Starting kids early in mountain biking is a great way to make sure they are getting enough physical activity. It is also a great way to ensure positive mental health since mountain biking is an excellent way to boost confidence. Before getting the kids started in mountain biking they will need a bike and accessories, like a helmet. Your search for the best mountain bike for kids should include the following criteria.
The saying, ‘You get what you pay for’ holds true in the mountain biking world. A quality mountain bike is a must to have a safe ride on the trail, but price should also play a factor. After price, the weight of the bike is important. Your kids need to be able to move the bike on their own, and if its too heavy they won’t be able to do that. Info on evaluation criteria, price, weight, performance, frame geometry.
The Trek Precaliber 24 has 24 inch wheels, as the name implies. The Precaliber’s eight speeds are controlled with a grip shifter. The front fork is from SR Suntour and comes with 45 mm of travel. This is a hardtail mountain bike for kids under five feet tall.
The Specialized Hotrock 24 also has 24 inch wheels. The front fork is also by SR Suntour, but it comes with 50 mm of travel. It is also an eight speed kids mountain bike. Trek and Specialized are two of the biggest brands in mountain biking, so its no wonder these two models draw such a comparison.
Best Value Kids Mountain Bike: Trek Precaliber 24
The Trek Precaliber 24 costs considerably less than the Hotrock 24. The price comes in at $289 compared to $500 for the specialized bike. When compared to bikes from a big box retailer it may seem expensive for a simple kids bike. However, you will find that Trek and Specialized bikes hold their value much better than other brands. This is because you are getting a dependable bike that will last a long time from both brands.
The Trek Precaliber weighs in at 26.3 lbs or 11.93 kg. The 26.3 lbs is heavy for such a small bike. Trek’s Alpha Silver aluminum is the material used to make the frame. This isn’t a professional racers downhill bike. Precalibers are built with sturdiness in mind rather than weight savings. This is due to the normal abuse kids put their bikes through. Getting left outside, and dropped frequently, will not be a problem for the Precaliber frame.
The bike does come with rim brakes which will struggle to stop the bike adequately when riding in bad weather conditions. However, the old fashioned foot brake is also an option thanks to the angle of the top tube. The Precaliber fits a wide range of sizes thanks to the low stand-over height of the angled top tube.
When your kids outgrow the Precaliber they can move into the Marlin series from Trek. Check out this Trek Marlin 6 review when they are getting close to five feet tall.
Most Trail Capable Kids Mountain Bike: Specialized Hotrock 24
The Specialized Hotrock 24 costs more than the Precaliber, but it is also built with better components. For example, the rear hub on the Hotrock is from Shimano while the Precaliber has a lower end Joytech hub. There are several different models of Hotrock 24, so you can truly ‘specialize’ your bike for trail or XC.
The geometry of the Hotrock 24 frame is a bit slack. That slack geometry means your kids will feel like they are in total control when descending downhill at higher speeds. The Hotrock 24 is 2 lbs heavier than the Precaliber. For example, the Hotrock 24 XC weights in at 28 lbs versus 26.3 lbs for the Trek bike.
The entry level Hotrock 24 also comes with rim brakes. You also have less modulation control when using rim brakes versus disc brakes that are standard on adult bikes. In addition to the better rear hub, the Hotrock 24 comes with a chain tensioner built onto the bike. A chain tensioner is not as good as a derailleur clutch, but it is better than nothing. Its a neat feature that should prevent the chain from dropping while changing gears. The extra travel in the front fork also means the Hotrock is slightly more trail capable.
If your child is a serious mountain biker the $110 in upgrades are worth it for the Specialized Hotrock.
If your kid is looking for a bike they can ride around the neighborhood with friends, but also follow mom and/or dad on green trails every once in a while then the Trek Precaliber will work perfectly.