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.
(Or maybe you don’t mountain bike, but it’s something your child has taken an interest in. If that’s you, don’t worry, we’ll explain everything you need to know to pick a good mountain bike).
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 bike to be fun, but it does need to be lightweight, fit properly, and work well.
In this article, we’ll share our favorite BRANDS making youth mountain bikes, our top picks by size, and what you should consider when shopping.
Table Of Contents
Best Kids Mountain Bike Brands Best Kids Mountain Bikes By Size Dirt Jumpers Electric Mountain Bikes How To Choose A Kid Mountain Bike Where To Shop
Best Kids Mountain Bike Brands
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 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.
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)
- Trailcraft Pineridge 24 (hardtail)
- Trailcraft Maxwell 24 (full-suspension)
- Trailcraft Timber 26 (hardtail)
- Trailcraft Timber 26 carbon (hardtail)
- Trailcraft Maxwell 26 (full-suspension)
- Trailcraft Maxwell 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.
Read Our Review: Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR
- Prevelo Zulu One 14″ (fully rigid)
- Prevelo Zulu Two 16″ (fully rigid)
- Prevelo Zulu Three 20″ (hardtail)
- 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.
- Yoji 16″ (fully rigid)
- Kotori 20″ (hardtail dirt jumper)
- Yama Jama 20″ (hardtail)
- Rokkusuta 20″ (full suspension)
- Yama Jama 24″ (hardtail)
- Kotori 24″ (hardtail dirt jumper)
- Rokk 24″ (full suspension)
- Kotori 26″ (hardtail dirt jumper)
- Yama Jama 26″ (hardtail)
- Rokk 26″ (full suspension)
The Woom OFF line of kids mountain bikes provides the best bang for your buck around. They are super lightweight and come in at unbeatable prices.
These bikes also provide high-quality components like hydraulic disc brakes, high-volume Schwable tires, and thru-axles. The Woom OFF sports a rigid carbon fork, while the Woom OFF AIR offers a high-quality air-sprung suspension fork.
Finally, if your looking for a mountain bike with an electric assist, the Woom UP offers your best bet in the U.S. market.
- Woom OFF 4 (20″ rigid)
- Woom OFF 5 (24″ rigid)
- Woom OFF 6 (26″ rigid)
- Woom OFF 4 AIR (20″hardtail)
- Woom OFF 5 AIR (24″ hardtail)
- Woom OFF 6 AIR (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.
Read Our Review: Commencal Ramones 14
- Ramones 16 (Fully Rigid)
- Ramones 20 (Fully Rigid)
- Meta HT 20 (Hardtail)
- Clash 20 (Full Suspension)
- Ramones 24 (Fully Rigid)
- Absolute 24 (Dirt Jumper)
- Meta HT 24 (Hardtail)
- Meta HT 24 Power (Electric hardtail)
- Clash 24 (Full Suspension)
- Meta HT Junior (Hardtail)
- Clash Junior (Full Suspension)
Norco has really stepped things up in the last few years. 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)
- Sight 27.5 (full suspension)
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)
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.
- Seeker X 16 (hardtail)
- Hellion 16 (hardtail)
- Seeker 20 (fully rigid)
- Hellion 20 (hardtail)
- Hellion X 20 (full suspension)
- Seeker 24 (fully rigid)
- Hellion 24 (hardtail)
- Hellion X 24 (full suspension)
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)
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 20″ (hardtail)
- Scout 24″ (hardtail)
- Scout 26″ (hardtail)
If you want a high-quality mountain bike, but don’t want to spend a fortune, check out the Vitus bikes. This UK brand (shippable to the U.S.) is a favorite amongst folks who love a bargain.
Expect to find high-quality components (Tektro disc brakes, Vee Tire Co tires) for a fraction of the price of other kids mountain bikes.
- Vitus 20+ (fully rigid)
- Vitus 24+ (fully rigid)
- Nucleus 24 (hardtail)
- Nucleus 26 (hardtail)
While limited in offerings, this list wouldn’t be complete without Transition. The Transition Ripcord is a phenomenal adult-quality mountain bike sized for kids.
- Ripcord 24 (full suspension)
New for 2021, Propain is now selling their kids bikes in North America. Score!
These are high-end mountain bikes with top of the line components and child-appropriate slack geometry. If you get one of these for the kiddo, you might have to get yourself a new bike to match.
- Dreckspatz 20 (hardtail)
- Frechdax 20 (full suspension)
- Yuma 24/26 (full suspension)
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.
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.
