The LittleBig bike is a brilliant concept that will see your child travel from the early stages of balance through to learning how to pedal and beyond. It's light, well made and above all so exciting to ride that you'll struggle to get them off it.
My four-year-old son, Charlie, has been through the whole balance bike thing and is pretty confident on two wheels – until there are pedals involved. Push him off and fine, he'd cruise along, but as soon as the speed dropped and he needed to pedal, things would go a little pear shaped. He just wasn't interested. With his sister's school being just under a mile away and the route taking in some busy roads and lots of crossings, it was easier and safer for me just to stick the stabilisers back on for the twice-daily school run.
I brought the LittleBig back from the road.cc office in 'big' balance bike mode (more about the setup options in a minute), hoping to get him back balancing before adding the crankset and starting all over again.
Within minutes of him seeing it and whizzing around the garden he wanted the pedals added, something I did while he popped out with his mum. On his return he was straight back out in the garden, and while I watched from the french windows he taught himself to ride in five minutes. Twenty minutes later we were out on the footpath with him whizzing around like a nutter.
Obviously the initial excitement of having a new bike (he hasn't quite grasped the concept that it has to be returned yet) was a major player in the motivation, but the fact that the LittleBig is so light and controllable means once he was aboard it the whole experience felt like second nature.
A lot of bikes in the kids' market use cheap hi-tensile frames which makes them cumbersome to control for children and can easily affect balance. In contrast, the LittleBig's main frame is made in two sections of 6061 grade aluminium which, when fully built up with the steel fork, wheels and other bits and bobs, weighs in at just 5.8kg (12.78lb).
This means that even a little lad can confidently get out of the saddle to ride on a hill or lean it over in the bends without the bike becoming difficult for them to hold in position. It's massively confidence inspiring and has seen him become an impressive bike handler in a matter of weeks.
It's not just the weight, or lack of it, that makes the bike so good, though, the riding position has been well thought out, and Charlie just looked a natural on it.
Compared with his own bike, the position is a little more stretched out from bar to saddle, with the wheelbase a good 7in longer, bringing loads of stability. With a larger trail figure on the LittleBig (trail is the distance between the point where the steering axis, if extended, would meet the ground and the point where the tyre actually contacts the ground), the handling is also less twitchy, which gives him – and myself when I'm riding with him – loads more confidence in his ability to control it and his overall safety.
As well as the 'go', the 'slow' is also pretty impressive too, with dual V-brakes on machined rims which he became rather addicted to. His own bike, like many others, has token cheap cantilevers on painted rims, so braking is practically non-existent. Once he realised that he could stop quickly it gave him loads of confidence to start riding faster and taking a few more risks. Okay, not every parent's idea of fun, but it was great to see him pushing himself on the bike and take on more challenging terrain because he knew he was in control of the bike.
I mentioned the various setup options earlier, so let's take a look. LittleBig Bikes calls it a three-in-one. Mini balance bike, larger balance bike and full pedal bike, which covers an age range from two to six or seven years of age, depending on how quickly your child grows.
Starting with the bike in mini balance bike mode, the saddle can be slammed, and while the front end can be higher than most bikes of its type, the extended wheelbase keeps things stable. My two-year-old daughter, Isla, has a BTwin balance bike which she is a confident little rider on, so the switch to the larger LittleBig looked like it could be a challenge. No such concerns, though, as she adapted in about 30 seconds with the shout of, "I'm going super-fast!", with her feet coming up as she cruised for about 10 metres.
As the child grows, the rear painted part of the frame can be spun around, and because of the length of the seat tube this extends the reach from saddle to handlebar. It can then be used as a slighty larger balance bike.
But the real highlight is the crankset assembly that can be added. The 28-tooth chainring and 89mm long cranks are attached to an aluminium setup which is inserted into the frame from underneath, with a couple of bolts and a clamp keeping everything secure.
Everything is really easy to set up. The dropouts are rear facing, like any other singlespeed, so it's just a matter of dropping the wheel out to attach the chain and off you go.
As far as the spec list goes, it's very much a proper bike. Up front you get a riser bar with an Aheadset stem, which allows you to tweak things for size should you need to.
The brakes are decent, as I've mentioned, including the alloy levers, and so are the seatpost and saddle.
