Best kid’s bike ever – Santa Cruz Nomad

Check out 7-year-old Finn's custom Nomad with 26er wheels

All Mountain Trail Enduro

Finn’s Nomad is an expression of a father handing off a lifestyle to his son.

I’ve often thought that it takes a generation to build great athletes in a sport. Parents figure out the new sport, fumble along, invent and build the passion and foundation for a new sport like mountain biking. Then they have kids who grow up with an appreciation for the lifestyle and the sport, get proper training and get some dialed equipment. Check out the best kid’s bike we’ve ever seen.

At age 5, Finn got a Lil’ Shredder full suspension bike. It’s a great bike but how do you follow it up?

Here is an example of one such bike as Forrest Arakawa passed on his deep love of mountain biking to 7-year-old son Finn. But note that the bike is just an object that is passed on. The true work has been done in the last few years, riding together, talking, taking the time to demonstrate why mountain biking is so good. And the greatest example is Finn seeing Forrest’s eyes light up after a bike ride. It’s Finn meeting all of Forrest’s friends who show a deep appreciation for the sport and for life.

In the rain, on A-line we see that it may be a little bit about the bike as well.

Any bike given by a parent to a child is special. A custom bike is even better since it can complement a child’s strengths and address weaknesses. Forrest and master mechanic Marshall Eames poured everything they knew to put together a special bike for Finn.

They started with a Santa Cruz Nomad 27.5 with a Fox 36 and 160mm of travel since the key objective was to shred Whistler Bike Park. Since Finn is only 7 years old, a key mod was to put 26-inch wheels on it to shrink the bike and make it lower.

Fox X2 rear shock is employed. Note the neoprene covered cable housing and camo tape to protect and look good.

The bike came out to 28 lbs and the gearing was tuned for Finn’s developing power, giving him a small 30-tooth ring. Push Industries was employed to custom valve the suspension for Finn’s meager 70 lb weight.

Cranks are an issue since Forrest could only find 165mm cranks initially which are prone to pedal strikes as this bike was lowered with the smaller wheels. Much training was given to Finn though to keep the pedals up and level when the terrain demands it.

Finn rides with confidence on the wet rocks of Whistler’s Schleyer trail

Here are a few words from Forrest:

Mtbr: Can he pedal it?
Forrest: He did 2200 feet of climbing on his first ride and didn’t get off once. It’s much easier to climb with the XT gearing vs the SRAM DH cassette on his old bike.

Mtbr: How much does it cost retail?
Forrest: Priceless.

Few things give a parent more satisfaction than following their kid clear the big jumps at A-line.

Mtbr: How old is Finn?
Forrest: Turned 7 on March 18th

Mtbr: How many years do you think you can use this?
Forrest: Hopefully until this time next year, he’s growing really fast!

This year we didn’t ride MTB too much because he had a pretty busy schedule with school and sports. Additionally, we travel quite a bit to destinations (National Parks) where riding bikes isn’t always legal. So far this year, we have averaged about 3 rides per month on the trail, but he does enjoy the skatepark and riding through town with his buddies. My hope is to get him out 2x per week on this bike over the next few months, even if it’s just to the skatepark so he can get used to it.

The front fork is a very adjustable Fox 36 with the RC2 damper. It was specifically valved by Push Industries for Finn’s 70 lb mass.

It’s quite a bit more bike than his 20″ Little Shredder although you would never know by watching him ride. He literally got on it and felt at home!

That’s the best kid’s bike we’ve seen to date. But in the end, it’s about riding with your kids. Have you passed on your love of the sport to the next generation?


About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • bert sawicki says:

    You have clearly never seen Meekboyz bikes. Purpose built carbon kids downhill bikes. 20 24 and 26 inch http://www.meekboyz.com

  • loll says:

    All due respect, because both father and son can ride. As a parent, I am a full believer to give kids the basic or the standard equal to their peer, and they need to earn premium. It looks like son clearly has earned it in skill level and a sponsorship will take him far.

    On the other hand, this is a bike that someone easily pour their annual savings to get. In LA, it is not uncommon to pull into a gas station to see 17 year olds in their Lotus or BMW. This reminds me of that.

