The first time I went to the Sea Otter Classic, in 1998, it was beginning its growth out of being a purely mountain bike event and into an interdisciplinary mountain/road celebration. Compared to the festival atmosphere of an event like Big Bear or Mammoth Mountain, Sea Otter had a ways to go on the expo front. It also had a ways to go to become an event that really had something for everyone. Part of that evolution was beginning to embrace children and how they are from where the next generation of riders—of bike buyers!—will emerge.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and there are pump tracks for kids of any age, dirt jump tracks and other attractions, though I didn’t see the big clear floating balls that kids roll around in this year—organizers needed the space for even more booths.
Perhaps the most notable change on this front are the sheer number of companies offering bikes for kids. Isla Bikes clearly leads the pack in terms of the number of models on offer. With more than a dozen models spread over several price points, Isla Bikes is perhaps not the 800-pound gorilla, but they are at least the 400-lb. sow.
What makes Isla Bikes so interesting is that not only have they thought out a pretty genius progression of bikes for growing kids, but they have done so all with an eye toward the kids’ enjoyment. Their bikes not only fit, they handle well and it’s apparent when a child gets on one. They ride with a steadier, more confident demeanor. Add to that the fact that they offer a very complete line of accessories with everything from racks to fenders and replacement tires and they are a line any parent ought to consider.
GT is a brand I first got to know as a bike shop employee selling BMX bikes, and then mountain bikes. BMX bikes were easy. Most brands offered a single size (though some did offer two, with one having a shorter top tube) and kids were either big enough or not; saddle height mattered not at all because you stood to pedal them.
But at this year’s spring version of Interbike, GT showed off a new line of mountain bikes for kids. They come in five sizes, based on wheel size: 12-inch, 16-inch, 20-inch, 24-inch and 26-inch. They feature a narrow Q-factor to accommodate kids’ smaller hips and shorter cranks, plus a low bottom bracket with very low standover. They refer to the sizing system for their bikes as Legit Fit and the bikes are designed to accommodate kids from as short as 2-feet, 10-inches all the way to the point when a rider graduates to adult bikes.
Sombrio is a stablemate to GT within Cycling Sports Group, so they were roped in to create a mountain bike kit for half-sized rippers. The design draws from the same electric hues employed on the bikes, giving kids a chance to be even more stylish and matchy-matchy than mom or dad. It’s worth noting that not all parents are going to want to shop online for a bike, which is currently the best way to purchase an Isla Bike, which makes the widespread availability of GT bikes all the more attractive.
I ran across a new brand in kids bikes, called Prevelo. Led by Jacob Rheuban, a young family man who is something of a serial entrepreneur (he’s also got a green-energy startup), Rheuban had the good sense to seek out a bike industry veteran to help with the design of the bikes as well as sourcing. Imagine taking an experienced product manager and tasking them with creating a complete line of kids’ bikes. But imagine someone getting to focus on that, rather than doing it while simultaneously revamping the entire mountain bike line for 2018. What you get are intelligently designed bikes that are well-made and spec’d with parts appropriate to the needs of kids.
What I find so intriguing about the Prevelo bikes is that they are taking steps I find unusual among bikes for little people. The bikes in the shot above, the Zulu Four (nearest) and the Zulu Three, both use an air shock, rather than a spring, a 10-speed 1x drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. All for $899. This is a company that’s going to make a splash.
If you value independent media, please lend your support to RKP.
To learn more about our new subscription program, please read this.