Since this post, I have come across a few other options that may work for some people. These are pricey solutions but if you have the cash these look like great alternatives. Again, I think weight is the biggest thing. I emailed Brian below and the Phenom weighs in at approximately 29lbs. That is less than the Rocky Reaper. I know a dad that bought his son a used Stinky. The poor kid simply could not peddle it up any hills. He then got him an Opus Fever…game changer. If I was to pick again I would look at the Opus Fever or the Kona Shred (the Rocky Reaper isn’t produced any longer).
Tyler Benedict / BikeRumor.com :
Developed by Brian Stanton, their frames are all 6061 alloy, and all made in California by Ventana. They offer both hardtails and full suspension that accommodate 16″ or 20″ wheels, plus a new 24″ full suspension platform. The Lil Shredder Phenom 24″ frames start at $1,350 and complete bikes start at $3,200. It gets a tapered headtube and keeps the adjustable length suspension.
Ben Delaney / Bikeradar.com :
Launched three years ago, the kids bikes range from $175 to $720. So why kids bikes in this price range?
“For one thing, Mike Bajohr (Opus Bikes kids’ category manager) could not find a kids bike that he would be proud to put his kid on,” Dimmick said. “That was the impetus to bring something to the market that’s just not there. That’s a gamble. Second, he couldn’t find bikes that his two boys would not destroy.”
Another option I have seen recently is to buy a XS Women’s bike. The Giant Trance X2 is a very nice option. Pricey at $2350 for a kids bike, but if your kid is into biking… I was in the bike shop a few weeks ago and weighed it. It weighs less than the Reaper that I bought for my son (see below). The added benefit is that you get a bike for your wife at the same time!
This season I have spent hours, maybe days, agonizing and reviewing kid’s 24” mountain bikes (24” refers to the wheel size not frame). 24” bikes are usually suitable for 9-13 year-olds. There is a lot of choice out there and a lot of variables to consider. To make it easier on myself I reduced my variables down to 5; Frame material, brakes, fork travel, shifter type and cost.
Consider a 9 year old weighs about 60 lbs, and a bike about 30 lbs. That’s 50% of their body weight. If I were to apply that ratio to myself, I would have a 90lb bike! Of course I am doing bit of an exaggeration, but weight matters. My first criteria was that the bike frame had to be a light aluminum alloy. Almost all quality bikes are, but needless to say Wal-mart bikes aren’t. If you find yourself in a Wal-mart or equivalent shopping for a kids bike, you should leave the store immediately. By the way, aluminum numbers are temper designations for the alloy. The 7000 series is stronger than 6000. Kona uses 7005 aluminium for the Shred and Stinky. If you are worried about strength I guess that’s the way to go…but I have doubts that my 60 pounder is going to break a frame anytime soon.
If your kid is planning on doing any lengthy downhill trails, I would say disc brakes are a must especially if the trails are muddy or wet. You want them to be able to easily control their speed and stop when they need to. Linear-pull brakes are not reliable when wet and don’t have the stopping power. However there are two kinds of disc brakes; mechanical and hydraulic. Hydraulic brakes are easier to pull for small fingers and don’t require adjustment as the pads wear. If you have the choice go hydraulic, though they are more expensive.
Suspension on a kid’s bike is pretty weak generally. Perhaps its a cost thing, or they don’t really need that much suspension given their weight. Regardless I tried to maximize the travel on the front fork. There was a lot of travel variability across the brands, ranging from 50mm to 120mm. The only quality full suspension bike I found was the Kona Stinky 2-4. Unless your kid is downhilling at a bike park everyday, this bike is probably overkill. Certainly the rear suspension adds significant weight and makes pedaling up more difficult.
Components and Drivetrain
Let’s face it, manufacturers aren’t going to put top of the line components like Shimano XT on a kid’s bike…too expensive and not required. Most bikes come stock with decent recreational components so I wasn’t really too concerned about weeding through all that detail. I looked for reputable brands like Shimano and left it at that. What I did ensure was that the shifters were trigger type vs. grip twist. I think trigger shifters give kids more control shifting gears one at a time rather than doing a “motorcycle throttle” and going through all the gears in one motion. Also, does your mountain bike have twist shifters?
New or Used?
Quality is hard to come by. Good used bikes at a decent price are snatched up fast (I know after spending way too much time on Pinkbike). So if you can afford new…go for it! Especially for a 24” bike as it will last for a few years. Your LBS may have a line on a used bike, but I think they grab any deals they come across for their own kids. I would. I also think you need to check out at a bike in person, so I shy away from buying online from far off lands. Mountain bikes have lots of things that can go wrong and you want to inspect them closely. However, buying used online is great if you can find a local seller. My favorites to search were pinkbike.com, ebay.com, craigslist.org and kijiji.ca.
Here are the 10 mountain bikes I reviewed:
|Trek MT220 (2012)||$ 340||6000 series Alum||Linear pull||40mm||Grip twist|
|Giant XTC Jr. 24 (2011)||$ 360||6000 series Alum||Linear pull||50mm||Grip twist|
|Scott Voltage JR 24 (2011)||$ 380||6061 Alum||Linear pull||50mm||Grip twist|
|Marin Bayview Trail (2011) *||$ 380||6061 Alum||Linear pull||50mm||Trigger|
|Specialized Hotrock A1 FS 24 (2011)||$ 440||6000 series Alum||Linear pull||50mm||Grip twist|
|Norco Jammer (2011) **||$ 520||7005 Alum||Mechanical||50mm||Grip twist|
|Devinci Hucker Jr. (2011)||$ 599||6061 Alum||Mechanical||100mm||Trigger|
|Kona SHRED 2-4 (2011) ***||$ 699||7005 Alum||Hydraulic||63mm||Trigger|
|Rocky Mountain Reaper 24 (2011)||$ 699||6061 Alum||Mechanical||100mm||Trigger|
|Kona STINKY 24 (2011)||$ 1,679||7005 Alum||Hydraulic||100mm||Trigger|
* The 2010 SE had mechanical disks and 70mm forks.
** Predecessor is the Kompressor with Hydraulic brakes, 120mm travel and trigger shifters. Some review comments were negative on Kompressor quality.
*** The 2011 is a beefier version than previous years. Looks like the Stuff was rolled into the new Shred. The old Shreds had mechanical discs.
If you need more detail on the components of each bike try http://mountain-bikes.findthebest.com, it could be handy tool.
In the end we decided on buying a new Rocky Mountain Reaper 24 from my local bike shop. We test rode it and my son liked it. It had almost everything I wanted, for a price I could live with (got a “good customer” discount from my LBS too). I will probably have to upgrade to hydraulic disc brakes as the Reaper comes with mechanical. If my LBS carried Kona, I would probably have gone for the 2011 Kona Shred, as it comes stock with hydraulic brakes.
Okay, now forget all of what I have just written. If you happen to find the best bike and it’s the “wrong” color with “stupid” decals. Forget it. You are going back to the drawing board. When we were in Fernie, my son was excited to rent a Kona Stinky 24 until he actually saw the bike. It had pink decals. He blinked once, maybe twice then said, “Dad, it’s pink…let’s just leave.”