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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My daughter just competed in her first race Sunday and is hooked. We got her an Islabike Beinn 20 for this year since it was so light, and it was a good option for general cycling if she didn't enjoy mountain biking. Now that she wants to stick with it and asked me to sign her up for all the remaining races this year I'm starting to search for her next bike.

She is currently only about 40 lbs and 48". I'm wondering (considering her weight) if a suspension fork is just unnecessary added weight. I don't even know if a 40 lb. kid can compress a coil suspension fork. Plus it seems that in 24", suspension forks are pretty much junk until you get into $1200+ Trailcraft/Nukeproof/Commencal and we are really hoping to keep it around $800 (keeping our eye on the used market like hawks).

So all that said, is a 24" with say a Suntour XCT (or even XCR) just deadweight? Would a rigid bike that can handle wider tires be a better bet (ex. Cannondale Cujo Race 24+, rigid Early Rider, Trek Roscoe, etc.)? We're really not concerned with trying to win any races, but I want her to have fun and not feel bogged down with a bike she can't get up hills. Right now I’m really leaning toward the Early Rider Seeker 24 unless I hear strongly against it.
 

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We have a 16" that I put the 20" version of Suntour's XCM HLO Air and it definitely worked to soak up bump even with a very light kid. If the 24" XCT is anything similar, I wouldn't doubt that it would be at least somewhat effective, but I wouldn't take a chance on any of the coil models.

For 20" & 24" we've been using Manitou's Junit forks on very heavily modified Cannondale Cujos. The frames are great, the components on the base model are so-so.

While waiting for the 24" fork to come in we actually used an old Fox 29er air fork for a while -- it worked better than I'd expected, though not as well as the Junit (likely in part due to the switch from 100mm of travel to 145mm of travel in roughly the same length).

Given the username & the mention of racing on Sunday, are you in MiSCA?

My finding has been that plus tires are a big help with the sand we see on a lot of the SE Michigan trails -- the CST Fringe tires that Trek uses on the Roscoe have a lot of volume for the weight, good rolling resistance, and are nice for XC riding. We have the Vee Crown Gem that the Early Rider uses as a front tire on the 20", but it's definitely quite a bit heavier and slower rolling than the Fringe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If the 24" XCT is anything similar, I wouldn't doubt that it would be at least somewhat effective, but I wouldn't take a chance on any of the coil models.
The XCT is Suntours "top" coil fork. I have one on my Trek Marlin and it's fine for what I do, but I'm 150 lbs. I kind of figured it wouldn't help much for a 40 lb peanut. Good to know about the XCM though, thank you. So far I've only come across XCR in an air fork, or jumping up several hundred dollars you get the really nice ones with Trailcraft, Early Rider, etc.

For 20" & 24" we've been using Manitou's Junit forks on very heavily modified Cannondale Cujos. The frames are great, the components on the base model are so-so.
I hadn't come across that fork yet in my search, I'll keep an eye out for one. I agree on the components for that bike. I'm really intrigued by the frame, especially if I can find the Race model since that one is a significant improvement with the Deore 10 speed drivetrain and hydro brake (although I admit I have no experience with Promax brakes, not sure how much of an improvement they are).

Given the username & the mention of racing on Sunday, are you in MiSCA?
Ha, we are! I was actually wondering if you were the same Tim Tucker I'd seen on Facebook groups when I got the notification. She did great for her first race! Took a pretty hard fall early in the race but finished, and actually made it up the initial climbs without walking it for only the second time (first time being our last practice Saturday night). How did you guys do?

Those 20x1.90 tires on the Beinn aren't doing her any favors in the loose stuff, but there's not really any room to go bigger on this bike and we're nearing the end of it's time with us anyway. One of the course marshals said it was the large, loose rocks that caused her to wipe out. I know I'm a lot more confident out there when I'm on my fat tires so the CST Fringe you mention (and just wider tires in general) really have me interested. I just don't want to go so large that now she struggles because of weight instead of undersized tires.

Thanks for all the advice!
 

