Best 26″ mountain bikes for kids

Whether your child is new to the trails or already a confident shredder, getting them one of the best 26” mountain bikes is a surefire way to keep them riding off-road for years to come. 

At Cycle Sprog we’re firm believers that if you want your child to enjoy cycling, they need the right tool for the job. Cheap bikes often break, and especially when you’re heading off the beaten track, it’s important to invest in something that’s high quality and good for years of use. 

Once they’re ready to ride one of the best 26” kids’ bikes — and if you’re not sure about this, check out our guide to how to choose the right size bike for your child's age — you’re going to see a lot more variety in quality (and by extension, price), compared to smaller bikes for younger children. You’ll need to decide what to prioritise and where you can compromise. Is a hardtail mountain bike (one with front suspension only) enough for their needs, or are they ready for one of the best kids’ full-suspension mountain bikes?

Best 26" kids' bikes: two children riding side by side towards the camera on mountain bikes on a gravel path

That’s where this guide comes in handy. We’ve rounded up our pick of the best 26” mountain bikes for kids, grouped by price brackets, so you can find the best option for your budget.

If you’re in a hurry, we’ve got some quick picks to see you through. After that, keep scrolling for all the bikes we’d recommend, or use the links below to skip to the price bracket you’d prefer. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for and need a bit of guidance, then head to the bottom of the page where you’ll find the answers to some commonly asked questions.

Once you’ve made a decision, don’t forget to kit them out with one of the best bike helmets for teenagers to keep them safe on the trails.

Cycle Sprog is a reader-supported website. When you buy through links on this page we may earn an affiliate commission.

Quick picks: for parents in a hurry

If you’re pushed for time, these are our top picks for the best 26” mountain bikes for kids, for each price bracket:

Best 26” mountain bikes under £500

Let’s be honest, a mountain bike is always going to cost more than a standard hybrid, because it comes with more technical features, like fatter and grippier tyres, suspension, and a wider range of gears.

Don’t be fooled by the very cheap and heavy “full-suspension” mountain bikes out there: they’re not built to last, and they’ll fall apart after one or two trips to the trail centre. Plus, the cheap suspension isn't usually tuned for children - we ourselves have tried out a very cheap, supposedly "full-suspension" mountain bike in Halfords, and it barely sank enough for an adult!

There are some great value bikes for under £500, and if you stick to hardtails (front suspension only) you’ll get a lot more MTB for your money.

B’Twin Rockrider ST 500 26

Best for beginners

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A B’Twin Rockrider ST 500 26 on a plain background

  • Price: £279.99
  • Weight: 14.3kg
  • Height: 135-150cm
  • Gears: 1 x 7-speed
  • Brakes: V-brakes
  • Tyres: B’Twin 26 x 2.00”
  • Suspension: Coil-sprung, travel unspecified

Buy if: They’re new to mountain biking and you don’t want to spend a lot

Being the cheapest bike in this list doesn’t make it bad by any means, in fact we’re incredibly impressed with the value for money B’Twin offers in the Rockrider ST 500 26 mountain bike. Naturally, in order to keep the price down, many of its components are unbranded, and you do get V-brakes instead of disc brakes.

However the bike itself is very well made, its components are all child-friendly and considered, and it would make the perfect mountain bike for a beginner or anyone with a tight budget.

GT Stomper Ace 26

Best for growing riders

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A GT Stomper Ace 26 on a plain background

  • Price: £399.99
  • Weight: 12.95kg
  • Height: 154-160cm
  • Gears: Shimano Altus, 1 x 8-speed
  • Brakes: Promax mechanical disc
  • Tyres: Kenda Small Block Eight, 26 x 2.1"
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCM, Coil, 100mm, preload adjuster

Buy if: They need a bike to keep up with their growing confidence (and height!)

For just £120 more than you’d pay for the B’Twin, you gain mechanical disc brakes, a wider range of gears, and a more advanced suspension fork with a preload adjuster, allowing you to finetune the suspension to suit your child’s weight to ensure they get the most out of it. This is especially handy if your child is growing quickly, and all these features are great for riders growing in size as well as confidence.

The higher height range means it’s more suitable for taller riders, while the mechanical disc brakes are more powerful than V-brakes but not as hard-hitting as hydraulic brakes, making them a good introduction to disc braking.

