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Last year it was quite a challenge to find a decent kids 26 inch wheel mountain bike in stock anywhere - such was demand from junior riders, aged between about 10 to 15 years, who are too big for a 24" kids MTB but too small for an adult mountain bike. The lack of kids 26" wheel mountain bikes had been compounded by the trend over recent years for fitting 650b or 27.5" wheels to adult bikes, which are often too big for younger riders to handle.
Thankfully, things seem to be improving in 2018, with Orbea, Frog and Whyte joining Scott, Trek, Giant Hoy and Islabikes in catering to this youth market, who certainly don't want a "kids" bike but can't quite handle mum or dad's bike (phew!). With all manufacturers getting their 2018 models into stores in time for Easter, things are looking up in this area. One loss from last year is Genesis, who have moved out of the kids bike market, so the Genesis Core 26 is one that you won't see on the list this year.
We have tried to select a 26" wheel mountain bikes from a range of prices including entry-level to serious competition to keep everyone happy. If we've missed out your favourite, do let us know.
Whyte put a lot of effort and careful consideration into the design of their bikes, and none more so than for the kids range. They are scaled down versions of their adult bikes, with some clever little touches such as the 'Get-a-Grip' seatpost clamp that allows post position to be altered even with small, cold hands!
Whyte have two hardtail options at the slightly larger 650b wheel size and these are aimed at riders between 4' 10" to 5' 2".
The 2018 Whyte 403 is the entry level bike, but you still get a lot of bike for your money. The lightweight aluminium frame has internal cable routing to keep the lines clean and avoid any mishaps on the trail. The SR Suntour XCM suspension 100mm fork is air sprung so you can tune to the riders weight. The Shimano 1x9spd drivetrain is coupled with a 11-40T Cassette, and uses a youth specific trigger shifter.Available at Leisure Lakes Bikes
Next up in the pecking order from the 403 is the higher specced 405 model, that comes with a SRAM NX 1x11 drivetrain and SR Suntour Epixon 100mm travel air sprung fork. Whyte have specced a XSYNC Direct Mount chainring, meaning multiple chainrings are available, so you can tune this bike to the size of your Cycle Sprog.
The 2018 Whyte 405 has a retail price of £950.Available at Leisure Lakes Bikes
Frog released their new "Push The Limits" (PTL) bike range in February 2018 and this is the first time the popular kids bike range has offered a mountain bike. Frog's experience in building kids bikes shows, as they are offering two 26" wheel mountain bikes. The Frog MTB 69 is aimed at those those aged about 10-12 years (with minimum inside leg of 69cm) and the Frog MTB 72 is for those older kids who have an inside leg of 72cm.
Frog Bikes have designed a lightweight frame specifically for junior riders, to increase stability whilst improving control. There is a 5 year warranty on the frame. The lightweight oversize handlebar and stem promise to reduce flex and provide better control, and the Tektro junior specific hydraulic disc brakes should make it easier for smaller hands to brake whilst remaining control of the bike.
All the Frog mountain bikes come with junior specific air suspension forks, complete with lockout and damping control, to enable optimal performance for lower weight riders, with 100mm of travel on the two 26″ wheel bikes.
One of our local British cycling coaches has a fleet of these for the kids to race around on and without fail I'm always impressed with how well the Hoy Bonaly bike is put together. It's common knowledge that Sir Chris Hoy has an incredibly high attention to detail, which goes someway to explaining the drawer full of Gold medals!
With an alloy frame and forks, 160mm disc brakes and a single ring at the front to keep gear changing easy with just 9 gears to worry about, the Hoy Bonaly 26 is right on trend. More importantly, it's seriously light (circa 10kg with pedals) with parents surprised just how light when they lift it up. This is because it has rigid forks, so isn't weighed down by suspension and will force your child to hone their technical skills rather than relying on suspension to get them over every bump in the trail. They also seem to be able to take some hammer too, as demonstrated many, many times by children on the British Cycling bikes!
Amongst the larger framed Islabikes, the Creig mountain bike is often overshadowed by the Beinn and Luath models due to their outstanding popularity. However, this is a bike that should not be overlooked. The Creig is a well sorted and capable machine for the keen junior mountain biker in the family.
