Start Your Kids On 24-inch Mountain Bikes

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Most kids from 6 to 9 years old are likely to have their first encounter with real gears and suspensions when they are given a mountain bike or BMX with a 20- or 24-inch wheel size.

Many of these bikes have 3-10 gears and are designed to go up hills as well as speed down flat roads. Having multispeed gearing may not be necessary, but it’s good for kids to become familiar with how multispeed shifters works.

20-inch. Be wary of models in this range which feature suspension forks. Your child may find them cool-looking but it’s likely that it will be an inexpensive and heavyweight part which won’t work as good as you think. It may make more sense to choose rigid frames as those of the same class and price level would likely be lighter and better constructed.

But if your kid still insists on it, you could either select the most lightweight frame available or else get a middling suspension frame and have the fork replaced with a higher-grade option later on.

24-inch. For older kids up to 15 old who are ready to ride bikes with 24-inch wheels, much the same advice on gearing 20-inch types also applies here. It’s at this level where you may discover a wide range of suspension and drivetrain options of the types usually featured in full-sized bikes used by adults. Multispeed drivetrains with more than 21 gears and triple-chainrings can be found in this category.

However, with multispeed models you may be adding more weight and complications which may not be justified by the higher costs at this point. Unless you have an unusually tall or heavy kid who could take advantage of these capabilities, you might defer getting more complex bikes for a few more years. But if they do insist, you could limit their options to multispeed models with fewer numbers of gear ratios.

With the popularity of the 24-inch wheel size among mountain bikes for youngsters, we look at some considerations.

24-incher Mountain Bikes

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Mountain bikes with wheel sizes of 24 inches are generally designed for children older than ten years who will be mostly riding on roads and prepared trails and not performing wheelie tricks. If the purpose is go on short road trips or just tool around the neighbourhood, a comfort cruiser or BMX bike may be more suitable.

  • Suspension. Front suspension forks with more generous travel are standard on most bikes in this class. Many feature the same types of parts found on smaller-sized bikes meant for adults.
  • Gearing. Most models offer 3-21 gears which are usually combined with a 6-7 sprocket cluster at the rear matched to a single- or triple-chainring. Some models feature simple internal hubs, with the gearing sometimes integrated with backpedalling brakes. Drivetrains with more gear ratios available for more discrete jumps will be more reliable at smoothing out shifts for these are usually composed of higher-quality parts.
  • Shift lever. A tinier hand can better handle twist-grip shifting levers. Thumb-style shifters are reliable and simpler to use for adults but may not be as easy for kids to operate.
  • Brake system. The majority of models feature V-type brakes which are effective for stops, and a few offer disc brakes for more robust braking in all conditions. Some models feature hubs with internal gearing which integrate coaster-type braking operated by backpedalling on the cranks, which is intuitively simple for children to learn.
  • Brake lever. Be sure that a young rider can easily reach the levers and squeeze them with their small hands. Some designs feature reach adjustments for this purpose. However, readjusting a lever’s reach involves brake adjustments as well. It's not easy to reconfigure levers with a short reach, as the procedure often results in the pads rubbing lightly on the wheels.
  • Mass. Bikes which weigh less can normally roll faster and more comfortably and are generally nicer to ride than bikes with weightier frames and parts.
  • Tires. If the rider will be running mostly on dirt trails, wide tires with knobby treads will work best. But if the rides will mostly on level pavement, narrow tires with smooth treads may be more appropriate. Even if the model comes with the “wrong” they can always be replaced.
  • Sizing –Riders must not only be able to comfortably mount the bike and stand over its top tube with each foot on the ground, they have to be comfortable with reaching and gripping the handlebars and steering the bike with them as they sit.
  • Metal-alloy rim – These types are not prone to rusting and brake pads operate better with metal-alloy surfaces in wetter conditions, unlike steel which also rusts and doesn’t perform well with brake pads applied in the wet.

The Next Step

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After studying what’s available, the next thing you should do is to arrange test rides of various sizes and models for your child. This way, you’ll get to see how easily he or she is able to ride and handle each one with a good level of control.

Other than the height of the rider, you need to consider the bodily proportions of the child and his preferred style of riding. Height and sizing charts can give you an idea of which range of sizes to consider. But these cannot be solely relied on as they don’t provide for a definitive method of selecting a properly-sized bike.

In any case, always choose a 24-inch-wheeled mountain bike that’s appropriately sized for a young rider and which meets his riding and styling preferences wherever possible.

About the author

Lisa

Hey there, I'm Lisa, founder and editor in chief here at Recreation Space. We found fitness through recreational activities. And we want to share it with you. We believe in empowering people with knowledge to make smarter, healthier choices in their lives.

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