Best Kids Dirt Jumpers
While most kids will be best suited by a trail bike, if your kiddo is really into dirt jumping, then a dirt jump specific bike is where it’s at. These mountain bikes have a smaller frame, low seat height, and no front brake. Perfect for flying high.
Read: 5 Best Kids Dirt Jumpers
Kids Electric Mountain Bikes
Most kids don’t NEED an e-assist on their mountain bike, but they can be rad. In our family, for instance, we use the Woom UP for big alpine rides where there’s no way our son could go as big or as hard without one.
Things To Consider When Choosing A Kids Mountain Bike
If you’re new to the world of mountain bikes, this guide will help you know what you’re looking for when shopping for a mountain bike for your child. And even if you’re a bike geek, you might want to do a quick one over.
Unlike adult bikes, kids bikes are sized by the size of their wheels. If you’re not already familiar with kids bike sizes, and which size bicycle your child needs, make sure to check out our guide to kids bike sizes before moving on.
Note that older kids (11 or 12 and up) CAN fit on an adult sized mountain bike but you’ll want to look for an extra-small frame.
A good quality mountain bike is NOT cheap. If you’re looking at the bikes on this list and panicking about the price, consider what type of riding your child is doing.
Do they need a REAL mountain bike? Many kids will do well on a more robust neighborhood bike like those by Cleary. These bikes can be ridden on mellow singletrack and rail trails without the need for a suspension fork or expensive components like thru-axles.
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 kids mtb that weighs too much they are probably going to get tired quickly, frustrated easily, and may give up on the sport altogether.
My advice is always to get the lightest bike you can possibly afford.
Type Of Riding
What kind of mountain biking is your child going to be doing? Are they riding smooth, mellow singletracks? Hitting the pump track at your local skills park? Tackling technical climbs and rocky descents? Or, visiting the lift served bike park?
For riding green trails and goofing around at the skills park, a hardtail (or even a rigid) mountain bike will be fine. For kids that live in the mountain west with big climbs, weight and gearing should be serious factors when choosing a bike. For families doing shuttle rides or lift served riding, weight becomes less important but high quality suspension (even full suspension) becomes key.
There are too many scenarios to go thru them all here, but take some time to seriously consider the type of riding your family will be doing before buying a bike.
There are three types of brakes you’ll find on kids mountain bikes: hydraulic disc brakes, mechanical disc brakes, and old fashioned v-brakes.
V-brakes are the cheapest option and are found on entry-level mountain bikes. They don’t have the same stopping power as disc brakes, but can be an economical and low maintenance option particularly for families doing mellow trail riding.
Mechanical disc brakes are the next step up. They have better stopping power than v-brakes but are also fairly low maintenance.
Hydraulic disc brakes are the most expensive option and what you’ll find on top of the line kids mountain bikes. They allow for better modulation and superior stopping power, and they are also easier for little hands to pull and operate. That said, they can be cost prohibitive for some and require more expensive maintenance.
Whichever type of brake you choose, the most important thing is that the brake levers are sized appropriately for small hands and that they are easy to reach and to pull.
Fork and Suspension
In terms of suspension, you’ll find three types of kids mountain bikes: fully rigid bikes, hardtail bikes (those with a front suspension forks), and bikes with full suspension (those with a suspension fork AND rear shock).
The benefit of a rigid fork is that it’s lightweight. Compared to cheaper suspension forks found on many kids bikes, a rigid fork can save POUNDS. We’d always recommend a rigid fork over a cheap suspension fork.
If you do opt for a fully rigid bike, you may want to look for one with a carbon fiber fork. This can help absorb some of the chatter from the trail without adding weight.
A fully rigid bike is the best choice for families who are on a tight budget OR who are riding very smooth trails or gravel roads.
Most kids will be best served by a mountain bike with a suspension fork. Note, however, that it’s only worth buying a bike with a suspension fork if it’s a high quality air-sprung suspension fork.
As I already mentioned, cheap suspension forks are HEAVY and are nearly impossible for lighter weight riders (aka kids) to compress. They look cool but are otherwise worthless.
A good quality air sprung suspension fork (like the Manitou Junit) can add a bunch of comfort for kids riding rocky, rooty, or otherwise technical trails. A hardtail mountain bike is the best choice for families doing bigger trail rides or for kids in mountain bike camps or clubs.
Finally, a full suspension mountain bike can be a good choice for bigger tackling hard trails or for any kiddo who has taken a liking to lift-served or downhill riding. If your child is riding solely downhill, weight isn’t as important but a light-ish bike can still make it easier to catch air and for your child to handle. If your child is using the bike for trail riding with big climbs, paying more for a lightweight bike will make a huge difference in their enjoyment and ability.
