ROCKY MOUNTAIN REAPER KIDS MOUNTAIN BIKE REVIEW
DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
ROCKY MOUNTAIN REAPER KIDS MOUNTAIN BIKE REVIEW
It was not all that long ago that kids’ mountain bikes consisted of basic hardtails with lower-end components. In recent years, smaller brands have filled the void for those seeking high-performance bikes for their young rippers. It seems that bigger manufacturers are joining the party, with more offering shrunken versions of their full-sized models. Rocky Mountain is one of the latest to cater to the next generation with its Reaper line of full-suspension kids’ bikes that come in 24-, 26- and 27.5-inch-wheel versions.
The Reaper 24-inch we tested has an aluminum frame offered in only one color combo—green and gold paint—up front with a black rear triangle. With 130mm of travel out back, 148mm Boost spacing and post-style disc brake mounts, the frame is built right in line with modern standards, including a very nice, molded chainstay protector.
Although our test bike came with 24-inch wheels as requested, the Reaper 24-inch and 26-inch bikes share the same frame and can be run in a variety of mullet configurations, up to and including the mixed-wheel combo of 27.5 inches and 26 inches. Obviously, this requires different fork and wheel combinations, but if you are looking to keep the bike through multiple growth spurts with your kiddo, it might be more economical long term and allow the rider to feel more confident and connected as his or her skills develop.
Rocky Mountain implemented their RIDE-9 adjustable geometry plus suspension rate into the Reaper, allowing for adjustable suspension kinematics and frame geometry depending on how the chip is oriented in the shock mount at the rear triangle. Adjustment of the RIDE-9 changes the head tube angle from 65.3 degrees to 66.8 degrees and the seat tube angle from between 74.8 degrees and 76.3 degrees. It also changes the bottom bracket height by 16mm. For most of our testing, we stuck with position five, which Rocky Mountain classifies as its neutral setting, with a 66-degree head tube angle and 75.5-degree seat tube angle.
One thing that is not adjustable is the chainstay length at 418mm. Compared to other 24-inch bikes in its class, which have production chainstay lengths between 381mm and 438mm, the Reaper is roughly in the middle.
The Reaper came nicely outfitted with a Shimano Deore 10-speed shifter and derailleur paired with a Sunrace 11-42T cassette. Slowing the Reaper are Tektro HD-M286 brakes with short-reach levers and 180mm rotors at both ends. The cockpit is built with a Rocky Mountain 31.8mm stem, 19mm-diameter SDG Slater bars and small-diameter Slater grips. The Rocky Mountain aluminum seatpost is fixed with a Rocky Mountain kid’s Reaper saddle. Its wheels are a combination of Shimano MT400 hubs and WTB SX17 32-spoke rims outfitted with Maxxis DHR II 2.3 rubber both front and rear. The tires are set up with inner tubes because the rims are not tubeless-ready.
Rocky Mountain selected a Suntour Raidon air fork up front with 120mm-travel, 32mm stanchions and external compression, lockout and rebound damping adjustments. The rear shock is a RockShox Monarch R air model offering only external rebound adjustments.
The Reaper’s 130mm-travel rear suspension has the same four-bar Horst-link layout as its adult models with a rocker driving the shock attached to the top tube. In addition to geometry tweaks, Rocky Mountain’s RIDE-9 adjustment system allows for suspension progression adjustments with an Allen key. Rocky Mountain recommends owners adjust the RIDE-9 position for geometry before considering suspension effects or variables like air pressure and shock compression.
Comparing the Reaper to a Transition Ripcord and Spawn Raiju ridden by our 9-year-old tester before we started, the Reaper was noticeably different. The suspension platform is supportive, with little bobbing even when pedaling out of the saddle, and the long wheelbase and slacker head tube angle seemed to allow our tester to stay in the center of the trail more consistently.
Traction at the rear wheel was sometimes an issue as the terrain got steep, however. There were several times when the rear tire spun unexpectedly on loose-over-hard conditions. Due to our tester’s relatively small size and the longer cranks and chainstays (compared to the other bikes), the rider’s weight wasn’t quite centered over the rear tire contact when torque was applied, causing the spin. Our test rider soon learned to keep pedal cadence up to maintain traction, which kept the bike tracking over water bars and square edges nicely.
The slacker head tube angle, longer chainstays, and increased wheelbase allowed the Reaper to make our tester more confident on descents as speed increased. On curvier sections of trail, the test rider initially struggled with the longer wheelbase, but after learning how to lean the bicycle more effectively into the turns to engage the edges of the Maxxis Minion tires and work with the bicycle’s geometry, it proved to be a non-issue.
Without prompting, our little test rider commented that the Reaper was initially more difficult to turn and “pop wheelies” on after riding a bike with 381mm stays, but it never seemed to slow him down. Objectively, it appeared that the longer stays of the Reaper helped him with stability and confidence during straight-line descents.
Observing our test rider, the Reaper seemed less playful than some of the other bikes in its class. On rides to and from school, the Reaper seemed less fun on curb jumps and front-yard hucks. Our test rider never commented, though, and when we asked him about our observations, he said that he didn’t notice the difference. One positive attribute seemed to be the bike’s ability to instill confidence on steeper technical terrain. The combination of the SDG Slater cockpit, the Tektro brakes with big rotors and the slacker head tube angle had our tester riding impressive terrain for his age.
WHAT DID WE LOVE?
Rocky Mountain did a thoughtful job selecting components. Most noticeable are the SDG Slater handlebar and grips and the Tektro hydraulic brakes with short-reach levers. The bars are tapered down to 19mm for little hands and are combined with a smaller grip, allowing a fuller grasp of the bars and improved control. The Reaper comes outfitted with very effective components in a package that will work with different wheel sizes as the rider grows.
The suspension was excellent. The fork was easily tunable and provided easy adjustment, and the back of the bike was spot-on despite not having any external adjustment.
WHAT DID WE HATE?
Although we loved the smaller-diameter SDG bars, the interface between the 19mm bar, the 22.2mm brake and shifter was not our favorite. A softer plastic shim was used to make up the difference, allowing the brake and shifter to slide off consistently. The master cylinder would actually rotate towards the bar under braking. An aluminum version would have solved this problem fairly easily.
Rocky Mountain’s decision to use the same frame for the 24-inch and 26-inch Reapers produces mixed results. It undeniably allows the bike to be more versatile and valuable as the rider grows into bigger wheels, but compared to other frames built specifically around 24-inch wheels, climbing traction and handling are compromised.
No dropper post? No tubeless rims? Maybe we are expecting too much these days, but the addition of a Rocky Mountain Toonie Drop 80mm post and the rims set up ready for tubeless would have been nice when buying a bike for almost $2300. The 26-inch version gets these things but does cost more.
Great components, a high-quality frame and room to grow make the Reaper 24-inch something to seriously consider. The smiles this bike brought to our test rider were never-ending, and it noticeably improved his confidence and ability to tackle challenging terrain when he was ready.
We love the fact that Rocky Mountain truly focused on designing a quality kids’ bike that can last for years. Long gone are the days of kids’ bikes with poor components and steep, standard geometry. Welcome the Reaper; don’t fear it.
CATEGORY: Kid’s Full suspension
WHEEL SIZE: 24″
SUSPENSION: 120mm (front), 130mm (rear)
Weight: 29 pounds (without pedals)
Sizes: One size
Head tube angle: 66°
Seat tube angle: 75.5°
Bottom bracket height: 290mm
Chainstay length: 418 mm