street-cred buttons, without seriously compromising ridability.This bike is safe, sensible and long-legged, but it doesn’t look it, and to ‘big boy’ five-year-olds, that sort of thing is important.


Alexander is now the proud owner of a Puky 18-1B. Having scoured the shops for weeks, when we tested this machine we didn’t hesitate in buying it, which sounds rather like the Like-a-Bike story all over again.

We had in mind a scary price differential against the Chinese jobs, but we were wrong. An 18-inch bike of uncertain parentage will cost around £100, but you’ll only pay another £25 for the Z8, £35 for the 18-1, and our well-equipped 18-1B – in a different league, practicality wise – is only £160. If children start out on impractical, poorly-made bikes, they’re unlikely to buy better bikes later on, so a few extra quid at this stage could really pay dividends. Full marks to Puky for competing so successfully in a tough global market, but do remind us…Why did we de-industrialise our economy?


Puky Z8 £125 .
Weight 11kg (24lb) .
Crank length 125mm .
Tyres Impac Street Runner Size 47-355mm .
Saddle height 57 – 66cm .
Handebar height 71 – 83cm .
Gearing 45″
Puky 18-1B (where different to Z8) £160 .
Weight 11.5kg (25lb) .
Tyres Schwalbe Cruiser 11
Manufacturer Puky GmbH web .
UK distributor Amba Marketing (UK) Ltd
tel 01392 840030 mail web


KMX Recumbent Trike

kmx-recumbent-trikeIt’s a common grumble amongst cycle-minded parents that children’s machines are largely unfit for purpose. Childrens bicycles tend to be crude MTB or BMX-style machines, garishly painted with trick non-functional suspension and a total weight in the almost unliftable region. Sadly, the accent – as with most bicycle-related activities in the UK – is on leisure, rather than practical A to B travel.Touring bikes and get-to-school machines are almost unknown for little people, which is a shame because you’re unlikely to get enthusiastic about riding a bike to school, shops, college and so on if you’re using the wrong tool for the job.The KMX Kart does nothing to improve the situation, because in form and function, it’s about as leisure-orientated as they come, but it’s different, and it might just help to break the mould, demonstrating that alternative and much more interesting HPVs exist.

…girls are excluded…and statistically unlikely ever to turn a pedal again…

What you get is a sharply-styled recumbent trike, broadly reminiscent of adult machines such as the Trice or Windcheetah, but built down to a realistic price tag of £350.We found the trike an instant hit amongst 12 year old boys, as one might expect, but also with younger children, and girls in particular – half the population, and largely excluded from the macho BMX cycling world. As a youngster excluded from BMX is statistically unlikely ever to turn a pedal again (very much the pattern for girls these days) we were interested to see if the KMX could help.

One very positive thing about the company is that although the advertising is inevitably aimed at 12-14 year old boys, girls have not been forgotten, thanks to the influence of designer Barry Smith’s daughter Jodie, for whom the initial prototype was designed.

What is it?

KMX is a new and small British business.The first trike was developed in a garage five years ago, and the company has gradually grown in size and ambition since then.The aim was to produce a junior fun machine in small batches, but one thing led to another and a trip to Taiwan yielded a mass-production deal and ambitious plans to sell 900 karts in the first year.

Far-Eastern manufacture may have brought the price down, but inevitably quality has suffered. For £350 you shouldn’t expect Windcheetah-style engineering, and you don’t get it.The KMX weighs a hefty 15.9kg (35lb), largely because it’s based around chunky BMX componentry and a crudely-welded and immensely solid steel frame.You can be confident that little Jimmy won’t appear in floods of tears on Day One because something crucial has dropped off, but for youngsters the KMX breaks the first A to B rule: never ride something you can’t lift.

Gearing is 5-speed Shimano SIS: as basic as they come, but chunky and reliable like everything else on the machine. Range is 30″ to 60″ which, as compromises go, is more or less perfect, giving a reasonable cruise of 12-14mph.

In recumbent terms, a machine with two wheels at the front and one at the rear is termed a ‘tadpole’ – we’re not sure why, but the recumbent folk love their terminology. It also comes with USS, or Under Seat Steering, as opposed to ASS, an acronym that should be self-evident. USS means keeping your hands down by your sides, but it leaves the trike admirably uncluttered and gives direct and reliable steering.

The wheels are nicely scaled down versions of the 26″ rear x 16″ front you might expect to find on dad’s trike.The rear is a chunky 20″ x 1.95″, with a pair of 12″ x 1.75″s on the front.The tyres are a bit dubious, and sit very untidily on the rims, but the names roll off the tongue like wayside halts on the Yangtze river: Lien Fu (rear) and Horng Fortune (front). Slips and slides are frequent, but a lack of grip is arguably a safety feature, because where quality rubber might dig in and flip the machine, the Horng Fortunes scrub over the surface in a safe and controlled manner. In extremis, the KMX understeers gently and predictably, cornering at considerable speed. Rolling resistance is high, but offset by the low wind-resistance to give an acceptable figure of 13mph on our test hill. Better than most BMX bikes, one would assume.