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I was in the same boat a few years ago: very lightweight daughter who was racing cyclocross; she was using a 20" Spec Hotrock, but that was pretty heavy, and as she quickly outgrew it I put together a 26" bike starting with an Aluminum Access brand frame, I used a Toseek carbon fork from ebay/china, that saved us a lot of weight over any of the available shocks, I can go measure axle to crown if you'd like, I recall it was pretty similar length or maybe a little longer than a 80mm shock. I rode it around and since it didn't break for me I figured it would be safe for her (it was, and a grownup friend recently borrowed that fork for his gravel bike for a while and it held up fine for him). I was able to use BB7 discs, I can't remember the levers, but I was able to get the brake levers pretty close to the grips for her small hands. I think that bike was not much more than 20 pounds, it's got mavics of some variety on there, the one with the aluminum spokes.
You can run really low pressures tubeless on a 26x2.2 with a small kid, and smooth out a lot of the trail rattle, I think I'd recommend rigid fork and a squishy tires run tubeless, -tubeless especially because kids are often not as good at avoiding thorny areas that are often near parking and grid at race venues.
 

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The XCT is Suntours "top" coil fork. I have one on my Trek Marlin and it's fine for what I do, but I'm 150 lbs. I kind of figured it wouldn't help much for a 40 lb peanut. Good to know about the XCM though, thank you. So far I've only come across XCR in an air fork, or jumping up several hundred dollars you get the really nice ones with Trailcraft, Early Rider, etc.
I hadn't come across that fork yet in my search, I'll keep an eye out for one.
Doing some looking and I'm not sure if the XCM comes in 24" -- it looks like that might just be a 20" option.

The XCR Air version is only 63mm of travel (adjustable to 80mm), which might not be worth the extra weight & cost:

I agree on the components for that bike. I'm really intrigued by the frame, especially if I can find the Race model since that one is a significant improvement with the Deore 10 speed drivetrain and hydro brake (although I admit I have no experience with Promax brakes, not sure how much of an improvement they are).
The biggest gem on the frame is the amount of bottom bracket drop -- it works well with the rigid fork for a super stable ride, but gives you a lot of room to go up to a longer fork without raising the center of gravity super high. We've liked ours with the suspension fork, but I've seen quite a few other kids on them that seem to be doing well with the rigid fork.

The Promax brakes were OK -- nothing to write home about, just a fairly basic mechanical disc brake. Not sure how their hydro model is since we went with Tektro's 4 piston hydraulics (at ~$60 per side on eBay they seemed to be one of the better value / $ options... availability on them has been pretty spotty though).

The good news about the intro of the newer Race model is that it seems like Cannondale is also shipping the base model with the same wheelset that can take bigger cassettes -- the older 20" that we got could only take a 7 speed cassette.

Ha, we are! I was actually wondering if you were the same Tim Tucker I'd seen on Facebook groups when I got the notification. She did great for her first race! Took a pretty hard fall early in the race but finished, and actually made it up the initial climbs without walking it for only the second time (first time being our last practice Saturday night). How did you guys do?
Yep, that's me. Tell her conrats on making it up -- that initial climb at Addison is probably the hardest part of that course!

My younger son (4) isn't quite ready for the distances of the races yet and goes back and forth between getting nervous and wanting to walk his bike down hills and wanting to pedal fast down them as fast as possible even though he hasn't developed the skill at braking to stop himself safely.

My older son (6) tried the first race of the season and had a bit of a panic attack midway through the race (wound up riding with him to the finish after the rest of the lower elementary riders had passed). From a technical standpoint, he's able to tackle just about anything he's tried, but he's super nervous about going anywhere without an adult he's comfortable with being in sight -- we did virtual last year & this year for school and aren't on a team, so he hasn't had a lot of practice going off on his own. We're trying to work on the anxiety in general, since it's also extending to a lot of other things (like being fearful of "strong winds" whenever he sees a leaf blowing), but it's been slow progress.

Last Sunday we just came to the park to watch the race & play on the playground. TBD if he winds up trying any more races this season, but he seems to open to the idea of trying again at some point (though maybe not this season).

Those 20x1.90 tires on the Beinn aren't doing her any favors in the loose stuff, but there's not really any room to go bigger on this bike and we're nearing the end of it's time with us anyway. One of the course marshals said it was the large, loose rocks that caused her to wipe out. I know I'm a lot more confident out there when I'm on my fat tires so the CST Fringe you mention (and just wider tires in general) really have me interested. I just don't want to go so large that now she struggles because of weight instead of undersized tires.
IMO, the plus tires on most kids bikes get an undeservedly bad rep for weight.

