If you're a serious rider, you'll likely want your kids to be too. There just is nothing better than being out on the trail watching your son or daughter conquer those obstacles and gain the strength and confidence to one day out do you on the trail. But they won't ever be able to do it on that piece of crap from the big box store you skimped on last year.
Yeah, I'm talking about that bouncy spring laden, bling covered, hideously overweight POS. Go ahead. Pick it up. It's heavier than your bike, right? How will you ever expect your 8 - 12 year old child to have fun on the trail when they constantly end up
walking lugging that monstrosity up the hill.
It's time to invest a little in a bike that's worthy of the dirt. One that inspires confidence and will be a joy to ride. One that may even be worth racing in the junior circuit. Yes, I said invest. So back away from that new Chris King headset, shun the DT Swiss spokes, and don't even think about that new Brooks saddle, it's time for you to check your own riding wants at the door while you jump start your child toward a lifetime of mountain biking.
Trek is known for it's racing pedigree and this bike is no exception. The MT 240 is well spec'ed for a kids bike and has a fairly aggressive cross-country geometry. It also includes a crank that allows two different pedal positions. In theory this allows you to get more life out of your investment. My son (age 8) is already too tall for the 'short' pedal position, however. My guess is that if the child needs the shorter pedal position they are probably not ready for a 24-inch bike. Component highlights: Shimano Alivio rear dérailleur, tunable 50 mm front suspension fork. MSRP - $430.
The Hotrock is one hot looking bike. It has a fairly aggressive race-style geometry and comes in 2 frame sizes; 11 and 13 inches. For 2008, Specialized has added a lockout on the front fork. While your child will likely want the suspension when not on the trail for bouncing up and down sidewalks, the lockout will work out nicely for long rides on the bike path with the family. A nice touch. Component highlights: Aggressive knobby 1.8 inch tires, front-fork with lockout for 2008. MSRP - $360.
Kona's takes kids mountain biking seriously, with a full range of bikes in many styles ranging from, freeride, bmx, and road. The Hula is Kona's cross-country racer and is built with the legendary toughness that the company is known for. Unlike most of the other bikes available for kids, this bike comes with Rapidfire shifters in place of the grip shifters. Component highlights: Rapidfire shifters. MSRP - $325.
Like the Trek MT 240, this Fisher is well spec'ed. It has a better performing rear dérailleur, Shimano Alivio, than most in this round up and is peppered with Bontrager parts throughout. The Opie 24 is new for 2008 and features an oversize aluminum frames and the multiple pedal position crank found on the Trek. Component highlights: Shimano Alivio rear derailleur. MSRP - $420.
This bike from Giant is intended to do it all for kids. Street, jumping, and trail riding. It has a mixed component set from a variety of manufacturers, no doubt to keep the price relatively low. If you're kid is not going to be in any races and you want a quality all-round bike for him or her at a reasonable price, this could be the one. Component highlights: Kenda K-rad 2.125 inch tires. MSRP - $350.
Here's a wild idea. Why not buy a bike with a frame that can accept both 24 and 26 inch tires? The Carver Mini will do just that and claims to be far lighter than other kids bikes out there. The mini can be purchased as a frame only, frame and fork combo, or full build. Prices range from $399 for just the frame to $1399 with a Marzocchi Fondo fork and cross-country disc build.
Weighing in at about 27.5 pounds the Scale is one of the lighter bikes in this group. Scott is known for light high quality racing bikes and the Scale JR 24 is no exception. Similarly spec'ed as the Trek and Gary Fisher bikes you can expect a comparable price, though I found a 2007 on line for only $350 (a steal if you ask me). Component highlights: Shimano Alivio rear dérailleur. MSRP - Approximately $430 for 2008.