In popular mythology, trikes have a tendency to lift an inside wheel when cornering, but the KMX is so low (15cm at the seat) and wide (62cm) that you have to work very hard to do it. And that despite one or two inexperienced pilots leaning enthusiastically the wrong way into fast corners. Cornering isn’t something parents need to worry about, but there are plenty of more legitimate worries, such as the brakes.

For a while after the trike arrived we wondered why the kids were doing such skillful ‘handbrake turns’.They weren’t – they were just trying to stop.The brake system is rather interesting – a conventional V-brake on the back (including a useful and effective parking brake) and a pair of rather dodgy Chinese band brakes on the front.These look neat, but they bind, squeal, rub and don’t work if you’re rolling backwards. Ironically, they’re safer in the wet because a good dousing in water cures most of the problems, provided the water is evenly distributed between the two wheels, of which more below.

With little weight over the rear (just 20% with the seat forward), the single V-brake locks the rear wheel at a mere 0.2G, producing some entertaining skids. Conversely, with 80% of the weight above the front wheels, a modest front brake application will lift the rear wheel at 0.4G, threatening to dig the chainring into the road, and with such a short wheelbase, this all happens very quickly.

The crude band brakes ...

As is often the case with a ‘tadpole’ recumbent, the front brakes must be carefully balanced by hand, because if one of the bands grips slightly before the other, the machine will spin, particularly if the rear wheel is close to locking up anyway.The same occurs in the wet if you hit a puddle that throws water into one brake. It’s all made worse by the long travel, lack of ‘feel’ and ferocious grip of the front bands. if you buy a KMX, carefully chamfering the leading and trailing edges of the bands will improve matters, but nothing can cure the problem.


...and poor weight distribution make ‘stoppies’ a common occurrence

The strange braking behaviour proved the biggest headache for our moderately experienced bicycle-owning test gang, and we’re not convinced that any of them really got to grips with the finer points of brake control.Three- wheeled machines need care anyway, but the quixotic band brakes, excessive nose weight and short wheelbase make the KMX a bit of a handful for newbies. Immensely entertaining if you’re mucking about in a car park, but not very helpful under ‘real’ road conditions. KMX is currently working on an adult machine, but we’d rather see a less skittish ‘touring’ version for children. Proper drum or roller brakes, longer wheelbase and front suspension would transform the trike.There’s room for rear panniers too, incidentally.

…the KMX will fit almost anyone from six to 60, provided they’re no taller than 5′ 2″…



As Alexander demonstrates, a four-year-old can ride the KMX with the support of a car 'booster' seat

Both the seat and boom can be adjusted, giving a seat base to bottom bracket dimension of 59cm – 77cm, or anything up to 83cm with a few extra chain links and a bit of fiddling.The instructions don’t make it very clear, but we’d suggest that for all but the very smallest riders, the seat should be positioned as far back as possible, and a comfortable leg length found by adjusting the boom. Adjustment is not helped by the fact that there are no stops. If the seat is pushed too far forward, the base fouls the chain tube, squeezing it against the right-hand steering joint and knocking the chain off on corners. If the seat is pushed too far back, the mudguard rubs on the rear tyre.You soon learn the limits, but it can be annoying for those new to such things.

KMX suggests the trike is suitable for children from eight to 14, but both of our eight-year-olds were riding with the saddle up against the steering joint (ie, too far forward for stability), whereas at full stretch we easily squeezed an adult on board.With a queue of small people waiting to ride, we decided to cut 30mm (KMX suggest 25mm) off the boom and shorten the chain, which helped put everything in reach. Incidentally, when extending the boom, don’t pass the point where the end  of the boom is visible in the hole at the inboard end  of the clamp cutout (well, it makes sense when you’re looking at it).This will leave a nice safe 75mm overlap.With the 30mm mod, a six- year-old can ride the machine, and an eight-year-old should be comfortably inside the fitting envelope. Small boys of four would be fine with a seat extension and shorter cranks – something we rigged up by way of experimentation, just to show that it’s possible.The 165mm BMX cranks cause problems for most children under ten and result in older children hitting their heels on the ground. Quite why such a tiny tricycle has been fitted with adult cranks is a mystery. KMX is considering fitting 150mm cranks in future, and that’s something we’d very much welcome.

Children come in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes, but the KMX will fit almost anyone from six to 60, provided they’re no taller than 5′ 2″ or thereabouts.This adaptability might explain the attraction for girls, who tend to have longer legs than boys in their pre-teen years and can look somewhat ungainly on a BMX bike, which is better suited to those of a more Neanderthal build.

