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We've been lent two road/cyclocross bikes from the new Cuda Performance kids bike range to test out and put through their paces - the largest in family CP700R (review coming soon!) and this one, the 20" wheeled Cuda CP20R.
Barracuda are a cycle company that produce a range of adult bikes at reasonable prices across all disciplines. Cuda is their junior brand that, up until now, consisted of a broad selection of kids bikes known as the 'Leisure' range. However, Cuda have decided to move into a different sector of the children's bike market, bringing out their new 'Cuda Performance' kids bike range aimed at parents who are looking to spend £250 or over on a lightweight quality bike with high end components.
The two leading brands in this space are Islabikes and Frog Bikes but there's a growing number of companies entering the quality kids bike market hot on their heels. With this new focus, it will be interesting to see how the offerings from Cuda stand up to the already well established and respected cycles from two giants of the children's bike stage.
Let's not beat around the bush here - it's a tough market to break into as parents are very discerning when they're spending this kind of money. Expectations run high. In return for their outlay, quality should be evident and they will not be satisfied with anything less.
|Make and Model||Cuda CP20R||Price||£330 rrp|
|Age||6+ years||Weight||8.4 Kg inc. pedals|
|Type of cycling||Road/Cyclocross||Gears||7 speed Shimano SIS Index thumbshifter
Cassette - 12-32T
Chainset - 32T
|Handlebars||Straight handlebars||Colours||Grey with orange and blue detailing|
|Accessories||None identified||Where to buy||Available from Halfords, via Amazon and independent bike shops found by the search facility on the Cuda Bikes website.|
|Cycle Sprog Verdict||A good looking, lightweight bike that's competitively priced and easy to lift. A good choice if you don't like to follow the crowd|
For this review we've employed the services of trusty T. He's our in-house 7 year old who is rather competitive and just loves to come first.
Ask him to take the lead on a lovely ride through the countryside and he'll be forever looking over his shoulder waiting for the attack!
Cycling on trails and cycle paths is his favourite, but he's also partial to a bit of cyclocross and recently has been enjoying his first tastes of mountain biking.
The CP20R is the smallest in the road/cyclocross Performance Range that includes bikes with wheel sizes of 24", 26" and 700c. The Cuda CP20R is aimed at children aged around six years upwards and is the only model in this particular range that comes equipped with straight handlebars. The other sizes in the Cuda Performance road/cyclocross range all come supplied with dropped handlebars and have gearing ratios that are matched to the size of bike.
The Cuda CP20R has received nothing but praise for its looks and colour scheme. This did surprise me somewhat, as I'd presumed that the grey might be a little low key for the kids. However I was wide of the mark, as parents and children agree that the orange and blue tones are a striking combination against the grey, and work really well with the black componentry.
The Cuda Performance CP20R comes equipped with a range of gears that lend itself to all manner of terrain. At the front there is a 32 tooth chainring coupled to a 7 speed rear cassette. 7th gear has 12 teeth, so gearing is perfect for hurtling along on the flat, while at the other end 1st gear is equipped with 32 teeth making it ideal for when the going gets steep. The gearing ratios have come in handy, as T has managed to ride it up a 15% hill near our home, which he was unable to do on the Frog Road 58 a week earlier.
Finding a gear system that kids can use with ease is akin to finding the Holy Grail. Either they're too complex for them to use, or just too darned difficult to operate. The classic and most widely used option is the use of a twistgrip which, when new, can be pretty good. However, once moisture, dirt and wear and tear sets in they can be unbelievably hard to 'twist' and change gear. Thankfully, some manufacturers are putting some serious R&D work into improving the twistgrip system, most notably SRAM.
On the CP20R, Cuda have broken the mould and opted for an alternative to the twistgrip. They've gone for the Shimano SL-TX30 tourney 7 speed with an optical display with clear numbering. T has found this very useful as it has removed any confusion as to what gear he's in.
The SL-TX30 system uses a rapid fire thumb button that works superbly when changing from low to high gears. However, T did encounter some issues going from high to low, which uses a thumb lever pushed away in an anticlockwise direction.
Easy shifting from high to low gears depends on the length and strength of your son or daughters right thumb. The shifter on the CP20R is actually an adult component and so is designed with adult sized hands in mind. Initially, our tester found that there were two points that caused him difficulty - trying to get from second to first gear and trying to get out of 7th gear into sixth. The reasons for this are that the lever is at its extremes in these gears. For example, trying to get from 2nd to 1st gear involves pushing the lever away from the bars into a 2 o'clock position and due to the length of the lever, necessitates T's hand to be almost taken off the handlebar to achieve this.
Getting from 7th gear into 6th is the reverse problem, such that the lever sits at a six o'clock position on the bars. This can be very difficult for a child, as they need both thumb strength and the ability to twist their thumb and hand around to obtain enough purchase on the lever for changing out of gear. The other gears in the range don't seem to pose a problem.
T has been riding the Cuda regularly over several months and this exposure to the thumb shifter has a) helped his technique and b) strengthened his thumb. He is certainly au fait with the system now and able to work the shifter in all gears. First gear no longer poses a problem and he's getting up hills very easily, but going from 6th to 7th is still a bit difficult for him. However, he's not as bothered about changing into the higher gears, as 5th has provided him with enough pace for the descents.
