THE TEN BEST KIDS’ MOUNTAIN BIKES – YOUTH RIDES THAT RIP
High performance rides for the little ones
There is no better way to groom the next generation of mountain bike riders and racers than starting them early. Modern kids’ bikes are a far cry from the Schwinn Stingrays that many of their parents learned to ride on. These bikes have many of the same technical features of adult bikes, making them more capable and fun to ride than ever.
THE TEN BEST MOUNTAIN BIKES FOR YOUR KIDS
FEZZARI LONE PEAK
Consumer-direct brand Fezzari offers a versatile and capable hardtail for riders ranging from about 4-foot-2 to 4-foot-10. It is spec’d with 24-inch wheels and an 80mm-travel Suntour air-sprung fork, but is designed to grow with the rider since it can also utilize 26-inch wheels with a fork swap. High-end features such as a SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and Stan’s Arch D tubeless-ready rims really set the Lone Peak apart from department store bikes. Other highlights include high-volume 2.6-inch-wide tires, a slack 67-degree head tube angle, and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with short-reach levers that are perfect for small hands.
Little rippers will dig the Ripcord’s 100mm of wheel travel with high-quality RockShox Monarch shock and Judy Silver fork. This 24-inch-wheeled bike is built with high-end components like SRAM’s NX 1X 11-speed drivetrain and Shimano’s Mt410 hydraulic disc brakes. It even comes with the legendary Maxxis Minion DHR and DHF tire combo that’s likely on the parents’ bikes—yet another reason to teach kids not to skid from an early age.
PREVELO ZULU THREE
As the brand name suggests, Prevelo focuses on kids’ bikes with models ranging from balance bikes to 24-inch-wheeled hardtails. The Zulu Three is a 20-inch-wheeled version designed for riders in the 5 1/2- to 9-year-old range. It is available in two versions. The standard model features a 40mm Spinner suspension fork, while the Heir version has a lighter 80mm-travel carbon fiber Heir-branded fork. Both versions are built with tubeless-ready tires and rims, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and Microshift 9-speed drivetrains. Upgrade options include custom color grips, a dropper post, rider name lettering and Protaper handlebars.
COMMENCAL CLASH 20
Adults will be envious of the Clash 20’s clean and stylish looks that are exactly like the French brand’s adult bikes, right down to its internal cable routing. It has a stout aluminum frame and 120mm of travel with a RockShox Deluxe Select shock and Manitou Machete Junit Pro fork. Build spec is on the higher end of the kids’ bike scale with Shimano’s Deore disc brakes and a SRAM GX 12-speed drivetrain. According to Commencal, the Clash 20 should fit riders 3-foot-9 to 5-foot-3.
CANNONDALE KIDS’ TRAIL BALANCE
Brand loyalty starts at an early age, and so will basic riding skills with Cannondale’s Kids’ Trail balance bike. This lightweight push bike is built with Cannondale’s SmartForm C2 aluminum, and it even features a rigid version of the brand’s trademark Lefty fork for maximum style points on the trail or at the park. It features a rear hand brake with clean internal cable routing so that kids can learn the fine art of braking early on. According to Cannondale, this bike should fit most kids age 1 to 4 years old.
TRAILCRAFT MAXWELL 24
This Fort Collins, Colorado-based brand’s goal is to create bikes that they’d want their own kids to ride. Its Maxwell 24 is a 120mm-travel full-suspension trail bike named after one of the brand’s local trails. It has a claimed weight of just 24 pounds, features a true Horst-link-style rear-suspension design and has short 390mm chainstays to keep it nimble. One of the biggest differences between the Maxwell and other kids’ bikes in its class is that instead of being offered in just one model, you can get this bike in four different colors and builds with multiple upgrades and options.
SPAWN ROKK 24/26
Spawn Cycles is a brand that specializes exclusively in kids’ bikes, with models ranging from 12-inch wheels for ages 2 and up to 27.5-inch wheels for age 11 and up. Its Spawn 24/26 has 140mm of wheel travel and a Horst-link-style rear-suspension design. As the child grows, this bike can be converted to 26-inch wheels, thanks to flip chips at the rear Horst-link pivot that compensates for the size difference without compromising geometry. It is offered in two colors and one build option, with a SRAM NX 1×11 drivetrain and Level hydraulic disc brakes.
SCOTT RANSOM 400
A flip chip allows the 24-inch-wheeled Ransom 400 to grow with a rider and utilize larger 26-inch wheels as they get bigger. It features an aluminum frame with 130mm of travel and an X-Fusion air shock that’s paired to a 140mm-travel X-Fusion Slant RC fork. Since the fork is a 26-inch model, there’s no need to upgrade with the wheel swap. This bike is available in one model built with a Shimano Deore 11-speed 1x drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes and a full Syncros cockpit complete with 80mm dropper seatpost.
MARIN RIFT ZONE JR
With 130mm of travel front and rear, the new 2023 Rift Zone Jr is like Marin’s adult model that somebody accidentally put in the dryer on high heat. This shrunk 24-inch-wheel aluminum-framed trail bike comes built with a Shimano Deore 11-speed 1X drivetrain and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. One key feature on this Marin that’s missing from some bikes in this category is the use of tubeless-compatible rims so the little ones can also reap the benefits of ditching the tubes. Marin also offers a larger 26” wheel version of the same bike for slightly bigger kids.
TREK ROSCOE 20
This little hardtail has one of the oldest tricks up its sleeve for simple rider comfort and traction. Its little 20-inch wheels are mounted with 2.8-inch-wide “mid-fat-inch” tires for above average traction, control and comfort. Tektro mechanical disc brakes should offer ample stopping power, while a simple 1×8-speed drivetrain makes shifting a simple affair for newer riders. According to Trek, the Roscoe 20 is ideal for riders 45 to 52 inches tall.