Best kids' bikes: 20in girls' and boys' bikes on test
By David Rome |
Saturday, December 7, 2013 9.00am
The Trek Superfly 20: "best on test" according to Amelie (but also most expensive) David Rome/Future Publishing
Growing big enough to fit a 20in wheeled bike is a momentous occasion in a young cyclist's life. It’s at this point that a kids' bike starts to share many features with an adults', and starts to look like a 'proper' bike. Whether you’re after a boys' bike or a girls' bike, BikeRadar is here to help.
To find out everything you need to consider when buying a kids' bike, have a look at our buyers guide to kids' bikes.
Bikes designed for six- or seven-year-olds start to offer gears, two brakes, a freewheel and possibly suspension. These features come at a price point not too dissimilar to adult bikes.
20in kids' bikes come in various forms, including basic singlespeed BMX-style bikes, internal geared hub rides or derailleur bikes. For the sake of comparison, our testing criteria were that all bikes should feature two brakes (with reach adjustment), a single front chainring and a rear derailleur.
Scott Voltage JR 20
Weight: 12.38kg (27.24lb)
The good: Based on Scott’s credible dirt jump line-up, cool chunky frame, capable suspension, off-road ready, bottle and cage included, low starting height
The bad: Heavy, low maximum seat height
Buy if: You’re after a capable mountain bike that can handle some airtime
The Voltage is based on Scott’s popular adult dirt jump line-up. With a chunky square-edged frame and proper suspension in the form of a XCT Jr fork, this bike is made to withstand the most abusive of seven year-olds. Parts from well-known mountain bike brand Syncros are featured throughout the bike, along with a bottle and cage, so plenty of style points are earned. The quick-release wheels and seatpost aren’t common on bikes for kids of this age, but may be handy for parents who have wheel-off transport racks.
Kids' thoughts: Lili: “It rides fast, it's comfortable and I really like the water bottle”.
Trek MT 60 Boys
Weight: 11.57kg (25.45lb)
The good: Adjustable length cranks, great sizing, grippy tyres
The bad: No kickstand, oversprung suspension
Buy if: You want a basic, yet fully capable off-road ready ride
The MT 60 is a classy ride. It’s cheaper than many others on test but competitive in all areas. The standover isn’t the lowest, but a long seatpost offers a tall maximum height. The length of the crank arms is adjustable, and they feature a 120mm option (shortest on test), which increases the size range of the bike. The suspension fork, as experienced with the Merida (below), is a gimmick and does little for a light child. The quill stem further cheapens the otherwise great build. It also comes in a pink girls' version.
Kids' thoughts: Charlie: “I really like the black and blue colours and the bike is very comfortable to ride”
Merida Dakar 620 Boys
Weight: 12.01kg (26.42lb)
The good: Tall max height, seven-speed gears, adult looks
The bad: Oversprung suspension,150mm cranks, tall standover, high starting height, heavy
Buy if: You’re getting into the 20in size late, want a solid build or need a black bike
The Dakar’s hydroformed tubes take inspiration from Merida’s adult models. The black colour scheme is a mature choice, and polarised our test team. Similar to the Scott Voltage, the sturdy build is designed handle abuse. Bidon cage mounts are provided, but with space for a child’s bottle only. Seven-speed gears offer a suitable range. The suspension fork is a gimmick, completely oversprung for a child and has a harsh bounce back. Combine this with a high overall weight and tall starting height, and the Merida isn’t well suited to smaller children.
Kids' thoughts: Noah: “I really like this bike. The seat is comfortable, it’s good on grass, comfortable and I like the colour”
The good: A great bike to introduce your child to mountain biking
The bad: Suspension fork is more of a token addition
Buy if: You're looking for an introductory mountain bike without extra weight
The Frog 60 is a great bike to introduce your child to mountain biking, with 55mm travel front suspension and seven gears easily controlled with a Shimano Revoshifter. The frame is lightweight aluminium and has aggressive geometry that would look at home on the freeride circuit, with the added benefit of giving a reduced standover height. Our only concern is that the heavy suspension fork is more of a token addition rather than bringing any huge rewards. That said, the importance of having a bike that looks like mum and dad's should not be underestimated.
