At this year’s Sea Otter Classic there was a ton of action for kids. Specialized sponsored the kids pump track; Kona had special T-shirts and stickers to hand out to young visitors; and numerous brands were showing off bikes built just for junior.
“Tools, not toys” is the thinking these brands bring to their youth mountain bikes. The goal is to help kids get a strong start in the sport by increasing enjoyment and maximizing the chances they’ll stick with it. The common thread through each of these bikes is keep it simple and create good fit. With resale value holding strong thanks to their durability, each of these bikes could roll through a whole family — or two.
This new company was started by a dad who wanted a better bike for his son. He began by measuring the entire first and second grade at junior’s school to get a sense of the average height and proportions of his target audience. He then built bike’s with geometry to match.
Cleary Bikes come with a lifetime warranty. They are made from steel for its durability, and to keep the weight down. They come with v-brakes and a rigid fork, because with the riders’ low body-weight, Cleary says that’s all you need. They are also singlespeed, so kids don’t have to worry about shifting gears. Cleary also uses ‘real’ parts that parents—or kids—can work on and adjust.
Our favorite detail is the model names, which are pictures instead of words. Meet the Starfish (12″ balance bike), the Gecko (12″ singlespeed), the Hedgehog (16″ singlespeed), and the Owl (20″ singlespeed). Cleary is now working on a 24” model (yet to be named), that they hope to launch this summer. Here’s a look at pricing and claimed weights.
|Starfish (balance)||Gecko (singlespeed)||Hedgehog (singlespeed)||Owl (singlespeed)|
|12 lbs||15.8 lbs||16 lbs||19 lbs|
Kona Shred 24
In the 24-inch size, Kona had the Shred 24 (also available in a 20-inch version) available for demo all weekend. With the Shred collection, Kona has focused on finding the sweet spot between durability and rideablity with a few thoughtful features to help kids get through those hard-charging years between 8 and 12.
A specially tuned 65mm fork adds some squish, kid-friendly Tektro hydraulic disc brakes bring confidence to stopping, and a 1×7 drivetrain maintains shifting simplicity. A compact rear triangle helps with handling, and an aluminum frame helps keep the weight down.
More info: konaworld.com
Trek Fuel EX Jr.
Trek used Sea Otter to announce the launch of three new models including the 26-inch full-suspension Fuel EX Jr. Though built from the ground up with its own geometry, it shares nearly all of the same features as the adult model, such as ABP, Full Floater, EVO Link, E2 tapered headtube, and an Alpha Platinum Aluminum frame.
The Trek Fuel EX Jr. comes with 90mm of travel in the front and rear specially created and tuned by X-Fusion. The bike is ideal for riders between 53” and 66” tall. Trek has added shorter crank arms and a 2x drivetrain.
On wheel size, Trek says, “26-inch wheels provide the same benefit to your kid that 29-inch wheels provide adults, faster rolling, better traction, and more stability.”
More info: trekbikes.com
Commencal Supreme 20
Commencal builds a full line of mountain bikes including its much acclaimed Meta V4. But our focus here is kid’s bikes. They have nine models all fashioned after their adult size “real” mountain bikes. The best of the bunch was the Commencal Supreme 20.
Full suspension kid’s bikes are few and far between. When you do find one, it can be expensive. But the Commencal Supreme 20 is a great looking dualy with a palatable price tag of $1800. Suspension is tuned for lighter riders, and unlike many kid’s forks that hardly move under an adult’s weight, both the front and rear suspension on the Supreme 20 seemed active and plush.
The frame is 6066 alloy with an 80mm Alpha fork up front and 100mm Rock Shox Monarch with custom valving in the rear. The bike on display was a singlespeed but the Supreme 20 is rear derailleur compatible. The bright yellow color definitely stands out, as does the 26.01-pound weight. — Gregg Kato
More info: www.commencalusa.com