Grom Tripper Ride NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG
REVIEW | EDITORIAL

Andrew's 3.5 Best Kids' Bike Upgrades

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date May 10, 2021
Reading time

Upgrades v. Monies

I know that quality kids' bikes are already expensive. Even fully rigid ones. Hydraulic disc brakes make a massive difference to control on real mountain bike trails, shiftable gears that hit every time and don't derail are huge for confidence, and it really does all start with good geometry.

Despite some two decades working in the bike industry, I was caught out like everyone else last summer when my daughter outgrew her 16"-wheeled single speed and I had to track down a 20"-wheeled bike for her. I knew I wanted hydraulic discs, good geo, and the lighter weight and reduced complexity of a rigid fork. I was lucky to track down an Early Rider Seeker 20", and I have to say that it's easily paid for itself in terms of the number of rides we've done since.

My kid chose to start mountain biking in September and chose to keep mountain biking at night (with lights) in the pissing rain all through the fall and winter months.

Grom Ripper Ride NSMB AndrewM (2).jpg

We witnessed some beautiful sunsets this fall and winter - in between typical Raincouver rides.

Grom Tripper Ride NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

You really can never get enough family time in the forest - not to mention post-ride family treats.

I get a fair amount of correspondence about kids' bikes and riding gear and I also voraciously devour the information I can find. For example, I have to give some props to The Bike Dads for the riding pants find. My grom-ripper has hit the deck in her Adidas Tiro19 pants more times than I care to reflect on. They're very comfortable to ride in, and they make putting knee pads on and taking them off truly easy.

None of the upgrades I'm suggesting here are cheap but whether you're fixing up an old Kona Kula 24" you borrowed from your neighbours or making the best go out of a half-a-grand Giant, these are the keys to your shredder's best mountain bike experience.

  1. Pedals that grip in any weather, in any terrain.
  2. A seat post quick release they can operate themselves.
  3. Maximum tire traction.
  4. An introduction to one of the most important parts of mountain bike culture - past if not present.
Grom Tripper Ride NSMB AndrewM (7).jpg

Hands up if you've never crashed riding up a smooth trail. Yeah, didn't think so. This piece assumes you've already invested in good armour for your grom.

Grom Tripper Ride NSMB AndrewM (8).jpg

Otherwise, buy that first. These Race Face Sendy kids' pads are the first thing we've tried that is better than my Pearl Izumi elbow pads. A more thorough review is pending.

1) Great Pedals

I'm still holding my breath for Chromag to put out a composite (plastic) version of their Radar pedal, or for OneUp to do a smaller version of their excellent composite pedal, or for Kona to add a third, extra-small, size of the composite Wah Wah 2. Or, well, you get the picture.

Until a brand gets out there with a truly good kids' pedal for half the price, Chromag's Radar remains the gold standard and there's a reason I saw them on 90% of the kids' bikes being ridden in the rain this winter. It's no different than buying into a shoe-pedal interface for adults. In the summer, a pair of hard-rubber soles on a poorly pinned pedal is totally survivable, if not comparably enjoyable. In the winter, anything less than confidence-inspiring grip sucks.

Even before Gramma came up with a pair of Five Ten kids' shoes as a gift (more on that below) the Chromag's paired with some Keen hiking shoes was a very good combination. Yes, they're 100 USD | 125 CAD kids' bike pedals. But, assuming they're bombproof, or at most need some bearings, I'm anticipating we'll be amortizing them over some ten years of usage before a bigger size is called for and that's a bargain based on the performance.

Chromag Radar NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

This is the second bike these Radars have featured on and I'm anticipating they'll be ideal for at least two more.

Chromag Radar NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Shoes on the other hand she grows out of at an epic rate. Once you've experienced good grip, though, there's no going back.

Five Ten (or Adidas if you prefer) has figured out what many mountain bike companies have not: hook 'em young. I take Manitou as an example with their high-performance kids' Junit suspension forks. There's a whole generation of kids who are going to think that the Reverse-Arch appearance is entirely normal because they grew up with that being the aesthetic of the best fork available for them.

We had a great result using the Radar pedals with 'regular' kids' footwear, but now that my daughter has experienced real riding shoes I don't think we'll be going back. Where are Shimano, Crankbrothers, and Leatt when it comes to this category?

All the same, I bring it up because if paying for a dozen pairs of mountain bike-specific kids' shoes over as many years isn't realistic for your usage or budget, investing in a pair of Chromag Radar pedals will bring many happy returns with other footwear, whether it be skate shoes or hiking boots.

2) A Kid-Friendly Quick Release

The smile on my daughter's face the first time she used this Wolf Tooth quick release was amazing. I realize some folks are going "WTF?!?" right as I advocate spending 37 USD | 47 CAD on a flippin' seat post binder for their kid, one that likely won't be compatible with the next size of bike, but I come at from a few perspectives.

1) Cheap quick releases SUCK. And anyone who has had one fail in the woods, usually from the little insert everything slides on disintegrating, is nodding their head right now. My kid is not tall enough for a dropper post yet, and even if she was that's a huge investment in itself, but a great quick release like a Chromag QR or this Wolf Tooth is going last forever.

2a) A high-quality quick-release is actually usable for little hands. My daughter can open it herself, raise or lower her seat, and close it herself. She can close the lever with enough tension that the seat stays straight when she's riding unless she has a big off-the-bike moment. I don't have to get off my bike to raise and lower the seat ever.

2b) Whether it's up higher for climbing, lower for descending, or an inch for fun my kid is way more likely to be at an optimum seat height now that she can do it herself.