The wheels on the Cuda Performance CP20R come with alloy hubs and quick release skewers with 'double wall' rims that are plenty strong due to the extra structural support they contain. If intending on using the CP20R with a FollowMe Tandem coupling then the quick release adaptor (Islabikes version) will be required.
Braking on an Cuda CP20R 20" kids bike
Braking on the Cuda CP20R is provided by Tektro calipers and levers that pull up the little bike without fuss. The levers are child specific short reach affairs and T, who doesn't have the strongest or largest hands, has found operating them to be a doddle.
Saddle and pedals
The saddle on the Cuda CP20R looks a little larger at the rear than others that we've seen on kids bikes, but it has caused no problems when cycling and has proved comfy over full day cycle rides.
Initially, I thought the pedals looked a tad on the large size for a kids bike, but when compared to others it was the shape rather than the size that differed. Anyhow, they're plenty grippy and give good purchase.
Weight - how easy is it to lift an Cuda CP20R 20" kids bike?
The technical specification for the CP20R gives a weight of 8.2kg, which is no porker. Checking it on our scales gave a weight of 8.4kg, which does include pedals. The Cuda CP20R is the first bike that T has been able to lift up and down the 5 steps at our front door without adult help. Given the bike is suitable for cyclo-cross and triathlon this is good to note.
When the CP20R arrived in the box it was fitted with the road tyres and so this is what T set out on for his first ride. Being new to this skinny road tyre malarkey, I don't think he realised the impact this would have on his riding. Having experience of grippy and wide mountain bike and cross style tyres the skinny road ones caused a few control issues before he got used to the quicker steering. He was able to ride rather rapidly, and I'm worried about keeping up with him when he moves up to a bigger wheel size!
T does most of his riding on trails and grass and isn't yet traffic aware enough to go on long road rides, so we swapped to the cross tyres for most of the review period. I have to admit that we've pushed the Cuda CP20R well beyond the limits of it's advertised scope, which is road and cyclo-cross riding.
The weather during our test period was warm and dry and T happily rode it on all sorts of terrain including grass, forest tracks, hilly lanes and even a mountain bike singletrack Green route.
He did struggle on a rocky section of "Blue" MTB run he attempted in Scotland and would have benefited from wider MTB tyres on some of the more rocky forest tracks, but this just serves to show how far this bike can be pushed if need be. Despite handling this punishment it's come back unscathed.
Cuda also do a Performance All Terrain 20" kids bike (£280) and have a Mountain Bike coming out later in the year, so the performance of the CP20R bodes well for these bikes.
Thoughts from the Sprog
T is getting quite discerning when it comes to bikes and takes into account everything from colour, to how it feels to ride, plus how fast it is! He's rather taken with the Cuda CP20R, and these are his comments:
"I think the Cuda is a great bike - one of the best bikes I've ridden. It's easy to get up steep hills in gear 1. It feels really light and its also really easy to carry. I hold the top tube and the handlebars in the middle (by the stem) to lift it.
I had problems with the gears at first but now I can get into gear 1 easily. I don't use gears 6 and 7 very much as I find that gear 5 gives me plenty of speed"
As we mentioned at the start of the article, the new Performance Cuda range is up against some big names in terms of quality kids bikes at a similar price point. However, in the smaller 20" size there isn't quite as much competition in the road/cyclo-cross space, as our article on kids 20" road bikes explains. The Cuda Performance CP20R has an RRP of £330, so what competition does it have? In the 20" wheel size, the Frog road/cross offering is the Frog Road 58, which comes with drop handlebars and a £400 price tag. Islabikes don't offer a cross/road bike in a 20" wheel, but the Islabikes Beinn 20 (small or large) would be ideal on a cyclocross or Triathlon course (£350 ). Another flat handlebar alternative is the Dawes Academy 20 at £300.
The Cuda CP20R battles with the big boys of quality kids bikes in terms of price so it has to come up with the goods in terms of components, weight and kudos. Does it succeed? Well, more or less.
At the time of writing, the Cuda is the new kid on the block and because of this doesn't have an army of followers singing its praises. For that reason, you are unlikely to encounter anyone telling you that the Cuda CP20R is the bike you should go out and spend your hard earned cash on.
However, if you are the type of person that doesn't want to be part of the herd and tends to be willing to give something different a go then this bike will appeal. It's got a good specification, it's lightweight, it looks good and the £330 price is competitive. What's not to like? Well, there are a few things to consider.
The warranty at 12 months is shorter than that given by other manufacturers. For some, the gears can be a little difficult to get into first or out of seventh. It's limited in choice of colours, as in there is no choice - grey with orange and blue detailing - like it or lump it. But if the gears are okay for your child's hands (or the terrain they'll be riding on is not steep enough to require gears 1 and 7), and you're not bothered about a long warranty or choice of colours, then you'll find the Cuba CP20R a capable kids 20" wheel bike that will provide years of fun.
Where can the Cuda CP20R be bought?
The Cuda CP20R is sold through a network of local bike dealers. Use the Cuda Bikes dealer locator to find your local stockist (select Performance Range).
Cycle Sprog were loaned the Cuda CP20R for review by Moore & Large
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