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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Good morning all,

My son is around 4'8", and wants a better mountain bike. Problem is... I dont have a ton of cash to spend on a bike. What I think I could do though is by him a cheaper bike, and upgrade components as needed/wanted.

So my question would be... what is a good, cheaper starter bike that I could upgrade down the road. I'm guessing an xs or s frame would be good now . Would really like to find a 27.5" but a 26" would work too.

I'm newer to the game, but sounds like a tapered head tube would be better for finding components. I know that BB can be upgraded and such, but whats a good start? If that question makes sense?

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
what is your budget? Id be looking for something used, especially if your son is still growing
Honestly, due to him still growing, my budget would be between $200 and $250. But as mentioned, the starting price would be low but I would spend money as needed to upgrade components or he can save his money and buy components as well.

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Shop local, shop used. I put together a really nice Kona steel bike for my 5' tall daughter. Small 26" frame, disc brakes, old Marzocchi fork and it was under $250 for everything. There's plenty of old 26" bikes out there if you get on your local Facebook group and start looking. Lots of other bike dads out there who want to build up a good solution to the problem of growing kids.
 

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I’ve got a 65lb 4’3” 9 year old on a 24” frame (giant areva)
It’s a bit long for her. In reach.
The bike was the least of the costs ($120) off cL.
1x conversion - $50
New shifter (it had grip shifter) $20
New minions $80
Acolyte group and a cassette hub to replace the freewheel hub and chain $180. Has a front hub that I can drop in when I have a chance. Sounds cool though, with the box o bees.
Dropper $175 (had to return, she couldn’t trigger it, will need a child version)
I guess around $400 with the grips and bell. $600 with the dropper.
She rode the 1x version with the trigger shifter for five or six rides, then asked for more gears to pedal up the hills.
 

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Good morning all,

My son is around 4'8", and wants a better mountain bike. Problem is... I dont have a ton of cash to spend on a bike. What I think I could do though is by him a cheaper bike, and upgrade components as needed/wanted.

So my question would be... what is a good, cheaper starter bike that I could upgrade down the road. I'm guessing an xs or s frame would be good now . Would really like to find a 27.5" but a 26" would work too.

I'm newer to the game, but sounds like a tapered head tube would be better for finding components. I know that BB can be upgraded and such, but whats a good start? If that question makes sense?

Thanks
Honestly, due to him still growing, my budget would be between $200 and $250. But as mentioned, the starting price would be low but I would spend money as needed to upgrade components or he can save his money and buy components as well.

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Based on your posts, I would try to find the best functioning older 26" MTB in an XS and don't upgrade it. Just get it operational and replace the wear parts necessary (tires, tubes, grips, cables, etc). Anything you find in your budget is going to use old standards and most upgrades will be throwing good money after bad. Kids grow quickly and you (or they) should start putting money aside now for the next bike. 8-10 times your current budget gets you into a decent spec hardtail with modern standards and geometry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I've got a 65lb 4'3" 9 year old on a 24" frame (giant areva)
It's a bit long for her. In reach.
The bike was the least of the costs ($120) off cL.
1x conversion - $50
New shifter (it had grip shifter) $20
New minions $80
Acolyte group and a cassette hub to replace the freewheel hub and chain $180. Has a front hub that I can drop in when I have a chance. Sounds cool though, with the box o bees.
Dropper $175 (had to return, she couldn't trigger it, will need a child version)
I guess around $400 with the grips and bell. $600 with the dropper.
She rode the 1x version with the trigger shifter for five or six rides, then asked for more gears to pedal up the hills.
Ouch... At least the conversion wasn't costly. So yea... By time it's upgraded, it probably easier to save a d spend more when the right bike is found.

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Ouch... At least the conversion wasn't costly. So yea... By time it's upgraded, it probably easier to save a d spend more when the right bike is found.

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This bike is triple your current budget once you factor in delivery. However, you won't need to upgrade a thing. It will perform very well for your kiddo. And when you're done with the bike, you'll likely be able to sell it on for nearly what you have into it. A quality kids bike loses very little value over the few years they ride them.