3) Self-sufficiency. My six-year-old carries her own water and snacks, and extra gloves, and can raise and lower her own seat. That's better than a few adults I've ridden with. With this admittedly expensive little USA-Made QR came a lot less anxiety for me about taking multiple kidlets riding or putting mine in a summer camp and that's a value as well.

Wolf Tooth Quick Release NSMB AndrewM.JPG

I think a great QR is a worthy upgrade to any kids bike. I didn't have any friends with a spare high-end 31.8mm sized unit kicking around from back in the day, but you might.

The Early Rider uses a 31.8mm post binder, and a 27.2 seat post, and I didn't have a spare in that size, nor did any friends I asked. While my love of Chromag QRs is well documented, for use on a kids' bike I think in the two-way battle of best boutique QR this Wolf Tooth is the winner.

My rationale is that kids seem to be able to snag themselves on any protrusion from their bicycles no matter how benign. I've seen kids' bikes (plural) with broken shifter levers that get caught in the wee rider's shorts during a crash, and with that in mind, the Chromag QR lever sits rather proud. It's never been an issue for me personally, but the way the Wolf Tooth tucks around, while still providing ample length for leverage, is the more grom-friendly layout.

Wolf Tooth QR NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

I love, for my grom, that the QR lever is tucked in around the collar instead of sitting proud.

Wolf Tooth QR NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

The capture bronze bushing makes for nice action. Soak it in oil for best results.

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Even with the tight profile, there's plenty of lever length for kid-friendly leverage.

3) Tubeless Tire Conversion

I have it on pretty good authority that Maxxis will be selling a 20" Minion DHF in February of next year. In other words, around the time my daughter will be getting into a 24"-wheeled bicycle. It's not that I think the DHF is the best tire around, but barring a sudden onslaught of awesome kid-sized mountain bicycle meats - Butchers, SE5s, Vigilantes, Hans Dampfs, etc - I'd spend for a folding-bead DHF tire upfront in a heartbeat. Heck, I'll take a pair.

For those of us debating which of the current grom-ripper-rubber options is the best for actual offroad use the best answer I've come up with is: whatever ones you can air up tubeless. I'm not too concerned about my 50-lb rider denting rims or snake-biting tires so I can cheat, cheat, cheat on air pressure once the tubes are tossed. It made an instant difference to climbing traction and descending brake control and it makes the rigid bike more comfortable as well based on my own experiences.

Orange Seal Tubeless Valve Stem AndrewM

Comparing the price of a pair of tubeless valves, a roll of Gorilla tape, and some tubeless solution to the performance improvement on my daughter's 20" bike makes this an easy recommendation.

Airing up wire bead rubber tubeless is never a joy, even when we're talking about tubeless-ready rims. My secret is to build out a couple of layers of Gorilla tape to tighten up the interface between the tire bead and the rim wall. That may eliminate any weight savings compared to a tube once a little too much sealant is added but this is about traction, control, and no flats on the trail rather than weight savings.

I don't ride with a spare tube anymore, I just stay on top of the tire sealant to make sure there's fresh juice in there and carry a pack of tire bacons so I can plug any tears that may occur, just like how I roll with my own machine. I've been running tubeless myself for so long that I'd forgotten what it was like to ride with over-pressurized tubes until I reviewed the Growler 20 in December 2019. At my size, it's actually really nice to have some internal support from the tube (I get it from CushCore inserts myself) but at the same time, it was a nice reminder of the extra traction and suppleness gained from going tubeless.

The conversion is third on my list, and some distance down from great pedals and a high-quality quick release, but every parent of a little shredder would do well to give the conversion a thought, especially if you're doing it at home and we're just talking about materials. To save a couple of bucks, hit up your friend who just converted to CushCore for their old valve stems.

3.5) A Multi-Tool

This is an honourable mention, hence the half marks, as I'm very realistic about how little bolt turning my mini-mechanic is going to do in the forest. First off, the only mechanicals she commonly gets are shifted brake levers (from crashing) - which I leave loose enough to pull back into position without tools - and bent brake rotors which I straighten when we get home. Secondly, just based on hand strength, if something does really need to be tightened, I'm getting in there. In fact, the only bolt she has loosened or tightened herself on the trail is the one that adjusts the tension on the Wolf Tooth quick release mentioned above.

I'll also note that between my bike, frame bag, and pack, I'm practically carrying enough tools to open a mobile shop, so investing in a multi-tool for my grom, whether to put in her pack or on her bike - is on the surface - some unnecessary duplication.

One Up EDC Lite NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

"Hey bro, can I borrow an Allen key?" Sure dude, my six-year-old carries one, maybe she'll lend it to you.

OneUp EDC Lite NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Why not just throw a multi-tool in her pack? Yeah, the EDC Lite has a little bit of a same-as-dad factor.

For me, the multi-tool lands in the same loose category as a seatpost quick release that my kid can open and close herself. It's no different than pedaling herself up to trails we're going to ride: when she's ready for trails that are further away, she'll be able to ride to them. You could also include packing her own snack and spare gloves. Mountain biking is, or was, a self-supported activity that's forged in personal responsibility and that's part of what makes it great.

Obviously this needs to be tempered when applied to a child, but I have to admit that the couple of times my kid has lent an adult her multi-tool, and when she changes her own drenched gloves, and even when she pulls out her emergency rations, that's a big deal for me.

As much as mountain biking is an awesome and super fun activity on its own, there's a lot to be learned about resilience, personal improvement, attitude management, self-sufficiency, and even how to dress. And in that framework, I think of these upgrades as a relatively cheap investment.

