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Gruntled
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I picked up MTBing at >40yo and know nothing about teaching kids how to mountain bike.

My 8yo boy wants to ride with me. He's currently not aggressive on a bike, but may have it in him as demonstrated on the slopes. He's on a cheap 20" BMX now and doesn't stand much at all. His riding to date is mostly tar.

I want him to learn skills but also gain confidence. We'll start by riding some machine groomed flow in New England, but want something that can handle some low-key NE chop, too. Eventually.

The budget is ~$400 or less. I'm looking at a GT Stomper Ace 24, but also considering a larger BMX bike. He's a very large/tall 8yo.

Maybe I'm just wandering into endless internet opinion, but I'm curious to learn more on the subject before I purchase.

I'm guessing the BMX would teach him skills faster and the GT SA24 would build confidence better? (I get that the coil fork may be junk and require upgrade.)

If so, to what level? Would he be going OTB a lot on a BMX? How much would a comparative sled like the GT slow his learning of body position, etc?

Or am I just stuck in analysis paralysis and should just buy a damn bike and hit the trail?
 

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I've noticed the kids that learn early on a bmx (at bmx/skate parks and not singletrack) always seem to end up the insanely talented ones. My girls didn't start out that way, but after a couple years (currently ages 7 and 9) are now capable of intermediate techy singletrack (but no ledge-drops as they can't manual). It's crazy how fast kids progress if you just get them out there and ride. The trick seems to be keeping it fun and finding the right motivators. We do lots of traveling around to different trails, and have done one private lesson (I want to make sure I was on the right track). This summer we have a big vacation planned to a lift park with a kids program.
 

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The big key would be how tall?

If you look through prior threads, there are examples of tall 8 / 9 year olds on XS 26" or 27.5" bikes, which may be easier to find used in your price range than a good 24".
 

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Gruntled
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I've noticed the kids that learn early on a bmx (at bmx/skate parks and not singletrack) always seem to end up the insanely talented ones. My girls didn't start out that way, but after a couple years (currently ages 7 and 9) are now capable of intermediate techy singletrack (but no ledge-drops as they can't manual). It's crazy how fast kids progress if you just get them out there and ride. The trick seems to be keeping it fun and finding the right motivators. We do lots of traveling around to different trails, and have done one private lesson (I want to make sure I was on the right track). This summer we have a big vacation planned to a lift park with a kids program.
Interesting. We won't be starting at parks, though they are building a pump track near me.

So you started your girls on MTBs?

Will definitely strive to keep it fun. We spent untold sums on hot chocolate and pizza until the skiing took hold with our kids. Now we get to use the threat of no skiing to our advantage. :)

I will try to get him out early and often this year!
 

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The big key would be how tall?

If you look through prior threads, there are examples of tall 8 / 9 year olds on XS 26" or 27.5" bikes, which may be easier to find used in your price range than a good 24".
^This, regarding MTB size.

My advice: get a BMX bike for each of you, and play around. Get a 20" wheeled bike for you, with an appropriate sized frame, and a 18" wheeled bike for him, maybe 20 with a small frame-- but the idea is to get a small BMX bike, so he can learn to stand, and to move the bike around underneath him.

The basic mountain biking skills can easily be learned with a driveway and a curb, and maybe a couple of planks of wood. Obviously if you have a skatepark, this is a little bit easier... But it's all about what you are likely to do more often.

As for the trails, I think you may want to wait a couple of months and see what kind of trails you like riding together as a family. If you are primarily going to dirt jumps and downhill lines, vs if you are doing more distance on cross-country trails, will lead to two very different answers for which bike you should buy.

(PS. *No* fork is better than cheap fork. Caveat--if the kid thinks a fork is what makes it a mountain bike, then disregard what I just said. Because he will overcome that extra weight with enthusiasm, kids are weird/awesome like that.)

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Gruntled
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The big key would be how tall?

