I never imagined there would come a product that would have me looking back at the Fisher-Price Think & Learn Smart Cycle Trainer, and drawing comparisons. But with that unit being discontinued in the world’s poorest product timing ever (just prior to the start of the pandemic two years ago) there’s a new sheriff in town – the Pelican bike! While they might seem similar in concept, in reality, they couldn’t be more different. Not just in the visible aspects, but everything about how they work is substantially different. Thus we now find ourselves with an in-depth review of the Little Tikes Pelican Explore & Fit Cycle.
We bought this bike this past summer, shortly after it launched. At the time it wasn’t available in Europe (it is now), so we schmoozed our friend Des into checking it with his luggage in August. It was actually Ray that bought it, but this review, as you might have noticed from the byline, is written by me, Bobbie, his wife. While I write the newsletters around these parts, it’s been a few years since my last post. But upon seeing it arrive I knew it would be a good post for me to tackle. As an addition to our current Peloton Bike, it’d basically be similar to a Mommy-and-Me matching outfit, we can Peloton-and-Pelican together.
(P.S. – If you’re new around these parts, welcome to this little section of the sports tech universe. Ray normally reviews sports technology devices like GPS watches, action cams, and smart bikes. So he’s previously reviewed not just the Peloton Bike, but numerous of their competitors. More notably though, he previously reviewed the Fischer-Price Kids’ Bike. Thus, this review is largely written in that style…for better or worse.)
Unboxing & Assembly:
As you may remember from above, we had suckered our friend to take this bike as checked baggage across an ocean this past summer. The only challenge was he was already at his luggage limit. So being the creative type he is, he unboxed the Pelican bike and put it in his actual bike case (as he was traveling with a bike).
However, bike inception only gets better once he landed, as we picked him up from the airport in Amsterdam in a cargo bike. Well, technically two cargo bikes – one for us, and one for him. Then he pedaled one home. So in this photo, we literally have Des riding a bike, with his bike bag in the bike, which in turn contains the Pelican bike. It’s like the Russian nesting dolls of bikes here:
Once he unpacked his bike, it gave birth to the Pelican bike, and we were left with a large number of parts in plastic bags on a table. From there we got ourselves to this deconstructed bike:
Putting this piece together wasn’t much of a task. On the IKEA scale of misery ranging from screwing in a light bulb, to assembling a bedroom wardrobe – I’d rate it as a kitchen chair.
With the exception of a Philips head screwdriver and three AA batteries, all else was included.
With that 22-minute job done and dusted, the kids can climb aboard and start their pedaling – even without the use of a tablet or TV.
Look, we don’t have many kid’s smart bikes to compare to. In fact, we only have one other one. So, in an effort to properly show how big this bike is, we’ve also brought our recently turned 4-year old’s bike, alongside our two-year-old’s bike. Plus, the Fischer-Price one.
First up, a comparison to our four-year-old’s real bike. Now, keep in mind we went with a saddle height here that worked for all three girls, so it’s not a perfect match to her bike fit. Still, it’s pretty darn close!
As you can see, the basic geometry is pretty similar to a real bike, and in fact definitely better than the Fischer-Price bike, which ends up being more like a Big Wheel trike than anything.
And finally, here’s the 2-year-old’s little bike. Obviously, much different in size. But being the third child, she’s more than determined enough to make it work.
Meanwhile, in comparison to a real Peloton bike, umm…this isn’t that much smaller footprint-wise. Somehow, inexplicably, the base on this Pelican bike is basically the same size as a Peloton bike.
Undoubtedly that’s for stability because this thing is darn near impossible to tip over, even with an adult on it. Including sprinting for the next donut.
Oh, you thought I wasn’t going to try it? Oh, how you’ve misjudged me. If you think Ray is the only one around here who makes poor cycling life choices, you haven’t been following close enough.
The downside of course to these gigantic stabilizing legs is not so much your certain likelihood to trip over them twelve times a day, but more your child’s also near-certain desire to pick up this bike and carry it across the room – promptly smashing your TV, lamps, and other children with the dangly legs.
Now that it’s assembled, you only have a few decisions left to make. The first one being if you want your kiddos to use visual (screen time) entertainment or just an audio soundtrack for their workout.
If you’re on team “no screen time”, you’ll quickly realize you made the wrong choice here. The Pelican bike has three audio tracks already pre-recorded and ready to blare at the most god-awful frequency and volume right out of the box. Yes, I meant to say BLARE, because there is no volume control and you are stuck with the very definition of outdoor voices coming from this small $1-quality speaker. Have no fear, as with any other loud and crazy toys our kids might possess, a simple strip of packing tape over the speaker works well to save your eardrums and sanity. We’ve also considered pouring epoxy into it.