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Comments

papa44
+5 Andrew Major Mr.T Cr4w Pete Roggeman Suns_PSD
papa44  - May 9, 2021, 11:28 p.m.

Good article! I tell you where the industry is falling short though, crank lengths. So hard to get short aftermarket cranks. It’s either pig iron kids cranks or struggle with adult ones. Honorable mention goes to unnecessarily exotic gearing (7 speed haha)

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 AlanB
Andrew Major  - May 9, 2021, 11:43 p.m.

Cheers!

Yes, totally agree. Even shortening cranks and drilling/tapping them there are minimal truly compatible options. 

My kids bike has a 6spd drivetrain. All gears she actually uses and between ring, cassette, chain (removing links) I dropped about a pound out of the bike. There’s a piece on it here if you’re interested.

Reply

DanLees1978
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Dan Lees  - May 10, 2021, 5:08 a.m.

Cranks have been one of the tougher nuts to crack on the 2 kids/youth (tween) bikes I have put together for my 2 boys, but things are definitely getting easier. Seeing XS complete bikes come with 170mm or even 175mm cranks is maddening.

My boys have used the SJS cranks from the link below with a Sq Taper BB and a 4 bolt NW ring. They have been absolutely fine for them, no issues at all.  They are a cheaper and (more to the point recently) in stock option.

The eldest also used Canfield cranks on a long term loaner Orange 5 and they seemed very very nice but they aren't cheap.  

Hope Tech make short cranks for their Hope Academy Rental Bikes but don't seem to sell them to the public but it might be worth an international phone call.  

Link Dump:

https://kidsracing.co.uk/collections/short-cranksets-kids-cranks-lengths-narrow-q-factors

https://canfieldbikes.com/products/canfield-bikes-am-dh-cranks

https://www.sjscycles.co.uk/cranks/150-thorn-10464-pcd-triple-crankset-mk2-black/

https://www.vpace.de/produktkategorie/kinderbike-komponenten/

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 7:25 a.m.

The SJS looks good. Has 64BCD spider so there are good N/W 26t and 28t ring options. 

Not to concerned about square taper for a 50lb rider.

Cool!

Reply

DanL
+2 Andrew Major Dan Lees
DanL  - May 10, 2021, 10:34 a.m.

Although I couldn't afford a full Spawn they have a full set of cranks and options which really worked out to move my daughter's 20" bicycle to a 1by for minimal expense and made it so that I could use a real chainring instead of those stamped plates.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 11:29 a.m.

Good find!

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - May 11, 2021, 7:08 p.m.

I have been very happy with Trailcraft cranks. Reasonable price, lightweight and with the removable SRAM spider interface I have used different rings and 2x spiders on them.

(As a Bikefitter), I think the biggest improvement is proper Length cranks. Besides better pedaling, it also raises the seat height, which allows the use of a dropper post, when it wouldn’t fit before.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 12, 2021, 7:49 a.m.

Proper crank length is key for sure! 

I don’t think I’ll spring for a dropper post even when one will work in a couple months. A great quality QR is my budget for a 20” bike.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - May 12, 2021, 6:29 p.m.

I don’t remember if we had a dropper on our 20” bike. For sure on the 24”

First of all, they are a lot cheaper now. Just over $100. Second, you can move them to the next larger bike.

I am sure it depends on your trails too. Ours are rolling, especially the easy ones, even when they tend up or down, there are always short sections going the other way.

For you guys, you pedal up for a while, then rip down right? Droppers are far less of an must have in that scenario.

Dpreissl
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
David Preissl  - May 11, 2021, 6:08 a.m.

We found Yrailcraft to be great and Spawn bikes also a good option.

Reply

ShawMac
0
ShawMac  - May 11, 2021, 3:48 p.m.

Industry can't even really sort out proper sized adult cranks, so there is no surprise kids are an after thought.

I can customize handlebars for the lengths of my arms and width of my shoulders, but I generally have to choose between probably too long and way too long sizing for the item that goes round and round 10,000 times per ride.

Reply

Bikeryder85
+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Dan Lees
Bikeryder85  - May 10, 2021, 3:24 a.m.

Thanks for this Andrew! I was hoping to see something on this soon as my 5yr old wants to take her bike "over the trees to jump off of them". This (and all of the earlier articles) will help a ton!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 7:11 a.m.

That’s awesome! 

Cheers,

Reply

stinhambo
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Steven Hambleton  - May 10, 2021, 4:04 a.m.

I bought my daughter a set of DMR V6 pedals for her first mountain bike. It's typically a lot drier here so the moulded pins should be good enough. Just need to buy her some cheap skate shoes (and a bigger mountain bike) and she's ready to roll!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 7:12 a.m.

It is wet / greasy here a lot and we did ride all winter so that’s a good point for sure.

Reply

Zero-cool
+1 Andrew Major
Zero-cool  - May 10, 2021, 12:22 p.m.

I got some for my 2/12 year old twins but ended up returning them as they came up pretty big for my kids. Ended up with 2 pairs of these for now as even I couldn’t justify 2 pairs of Chromag (or Hope) pedals this early in their biking life. 

https://crucialbmxshop.com/forward-affix-junior-pedals  

Small and reasonably grippy enough for learning to pedal and the BMX pump tracks (Bristol is full of them in all sizes)

Reply

DanL
0
DanL  - May 13, 2021, 8:22 a.m.

late to the party but I just saw Kona Wee Wee flats for sale - these look like a great option if the composite deitys/stamps/wahwahs are too big

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 13, 2021, 8:31 a.m.