If you look through prior threads, there are examples of tall 8 / 9 year olds on XS 26" or 27.5" bikes, which may be easier to find used in your price range than a good 24".
I think he's about 4'6" - give or take. Maybe a little less?

He got on his sister's 24" this weekend and that looked barely on the edge of small enough, but maybe I'm wrong and he'd fit on a 26er?

That's an excellent point you make about relative availability of used bikes in that size.
 

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Will definitely strive to keep it fun. We spent untold sums on hot chocolate and pizza until the skiing took hold with our kids. Now we get to use the threat of no skiing to our advantage. :)
Hahaha! That is awesome. Like in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', "you flipped it on them".

I kinda sealed my sons fate with that by having him watch videos with me from like age 2. By the time he was on a board by 4, he was unstoppable. Sponored the next year. Nuts. At 10 now, he's the best riding partner I could ever have. Total tree and powder hound, but destroys the park/rails.

I very much agree with Eyeballs about BMX bikes. Get a decent 18" wheel street/dirt bike for him and let him get after it. (Fit, Colony, United etc.etc. My son has a Colony Sweettooth) But also, don't shy away from single track. At your sons age, it sounds like a 24 is probably a good size to start on. There are quite few decent 24" options, and every year there are more options for the front end (suspension wise).

I started my boy on a strider at age 3 and he was running that thing along on twisty single track at about 3.5. He was irreversibly hooked. He's since gone from 16" wheels, to 20" (customized rigid hardtail, Zaskar) to 24" (customized Orbea MX24 Team Disc) and he can hold his own on average trail, dropping people on 6K bikes. I'm now looking at building a 26" frame for him since I'm not stoked on much of what is out there, but I digress.

Edit: 26 is an option at his height. My son is 56 inches (4'4") and fits his 24" with his seat extended and a 60mm stem authoritatively now. His handling and weight distribution on it is in the 'sweet spot'. Hence why I'm looking at a 26 for him by the middle of summer. Your boy will fit on one fine now, but also fit a longer TT 24" too if there is one that you can either borrow or get for next to nothing.

I have looked at the options out there for 26 and 27.5 and I'm not exactly clicking my heels about any of them. But that's my opinion and it differs from most in these forums. Personally though, I think that at their size, if moving one increment to a 26 is possible it's better than jumping to a 27.5, and I say that because even though they can roll the things, it's more than they need, and at the moment, there isn't nary a 27.5 that has a shorter backend than 42.5cm, and also is stacked (stackheight) and slacked to the ceiling due to too long of a fork being specced. While that's short for a 29er, it isn't for a 26 or a 27.5. And as far as their bodies are concerned, that's long. But, this is why I'm looking at building a 26 that's designed around a 453 fork, and a 413-415 chainstay. I feel like everything else out there is making due, and I hate making due unless the stars align on it. So much for me digressing.
 

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Yup, 18" BMX for skill building and local park and pumptrack stuff and maybe an XS 26" (better investment and more options if he can fit one) for trail riding. BMX bikes suck for MTB trails, big time, IME.
 

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Gruntled
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
^This, regarding MTB size.

My advice: get a BMX bike for each of you, and play around. Get a 20" wheeled bike for you, with an appropriate sized frame, and a 18" wheeled bike for him, maybe 20 with a small frame-- but the idea is to get a small BMX bike, so he can learn to stand, and to move the bike around underneath him.

The basic mountain biking skills can easily be learned with a driveway and a curb, and maybe a couple of planks of wood. Obviously if you have a skatepark, this is a little bit easier... But it's all about what you are likely to do more often.

As for the trails, I think you may want to wait a couple of months and see what kind of trails you like riding together as a family. If you are primarily going to dirt jumps and downhill lines, vs if you are doing more distance on cross-country trails, will lead to two very different answers for which bike you should buy.

