A well though-out package that packs a safe and secure feel
For £400, the Cannondale Cujo 24 delivers a well though-out package that packs a safer and more secure feel than a flexy, more flyweight machine.
Cannondale Cujo 24 need to know
- Low-slung smart-formed aluminium frame
- Plus-sized 24in x 2.6in tyres
- Shimano Revo 8-speed gears
- Kid-proportioned grips, bars and brakes
I’ve been testing (adult) mountain bikes at mbr for years, so when it was time for a new bike for my nine-year-old, it made sense to apply all my knowledge into Martha’s perfect set up. Like any parent knows, a wrong bike choice will get plenty vocal ‘feedback’ if it isn’t exactly right for the kind of riding you get up to. I’m lucky in having enough experience to have choose what bike my daughter might love and get her buzzing and hopefully sharing rides together for years to come.
My pick was this Cannondale Cujo 24. I know from testing tons of hardtails, Plus tyre-d bikes add a ton of comfort and stability and that makes them a surefire beginner option. It made sense then fatter tyres would feel easier to balance on as a child makes their first steps off road.
I scoured the internet and popped in a few local dealers to get a hands-on with a few different brands, and Cannondale not only had some really well thought out kids bikes, this low-slung alloy Cujo got Martha’s attention and approval in the looks department straightaway too.
With a sleek hydroformed aluminum frame, it’s one of a few to apply this ‘more stability’ logic to kid’s bikes, and uses 24in wheels with fat 2.6in-wide rubber. For our mixture of cruising round town, the park, pump track, and also mellower off-road MTB trails in local woods, it looked great. My only potential concern was whether the wider tyres extra weight would be a hinderance on the road and tarmac routes we often ride.
The tyres in question are Kenda Slant Sixes; smaller versions of a low-profile blocky tread MTB tyre. They sit on wide-rimmed, double wall, aluminum wheels that give good support, and actually roll fast and grip well, even with lower pressures for more traction and cushioning. There’s tons of mud clearance in the frame and the rims are pretty heavy duty – handy if your youngster is hell bent on smashing into and off everything, and I can’t an average nine-year old doing too much damage, but the tradeoff is the wheels make the Cujo a chunk heavier than a previous Isla bike Beinn 20.
Martha’s confidence tackling small roots, looser and wetter surfaces has been totally transformed by the Cujo though. She’s getting older and more confident anyway, but there’s no way she’d tackle some terrain we’ve hit on longer rides on man-made surfaces and bridleways, without the added security of those 2.6in tyres. The extra stability in terms of grip and balance is also bolstered by a super low bottom bracket that makes the Cujo feel very planted and stable.
I probably shouldn’t be riding it at my size, but a quick blast told me the steering is neutral and stable too. With a sub 70-degree head angle, there’s no flop at slow speeds, but it doesn’t turn so quickly as to unsettle rider position. This is really useful since kids tend to steer a bit enthusiastically at times, so it’s important the steering isn’t over-reactive with children’s narrower handlebars.
Across months of riding, including nearly every day in ‘lockdown’, nothing’s come loose or rattled, and we’ve not had a single puncture. I’ve tweaked the rear gear cable to tune shifting, and adjusted the calipers on the cable-operated disc brakes to ensure smooth running out of the box, but a shop should do both these for you.
The disc brakes use Tektro levers that are smaller to suit kids hands and easy to reach. Being non-hydraulic, they aren’t the most powerful compared to grown up bikes, but fine for a kid and work whatever the weather. Shimano take care of the drivetrain and gearing. Cranks are 130mm long to match kids’ short legs and, crucially, also improve ground clearance – important when losing the battle of trying to get youngsters not to pedal over bumps or pump track rollers, which can be a prime potential crash situation. Note to parents – crank arms need to be level over obstacles to avoid striking the ground and unbalancing the rider, if you can get your kids to pay attention. Small plastic pedals here help with clearance too and grip OK, but aren’t so sharp to automatically hack up shins if there’s a slipped pedal.
On hilly rides, the Cujo’s gearing range is sorted – a 30/34 easiest ratio is good for grinding up slopes, and any easier might not help when kids tend to give in and get off if speeds get so slow they feels like they might topple over. The chain is held on by a wraparound cog guide as well. The grip shift changer fits well with the thinner diameter grips too and it’s easy for a child to get their head around in terms of faster/slower with a flick of the wrist.
The only negative you could say about the the Cujo then is the weight I mentioned – it’s quite heavy compared to some for the same cash; felt mainly when you have to pick the bike up. The extra chunk is also reflected in the acceleration not being the snappiest, but, once rolling, it really trucks on with great momentum and rolls faster on uneven surfaces than bikes with skinnier tyres.
It’s s a great bike for any adventurous kid looking to venture beyond tarmac and we’re both absolutely chuffed with it. Martha’s new-found confidence has seen her learning non-handed, pulling little wheelies and regularly riding up to fifteen miles without complaining about being uncomfy, and that’s got to be a total win in any parent’s book.