Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM
FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Mar 4, 2019

Kid Friendly Finishing

My progeny's Early Rider run bike has been crashed at the local asphalt pump track, dragged up the concrete stairs to our front door*, leaned against all manner of metal racks and railings, and strapped to the back of my commuter bike. From right up close it looks beaten but from a foot away the finish looks fresh.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear that some riders are spending hours shelter-taping their kid's rigs, but if that isn't you - and it most certainly isn't me - one of the Early Rider Belter's first and foremost features is that clear-over-raw brushed aluminum finish.

*"No, I will do it myself!"

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Awesome attention to detail - plenty of meat to write about here.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Cartridge bearing hubs and headset with a cassette driver on the rear hub.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

An easily tensioned Gates belt drive system that should be maintenance-free.

The problem with a clear-over-raw finish? There's simply nowhere to hide shoddy craft. And so, here is an aluminum frame with 16" wheels, a finish that will look fresh through multiple riders, and welds that look better than half the metal bikes on any performance shop floor.

There's a reason this type of finish is usually the domain of boutique aluminum frame builders. Think Knolly, Banshee, and the new Specialized Stumpy Evo. This is a kid's bike for cycling-obsessed parents and we'll notice.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Nice looking welds.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

More nice looking welds.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Simple sliders for tensioning.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Split stay for easy belt replacement.

Beyond the obvious quality of the 6061-aluminum frame and fork, the Belter 16" Trail has a host of interesting details. From the forged 105mm cranks and their sealed-cartridge external bottom bracket to the pleasant hum of the freehub driver of the four-bearing cassette hub laced to double wall aluminum rims, this package looks like a good value even at the SRP of 480 USD | 645 CAD.

The sub 12-lb weight is hard to argue with as well.

The Build

The Early Rider Belter 16 Trail combines a wide 480mm bar and massive 680mm+ wheelbase with a 69.5° head tube angle and comes almost fully assembled out of the box. Install the bar and ride.

My assistant mechanic wasn't having any of that though, so the Belter Trail was pulled apart and greased up like any other bike I test. The only steps left are to dial in the brake lever reach and track down some Schrader valves and find out if the massive 1.75" Maxxis knobbies air up tubeless.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Greasing the headset cups to keep water away.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Sealed cartridge bearings top and bottom.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Quality Ritchey bar, stem, and seat post QR.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Thin kid-sized sealed-bearing metal flat pedals.

This is not the first Gates belt drive system I've worked on. The quality of the cog and sprocket machining are always impressive and as long as the frame is well aligned, as is this Early Rider, they work well in my experience. The drivetrain was well tensioned out of the box and given the torque they're designed for I'd suspect a very long life out of a 3-6yr old rider.

The brakes required a quick adjustment but otherwise it was just a matter of greasing and torquing bolts, the bottom bracket, and filling the headset cups with grease to ensure a life spanning multiple kids.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Gates 800-8M Powergrip belt.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

The bolt together stay/dropout for easy belt replacement.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Forged 105mm crankarms.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Machined 7075 aluminum sprocket.

For anyone with an old 1-1/8" Chris King headset sitting unused in their toolbox, you'll be happy to know that the Belter uses a standard 1-1/8" head tube. It comes stock with a 60mm 31.8 stem as well for easy length swapping.

The hex head bolt-on hubs are one of my favourite details. Most kids' bikes use nuts requiring a wrench to change a flat or use cheap quick releases that are a PIA to open or close and are prone to failure.

On the other hand the seat post QR is a nice touch for a bike that is going to be used on the road, at the pump track, and entry level mountain biking.

First Impressions

The Early Rider isn't cheap in price but I suspect it will hold resale value given the quality of the frame and components. I was asked regularly about re-homing plans for our Early Rider runbike and this is an equally impressive looking machine.

If I was doing the spec for the bike I'd go with a cartridge bearing resin pedal with replaceable pins - like a tiny WahWah2 - for increased grip without a price increase and maybe a larger volume tire - although that will prove to be application specific and this bike will see pavement, gravel, and trail - rain & shine.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Hugely wide 31.8 x 480mm bars meet excellent reach adjust range for levers.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Nice pedals but I'd trade for a similarly sized resin option with replaceable pins.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Sealed cartridge bearing external bottom bracket.

Early Rider Belter 16 Trail AndrewM

Knobby 16 x 1.75" Maxxis Maxx Daddy tires.

The Belter 16 Trail rolls in with very high expectations, both mine and my mini-Stig. The rebuild went quick & easy and there really isn't anything needed out of the box.

