Specialized is rolling out updated Riprock kids’ mountain bikes today, and we got an early look at the rigid, 24″ version to see what’s changed, and how it handles. Our test rider Reed is 8 years old, weighs about 65lb, and is 4’8″ tall.
On the trail (and at the park)
After the obligatory new-bike driveway test, I convinced Reed to hit the trails on the Riprock. Like a lot of kids, Reed isn’t as stoked as I am to ride trails, mostly because of the climbs. A lot of adults might feel similarly. Gears take some getting used to, and knowing when to up- or down-shift isn’t as intuitive as one might think.
Our half-mile loop started with a mellow climb; Reed was off the bike in a couple spots and naturally he registered his complaints about the trail being too steep, and too long. Once the descent began, it was all smiles and bravado as he emphatically directed me to record a video on my phone. Right away he was able to get the wheel off the ground easily and rolled over chunky sections with confidence.
Previous Riprock bike builds included suspension forks by default, and this time around, Specialized decided to focus on dropping weight to improve the rider experience. Product manager Eric Fischer says, “Most young riders don’t need suspension forks, and by offering a rigid fork, we’re able to dramatically reduce the bike weight, which ultimately results in a more positive experience for smaller, less powerful riders.”
To be honest I was skeptical about a rigid bike for Reed—it seemed a bit like a step down. He’s been riding bikes since he could walk, and he has another 24″ bike with a suspension fork that he’s been riding for a couple years now. However, seeing him on the trail not only going fast but also looking confident and having fun, I think Specialized may be onto something with the new spec. Lately given the choice between his bike with suspension and another bike without, he chooses the rigid bike every time.
Back on the trail loop, after finishing a lap I figured Reed would be done riding trail based on his complaints on the way up. However, he surprised me and asked to go around again, climb and all. Then we rode the loop a third time, and that time he climbed all the way without getting off the bike. It seems the light weight of the Riprock helped fuel his stoke in a way I hadn’t anticipated.
We’re still working on gear shifting, and once he gets into the habit of using gears effectively, the massive 42T big cog should make it even easier to climb almost any trail. Unfortunately, the Microshift shifter requires some extra effort to change gears, with a down paddle that’s located a little too far back for small hands to reach comfortably. Thus far, the chain guard on the crank and pie plate on the rear wheel have ensured zero chain drops or drivetrain malfunctions.
At the park
Kids just want to ride park. It’s a fact. Reed has spent the most time at the park with the Riprock, and that’s where this bike seems to shine. Specialized recommends the 24″ Riprock for kids 3’11” to 4’8″ tall, and despite landing at the upper end of that range, Reed likes to ride his seat slammed low, basically like it’s a DJ bike.
The Specialized Control Sport tires are well-suited to groomed park lines, with pretty tightly spaced knobs and a round profile. They roll fast, and also seem to provide consistent cornering, making them a safe bet in most conditions.
On paper, the hydraulic disc brakes should offer plenty of one-finger braking power. Looking over my photos from our park session, however, I was surprised to see that Reed wasn’t using the brakes. Like, at all. Honestly, that means he’s a far better rider than I am, and on the Riprock he’s intuitively using momentum to his advantage. Heading into some of the tabletops and ramps, I found myself coaching him to “Pedal, pedal!” just to make it to the top. With the smooth-rolling, 24-inch wheels he didn’t seem to need all that much encouragement.
The Specialized Riprock 24, priced at $700, features an A1 aluminum butted frame with mounts for a water bottle inside the front triangle. Just like Mom and Dad’s bikes, the latest Riprock frame has internal routing for the rear derailleur cable and brake hose that enters near the top of the down tube and exits just before the bottom bracket.
There’s no internal routing for a dropper post, however, there is a third cable port on the right side of the frame, I suppose for groms who prefer to run their brakes moto-style. Specialized says the port on the right side is actually designed for an internally routed dropper cable.
A straight top tube still offers good standover clearance while giving the bike a more modern and grown-up look compared to the previous Riprock’s cutesy, curvy lines. In the rear, the frame features Boost spacing and makes use of a 148x12mm thru axle. There’s a thru-axle up front too, and both require a 6mm hex to tighten and remove. The oversized head tube appears to be capable of running either tapered or straight steerer forks with the proper headset.
The latest Riprock geometry has seen progression as well, with the head angle on this particular model dropping 2° to 68°. Also, the 390mm chainstay length is shorter this time around for improved maneuverability, while the stack height has been reduced to 449mm for improved front-to-back weight distribution. A 74° seat tube angle promises to make the updated Riprock a more capable climber.
The neutral green color on this test bike makes it an easy one to pass down between children or to pass along to neighbors when it’s time to move on.
Nearly everything on the Specialized Riprock is kid-sized. Starting at the cockpit, Specialized specs 640mm-wide alloy handlebars for the 24″ model paired with a 30mm stem. The grip diameter is narrower than an adult grip by about 2mm, and the cranks are kid-short at 152mm.
The single shifter is a MicroShift Trail Pro, connected to a 9-speed Advent derailleur. With a 30T chainring up front and an 11-42T cassette out back, the gear range seems both wide and appropriate enough for most of the trails young riders are tackling.
Radial-brand hydraulic disc brakes slow the Riprock’s roll with 160mm rotors front and rear. The Roval wheels on the Riprock 24″ are not tubeless-ready, which I confirmed with the brand and also disappointingly, in my own garage. The upgraded Riprock Expert 24″ (not tested), which includes a suspension fork, does feature tubeless-ready wheels and tires.
The 2.35″ Specialized Ground Control Sport tires are fairly lightweight yet feel sturdy enough for a bit of abuse. Previously, the Riprock 24″ shipped with 2.8″ tires; the 2.35s definitely seem more appropriate.
There’s a sick-looking fender attached to the rigid alloy fork, though because it’s so small I suspect it’s more for looks than actual protection from spray. In general, all of the parts look like they should be easy to service and maintain down the line.
All told, the Specialized Riprock 24″ weighs 24.7lb with pedals on my scale at home. Compared to other 24″ bikes Reed has tested, that falls in about the middle of the pack. Upgrading to the $1,500 Riprock Expert adds a suspension fork, and also nearly two pounds to the overall weight.
Overall, Specialized has made major improvements to the Riprock kids’ mountain bike, giving young riders access to progressive geometry and right-sized components for a more confident, comfortable ride.
- Comfortable, progressive geometry
- Generally smart component spec
- Quality construction promises minimal maintenance
Pros and cons of the Specialized Riprock 24″.
- Lightweight, but it’s still heavy for some kids
- Shifter ergonomics are a stretch for small hands
- Tubed tires