Is your child ready to graduate from biking the neighborhood to hitting the trail on a kids’ mountain bike? Chances are there’s a good place to ride somewhere in your neck of the woods, but before your kids can experience nature on two wheels they’ll need a solid bike. Why? The key to getting your kid to love any activity is to make sure that they’re at least mildly successful when they first try it. For mountain biking, that means picking a trail with a low level of difficulty and equipping your kid with one of the best kids mountain bikes, a ride that can easily handle beginner trails and leave your kid ready to tackle more difficult ones.
But shopping for a kids’ mountain bike can be tricky. Manufacturers often build kids’ bikes heavier because it’s cheaper and parents, cognizant of growth spurts, don’t want to sink a lot into a bike their kid will soon outgrow. While it’s tempting to save some cash this way, it’s worth spending a little bit more if your kid is itching to become a dirt-hopping downhiller. Our picks are light but tough. They come with reliable brakes, smooth shifting, and legit suspensions that add up to a positive introduction to an active nature-based hobby.
If you have an accident-prone kid, this is the bike for them. It's billed as the safest bike in the world, which isn't a claim we can verify, but we can tell you that it's loaded with features designed to keep kids safe no matter what kind of trail they're on. It's engineered to have a lower center of gravity, a feature that makes tip-over accidents less likely. The SureStop brake system activates both brakes with one lever, greatly reducing both stopping distance and the odds of your kid going head-over-handlebars on a quick stop. And every bike comes with a 34-point safety check already completed.
Pros: At 21.5 pounds, the frame is lightweight, so kids don’t need to pedal as hard to fly down the trail. This bike also arrives almost completely assembled so even the least handy of parents can get their kid up and riding quickly, with just the handlebar and pedals to install.
Cons: There are only six speeds, and the tires could be a bit too thin for particularly rocky trails.
This 18-speed bike is fairly lightweight, and it has a host of features that kids will be excited about.
Pros: It’s a great value for the money, with high-quality components from companies like Shimano included at a fairly low price point. There’s also a dashboard-style display that looks cool and shows them which gear they’re using, key information for kids still learning how to shift.
Cons: Some parents say that the shifters can be hard for small hands to operate.
If your little ripper is an aspiring racer, consider this bike. It’s basically a 24-inch cross-country race bike that’s spec’d to put junior riders on the podium. The light alloy frame has low-slung geometry that makes it easy to get on and off and keeps your rider from outgrowing it too soon.
Pros: This ride has components, most notably a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain, that many adults lust after, as well as a high-quality 80mm Suntour fork and highly responsive Tektro hydraulic brakes.
Cons: Premium components mean a premium price, so you’ll want to make sure your kids are going to get a lot of use out of this before you turn over your credit card.
There are thick tires and then there are the 4-inch bad boys that come standard on this bike, appropriately called a fat bike. Just like a monster truck's tires crush everything that comes in their path, the Oso Niño can roll over whatever comes in your kid's way. There are seven gears and disc brakes built on a solid steel frame.
Pros: It’s not just their size. The tires on this bike are low pressure, which means they mold to the terrain and glide more easily on top of snow. This thing also has a steel frame that’s stronger than aluminum and mechanical disc brakes that have plenty of stopping power.
Cons: The steel frame is way heavier than aluminum options, and it might be harder for smaller kids to propel and control.
This single-speed bike couldn't be easier to ride, so it's a great choice for older kids who are learning to ride who want to tackle trails once they get the hang of things. It has 2.125-inch tires for a smooth ride over rough terrain, a low standover frame, and soft PVC grips that make longer rides super comfortable.
Pros: The low standover frame means it’s easy to mount and dismount this ride, and the lack of gears means that kids still nervous about riding won’t have to worry about shifting. The twisting shifter makes it easy to change gears , and the styling looks like an adult mountain bike in a smaller package.
Cons: We don’t love the neon frame, and the downside of a single-speed bike is that getting up hills can be tricky. Save this one for flat rides.
This is a sharp-looking bike. It has a rich blue coat of paint, white front fork, and an all-black chain and gear assembly that look badass together. The six simple speeds in a Shimano 1x6 drivetrain strike a nice balance between the flexibility of a bike with multiple speeds and the simplicity of riding a single-speed.
Pros: The shifter is a trigger that’s easy for smaller hands to operate while rolling, and there’s a guard over the rear derailleur to protect it from damage or slipping.
Cons: At 25 pounds, this bike isn’t as light as some of our other picks, so it’ll take a bit more work to get to top speed.
The most noticeable feature of this ride is the metal coil smack dab in the center of the frame. It's designed to absorb shocks that batter the rear wheels, while the fork absorbs those that hit the front. This dual suspension means a smoother ride, and the thick tires don't hurt.
Pros: This bike comes complete with 21 gears in a Shimano system and a kickstand so it’s easy to park if your kid wants to stop to admire the scenery.
Cons: It’s pretty low to the ground, which makes it easy to mount but harder to ride for taller kids. The derailleur is also exposed, making it easier to slip the chain and/or expose it to moisture.
This 21-speed mountain machine is great for casual rides around town and more intense rides on the trail. It has a front suspension fork, which means that you have a smooth ride no matter how many rocks you run over along the way.
Pros: The High Timber has a full compliment of 21 different speeds, so it’s great for older kids and/or those who have already mastered riding bikes with more basic gear options.
Cons: This thing really feels like an adult bike, but smaller. That means beginning riders should look elsewhere to master the ins and outs of basic trail riding.
Woom makes its kids’ bikes in six different sizes, from the woom 1 (kids 1 and a half to 3 and a half, 31 to 40 inches tall) to the woom 6 (kids 10 to 14, 55 to 65 inches tall). No matter which woom you start them on, if they like it you have an obvious next bike for them, which makes things a heck of a lot easier. Each woom comes in five different bright colors. The woom 4 is the first in the line to include gears, a key tool for mountain biking where the whole point is to go up and down hilly trails.
Pros: All of the tools you need to build this bike are included. There are only eight gears to shift with the grip shifter, so it’s an easier bike to learn to shift on than, say, a 21-speed model. The brake levers are small enough to fit small hands, and the stem that connects the handlebars doesn’t have any protruding bolts for kids to bang into with their legs.
Cons: Kickstand sadly not included, so be ready for your kid to leave this thing lying around a lot unless you have a rack to hang it from or a wall to lean it against.
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