I'll have a review ready to go this spring and in the meantime check out Early Rider for more information on the 480 USD | 645 CAD Belter 16 Trail and their other models.

Comments

lev
+1 Andrew Major
Lev  - March 3, 2019, 11:03 p.m.

Pedals are the key to learning and enjoying riding for the little people.  My boy's Commencal Ramones 14" has great kit and good geo, but the pedals were like bars of soap and led to a lot of frustration.  I looked and looked, but the only 'real' options were Chromag and Hope.   Chromag won.  Lots of money, but he will have them until he is ten (he's three now).   Crazy purchase but worth it.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 MTBrent
Andrew Major  - March 3, 2019, 11:35 p.m.

I've been holding out hoping that Chromag does a resin w/ metal pin version of their Radar pedal. Based on my experiences with the Kona Wah Wah 2 (Resin) and Bontrager Line Elite (Resin) I can't see any negative for the wee one and I'd love to pay 1/2 the price of the machined model. 

That said, I am a true believer in "amortize your life" and that's hopefully a tonne of riding the purchase is being absorbed into. 

Oh, and she's figured out herself that anodized little-people pedals are a thing. Like a moth to a flame at the BC Bike Show today:

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lev
+1 Andrew Major
Lev  - March 4, 2019, 1 a.m.

I agree about resin, I run oneup's on my bikes.  I did toy with drilling the stock pedals and putting pins in too, but didn't.  The pins are key.  You can washer the Chromag pins to determine how much pins shows. I've already increased the pin height.  More grip the better it seems, just need to keep the kid in trousers to slow down his shins looking like his dad's too quick!

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MTBrent
+2 Cr4w Andrew Major
MTBrent  - March 4, 2019, 5:03 a.m.

Noted:  Convert future college fund to little-people anodized bling fund.  My 1-month old little girl already approves!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 4, 2019, 7:07 a.m.

Hahaha - no kidding; commiserations!

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reini-wagner
0
Reini Wagner  - March 5, 2019, 1:24 p.m.

I just found this by chance, looks interesting and seems to be good value for money:

https://www.bike24.de/1.php?content=8;product=304542;menu=1000,2,109;pgc%5B17942%5D%5B17970%5D=1;page=2

also available in blue and green colorways...

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UFO
0
UFO  - March 6, 2019, 10:50 p.m.

I've researched a bit for suitable kid's pedals too for something I've been slowly piecing together. Wellgo make a KC008 which is suitably kid sized, with lower profile replaceable studs -- about $35usd last I checked. Time is on my side though, I'm holding out for a set of the pre-owned Chromag Radars.

Unrelated note, I've been trying to find a set of those Tektro kids brake levers, with little to no success. Any pointers?

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AndrewMajor
+2 Metacomet UFO
Andrew Major  - March 7, 2019, 9:44 a.m.

Assuming you have a standard 7/8" (22.2mm) bar then you're just looking for a Tektro 316AG. They can be had with black or silver lever blades and can be bought in pairs or as a RH only. You can find them online and any shop should be able to get you a set. 

They are also called "Tektro Mini levers" or "Tektro Mini BMX levers" but make sure you specify that you're looking for the 22.2mm clamp because some kids bikes (Spawn for example) are using a 19mm bar and Tektro makes the same lever for that diameter and it's also called a Mini lever. 

Hope that helps!

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4Runner1
0
4Runner1  - March 9, 2019, 9:01 a.m.

My boy has been using the Wellgos as they came on his Spawn. Faultless so far.

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fartymarty
+2 Tremeer023 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - March 4, 2019, 2:30 a.m.

Another great article and a great looking little bike.  My kids are on Frog bikes which are quite good and light but need a little fettling to make them great.  We used to have an Isla Cnoc 14 which we have just sold.  It had really thin bars for little hands and tiny brake levers.  

The Frog bikes come with relatively large levers which I change for https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Children-Kids-Girls-Boys-Universal-Lightweight-Spare-Bicycle-Brake-Levers-Set-/331908502614?var=&hash=item4d4749d456 which work well with little hands.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 4, 2019, 7:12 a.m.

Thanks Marty!

There are a growing number of thoughtful kids’ bikes on the market - at various price points. 

Other than stem length (and pedals in the future) this one is dialled - but with just having the one wee one there’s an argument that some of the details are lost on my family (aside from potential resale value and the fact we bike a fair bit). 

The more adequately spaced Groms in the line the stronger a value case for the Early Rider.