(PS. *No* fork is better than cheap fork. Caveat--if the kid thinks a fork is what makes it a mountain bike, then disregard what I just said. Because he will overcome that extra weight with enthusiasm, kids are weird/awesome like that.)

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Thanks.

I know what kind of trails/riding we'll be doing: XC on New England roots and rocks / short climbs and descents. There are a few miles of machine groomed flow nearby, which is where we'll start.

So maybe leave him on his 20" BMX w/ coaster brakes this spring and do some driveway / curb drills and also hit the smooth flowy stuff / pump track? Then get a MTB once he has a broader base and is ready to hit the natural ST?

Ha - I get you on the fork.
 

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Thanks.

I know what kind of trails/riding we'll be doing: XC on New England roots and rocks / short climbs and descents. There are a few miles of machine groomed flow nearby, which is where we'll start.

So maybe leave him on his 20" BMX w/ coaster brakes this spring and do some driveway / curb drills and also hit the smooth flowy stuff / pump track? Then get a MTB once he has a broader base and is ready to hit the natural ST?

Ha - I get you on the fork.
That is the sort of riding that I honed my self on starting in the 90's. My son too. It develops skill that translates to everything. I stand even moreso by the bike type I recommend.
 

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Gruntled
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That is the sort of riding that I honed my self on starting in the 90's. My son too. It develops skill that translates to everything. I stand even moreso by the bike type I recommend.
Cool. Thanks. Sounds like your son rips! That's awesome.

So to make sure I'm hearing you right:

You're suggesting he be on a 18 (or 20) BMX for non-trail fun/drills and get a 26 (or 24) for trail work?

With that - I'd be inclined to leave him on his crappy big-box store 20" BMX and leave the dough for a better MTB... Crazy talk?

Long-term (if there is one) he's not likely to be a park kid or dirt jumper - in part because they're not around here, and in part because I know him.
 

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Bmx will be perfect for pump track. Definitely get him a mtb for the singletrack though. At his height I'd guess if you get him a 24" he'd outgrow it soon, but also be able to maneuver it better and learn faster. A 26" bike will last him longer and roll over obstacles better.
 

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You're suggesting he be on a 18 (or 20) BMX for non-trail fun/drills and get a 26 (or 24) for trail work?
That's what I would suggest, and definitely an 18 rather than a 20 for BMX at this point. A solid "NO" to the coaster brake box-store BMX; decent BMX bikes are cheap enough and worth every penny.

Might aslso want to check the some of the NEMBA chapter classified pages on Facebook, as well as Northeast Bike Classifieds, for used MTB options. Been seeing some 24"s pop up recently.
 

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Cool. Thanks. Sounds like your son rips! That's awesome.

So to make sure I'm hearing you right:

You're suggesting he be on a 18 (or 20) BMX for non-trail fun/drills and get a 26 (or 24) for trail work?

With that - I'd be inclined to leave him on his crappy big-box store 20" BMX and leave the dough for a better MTB... Crazy talk?

Long-term (if there is one) he's not likely to be a park kid or dirt jumper - in part because they're not around here, and in part because I know him.
I wrote that before I saw that your son was 4'6". You can get him on 20" with a shorter TT. Like around a 20.25". I would upgrade from the big box store BMX bike. I'll find you some links of worthy bikes.

He might surprise you once he is on that bike. BMX does strange things to people. I still dirt jump on a 20", and my son loves our East Coast dirtjumps (called 'trails') So much so that he just isn't stoked on the straight line ones we have here where we live out west now. I told him he'd like the ones I used to build more, and when we took a trip back home last summer he totally agreed. Won't stop talking about them. Anyhoo, don't discount your boy yet. And if he's not into it, no harm no foul. But he might just go nuts once he gets on a pumptrack on the proper bike.

Yep, a 26 will fit. He's in the sweet spot for a 24" that isn't ridiculously short in the effective TT/Reach department. But like Eyeballs is saying as well, he will be off it pretty soon. Like by the end of the summer for sure.
 