The small(er) Wah Wah 2  isn’t really all that small with a 110x108 platform.

The regular one is 120x118.

I love them, but to consider a set for my grom they’d need a much smaller option.

Reply

DanL
0
DanL  - May 13, 2021, 10:34 a.m.

dang it, they have such a charming name!

Reply

Wilson
+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Zero-cool
Wilson  - May 10, 2021, 5:26 a.m.

+1 for the Radar's. That was an instant upgrade in confidence. More recently I was gifted an 11sp di2 group, but it took me some time to source a 32 hole 20" rim with decent width. The good folks at Commencal sell a 30mm internal that fit the bill and I was able to build up one of my old Chris King bolt on hubs for a massive upgrade. Why would a 20" bike even get spec'd with grip shift in the first place!! Chain line is the next issue, but I've sourced a few great 140/145mm crank sets (spiderless!). Will have to wait for stock to come in though...

I can't fault the 20" 2.6 Crown Gem that came stock on this bike - besides not being a tubeless option. The volume goes a long way to making a full rigid feel ok over rougher trails.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Wilson
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 7:13 a.m.

These are 2.25” Crown Gems. Aired up tubeless without too much hassle. Have 2.4” Flow/Snap on order to try up front.

Inventory is fun this year! Lots of mini BMX crank options just need to find the right size N/W rings.

Reply

stinhambo
+1 Andrew Major
Steven Hambleton  - May 10, 2021, 2:41 p.m.

I'm looking to convert my children's bikes with 3M masking tape! Did you stick with Schraeder valves or convert to Presta?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Steven Hambleton
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 2:48 p.m.

No familiar with that tape product. If in doubt I’d recommend Gorilla Tape as cheap and foolproof.

Use whatever valves your rims are drilled for... Stan’s does Schraeder tubeless valves.

Reply

mrbrett
0
mrbrett  - May 10, 2021, 8:01 p.m.

I have had some success with Fatty Stripper rim strips even with non tubeless tires. I (my son) was running Vee tires and now has some 2.8" Specialized Big Rollers - both sealed up just fine! Once the bead gets stuck to the Fatty Stripper it's essentially burp proof too. Might be worth a look, given the ~$6/wheel price.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - May 11, 2021, 7:12 p.m.

I just cut the valves out of the tubes I pulled out, and the Specialized Roller 2.8 ran great tubeless, even with gripstuds screwed in for winter.

Reply

cooperquinn
+3 Zero-cool Wilson Cr4w
Cooper Quinn  - May 10, 2021, 10:07 a.m.

Wait am I reading... that you child is rolling around on 20" King-hubbed wheels and Di2? 

Because that's kind of amazing, and is the trickle down you love to see.

Reply

Wilson
+1 Andrew Major
Wilson  - May 10, 2021, 12:23 p.m.

Haha, kind of embarrassing. To be fair though, shifting was the obstacle to enjoying more varied terrain - di2 was the best solution. The king hub was all I had on hand ;). I can now tell her ahead of a climb "4th gear!", and she can plainly see it on the screen. Amazing for sure!

Reply

mrbrett
0
mrbrett  - May 10, 2021, 8:21 p.m.

Did I see this bike on the Radavist a little while ago? If so, super cool bike!

Reply

Zero-cool
+2 Andrew Major Wilson
Zero-cool  - May 10, 2021, 12:24 p.m.

I’m so jealous. 

I bet there’s a lot of dad envy in your neighbourhood. Lol

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 6:30 p.m.

HAHAHA. I was riding with my friend {name removed} once on Fromme - me on my rigid single speed and he on a well min-maxed rig that was more than a little long in the tooth - when a Grom rode by us on a 24" full suspension Lil' Shredder with Fox Kashima suspension (lowered 26" fork) and a fresh XTR/XT mix. 

Him: "I feel bad." 

Me: "Oh, why's that {name removed}?"

Him: "For a moment I was thinking of mugging that kid for his drivetrain."

Reply

zigak
+1 Andrew Major
ZigaK  - May 10, 2021, 8:38 p.m.

xtr/xt mix

meh

:)

Reply

DanLees1978
+1 Andrew Major
Dan Lees  - May 11, 2021, 3:45 a.m.

The loaner Orange 5 my eldest was riding until this year, was Kashima front and rear, XTR wheels, XTR 2 Pot brakes, XT/XTR 10speed, Hope Stem, Cane Creek Angleset (-2 I think) etc.  

It was almost embarrassing. 

I was significantly nicer than any bike I have ever had, with the possible exception of my new Banshee.

Reply

Poz
+3 Andrew Major mnihiser Pete Roggeman
Poz  - May 10, 2021, 5:39 a.m.

The Crank Bros Stamp 1 small is worth a look. It’s a bit wider than the Radar but in composite. Agreed that getting real pedals makes a big difference for their confidence even if you can’t find real riding shoes.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Poz
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 7:23 a.m.

I was harassing the folks at Crankbrothers to make one smaller size of pedals and kids sizes in their (excellent) flat pedal shoes.

There are some good small(er) pedals out there for sure, but everyone I know who’s put their kid on radars (XS) agrees it made an appreciable difference over other pedals options they tried.

Reply

Poz
+1 Andrew Major
Poz  - May 10, 2021, 8:19 a.m.

Ya I can see that. My son has pretty big feet so they work. His younger sister does need even smaller for it to work properly though. 

