As recently as five years ago, mountain bikes for kids universally featured low end parts and poorly considered designs, and often weighed as much as their riders. Lil Shredder is largely credited for changing the status quo, designing capable bikes for little riders and causing grown men to contemplate shelling out thousands of dollars for a bike they could never ride. Today, the middle ground of a shreddable, affordable bike for pint-sized riders seems on the cusp of being realized.
I first learned about Spawn Cycles in 2012 when I saw their impressive 16” wheeled model, the Banshee, at a local shop. I checked out their website and fired off an email to owner Max with the subject line: “great bikes! where’s the 20?” Turns out Max, whose son is just a few months younger than mine, was already working on a design and hoped to have something ready by the summer of 2013. But breaking new ground isn’t quick or easy, and testing prototypes and sourcing parts for a bike that didn’t have much precedent took longer than expected. I ended up biting the bullet and building my son a bike from scratch for his sixth birthday – but kept my eye on Spawn, as Max seemed committed and his ideas were sound.
Fast forward to the winter of 2014 and Max dropped by with a Spawn Savage 2.0 for us to “review”. Out of the box the bike certainly looked the part, like a scaled down version of the hardtails we like to ride. Max walked me through the design process and explained how he’d figured out the spec. My first impressions were positive, but of course I would have to defer to our test rider for confirmation. I picked my son up from school, we headed over to the Shore and pedalled up to his favourite trail: Bobsled. We dropped in, ripped down to mountain highway, and when my son turned around and exclaimed “that was awesome!” I knew Max had a winner on his hands. Here’s an overview of the biggest and baddest bike in Spawn’s lineup: the Savage 2.0.
The Savage models both come with a 6061 aluminum frame. The Savage 1.0 comes with a rigid fork and rim brakes, while the 2.0 seen here sports hydraulic disc brakes and front suspension.
It’s never too early to start fostering a healthy fear of front derailleurs. The Savage sports an Enduro-approved 1×10 drive train, though the 32 tooth ring, 11-36 cassette and 20” wheels provide a decently low gear ratio for pedalling.
Getting the chainstays down below 14 inches without breaking the bank on the CNC machine took a lot of figuring. Eventually, Max managed to trim them down to 340mm, shorter by an inch than the Savage’s closest competitor on the market. Those stubby stays may have something to do with the fact that switchbacks are my son’s new favourite trail feature.
The Savage comes with custom-made (i.e. factory chopped, drilled and tapped) 127mm crank arms, a 32 tooth front ring, a lightweight bash guard and small pedals for small feet. And yes, with its 104mm bolt-circle-diameter, the crank will take a 30 tooth N/W ring – though it should be said that the bike hasn’t dropped a chain yet.
The Tektro Drako hydraulic disc brakes have adjustable reach levers and come spec’d on adult bikes retailing for twice as much as the Savage, so stopping power shouldn’t be an issue. Plus they run on mineral oil, so you can teach junior how to bleed his own brakes without catching hell from mom.
The Savage comes stock with a 500mm wide riser bar and a 50mm stem. Both are on the short side, which along with the bike’s low stand over height mean the bike should fit most 5 year olds while leaving them room to grow. The 1 1/8” head tube and 27.2mm seat tube are the perfect retirement home for your old Chris King and Thomson bits.
The Savage’s wheels have 28 spokes and alloy rims, run on quick-release, sealed bearing hubs, and are lighter than any BMX option you’re likely to find.
Now don’t let all that exposed stanchion get you too excited. The (elusive) Spinner Air 20 gets a bit less than its advertised 50mm of travel – but it’s light, there’s little stiction off the top, and the suspension feel is impressive. The Kenda Small Block Eight tires aren’t generally considered Shore-ready rubber, but I’ve been impressed with the traction they’ve provided my son. And they offer a good opportunity to have the all important John Tomac conversation.
Like I said, it certainly looks the part. And, after watching my son rally it around our local trails with ever-growing confidence and skill these past few months, it would seem it rides the part, too. The only fault I could find with the bike is that the seat post and fork steerer-tube are on the short side – though adding a longer post and high-rise bar down the line would allow a little rider room to grow.
I’ve spent way too much time looking at and thinking about kids bikes over the past few years; while many bike companies are stepping up their offerings for little riders, the Spawn Savage’s impressive geometry and spec put it in a class of its own. The Savage 2.0 weighs in at 22 lbs (w/ pedals) and retails for $975. That’s a lot of money to drop on a kids’ bike, but arguably pretty good value for a few years of sweet after-school shred sessions with your favourite grom.
Are you dad enough? Check out the Spawn Cycles line HERE.