The Creig 26 is true to the Islabikes philosophy of being light in weight, coming in at a measly 11.3kg which is impressive for a bike with suspension forks. It also packs a mighty punch when it comes to the specification with kids specific geometry and components sized to match. This includes SRAM GX shifters, SRAM DB1 hydraulic disc brakes and an RST F1rst 60mm air sprung fork.
You can read our review of the Islabikes Creig 26 MTB here
The Islabikes Creig 26 has a retail price of £799.99.
As the name suggests, Pro Series models are intended for those with an eye on the top tier of the podium. This is not a bike that has been designed for a pootle in the park. I'm not saying it can't be used for that, but it has been honed for use in competition. As one would expect it comes with an impressive specification. For example, a sealed bearing bottom bracket with titanium axle and carbon fibre body. Avid DB5 hydraulic brakes with a 160mm disc at the front and 140mm at the rear. The wheels are Stan's NoTube Crest with stainless steel spokes and sealed cartridge bearings in the hubs.
Also looking at the drivetrain, there is a SRAM GX rear derailleur and 11 speed shifter with Shimano XT 11-42T cassette to give a broad spread of gears from which to choose. The front fork is a RockShox Recon gold TK air fork with 80mm travel that is tuned for a junior rider. I could go on, but suffice to say that this bike is well spec'd.
True to the Islabikes ethos of correct sizing, it is a competition bike in miniature with junior geometry and dialled in components. One thing it is definitely not is a junior frame that has had top end adult parts bolted on. Everything is added to work together, complement and give synergy so it feels just right for a junior rider.
So is it light? In a word - yes. 9.32kg without pedals
If you have a racer on your hands and have £1499 to spend on a cutting edge junior mountain bike, then consider getting in touch with Islabikes to discuss the Creig 26 Pro Series.
Giant are the world's largest manufacturer of bicycles with a range that covers all ages and disciplines. New for 2018, and superseding the Revel, is the ATX that comes in the ATX1 and ATX2 models. Thankfully, Giant have decided to continue with youth sized XXS and XS frames complimented by 26" wheels.
The Giant ATX2 is a lightweight aluminium framed mountain bike for juniors and small adults, and sports an SR Suntour XCT suspension fork with 100m of travel. This is an entry level fork that is best suited to forest trails and gravel tracks rather than crazy downhill runs.
The ATX2 has 21 gears and it uses Shimano Tourney thumb operated shifters for changing through the cassette. In addition there is a Prowheel triple chainset at the front - this isn't as simple as a single ring, but should suit kids confident in changing gear. An upgrade from 2017's Revel is the addition of Tektro mechanical disc brakes. Other component such as the bars, stem and saddle are sourced from the enormous Giant 'own brand' parts bin.
So the ATX2 is an entry level MTB aimed at junior riders that are looking to get out and enjoy some moderate off road riding and it retails for £375.
Contessa is the name given to the Scott range for both girls and women and comprises a broad selection of bikes that cover all disciplines.
The Contessa Jr 26 uses a 6061 alloy frame that has a low top tube. At the front, Scott have equipped the bike with an SR Suntour XCT fork with a softer spring for juniors and this provides 100mm of travel. Shimano components have been used throughout for the derailleurs, shifters and triple crankset. This gives 21 speeds to choose from. For braking, Scott have chosen to use the traditional v-brake style, rather than the disc brakes sported on all other models on this list. The Scott website gives an approximate weight of 13.2kg for the Contessa Junior 26.
The Scott Contessa Jr 26 retails at £399.
The Voltage Jr 26 is the straight top tube equivalent of the Contessa Jr 26, so sports the same 100mm SR Suntour front fork and Promax v-brake system.
There are 21 speeds to choose from, with Shimano Tourney derailleurs and Shimano EF41 combined brake lever/shifters to make the changes. As with the Contessa Jr 26, the Scott Voltage Jr 26 also retails for £399.Available at Tweeks Cycles
With full suspension becoming more popular on adult bikes, it's not surprising that there is demand for junior sized bikes too. They don't come cheap, and some will argue that your child should be learning their skills on a fully rigid or hard tail before moving onto the comparative luxury of full suspension later in life. Others will retort that if it means their Cycle Sprog can get up and down what ever the trail
For 2018, Whyte are really broadening their youth offering. Not only do they have the two specific 26" wheeled hardtails which we covered above, but they've introduced an extra small framed 'Compact' version of some of the existing full-sus line up - however, please note that these are 27.5" wheel bikes, not 26" wheel.
