Adventure comes in many forms. Pavement, dirt, gravel, grass. Whatever or wherever your child is riding, the Cleary Meerkat can help them tackle it.
For most families, a bike adventure leads out from the pavement in front of our homes and sprinkles in a little dirt in the form of a pump track or mellow dirt trail. Doing all the things and going all the places can motivate our kids to have fun rolling on two wheels.
Sound like your family? Then the Cleary Meerkat should have a spot in your garage.
This 24-inch steel, fully rigid bike can handle all types of terrain. It also has unique features that help it stand out amongst the sea of 24 inch bikes bikes. This includes a steel frame, internally geared hub, and hydraulic disc brakes.
Our son has been testing the Cleary Meerkat for a few months now and has really taken to this unique bike. Read on to learn more about our experience…..
Review In a Nutshell
- Beautiful, steel frame
- Durable build and components
- Can handle variable terrain
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Rigid fork is rough for off-road
- Housing clips broke easily
Cleary Meerkat Video Review
Steel Frame Makes The Cleary Meerkat Unique
The Cleary Meerkat has a fully rigid steel frame with three color options to choose from: desert green, graphite (black), or punk rock pink. All are beautiful.
Steel is highly durable and will last a lifetime. Additionally, steel can provide added comfort.
Like carbon fiber or titanium, steel soaks up vibrations from the trail or road and creates less fatigue on the rider compared to an aluminum frame. This additional comfort, however, is so minimal that the general population (including your child) won’t notice like an experienced, long-distance bikepack racer would.
Is it something your kiddo needs for casual family adventures? That is something you get to decide!
Sizing: It’s A Smaller 24 Inch Bike
The frame fits kids with an inseam between 22” and 26″. (For most kids, that equates to somewhere in the 7 to 10 year old range).
The Cleary Meerkat is one of the smaller 24 inch bikes around and significantly smaller than the Woom 5 for instance. This makes it a good choice for parents who want to move their child up to bigger wheels, but that may still be on the smaller side.
We found that our just turned 9-year-old fits on the bike but won’t for too much longer.
5-Speed Sturmey Archer Hub
Unlike many other high-end kids bikes on the market, the Cleary Meerkat comes with a stock, internally geared, Sturmey Archer hub. There are 5 gears paired to a matching trigger shifter on the handlebar. This provides enough gear range to cruise the neighborhood and potentially some of the surrounding bike parks or pump tracks that might be in your community.
The Meerkat has sliding dropouts that not only allow the mounting of the Sturmey Archer hub but provide the option to run the bike as a singlespeed as well. In addition, there is a derailleur hanger built into the chainstay if a parent wants to convert the bike to a more traditional drivetrain.
These are very cool features that really showcase Cleary’s attention to detail in their builds.
A Bit Heavier Than We’d Prefer
Climbing is a challenge for everyone. But, a lighter weight build can help kids a lot on the the hills.
Unfortunately, the Cleary Meerkat is pretty heavy. Their website states that the bike weighs in at 27 lbs and we weighed the bike with pedals on at 28 lbs (~12.7 kg).
This is significantly heavier than the Woom 5, for instance, which weighs a hair over 20 lbs. The Sturmey Archer hub that is partly to blame for the heft. Modifying the drive train would surely drop some weight.
That said, weight can have benefits too. Our son exclaimed that he enjoyed the descents on the bike as I begged him to slow down a bit. The weight carried him a bit faster than some of his other bikes.
Works Well For Mellow Off-Road Riding
The frame itself is durable and offers an aggressive position that is perfect for cross-country mountain biking. Though the bike is rigid, the steel fork does offer some vibration damping and reduces fatigue.
The combination of hydraulic disc brakes and the steel frame really make for a sturdy bike that can be thrown around and pedaled hard. Off-road testing indicated that while this is not a true mountain bike, it is able to handle some singletrack and could be built up as a serious mountain bike if one so chose to mount a suspension fork and change the drive train. The frame and fork are “suspension corrected” for this very reason.
If you are on the search for an actual mountain bike, Cleary does build the Scout 24 which is a dedicated mountain bike with a suspension fork and knobby tires.
Otherwise, this bike is a great all-around cruiser that can handle a bit of everything.