As for these three pre-recorded cycling adventures, your kiddo has three options (all of which you’ll hate equally as much as your kids love them): Jungle Audio, Pirate Audio, and Ice Cream Shop Audio (because naturally, I always ride in Ice Cream Shops). Here’s a simple phone recording of the audio experience with a few of the adventures, starting with Pirate:
Don’t mind what the instructions say, I assure you the audio adventures are not in the same order on the bike as listed in the manual. Regardless, it doesn’t matter what adventure your kid picks as long as it keeps them pedaling right? And this is where the product starts to disappoint us a little bit. There is no feedback from the pedals to the audio. So if your kiddo stops pedaling, the bike’s speaker system is none the wiser. Therefore, the audio continues playing as if they’re about to win the Tour de France. I’ll save the rest of my comments on this until later in the post.
Also included on the audio dial, is the bike’s single “smart” feature: Bluetooth connectivity. Now tame your excitement, this could be a great feature, but remember this is an audio-only Bluetooth connection. This allows you to pair your phone or the tablet (or other Bluetooth device) with the Pelican and stream music from your favorite app or music libraries (e.g. Spotify, Amazon Music, etc.). It’s super simple, and with this dial selected you can have your kiddo’s favorite tunes blasting while they crank the pedals to the beat. And again, while the speaker sounds horrendous to adults (verified with other visiting parents recently), somehow kids love it (also verified with other kids in our neighborhood).
Of course, while you think it might make sense to pair the tablet you stick in that holder to the Pelican bike, in reality, your old iPad’s speaker will sound leagues better than this thing. So it’s better saved for…well…anything else you can control.
Now, what if you had said you’re on team “Give them the screen time”? Yeah, that’s cool too as you also have a bunch of entertainment options. If you decide to go iPad/tablet over TV, then you’ve basically set up a little Peloton impersonator. Or, if you go with the TV option, then you save yourself some stress of the iPad falling out. A small note though: iPad cases do not seem to fit well in this tablet holder, thus you have to sport it unprotected. Which, might have parallels to how you got into this situation of needing a kid’s bike. The point being, you’re cruising in somewhat risqué territory here with your unsheathed tool flapping around to your child’s whims.
First though, we will pretend you chose the tablet option. To access the pre-recorded rides for the Pelican Explore and Fit Cycle, you need to have access to YouTube. If you have a camera, you can crack it open to scan the QR code taking you directly to the Little Tikes Playlist. Otherwise, just head to the Little Tikes YouTube Page, click on their playlists tab, and then scroll until you find the “Ride with Pelican Explore & Fit Cycle” playlist with (currently) 59 instructor-led bike adventures. Then, start pedaling! As I said earlier in the audio section, there is no feedback from your bike to the tablet or vise versa, so if your little one wants to stop pedaling and just sit and watch the adventure, there’s nothing stopping them. Again, I’ll comment more on my thoughts regarding that in the connectivity/ entertainment aspect of the bike a little later in the review.
Last but not least, you can skip putting your delicate iPad on the bike, instead using a TV. As with the tablet, you’ll need access to YouTube on your TV for this to work. Personally, I like the TV option, especially if you have more than one kiddo and they all want to ride. We set this up like a relay race for the Peanuts, each gets to ride one video at a time and when the next video comes up they hop off and switch as fast as they can, cheering for the next rider. It’s a nice way for the parent to not have to oversee the entire activity. Each video lasts usually 3-4 minutes long, so it ends up being the perfect length.
While our kids have roughly found some middle-ground on a size that ‘mostly works’ for all of them, you can adjust the bike easily, and in fact far better than the Fisher-Price bike. Here’s what you can tweak:
A) Resistance control: Hardish, medium, and easy resistance
B) Handle Bar height: Adjustable up/down
C) Seat post height: Adjustable up/down
D) Rocker Plate: The bike is built onto a wobble board base of sorts for a more realistic feel
E) Front-wheel: Rotates when moved with your hand, but just for show and fun for kids to steer when riding (not connected to drivetrain)
And to make this a bit more clear, here’s a close-up of all these points, which do thankfully use standard style adjustment clamps – near-identical to those found on most bikes.
In addition, the bike features two little steps at the base, as well as a pedal cage, which is super helpful for the littler ones to keep their feet on the pedals.