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Tremeer023
+1 Andrew Major
Tremeer023  - March 4, 2019, 12:53 p.m.

Thanks for the link to the small brake levers.  Literally just purchased and built up an 18 inch wheeled bmx (GT Performer) for my son and most of it is well proportioned, but the brake levers are basically adult sized. 

Good article, and good point about paint scuffs.  Got a Strider balance bike at home which my younger son has now - you should see the state of the paintwork!

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slyfink
+1 Andrew Major
slyfink  - March 4, 2019, 8:17 a.m.

My 6 y.o. has been watching me head out on fatbike rides, and asking if he can come along. This weekend the snow was firm and not too icy, so I thought lets give it a go.

it was tough-going on the little wheels and slippery pedals, which led to this:

that said, he didn't give up, and still had fun. But it got me thinking... maybe one of those 20" "Plus" tire bikes would work well for him? Hmmmm...

Something like this:

it would likely do well in the summer too...

but... are there others?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 slyfink
Andrew Major  - March 4, 2019, 8:27 a.m.

So awesome! Thanks for sharing. He’s tougher than a lot of my friends.

I’ve personally seen the Scott 20+ and 24+ bikes and they look great. The Salsa and Cannondale +/- Tire kids’ bikes make so much sense. The tires have as much travel as most cheap suspension products and the bikes are way less $$$ and weight than buying a kids dual-FS.

Specialized makes a good looking kids Fatbike but it’s probably less fun to ride in the non-snow months.

Lots of good debates out there (rigid vs hardtail vs FS) with budget considered or open but I’m solidly (and not surprisingly probably) in the rigid camp for 16/20/?

Reply

slyfink
+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major
slyfink  - March 4, 2019, 10:43 a.m.

Ooooh, thanks for the tips! I had forgotten about the Salsa and didn't know about the Scott.

I too am solidly in the rigid camp; at least until my kids graduate from "I like to go out riding with dad. sometimes", to "this is awesome and I want to spend all my time doing this". I think a fat (or semi-fat) rigid offers the greatest versatility in that it can be used to ride off-road in the summer, maybe in winter when conditions are good, and to get to school and muck around the hood the rest of the year.

I also wanted to mention that I didn't realize quality kids flat pedals were a thing. I'll have to look into that. He constantly loses his pedals while we're riding. I keep trying to teach technique (drop those heels, get up off the saddle, your elbows and knees are all the suspension you need!), but some good/better pedals would probably help a shit-ton too.

I love this site: you guys equally fire my "gnar" stoke, as well as my kid stoke! thanks!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 4, 2019, 12:26 p.m.

Brightly coloured grips are apparently also really important! 

But yes, the Radar pedals are $$$ but I have yet to meet someone who was negative about the outlay vs benefits. They’re on my short list.

I totally agree re. bikes. It strikes me that around here - and quite a few other places I’ve been - it’s fairly impossible to be a casual mountain biker. Not so much talking about how many days someone rides in any given year but more the mental commitment, injury risk, and treasure required.

I love riding with my kid but I’m under no illusion that my passion is for everyone. We need a good bike that will hold up to all the family biking we do and leave the door to mountain biking open - that’s going to be a rigid bike for a while yet.

Especially considering how small an XS Rocky Growler (26+) will fit it’s full conceivable that mind will do 20” and 24” wheels rigid.

Thanks for the props - I’m really happy that folks are interested in the kid-content and as a reader of the site I hope to see more of it!

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - March 4, 2019, 11:34 p.m.

Grips, cable outers and coloured things on the spokes are important.  Also spray painting a frame is fun - I did twice on one frame - pink then purple.

Reply

reini-wagner
+1 Andrew Major
Reini Wagner  - March 4, 2019, 2 p.m.

Good point with the plus tires offering similar suspension to cheap suspension products.

I agree that rigid is good and for most applications sufficient for kids, especially given the fact that a suspension fork is always much heavier than a rigid one. Considering that even the Belter, one of if the most lightweight 16" bikes out there, weighs probably at least 25% of the rider's weight, that really makes a difference.

Imagine you'd have to ride a bike that weighs 25% of your weight (without an engine)...

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 4, 2019, 7:52 p.m.

The strength to weight ratios of kids is pretty impressive mind you - given the right motivation. Mine can hike for a couple of hours (but whines on our 10-minute walk to the grocery store). 

That said, early days - but she's already remarked on the weight of the Belter. It also needed an upgrade to be "less boring" which to date involved "borrowing" an anodized red Straitline stem from a decade ago.