Kenda Slant Six 24x2.6 that comes stock on the Cujo is 720g and the Fringe is only 620g for
24x2.8". In contrast, the Vee Crown Gem in 24x2.25 @ 27tpi on the Early Rider is 730g!

On the 24" Cujo, we were able to get the them mounted tubeless as well, which saved quite a bit of weight (the stock tubes are thick & looked like they were intended for downhill riding).
 

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My opinions: kids benefit GREATLY from suspension in our experience, especially because they ride with small wheels where the bumps hit them more than an adult on 29in wheels. You just have to buy them a real MTB tho and the damn things are hard to find and expensive. The good news is that resale value on GOOD kids bikes (read legit Hardtail) is amazing.

My two sons ride on our local freeride team and have some buddies that are newer and riding with the beginner squad. The one kid is on a rigid cleary 20 with decent Crown Gem tires. Its more capable than the Isla bike Bienn (they have one of those too). Its still a nightmare for him trying to keep up, especially mid-late season as the bomb holes/bumps etc just eat him alive even with better tires. I've followed him for miles and I feel bad for the kid every time. Now he's turning into a more timid rider as he's getting his ass kicked for the rest of the season. Sucks, but its hard for his Dad to find a proper 20" hardtail and he's not big enough for 24" (he's 49in).

In 24" its MUCH easier as you can just pick up a Vitus Nucleus 24": decent geo, looks cool, great trail tires, decent drive train, air fork (works for kids), proper 140mm cranks, hydraulic brakes 600$. Nukeproof Cub Scout is nice option too.

All that being said, 48" and 40lbs is still solidly riding a 20" bike. 51-52" is about when they can transition to a 24" without taking a stepback in skill development and handling. My little guy totally shreds his 20" Spawn hardtail and is 49" & 55lbs...I try him out on the various 24" bikes we/friends have and they are way to big still. You guys are racing and legit MTBing it sounds like, you want something that fosters building the foundational skills, not just rolls over stuff easier/faster. Avoid the "saving money by buying a bike too big" thing if you can. Especially if you are racing.

Since you've got some time, if I was buying a hardtail today...I'd want the Orbea Laufey 24 H10. Its the benchmark today. (pass on the TrailCraft stuff as the forks they use are mediocre, behind-the-times yet you're paying a huge premium...I also don't care for the XC geometry but they are light). Orbea doesn't sell those in the USA yet I think but maybe they do/will or a dealer can get them. That Nukeproof Cub Scout 24 Race (JUnit fork on Race model...the sport model has a lesser fork) is a really capable bike as well, I worry a bit about the wheel weight but haven't had my hands on one yet. Pretty sick bike. Obviously these bikes are more expensive, but in the end you'll be buying a bike that people actually want when you resell it and you'll likely get 70% of retail. Maybe even better seeing as how prices keep going up. Prevelo makes a nice hardtail too for your price range.

Avoid early rider as a rule of thumb. They are overpriced and don't come with a top-of-the-line spec either. That rigid bike isn't going to be capable, confidence building at all and even the cranks are too long. You can get the Nucleus for less money and a better spec for 200-300$ less or the Prevelo with an air fork too for like 850$.
 

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My opinions: kids benefit GREATLY from suspension in our experience, especially because they ride with small wheels where the bumps hit them more than an adult on 29in wheels. You just have to buy them a real MTB tho and the damn things are hard to find and expensive. The good news is that resale value on GOOD kids bikes (read legit Hardtail) is amazing.
100% agree, both with how much kids benefit from real suspension (meaning NOT a coil fork for a 40lb kid who will never compress it) and that resale value changes the equation a little, at least it can if you're able and willing to put the money in upfront. We were in a very similar situation a few years ago with our son coming off a Beinn 20. I was hoping not to spend Trailcraft money either, but in the end that's exactly what we did, picking up a Pineridge 24. Which leads me to...

(pass on the TrailCraft stuff as the forks they use are mediocre, behind-the-times yet you're paying a huge premium...I also don't care for the XC geometry but they are light).
Sounds like svinyard's kid is riding freeride, in which case I'd agree, Trailcraft bikes are maybe not where I'd look first based on geo if nothing else. If your kid is riding more XC terrain though, I'd take a solid look at Trailcraft. When you're 40lbs, the weight difference is huge. My son's Pineridge had a RST Air fork which I don't think they are using anymore, but which worked really well for him. Plenty stiff for XC terrain, and we could dial it in for his weight so he was using all the travel on his roughest rides but never bottoming too hard. When he grew out of the Pineridge, we were able to sell it in less than a day for a few hundred dollars less than we paid for it, which made it a no-brainer from a cost perspective.