Voodoo Nzumbi

Best value for money

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A Voodoo Nzumbi on a plain background

  • Price: £500.00
  • Weight: 14kg
  • Height: 145-154cm
  • Gears: Shimano Altus, 1 x 9-speed
  • Brakes: Clarks Hydraulic Disc Brakes
  • Tyres: Vee Crown Gem 26 x 2.25"
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCR, Air, 100mm, preload, hydraulic lockout

Buy if: You want the best build at entry-level pricing

At the top end of our recommendations for value bikes is the Voodoo Nzumbi, which offers very good value for money if your budget can stretch to £500. At this price you get hydraulic disc brakes, 9-speed Shimano gearing, an air-sprung Suntour suspension fork, and wider 2.25” tyres for better traction and stability in the mud.

This bike is a great choice if your child is already confident on the trails and in need of a good quality bike to do the job without an enormous price tag.

Best 26” mountain bikes £500-700

If your budget extends beyond £500, the choice tends to move away from in-house brands only available from one retailer, to those stocked at a wider range of retailers.

You’ll also see an increase in the quality of components at this price point, as well as a drop in the overall bike weight. Warranty length is also likely to increase.

Squish MTB 26

Best for the young rider

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A Squish MTB 26 on a plain background

  • Price: £599.99
  • Weight: 12.5kg
  • Height: 145-165cm
  • Gears: Shimano Altus 1 x 8-speed
  • Brakes: Tektro MD-280 mechanical disc, 160mm rotors
  • Tyres: Lightweight Junior Multi-Terrain 26 x 1.95'' 
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCR, Air, 100mm, preload, hydraulic lockout

Buy if: They’re still young enough to appreciate bright colours and fun graphics

While they may be tall enough for a 26” mountain bike, that doesn’t mean they’re fully-fledged teens yet. If you’re buying for a younger child who’s blessed with longer legs, they may still want a mountain bike that performs well but still has a fun and colourful design that you see in smaller bikes.

The Squish comes with all the great features they need, like 8-speed Shimano gearing, mechanical disc brakes and an air-sprung Suntour suspension fork with a hydraulic lockout for efficient climbing. But it’s fun to look at as well!

For more detail, read our B'Twin Riverside 900 review.

Cube Acid 260 Disc

Best for climbing hills

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A Cube Acid 260 Disc on a plain background

  • Price: £649.00
  • Weight: 14.0kg
  • Height: 124-141cm
  • Gears: Shimano Tourney 3 x 8-speed
  • Brakes: Clarks hydraulic disc, 160mm rotors
  • Tyres: Cube Impac Smartpac, 26 x 2.25”
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCE, Coil, 80mm

Buy if: They need a wide range of gears for undulating terrain

If they’d prefer something a bit more ‘grown up’ then the Cube Acid 260 Disc fits the bill, plus it comes with a nice wide range of 24 gears, making it perfect for climbing lots of hills.

In terms of componentry it doesn’t offer quite the same value for money that the Squish does, as it comes with a coil-sprung fork with 80mm travel instead of 100, but instead you get powerful hydraulic disc brakes, wider 2.25” tyres, and all the climbing gears they’d need. 

Scott Scale 26

Best rigid option

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A Scott Scale 26 on a plain background

  • Price: £599.00
  • Weight: 11.2kg
  • Height: 135cm+
  • Gears: Shimano Tourney, 2 x 8-speed
  • Brakes: Tektro hydraulic disc, 160mm rotors
  • Tyres: Kenda Booster, 26 x 2.4”
  • Suspension: N/A

Buy if: You want them to learn better handling skills

Not everyone will opt for a rigid mountain bike, but for the old-school mountain biking parents there’s a lot of love and nostalgia for these, so it’s good to consider the benefits. Without the suspension they’ll be more in tune with the trail, and as a result they can learn some great handling skills to take into their cycling lives, both on-road and off.

The Scott Scale 26 compensates for the lack of suspension with plush 2.4” tyres, so the ride will still be very comfortable. It also comes with 16-speed Shimano gearing and hydraulic disc brakes, making it a great option.

Best 26” mountain bikes £700+

At the higher end of the market you’ll see two specific options: 

  1. Premium kids-only brands, obsessive over every detail of a kids’ bike, who have brought this into the MTB world
  2. Premium MTB brands, obsessive over every detail of a mountain bike, who have scaled down for a junior version.

Either way, you can expect top-quality components and an attention to detail that your youngster will appreciate when they’re hurtling down a trail.