Reply

reini-wagner
+1 Andrew Major
Reini Wagner  - March 4, 2019, 1:04 p.m.

Hi Andrew,

great that you're working on another interesting topic. My 5.5 year old is on an urban belter since 2 years now. Needless to say, we're very happy with it, all the quality bits they used make for a really top notch bike. The low weight, good brakes and the belt drive were the main reasons for my choice. As the little rascal has grown quickly, I've swapped the handlebar for ape hangers...

The only gripe I had echos yours: The urban edition was shipped with even worse pedals than the trail version, I immediately swapped them for composite ones with more grip. 

For the next iteration, I've scored a used Kona Makena as an entry level mtb, which will be used at the grand parents' place, and we will probably opt for a Woom 4 for the city live (Woom are a local producer close to home).

Looking forward to reading your review - also of the other models!

Stoked to see your apprentice mechanic working her new ride!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 4, 2019, 8:18 p.m.

Reini, curious if the bike still has the original belt and how much you've had to adjust the dropouts to keep it tight?

It's the kind of long-term feedback that I can't pull off in a few months review - thank you in advance!

Reply

reini-wagner
+1 Andrew Major
Reini Wagner  - March 5, 2019, 9:04 a.m.

Hi Andrew!

in the almost two years that we've used the Belter now, I've never had to adjust the tension of the belt, the dropouts are still where they were when I unboxed the bike. Hence the belt is still the original one as well.

A friend of mine had his in use for one year more, and he had to re-tighten the dropout bolts once because they came loose. I'm not aware that the belt on his bike had lengthened.

I'm very convinced by that belt system. As you mentioned above, it is super clean, and ideal for transporting the bike in the trunk. And the kiddies' hands remain cleaner as well.

We also had to make ours a bit more appealing - we created a "Frozen" edition :D

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 5, 2019, 1:32 p.m.

Thanks on the feedback re. belt stretching.

Another advantage of the raw frame is the customizability - hahaha. Picture of "Frozen" edition bike?

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reini-wagner
0
Reini Wagner  - March 6, 2019, 2:34 a.m.

Yes, that's a good advantage as well.

Here are some Pics of the frozen edition in the current setup with the BMX style handlebars.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/6KauwDPE1DfzB2Wj6

https://photos.app.goo.gl/AyiShYPz4mqmgaMx6

https://photos.app.goo.gl/a46VRf74EkaGgLFr9

I also bought a seatpost/saddle combo with a longer post (because she's already outgrown the stock one) , but that one is "uncomfortable because it does not have any rivets" lol

https://www.xlc-parts.com/de-DE/products/bikeparts/saddles/35-saddle

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 7, 2019, 9:46 a.m.

Awesome!  

Yeah, my wee one preferred the brown saddle with the brass coloured rivets over the black-on-black.

oldschoolsteel
+1 Andrew Major
oldschoolsteel  - March 4, 2019, 5:40 p.m.

My 6 year old just grew out of his Belter Trail. It was the same bike as in the review, but I put a little higher rise in the bars and used different pedals. Good components throughout, and the belt is nice if your putting the bike in a trunk or back of a car (no messy chain). After a year, there are some scratches on the brake lever clamps, but that's about it. It held up really well. It's easily a better run-bike transition than the spawns or any of the major production bikes that I've used with my kids or my nieces/nephews. The thing just doesn't weigh the little guys down.

The gearing was a little tough for him to start on any kind of incline. He would walk up to the next hill-top and start from there. I wish they would have dropped the front ...beltring? to a slightly smaller size. 

I just washed it up to bring it into Red Shreds for consignment and it looks great.  I thought I'd have to swap the cables to smooth-out the brakes after a year, but they're still perfectly smooth. They actually used nice, smooth stainless cables and decent housing. 

The bike was pricey, but it's basically a tiny high-end XC bike. Yes, the tires would be better if they were bigger, maybe a 2.25 would have been perfect.  After that, the brakes would not likely open up enough to release the tires. Not that I ever took them off. It did look pretty cool with an old Chromag stem and seatclamp on it. 

Decent kids' bikes are hard to find, great ones are exceptionally rare. This one was great.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 5, 2019, 1:29 p.m.

That's a great point about the cables being stainless / housing being decent quality. Not something I even considered to check on a kids' bike - just assume it's basic stuff.

Reply

Timv
0
tv  - March 7, 2019, 12:53 p.m.

kids (being kids) are rough on housing.  Not quite "picking up the bike by the brake cables" rough, but almost...

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