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As you can imagine we get a lot of bikes passing through Cycle Sprog HQ, and we try and make sure our boys don't get too attached to the ones they're asked to review. They know they're on a short term loan, and that they ride, ride, ride, review and return. However, very occasionally we get sent a bike that becomes so much more. They love it, they beg to go out on it, and get upset when the time comes to send it back. The bike becomes an important part of our family life, tied up with our memories of that particular time of their life. Very few bikes make this category, but the Worx JA-700 junior road bike has definitely catapulted itself onto the list. In fact, the JA700 has had such an impact, that we've even named a season after it. From now on, the summer of 2018 will be known to our eldest Sprog N and myself as The Summer of Worx.
N was 11 when the Worx arrived and in Y7 (first year of high school for those of you still using imperial measurements). He'd had 3 years experience of riding on the roads of Cumbria on 24" and 26" wheel road bikes, with the two of us regularly riding out on a weekend morning for about 20 hilly miles. He also loves mountain biking, and until the Worx arrived, if forced to choose, he would usually rather go to a trail centre than ride on the road.
Oxfordshire based Worx Bikes are a small company who specialise in making race bikes. In 2018 they released a new range of junior bikes, which includes road and cross bikes with 24", 26" and 700c wheels, as well as 24" and 26" wheeled hybrids. The JA700 is their largest junior offering, and can be specified for road or cyclocross use (an additional £50 for cross tyres). The bike we were sent for review was fitted with road tyres and is aimed at the at U12 - U14 race categories, with the frame having a 714mm standover height and a retail price of £695.
The moment the Worx JA700 arrived, we had high expectations of the bike. It weights next to nothing (8.8kg) which was evident as it was lifted out the box. It looks stunning too, so hopes were high that the ride would be just as good. I've written elsewhere about the first time N rode the Worx, with him calling out "Wow! This is incredible - they don't want it back do they?" and how within minutes he was waxing lyrical about the comfort of the ride, the ease of changing gear and the quality of the braking.
But, how would it withstand over 5 months of use? Getting ongoing praise from a pre-teen is hardwork, so the Worx was in for a tough job. Here's how it got on.
Worx make bikes to win races, so it's not surprising that every time we go out with the Worx JA700 we never fail to comment on just how fast it is. The lightness of the bike combined with the 700c wheels means he's powering up hills, flying down descents and eating up the miles on the flats.
Interestingly, N has never been keen on racing or going particularly fast. All that has changed since getting the Worx. He's become obsessed with our stats on Strava - how fast, how high, how far - these are the things that preoccupy him the moment we get home from a ride.
I'm thankful that he's an experienced road cyclist already, as the speeds he's getting up to, especially on the descents (over 30 mph) do require good bike handling skills. This certainly isn't a bike for a new rider!
Of course there's a lot to learn about pacing yourself so you can finish a route, and I've learnt to ride with increased stocks of jellied sweets for the final miles if we're pushing the distance a bit. After all, who listens to poor old mum when she tells you to slow down a bit now so you don't burn out later!
Thankfully for us, the Worx JA700 just seems to be hungry for steep hills.
We live on the edge of the Lake District, on a 15% hill, so hill climbing is a fact of life for us!
The Worx JA700 has turned hills from something he endures into a passion (verging on an obsession!). The Microshift R9 11/32 cassette at the rear and 46T/34T chainring at the front has got him up everything in the area, and he's even been demanding we go out and do hill training in the evenings after school.
The Worx JA700 is the first road bike he's ridden with a double chain ring at the front, and I wondered if he would struggle with this, but he took to it almost instantly. There's never any grating of gears, moans of frustration half way up a hill, or chains slipping off - just a smooth shift from one gear to the next every time.
A couple of examples from Strava show the kind of thing we've been tackling after tea when we have to cram in a quick ride between homework and bedtime.
First one he had me cycling twice up the big hill by our house, after doing a smaller one as a warm up - just a short 3 mile jaunt before bed! Second example, he fancied going and riding up one of the steepest hills in the area, just for fun. A quick 10 miler after tea in the sunshine. He's been getting up the gradients with ease and it's certainly been keeping me fit trying to keep up with him, and we now have an agreement that he waits for me at the top of a climb. Is it any wonder I'm starting to become obsessed with electric road bikes!
OK, the summer of 2018 was incredible weather wise, so it's tempting to say that's why he loves the bike so much. There's nothing better than getting out on the roads of the Lake District on a glorious summers day, and naysayers could argue that our view of the Worx JA700 has been through rose tinted spectacles. However, we did get sent the bike at the end of March, long before the heatwave started. The first few outings on the bike, when N was at his least confident on it, were on damp surfaces.
