Trail Tech: Real mountain bikes for kids

A look at trail-worthy mountain bikes for young rippers

We recently showcased some of the best 20in kids bikes on the market. These are great options for the vast majority of children looking to keep up with mom and dad. But there are a few additional, more trail-worthy bikes you may want to consider if you’re looking to spend some quality time with your young one on singletrack.

The price of admission, coupled with the fact that riders will outgrow these machines in a few short years conspire to make this a decidedly niche market, but if your budding trail shredder wants something capable of keeping up with you on the gnarliest trails, there are a handful of companies that produce pint-sized bicycles that can truly be called mountain bikes.

Lil Shredder – Prodigy, Icon and Phenom

Brian Stanton is a father and mountain biker who founded Lil Shredder out of necessity. “I started going to Whistler with my son when he was very young. There weren’t any good options out there, so I starting modifying bikes for him, putting disc brakes and suspension forks on 16in frames,” Stanton said.

It wasn’t long before Stanton took the things to the next level by producing kids bikes with off-road geometry, spec’d with quality parts that any parent would be proud to hang on their bike.

Stanton’s company produces a full suspension model called the Prodigy and a hardtail called the Icon. Both feature lightweight aluminum frames that are constructed in the United States. Both bikes also use an interchangeable dropout system that's compatible with 16in and 20in wheels, so growing riders can get more mileage out of them.

The Prodigy frame with an MRP (formerly known as White Brothers) Rustler fork and a Fox shock retails for US $1,750. Complete builds start at US$2,550.

The single-pivot Prodigy has 80mm of rear suspension travel

The Icon hardtail frame with Spinner fork retails for US$975. Complete build start at $1,895.

The Icon has a claimed frame weight of 2.1lb (0.95kg)

Lil Shredder has also added a 24in wheeled model called the Phenom to cater to slightly taller riders. Like the Prodigy, it has a simple single-pivot rear suspension, though the travel is adjustable from 4 to 5in.

The 24in Phenom frame with shock retails for US $1,350

Kona – Stinky 24

Kona is synonymous with the freeride movement of the late 90s and early 00s and the Stinky is arguably the most iconic freeride mountain bike of all time.

The Stinky 24 was one of the first kids’ bikes built to withstand the tough love dolled out by young groms in bike parks. It features 100mm of front and rear suspension travel to help budding riders and tackle roots, rocks and tabletops.

The Stinky 24 is still one of the best options available for kids who already know how to spell H-U-C-K

The Stinky 24 retails for US $1,699.

Commencal – Supreme 20 and 24

Commencal makes two versions of the Supreme for up-and-comers

The Supreme 20 is a singlespeed with a light but durable parts kit. It has sturdy double-walled rims and a Fox Float CTD shock that serves up 100mm of rear suspension.

The Supreme 24 looks nearly identical to the full-sized model and has little league enduro world champion written all over it. The Supreme 24 has a whopping 140mm of front and rear suspension travel, hydraulic disc brakes and a nine-speed drivetrain.

Neither model is cheap: the Supreme 20 retails for US$2,799 / £1899.99 while the Supreme 24 retails for US$3,099 / £1999.99.

26in wheels are for kids

One happy consequence of this year’s 650b (27.5in) wheel onslaught is that there’s a glut of heavily discounted new and gently used 26in wheels, frames and forks and on the market.

We spoke with a representative from one online retailer who mentioned that 26in bikes and components are collecting dust on warehouse shelves while all things 29in and 650b are flying out the door.

If your budding rider is around 5ft tall then the world is your oyster when it comes to building up a new mountain bike.

Mountain bikes aren’t the only way to hone trail skills

Last but not least, if you don’t have easy access to singletrack, or you’re looking for a more affordable option, consider looking into BMX racing. It’s a great way to develop the skills needed to be a capable mountain biker at a much more beginner-friendly price.

Related Articles

Back to top