A huge bonus for this bike is that it is actually in stock and ready to buy today in two color options.
Vitus Nucleus 26 Youth Hardtail Bike 0 | Chain Reaction Cycles
 

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You indicated that he needs something "better". Better than what and what are the current limitation on the trails he rides?

My son is 4'7" and on a 24inch giant XTC. It's a 2012 I paid $40 for it on craigslist. Needed cleaned up and tires. I also replaced the cables and brake pads as well as lubing the bike. So call it $150. I see the comparable trek, specialized, Cannondale etc in my craigslist for $100-$200 all the time. They don't last long. But wait a couple days and there will be another.For a lot of kids these are probably satisfactory without upgrading. I will sell for the same price I have in it

At least on my craigslist xs and s (13, 14 or 15 inch frames) adult bikes are less common. 17 and 19 inch are common. I figure I might be buying new when he is 5 ft budget will be dependant on his interest
 

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I’m on board with the vitus cost, but it weighs 27 lbs. for perspective I put the minions on, added about a pound (23 to 24), DD wanted them off. Too heavy. I live in pnw and winter is here, so they stayed on, but she is very sensitive to weight because it matters when you’re only 60 lbs and have short arms.
She also is happy to have the dropper back off, as that added 9 oz or so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
You indicated that he needs something "better". Better than what and what are the current limitation on the trails he rides?

My son is 4'7" and on a 24inch giant XTC. It's a 2012 I paid $40 for it on craigslist. Needed cleaned up and tires. I also replaced the cables and brake pads as well as lubing the bike. So call it $150. I see the comparable trek, specialized, Cannondale etc in my craigslist for $100-$200 all the time. They don't last long. But wait a couple days and there will be another.For a lot of kids these are probably satisfactory without upgrading. I will sell for the same price I have in it

At least on my craigslist xs and s (13, 14 or 15 inch frames) adult bikes are less common. 17 and 19 inch are common. I figure I might be buying new when he is 5 ft budget will be dependant on his interest
He currently rides a Trek MT220 24".(I believe is the model) and the front fork is pretty darn stiff, and worst thing, the front gear assembly is loose on the crank. It seems rivoted on so no real way to swap it.

Could I change the crank arms and sprocket, leave the BB in?

Loose bracket vid...

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I used a $30 suntour crank(152.5mm) that had 104 bcd with the square taper. Take off the 3x, add a $10 30t 1x narrow wide and $8 bash guard.
It didn’t drop the chain much with the stock 7 speed rear derailleur, Rock solid with the new acolyte clutch derailleur, cassette hub and narrow wide.
Another option with short arms is the suntour zeron. $80, has a new hollow tech bb and 30t direct mount chainring included and comes in 152mm. I got the zeron for my bike in 160mm and it is a step up on the generic ht cranks (which come in 165, 170, 175 only anyway)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I used a $30 suntour crank(152.5mm) that had 104 bcd with the square taper. Take off the 3x, add a $10 30t 1x narrow wide and $8 bash guard.
It didn't drop the chain much with the stock 7 speed rear derailleur, Rock solid with the new acolyte clutch derailleur, cassette hub and narrow wide.
Another option with short arms is the suntour zeron. $80, has a new hollow tech bb and 30t direct mount chainring included and comes in 152mm. I got the zeron for my bike in 160mm and it is a step up on the generic ht cranks (which come in 165, 170, 175 only anyway)
He wants to go to a 1x, problem is, he has a 7 speed freewheel, so upgrading the back is next to impossible, and I'm not buying wheels or hubs.

So if I went 1x, he wouldn't have much for range. Not too sure he would like the hill climbing at that point.

