MXA TESTS THE 2020 STACYC 16-INCH ELECTRIC STABILITY CYCLE
Q: WHAT IS A STACYC STABILITY CYCLE?
A: Balance bikes (more popularly known as “Striders”) are all the rage for parents getting their toddlers on two wheels. If you have been living under a rock and don’t know what balance bikes are, they are essentially small bikes for toddlers that have no cranks, pedals or footpegs. Kids simply “Flintstone” around on them. These balance bikes allow kids to get introduced to life on two wheels at a very early age. Toddlers used to first start on a tricycle, then graduate to a bicycle with training wheels before venturing off on a true two-wheeler. With balance bikes, toddlers are introduced right away to balancing on two wheels, aided by the fact that they have their feet to keep them sunny side up. These bikes have sped up the two-wheel learning process for kids.
Parents start with balance bikes, then wait for the right time to introduce a bicycle and then a motorcycle to their kids. The transition to a motorcycle can start at anywhere from 3 to 7 years of age. The gap from a balance bike to a Yamaha PW50 is a big step. The PW50 weighs 90 pounds. The engine is hot, and the bike can carry some serious momentum with a small child on board. Plus, the learning process can be daunting for parents. What’s most surprising is that the PW50 design hasn’t been altered in 40 years! You would think there would be an improved version of a starter bike by now.
This is where the electric-powered Stacyc Stability Cycle has filled the gap between a balance bike and a dirt bike. Stacyc offers two different electric bike sizes—12 inches ($649) and 16 inches ($699). The two models allow Stacyc to appeal to kids from 3 to 7 years of age; we have had kids as young as 2 years old ride them. A Stacyc Stability Cycle is basically a beefed up balance bike with a motor. It has footrests unlike a balance bike; however, they are narrow enough that kids can still get their legs down to balance themselves without having footpegs in the way.
The Stacyc Stability Cycle idea started with one dad wanting something lighter and safer for his kids. Past KTM race mechanic and engineer Ryan Ragland originally started with a PW50 for his first son to ride, but the steep learning curve and a 90-pound bike scared his kid to the point where he didn’t want to ride anymore. Ryan’s engineering background kicked into overdrive. He took an RC electric motor and mounted it on a balance bike. His kid loved it. It was light and easy to control. Everywhere they went with this bike, people asked about it, which gave Ryan the idea that this might be a popular product. He got a few partners to help with some capital to build the first Stacyc, and it has grown from there to Harley-Davidson buying 100 percent of the company early in 2019.
Q: IS THE STACYC A MOTORCYCLE OR BICYCLE?
A: That is a tough question. The frame of the Stacyc is built out of a heat-treated aluminum alloy that can take a beating. It is an extremely rugged frame that leans more towards the dirt bike side of the equation. On the other hand, Ryan Ragland wanted to make the bike as light as possible to make it appealing to a wide range of kids. That meant that the chassis and wheels had to be narrow, while the motor and battery had to be lightweight. The combination of balance bike and dirt bike characteristics put the Stacyc in the bicycle category. As much as our mini testers loved taking it to rugged desert terrain, the Stacyc Stability Cycle just isn’t tailored for it. Don’t get discouraged, though. It will work just fine in the mud, rain, sand and other outdoor elements; however, it will put a strain on the small motor and gearbox. To make it simple, the Stacyc may be built dirt-bike-tough, but it’s intended to be more electric bicycle than electric dirt bike.
Q: CAN YOU CONTROL THE POWER/SPEED OF A STACYC?
A: We tested the 16-inch Stacyc, which comes with the same motor as the 12-inch, but the 16-inch offers a more powerful 20V, 4Ah battery (the 12-inch has a 20V 2Ah battery). Each Stacyc has a total of four different power modes. For a kid to get a feel for the bike, having the power off and using it as a balance bike is the first mode. The tucked-in footrests allow the rider to balance and push along without anything obstructing his or her ability to Flintstone around, just like on a balance bike. Switching between the three different power modes can seem a bit tricky at first, but once you get the beeps and colors in sync, it will be easy for you to switch modes but, thankfully, not easy for your kid. That means that your kid won’t be able to change the power setting on his own. We see this as a great safety feature. We sure do wish PW50s had an optional power setting, apart from the flat washer in the exhaust port, when we were growing up. We had to live with our dads tying a leash to the PW to slow us down!
The Stacyc Stability Cycle’s throttle assembly has three LED lights on it (green, yellow and red). These lights inform the rider about the battery-power level and what power/speed the bike is in. We could go into detail about how to change power modes, but the directions are in the owner’s manual. If you don’t have a manual, it is available online.
