What is it
At Sea Otter 2017, while walking the maze of new tech and bright shiny goodies with my family, our 11-year-old son, Riley, caught sight of a super bright fluorescent orange bike being proudly displayed at a vendor booth. I was impressed with his eye for the good stuff. The booth belonged to Trailcraft Cycles, a Colorado-based company focused on building high quality 24- and 26-inch kid’s bikes.
After checking out the bikes on display, including the intriguing bright orange full suspension 26er, we could tell they are building bikes that any of us would like to ride. With top quality components, well thought out geometry, sizing and ergonomics, their intentions were clear. Build a bike that a child can ride and perform at their fullest potential. Build the stoke now and the chances of that child becoming a life-long rider are high.
You see, our boy is a new rider and we struggle to make him want to ride with us. After a few unfortunately planned outings that included too much climbing for his little legs he concluded we are out to kill him. It doesn’t help that his current bike weighs 32 pounds. He’s about 60 pounds. Think about that for a minute. That’s like me riding a 93-pound bike.
But these bikes were different and Mtbr got the chance to test one. The model in question was a Maxwell 26. It’s a kid-sized 26er full suspension bike that sports 120mm RockShox Reba air fork, 120mm Monarch RT shock, Shimano XT 11×42 drivetrain, XT brakes, Stan’s Crest MK3 rims with Joytech boost hubs, and a slew of Trailcraft branded parts designed specifically for light weight, durability, and sized just right for our vertically challenged clones. The end result is a shred-worthy full suspension kid’s bike that weighs in at 25 pounds.
- Low weight
- Well sorted geometry for smaller riders
- Kid-sized bars, crank arms, brake levers, and gearing
- Plush RockShox air fork and shock with sag and rebound adjustability
- Boost spacing front and rear
- 1×11 drivetrain with 11-42 cassette and choice of 26t-32t narrow-wide chainring
- Stealth dropper post compatible
- Bright attention grabbing colors
- Customization of builds
- Solid construction and aluminum frame resists impact damage from falls
- Kids outgrow bikes quickly
Over the course of the summer we took the kid and his new favorite bike to a variety of trails that would allow him to test the bike in different conditions, but on trails and features he is familiar with. This would be his first experience on a full suspension bike and all of us were eager to see how it would work out.
His current bike is a hardtail from a quality manufacturer, but given the high weight and his low strength we have often watched him struggle through rock gardens. The back tire bounces around and his ability to choose lines is overshadowed by the need to just hang on and survive.
With this in mind his mom and I would take turns leading and sweeping with our boy riding between us so we could make observations on his body movements, bike movements, and the overall effectiveness of massive weight reduction, air suspension, and kid-friendly ergonomics.
The results were nothing short of awe inspiring. Through tight turns and rock gardens he was able to more accurately choose lines and the rear suspension helped keep him stuck to the bike and the ground. No more feet bouncing off the pedals on bumps and no more, “Oh please let him make it through without crashing” thoughts from me.
It wasn’t all sunshine and apple pie, though. On our first ride down a fun flow and roller enhanced trail we stopped for a photo opportunity and I asked him what he thought about the bike and he looked a little sad and said, “It doesn’t jump as well as my other bike.” My face scrunched up and I said, “Why not? What’s wrong?” I was thinking how in the heck can this bike that costs three times what his old bike cost not be better?
Then it dawned on me: full suspension. The kid had never ridden one and was used to just letting the bike fly off a jump. He had no idea about loading the suspension just prior to take off. After some coaching from mom, an IMBA Level II instructor, he was good to go. Upon reaching the bottom of the trail we were all pretty stoked but now it was time to pay the piper.
That 1.5-mile downhill came at the expense of having to climb 3 miles back to the truck. We all knew it, and given he is not a fan of climbing I settled into what was going to be a slow climb as it always had been before. We set off and as usual I led. After about 10 minutes I looked back and he was right behind me but mom was way behind us. I had no idea she had fallen so far back. It turns out she hadn’t fallen back in the traditional sense. I had sped up assuming the tire noise coming from behind me meant my pace was family-friendly. This kid NEVER passes his mom on climbs and here he was ahead of his mom and with a smile on his face. We slowed down and as she caught up to us she said, “We’re buying him that bike!”
But enough about what we thought. What did Riley think?
“It’s cushy. It’s easy to go uphill. The bike fits me. I liked that the brakes fit my fingers. I want this bike. Are you going to get it for me?” Yes. Yes, we are.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Price: $3299 as tested (other options available)
More Info: www.trailcraftcycles.com