Mountain Bikes for Kids

I recently wrote a post on LinkedIn titled An Open Letter to the Bike Industry, lamenting the fact there are few choices for parents who want to get their kids a decent mountain bike as they grow from kids bikes to true adult sized mountain bikes. I’ve talked with many friends who ride, and do their best to get their kids out on the trails and introduce them to the joys off being outdoors, getting a little exercise, and ripping a favorite stretch of single track. But it’s always a chore. For most kids, it’s not at the top of their to-do list on a bright sunny day. Maybe you have experienced loading Mom’s, Dad’s, and junior’s bike up on to the Kuat rack to go for a planned family outing, and you slipped a disc from deadlifting the kid’s bike up to the rack. How can that be fun for a kid to ride a bike you can barely lift?

The article sparked a lot of discussion, and the simple fact is, most 24″ mountain bikes from all the big brands weigh half of the young rider’s bodyweight. It’s hard to convince a kid that mountain biking with their parents can be fun when their little bodies are seemingly pushing a giant boulder uphill. With that discussion came some recommendations for some bike companies trying to “do it right.”

What do we mean by doing it right? It seems like there is a market for 24″ wheel, size appropriate frames, and maybe even 26″ wheel size appropriate frames, that are reasonably light, and reasonably inexpensive. What does reasonably light mean? A 24″ wheel complete hardtail mountain bike in the 21 to 22 lb range, and a 26″ wheel complete hardtail mountain bike in the 23 to 24 lb range. What does reasonably inexpensive mean? I think the ceiling is probably $800 to $900 retail. No more than a grand.

We’ve done some research and checked out some recommended links, and here is the good news: there are a few bikes brands out there that are trying (the best of the worst), and in some cases, excelling at offering bikes that get a lot closer to doing it right. What do you think?

Trail craft offers the 24″ wheel mountain bike that I wish I knew about before I bought my daughter a 24″ wheel bike from a “big brand.” Unfortunately, at this time they don’t offer a 26″ wheel bike purpose-built for the growing kid. They’ve done some cool things, like sourcing 24″ Stans No Tubes wheels. They originally started their first production run via a Kickstarter campaign, but it seems like they are quietly building a brand story. They are pricey, though. A Pineridge Aluminum 24″ with a 1×10 drivetrain and RST suspension fork will set you back $1700. Claimed weight is 22 lbs.

I’ve had good experience with Scott in the past, mainly in the 20″ wheel category. Their kids bikes always seemed just a little bit lighter and better for the same price points as Specialized, Trek, Giant, etc. I have not seen one of these bikes in person, but the specs for the Scale RC Junior 24 seem to be a cut above everything else out there. The claimed weight is just under 25 lbs. Could it be made lighter? Absolutely. They are trying to do it right, it seems.

Stans No Tubes
Speaking of Stans, they offer 24″ rims “for kid’s mountain bikes.” Heck, you can even set them up tubeless. Too bad they don’t offer already built wheels, so you’d have to work with your local shop to source out hubs, spokes, but at least the option is there. Us grown ups know that shaving rotational weight from your wheels is one of the most effective strategies when trying to lighten up your bike, so this is probably the mack daddy upgrade if you were thinking about upgrading your kid’s current boat anchor.

Misfit Cycles
Out of Canada, these guys offer a good 26″ frame, if you are looking to build up a bike for your shredder who has outgrown the 24″ bike. X-Men alumni Bill Harris bought one of these for his son, and has been satisfied with the purchase.

I will continue to add some links here as we find more! Stay tuned.

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