Do you have an aspiring Peter Sagan or Katie Compon? If so, it might be time to get your child a bike with drop bars.
Compared to an all-terrain bicycle that most kids bikes are designed to be, a youth road bike or cyclocross bike will be faster, lighter, and better suited to long-distance riding and ‘cross racing. The bikes on this list will help your kiddo climb bigger mountains, finish a 50-miler, or compete in your local kids ‘cross race.
Unfortunately, unlike the kids mountain bike business that is booming, fewer and fewer manufacturers are making pint-sized road bikes or cyclocross bikes. In fact, the options in North America have dwindled so much in the last few years that we’ve had to combine our lists of kids road bikes and cyclocross bikes into one.
Here’s what your limited options are…..
Frog 67 and Frog 70
Frog is one of our favorite companies for kids bikes–from balance bikes to track bikes, they make top-notch bicycles for children.
Both the Frog 67 (24″ wheels) and Frog 70 (26″ wheels) boast drop bars, but also have supplementary brakes levers on the top of the bars, which is nice for kids who haven’t quite mastered the drops yet.
These bikes also work for road riding or cyclocross and they come with two sets of Kenda tires–one for each discipline.
Price: $800 / $825
Ridley Road Race 26
The Ridley Road Race is another bike that’s been designed to work well for road riding or cyclocross racing.
The bike has an alloy frame and fork, Shimano Claris drivetrain, and short-reach brake levers. The tires are slick (Kenda Roadrace) but can be swapped out for racing in the mud.
Islabikes Luath 24 and 26
Islabikes is the original kids’ bike company and their years of experience show in both the Luath 24 and the Luath 26. The Luath comes with fenders, supplementary top bar brake levers, and a lightweight build (19 pounds with pedals).
Unfortunately, Islabikes has shut down North American distribution, but if you’re lucky enough to be in Europe or you are willing to put in a little work, you can still find one.
Worx JA-24 and JA-26
The Worx JA 24 and 26 are fantastic bikes. In addition to being beautiful, the bikes come ready to race–either on the road or at the ‘cross track. The Worx Junior bikes offers a Mircoshift drivetrain and Tektro cantilever brakes.
This is a small botique UK brand, but they ship internationally, so wherever you are, this is a good option.
Salsa Journeyman 24
Okay, okay, this bike isn’t a road bike OR a cyclocross bike, but it is a junior-sized drop bar gravel bike that could conceivably be used in either situation. Intended for bikepacking and gravel grinding, the 24 inch rig has cargo mounts for carrying all sorts of gear.
The Salsa Journeyman 24 comes speced with Microshift drivetrain, Promax mechanical disc brakes, and beefy 24 x 1.85” tires. If you want to adventure, this could be a great option.
These are bikes we used to have on our lists of kids cyclocross and road bikes, but they have been discontinued. As you can see, this genre of bike has taken a big hit.
We are listing them here in case it can help you find one used.
- Redline Conquest 20 and 24
- Diamondback Haanjo 24
- Raleigh RX24
- Pinarello Speedy Complete
- Argon 18 Xenon 24
- Scott Speedster JR 24
- Hoy Meadowmill
- Genesis Beta
- Specialized Allez Jr
- Giant TCX Espoir 26
Choosing the Right Road Bike or Cyclocross Bike For Your Child
The bikes on this list have either 24″ wheels, 26″ wheels or 650c wheels.
In general, most 24″ bikes are going to fit kids ages 8-10. As with all kids bikes, however, each bike has slightly different geometry and each child has a different height and build. Therefore, make sure you measure your child’s inseam prior to shopping for a bike.
If your child is older, 10 or 11 years old, you’ll find that you have more options and can look for a youth road bike with 26″ or 650c wheels.
Chances are, if you are shopping for a road or cross bike for your kiddo, that you are already a pretty serious cyclist yourself. Which also means you know how important weight is in a bike.
This is doubly true for kids who have light bodyweight and low muscle mass. If your child is going to be using the bike for racing weight is doubly important. In particular, with ‘cross racing, they are also going to be lifting this bicycle up and over obstacles and running with it, so keep in mind that the lighter the bike is the more they are going to enjoy racing.
Moving from an upright bike to a more aggressive road bike with drops can be a challenge. My favorite 24″ road bikes, like the Frog 67, offer both regular cantilever brake levers in the drops and supplementary brake levers on the flat bars. Unless you know that your child already has the skill to ride in the drops, I would recommend starting with this set-up.
You also have to decide if you want a bike with rim brakes or disc brakes. While UCI rules used to preclude disc brakes for cyclocross racing, this was changed several years ago.
Where you have the option, we would always choose a bike with disc brakes over rim brakes. For most off-road riding, disc brakes are far superior in terms of performance and stopping power. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of cyclocross bikes with disc brakes for kids, so you might have to compromise on this one.
As with everything in life, there is always a trade-off between price and quality. In general, you should buy your child a bike with the nicest comportment you can afford. If you’re not sure which the different drivetrain packages are, this article offers a good overview.
Rotational weight matters more than weight on any other part of the bike (the frame, for example). When shopping for a bike, compare the weight of the different wheelsets on the bikes. This often matters more than the overall build weight. If your child really takes to cycling, you can always upgrade their wheelset later as well.
Is this going to be your child’s primary bike or a sport-specific second bike? This question is important when considering how much you want to spend.
If your kiddo already has a road bike or a mountain bike or an around-town bike, and is just using the road or cyclocross bike to test out a few races, then you might want to pick a bike at the bottom of the budget spectrum.
If, on the other hand, your kiddo is going to use this bike for riding to school, riding long distances with mom and dad, or serious racing, then fork out the dough and invest in the best quality bike you can afford.