Seeing my road bikes, tho, she told me last summer that she wanted her own "skinny tire bike". So, when I found an old 80's Schwinn Caliente broken and abandoned in the gutter near our house, I told her I'd fix it up for her.
Since Ellie was used to single speed with a coaster brake, I didn't want to overly complicate her riding with gears. Even I ride single speed half the time. I also thought a more upright posture would with swept back bars would be better than drop bars.
I broke the bike down and rebuilt everything. I cut the larger chainring off of the cranks, installed new brakes and a new chain. One challenge was to figure out appropriate gearing; I didn't want the gear ratio to feel too different from her Hotrock. So, I measured the crank lengths and counted the cogs on the Hotrock and the Caliente and figured out that an 18 tooth freewheel should be just about right.
The hardest part was finding tires for the wheelset. It turns out that there's a bunch of different 24" wheel sizes in the world, all of them slightly different. These happened to 650c wheels, which were strictly made as racing wheels for shorter adults. As such, most of the fires made for them are extremely narrow, 23c or smaller. After searching a couple of local bike shops, I stopped in to Farmstead Bikes in South Minneapolis. Greg Neis, the owner, ordered me up a pair of Terry Tellus tires, which at 28c would be wide enough to provide a comfortable and stable ride. They came in quick, too! I biked back later in the day and picked them up. (There was some urgency--Ellie was getting more and more excited about her new bike and wanted to ride it ASAP!)
And ride it she does! She's kind of remarkable because the bike's actually too tall for her to stand across the top tube, so she has to hop off and on every time she stops. At first, she would pull over to a curb to help her out, but she's now taught herself how to climb on--she looks like she's mounting a tall bike in a circus.
Unlike her Hotrock, the Caliente has room for a bottle cage--super important! After riding for a few weeks, Ellie insisted on one additional feature: a rack with panniers. I found a pair of small panniers at Mr Michaels Recycles Bicycles ("kid size!" says Ellie) and now we can bring all the water and snacks we need wherever we go. My only trouble? Keeping up with her. This girl is fast!