Kids have an expensive habit of outgrowing everything from toys, beds and school uniforms to bikes. Replacing bikes can be costly especially where several children are involved but the recently launched LittleBig bike, developed by design engineer and cycling enthusiast Simon Evans will last a child for five years
“LittleBig adapts to a growing child’s needs so there is no need to switch bikes to change size,” Evans says. “It is fitted with quality parts like those found on an adult’s bike and with an aluminium frame and parts, smooth-rolling wheel bearings and a rust-proof chain. The LittleBig is a real bike not a toy. When the child finally grows out of the LittleBig, its durable, high-quality design means it will still be in suitable condition to be sold or passed on to another child.”
In 2008 Evans left Ireland to fulfil his lifelong dream of cycling around the world. Eighteen months and 30,000km later, he arrived home to a country plunged into recession.
“There was little engineering work available and I got a job in a bike shop while I considered my options,” says Evans. He had spent the previous three years in Cambridge in the UK working on the conservation of old buildings and the design of new buildings sympathetic to the city’s historical architecture.
“While working in the bike shop, I realised the many shortcomings of the current crop of kids’ bikes,” he adds. “They were often heavy, cumbersome and of poor quality. As kids grow out of these tiny bikes really quickly, the cost of regularly upsizing means that parents often go for the cheaper option or buy a bike that’s way too big so their kids can grow into it.
“I also came across balance bikes – a relatively recent introduction to Ireland – and saw how easy and intuitive it was for kids to use them. Standing beside the bikes one day, I had a lightbulb moment – kids won’t stop growing, so why not make a bike that can?”
The LittleBig bike is a three-in-one design that starts out as a pedal-less balance bike. As the child grows, the rear of the frame can be rotated to turn the LittleBig into a bigger balance bike with a higher saddle and longer handlebar reach. Stage three adds a separate pedal and crank attachment and the LittleBig becomes a full pedal bike.
From two to seven
The LittleBig is suitable for children aged two to seven and it costs €195 for the balance bike and €45 to add the pedals. Evans says some users, such as children with special needs, just stick with the balance bike.
The first bikes were delivered to customers in December. Order fulfilment and manufacture has been outsourced and the bikes are being marketed through social media and sold online. Bikes have been shipped as far afield as Japan, Australia, Canada and Egypt.
Distribution in Spain has just begun and distributors have also been appointed for the US and eastern European markets. Evans has also been approached to sell licensing rights to the product.
“The development of the bike took about two years from inception to production and the various prototype iterations cost roughly €10,000. We also incurred patent costs to protect our unique design in four variants,” Evans says.
“I would like to produce the bike in Ireland but the costs are prohibitive. I used an agent to find a suitable manufacturer in China and looked at five factories before making my final decision. I am hoping we might be able to bring the assembly back to Ireland as sales grow and that would enable us to customise the bikes with different tyres for example.”