The first power mode (red) tops out on both bikes at 5 mph. The red power mode is smooth and confidence-inspiring for new riders and at comfortable walking speed for parents. The yellow power mode goes 7 mph on the 12-inch and 7.5 mph on the 16-inch. This is a fast walking pace or even a light jog. The green power mode gets up and goes! With a top speed of 9 mph on the 12-inch and 11 mph on the 16-inch, it is hard for parents to keep pace. This green level should be used with experienced riders only. You may not think 11 mph sounds fast, but the acceleration to top speed is impressive.
Q: HOW LONG DOES A CHARGE LAST, AND HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECHARGE THE BATTERY?
A: A lot depends on what kind of terrain the kid is riding on and how hard he is on the throttle. In MXA’s experience, the 4Ah battery on the 16-inch lasted longer than an hour when our test riders were taking it easy and weren’t doing a lot of stop-and-go riding. Conversely, when our more experienced or bigger kids were wide open on the Stacyc, it cut the battery time in half. In general, riders got an average of 45 minutes out of a charge. It should be noted that parents need to keep an eye on battery life. The bike doesn’t gradually slow down; it warns you with a beep, then comes to a stop. Once the LED battery indicator turns red, there are anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes left in the charge.
If you are looking for extended run-time, Stacyc offers an optional 20V, 5Ah battery ($164) that extends battery life. We are not sure how much longer it lasts, as we didn’t test it, but we think it’s worth it for a parent to buy one. Why? With the average run-time of a battery at 45 minutes and an average charge time around the same time, with an extra battery you could have your kid (or kids) going without any breaks. Changing a battery is faster than filling a tank of gas. It is just like swapping out an electric power-tool battery.
Be warned that batteries don’t last forever. Just like anything, they will eventually wear out. Think of it as having to change a motorcycle top end. The Stacyc gets around 250 to 275 charge cycles out of its batteries. We think that is fair in comparison to the wear and tear on a dirt bike engine. The rear wheel is chain-driven by an electric motor.
Q: HOW DID KIDS ADAPT TO THE STACYC?
A: In our experience, kids adapt to riding a Stacyc much more naturally than riding a bicycle without training wheels. Thanks to the stability factor of momentum, they don’t get off balance by having to pedal. It is no secret that the faster you go, the easier it is to balance on two wheels. Kids gained confidence on the Stacyc quickly. We found it best to start them out in a flat field with short grass. That way, there is nothing to run into, and the ground is more forgiving than asphalt or concrete. The only thing that took some time for kids to get used to was the hand brake. Make sure that they learn how to manage and use the brake before increasing the power.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Rear wheel. Without reading the manual or watching Stacyc’s in-depth how-to videos on its YouTube channel, changing the rear wheel is on the difficult side. Watch their tutorial video before you try to change one.
(2) Rigid frame. We like that the frame is extremely durable; however, on uneven terrain, the frame is not very forgiving. We add a modicum of suspension by lowering the tire pressure on rougher terrain to give the kid a better ride.
(3) Warning. We know when the battery indicator turns red we have approximately 10 minutes left until it stops. We think that 10 minutes is too long. We would prefer a final warning that beeps with a minute or two left on the run-time. That way the parents will have a better sense of when the bike is going to turn off.
(4) Price. We understand where the $650 and $700 price tags come from, but if Stacyc wants to get more kids on bikes, they would do well to offer a lower price point. Three-year-olds don’t have a lot of disposable income, nor do their parents.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Transition bike. The Stacyc Stability Cycle is hands down the best transition tool for kids to learn how to ride on two wheels. Every kid will love it.
(2) Robustness. The Stacyc is built like a German tank. It is manufactured to take a beating.
(3) Levels. The three different power/speed levels are an incredible tool for different-level riders.
(4) Options. Stacyc, as well as aftermarket companies, is making more aftermarket parts. Stacyc offers taller bars, brushless motor upgrades with 30-percent-more power, wider footpads and bigger batteries. Nihilo Concepts offers heavy-duty billet footpegs for the serious rider.
(5) Ride anywhere. One of the things parents appreciated most about the Stacyc was the ability to ride wherever they wanted, whether it was at a pump track, skate park, driveway, backyard, park, vacant lot or local desert.
(6) Battery. Some electric bikes have a bulky battery that is hard to change. The Stacyc battery is easy to change, affordable enough that you can have a backup and doesn’t take all day to charge.
(7) Choices. There are even special-edition KTM and Husqvarna versions.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: This is the best thing since sliced bread in the world of kids’ bikes. There has been a hole in the kids’ market for almost half a century. Out with the bulky, heavy, expensive and hot entry-level bikes of the past and in with the slim, light and simple Stacyc of the future. The Stacyc Stability Cycle provides the parents of young riders with the peace of mind to get their kids on a bike as early as possible. Kudos to Stacyc.