The wheels are 14-inch, 20-spoked alloy with sealed cartridge bearings that are solid in operation. Smashing down kerbs and the odd crash thrown in did little to damage them or knock them out of true. The tyres seem pretty puncture resistant too.
As far as value goes, £220 may seem steep at first glance, but less so when you look in a bit more depth. Charlie has had a balance bike (£40), a second bike that he's grown out of in about nine months (£50), and by the time he's six he will have been through another one at least, which I'd say would be, what, £100 for a basic cheap option.
The LittleBig isn't just comparable in value, though, it's so much better as it's well made from excellent materials and so much lighter. The spec is decent too, with upgradable and swappable parts if necessary. And the fact that it's so robust means it should stand the test of time as it passes down through the siblings – if there is a big enough age gap.
An awesome piece of engineering and design that will set your children up for life on two wheels
road.cc test report
Make and model: LittleBig 3-in-1 bike
Size tested: n/a
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Available colours Electric Blue | Apple Green | Flame Red | Sparkle Pink; all with brushed alloy front frame section.
Frame 6061-T6 heat treated aluminium
Forks Hi-Ten steel
Stem Forged aluminium BMX aheadset; 50mm long; 10degree rise
Handlebar Aluminium riser; 500mm wide; 70mm rise
Grips Kids slim grips with safety ends
Headset 1-1/8 inch integrated with ball bearings
Saddle Pivotal padded kids saddle
Seatpost Pivotal aluminium; 27.2 diameter 150mm long
Brakes Aluminium V-brakes front and rear
Brake levers APSE aluminium short reach
Rims Samson aluminium 20 hole single wall
Hubs Aluminium 20 hole with sealed cartridge bearing
Tyres Innova 14" pneumatic
Freewheel/cassette 14 tooth with removable safety cover
Pedal and Cranks attachment Specification
Cranks Aluminium 89mm long
Chainring Aluminium 28 tooth with chain guard
Bottom bracket Cartridge with sealed bearings
Pedals Resin kids size flats with ball bearings
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
LittleBig Bikes says: "LittleBig is an adaptable 3-in-1 balance bike that grows with your child. Pedals can be added too! Starting as a pedal-less balance bike, LittleBig is the best way for your child to begin their two wheel adventure.
As your child grows, LittleBig transforms into a bigger balance bike with a higher saddle and longer handlebar reach. A pedal attachment can later be fitted, converting the balance bike into a proper pedal bike.
From age two to seven, LittleBig adapts to your growing child's needs.
Designed and assembled in Ireland, the award-winning LittleBig boasts a beautifully finished alloy frame and quality parts like those on a big bike – only little."
I think the LittleBig is an excellent concept that is executed brilliantly. So many kids' bikes are a compromise but the LittleBig sits the child in a position that works, giving them control and confidence.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The front brushed aluminium section looks classy and the painted rear is very hardwearing for the type of scrapes and crashes you expect to find on a child's bike.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both parts of the frame are made from 6061-T6 aluminium alloy which when paired with the Hi-Ten steel fork keeps weight down to 6.4kg (including cranks) – impressive for a kid's bike.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
LittleBig Bikes says, "As the LittleBig changes between its three modes, it goes from the equivalent size of a standard 12 inch balance bike, to that of a 16 inch pedal bike. Both the saddle height and the handlebar reach increase, allowing for your child's additional growth. As well as these frame adjustments, the saddle, handlebars and stem are like those you would find on an adult's bike, so can independently adjusted to further fine tune the bike's fit."
The geometry and fit grows with the child and seems to really work in terms of position and balance.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It certainly fitted my kids and the position was spot on.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Charlie was riding three to four miles at a time without complaint.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Watching the kids on it the bike certainly looked easy to handle even when they were new to it.
Wheels and tyres
They were a touch out of true from the start but it was great to see a machined braking surface.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, what for?
With high spoke tension and tough rims they are certainly robust.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what for?
The tyres, I'm guessing, come out of a pretty cheap moulding process which means they don't run very true. Saying that, it's only noticeable when you spin the wheels in mid-air rather than riding.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It's great to see a proper Aheadset and stem fitted to a child's bike, which gives the option of upgrades and customisation.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The LittleBig is an excellent design which gives your child a familiar platform to learn to ride on. The high points are the natural riding position and light weight, which makes it easy for kids to ride.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.