    • Eli says:

      So what? Why is it any of anyone else’s business how much the bike costs? Everyone has their own priorities. Most kids are stuck on junk, so it’s great to give them a bike that’s actually fun to ride and will encourage them to ride more.

    • Forrest says:

      He’s definitely not getting a Lotus my friend:)

  • DPeper says:

    Wow! That is a fantastic bike for the young rider. Extra Mom points for talking the wife into that… Awesome Nomad. M90s in a 26″ someone knows someone cuz you can’t just go order that stuff anymore!

    @bert sawicki- That is a nice spam post but those bikes are nowhere near the level of this fathers labor of love. This young mans father has thought of everything and hand selected the best part for the job. This bike is a one of a kind and meekguys are looking like less in comparison to the obsession featured here.

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      great points @Dpeper

      And this bike is just an object, dream bike project. The real love is displayed every single day as Forrest interacts with his two sons. They’ve done more together in 7 years than many in a lifetime.

    • Forrest Arakawa says:

      Thanks @DPeper!!! It’s working perfectly as he smiles every time he’s on it!!!

  • Steve says:

    @DPeper…. “This young mans father has thought of everything and hand selected the best part for the job.” .. you mean apart from cranks and saddle???

    “nowhere near the level of this fathers labor of love”
    Go to any kids race … DH or XC and you will see plenty of examples of labor’s of love.
    In this case I’m missing perhaps where the love is directed … is it pouring money into the bike regardless of functionality… why not buy a kids saddle? It seems the problem is not that they don’t exist but that the label is wrong….why not buy some appropriate cranks (e.g. Trailcraft) or have some machined? (Or just do it himself) … if its not simply a problem that the label is wrong…. Sure the XT have hollow crank arms and that would mean sticking a older Deore LX or Zee … obviously then upsetting the labels on the bike..

  • Francis Cebedo says:

    @Steve, we can criticize the spokes or the grips, etc…

    The key though is the amount of time that went in to this bike and get the kid ready to ride it at Whistler and the Sierras at this very young age. That means hundreds and hundreds of rides and coaching and motivation.

    And understand that this is work in progress. Cranks, saddles, tuning are all being worked on for this bike and the local, milder trails.

    • dtimms says:

      @Francis, You say hundreds and hundreds of rides? He states in the article he goes a couple rides a month. I don’t get the bike for a kid this size but not my money and he can do what he wants. But it seems like a big show and how fancy he can make his kids bike.

      • Francis Cebedo says:

        good point @dtimms

        I’m thinking the past seven years including all the rides in the neighborhood, with friends etc. When your kid is that small, every pedal session counts.

        Little Finn didn’t get to this level with just a few rides.

      • Forrest Arakawa says:

        @dtimms, he rides a lot around the block. Not too much on the trail because he, like most 7yo’s has a schedule that doesn’t always allow for it. He loves to fish, read, paint, play baseball, ski, swim, skate, scooter, play soccer, look for bugs and spend time hiking with the family. We built the bike because it keeps him safe while riding double black diamond trails in the bike park. So, it may look to you as an extreme expense but to me it’s just the best tool for the job and gave me solace while on the trail watching him fly.

  • dtimms says:

    @Forrest – You built a very nice bike and it is your money and your feeling of comfort your son. Enjoy!

  • Steve says:

    Hi @Forrest, beauty of a trophy ride right there! How tall is Finn? Sizing is always challenging for kids bikes and they can’t demo everything. Any reason why a Spawn FS 140mm bike wouldn’t cut it? Watching those spawn kids whip the bageezus out of A-line with Brook McDonald in their sponsor video certainly makes me think it’d be hard for a kid to out ride one of those bikes.

    • Forrest Arakawa says:

      @Steve – He is 58″ and growing fast! He’s a monster dude, WAY off the charts in terms of height and weight! He’s bigger than many 10yo. The Nomad is equivalent to me riding a V10. It’s just the sickest bike for the job. He ripped all the tech trails as well as the jump lines. When he got into trouble the geometry and suspension did it’s job! There is no better bike out there for him when riding the park.

      Thanks bro

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