He's now riding the wheels off a Trailcraft Timber 26 which came stock with a Reba fork, again perfect for our trails here in the Bay Area. It's also got good brakes, good gearing, 140 cranks, good (XC) tires, tubeless from the factory, etc. Oh, and the Trailcraft folks couldn't be nicer, more supportive, or more responsive if that's important to you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
In 24" its MUCH easier as you can just pick up a Vitus Nucleus 24": decent geo, looks cool, great trail tires, decent drive train, air fork (works for kids), proper 140mm cranks, hydraulic brakes 600$. Nukeproof Cub Scout is nice option too.
Whoa! That Vitus is pretty much exactly what I want. I can't believe that's only $600 and in stock, I haven't seen anything with a similar spec sheet for close to that price. I'm perfectly fine with Box Components as well since that derailleur can clear 42t. Only 24 lbs. too.

All that being said, 48" and 40lbs is still solidly riding a 20" bike. 51-52" is about when they can transition to a 24" without taking a stepback in skill development and handling.
Yeah, I'm just trying to get a jump on things before spring. If 2022 is anything like this year, it's going to be very difficult to find a bike without accepting compromises or paying out the nose. She's 48" now, but won't be riding this bike for another 6 months or so (we're in Michigan, so we'll have snow into March... or April). She'll ride the Beinn until winter, then I'll sell it when everyone is shopping for bikes again in the spring. 48" was also the last time we measured her which I'm now realizing was 2 months ago.

or the Prevelo with an air fork too for like 850$.
I've been refreshing the outlet page a few times a day hoping a Zulu Four pops up. Also on their restock notification list.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You can run really low pressures tubeless on a 26x2.2 with a small kid, and smooth out a lot of the trail rattle, I think I'd recommend rigid fork and a squishy tires run tubeless, -tubeless especially because kids are often not as good at avoiding thorny areas that are often near parking and grid at race venues.
Thanks! Definitely going tubeless on the next bike. I picked up a set of Skinny Strippers and valves for her current bike, but couldn't find a folding bead tire that I liked for our terrain and fit nicely in the small frame she has. I'll be going tubeless from day one on the 24".
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Sounds like svinyard's kid is riding freeride, in which case I'd agree, Trailcraft bikes are maybe not where I'd look first based on geo if nothing else. If your kid is riding more XC terrain though, I'd take a solid look at Trailcraft. When you're 40lbs, the weight difference is huge. My son's Pineridge had a RST Air fork which I don't think they are using anymore, but which worked really well for him. Plenty stiff for XC terrain, and we could dial it in for his weight so he was using all the travel on his roughest rides but never bottoming too hard. When he grew out of the Pineridge, we were able to sell it in less than a day for a few hundred dollars less than we paid for it, which made it a no-brainer from a cost perspective.
We're in SE Michigan so definitely XC terrain. I'm not opposed to Trailcraft, just get sticker shock whenever I look at them. There are a few kids on our team that have them and swear by them, so I'm still keeping them in mind. My wife is becoming more open to investing more money into the next bike now that we're involved with the team, it's pretty easy to sell a good bike within the organization for 75-80% of what we paid.
 

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My opinions: kids benefit GREATLY from suspension in our experience, especially because they ride with small wheels where the bumps hit them more than an adult on 29in wheels. You just have to buy them a real MTB tho and the damn things are hard to find and expensive. The good news is that resale value on GOOD kids bikes (read legit Hardtail) is amazing.

My two sons ride on our local freeride team and have some buddies that are newer and riding with the beginner squad. The one kid is on a rigid cleary 20 with decent Crown Gem tires. Its more capable than the Isla bike Bienn (they have one of those too). Its still a nightmare for him trying to keep up, especially mid-late season as the bomb holes/bumps etc just eat him alive even with better tires. I've followed him for miles and I feel bad for the kid every time. Now he's turning into a more timid rider as he's getting his ass kicked for the rest of the season. Sucks, but its hard for his Dad to find a proper 20" hardtail and he's not big enough for 20" (he's 49in).

