You love mountain biking, and you want your kids to love mountain biking too. There’s no better feeling than ripping some singletrack with your favorite little person or seeing the smile on their face when they make it to the bottom of a technical descent.
One of the biggest factors in how much enjoyment your kids are going to get out of mountain biking is how well their bike performs. No, it doesn’t have to be the fanciest or most expensive mountain biking to be fun, but it does need to be lightweight, fit properly, and work well.
Weight, in particular, is a huge differentiator in terms of how well a bike is going to perform for a child. Many kids mountain bikes are HEAVY; like, heavier than your mountain bike. And your kids weigh a lot less than you do which means the bike-weight to body-weight ratio is way off. If your child is on a bike that weighs too much they are probably going to get tired quickly, frustrated easily, and may give up on the sport altogether.
Other things we look for in kids mountain bikes are child-appropriate geometry, easy-to-reach and easy-to-operate brake levers and shifters, and decent components. You don’t want to spend a fortune on a bike that’s going to be outgrown in a year or two, but you don’t want a bike that’s constantly dropping its chain and breaking either.
Over several years of testing and reviewing kids bikes, we’ve discovered that the BEST kids bikes are generally produced by kid-specific companies. They’ve put the time, investment, and engineering dollars into focusing on what really makes a bike good for children. This holds true for youth mountain bikes as well. There are a handful of brands creating fantastic mountain bikes for kids and they take the top spots on this list.
That said, we’ve been pleased to see some of the big bike brands recognizing the increase of young riders in the sport and improving their offerings. While we still think the big brands lag behind, they do have some legitimate and options, especially on the more affordable end of the spectrum. When it comes to youth-sized 26″ and 27.5″ bikes, a few big bike brands (like Pivot) are also producing exceptional bikes.
What follows is a list of what we consider the BEST mountain bike brands for kids bikes. Many of these brands offer bikes across multiple sizes. At the end of the article, we’ve also included links to our round-ups of the best mountain bikes in each size group (20″, 24″, and 26″+).
Trailcraft takes our top spot. This kid-specific mountain bike company produces truly exceptional bikes for young riders. These are the bikes you would want to be riding if you could go back in time and be a kid again. Trailcraft calls their offering “category-leading bikes” and we agree.
They offer 20″, 24″, and 26″ hardtail and full-suspension offerings. Their bikes are super lightweight and can be built with custom component packages. And although it’s less important, we also like the bright color schemes.
- Trailcraft Blue Sky 20 (hartail) – read our review of the Blue Sky 20!
- Trailcraft Pineridge 24 (hardtail)
- Trailcraft Maxwell 24 (full-suspension)
- Trailcraft Timber 26 (hardtail)
- Trailcraft Maxwell 26 (full-suspension)
- Trailcraft Big Mesa 26+ (plus-sized hardtail)
The Prevelo Zulu line offers real mountain bikes for even the youngest riders. Even the 14″ Zulu One has disc brakes and knobby tires–the smallest one that we’re aware of.
On the larger end of the spectrum, we’ve been super impressed by the Zulu Thee and Zulu Four HEIR. These bikes come with top-notch components including an adjustable airfork, Shimano ZEE derraileur with clutch, and thru-axles.
- Prevelo Zulu One 14″ (fully rigid)
- Prevelo Zulu Two 16″ (fully rigid)
- Prevelo Zulu Three 20″ (hardtail) – read our review of the Zulu Three HEIR
- Prevelo Zulu Four 24″ (hardtail)
Spawn has long had a strong-hold amongst families that mountain bike. Their smallest bikes are off-road worthy, but their true mountain bikes start at 20.” Whether you are looking for a cross-country bike or a serious downhill rig, Spawn has something to offer.
We appreciate that they’ve developed Brood, their own quality in-house line of components. In fact, their Brood tires are so good we even recommend them to parents who have other brands of bikes.
- Raiju 20″ (fully rigid)
- Kotori 20″ (hardtail dirt jumper)
- Yama Jama 20″ (hardtail)
- Rokkusuta 20″ (full suspension) – read our review of the Rokkusuta!
- Yama Jama 24″ (hardtail) – read our review of the Yama Jama!
- Kotori 24″ (hardtail dirt jumper)
- Rokkusuta 24″ (full suspension)
- Kotori 26″ (hardtail dirt jumper)
- Yama Jama 26″ (hardtail)
Of all the larger bike manufacturer’s, Commencal has probably done the best job of building quality kids mountain bikes, particularly in the gravity category. We also appreciate that they offer a 5-year warranty, which is probably way longer than your kiddo will fit on the bike.