SDG makes a kids one that is 10mm narrower all around but still 20mm wider than the radar.

Reply

Gunnar-man
0
Gunnar-man  - May 10, 2021, 10:49 a.m.

For Canadians, go to MEC and get the City Light Pedal for kid's bikes.  I used them on boy of my boys bikes until they grew out of them and they the right size for their feet at the time and had very good grip.  Plus I had them in size 5 women's 5.10 Karvers, so they were pretty planted.

They each last the three years they rode on them with no play and ended up selling them onto a friend who is still using them on his daughter's bikes.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 6:23 p.m.

Chaulk it up to variances in experiences, but in terms of both bearing quality (poor) and structural integrity (definitely not designed for impacts), these are not a product I could recommend even for 50lb kids if they are going to be smacking them on rocks and riding in all weather conditions. Admittedly, it's not something my kid or I have ridden personally, but I think a peruse of the reviews on MEC's site back me up. 

On a budget, currently, I'd pick up some Mini BMX pedals and fill them full of grease. I am still really hoping we'll see many brands doing composite XS MTB pedals that will be closer to the price of the City Light but offroad MTB quality.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Andrew Major
IslandLife  - May 10, 2021, 9:49 a.m.

Yep, second the Crank Bros Stamp 1 in comp.  Cheap, multiple colours to match the kids bike great grip.

Reply

DanL
+1 Andrew Major
DanL  - May 10, 2021, 11:01 a.m.

Yes - Stamp composites have been a staple for the entire family, love em!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 6:24 p.m.

I had a solid experience with the Stamp Composite. I would like to see them do one smaller (XS) size of platform for the wee rippers (and kid's shoes!)

Reply

Andeh
+4 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Morgan Heater Tjaard Breeuwer
Andeh  - May 10, 2021, 6:57 a.m.

Great article!  My suggestion for #1 is good brakes they can reach, especially for the littler ones on 16".  My 4 year old's Commencal Ramones came with some Tektro mechanical disc brakes supposedly designed for kids, but I couldn't adjust them far enough in for him to easily reach with his hands.  My buddy's kid's bike had a pair of Tektro hydraulics that could so I got a pair of those, and he instantly started progressing at braking now that he could cover his brakes.  The Tektro hydraulics are OEM only, so a bit tough to find though.  I'm sure some old Deore 2-pots would work well too - anything you can adjust so that they pull nearly to the bar.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 7:17 a.m.

Thank you!

These are just basic ProMax hydraulics (that thankfully use common Shimano pads) and I totally agree hydro over cable every time.

Way more of a skill multiplier than better shifting or suspension at this stage.

I’ve looked at a few brake upgrade options (inventory aside) but she has little crashes so much and they’ve proved quite durable and they work fine.

Reply

stinhambo
0
Steven Hambleton  - May 10, 2021, 2:43 p.m.

I've got a set of Shimano MT500 calipers, which levers would be best for smaller hands?

Reply

andrewbikeguide
+1 Steven Hambleton
AndrewR  - May 10, 2021, 5:24 p.m.

XT or XTR as they still have a usable range and power when adjusted close enough to the bar for mini fingers.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Steven Hambleton
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 6:31 p.m.

I'd buy a pair of MT400s if you can find them. Good ergonomics that I think are comparable to the higher-end brakes but without Servo Wave.

Reply

Dpreissl
0
David Preissl  - May 11, 2021, 6:29 a.m.

Agree 100%, my son has been on the new  Norco FS 20 since last year, also came with Tekro and the same issue. I upgraded to new SLX and he is way more agressive.

Reply

Jenkins5
+3 Pete Roggeman Michael Stormer Poz
Jenkins5  - May 10, 2021, 8:58 a.m.

My little ripper has been loving the SDG Slater pedals. They are half the cost of the Chromag so a price is bit easier to swallow for sure! The entire SDG Jr Pro Kit (pedals, bar, saddle and grips) is fantastic to be honest. 

https://sdgcomponents.com/products/slater-pedals?variant=32333061750889

https://sdgcomponents.com/products/jr-pro-kit?variant=32333056409705

Reply

sweaman2
0
Sweaman2  - May 10, 2021, 9:42 a.m.

Can we be geeky and talk tire pressures for small ones?  7 year old on 2.2 and I'm at about 10 psi.. seems about right based on riding behind him but curious what others might be running...

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ackshunW
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ackshunW  - May 10, 2021, 10:02 a.m.

Hahaha yeah I think it’s critical to get that right, and the little ones don’t have the experience or vocabulary to recognize when it’s wrong. 48lb 6 y.o. on 2.25” 20’s at 10 front 12-13 rear. Seems to be a good compromise. Been as low as 7 in the front and that seems to work well too but I want to keep it above instant-folding territory

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 10:10 a.m.

Yeah, as with my Plus tires I'm not sure my pump's gauge is all that useful in terms of supplying a number. As soft as possible without ever feeling squirrely is my goal ("I want to keep it above instant-folding territory" is right).

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andrewbikeguide
+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Tjaard Breeuwer
AndrewR  - May 10, 2021, 5:35 p.m.

Depends on the tyre and the rider weight (and ability) the same as for any adult rider actually.

1. Does the tyre deform slightly and create a wider contact patch when the rider is sat and stood on the bike?

2. Can the rider angulate the bike without the tyre collapsing?

Job done. 

