Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero Review

In a busy balance bike market, you would be forgiven for thinking there was little room for innovation. We've certainly seen the most expensive, the lightest, the cheapest, some great, some terrible and a myriad of other options for small bikes.

What was missing perhaps, the off-road balance bike. Enter the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero to stamp their authority on the somewhat niche world of mountain bikes without pedals!

The balance bike is aptly named "Dirt Hero" and extends the range of mountain biking products from the New Zealand-based brand called Kids Ride Shotgun.

It's designed for 2-5 year olds and whilst at first glance it may look similar to other balance bikes, its high spec (and corresponding price tag) sets it apart from others on the market.

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Having started with their Shotgun bike seat in 2017, Kids Ride Shotgun spent time establishing themselves as the 'bike seat' people, but it always felt like they were a brand with the ambition to do more.

Rather than launching a huge range of products, or rushing, they went steady, and after plenty of speculation, they launched the Dirt Hero.

Disclosure: Cycle Sprog were sent the Dirt Hero to review. We were not paid to write this review, and all opinions are our own. We do use affiliate links so may get a small commission if you choose to buy through the links on this page. This funds the website, and we thank you for your support.

Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero review

Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero key data:

Price - £220.00 (+£70 for the Brake)
Weight - 12" 4kg. 14" 4.2kg + 0.5kg with brake.
Minimum suggested inseam - 12" wheel- 337mm. 14" wheel - 367mm
Age range - 2 to 5 years
Colours - White
Date of review - Autumn 2023
Tester Age/Height - 5 yrs 2 months old, 113cm tall, 43cm inside leg (at the end of the review period)

Pros - Large volume tyres, two sizes of wheels and the ultimate off road, mountain biking balance bike.
Cons - Premium price point and Kids Ride Shotgun unfortunately don't make the next size up!

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Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero scores

Quality - 5/5 - A premium bike with excellent parts.
Weight - 4/5 - By no means the lightest ever balance bike, but it packs a punch- off-road ready without being too weighty.
Value for money - 4/5 - With a premium product comes a premium price tag.
Warranty - 5/5 - Lifetime warranty- so this will keep going for several kids!
Resale value - 4/5 - As the product is aimed at a niche market, you'll have to hunt down the right people after a premium second-hand off-road balance bike.

Final verdict - The Dirt Hero is offering something unique, and if you want to encourage your small rider to get their wheels dirty and join you off-road, then it's hard to think of a better bike for the job.

Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero First Impressions

Based in New Zealand, Kids Ride Shotgun are passionate about getting kids onto bikes, by first jumping on with their adult rider, and now, by riding their own off-road balance bike.

This rider review will focus on the Dirt Hero's performance out on the trails. If you want a deep dive into the specific details of this bike, we've already written about then in our first look review here.

This is a balance bike based on the same design concepts that make modern adult mountain bikes so good. For instance, we have a slack head angle which allows the bike to roll over obstacles more easily and the steering to be calmer at higher speeds, large-volume tyres give more grip, and more comfort and bigger wheels roll over the rough stuff more readily. And it even has a specially designed- safe for little fingers- disc brake on the back. The Dirt Hero is an incredibly versatile bike that is ready to get dirty.

Obviously, this is going to appeal to mountain bike parents who understand the advantages of a slack head angle and can discuss tyre compounds for days. The real question is does a child need this level of mountain bike performance? It's £290 before you've added the brake, so it's not an insignificant investment, if you have a top of the range MTB then surely you're toddler needs one too!

Building it up

The Dirt Hero arrives extremely well packaged with cardboard being the material of choice, which is a nice touch to not drowning in plastic after unwrapping it all. The box contains all the tools you will need, as well as some top tube protector stickers that also double up as a way to make the bike more unique and colorful. There is a little front mudguard too, which we think is a really brilliant touch.

It does however require a fair amount of assembly, including wheels, seat, handlebars and brake (if purchased). This is well supported by the instructions supplied and a comprehensive YouTube video that walks you through the process.

This assembly process further identifies cycling parents as the target audience, and those with the time (and money) to invest in a bike like this.

The build is straightforward, so do not be put off, it is nothing that a set of Allen keys and brew can't sort out. Just keep the child away till it's done- Kids Ride Shotgun has even helped you with this, providing a set of temporary tattoos in the box to really get your sprog on brand!

Swap wheelsets as they grow

Shotgun tell us that the Dirt Hero takes its inspiration from enduro bikes, with a sealed headset, thru axles, a removable footpad, and progressive geometry.

And, because your tiny shredder is growing all the time it also allows you to upgrade from a 12" to a 14" Vee-Tire wrapped wheelset, ensuring maximum usage.

This is great - not just for the taller and older kids out there - but also for those little ones who are learning to ride a 14" wheel pedal bike but aren't quite ready to give up the speed and fun of their balance bike!

Let's get technical (or skip this section if you’re not into your bike specs)

Let's start with the head angle which on the Dirt Hero sits at 66 degrees.

Perhaps not at the extreme of slackness we get on adult enduro bikes, but certainly, the slackest balance bike I've seen or have found on the internet.

This means that the Dirt Hero is well placed for rolling over obstacles on the trail or bumping up kerbs.

There is less chance of the wheel being deflected by obstacles and offers more confidence to the rider.

In addition to slackness, the Dirt Hero is also longer! Longer than most balance bikes which will add stability and give further confidence to plough through the rough stuff.

The bike is also low with plenty of bottom bracket drop (not that it has a bottom bracket)! which makes little difference when sat down.

But if your little rider gets their feet up on the rests, then the low-slung frame will again help to keep them trucking off-road.

To keep up with the current trends in mountain bikes, the Dirt Hero is available with two wheel sizes, either 12 or 14 inches.

Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero in use

My tester is 5 years old, and towards the upper size for the bike, but as they are still refusing to get involved with pedals, the Dirt Hero landed at the perfect time.

We swapped over from another 14-inch balance bike and had an easy transition to the Dirt Hero. The two-wheel sets have identical tyres, so their main function is to provide a bike that grows with the child (more on that later).

The most notable change was that the Dirt Hero is lower between the wheels than many other balance bikes. This means the child sits between the wheels more, which gives better stability over rough ground.

Also, the handlebars are lower, again due to the whole bike being lower, but also many other kids bikes have very high handlebars which give a comfortable upright position but are less useful for mountain biking.

On the pavement, the Dirt Hero rolls like any other balance bike, although maybe the tyres are a little less efficient with their chunky tread, but my rider certainly didn't notice.

After some pavement miles and some pumptrack laps, it was clear that they were getting on together (child and bike).

I realised confidence was building when they rode straight over a cattle grid (breath was held!) and survived. Thankfully the large wheels just kept rolling and with that in mind, we decided it was time to go mountain biking.

Having an 8-year-old who enjoys mountain biking I figured we should just hit the trails as a family and see what happens. On reflection, this wouldn't have been achievable without the Dirt Hero.

The large grippy tyres and a rear brake meant we could just start exploring the blue trails knowing that we had the right kit, and my rider was confident and keen. What followed was a lovely gentle intro to riding at a trail centre as I followed them around various trails and features.

The bike does a great job of instilling confidence in both adult and child, meaning you can be fairly hands-off and let them explore. crucially, the bike has grip, it rolls over obstacles (small roots and rocks) easily and has a very effective easy-to-use brake.

The bike has continued to instill confidence and we've played more and more off road, on pumptracks and trails.

It's also light enough that I can strap it to the back of my backpack and put my rider on the front bike seat to get up the hills. They get their own personal uplift service to maximise their riding and I get a significant workout.

Thoughts on the Magura Disc Brake

Brakes on balance bikes are an ongoing debate, and many find them unnecessary, with small hands usually unable to operate them properly or exert enough pressure to make them work.

The brake on the Dirt Hero is a Magura MT4 hydraulic brake with a 140mm rotor which provides more power than you would possibly need, but for a small hand, it works great, allowing little fingers to feather the brake or pull skids at the drop of a hat.

Shotgun have worked with Magura to make bespoke rotors that meet the regulations for kids bikes this size. This allows them to be sold with the bike, which is unique to the Dirt Hero, as other disc brake-compatible balance bikes require this to be fitted after purchase if desired. The rotor has a great plastic insert that blocks all the gaps that small fingers might be involved with when exploring the bike.

So whilst not crucial on a balance bike, due to the age of my rider (5ish), it has felt appropriate for them to be learning about brakes and skids, so it's worked well.

For riding off road and encouraging them to manage their speed, it has worked really well and is a great foundation for transferring to a bigger bike with 2 brakes.

The brake comes in at a price of £79 when you buy it at the same time as the bike, or £123 if purchased at a later date.

Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero Sizing

This probably needs a bit more unpacking as the wheel size option can be a bit confusing. My initial assumption was that the two wheel options would mean the bike covers a wide range of child sizes.

On further consideration, and checking numbers, this isn't the case. The difference between the wheel sizes is 2 inches, which means with the bigger wheel the bike (and saddle height) will be 1 inch higher or 2.5cm. Which is not a huge difference.

So, the point is, if your child can get on the lower limit of the 14-inch wheel, then that is the best place to start with.

Also, check the saddle heights, the maximum saddle height of a 14-inch wheel Dirt Hero is the same as the maximum Saddle height of the 12-inch wheeled Hornet Aero. So the point here is that wheel size is not a great guide for the size of a bike.

Perhaps in the future, we will see more small kids' bikes with bigger wheels, as ultimately they are more stable and more comfortable to ride. Just ask adults about 29ers.

Is this a problem? No. We are just now in a sad position that my rider is soon to outgrow the Dirt Hero and Kids Ride Shotgun have not yet got a bike for them to progress onto!

Overall verdict of the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero

Sure it's expensive, but the Dirt Hero is offering something unique - a balance bike designed for the trails with the option to have disc brake fitted from new. If you want to encourage your small rider to get their wheels dirty and join you off-road, then it's hard to think of a better bike for the job. Now we just need the next size up, please!

Where to buy the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero

Kids Ride Shotgun sells directly through their own website, where you can also find your local stockist. The Dirt Hero comes in one size but with the option of 12" or 14" wheels. You can also fit the bike out with a Magura MT4 disc brake.

If you haven't come across Kids Ride Shotgun before, they also sell an incredible range of Shotgun seats - allowing adults to carry kids ages 2-5 upfront- experiencing the world of cycling shotgun.

We also LOVE Kids Ride Shotgun's range of activity books and the A-Z storybook is one of our tester's favorite books!

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Alternatives to the Kids Ride Shotgun Dirt Hero

As Kids Ride Shotgun they have worked closely with Magura to make bespoke rotors that meet the regulations for kids bikes this size, there really aren't many balance bikes like it,

The DMR Sidekick, Propain Bam Bam and Orange Peeler are the Dirt Hero's closest competitors. These frames are ready to take disc brakes, but they haven't met the complex regulations to be able to supply the brake already fitted to the bike. This means there is more after-market research, cost and mechanics in order to upgrade when your child is ready for a back brake.

The Early Rider Big Foot is another mountain bike focussed balance bike, but unfortunately isn't disc brake compatible.

Kids Ride Shotgun really has made a unique, high-end bike here that struggles to be riveled!



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