Hydraulic Disc Brakes Provide Superior Stopping Power
Another thing that really makes the Cleary Meerkat stand out against other bikes at this pricepoint is the inclusion of hydraulic disc brakes. The Tektro Auriga brakes offer plenty of stopping power and are much easier for smaller hands to engage than v-brakes or even mechanical disc brakes.
Our son was able to put down plenty of hard fast pedaling and in-turn lay on the brakes, feather the levers to his comfort level and remain safe while riding. Quality brakes are a key component of any decent bike. Cleary did well to include these cost-effective hydro brakes.
I previously mentioned the Sturmey Archer hub and shifter. The drive train is efficient, durable, and nearly maintenance free.
The trigger shifter proves stiffer than some, but still functions better than the grip shifters found on comparable bikes like the Woom 5.The only downside is the added weight compared to a standard, derailleur driven drive train.
It would be intriguing to see a chain stay that one could pull apart to run a belt drive hub instead of the KMC chain with an after-market kit conversion, but that enters the realm of serious bike nerdiness and we don’t have to get into it here….
Other Quality Components
Everything on the Cleary Meerkat is going to last a long, long time. This means you can hand it down to multiple children or get a good price if you choose to sell it down the line.
In House Parts
As with many bike companies, Cleary ships the bike stocked with their house-branded parts like the grips, “vegan” leather saddle (which really makes the bike look beautiful), fork, and handlebar.
Headset, Bottom Bracket
Some of the other componentry is top-notch too. The FSA headset and bottom bracket will keep moving parts functioning for a lifetime.
Cleary makes sure little riders are safe by stocking knurled, Allen head nuts on the front wheel. This style of wheel mounting does create issues if needing to mount to an vehicle’s rack that requires the front wheel be removed. We would have preferred to see a quick release skewer.
Wheels And Tires
Like many bikes in this category, the bike comes stock with Kenda K-rad tires which offer a semi-knobby profile and are great for dual purpose riding. The Alex wheels can be converted to tubeless so one can save some weight and provide puncture protection.
Serious cycling parents might want to swap out the stock VP pedals for some nicer pedals, but it is standard practice to ship bikes with pedals like them. For mellow riding, they work fine.
One complaint we have, is the lack of a quick release seat post collar. If we were to add a dropper post to the bike then the fixed collar is fine, but most parents are not going to do that and being able to adjust the seat for your little rider is key to their comfort. Moreover, if mountain biking, the use of different saddle positions for climbing and descending greatly improves bike handling and is key to teaching those skills to your budding trail ripper.
We did have trouble with the cable housing clips and have lost a few. Luckily that can be mitigated with zip ties. I have never used/or seen these clips until the Meerkat, but they are somewhat intriguing, and I wish they worked better.
One of the coolest features of the bike is the mounting bosses all over the frame. Not only can one attach a bottle cage, but there are bosses to add racks to both the front and back ends. Maybe this bike was built for bike pack racing! Either way, this bike is designed to fit into parameters that not many other kid’s bikes seem to find.
Other Things To Consider
The bike itself is a great option for the almost preteen of the family that likes to adventure with mom and dad, whether that might be pavement or gravel. The company has carved out a niche with steel frames that deliver value and quality. Moreover, they give back to the community as well.
Cleary offers the ReRide program. An incentivized option to receive a rebate if you send back the used steed once your child/children have outgrown the bike. This allows one to use their rebate on a new purchase of another Cleary model while the company provides refurbished bikes to kids in need. This is a great program that helps others out and kids need bikes more now than ever before!
The bike comes with a lifetime warranty which is always a nice insurance. Their website also has several parts and accessories available if you would like to deck out your miniature adventure buddy’s new rig.
Bottom-Line: A Quality All-Around Bike with a Flair for Adventure
Cleary makes beautiful steel bikes. A lifetime warranty indicates the durability of these bikes and is a testament to the quality that one is investing in for their kiddo.
There is no other company doing it like Cleary out there. These bikes are truly unique.
With a component build that is durable and a frame that can be modified to you and your child’s preference of terrain, the Meerkat is worthy of all the miles and styles. Sure, there are a few changes like the seat post collar and housing clips, but those are small nit-picks, and the majority of the parts are worthy of all the rides.
If your kiddo can pack the weight, bike packing as an 8-year-old is an option on this beautiful machine and is a possibility. Adventure is around every corner.
That is what it’s all about. Adventure. Big or small. Paved or dirt. Getting out with your kiddos will create memories for the ages. The Meerkat is well equipped to make those memories great.