Issue 145 Bike Test – Mountain Bikes For Kids

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Benji and the Singletrack Youth Squad check out mountain bikes for the mini-me riders among us.

Yep. You read it correctly. Kids’ mountain bikes. Parents. You’re welcome! Read and get informed as to what to look for in a proper mountain bike for your sprog.

Non-parents. Don’t skip the next few pages! Think of this review along the same lines as one of those reviews of something esoteric or niche that you will never own, nor want to. Kids’ mountain bikes are some of the most interesting mountain bikes out there. And, let’s be frank here, you are The Cyclist in your family and social circle. Parents are going to ask you about kids’ bikes. Why not be a hero, and up your chances of a better-than-usual Christmas present by actually being informed about the kids’ MTB market options these days.

For the purposes of this test we’ve concentrated on kids’ bike specialist brands. The brands featured here either only do bikes for kids, or their main thing is bikes for kids.

What wheel size does your kid need?

Size is key when getting the best mountain bike for kids. In order of can-be-botheredness, here’s how to browse for the correct size bike for your child…

Age:

  • 6+ yrs old = 20in wheel
  • 8+ yrs old = 24in wheel
  • 9+ yrs old = 26in wheel
  • 10+ yrs old = 27.5in wheel

Height:

  • 115–125cm = 20in wheel
  • 125–135cm = 24in wheel
  • 135–145cm = 26in wheel
  • 145cm+ = 27.5in wheel

Inside leg:

  • 50–60cm = 20in wheel
  • 55–70cm = 24in wheel
  • 65–75cm = 26in wheel
  • 70cm+ = 27.5in wheel

Regarding what to look for in a kid’s mountain bike, what to prioritise etc, the answer is really simple: look for the same stuff you look for in an adult mountain bike.

A mountain bike is a tool. The age or size of the rider doesn’t really affect what makes for a good ride experience. By all means keep an eye on overall weight but also be aware that it is not the be all and end all of mountain bikes. Good geometry, functioning brakes, decent tyres, quality bearings, well-built wheels and wide-range gearing are all more important in the grand scheme of things.

Early Rider Seeker 20 review

Frog MTB 62 review

Islabikes Creig 26 review

Verdict

As we mentioned already somewhere in these reviews, we aren’t exactly comparing like-for-like bikes here. Each of the three bikes has a different wheel size. Having said that, all three bikes are essentially available in multiple different wheel size incarnations. As such, you should be able to extrapolate from our reviews about these particular bikes and form some idea as to how their bigger or smaller wheeled siblings compare.

Anyhoo, let’s compare oranges to apples for a while. Just because.

The Early Rider Seeker 20 is a pretty much perfect kid’s bike. It looks ace. It rides ace. It’s tough. Kids don’t think twice about it. They just get on and ride. There’s not much to say about this bike apart from: it is well ace.

The Frog MTB 62 looks… awkward, but that’s just the aesthetic curse of 24 inch wheel bikes. It may not be a contouring sinuous woodland singletrack slayer but for bombing up and down stuff, it was seriously capable. If you’re listening Frog Bikes, great bike, but change the tyres and fit a shorter stem please.

The Islabikes Creig 26 is a serious bike. Which is perhaps its undoing just as much as it’s its raison d’être. While it’s not an out and out cross-country race bike for yelled-at children, it most definitely has more of an eye on the addictive allure of against-the-clock pedal propulsion than… say, doing jumps off a shonky ramp made from two bricks and a plank. That said, a riser bar and a QR seat collar aren’t exactly an unaffordable upgrade (well, if you hadn’t blown your whole budget on a £1,100 kid’s bike).

Perhaps the main thing that is going to be annoying here is… Early Rider doesn’t make bikes with wheels any bigger than 24 inches! This is a real shame as we think a 26 or 27.5 inch wheel Seeker would be extremely rad.

Story tags

Review Info

Brand: N/A
Product: N/A
From: N/A
Price: N/A
Tested: by N/A for Issue 145
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Viewing 18 posts - 1 through 18 (of 18 total)
  • Issue 145 Bike Test – Mountain Bikes For Kids
  • arkike
    Full Member

    Sorry to say this but I wouldn’t choose any of these bikes as proper mtb for my kids.
    Being father of two I almost look for a new mtb every 2 years and have learned a few things, specially riding with them during the last 5 years.
    It’s a good start looking for manufacturers who only make bikes for kids but Frog and Isla Bikes only make good city bikes.
    Early Rider make good bikes but I never choose a rigid bike for mountain biking. Have you ever rode a rigid bike down a techy trail?
    Also at the price range of Early Rider bikes, you can find better options from their competitors out side the UK

    BenjiM
    Full Member

    No Hup Enduro? Is dissapoint.

    Self-Build Bundle – HUP enduro MTB Bike

    It’s a great bike you can build on. Going all out on the parts if you need to and then just upgrade the frame when they get bigger!

