Eight-year-olds probably need a quiver-killing bike even more than you do. After all, most kids are lucky to have a single decent bike that fits them at any given time, and they need it to ride on the road to friends’ houses, to hit singletrack with their moms and dads, and to take off sketchy, hastily-constructed driveway ramps, all without breaking a sweat. Some may lament the compromises necessary to put together such a bike, but Cleary has embraced the challenge, and the result is the Meerkat, which is in for test.
The Meerkat frame sits atop 24″ wheels, and the bike is designed to fit kids roughly 7-10 years old. Cleary claims even big kids, up to five feet tall should be able to fit comfortably on this bike, though that seems like it could be a bit of a stretch.
Both the frame and fork are built using “lightweight 1020 alloy steel.” The frame and rigid fork are suspension-corrected meaning it’s possible to swap out the steel fork for a suspension fork with 80-100mm of squish down the road.
The rear end features sliding dropouts while the fork eschews the lawsuit-waiting-to-happen quick release for a bolt-on axle. Cleary says tires up to 2.35″ wide should fit front and rear. The bike even includes mounts for front and rear racks; sadly there are no bottle mounts so mom or dad will still have to carry all the hydration for most outings. Cable routing is external, and Cleary includes plenty of extra tabs in case the plastic dohickeys get lost over time.
Starting with the drivetrain, Cleary specs a Sturmey Archer 5-speed system with a trigger shifter. The rear hub is internally geared so there’s no derailleur which will hopefully cut down on maintenance for parents. Not only that, internally-geared drivetrains tend to be a bit more user-friendly in that they can be shifted while coasting, giving kids one less thing to think about. If you’ve ever tried to get your 8-year-old to use his or her gears, you’ll know it can be a thankless job.
Up front there’s a 28T chainring bracketed on both sides with guards to keep dropped chains to a minimum. The guards should also provide protection against chainring-induced ouchies.
The 600mm-wide handlebars sport a 15° rise, giving parents a wide range to dial in the fit. Standard, 22.2mm-diameter grips can be used with the bars; the included grips are fairly narrow for smaller hands.
Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, with 160/140mm rotors front and rear, promise plenty of stopping power.
The 24-inch wheels feature tubeless-ready rims and come with 1.9″ tires that appear to be appropriate for riding dusty hardpack to asphalt.
Finally, the leather-looking saddle is actually covered in “vegan leather” for a classic style. All told, the bike (with included nylon pedals) weighs about 28.2lbs.
The Cleary Meerkat is offered in three colors — graphite (on test), desert green, and punk rock pink — and retails for $625. To order one, or learn more, visit the Cleary website.