The best mini-mountain bikes for mini-shredders
Forget Raleigh Grifters and Burners, kids these days can nag you for a proper shrunken trail bike, complete with full-suspension, disc brakes and 1x drivetrains. So if they’re faster than you already, why not indulge them in with one of the best full-suspension kids’ bikes on the market and watch them take their skills to the next level.
Got a smaller shredder? We’ve also got a guide to best kids balance bikes and pedal bikes so whatever age your little ones are at, there’ll be an excellent bike for them.
Wheel size: 24in | Weight: 13.9kg |
Pros: Good looking. Sensibly priced and specced. Growing room to upgrade to 26-inch wheels. Confidence inspiring handling.
Cons: Lack of seatpost adjustment. Heavy wheels and tyres. Suspension feels over-damped. Some cheap bits.
Kids’ bikes are a tough market to crack, given the balance to be struck between affordability for parents and a spec to inspire little riders. As such the Marin Rift Zone Jr provides solid foundations and a carefully considered build that can be upgraded and adapted to suit different applications as your kid’s riding progresses.
The fact you can switch the wheels out from 24in to 26in means the Rift Zone Jr could last two ‘buying cycles’ as well, which is a bonus given kids can grow out of bikes faster than they do school shoes, and are often ready to go up a wheel size before you might think.
Wheel size: 24in | Weight: 12.7kg |
Pros:Looks fantastic. Kid-optimised attention to detail. Suspension actually works. They’ll love shredding the downhills…
Cons: …but the climbs will be a drag on those fat Minions. Not cheap. Limited gearing range. Might not last a growing kid very long.
If you started out mountain biking on a rusty Falcon Sierra or wobbly old Raleigh Activator prepare for a shock at how far kids’ bikes have come. And how quickly a quality bike like this awesome looking YT Jeffsy Primo can unleash the proper ripper in your nipper. At a price.
Like anything you get what you pay for, and at first glance you know there have been no corners cut shrinking down YT’s popular all-rounder for a younger generation of riders. And the deeper you dig into the spec the more impressive it becomes, the attention to detail underlining a zero-compromise approach that makes the price actually look relatively reasonable – particularly now it’s been reduced by over £400!
How we tested
Unlike a lot of other kids bike reviews, the full-suspension bikes have actually been tried and tested by the children of some of our regular product testers. Both child and adult provided their opinion and feedback on what the bikes were like to ride, how easy they were to set up and the features and spec each bike offers.
And yes… it’s possible the grownups had a go on the bikes too to check how they performed.
- Best kids bikes: balance bikes and pedal bikes for children
- How to keep things fun when riding with kids
How to choose the best kids’ full-suspension mountain bike
Frame size/bike size
Short legs need low frames to give enough standover clearance to allow kids to put their feet down when unbalanced, and when they’re not moving. Check the seat tube measurement of the bike you’re looking at as well as the standover height, which will typically be measured from the floor, vertically to the mid-point of the top tube (crossbar).
The seat tube length doesn’t tell the full story though, as two bikes with the same wheel size and seat tube length will have different minimum saddle heights if the bottom bracket heights are not the same.
A higher BB will give a loftier saddle height all other things remaining equal. Look for a nice sloping top tube to create as much standover clearance as possible.
Total suspension travel is far less important that how well it works. 100-130mm is plenty for most kids, but look for a fork and shock that can be run at low pressure and still move. At low pressures, there may be too much damping as well, leaving the suspension feeling sluggish and lifeless.
If possible, compress the suspension with the correct fork and shock pressures and check that it moves under your child’s weight and returns fast enough to be ready for repeated bumps.
We’d usually recommend air forks and shocks as they can be tuned more easily as your child grows (and puts on weight). They are also much lighter than steel coil springs, and minimising overall bike weight is critical for kids as they’re much weaker than adults.
Wheels and tyres
Try to get the lightest you can. A kid is unlikely to destroy a light wheel because they don’t generate the same forces as an adult. Any weight saved here will really help make the bike easier to control and help your child ride more confidently and dynamically.
Tyre pressures will be very low, and it makes sense to save more weight by going tubeless. Look for a fast-rolling tyre as kids will find it easier to get moving and cover ground. Bigger volume tyres will add comfort, grip and control if their bike doesn’t have suspension.
A single-ring drivetrain is a great idea as it’s much easier to understand when there’s just one set of ratios to deal with. It also makes for a lighter and more reliable bike.
Try to choose a wide-ratio cassette at the back to help with climbing, as kids will typically need lower gears than adults to compensate for shorter legs and less strength. Cranks should be short – 155mm works well with 24in wheels.
The most important aspect with brakes is that the levers can be adjusted close enough to the bar for little hands, and the levers have a light action, so don’t need lots of strength to pull. Try to move the levers inboard on the bar so that your child can use one-finger, right at the end of the lever, to pull the brake.
Look for compact saddles, skinny grips and miniature pedals. Handlebars can be cut down to suit and dropper posts can be really useful, but check you can insert the post fully in the frame as there’s no use in a dropper that sticks several inches out of the seat tube.