It's almost a daily occurrence in this line of work to be bombarded with the next better, faster, more amazing product. For better or worse, technology doesn't stand still and marketing firms are busy pushing the latest, greatest life-changing thing. Much to my surprise, Prevelo's claims of making a better kids' bike were legit.
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A low center of gravity
To make the 20-inch-wheeled Zulu Three easy for smaller riders to ride Prevelo designed the bike around a lower bottom bracket.
Low bottom bracket heights are great for cornering and stability, but also limit ground clearance. To prevent the pedals from hitting the ground, the bike features custom-sized 120mm cranks. Additionally, the shorter crankarms allow for a lower saddle height, yet still lets little riders maintain decent leg extension.
Not the typical low-end kids' components
Along with the unique geometry, the components of the Zulu Three also showed attention to detail and that this bike was meant to be ridden.
The most impressive part was the Shimano Zee rear derailleur. It's a super-smart spec simply because it's a short cage, which provides vital ground clearance with the 20-inch wheels and lowered bottom bracket. The fact it has a bounce-reducing clutch is an added bonus.
On the front, an air-sprung suspension fork was said to be tuned for lighter weight riders but still seemed a bit overdamped. Granted, it's tricky to make such a short-travel fork feel plush even for adult-size wheels.
The last piece of spot-on kit were the hydraulic brakes with short-reach levers. Kids have little hands so they need the brake levers closer in and need more assistance, and the Promax disc brakes delivered on both.
Being 1.9m (6'3") tall, how did I test a kid's bike? Well before bringing the bike in, I called two friends with kids I know to be athletic, talented riders. As expected, both parents were stoked to let their kids try a brand new, high-zoot bike.
The first tester was Isaac. He's seven, and about 4ft / 122cm tall. He instantly loved the bike. Even though his own bike has gears, his mom said that he "really enjoyed the shifting."
His dad relayed to me that "his bike handling improved significantly... he's clearly much more comfortable." He also noticed that "the bike seemed to enable him to intuitively use his body for bike handling."
When I asked Isaac what he thought, he exclaimed, "it's awesome!" His dad backed that up, mentioning, "it was almost impossible to get him to leave the bike park. He wouldn't stop!"
The second tester was Caiden. He's six years old and around 3ft / 91cm tall. His dad commented that the bike's fit "put him more inside the bike, opposed to being on top or too high centered."
Both sets of parents were shocked at how quickly their little kids not only became comfortable on the bike, but how much better they were riding.
The third kid who tried the Prevelo was a 6-year-old girl who can ride, but isn't super into her bike. Her mom was astonished at how within a few pedal strokes she was zooming around the driveway, taking corners, and steering in and out of parked cars and people. She couldn't really touch the ground at a standstill, but while rolling, her confidence was better than on any other bike she had ridden.
Almost an adult bike price
The Prevelo was a huge hit with every kid who swung a leg over it, but any way you look at it, £680 / $899 / AU$1,126 is a whole lot of money. Especially for a bike that might only last a year or two before your little monster outgrows it. Sure, it should hold a ton of resale value, but it's a lot of dough for most parents.
Prevelo does offer other less expensive bikes, including the lower spec'd, 20-inch-wheel Alpha Three for £372 / $499 / AU$625, as well as other wheel sizes.
Prevelo Zulu Three bottom line
Prevelo is definitely onto something with the low-center-of-gravity kids' bike geometry. It's not just another marketing claim, it actually works as shown by the three different kids that hopped on the bike and instantly took off.