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Do you have the mega range freewheel? It has a 34t on it. Gear inches with a 30t front on a 24” wheel is 20 inches if I recall. However I agree that if you want to go to a cassette hub that is $80 for hub pair, and $30 for the cassette. And of course $50 more for the derailleur and shifter (if you use acolyte).
It’s a lot to do on a disposable bike for sure.
I was able to use the spokes and single wall rim again on the new hub, was a pretty easy build, but you’d have to measure your wheels for fitments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Do you have the mega range freewheel? It has a 34t on it. Gear inches with a 30t front on a 24" wheel is 20 inches if I recall. However I agree that if you want to go to a cassette hub that is $80 for hub pair, and $30 for the cassette. And of course $50 more for the derailleur and shifter (if you use acolyte).
It's a lot to do on a disposable bike for sure.
I was able to use the spokes and single wall rim again on the new hub, was a pretty easy build, but you'd have to measure your wheels for fitments.
Thanks for the reply. although I am not 100% I understand the sentence I made bold above from your comment. The current freewheel does not have a mega range on it, as it is a 3x7 currently. To me, with him still growing(11 yrs old) that buying all components needed (1x, hubs, cassette, shifter, derailleur, and crank arms, Im better off getting him through the remainder of this season and get him some next spring... something with a little better components, and a bike that is easily upgradable. Something tells me he is gonna start to sprout up real quick as I am 6'6" and his mother is 6'. He would grow quick. Maybe I will tinker with it over the winter for my youngest boy to grow into???

Thanks all
 

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For sure a fine plan, my child in the 24" looks to be there for a couple years (just entered the size) so I can afford to invest more.

Gear inches is best explained by another than me, here is the link to sheldon brown's excellent site Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary G

Consider looking around for a mega range equipped ear wheel, or just buy the mega freewheel. I got a few extra 24" wheels (front and rear) off cL for $3 each.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
For sure a fine plan, my child in the 24" looks to be there for a couple years (just entered the size) so I can afford to invest more.

Gear inches is best explained by another than me, here is the link to sheldon brown's excellent site Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary G

Consider looking around for a mega range equipped ear wheel, or just buy the mega freewheel. I got a few extra 24" wheels (front and rear) off cL for $3 each.
Thanks man, appreciate the replies. I was just looking online and found an old 2004 Trek 4100 that has a non-threaded head tube, with QR wheels. Not too sure if it has a freewheel or cassette, but will look into specs. It's a 26" as well for $95, but I feel it too much still. But it is at least something I can upgrade a bit easier. The search continues...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@Grinchy8 - I have another question... my sons bike has a 3 piece crank. Can I buy 170mm arms and expect them to fit the square taper BB? Im willing to change the rear freewheel to a mega range, and the front crank arms and new gear up front. Looks like I can do all that for less than $100. This will be good for my youngest in a few years as well.

Thanks
 

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@Grinchy8 - I have another question... my sons bike has a 3 piece crank. Can I buy 170mm arms and expect them to fit the square taper BB? Im willing to change the rear freewheel to a mega range, and the front crank arms and new gear up front. Looks like I can do all that for less than $100. This will be good for my youngest in a few years as well.

Thanks
I will reiterate, that I don't think it is worth spending much time or money on the 24" Trek. Having said that, DO NOT BUY 170MM crank arms for that bike! If you really want new crank arms, I would look for something in a ~140mm length on a kids 24" bike. Source BMX is out of stock right now, but they carry a JET crank arm set that is cheap and would accomplish what you want.

LDC also offers narrow Q 140mm cranks that work with square taper BBs for about $100. 4 Bolt / 140mm thru 155mm

J&R has the Sinz MX3 with threaded BB on sale right now for $120. Sinz MX3 Cranks

Prevelo is also sold out right now, but their Heir cranks are a good option for $127 (including BB and chainring). HEIR Direct Mount Crank

Cleary and Trailcraft offer cranks similar to Prevelo, but stock and price could be an issue. I think Cleary has 140mm in stock with a chainring right now for about $140. As you can see, with parts shortages being what they are. "Simple" upgrades to a low cost bike can add up really quickly.
 

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Yep super short crankarms (I went 152mm but agree with @rton20s even shorter would be better) are usually $.
The sq taper suntour 3x set was $30 or so. Then you have to take off the 3x and add on the 1x and bash rings. I think the 152mm suntour zeron set $80 with the bb and the 30t ring a good value. It has the right spacing, bearing preload for the bb, a nicer bb, and a long lasting steel ring that won't need a bash guard. On the downside it's a proprietary direct ring interface, and the shortest arm is 152mm, and weighs on the high end
 
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