Yes it is a 12" kids bike. Yes it is a Huffy. Yes, it is rad. But more importantly, yes it has brakes. Brakes had been a point of discussion between my three year old son and myself for several weeks before the new bike. Having been on a balance bike for three months or so, he was no longer content with the foot drag to come to a stop, he wanted brakes and pedals.
Our local, small town grocery store sports an Ace Hardware in its building. I find myself mulling around Ace Hardware at least once a week and for the last two years or so I had always noticed a lonely, silver, 12" Huffy bicycle under some shelving in the back of the outdoors section. A very weathered price tag advertised they wanted $60 for the dusty wonder. However, a little insider information told me it was a good time to inquire about getting a deal on the little bike. Strolling in one morning at 8AM I found the manager of the store not particularly busy. When asked about the bike, he smiled, and told me it was a great day to ask. You see, the manager had just been reprimanded for harboring old inventory. I told him I was pretty good with fixing bikes and I'd like to redo it for my son. I offered him $20. He shook his head, "$19.99."
Within an hour the bike was stripped to the frame, sanded, and hit with a few coats of primer. Staring at the blank frame, I envisioned what designs I would like to apply to the large, almost flat, sides of the aluminum frame. His name? Bikes doing tricks? A tie-dye of color? My wife chimed in with the suggestion to ask him what he wanted on his bike. It made sense, but he was playing with his friends and I wanted to paint this baby up; I was more excited than he might be. Cornered as soon as he got home, we gave him a few options to choose from. Option one: bikes. I think he was slightly confused about the bikes on bike, but either way, he wasn't as stoked as I was looking for. Option two: monsters. Now there was some excitement. Option three: dinosaurs. Oh yeah, jackpot. There was the jumping up and down I wanted. Then my closet-hippie wife gave her suggestion, a tree. Granted, she was picturing something elaborate and beautiful, and with her hands doing it, it would be, but there was hardly a response. Dinosaurs and monsters was the final request. My sister cut several different dinosaur shapes and a single monster shape out of vinyl. A final request for a blue and green bike gave me my final idea.
Another trip to Ace armed me with a can of "Meadow Green" spray paint to compliment the "Metallic Bright Blue" I already had. Several thin coats of blue covered the front triangle of the tiny frame. Satisfied with the thickness and smoothness, my wife and I carefully applied the dinosaur vinyl cutouts to the sides of the frame. The one monster became the headbadge for the bike and we were ready for the green. This time, the several thin coats covered the entire frame. With the green paint sufficiently dry, I peeled off the vinyl stickers to reveal metallic blue dinosaurs and a monster. A final clear coat would attempt to keep the paint looking fresh while being rallied. My wife convinced me covering the seat in brown leather would look better than the stock seat, especially with a T-Rex paw burned into the top of it. Yep, looked better.
So why are we highlighting a 12" kids bike? Because getting kids into riding bikes is one of the best things you can do, period. Also, because we wanted to show one way you can get creative and save some money getting your own children into cool outdoor gear. $24 was all I spent and my son got a bike he loves; seems like a win-win.