Hardtail mountain bikes are where most of us get our start. If you have fond memories of your first forays into mountain biking on a hardtail, then you’re most likely here to research one for your kiddo.
There are only a few brands that build kid specific 26 inch mountain bikes, and Prevelo is one of them. The Prevelo Zulu Five is a great bike, designed and built by a fantastic company that keeps kids as their focus.
The first mountain bike we ever put our son on was the Zulu Three. We have come a long way from 20” wheels and so has the Zulu since then.
The ride quality and thoughtful design of the Zulu Five provides a stable, reliable, mountain bike for kids who aren’t quite yet ready for an adult-sized bike.
Our 10-year-old has been testing out the Prevelo Zulu Five for a while now. Although he was apprehensive about sizing up to a 26 inch bike at first, he’s grown accustomed to the faster, larger wheels quickly. We have been trying out everything from some new hillside jumps to bike packing and, of course, general trail riding.
Read on to learn more……
Review Summary and Rankings
- Durable build, can handle abuse
- Easy to set up tubeless
- Quality in-house HEIR components
- Hydraulic disc brakes perform flawlessly
- Modern frame geometry
- Internal routing for a dropper
- Rebound on the fork is sub par
- Rear end is Boost spaced but fork/front wheel are not Boost spaced
- Frame – 10/10
- Componentry – 7/10
- Ride Quality – 9/10
- Weight – 8/10
- Geometry – 10/10
- Customer Service – 10/10
- Aesthetics – 10/10
OVERALL RANKING: 64/70 or 91%
The Prevelo Zulu Five Frame and How It Rides
Trail riding is rough on equipment and there is no way around it. It’s honestly a big part of why I love mountain biking. Rocks, jumps, and varying conditions all wear on parts.
Prevelo understands this and has designed mountain bikes just for kids that are durable, elegant, and ready to pound out the miles. A 6061 butted aluminum frame with a low bottom bracket and slack head and seat tubes makes for one rowdy ride.
Sporting a 120mm fork, the Prevelo Zulu Five is big for our 10-year-old but rides well with the frame design. The Zulu Five frame is a responsive, comfortable climber that leads one up the mountain. It has a great balance of comfort and traction.
Frankly, I am a big guy, and this bike is big enough that I could test it. The welds are durable and held up to my test runs on my home ramp. The rear end is specced with 148mm of boost spacing providing a stout rear wheel built with a 12mm through axle.
The frame has internal cable routing. The wheelbase is 41.7 inches or 1061mm. The chainstays are 16.3 inches or 415mm. The headtube angle sits at 66 degrees and the seat tube angle at 74 degrees. The effective top tube length is 20.9 inches or 530mm.
I don’t know how many in our audience like to nerd out on the details, but this bike was designed for big kids and provides a comfortable reach. Current trends put the geo measurements of this bike right in the xc or trail range, but a little bit bigger fork keeps it very all-mountain worthy for your young ripper. Short chainstays keep the rear wheel close to the seat tube and offer a nimble playful ride that will make your kiddo’s love wheelieing and riding the back wheel hard.
How it Rides
We have been testing this bike for a few months now and it has held up to the rigors of bikepacking, dirt jumping, and general trail riding. While bikepacking, it was a quick, reliable steed that saw several miles in the backcountry of Idaho with water crossings, rough wash-board roads, singletrack and everything in between. The fork has a compression setting that acts as a lockout and that works well with an extra load on the handlebars.
Dirt jumping hasn’t been quite as successful, but that is all due to my son’s skill with a bigger bike as he grows into it. He was able to get the Prevelo Zulu Five airborne but struggled to clear the knuckles of each landing.
In the last month I can tell that he is really starting to fit the bike though and riding it is becoming easier. In February, he was still just a little too short for it. Luckily, time flies and kids grow fast!
General trail riding has been great on this bike. The steep headtube makes for a playful downhill experience and climbing to get there is right on point. The seat tube angle keeps the rider’s weight right over the bottom bracket where it should be.
I could clearly see my son had a comfortable pedaling cadence and felt stable on the descents. We did have some issues with the fork rebounding through successive hits and will get to that below.