    Hup Hup

    benpinnick
    Full Member

    If you’re listening Frog Bikes, great bike, but change the tyres and fit a shorter stem please

    Also in line post. Its a great bike in many ways, although the fork seals leave alot to be desired, but can be swapped out for relatively small beans. For anyone thinking of upgrading their Frog 62 MTB for even more off road capability I would recommend (Probably before its ridden, and especially if the child is only just sized onto it)

    30-40mm stem
    2.3 tyre up front
    2.1 tyre out back – Im using Smart Sams for both as a good balance on trail centre/paths but you may want more/less tread option.
    Inline post. At least to start, you can save the lay back post for later
    You can also reverse the cable routing to save it from cable rub too, but that will mean expertise with hydraulic brakes.
    You also need to set the brakes up for small hands

    Id also swap the bars out to an SDG or Answer junior set to get the thinner grips, but now you’re talking lots more money. Before anyone says why not buy something different if you spend that extra; all the above bikes and in fact pretty much every kids bike would get the same treatment – bar/grip widths are crazy on kids bikes.

    steamtb
    Full Member

    We started off on Isla and Vitus offerings, but they weren’t real mountain bikes, although we had lots of fun on them which is what it’s all about!

    Moving to an Early Rider Hellion 20 was a game changer for my daughter, a stunning, well thought out mountain bike that only needed grippier pedals. I really can’t sing its praises enough. It got my six year old daughter doing demanding technical trails, jumps and having a whale of a time doing it 🙂 and watching her overtake adults on red trails at places like Llandegla was priceless. The tubeless crown gems were perfect tyres for that bike too. Although the initial price point was clearly challenging, I got my money back when I sold it.

    Now 9, Amber is on a full suspension Kona Process 24 with Vee Flow Snap tyres and nukeproof urchin grips and pedals, which by the looks of it will last at least another year or two. It’s a bit porky but she loves it and is happy to do big days (for her >1500 ft of ascent) without getting tired. We have had some amazing rides this summer, some of the best days of my life, although I sometimes find my heart in my mouth when she is doing very steep technical trails. She on the other hand just has fun and the FS allows her to do lots more and be comfortable doing it.

    I did initially want to get her an Early Rider X24, but cost was a sticking point from my wife’s perspective, and the Kona came up in the sale… Early Riders are very very nice though.

    Regardless of the route we went down, lots of kids bikes are brilliant now and you can’t go wrong if you can get your children out and enjoying bikes! 🙂

    luket
    Full Member

    I think Nukeproof deserves a mention. Bought my son a Cub Scout 24 Race recently and on our first ride on local off piste trails (the easier ones, so plenty roots and stuff but not too steep) I just had the giggles for an hour or more. I couldn’t believe his speed even on the first trail, how much fun he was having and just how he seemed to be riding a hardtail like an adult on a trail hardtail, the back wheel skipping over stuff and the fork properly working. I was gobsmacked.

    I was a suspension fork skeptic on kids bikes and I think we were right to go rigid thus far but the fork is really working now. I thought I’d want to replace the back tyre (DHF) with something faster but he needs all the braking grip he can get. And the Clarks brakes can be adjusted to work really nicely with little hands.

    It’s well worth considering alongside the Islabikes Creig 24 if your trails suit losing a bit of the lightness for some more capability. Or if you’re happy with some weight penalty for price compromise vs the amazing looking Early Rider Hellion 24.

    weeksy
    Full Member

    Islabikes are fine, but they’re XC based and whilst light and fast, they’re not exactly any good at descending.

    Our best junior bike was a Whyte T403 which was proper MTB geometry. We took that to BPW, Morzine etc.

    Going to the places and races we do… Santa Cruz FSs seem very popular lol.

    bfw
    Full Member

    back a few years ago instead of new fitted wardrobes we bought 4x mtb’s for the family after a few years away from the sport and sold all the mtb bikes off.

    So the kids, were 8 year old twins who had had a range of rigid mtb’s since they both could walk.

    One son is much taller then the other, so we bought a new Whyte 403 for tall son and a Frog 62 for not so tall. I have to say (not being religious) that god gave me something back. We did loads the first year, Surrey Hills, Swinley, Afan etc.

    What I learnt. The Frog was just not up to the job, geometry, gear range and the forks. Sorry to say.

    The Whyte was much better, gears still not quite there and still a bad fork, and quite heavy.

    Fast forward a year and soon as I could fit them onto, I bought one and then a second used Orange Zest 26. They have been amazing! 11 speed proper Sram gears and a big range, RS fork, Sram brakes etc etc. I paid £500 for each and actually made money on the Whyte when I sold it in lockdown (guy was over the moon, I was embarrassed on the price).

    Be careful what you buy and your expectations.