As a coach there are several common issues I see with kid's bikes (and women's bikes too) which are:

1. Tyre pressures are way to high (25-30 psi is fine for the bike path commute to and from school),

2. Bars are too wide (cut em down, some other small kid is going to be riding that bike when you are done with it).

3. Pedals are as grippy as an ice cube (as Andrew has stated Radars might be expensive but far less so than an injury from a slipped pedal or a developing dislike in mountain biking because trying to pedal or ride obstacles is a constant source of frustration).

4. A chain guide; kids are generally on hard tails and have less leg length to absorb trail obstacles so their chain is getting a total shake down. Add to that missed shifts, back pedalling mid shift, and crashing and it is a miracle (aided by NW tech) that a chain stays on a kid's bike at all. Please be a good parent and help them as much as your finances allow you too.

5. Good brakes, that old set of two pot XT brakes with reach adjust levers is way more valuable on your kid's bike than it is dollar terms as a local sale. When they know that they can safely stop they will try almost anything.

Happy trails.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 6 p.m.

Interesting note re. the chainguide. It seems most folks I talk to with a proper Narrow-Wide ring don't have issues (even with non-clutch derailleurs) and the couple of bikes I've seen turning wrenches where kids were regularly tossing chains had BADLY bent derailleur hangers and/or totally worn out N-W rings. 

We're running a clutch derailleur and N-W ring and even before I fixed the chainline in the gears she actually uses we had never had a single lost chain. I figure if it's good enough for Redbull Rampage it should be good enough for 20" Grom bikes!?

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AndrewMajor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 6:05 p.m.

Absolutely see kids with bars that are WAY too wide all the time. 

I know I'm a bike snob but one of the reasons I like the cheaper Shimano brakes is that they don't have Servo Wave. Would absolutely choose a new basic Shimano brake over a Gucci used one with SW if it was for my grom. If I was buying brakes for the Early Rider tomorrow I'm not sure if there's a system I'd take over Shimano's MT400 in terms of positioning the lever at the right spot and the neutral feeling through the stroke. 

Maybe a pair of Magura MT-4 brakes with HC lever blades if money was no object.

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stinhambo
+1 Andrew Major
Steven Hambleton  - May 10, 2021, 6:31 p.m.

As luck would have it that's exactly what I have on my Ragley!

New brakes for me in the interests of making my daughter's experience as good as possible...

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IslandLife
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
IslandLife  - May 10, 2021, 9:57 a.m.

Tried those Raceface Sendy pads on my kids last year... they hated them.  Hot, non-breathable, scratchy, with velcro that hit the skin.  They may be "ok" right now in the cool weather... but when it warms up... nope.  Sent them back and just use Raceface adult Indy elbows as kids kneepads (perfect) and until someone makes a better kids elbow, the g-form kids elbows work pretty well.  Wish they had a strap... you have to get the size just right.

The best kids pads are the ones they keep on... no matter the price.  Cheaper pads that stay in the car or end up in a pack = useless.

Not sure why more companies don't just make small versions of their adult pads?  Arguably, kids need even more comfortable and breathable pads than the adults do to keep complaints to a minimum, ensure they don't mind wearing them and ensure a fun a happy ride that keeps their stoke alive!

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 10:05 a.m.

That's interesting, these Sendy pads are soft inside - maybe an update from last year? No velcro-on skin contact with knees or elbows or believe me I'd be hearing about it. We've been on some sweaty adventures (both the unseasonable sunshine we've had and also the challenges of dressing a grom to ride) and mine likes them significantly better than other pads we've tried.

The G-form stayed up okay but when she really hits the deck they don't offer anywhere near the protection of the Sendy.

My Pearl Izumi elbow pads (with some hockey tape) where the win I thought, but Claire says the Sendy are much more comfortable to pedal in and we're doing what I would call some big rides for a six-year-old. 

We have some lighter-weight PI stuff we're testing as well. I'd say it's perfect for folks that live somewhere with the terrain where crashing could happen but the D3O isn't thick enough - nor do they strap in place sufficiently - for riding where crashing will happen multiple times a ride. 

My grom has got up from some hard off the bikes on Bridal Path, Sticks & Stones, Bobsled, etc and she'd vouch 100% for the pads she's wearing.

---

"The best kids pads are the ones they keep on... no matter the price. Cheaper pads that stay in the car or end up in a pack = useless."

Absolutely.

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IslandLife
+1 Andrew Major
IslandLife  - May 10, 2021, 4:51 p.m.

Perhaps they redesigned/updated them... hopefully! They were pretty bad when we used them... left significant red marks from irritation and were just so hot.  But when I was preparing to send them back, I chatted with the one of the product managers for quite some time about what I though was wrong and how I thought they could be improved.  Maybe they listened?

And ya, the G-forms aren't super protective, but they're better than nothing.  My now 10 year olds (wow time flies!!) have moved beyond the constant crashing grom stage and just need something that will protect their elbows from the very odd (hopefully) unplanned dismount.  They've also reached the point where "coolness" is starting to take over as the dominant deciding factor in what they wear!

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 5:56 p.m.

I could see with bigger kids where the velcro may not wrap as far around (and there could be some velcro-on-skin contact) so it could also just be a case of a six-year-old's legs v. an older kid? Either way, these have been awesome other than I wish the knee pads had more shin protection (wish that about most pads I ride too). 

It's interesting how at some age all the kids I see are no longer wearing elbow pads. Is it because they aren't cool or is it just that the fit sucks once your biceps and forearms aren't the same size? I would wear elbow pads for some rides if I could find a pair I don't hate - but thus far no love.

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IslandLife
+2 Andrew Major Tjaard Breeuwer
IslandLife  - May 11, 2021, 12:59 p.m.

