Anyone have any recommendations for a kid’s mountain bike that’s affordable? Specifically I’m looking at 24″ bikes and also possibly 16″ bikes, though it seems a little silly to categorize such a small bike as “made specifically for MTB.”
Like most Dads, I’m interested in a bike that is affordable since my kids will grow out of the bike so quickly.
Depends what you’re looking for. Lots of boutique brands right now and many just getting started. Spawn Cycles seems to be the brand with some traction right now (https://spawncycles.com/bikes) but we’ve just bought big-brand kids bikes. My son who’s 5 started on a 16″ with a coaster brake that was superlight but singlespeed and rigid (Cannondale Trail) and now we just got him a Mongoose Rockadile but the brake reach is a little tough and the fork is oversprung. My daughter who is 7 is on a 20″ wheeled GT Stomper with gears but rigid which is a good mountain bike for her. Both of those are pretty inexpensive so we use them as bike path/neighborhood bikes too. The Cannondale bikes, especially the rigid ones are pretty light for their sizes and if we didn’t get deals we couldn’t pass up with the GT and Mongoose we would’ve bought and kept buying those. There’s also this bike frame which is pretty convertible and light by a company that’s up and coming: Slater Bikes I feel like kids mountain bikes are on the uptrend right now so hoping more and more options pop up!
Miniskibum thrashed a KHS 24″ hardtail for a few years before I stepped him up to an adult bike. He rode it hard, taking it on every trail I took my long travel all mountain bike. Like any inexpensive bike, it was on the heavy side, but it was bombproof and reliable. Current MSRP is just $299.
Before that, he was on a Scott 20″. I don’t recall the model, but Scott’s current 20″ is called the Scale JR and can be found for a similar price.
Coming from a bike shop family, and having worked in the industry for my entire life, I recommend sticking to one of the major brands for a number of reasons. First, a major brand will offer peace of mind in that they have an established record of customer service and satisfaction. The major brands should also have a well established reputation for rider-friendly geometry that may not be present in a smaller, lesser-known brand, thus ensuring that your little cyclist will have the best experience possible and have the best opportunity to enjoy safe, high-performance riding. As already noted in the first message of this thread, children can quickly outgrow their bikes. Trek has built “dialed fit-specific” elements into their children’s bikes to ensure that these bikes fit the riders properly for a longer time. Finally, the major brands come with recognition (in the used bike market) that will help you to sell their used bikes easier, faster, and for a premium price. Our children all grew up on Treks (the major brand we carry) and while I am partial to Treks for a number of reasons, you will be served well if you stick with a major brand. I recommend selecting a bicycle based on what it will do for your child rather than based on spending $200 instead of $400. The dollar difference (within reason) will not be remembered, but the ride of a crappy bike vs a great bike will be enjoyed or cursed on a daily basis for the whole time that child rides (or refuses to ride).
All that being said, I recommend the Trek Superfly 24 if you want the best ride experience, but would also look at the Superfly 26 (if your little rider is big enough). Many shops have used bikes for sale (ours does), so you should ask about that if you prefer spending a little less. Craigslist can be a good venue to purchase bikes (and whatever else you want) if you know what you are looking at and can ascertain that the bike you are considering is what the seller purports it to be (in good condition, not stolen, safe to be ridden, etc).
Bought a 16″ framed BMX bike for my kid, he’s now stepped up to a specialized 20″ RipRock. If I had to do it again I’d take a look at this Early Rider Belter 16″ https://earlyrider.com/collections/bikes/products/belter-16-trail. I have their trailer runner xl for my younger son and it’s awesome https://earlyrider.com/collections/bikes/products/trail-runner-xl.