- Ramones 16 (Fully Rigid)
- Ramones 20 (Fully Rigid)
- Meta HT 20 (Hardtail)
- Clash 20 (Full Suspension)
- Meta HT 24 (Hardtail)
- Clash 24 (Full Suspension)
- Meta HT Junior (Hardtail)
- Clash Junior (Full Suspension)
Norco has really stepped things up for 2020. What used to be a mediocre kids line has just become LEGIT. From plus-sized hardtails, to dirt jumpers, to adult-quality full-suspension bikes, you are sure to find a good option here.
- Fluid 20 (full suspension
- Fluid HT+ 20 (hardtail)
- Rampage 20 (dirt jumper)
- Rampage 24 (dirt jumper)
- Fluid 24 (full suspension)
- Fluid HT+ 24 (hardtail)
Are you a bike geek? You’re gonna love Flow bikes. Their beautiful builds have customizable color kits and can be bought as a full bike or a frame/fork only so you can build up with the components of your choice. They offer two sizes–16″ and 20″–although both frames accept wheels one size up. So the Flow 16″, for example, converts to a 20″ bike when your child is ready for the larger wheels. Pretty genius.
- Flow 16″ (hardtail)
- Flow 20″ (hardtail)
Does your idea of fun include a lift-assist and some airtime? If so, Meekboyz is your brand. The best kids downhill bikes that we know of, Meeboyz creates pint-sized bikes that can handle some serious abuse.
- Mini Beast 20″ (Full Suspension)
- Beast 24″ (Full Suspension)
- Mega Best 26″ (Full Suspension)
Like Flow Bikes, the Lil Shredder mountain bikes are convertible (16″ to 20″ wheels). This makes the high price tag a bit more digestible. Their bikes can also be built up with different component builds to function as either a trail bike or a downhill bike. Take the customization one step further, and choose a custom frame color.
- Icon 16″/20″ (Hardtail Dirt Jumper)
- Prodigy 16″/20″ (Full Suspension)
- Icon 24″ (Hardtail Dirt Jumper)
- Phenom 24″ (Full Suspension)
While they are not known as a kids bike brand, Pivot offers some of the best bikes around that fit young riders. For kids that can manage 26″ wheels, Pivot’s XS bike frames fit tiny riders exceptionally well. Of course, Pivot bikes aren’t cheap but they will create kids that love the sport and can perform even at the highest levels of competition.
- Pivot Mach 4 27.5″ (full suspension)
- Pivot Mach 5.5 27.5″ (full suspension)
- Pivot Switchblade 27.5″ (full suspension)
- Pivot Les 27.5″ (hardtail)
Early Rider creates beautiful bikes for bike snobs. Their brushed aluminum frames turn heads and the their component builds keep kids turning pedals. Expect to find high-quality components from brands like Ritchey, SRAM, and Maxxis.
- Early Rider Trail 20 (hardtail)
- Early Rider Trail 24 (hardtail)
The Woom OFF line of kids mountain bikes provides the best bang for your buck around. They are super lightweight and come in at under $700. These bikes also provide high-quality components like hydraulic disc brakes, high-volume Schwable tires, and thru-axles.
Not all parents are going to love the rigid carbon fork, but we appreciate that it saves weight and cost, and does a good job of absorbing chatter from the trail.
- Woom OFF 4 (20″ rigid) – read our review of the Woom OFF 4
- Woom OFF 5 (24″ rigid)
- Woom OFF 6 (26″ rigid)
Frog is a UK company that isn’t as well know here in the states as it should be. In addition to making fabulous commuter and road bikes for kids, Frog also offers a few really nice mountain bikes. Each of their models has Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano drivetrain, and Kenda tires.
- Frog 62 24″ (hardtail)
- Frog 69 26″ (hardtail)
- Frog 72 26″ (hardtail)
Like Prevelo, Cleary has recently expanded their kids’ bike offerings to offer purpose-built mountain bikes. The Cleary bikes are also unique in that their frames are made of 4130 Chromoly Steel and are as durable as they are beautiful.
These are entry-level cross-country bikes that offer quality components (Suntour suspension fork, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, Vee tubeless-ready tires) at a digestible price point.
- Scout 24″ (hardtail)
- Scout 26″ (hardtail)
The Best Youth Mountain Bikes by Size
Looking for some specific bike recommendations for your child? Here are our favorite kids’ mountain bikes, broken down by size and bike type.
- 5 Best 16″ Mountain Bikes for Kids
- 5 Best 20” Mountain Bikes for Kids
- 5 Best 24″ XC Mountain Bikes for Kids
- 11 Best 24″ Downhill / Full Suspension Mountain Bikes for Kids
- The Best XS 26″ and 27.5″ Mountain Bikes for Kids
Does your child need a 12″ or 14″ mountain bike? There are fewer true mountain bikes in these size offerings. Spawn and Prevelo offer smaller size mountain bikes, and Woom, Cleary, Islabikes, and Pello all make bikes that while not “mountain bikes” are durable and capable for off-road riding for younger kids.