It is interesting... I am loving the slightly redesigned Raceface Indy elbows for myself.  I'm a big fan of elbow pads after watching a couple friends ruin elbows.  I also like elbows for racing where during the heat of the battle and still trying to ride fast while exhausted, it's surprising how many trees, branches, bushes and random things I'll tag with my elbows.  The Indy's have a strap which is important.  on warm days you can leave the strap very loose and tighten it up on cooler days.  My previous Dakine Slayer pads kept ending up around my wrists after a rough extended decent... no issues so far with the Raceface pads.

I think it's a combo of both... honestly finding the right elbow pad for anyone can be tough.  A lot of them either cause more arm pump because they're too tight and can't flex enough as you heat up and your blood starts pumping or they end up down on your wrists because they're too loose... and it seems like "cool kids" have even less patience for that than adults do.  At the same time it gives them a great excuse to stop wearing them like all their "cool" friends.

Fighting that battle right now and I'll keep fighting because it seems the few kids that still wear them... do so because they had a nasty elbow injury while not wearing them.  Maybe I should just let them figure it out themselves??

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AndrewMajor
+1 IslandLife
Andrew Major  - May 12, 2021, 7:53 a.m.

Ah, the big parenting questions!

I should try the new Indy I guess. Don’t mind being a bit warm v. downtime from an injury but all the elbows I’ve tried have restricted movement or given me arm pump.

Nologo
+1 Andrew Major
Nologo  - May 11, 2021, 7:39 p.m.

Got Sendy elbows last summer, there was nothing else available. Was actually looking for ixs as knees been working really well for my 5yo. He ended up liking them and wears them without complaints. They feel like decent quality.

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bruce-mackay
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Bruce Mackay  - May 14, 2021, 12:12 a.m.

Dakine women's pad sizing is ridonkulously small, (meant to look good on Lifestyle models, maybe?)  But great quality and fit groms well.

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craw
+3 Andrew Major AndrewR Tjaard Breeuwer
Cr4w  - May 10, 2021, 10:57 a.m.

I wonder how many bro brahs Claire will shame into doing basic preparation for a ride? She's a national treasure doing God's work educating the unwashed masses.

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AndrewMajor
+1 mrbrett
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 2:37 p.m.

I don’t know about all that... but she could certainly teach a few folks I know a bit about perseverance & positive attitude. 

Climbed up Sticks, Academy, Penny Lane, GSM & rode down John Deere for the first time today (Pro-D day at school) and it was awesome how much she cleaned both directions and even more awesome to see her getting back on the bike ASAP when she did have to walk something.

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nzstormer
+2 Andrew Major AndrewR
Michael Stormer  - May 10, 2021, 11:37 a.m.

For 20", I've found that a fat tire up front made a massive difference in confidence levels. 20" suspension forks suck unless you're paying really big dollars

For 24", I say spend the money on a good setup. The bike I bought for my oldest son will be used by my youngest son, and then the next generation to sell it to is literally being born every day. Look a the used market (even before this current shortage) for kids bikes, and the used market is always a sellers market.

The more expensive quality parts makes the whole riding experience so much more fun for everyone - I don't have to spend my life fixing parts that aren't working properly, and they get a much more pleasant controlled ride.

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Skeen
+1 Andrew Major
Skeen  - May 10, 2021, 11:38 a.m.

Thanks Andrew I love your kid kit articles. My mini shredder is only 2 so the only experience i have to add so far is a horn or bell (safety and fun).  And some kind of storage bag to stow the gloves and snacks, and to make the bike just like dad’s. Peace!

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 5:53 p.m.

Many happy trails ahead!

Have you checked out the Kids Ride Shotgun saddle system? Normally I hate spending other peoples' money but frankly it's the one mountain bike product I truly wish I'd discovered sooner. We got very few rides on it before my grom was too big but they were all amazing.

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samnation
+1 Andrew Major
samnation  - May 10, 2021, 1 p.m.

Part of me is so happy that you included the multi tool. I ran mountain bike camps for a number of years and the number of times I encountered kids who's parents had installed really flashy off brand parts on their bike and sent them to camp drove me crazy. I would carry a multi-tool and a 20" presta tube, that solved most of my problems, but without fail I would encounter one kid who shows up with their front brake through the steerer using some sort of Alabama backwoods solution (that their parent though was the latest and greatest) that would need like a 12mm wrench to adjust, they crash and their and bars are crooked and I (or the other councilors on my team) didn't have the tools. Even if the kids don't know how to use the multi tool it is nice to have. 

My partner who is a new rider is the same, she has a multi tool in her bag all time. She doesn't always know what to do with it but she has it so when she is in a group she can find someone who knows what to do and we have made sure that her multi tool and adjust everything on her bike.

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AndrewMajor
+2 samnation Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 4:36 p.m.

That’s a great point I hadn’t considered. Even if you don’t know how to use it having the right tools with you make it possible for someone to help. 

I always come from the more judgemental position that everyone should come armed with what they need.

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andrewbikeguide
+3 Andrew Major JVP samnation
AndrewR  - May 10, 2021, 5:38 p.m.

Totally agree with @samnation on this point. Same same as carrying a tube and patch kit, they might not know how to install it/ patch it but the person that stops to help will be even more generous with their time and effort because they made the effort to at least bring the correct kit.

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cerealkilla_
+1 Andrew Major
jdt  - May 10, 2021, 2:20 p.m.

Thanks for this article Andrew

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AndrewMajor
+1 Skeen
Andrew Major  - May 10, 2021, 2:55 p.m.