Gearing And Drivetrain
For kids mountain bikes, we prefer 1x drivetrains. This means there is a single chain ring up front and a rear derailleur and cassette in back. This is much simpler than the front derraileur setups of old.
The most important thing you’ll want to look for when shopping for a kids mountain bike is the range of gearing and how high the bike is geared. This can be measured by other a gear ratio (simplest) or a gain ratio (more complicated).
If you live in a mountainous area this is more important than if you’re a flat lander. We appreciate companies (like Trailcraft) that allow you to pick the front chainring size that will work best for where you live.
The best kids mountain bikes will have a rear derailleur with a short cage and a clutch. These features are particularly important if your child is riding more technical terrain.
Finally, consider the shifter. For mountain biking, we much prefer a trigger shifter to a grip shifter. It may take your child a bit longer to get the hang of, but they’ll get much cleaner shifter shifts and the trigger shifters are usually easier for small hands to operate as well.
Wheels and Tires
Remember how I said how important weight is? Well, rotational weight (aka wheels and tires) is even more important.
A lightweight wheelset is a good place to start. We also like to look for wheels that are tubeless compatible, though this is a bit more geeky than you’re ready for.
The tires are important too. While we like a nice high volume tire, there is such a thing as a tire that’s too fat.
We’re not a big fan of the trend in the last few years to make kids mountain bikes with plus-sized tires. Although this can add some extra cushion, it also adds a lot of weight!
Look for a bike with a tire (like the Vee Crown Gem or Schwable Rocket Ron) that are high volume but not plus-sized.
When looking at wheels, you may also notice that some bikes have thru-axles rather than the traditional quick-release skewer. These add additional stability and safety.
You won’t find thru-axles on more entry-level mountain bikes, but you will on more expensive bikes. They become more important the more aggressive the riding your child is doing.
The appropriate geometry of a kids mountain bike again comes down to the type of riding they are going to be doing.
In general, we like mountain bikes that have more modern, slack geometry and a long wheelbase. This makes the bike more forgiving and instills confidence in kids.
Still, if your child is more focused on racing or is riding fast, smooth trails, you may want to look for a frame with more aggressive geometry instead.
We’ve touched on all the biggies, but here are a few things you may want to consider as well.
- Crank length. We see way too many kids bikes with cranks that are too long. For more information on what an appropriate length is for your child, click on one of our articles on best kids bikes by size above.
- Dropper post routing. A dropper post can be HUGELY helpful for kids while mountain biking, especially if you live in an area with a lot of big climbs and descents. Only a few kids mountain bikes come with a dropper post installed but others will have internal routing in case you want to install one yourself. If you think you might want to add a dropper, definitely look for this feature.
- Pedals. With a few notable exceptions, most kids mountain bikes ship with cheap, stock pedals. If that’s the case on the bike you pick, plan on upgrading your childs bike with a better pair of pedals later on.
- Saddle and grips. There are only three touchpoints on the bike–the saddle, the grips, and the pedals. Like pedals, saddles and grips are often something you’ll want to upgrade later on.
- Bosses for water bottles or racks. Does your child ride with a hydration pack or with a water bottle? If the latter, then make sure the bike you’re eyeing has mounts for a bottle cage. Additionally, if you want to do some bikepacking or touring with the bike, you may want to look for additional bosses on the fork or rear triangle.
Where To Shop For A Kids Mountain Bike
Ideally, you’ll buy your child’s mountain bike at a local bike shop where they can demo the bike before purchasing. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Many of the best kids mountain bike brands (Trailcraft, Woom, etc) ONLY sell their bikes direct to consumer. So you won’t find one in a local bike shop at all.
If you do want to buy from a local shop, look for a dealer that sells good kids mountain bikes (like Norco or Commencal). With a few exceptions, we’d stay away from brands like Trek and Giant as they’re kids mountain bikes aren’t on par with the better brands.
Finally, you could also consider shopping for a used mountain bike. Our best luck doing this online is via the Pinkbike Classifieds. Talking to other families at the pump track or bike park is another good way to find a good quality mountain bike that might be coming up for sale soon.
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The Rascals are a family of three. Kristen (mom), Blair (dad), and Parker (kiddo). We started Rascal Rides when Parker was born and we didn’t want to give up our passion for biking. As we learned, we shared. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of kids bikes, helmets, bike trailers, and more.
Kristen is a USA Cycling certified coach and loves to share her passion for biking with other families. Blair is a bike geek, mechanic, and mountain bike junkie. Parker is our resident tester and inspiration.
If you see us out on the trail, make sure to say hi!