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That's what I would suggest, and definitely an 18 rather than a 20 for BMX at this point. A solid "NO" to the coaster brake box-store BMX; decent BMX bikes are cheap enough and worth every penny.

Might aslso want to check the some of the NEMBA chapter classified pages on Facebook, as well as Northeast Bike Classifieds, for used MTB options. Been seeing some 24"s pop up recently.
Ha! I think I'm echoing you Slap!! I think though that a shorter TT'd 20" could be good for him. I think he might be big for the 18"ers soon.
 

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Ha! I think I'm echoing you Slap!! I think though that a shorter TT'd 20" could be good for him. I think he might be big for the 18"ers soon.
:)

Could be right on the 18"; I'm just going by my son. He stayed on both 16" and then 18" til the bitter end; was almost 14 and well over 5' when he finally moved to 20". He really likes to be able to move around the bike, and smaller bikes seem to work best for him. :thumbsup:
16" at 9
Clothing Tire Bicycle wheel Wheel Bicycle frame


18" at 12
Bicycle wheel Tire Wheel Bicycle frame Mountain bike


Gonna be 15 in a couple weeks and he's 5'-11" now. :eekster:
WTH happened?
 

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:)

Gonna be 15 in a couple weeks and he's 5'-11" now. :eekster:
WTH happened?
Seriously, and it's too late to try and stunt him with whiskey and cigarettes :lol:

Yeah, you're probably right about LDinME sticking with 18".

I actually have a 18" frame that's full cromo. When we got that bike it was apparent that the head angle was off and it was welded at like 78 degrees. So they had me cut that in half and sent another frame. I'm thinking about grinding off the top and down tube remnants and brazing in new top and down tubes as a second, slightly longer frame for him.
 

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I wrote that before I saw that your son was 4'6". You can get him on 20" with a shorter TT. Like around a 20.25". I would upgrade from the big box store BMX bike. I'll find you some links of worthy bikes.

He might surprise you once he is on that bike. BMX does strange things to people...if he's not into it, no harm no foul. But he might just go nuts once he gets on a pumptrack on the proper bike.

Yep, a 26 will fit. He's in the sweet spot for a 24" that isn't ridiculously short in the effective TT/Reach department. But like Eyeballs is saying as well, he will be off it pretty soon. Like by the end of the summer for sure.
We transitioned from a 20" to 24" mtb and our speed and range increased very obviously. I intentionally ride 26" to keep a parity there, and we can cover 4-9 miles without issues.
But as he's played more with the BMX bike, and discovered dirt jumps, and downhill lines, I'm wishing I'd built him a 20" dirt-jumper instead! Ultimately, the answer will be both-- as the purpose of each is so different, and we can't go riding at Tsali with a DJ! To the point, though-- I thought a FS 24" would be the ultimate bike, and have quickly realized that maybe a 20" aggressive frame with gears would actually be a the ultimate bike-- if one had to pick one.

Echoing above on the BMX bike-- I think it's very important to have hand brakes (learn modulation, and instinct) and good pedal position (moving which foot is down, pedals to level etc.) both of which don't work on a coaster-brake bike. Even if you spend $150 on a good (brands mentioned by jochribs above) used bmx bike, you'll sell it back for what you spent on it. If you buy new for about 300-400 as they tend to be, you'll still 1. never lose more than 50% and 2. likely get years and years of use. Echoing what's been said, 6yr old Rowan has been riding this BMX bike since he started pedaling at 3. For the same reason it's fun for adults to ride 20" (I'm serious, get yourself one, thank me later :) ) it works for them for a long time.
-Ridwan
 

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Bmx racing is also huge fun and great for skills building. Also tends to be a kid oriented environment and compared to other bike discipline they are cheap. We have done bmx racing and mtb riding since my son was 3 and it's been a great experience. You can get a competitive used bmx race bike for $400 easily. A good, light kid mtb will run a lot more than that.

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