Copyright 2022, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
By John Ulrich
An effective way to teach kids to ride on two wheels is to start them on a Strider 12 Classic (MSRP $119.99) balance bike designed for ages 18-months to 3 years. It has 12-inch wheels, adjustable seat and handlebar height, and is available with an easy-to-install, easy to remove optional rocker base (MSRP about $30) for the youngest kids.
When they’re ready, the bike can be removed from the rocker base and a kid can quickly learn to move it forward with their feet, and then balance and coast with their feet up.
For older kids, the Strider 14x (with 14-inch wheels, MSRP $219.00) can be used as a balance bike and later be fitted with an optional pedal kit (MSRP $69.99) to make it a bicycle.
A step up to powered riding is a twist-grip-equipped Stacyc 12e Drive electric bike (MSRP $799.00) for ages 3-5 or a 16e (MSRP $1,049) or larger 18e or 20e models for older kids, available with assorted motorcycle brand graphics.
And Indian sells the eFTR mini, which has a twist-grip throttle, two speed settings, and is designed for kids eight and older weighing less than 140 pounds (MSRP $529.99), and the larger eFTR Jr., which has a twist-grip throttle, chain drive, dual disc brakes, and a maximum weight rating of 175 pounds (MSRP $849.99).
Once a kid has mastered a larger machine, many gas minibikes are available, or, if a kid wants to stay on an electric, KTM offers the electric SX-E 3 and SX-E 5. Husqvarna and GasGas branded versions are also available.
The KTM SX-E 5 is based on KTM’s SX 50 motocross racebike with adjustable long-travel WP XACT suspension, 12-inch wheels, an adjustable seat height, and lockable ride modes (1-6) to limit power and speed (up to 45 mph in Mode 6) to a rider’s skillset. MSRP is $5,499.
The KTM SX-E3 (MSRP $4,999) shares the SX-E5’s chrome-moly steel tube chassis, WP suspension, and motor with lockable ride modes, but has 10-inch wheels, and a lower (and adjustable) seat height. A lower-voltage 648 Wh battery reduces the power output from 5 kW (6.7 hp) to 3.8 kW (5.1 hp) with a lower top speed, but can be swapped for the larger-capacity, higher-voltage 907 Wh battery from the SX-E 5 if the rider’s skill grows faster than their body.
Intro: Kawasaki Elektrode Electric Balance Bike
By Hayley Ulrich Zeidman
My son Max Zeidman, age eight, enjoys riding bicycles, but isn’t a natural daredevil; he’s more of a methodical learner, whose tenacity often results in great results after he gets over his initial apprehension. He had this same attitude when it comes to mini-motorcycles…he likes them, but wasn’t prepared to ride them himself.
Enter the 2023 Kawasaki Elektrode, Kawasaki’s entry level, very basic electric balance bike built for riders ages 3-8 and under 99 pounds. Designed for beginners as a first step to motorcycle confidence, the company brags that it has “over-engineered” the bike so that even the youngest riders have a positive experience.
It has an aluminum frame with a built-in battery pack good for up to 2-1/2 hours of running time, and an equal recharge time. Being powered by an electric motor built into the rear wheel hub, this light but sturdy bike delivers power in a smooth, linear, predictable fashion so that beginning riders can gradually build up comfort with power and control. The motor is almost silent, which helps unsure kids feel less intimidated (as opposed to the noise of a typical engine).
Other key design points include a low center of gravity and ideal balance point for easy turning and leaning, as well as no chain and no moving external parts on the drive-train. The bike has cool, pneumatic knobby dirt tires on 16-inch cast aluminum wheels, with three speed modes (Low, 5 mph; Medium, 7.5 mph; High, 13 mph) selected by entering a unique passcode into an onboard parental lock. Suggested retail price is $1,099.
As an non-intimidating entry-level bike, the Kawasaki Elektrode is an absolute slam-dunk. Max and I were asked by the editor (Max’s grandfather) to represent Roadracing World at an intro and test-ride event held at Fox Racing’s headquarters in Irvine, California, near Kawasaki’s offices. Max wasn’t sure about riding the Elektrode on the dirt, but gained confidence in a parking lot cone course. Soon, he was ready to ride the Elektrode on a simple kid dirt track behind the Fox building. Max, who weighs 55 pounds, initially crashed in one of the corners, but was able to easily pick up the 32-pound Elektrode on his own and get going again.
Max said of the experience, “It was really fun. At first I was just getting the hang of it and I was slow, and I tipped over. I got going better, and later on, in one turn, I started crashing. But I didn’t crash because I had more focus and control on the motorcycle.” Max admittedly doesn’t have a lot of powered riding experience, but gained so much confidence on the Elektrode that he said he wanted one as a holiday gift! With easy maintenance and durability, this makes a lot of sense as a present, and is designed to be passed along to younger siblings and cousins after it’s been outgrown.