In 24" its MUCH easier as you can just pick up a Vitus Nucleus 24": decent geo, looks cool, great trail tires, decent drive train, air fork (works for kids), proper 140mm cranks, hydraulic brakes 600$. Nukeproof Cub Scout is nice option too.

All that being said, 48" and 40lbs is still solidly riding a 20" bike. 51-52" is about when they can transition to a 24" without taking a stepback in skill development and handling.
That really depends on the 24" bike. I'm not totally sold on Lee McCormick's RAD sizing, but I have been using it as a starting point to understand different kid bike geometries. We purchased a 24" giant stp (rigid, 2.6" tires) at the beginning of the summer for my 48" son in kind of a rush (worried about no supply of any options by the end of the summer). The stack on that bike is 524 mm versus 487 mm on the Vitus nucleus, which we recently purchased (I need to sell the stp). I measured my son's RAD, and it is 0.447 times his height, which means that the nucleus should be a perfect fit at around 52 inches. He is riding it at 49 inches now. I have the seat slammed, though it goes up a few inches for road riding. While we aren't riding highly technical trails, he is riding Midwest blue trails and occasional tries (and walks sections of) Midwest black trails. The increased wheel size has helped him clear features that he couldn't before because his wheel would get hung up, and his 20" (Cannondale quick with 2" schwalbe little Joe tires) was a bit clown bike for him. The stp, though, was too big for mountain biking at this height.

In short, by next spring, I'm guessing that your daughter will be big enough for the nucleus, even at 49-50", but that isn't true for all 24" bikes
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That really depends on the 24" bike. I'm not totally sold on Lee McCormick's RAD sizing, but I have been using it as a starting point to understand different kid bike geometries. We purchased a 24" giant stp (rigid, 2.6" tires) at the beginning of the summer for my 48" son in kind of a rush (worried about no supply of any options by the end of the summer). The stack on that bike is 524 mm versus 487 mm on the Vitus nucleus, which we recently purchased (I need to sell the stp). I measured my son's RAD, and it is 0.447 times his height, which means that the nucleus should be a perfect fit at around 52 inches. He is riding it at 49 inches now. I have the seat slammed, though it goes up a few inches for road riding. While we aren't riding highly technical trails, he is riding Midwest blue trails and occasional tries (and walks sections of) Midwest black trails. The increased wheel size has helped him clear features that he couldn't before because his wheel would get hung up, and his 20" (Cannondale quick with 2" schwalbe little Joe tires) was a bit clown bike for him. The stp, though, was too big for mountain biking at this height.

In short, by next spring, I'm guessing that your daughter will be big enough for the nucleus, even at 49-50", but that isn't true for all 24" bikes
After reading the recommendations here and finding some more reviews in other places, I'm sold on the Vitus Nucleus. We measured again this morning since it has actually been a few months and she's actually 49" now. 6 months from now when it's time to get the bikes out again we should be golden. She picked out the silver and is excited to give it some purple flair with Chesters and ESI grips.
 

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We're in SE Michigan so definitely XC terrain. I'm not opposed to Trailcraft, just get sticker shock whenever I look at them. There are a few kids on our team that have them and swear by them, so I'm still keeping them in mind. My wife is becoming more open to investing more money into the next bike now that we're involved with the team, it's pretty easy to sell a good bike within the organization for 75-80% of what we paid.
You may even break even when you sell. I made money selling out TC Pineridge..and we bought it used to begin with (we bought it at a really good price point though, hundreds less than other's on PBike)
 

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I'm a big believer in front air suspension being well worth the weight tradeoff for trail riding. My son's super happy with his 24" Suntour XCR Air LO (modified for 80mm travel) given its budget price. I added it to his 24" MEC Ace Ltd hardtail that we use while camping as a less expensive bike than his fancy Spawn Rokk 24"/26". I also upgraded the brakes, tires, and drivetrain. He surprised me by how well he could ride really janky black tech runs on it when we visited a bike park while camping, which tells me the fork is more capable than I imagined.

Here's a video of him riding with a friend. He's up front, so you can only see him once in a while, but you can see the janky run we're on and how bumpy it is for his friend who's on a full suspension 24" Norco Fluid FS 1. That Suntour fork is totally worth it :D

 
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