Buying bikes for little shredders
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
So your boy or girl wants a mountain bike. Maybe their friends got them into it, or they ride with you or sometimes they just want a cool bike to ride to and from school. This little guide is some info on what kind of bikes work well for kids.
Firstly, there is one thing that is guaranteed. If your child is going to ride off road in any sense, they will push a bike to its limits. Jumps, drops, kerbs, trees, ruts and any other manner of obstacle that can be found, will be run into and bike damage will occur.
So if we know this, what's the key to getting the best value out of a bike? Buy something that can take the punishment. Most sub $1000 mountain bikes have several design flaws you should at least know about before making a decision,.
1. Gears. More is better right? Not these days. A solid 10 speed drivetrain with a single front chainring will provide all the gears a kid needs, and with as few moving parts as possible. Bike shops will always say more is better - thats because they look forward to seeing you come back every 6 months for a $200 service. Not us. Buy a 1 x 10 speed or 1 x 11 speed bike. The derailleurs last longer, and you only have a single gear lever and cable.
2. Tires. Most sub $1k bikes come equipped with wafer thin tires. A few skids on the bitumen and you are looking at replacements, starting at $40 a pop plus fitting. Forget it. Decent and trail appropriate tires are worth the investment. Plus decent tires are safer as they have more grip and slide less.
3. Brakes. Hydraulic is a must. Cable actuated are found on some entry level - and they simply don't last. The cables fray and even potentially snap right when you need them. Not worth it.
4. Brands. Shimano and SRAM are the only two brands with a track record of longevity. They have both been in the business for many years. All our bikes only use these brands for brakes and drivetrains.
5. Forks. To the uninitiated, they might not seem like they are that important, but decent forks make or break ride quality, reliability and safety. Rockshox, Fox and Suntour are the only brands to consider for set and forget reliability.
So you can definitely find a sub $1000 bike for your youngster, but be prepared to pay more on maintenance and servicing not to mention broken parts. Most bike shops charge $250+ for a full service which adds up.
A good quality bike will also retain its value better than entry level - so when your young shredder becomes a large one you can trade up by selling their old bike.