Cheers!

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mhaager2
+1 Andrew Major
Moritz Haager  - May 11, 2021, 8:24 a.m.

Love the kids articles.  I set my kids up tubeless as well but the one bike with wire bead just kept losing air too quickly.  I'd love to see a more detailed description of how you built up the rim with gorilla tape

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 11, 2021, 8:34 a.m.

Cheers!

Basically just keep adding layers of tape until the tire fits on tighter. 

Also, buy the big roll of Gorilla tape and tear it to the perfect width.

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Nologo
+1 Andrew Major
Nologo  - May 11, 2021, 7:43 p.m.

I remember for ghetto tubeless setup, brushing some sealant on the inside and let it dry before installation can be helpful with some tires.

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bruce-mackay
+1 Andrew Major
Bruce Mackay  - May 14, 2021, 1 a.m.

Great article Andrew!  (As per usual, agree with it 100%)  My girls are now 18 and 16 and love riding.  The expectation in our household is vacations w/ out snow will include good riding.  You are bang on about the "life lessons".  Most sports teach SOMETHING, but few activities teach you how to be self reliant in so many ways.  

The tubeless tip was a great one.  I set my girls up tubeless, my youngest benefitted the most/ longest.

Tubeless tire hack (its the original "Non-tubeless to tubeless conversion") for those shite steel bead tires.  This only, really, works on 20" and over.

Supplies: 2 x 16in innertubes (will fit  up to 24" as well), Scissors (or exacto knife if you're reeeeaaaaly steady of hand and careful)  Tubeless goo (150ml max).  Dishsoap and H20 (spray bottle is nice too)  RECOMMENDED :  More patience than you think and/or and adult beverage and a bunch of loose change and the "swear jar" in easy reach.

Step 1: Inflate tube more than a bit (should fit over rim pretty easy) and mount it.  Let out most of the air.

Step 2:  Using a pair of scissors (just easiest) filet the tube (cut open all the way 'round the tube),  Fold over the rim, should have a good overhang on each side.  Clean off the powder. Remove stem core (probably schrader/ car  type)

Step 3: Mount one bead of the tire.  Using a 1/4 -1/8 dishsoap /H2O mix  Now go get that drink,  the loose change and the "swear jar",  Trust me.....

Step 3.5 to 35   Mount the second bead (try hard not to use levers you don't want to pinch the "liner".  Don't worry about how much solution used, you can drain it.  

Step 4:  DO A TEST FILL!  (find a friend with a compressor, way, Way, WAY! easier)  If it works....  now add a bit of sealant, and valve core. Inflate.  Trim overhanging / exess inner tube close to tire.  BAM! Tubeless!

The innertube helps fill the irregularities in the cheap tires on kids bikes.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 14, 2021, 6:43 a.m.

Cheers! I really hope it’s something my grom and I can enjoy together for years to come. Mountain biking has given me a lot so it’s a joy to share. 

It’s been a long time since I did a ‘ghetto tubeless’ conversion but that was my backup plan if a couple layers of Gorilla tape didn't get me there. Same basic idea in going up the rim wall though not over the bead.

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velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - May 16, 2021, 3:04 a.m.

This is a great expression of a thing I hadn't articulated 

> Mountain biking is, or was, a self-supported activity that's forged in personal responsibility and that's part of what makes it great.

Mountain biking is, or was, a self-supported activity that's forged in personal responsibility and that's part of what makes it great.

And I want to give it to my own grom, who's just visited her first couple of pieces of singletrack. 

It's also a sad realisation, that the entitledness I witness in the newer (older) members of our silly club, belies the opposite attitude. 

Sorry to bring the glum, I think riding with my grom makes me hyper sensitive to other riders attitudes.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - May 16, 2021, 2:02 p.m.

It's not an easy subject to articulate without being labeled an "elitist." I would know, because I get labeled as such every time I try to articulate it! 

I've lately had a bizarre juxtaposition of experiences - fully hot or fully cold with no middle ground. On Friday my grom was giving her all climbing up Penny Lane / Good Sir Martin. There are some fairly long stretches where there is not a good/safe place to pull over (especially in our current times) so a couple of times we ended up with a little bit of a congo line going on behind us. 

I'm (surprise) very vocal and I also let folks know (in a very friendly way) that as soon as it's safe we'll yield the trail. Most of the time - young, old, man, women - folks are so encouraging. Sometimes it's quiet encouragement ("oh, I need to catch my breath anyway, take your time, she's doing great, how old is she?" sort of stuff) and sometimes it's like someone unpacked an instant cheering section in the middle of the woods - and in both cases, it's f*cking awesome!

And every once in a while some asshole tries to ride around us in an unsafe way - and yes, that person is usually on an e~bike probably because that's the only way most folks have enough watts to really ride around us - or much more often - but I still wouldn't call it common - gives me 'the look' because we're holding up their training or whatever and f*ck those people. I ride behind my grom in these situations specifically because I know they aren't getting past me to try that sh*t on her. 

And before I get hit with the "not all e~bikers" comment. One of our best interactions on the trail - ever - was climbing up King Of The Shore / Lower Griffin when an old dude on an e~bike caught us and it was probably 2-3 minutes until there was a good spot for him to pass. It simply comes down to the fact that e~bikes turbo-charge the assholes (they don't make them assholes). It's like the difference between a bad busker with a trombone and a bad busker with a trombone, a mic, and a big f***ing sound system. 

But yeah, I totally get the-glum but in my experiences on Fromme and Seymour, most folks in our community are awesome.

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