He's also ridden a family sportive on it in the rain - the heavens opened just before they set off so the road was very wet.
The bike performed admirably, and he was the first to cross the finish line - all smiles as you can see!
Several people have commented that the Continental Grand Sport Light tyres don't look to have much grip, but I can confirm that this is deceptive (especially if you're used to the look of the multi-purpose tyres of a regular kids hybrid bike). They're designed specifically for riding on roads, and there has been no slippage at all when he's been descending at speed in excess of 30 mph. In the five months we've been puncture free (although I've obviously just doomed our next ride!)
Over the review period there's been a couple of times he's had to put the Tektro ORYX cantilever brakes to the test, when cars, sheep, cats and road surfaces (POTHOLES - don't you hate them!) haven't quite behaved as he'd expected, and each time the Worx has handled outstandingly. As a mum, this is one of the most scary things about riding with a child, and of course on the Worx's 700c wheels he's going even faster than before. Knowing that the bike will stop quickly and handle well in an emergency is reassuring.
One thing that's been noticeable by its absence is any complaining about being uncomfortable. No sore back, no sore arms, no sore bum. I presume from the lack of complaints the Worx JA700 is very comfortable to ride, as N has often been in the saddle for several hours at a time. I'd certainly have heard if it wasn't! He's commented a number of times on how easy he finds the brake levers and gear shifters to use, as they fit the size of his hand perfectly.
The Worx is a "proper" bike - it looks like an adult bike, and rides like one. This is just as well, as during the review period N turned 12 and became old enough to go on the Saturday morning club rides with our local cycle club. He'd been looking forward to this day for several years, and sure enough just two days after his birthday we were setting off on this latest step in our family cycling adventures. The pride in seeing him hold his own in a group of adults was one of those special parenting moments for me, and I'm hoping it's a moment he always remembers too.
When we arrived at the meeting point for our first ride there were already over 50 adults milling around waiting to set off, and the JA700 certainly held up to the scrutiny of so many eyes. He wasn't a child on a kids bike, he was a cyclist on a road bike, raring to go. We've been on as many club rides as has been possible over the summer, and he's developed the skills of riding in a group of strangers and each ride it's noticeable he goes further and faster. The handling, braking ability and gearing on the Worx gives me the confidence to allow him to do this.
As well as the rainy family sportive mentioned earlier, we did our first "proper" sportive earlier in the summer (on a much nicer day!)
The 28 mile Tour de Staveley is a classic Lakeland ride (with over 1,700 ft of ascent) that can be ridden by ages 12 and over. Obviously having just turned 12, N was keen to get out there on the Worx. He's written up how he got on in his Sprog Blog if you want all the details. Suffice to say he finished ahead of most of the adult riders and can't wait to do it all again next year.
I like riding bikes, I don't like maintaining them (OK, to be honest, Chris does all our maintenance and I just get frustrated when a bike is in the workshop being sorted rather than being ridden). Thankfully the Worx JA700 has needed very minimal attention over the five months we've been reviewing it. In fact, the seat post has been the only thing that needed much adjusting as N has been growing at quite a rate this summer.
It's impossible to pin point just one thing that makes the Worx JA700 such a great junior road bike. It's the entire package that puts a massive grin on his face the moment he starts pedalling. The bike enthuses him to ride and gives him the confidence to want to tackle longer and steeper challenges each time we go out. It's worth noting it's been up against very tough competition, as in May we finally relented and allowed a PS4 into the house. The fact that his aspirations for next summer are already around riding 100 plus miles and doing some of the big Lakeland passes rather than winning at Fortnite speaks volumes for the power of the Worx (the next bike he rides is going to be in for a shock!!)
And even more impressive, this non-competitive, non-racing child has agreed to take part in a cyclocross race and report back on how the Worx handles, in return for being allowed to keep the bike for a couple more months. Now that's saying something indeed!!
Worx bikes are available exclusively through the Worx website, with the JA-700 retailing at £695.
For this review we've been using the Worx JA-700 with road tyres, but it's also possible to purchase with Continental CycloX-King tyres instead if you're wanting the bike for cyclo-cross racing. The JA700 also comes in a 'Pro' version with carbon forks as standard for £845 (there's a faster wheel set available too at extra cost), plus there are 24" and 26" wheel versions available for younger riders.
Cycle Sprog have been lent the Worx JA-700 for review by Worx Bikes.
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