Talking of cave dwellers, KMX suggest a weight limit of 60kg (132lb or 9 stone), but we exceeded this by 20kg without the slightest grumble from the machine. As we’ve said, it’s pretty tough.

On the road

kmx-recumbent-trike-5The KMX is a wind-cheating recumbent and – within the limitations of a 60″ gear and so-so tyres – deceptively fast. On modest downgrades, the KMX rapidly gathers pace into the 20+mph zone, even into a blustery headwind.Twenty mph may not sound much, but when you’re this close to the ground, it seems a lot faster, an impression heightened by the quick and responsive steering. At higher speeds, pilotage can get a bit hairy on ‘typical’ road surfaces – bumps being a big problem, with even minor pot-holes threatening to dislodge you from the seat.The sort of small kerbs that give a minor jolt on a bicycle will send kids bouncing out of the KMX, feet flailing the air.This is partly the result of having to relearn all the techniques for bump control that we instinctively learn on a bicycle, but it’s also an inherent disadvantage with 12″ tyres. Rough ground is not their forte.

Hill climbing is, perhaps, the weakest link of all.We’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation for the poor hill-climbing abilities of recumbents.Whatever the reason (or reasons), the KMX is reduced to a disappointing crawl on the sort of gradient that would barely affect a conventional bike, and the smiles and whoops of the descent are soon forgotten.We’d suggest a gentle start so as not to put the child off, before gradually introducing more challenging terrain. Riding a recumbent uses different muscles, so don’t give up if it seems hard work at first.

Another problem for ‘serious’ cycling is the lack of weather protection.The KMX has a vestigial rear mudguard designed to funnel every drop of water down the back of your neck, and there are no guards on the front.We couldn’t get anyone to ride it in seriously wet weather, but you’d obviously be in for a good soaking within a few metres. Incidentally, the lack of front mudguards raises quite a nasty safety issue.With your hands just a few centimetres from the wheels, and protected only by plastic shields, it would be all too easy to put a finger into the spokes when returning a hand to the grip, particularly in the dark.

Gradients, soakings and missing digits apart, is the KMX suitable for road use? We would never allow a child out alone on a machine like this, although we’d be happy enough for the KMX to set off amongst a party of cyclists. It all comes down to visibility (or complete lack of it) for both rider and motorists.

…forget the law – fit everything, including a fairy wearing a gold lamé tu-

You don’t appreciate quite how important height is until you’re sitting just inches above the tarmac – the ‘hedgehog’s viewpoint’ said one tester. Car drivers at side turnings cannot see you through the windows of parked cars or over low walls, and vis-a-versa – it’s difficult to check whether the road is clear when pulling out. Even when visibility is good, you’re at the wrong height to make the eye-contact upon which those split-second life-saving decisions are made. It’s difficult to look behind too, although a mirror could easily be fitted to the off-side handlebar.When indicating, you have to hold your hand up at 45 degrees just to hit the eyeline of motorists.The KMX has a flag, and although we generally dismiss such things, this one is essential.

kmx-recumbent-trike-6Lights are not provided, and although the KMX comes with front and rear reflectors, the rear example is too low to satisfy the vehicle lighting regulations. However, a few hours fiddling would produce suitable brackets to place front and rear reflectors and lamps at a legal height. If anything, it’s probably safer to ride a recumbent at night, provided it lights up like a Christmas tree. Forget the law – fit everything, including a fairy wearing a gold lamé tu-tu. If nothing else, it’ll give the Old Bill a laugh.

Is the KMX dangerous? Of course not, but cars are unpleasant things, and there are too many of them being driven too recklessly and too fast. All the same, with the right training and at least one experienced cyclist giving cover, we think the KMX could be used on quiet roads in perfect safety.


Yes, the KMX breaks the mould, and yes, it is already selling in big numbers, as one might expect. We have a few nagging doubts about safety, mainly in the braking department, but would otherwise say it’s one of the most entertaining velocipedes we’ve tested. Inevitably, most will get ridden around parks and housing estates, but we hope a few get to be road- equipped and taken out on longer rides. Recumbent trikes are fantastic machines and something completely new to most young people.The KMX deserves to run and run.

Thanks to the test team: Alexander, Alice, Benjamin, Molly, Nathan & Nicolas


KMX Kart recumbent £350
Weight 15.9kg (35lb)
Tyres Lien Fu 12″ x 1.75″ 35psi Front
Horng Fortune 20″ x 1.95″ 40psi Rear
Gears Shimano SIS 5-spd
Ratios 30″ 35″ 42″ 49″ 60″ Dimensions Seat – bottom bracket 59cm to 83cm (less if boom cut)
Manufacturers KMX Karts web mail tel 023 92 379333