With that, let’s talk app integration.
App Connectivity Aspects:
To be clear here, there is not a ton of tech to comment on with the Pelican bike. As mentioned before, the bike has Audio-Only Bluetooth capabilities. Which very simply means you can play music to its speaker. That is the only communication between the bike and any other device you might own. When the kiddo riding the bike decides to steer off the road or stops pedaling, the pre-recorded audio track or online video adventure is not affected, it will keep playing with or without a rider. In comparison to the Fisher-Price Smart Cycle where a child is actively engaged, similar to any sort of gaming experience.
Again – said differently: There’s no sensors or such within the bike. It does not tell any apps the bike’s cadence, pedaling status, or anything else (of course, that won’t stop us from attaching sensors to it…hang tight a second).
I will admit, our kids did not seem bothered by the lack of connectivity with the bike. It was mostly us adults who were disappointed in the inability to play Mario Carts. With the adjustability of the seat and handlebars, this bike fits our 4- & 5-year-olds very well and our 2-year-old is slowly engaging as well! They were just stoked to be pedaling like mom and dad on their “TV Bike”.
Peloton, Zwift, TrainerRoad Integration:
Now given the bike lacks native smarts (beyond a speaker), it was time to take matters into my own hands. Or rather, DCR himself took matters into his own hands. So the rest of this section is written by him.
Hi ya, Ray here! Certainly, I couldn’t have a wannabe Peloton bike having no actual tech integration to anything. After all, that’s just not my style. Around these parts, it’s gotta connect to some app or platform. So, I rigged it up myself. There are essentially two things we can ‘capture’ here on the bike through some relatively inexpensive sensors.
Now the first one, cadence, is the truest measurement – since it’ll literally measure the kid’s actual cadence (Revolutions Per Minute), and every cycling platform, including the Peloton App, can connect to a cadence sensor. In my case, I used the Garmin Cadence Sensor, which is a small magnetless cadence sensor that simply bands on the side of the crank arm. It’s pretty durable, normally getting dirt and grime on an outside adult bike for years at a time. So even juice-boxes and Cheerios won’t likely faze this:
It uses an accelerometer inside of it to determine pedal stokes. Super easy. From there, it’ll show up in apps like Peloton, Zwift, and TrainerRoad as a Bluetooth (or ANT+) cadence sensor:
And I suppose if you really wanted to, you could even put on a small optical HR band like a Polar Verity Sense or something, to get heart rate. But that might be over the top – I mean, not that it’s ever stopped me around these parts. Now you and your kid then can both have Matt Wilpers wink at you mid-interval at the same time:
The next bit is ‘speed’. Now, from a technical standpoint, there’s no real speed here. Just as with a ‘real’ Peloton Bike, speed is actually just an estimate based on a flat road scenario. Given you lack wind, terrain, etc… the speed (and thus distance) is nothing by a completely wild guess. But I’m totally a fan of wild guesses when it keeps kids entertained.
So, you can use an almost identical sensor from Garmin (or Wahoo), which is the magnetless speed sensor. And in fact, you affix it to the bottom of the pedal. Normally this sensor fits on a wheel, but since the Pelican bike’s wheel doesn’t spin connected to the cranks, we’re just going straight to the source, and connecting it there. Note that I placed it *UNDER* the pedal platform, so it was out of the way.
In theory, you’d think this would result in a meaningless value, but in practice, it works out. See, most indoor training platforms (except Peloton) allow connectivity to older non-smart trainers via a simple speed sensor. And one of the things they put in there is a wheel-size value, since some bikes have smaller wheels and some bikes bigger wheels. By tweaking that value, we can get ourselves a kid-realistic speed.
So in the case of Zwift after pairing it as a speed sensor, we can select the unlisted trainer but with a 20” tire:
This in turn estimates a power curve based on that – letting your little one output wattages at a semi-competitive level for her age, I suppose. You can play with the tire size a bit to get it faster or slower, or simply tell her to pedal faster. Armed with this, I let my 5-year old have her hand at Zwift. She actually has a Zwift account of her own, but she briefly borrowed mine here instead. You can see that by using the speed sensor, she gets age-appropriate speeds of 8MPH. It kinda works out.
