“Our philosophy is that your child’s bike should be better than your bike.”
Pat and Linette MacArthur are the husband and wife team behind Kids Racing, the bespoke bike builder whose customers will barely flinch at spending up to £4,000 on a seven-year-old’s ride.
“We do what the customer wants,” says Linette. “If they want SRAM eTap, we’ll put it on. If they want a really light set of wheels, we’ll put it on.”
SRAM’s flagship, wireless groupset is particularly popular, Pat adds. A recent customer brought in his child’s Team Sky Frog bike with 20-inch wheels; Pat stripped it and dressed it in eTap. “Now he can ride the bike properly,” Pat says. “They can change gear easily and brake from the hoods.”
Kids Racing was founded by the MacArthurs in 2015 and specialises in high-end, custom bike builds for children, while also producing a huge range of junior clothing through the company’s in-house brand, HUP. The duo will display a range of high-end builds at the Rouleur Classic in November.
“We’ve got three boys who love cycling and racing,” says Linette. “We found there was no-one doing what we do – taking kids seriously and doing kit for them – so we started doing it ourselves.”
Like many new cyclists now gripped by cycling – young or old – the London 2012 Olympic Games kick-started an obsession with the sport. “Our oldest saw the Olympics on the telly and said, ‘Can I have a drop bar bike?’ We didn’t really cycle at the time – we were mountain bikers from the 80s and 90s – but we took it up as well and joined a club,” says Linette.
She admits the boys are now ‘rather spoilt’, often used as guinea pigs – ‘willing accomplices’ – for the latest bikes and clothing. The boys race across the UK and Europe, from local cyclo-cross leagues to the European Junior Cycling Tour in Assen, Holland.
“I think the old n+1 rule applies,” she says. “They’ve got 4-5 bikes each. The only thing they haven’t done is track racing.”
The couple work with existing manufacturers to adapt their frames to make them child-friendly and most builds are typically based around a Scatto, Kuota or Forme chassis, with the latter consulting Kids Racing in order to develop what Pat calls ‘the most advanced frame out there’. Customers can buy off-the-shelf complete bikes starting from £500 and self-build bundles, or go bespoke with a high-end build.
Whatever the route or budget, fit and weight are vital to the success of any build, Pat says. The firm offers a bike fit service and has gone direct to factories to develop a range of in-house components: handlebars, stems, seatpost, saddles, chainrings and cranksets are all catered for.
“We’ve taken a fair risk developing products, buying in bulk and paying upfront, but the reality is we keep selling out,” says Pat.
Kids Racing can also count small adults who struggle to find appropriately sized components among it customers and recently received an order from an Olympic medalist for a 32cm handlebar. “We sell quite a bit more to adults than you might think,” says Pat. “It’s not about the age, it’s about the size.”
Children are at the very heart of the business, though, and the company’s bespoke components help achieve a suitable fit, even though the vast majority of Kids Racing’s bikes are built around 700c wheels. “We can make bikes fit very young kids, that they normally wouldn’t fit,” says Pat.
Sticking to 700c wheels opens up a wealth of upgrade options and Pat admits one of his sons is using a set of 900g carbon tubular wheels for the current cyclo-cross season.
“For kids, weight is a massive priority,” says Pat. “It’s 99 per cent of the problem and particularly wheel weight, it has such a huge effect. We don’t build anything in 24 or 26-inch, because the bike industry doesn’t make the right wheels and components. We put kids on 700c bikes and manufacture the components around those. That’s the premise of all our bikes.”
The benefits are significant, Pat says. He recalls two twins, both around four-feet tall, who came to Kids Racing with their parents in August. They arrived with 20-inch Frog bikes and left with 700c, flat-bar Scattos.
The week before they came to us they rode around the MK Bowl,” says Pat. “It’s one kilometre and took them three minutes. A week later they did it in two minutes and 30 seconds.
“That’s a big difference between a little bike and a big bike, and illustrates why parents are quite happy to dive in. They also aren’t going to grow out of the wheels, same with the groupset. They will only grow out of the frame and crankset, everything else can be moved across.”
The couple’s obsession with choice, quality and functionality is reflected in the wide range of HUP clothing, too, and the collection includes everything from warm-up jackets to cotton caps.
“Skinsuits are a new one this year,” says Linette. “That’s what the adults are wearing in their races, so kids want them, too. They’ve flown off the shelves.”
The clothing is made in Italy and is produced in up to six sizes, whereas most rival brands offer three or four sizes. “It’s handmade and fits properly,” Pat says. “It outsells other brands in our range by ten to one, as it should do. It’s Rapha for kids, but also affordable.”
Ultimately, whether selling a pair of socks or building a Campagnolo-equipped bike running to thousands of pounds, the MacArthurs are driven by a desire to sell product that’s fit for purpose.
“If a child goes out on a bike that fits them and it’s easy to ride, and they are wearing kit that’s totally comfortable, all it can do is encourage them and maintain their interest in the sport,” says Pat. “Your not putting up roadblocks to grow their love for cycling and developing a lifelong passion for it.”