    This year we have done Bike Park Wales, and two weeks in LenzerHeide. Amazing year

    bossdrums
    Free Member

    Interesting article, we started our kids out with Isabikes, 14, 20 & 24 however, now my son is getting more into mtb, I got him a secondhand Saracen Mantra 24 (he’s 10 years old but only 133cm tall, so 24″ wheel is perfect for him), don’t think they make them anymore which is a shame as it’s a great little bike with a few choice upgrades, i.e. controls (dmr v6 pedals, dmr death grips & Microshift Advent 1×9 with clutch). I suspect he’ll be on this for another year or so, by which time I suspect I’ll be looking for a used Orange Zest 26″ to replace it with…as an Orange P7 rider myself. There are so many more well designed kids bikes out there now, if I was to buy another 24″ wheeler I’ve seriously consider the Marin San Quentin 24 with a 65° head angle, great for shredding the bike parks.

    bossdrums
    Free Member

    …other 24″ bikes worth considering, purely hardtails as not sure full suspension is needed at this age, Vitus Nucleus, Commencal Meta, Nukeproof Cub Scout…

    alan1977
    Free Member

    interested in this thread.. my lad is jsut about to grow out of his Orbea MX24 which IMHO is an awesome xc bike for starting out on.. super light… decent ish components, although id have wished i bought a disc brake variant…

    Almost bought him a nucleus 26, looked at whyte, frog 69, woom, all the usual suspects
    THe woom off looked amazing.. but i cant bring myself to stick him on a 26, then i discovered hupp with the optin of big wheels. .which i have plenty of parts for, so i think i might do that if i can get him interedted in riding more

    steamtb
    Full Member

    Don’t automatically discount the value of a good FS for younger kids, depending on the riding they do, it can give them more grip and comfort. My daughters Hellion was very agile, a bit better at climbing and “easier” for her to jump; the FS Process is much more pleasant, stable and less tiring on fast descents, as well being much better at soaking up drops, bigger jumps and hitting surprise roots and rocks. Obviously in the perfect world, she would have a FS and a hardtail. 🙂

    bossdrums
    Free Member

    Regarding full suspension bikes…I suspect I’m a little old school, in that I’ve always thought that hardtails allow you to hone you skills, pick lines, learn position on the bike etc. where as fs bikes are great at soaking up the bumps/hits and smashing your way through trails. I’ve had a few fs bikes in the past and always thought there was very little feedback on what’s happening underneath you, hence why I’ve return to hardtails, even at my age (49) so I wonder if kids loose out on not learning their craft on hardtails. Of course I could just be talking absolute rubbish, which is not unheard of…the most important thing is that these bikes are allowing kids to enjoy mtb, which is the most important thing right… 🙂

    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    Just purchased a Vitus 24+ for my son. Really well made bit of kit and the plus tyres with rigid fork is a great combination. Recommended on here and a bargain at the price paid

    arkike
    Full Member

    Yes, depending of where they ride and their skills level a FS is well considering.
    When your 7 yr old is able to ride what many adults would think it is unrideable you know what he/she is ready for a proper FS bike that can take them to the big adventures.
    Then at his 8yr, my son was already riding really fast on serious gnarly stuff in South Spain and racing DH in bike parks.
    Now I can’t chase him on the downhills.
    We travel 2 times a year to real mountains over 2000m. Thanks to his Vpace bike, it can take him down to 1200 over really steep loose Alpine terrain. To do this you need good suspension (Fox), brakes (Magura), good ratio gears, dropper post and so on…for a 26″ bike which weigh only 11kg.

    arkike
    Full Member

    There he is

    northernmatt
    Full Member

    I think 2000 euros for a kids bike is ever so slightly more than most people would be willing to spend. When the smallest one needed to move from a balance bike to pedals there was no way I was even spending £400 on an Islabikes CNOC16. Hope Academy to the rescue, got the blingiest 16″ bike of any 3yr old I know for £14 a month.

    zerocool
    Full Member

    My son is absolutely loving his Hope Academy 16” bike. Got it last week and he’s absolutely flying. Luckily his twin sister is an inch shorter so she can have his Frog 40 for a few months and weMll sell her Islabike CNOC 14s.

    I get quite jealous of people who can buy one expensive bike and hand it down through several kids to get the full value of the bike.

    For us the Hope Academy means we won’t have to fork out for 2 decent bikes upfront at the same time.

    He’s currently flying around the pump tracks in Bristol (and Mountain View Bike Park near Cardiff) and it’s lighter than the smaller Frog (which we preferred to the Islabike).

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    My boy is the on his second Hoy (first was a 24″ Bonally, now on a 26″ Bonally), yeah they’re rigid xc bikes but suits where we live and doesn’t stop doing the odd xc race and riding blue and red graded trails. Hoy bikes are very light but cheaper than Isla bikes and Frog bikes.

Viewing 18 posts - 1 through 18 (of 18 total)

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