Whereas in the case of TrainerRoad, they’ve already got a kid bike in there from my last adventure (the Fischer-Price one), so we can just repurpose that for this, and that uses this same speed sensor and roughly the same resistance levels. Thus, we just select that:
And with that profile selected, TrainerRoad’s VirtualPower kicks in and also provides wattages. Are these wattages age-appropriate for the output of my 2-year-old? Absolutely not. Are these wattages appropriately weighted instead based on a proxy of how loud she can scream? Absolutely. Thus, we’re going with it.
Her power profile via the VirtualPower trainer we selected has been scaled to roughly match that of an adult. Thus, she was able to attempt one of my favorite interval workouts:
It’s plausible she might not fully understand how to maintain perfect intervals. But I suppose it’s something we could work on in a few decades.
Ultimately, with a bit of creativity, you can pair up to pretty much any app you want. Thus helping to overcome the bike’s internal lack of smarts.
Peloton vs Pelican:
(Back to Bobbie’s writing now…)
When the Pelican Explore & Fit Cycle first came out, the internet was abuzz with spoof-like comments comparing the two products. While the names sound alike, the similarities basically end with having a resistance adjustable bike with a tablet attached out front.
As I’ve said already, the Pelican bike doesn’t have any “smart” capabilities. Of course, you could opt to set up a tablet with the Peloton app on it and follow along. While there is no way to link it up to a leaderboard, or see your power and resistance numbers on the display, the Pelican bike does have a 3-tier resistance knob that makes it fun for the kiddo to follow along with. And, if you’re anything like Ray, you could toss a cadence sensor on there so they could have extra data on their screen.
Other notable gaps of the Pelican Bike::
– No water bottle (or juice box) holders on the Pelican bike. Your kids will have to don a CamelBak or something
– No weight rack on the Pelican bike. How’s your 2-year old gonna have toned muscles now?!?
– No built-in screen on the Pelican bike
– No power cord to trip over on the Pelican bike
Meanwhile, there are some features on the Pelican bike that Peloton has missed out on:
– No ice cream shop adventure audio stories on the Peloton Bike
– No pirate adventure audio stories on the Peloton Bike
– No built-in rocker plate to shake it all about on the Peloton Bike
– No mounting steps for short people to easily get on their Peloton Bike, as the Pelican bike has
– Not named after a large bird
Despite these differences, I like the idea of having this bike set up side by side with our Peloton and having one of the girls ride along, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes. They really get the feeling they are doing something with me, then we transition to the yoga mat for some strength and core exercises for a seamless workout. Honestly, I see it as a win-win.
Normally I test smart bikes and smart trainers for accuracy, in areas such as cadence, power, and resistance application. However, in the case of the Little Tikes bike, it tries to skirt all of these test zones by simply not participating at all:
Cadence accuracy: Zero cadence given
Power accuracy: Zero powers given
Speed Accuracy: Zero speeds again
Resistance accuracy: Low, Medium, High – no stated amount to validate, zero effs given
Speaker accuracy: For the love of @#$#@, why is it so effing loud with no volume toggle?!?
The only data I can present is on the volume of the speaker, which I can quite easily measure. In fact, it’s so loud my neighbors in Belgium and France can measure it. In my case, I’ve got a decibel meter. In fact, we have a disturbing number of them. But it’s more fun to use the phone:
As you can see, it topped out at 89.5, which on a scale of audible noises, ranks slightly above fingers on chalkboard while an angry toddler screams into your ear. Sure, about now you’re thinking to yourself “That’s not so bad?”. But what you’re failing to account for is the hideous screeching sound this thing makes because they spend 23 cents on this speaker part. No really, ~90 decibels according to this CDC chart is equivalent to an “orbital sander”, which is ironically what this speaker sounds like.
Thus, I’m given no choice but to conclude this accuracy section without presenting any useful data on the true accuracy of the device, but instead forced to simply remind you to remove the batteries from this godforsaken speaker.
Parental Thoughts on An Exercise Bike:
Total disclaimer here, that this is just my opinion. However, I am a certified K-12 Physical Education teacher and have spent many years teaching, training, and coaching kiddos, so I hope that helps you understand where I’m coming from. Given I’ve seen some poorly manifested reasons on why your kids shouldn’t be on an indoor bike, I figured I’d weigh in. Note, this isn’t really specific to this bike, it applies to any indoor kids bike.
Does it replace teaching a child how to ride a bike outside? No, absolutely not. But this product (or any other) also isn’t claiming to. In our case, our kids *LIVE* on bikes. Our middle child was cycling to daycare on a regular pedal bike at 3 years old (no training wheels), across the bike paths and streets of Amsterdam. She’s now 4 years old, and both she and her 5-year-old sister bike to school. The youngest 2-year-old daughter? She gets biked to daycare. Our kids don’t see bikes as a ‘chore’ or forced exercise, instead it’s part of their life. From daily commute to play, they love it. They’d far prefer being in a cargo bike or on their own bike than sitting in a car.
