Kids have never had it so good… at least when it comes to mountain biking. There are more trails to ride on and groups to ride with than ever before.
With Blue and Green trails and skills areas can be found at almost every bike park or trail centre, easing little riders in and helping them progress. It’s almost as though the whole ethos of mountain biking for little rippers has changed too, with skills classes, ride groups and races popping up all over the place.
It’s big business too, bike companies are getting in on the act, building cool custom-built machines like the Black Mountain Pinto that grows as your kid does, or the Canyon Offspring Al with its geared hub that automatically switches between two gears. Canyon’s philosophy with its Young Heroes project is that age shouldn’t restrict your access to top-performing bikes, something they grandly call “democratising performance.”
Gone are the heavy, over-geared and ill-fitting clunkers we all learnt to ride on, thankfully. In their place come bikes like the Islabikes Creig Pro series, or Whyte’s new 203 hardtail, a mini version of their adult sized bikes and something the Whyte engineers first custom built for their own kids to ride on.
“What we are really doing it for is to provide kids with really well thought through bikes, that are as rad as mum and dad’s bike, that are light with great modern geometry and look like mini trail bike,” explains Andy Jeffries from Whyte.
What’s changed then, that means parents are happy to shell out hundreds of quid on proper, lightweight and well built gear for their kids? London 2012 helped increase interest in cycling and the social side of parents helping their kids to ride, says Andy Lloyd from Black Mountain. “Then, the MTB generation are now parents and they are so much more knowledgeable’” he says. “They are not looking for a bike with a basket, they are looking for correct crank lengths and q-factor for their kids.”
Could it be that parents are just looking to live vicariously through their kids? Looking for ways to get them away from screens and outside doing something decent? That’s probably a yes on both counts, and it’s already leading to new generations of riders that absolutely shred.
The latest kids gear
SDG Jr Pro kit
SDG has taken its adult-sized contract points and controls, and resized them for smaller hands and feet, meaning there are no gimmicks. The Jr Pro kit includes lock-on grips with small 25-26mm diameter with a tapered and slotted core, and a skinny bar to fit them on, made from 6061 alloy and coming in at 650mm wide. SDG has also included a junior saddle that’s shorter and narrower than adult versions, and their Slater pedals are slimmed down versions of SDG’s full size platforms: they still feature steel pins and a fully sealed cro-mo axle. Finally, there’s a shim kit included so you can mount all the usual controls to the skinny bar.
There are two great and unique things about the TowWhee: it’s elasticated, and it’s quick to install/remove on the trail. It lets you tow your kid up the hill so they can enjoy the descents and don’t have to suffer on the climbs (and so you don’t have to suffer any grumbling on the climbs either). The elasticated ‘bungee’ nature of the strap means that there’s no jerking of the towed rider going in, and there’s also no nasty jolt as the TowWhee reaches full extension (180in, static length is 56in).
Whyte brought out its 400 series kids hardtail in xx it carried over their relaxed and stable geometry ideas, but in scaled down sizing and with 26in wheels. Well, the 203 is scaled down again, with 20in wheels and Whyte’s own seatpost, saddle, bar, stem and grips. The 203 features a quality 6061 T6 alloy frame and Tekro disc breaks with a 160mm rotor on the front, while there’s a rigid fork on the front to keep the weight low — 9.7kg, claimed. Instead the suspension comes from chunky 2.35in Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres, rubber so wide it wouldn’t look out of place on an adult bike.