My kids' first bikes were Gary Fisher and Trek, respectively. After they outgrew them, we went with a couple of department store bikes as tweeners between their kids' bikes and them graduating to an adult-sized bike. Biggest mistake we made. All the points above are valid, especially the quality and safety of the rides. I had to replace the brakes and brake-lines on one of the bikes to ensure it was safe to ride. And the cassette literally fell off the other through no fault of my son's. On top of that, gears kept sticking (which was a nuisance, since this was their introduction to gears). In all, we've probably had to pay the price of the bikes again in maintenance (within the first year of purchase). If your kids are just wheeling up and down your street, I'm sure the department store rigs are fine. But if they like riding and you want to get them into this sport, the local bike shop is definitely the way to go.