Whyte 403

Best for all-round performance

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A Whyte 403 on a plain background

  • Price: £750.00
  • Weight: 13.2kg
  • Height: 135-152cm
  • Gears: Shimano Altus, 1 x 9-speed
  • Brakes: Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic disc, 160mm rotors
  • Tyres: Vee Crown Gem, 26 x 2.25"
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCR, Air, 100mm, preload, hydraulic lockout

Buy if: They need something versatile that can handle a bit of everything

The Whyte 403 is a great piece of kit, with good quality components and a sleek aesthetic that’s perfect for when they’re too grown up for “kids’ bikes”. What’s more, it offers a really versatile ride, so it’s great if they’re more advanced on the trails and dabbling in different disciplines.

You get a fairly lightweight bike with Shimano 9-speed gearing, hydraulic disc brakes, chunky 2.25” tyres, and a Suntour XCR air-sprung suspension fork with 100mm travel, preload adjustment and hydraulic lockout.

Woom OFF AIR 6

Best for advanced riders

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A Woom OFF AIR 6 on a plain background

  • Price: £895.00
  • Weight: 11.0kg
  • Height: 140-165cm
  • Gears: SRAM X5, 1 x 9-speed
  • Brakes: Promax hydraulic disc, 160/140mm rotors
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Rocket Ron, 26 x 2.35”
  • Suspension: Air sprung, 90mm

Buy if: They’re experienced riders looking for new challenges

At the top end of our hardtail recommendations, the Woom OFF AIR 6 comes with a fantastic build and would suit advanced mountain bikers who still want to ride a hardtail. It’s lightweight at 11kg, features SRAM X5 9-speed gearing, hydraulic disc brakes, an air-sprung suspension fork and 2.35” Schwalbe Rocket Ron tyres that offer great speed.

A small detail that shows a well-considered build is the different disc rotor sizes: having a smaller rotor up front and larger one at the back can offer a more tailored braking dynamic for advanced riders, helping them to control speed on technical descents and manoeuvre with precision.

Scott Ransom 600

Best full-suspension option

Best 26" mountain bikes for kids: A green Scott Ransom 600 full suspension mountain bike on a plain background

  • Price: £1,749.00
  • Weight: 13.9kg
  • Height: 135cm+
  • Gears: Shimano Deore, 1 x 11-speed
  • Brakes: Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc, 160mm rotors
  • Tyres: Kenda Hellkat, 26 x 2.4"
  • Suspension: X-Fusion Slant RC fork (140mm), X-Fusion rear shock (130mm)

Buy if: They’re budding downhill or enduro racers

If they’re super advanced off-road then it may be time to progress to a full-suspension mountain bike. We think the Scott Ransom 600 is a great affordable option, offering 140mm front and 130mm rear suspension, making it ideal for trail riding and enduro racing, and even dipping a toe into downhill.

High quality Shimano Deore 11-speed gearing and hydraulic disc brakes, combined with 2.4” Kenda Hellkat tyres complete what is a very good package for budding off-road racers.

For more full-sus recommendations, check out our guide to the best kids’ full-suspension mountain bikes.

How to choose from the best 26” mountain bikes for kids

If you’re looking for a bit of buying advice before you make a decision, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions.

How do you choose a mountain bike for your child?

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best 26” mountain bike for your child. Start by getting the right size, based on their height and inseam length. Follow our guide to how to easily measure your child for a new bike, to get the right measurements.

Other factors to consider are the technology that comes with it, from the suspension type to the brakes, gears and tyres, and these will all depend on the type of riding they’re doing.

 

Suspension

Suspension absorbs and smooths out the bumps in the trail and makes it possible to ride over rocky tracks comfortably. Generally most kids’ mountain bikes are hardtails, meaning they come with a front suspension fork only. 

Suspension forks come in two options: Air-sprung or coil-sprung. Air-sprung forks use air pressure to adjust how firm or soft the suspension is, while coil-sprung uses metal coil springs. Air forks are generally better because they’re lighter and adjustable, while coil forks are simpler and often cheaper.

Alongside the spring type, you’ll see the amount of travel, measured in millimetres. The bigger the number, the longer the distance a fork can travel to absorb obstacles. For a beginner mountain biker doing light trails, 80-100mm of travel is fine. If they’re racing enduro or downhill, or riding red or black trails, then 120mm+ will accommodate more uneven terrain. 