The good: Off-road ready bike without a weighty fork
The bad: The price is steep – but you get what you pay for
Buy if: You want a versatile kids' bike that can cope with anything
The Islabike Beinn can be customised to meet the demands of even the most unruly seven-year-old. With countless additional options you can customise what is already a great child's hybrid into a smart mini tourer or trail-ready off-road machine. It's made almost entirely from aluminium parts and boasts a SRAM seven-speed groupset complete with Islabike's own scaled down brake levers. Suspension is sacrificed in order keep the Beinn light. With the exception of the size, the Beinn feels every inch an adult's bike, with quick-release wheels ensuring the bike can be stored or moved easily and 1.3in Kenda tyres helping kids feel comfortable both on and off road.
Giant Revel JR 20 Boys
The good: Good price, upright posture, better for smaller riders
The bad: Relatively heavy for the category, sluggish brake action
Buy if: You want a value-oriented bike from a well-respected manufacturer
The Giant Revel JR 20 is one of the smaller bikes in this group test — something to certainly take note of if your child is under 120cm. The handlebars are narrower, and the reach from the saddle to the handlebars is 5-10cm shorter than many of these other bikes. As one of the world's biggest bike makers (Giant produces bicycles for many other brands besides its own), Giant excels at delivering high-value machines for the money. However, even Giant has to make some concessions to deliver a bike at this price — even without a suspension fork, the Revel JR 20 is a bit of a tank at 11.58kg.
Specialized Hotrock 20
The good: Built from the same great stuff as Spesh's adult bikes
The bad: A little on the heavy side
Buy if: You have a wannabe mountain biking daredevil in your family!
As you'd expect from Specialized, the frame is well built, using the same A1 aluminium that makes up many of Specialized adults' range, with a suspension-specific geometry that looks ready to rip. A Suntour fork and alloy riser bar give the front end a grown-up, attack-minded feel that will have your kid heading for the dirt jumps in next to no time.
Scott Contessa JR 20
Weight: 11.95kg (26.29lb)
The good: Lowest possible seat height on test, girl-specific frame, consistent kids graphics, real suspension, quick-release wheels
The bad: Heavy, love-or-hate colour, uncomfortable saddle
Buy if: You’re after a quality off-road worthy bike
The Scott Contessa takes the great features of the boys' Voltage but moves it to a slimmer (and lighter) frame with cartoon graphics. With a proper suspension fork and scaled down mountain bike position, the Contessa is ready for real rides. For taller kids, lots of exposed seatpost is required for correct saddle height. The Contessa is the most capable girls' bike on test and has the lowest possible saddle height.
Kids' thoughts: Summer: “I really like this but the seat is too uncomfortable”
Merida Dakar 620 Girls
Weight: 12.13kg (26.69lb)
The good: Max saddle height is generous, popular colour, comfortable saddle
The bad: Heavy, poor suspension, tall minimum saddle height
Buy if: You want solid and comfortable bike in a safe and popular colourscheme
On paper, the Merida is underwhelming – heavy and a tall minimum saddle height (especially without trimming the seatpost). The step-through frame adds weight compared to the boys frame, without much gained in saddle height. The fork is the same as the one on the boy’s Merida, so does nothing for a light child. However, the seven-speed gears shift nicely and overall the build quality is high. The white colourscheme proved popular and is easy to dress-up.
Kids' thoughts: Summer: “The saddle is comfortable and the bike is fast”
The good: Built with practicality in mind
The bad: A bike heavy
Buy if: You want a confidence-inspiring and sturdy bike
The Spice is a girl's bike with a difference. The paintwork has a spattering of pink, but that is where the girly nonsense ends. The top tube is low-slung allowing for plenty of standover room, adding to the confidence-inspiring off-road geometry. The Shimano chainset with chainring guard make for safe, simple gearing, and the rear mech protector is handy for when the bike gets dropped.
B'Twin Misty Girl
The good: Components are worthy of a grown-up bike
The bad: Garishly pink colour is a love or hate choice
Buy if: You're after a cheaper bike and your child likes pink!
If your daughter likes pink then this B'Twin is for her – the Misty Girl is simply dripping with the stuff. Pink frame, pink saddle, twin pink mudguards, pink chainguard and mountable pink handbag make this 20in bike fit for a princess. The bike also comes with bell and kickstand, making it feel decidedly grown-up and interesting beyond day one. It has V-brakes and SRAM shifters to introduce your child to this next level of mechanics.
In conclusion, if you're buying a kids bike from a reputable bike store, it's hard to go wrong. Find the right size, with features suitable to the desired use and, most importantly, pick a colour your child likes!
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