Old School for the Next School
Being somewhat fussy about these things—actually, about everything—I found looking for a bike for my then-soon-to-be-six-year-old son Leif to be less than fruitful. At my moment of despair, having seen numerous overbuilt and predictably ugly offerings from other mainstream BMX brands, I stumbled across SE Bikes’ 16” Lil’ Ripper. I owned both the PK Ripper and 24” Floval Flyer back in my BMX days, so I had to have it. I mean, he had to have it.
The bike’s big daddy, the PK Ripper, is the most legendary of BMX frames. Named after Perry Kramer, a famed pro BMX racer of the late-70s, the PK stood out with its aluminium construction, flat/oval (or “floval”) maintubes and looptail rear end and has been in production through various evolutions (some not so pleasant) for over thirty years.
I scrolled down the Lil’ Ripper web page to the spec. It must be steel, it can’t be aluminium, can it? Ally it is, proper 6061. Add to that cromo three-piece cranks on a sealed Euro BB, a nice wheelset and a wealth of other decent parts, the bike weighs in under twenty pounds, or just over nine kilograms (for those past the 19th century). That’s really light, which makes a big difference when its rider is too.
Nothing’s perfect so we swapped out the stock chainring for a Deluxe F-Lite inspired by the old Redline Flite ’ring. (I couldn’t persuade the boy to swap out the comfy, chunky seat and post for a Deluxe Superlight combo.) Also, the ball-burnished finish on the PK Ripper probably would have broken SE’s budget so this Lil’ Ripper is painted nicely enough. But other than that, it’s bang-on: light but easily strong enough to last through all three brothers, all the (other) components at just about the right level and, most importantly, it looks right, my son loves it and I feel good having bought it over all the rest. It looks like a PK Ripper. Almost makes me wish I were four feet tall again.
—Chris Noble, 18 October 2011
I have—sorry—he has the 2011 model; the 2012 has changed little—street tyres (which look a bit odd on what was never a “street” bike) and new colors. MSRP: $329
BTW, FYI, no kid ever needs stabilizers/training wheels: start them out on a scoot-along bike around 18 months and you’re golden