Thus for our current family situation, where we live on this planet in a cold/damp/windy (and occasionally miserable outdoors) place, and for the age of our kiddos, this is a great play option for in our house!
For example, when our kids are coming home from a full day of being inside at school or daycare they need to MOVE, to get their wiggles out before dinner and bed. Blend that with me trying to get dinner ready, it’s the perfect occasional solution to keep them busy and rotating through self-entertained. Despite them liking playing in the rain (which they do), they are too young to send out in the dark, without a parent, to roam the neighborhood on their bikes. This is a real and regular life situation for us. I imagine it’s no different than parents living in a city with kids, or in a neighborhood that’s maybe not safe enough to let kids roam on a bike. Add a layer of school closure lockdowns to it if you’d like (as we just got applied to us a few hours ago).
With the Pelican bike, the kids are exercising, they are learning to physically follow along with a guided video (not just mindlessly watching Netflix), and they are practicing taking turns with siblings, trading off the bike after each short exercise video. As well, they are learning the concept of self-motivation, because they know if they stop pedaling the video will still play… so why keep pedaling? Because it feels good to move and exercise.
I think we will have commenters who scoff that this is just another way to put a screen in front of more children. But I would argue there is value in this, despite the screen. Not every child is going to grow up to be an athlete or have the opportunity to do after school sports. Not every child lives in an environment that is suitable or even safe to roam the neighborhood after school or after dark. I think a product like this helps plant the seed for young kids that exercise is something you can do that is fun, and makes you feel good. As well, with more and more online access to exercise, you’re showing them they can exercise from anywhere. Again, planting that seed that they can play a ballet lesson on the TV to follow along with, or yoga class, or a boxing coach. Whatever they want, but the concept is growing that you can benefit from physical activity with the use of TV and tablets too. Not just cartoons.
There are so many apps and products now pushing kids to learn STEM activities from their tablet, “hiding” that this game is actually educational. Well, I don’t think you should hide physical activity, just like I don’t think you should hide vegetables in your kid’s food. Adults need to encourage movement and talk about how it makes you feel good, builds muscles, and makes you a stronger person. If a child grows up and decides group sports is not their thing, they have at least now had experience riding an indoor bike, and this is not a strange concept to invest in. “Mom has a bike and I have a bike… cool!”.
All I’m saying, is there IS a place for this type of product in the younger children’s toy market. As I wrote my graduate school thesis paper on positive effects exercise has on female self-efficacy during the transition from childhood through puberty, I really feel any product that is getting kids hooked on moving and exercise is a bonus.
In the world of kids’ toys, the Pelican Bike – like its real-world namesake the Peloton Bike, is not cheap. Still, as with its bigger brother, you get a solidly built product that puts you in control of what you do with it. Our kids seem to love it, and from a kid-sharing standpoint, all three of our daughters aged 2-5 years old are able to use it relatively easily in a merry-go-round type scene – freeing us adults to do important things like prepare dinner…or sit back and eat ice cream.
The Pelican Bike (like the Peloton Bike) is not perfect of course. The speaker needs to be smashed with a hammer (or, just take the batteries out), and most notably, there’s no integration at all to any apps except for watching a video. Unlike the now-discontinued Fischer-Price bike, the videos aren’t synchronized to the child’s pedaling speeds. I’d much rather them have ditched the speaker and put in a small cadence sensor internally tied to an app of some sort to keep kids engaged a bit more.
Still, despite this shortcoming, it’s not something our kids minded – or even once asked about. They were just happy to have a large library of videos to cycle through. And while they didn’t realize it, the 3-4 minute length of each video corresponding to a given ‘turn’ meant that there was virtually no arguing over it. Whereas the Fischer-Price bike would often lead to arguing.
Finally, no part of this bike has seemingly damaged our children’s desire to continue cycling outdoors. In fact, if anything, it’s increased it. It’s helped the littlest one’s (2-years-old – seen above) pedaling skills, where she can practice easily indoors without crashing into something. And given they’re free to use it when they want (or don’t), nobody is ‘forcing’ them to use it. Instead, like real-life, they’re learning to enjoy physical activity as part of a lifelong thing. Whether it be indoors or outdoors.
With that – thanks for reading!
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