 

Brakes

Generally these days the disc brake is preferred because it provides the most reliable and powerful braking in all weather conditions. These come in mechanical or hydraulic options, with the former being the cheapest, and the latter being the most powerful. Some cheaper mountain bikes will have rim brakes (like the B’Twin Rockrider), which still do a decent job and can be easier to maintain at home.

The most crucial thing to consider when it comes to the braking system isn’t the brake itself, but the levers. Most child-specific bikes will have smaller levers for child-sized hands.

 

Gears

When it comes to gearing, it’s important to consider how hilly the terrain is that your child is riding. It’s also crucial to factor in how advanced their riding skills are, specifically in relation to shifting gears. If they’re super confident with gear-shifting and riding up a lot of hills, then they might prefer a bike with a double- or triple-chainset. This is indicated as a multiple next to the speed number, e.g. 3 x 8-speed is a triple-chainset with 8 gears at each level, resulting in 24 gears in total, while 1 x 11-speed means the bike has 11 gears and a single chainring.

Single chainrings are often favoured for their simplicity, and are definitely more suitable for children who are less used to using gears, or who don’t need as large a range.

 

Tyres

When it comes to mountain biking, fat knobbly tyres play a big part in maintaining traction and stability on uneven and slippery surfaces. The wider the tyre width, the more cushioned the ride will be, and the more stable the bike will feel when riding in muddy conditions. However, very wide tyres can roll more slowly than narrower ones, so depending on your child’s riding style, it’s important to strike a balance between tyre width and rolling resistance. The tyre width for 26” mountain bikes is usually measured in inches, and is expressed as the second number following the 26” diameter, e.g. 26 x 2.25”.

How much should I spend on a kids’ mountain bike?

There’s no clear-cut answer to this question, because it depends on your personal budget. If you want to spend a lot, then that’s your prerogative and your child will no doubt thank you when they’re flying through the trails on a premium mountain bike.

However we would strongly advise against buying very cheap and heavy bikes from generic retailers like Argos and Halfords. In short, they’re not built to last with reliable components, and they often break very quickly. For a proper explanation, check out our article, Why you shouldn’t buy a REALLY cheap kids bike.

We’ve broken this guide down into three price brackets: Under £500, £500-700, and over £700. If you’re on a tight budget, the cheapest 26” mountain bike that we’d recommend is the B’Twin Rockrider, which is under £300 and offers a decent quality build that will last longer than any bike-shaped toy you’ll find for around £100-200.

Do kids need a front-suspension mountain bike?

There's no definitive answer to this, because some kids will enjoy riding with suspension and others won't. The type of suspension your child needs depends on the kind of riding they do. Most kids’ mountain bikes are likely to be hardtails, as they’re best placed to cushion some of the rough stuff and make for a more comfortable and fun ride. However they’re not the only option - there are also rigid and full-suspension options too.

We’ve briefly outlined above how suspension forks work, and why hardtails are the most common mountain bikes for kids, but what about rigid and full-suspension mountain bikes, both of which are represented in this list?

A full-suspension mountain bike has a second suspension component — a rear shock — at the back of the bike beneath the seat. This, combined with the fact that the rear end of the frame moves independently of the front, is what provides a much larger amount of shock absorption, meaning the bike can handle much more rowdy trails, jumps and drops. They’re also a lot more expensive! Full-suspension bikes are most likely to appeal to youngsters who can confidently ride red or black trails, or who want to race enduro or downhill.

At the other end of the spectrum is the rigid mountain bike, which has no suspension at all. These are less common, but they definitely have their place and a lot of parents will favour them (particularly the old-school mountain bikers among them). Without any suspension, the bike relies on the fatter tyres to cushion the bumps, which means the rider is a lot more aware of the surface of the trail and in tune with the bike’s movements. Riding a rigid bike can therefore teach them much better handling skills (because the obstacles aren’t being cushioned), which ultimately helps them to become better riders in the long run. They also tend to need less maintenance, which is an added bonus.

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Comments

SK

Hi, My 11 year old (around 5ft tall) is keen on a dirt jump bike.
I can see many used on Ebay, but concerned about wear and tear on these.
Are there any good discontinued models that I could buy cheaper to get him started?
Thanks

Penny Millar

Hi SK. Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, jump bikes aren’t our area of expertise. We’d recommend joining the Little Rippers MTB group on Facebook as you might find someone there who is able to help. Good luck! Penny

Dylan

How do you buy a bike on this web site

Karen

Hi Dylan, we don’t sell bikes ourselves but provide links to the retailers who stock each brand we mention. Regards
Karen

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