The Whyte T-130 is an award winning full suspension enduro machine, featuring state of the art technology in both it's frame and components.
Two versions of this 27.5" wheel bike are available in the XS frame size - the T-130S shown above, featuring a 1x12 single ring coupled to a massive wide-ranging 10-50T cassette at the rear(!), and the slightly lower specced but still incredible T-130SR shown below. The XS frame for both models is designed for those youth riders who are 145 – 160 cm tall (4'72 - 5'3") and the Small frame is suitable those 160 - 168 cm (5'32 to 5' 6").
The Whyte T-130S retails for £2750.Available at Leisure Lakes Bikes
The Whyte T-130SR retails for £2250.Available at Leisure Lakes Bikes
If we've missed out your favourite 26" wheel kids mountain bike, then do please let us know in the comments section below. We'd also love to hear which bike you bought and what your Cycle Sprog thinks of it.
Orbea are bringing an increasing number of kids bikes to market, and it's good to see them including a 26" wheel size mountain bike in their range.
The Team is built around an aluminium frame with sloping top tube to give a nice, low standover height. Gearing keeps it simple with a single 34T chainring up front and a 9 speed 11-36T cassette at the rear with changes made via a Shimano Altus shifter and rear derailleur.
Orbea have specified Shimano's Alivio M315 disc brakeset that is a budget brakeset that has a great reputation for effectiveness and delivers excellent value for money. It's good to see that manufacturers have cottoned on and started to specify air sprung forks. These can be dialled in to actually work with a lightweight child on board the bike by adjustment of the air pressure - simple! Orbea have specified an SR Suntour XCR32 RL-R that delivers 100mm of travel that should be more than plenty for dealing with the rough stuff.
The 2018 Scott Scale Jr 26" wheel mountain bike is a serious mountain bike, honed down to be suitable for younger riders who don't have the power or the body size to handle an adult sized mountain bike.
The Scott Scale Jr 26 claims to be a good choice for the junior mountain biker looking to take their riding to the next level. 100mm of travel on the front suspension combined with a reliable Shimano drivetrain giving 3 x 8 gears for climbing and descent will be fun on the trails. The Tektro disc brakes should give kids the confidence to push their limits, whatever the weather. It's not the lighest bike available, coming in at 13.9kg.
From Trek we have the Superfly 26 hardtail - it looks pretty mean with its all-black paintwork and red Trek decals. Inspired by the adult version, the Superfly is built using child specific components throughout plus a kids size frame too. This means that everything works together to give confidence and control to junior riders.
The specification for the Superfly is as expected for a high end kid's mountain bike. For the drivetrain, there is an 11 speed SRAM NX system with a 30 tooth chainset at the front and an 11-42T cassette at the rear. This will help riders tackle the biggest of hills.
Braking is provided by Tektro M285 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors, providing good stopping power. Also, the Superfly is equipped with front suspension and uses an X-Fusion Velvet RL fork to give a very useful 90mm of travel. Elsewhere, the Superfly is scattered with Trek's very own Bontrager componentry to give an all round quality package.
The Trek Superfly 26 retails for £750 and Trek sell their products exclusively through independently owned and operated bike shops. It is available at retailers within the Trek dealer network including Rutland Cycles.
Trek have come into 2018 with a delicious junior version of their Fuel Ex running on 26" wheels. With X-Fusion supplying the suspension front and rear, and Shimano Deore used for gearing and braking duties, the Fuel Ex Jr is a tasty bit of kit.
Trek have opted for a double chainring setup at the front, with 24/32 chainrings matching up to an 11-36T cassette at the back to give a total of 20 ratios. This gives a wide spread of gear options so getting out and tackling some hills should be a blast.
The majority of the components fitted to the bike come from Trek's in-house brand Bontrager and will be good quality items that will do the job admirably.
Weight is stated as 13.1kg and it retails for £1500.
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