On receiving the Early Rider Belter Trail 3S for test Zach’s first words were “Whoa, awesome! Epic!”. when they’re nearly six years old, kids don’t mince their words. And as first impressions count so much (at any age), you certainly can’t argue with him. The Belter is one slick looking kid’s mountain bike.
The Belter ‘3S’ is recommended for 6-9 year olds and the fit for Zach was good, with plenty of growing room for the longer term. What’s in a name? Well, firstly the ‘3’ represents three gears and the ‘S’ for the suspension fork up front. More on the ‘Belter’ bit shortly – but taking a tour of the components of note, it’s a superbly spec’ed machine.
The list goes on: Avid mechanical disc brakes for stopping, comfy and grippy Maxxis ‘Max Daddy’ rubber (20” x 2.2”), a proper ‘Air’ Fork with 50mm travel and an aluminium 4-Arm chainring spider, (with sprocket and bash guard) for keeping things smooth and quiet on the trail. Ritchey bars/post/saddle and Early Rider branded flat pedals complete the finishing kit, and the hand brushed alloy frame is fresh, almost reflective. It gives the bike a titanium look.
As the name implies, the Belter is belt driven. Those three gears are located at the rear and driven through a ‘SRAM i-motion 3’ internal gear hub. The drivetrain is well built, and pairing with an Early Rider labelled grip shift twister ensures easy gear changes every time.
One of the big benefits of the belt drive, is the instant gear change, without the need to pedal. This really helps, as kids often get caught in the wrong gear and usually come to a stop. With the Belter they can shift to select the right gear instantly and away they go, much like a Rolhoff gear hub. No more lifting to spin the back wheel to select the required gear.
On test, Zach has put the Belter through its paces in loads of different settings – but first up, we headed to Gisburn Forest for a play on the ‘Hope line’ and for a thrash around the trail network. From the moment we set off, I could see how comfortable he was riding the bike, manoeuvring it with ease around the first set of switchbacks.
The Avid mechanical discs do a brilliant job of stopping and controlling speed without being too harsh on smaller hands. As I consistently followed Zach out on the trails, I could see how much faster and in control he was, railing round berms, riding up and over rocks and roots with little fuss and most importantly, with a big grin on his face.
Reaching the Hope line we sessioned the top section to test the jumping prowess of the Belter, which did not disappoint. Zach’s confidence was sky high, flying off and up the jumps so comfortably on only his first outing.
Naturally things came to an abrupt stop with this new found confidence. A spill followed him excitedly shouting “watch this, it’s going to be massive” and in all the excitement, he landed off the trail for a roll in the undergrowth. Thankfully at his age, all that was required was a quick wipe down and then back up for another go. Arriving back at the car park we gave the bikes a wash down and Zach explained “That bike was amazing. Where are we going next to test the bike, Dad? Canada?” He’s clearly been watching too many bike films!
Not too far from Canada, our next testing mission was out to North Wales’ fast rolling Llandeglla. Straight out onto blue route which starts with a couple of long climbs the ascending ability of the bike came into its own with Zach cleaning sections of climbs that he had never managed to on his previous bike. On entering the wooded section, the forest floor was carpeted with pine needles making for the wicked descent of the Rollercoaster section. The Belter was truly at home here on the fast, flowing trail, carrying speed with good stability, Zach was popping off little trail features for fun as we blasted our way back to the cafe.
Thankfully we’ve found the Grind air forks easily tuneable (with the supplied shock pump) and married together with the Maxxis rubber the combination offers good grip and support up front. Otherwise, in terms of drivechain components and during this ride particularly I was initially concerned with the forest floor pine debris that found itself clinging to the bike’s sprockets and belt. This was a real test of the belt drive and thankfully it did not miss a beat. The spread of the three gears works very well for the size of the bike and not one dropped ‘chain’ in sight.
Zach has given the Belter a good testing on a variety of mixed terrain. The confidence it’s given him means we even ventured out to the local skate parks, with no issues at all. The Belter is a ‘proper’ mountain bike for kids. Zach’s first words on sight proved pretty much spot on.
Our experiences of living with the bike mean that we can suggest wholeheartedly that if you are in the market for a proper kid’s MTB bike that could stand happily next to your own dream bike, you need look no further. It’s safe to say that explaining to this youngster that this is a ‘test bike’ has been like taking candy off a baby. Christmas is a long old way off.
The ST Jnr. test team recently had a look at the early years ‘balance bikes’ from Early Rider. The review is here.
|Product:||Belter 20" Trail 3S|
|Tested:||by Tester: Zach Taylor. Words: Stu Taylor for Two Months|