Components On the Prevelo Zulu Five
The Prevelo Zulu Five is outfitted with a great mix of components. Everything from a Microshift drivetrain to a house branded Heir cockpit and beyond. As mentioned above, the Spinner 300 fork was our biggest challenge in dialing in a smooth ride.
The Spinner 300 fork has 120mm of travel but is not Boost spaced and has a quick release 9mm axle. Although kids may not weigh as much, having a modern 15mm through axle will still provide more support and a stiffer axle to push into turns and rocks.
Moreover, having a current hub standard provides a wheel ready to adapt to any potential upgrades. My son struggled with the function of the Spinner fork during most rides apart from our bike pack adventures.
While bikepacking, he used the compression lockout, and it rode high in the travel and supported the additional weight. When trail riding and jumping, the fork’s rebound seemed to not function properly. The fork packed up on successive hits but did seem to partially rebound. It never would fully rebound unless he or I pulled the crown and legs apart manually.
We have tested various sag, compression, and rebound settings trying to get the fork to rebound and feel better, but it seems to be the general quality of the fork. Due to modern day standards, there are not many options to upgrade a 26-inch fork with a straight steerer tube and non-boost spacing.
Luckily, the headtube of the frame is 44mm and allows us to use an adapter headset for a tapered fork. I have confirmed that we can add some travel, so we are going to conduct a summer fork project and turn this trail bike into something like a Kona Honzo for kids. Who doesn’t want a big travel hard tail!
Prevelo Zulu Five Brakes
Prevelo has specced Tektro M280 hydraulic disc brakes and they have worked flawlessly. The reach on the levers is adjustable via a 2mm Allen key.
The calipers bite down on 160mm rotors and provide plenty of braking power for little riders. In addition, running smaller brakes keeps weight and cost down.
Prevelo Zulu Five Drivetrain
The 10 speed Microshift Advent X drivetrain is often found on a lot of kid’s bikes these days. Not only is the drivetrain choice a cost-effective approach, but it works great and keeps the bike moving consistently.
We haven’t had any issues with this shifter/derailleur combo and know that it is a reliable component that won’t give us any trouble. The gear ratio is an 11 to 48 tooth combo paired with a 30 tooth chainring that covers both the climbs and descents well.
Prevelo Zulu Five Cranks and Wheels
Driving the 30 tooth chainring and drivetrain are house branded 152mm Heir cranks. The thoughtful design of components that fit a 10- to 12-year-old are one of our favorite features of Prevelo bikes. The 700mm Heir handlebar paired with a 45mm Heir stem are two other parts that add to the comfort of a kid sized steed and Prevelo has done a great job on the design of these components.
The wheels are comprised of WTB i27 tubeless rims and Kenda Regolith 26 x 2.4 tires rolling on 28-hole hubs. The wheels are stout, supportive and make a huge difference in my son’s speed and rolling ability through technical, rocky sections.
When setting the tires up tubeless, it was the easiest conversion I have ever done. I literally pumped the tires up with the floor pump and they snapped right into place. I couldn’t believe it.
The remainder of parts consists of a quick release seat post collar, threaded, external bottom bracket, Prevelo saddle and internal routing on the frame so we can eventually add a dropper post. I also moved over the matching Heir Footport pedals.
I love the thoughtful little details like the QR seat post collar. We have added a matching front fender to the Bodacious Blue frame and the aesthetics of the bike are on point.
As our kids increase in size it becomes easier to find bikes that fit them. I wish I could afford an extra small Pivot for my son, but that is not the case for us. He will have to wait while I save my pennies.
Luckily, there are a few companies like Prevelo out there providing affordable, kid sized mountain bikes that can take a beating and come back for more. Prevelo also provides outstanding customer service and their passion for this niche of the industry is exemplified in their products and service.
As mentioned above, there are a few competitors out there like the Woom Off, Spawn Yama Jama, and Cleary Scout. Not many others take the time to source kid sized cranks, bars, grips, etc.
Compared to the competition, Prevelo is in the running for top notch hard tail. Their Heir forks on the smaller bikes work great and hopefully we will see a 26 Heir fork to match the rest of the lineup. Otherwise, the geo of Prevelo’s frames is current and offers a great rig that is sure to provide miles of smiles and reliability.
How We Tested And Scored The Bike
We are changing up how we review equipment to quantify each review and provide a better comparison between products. The criteria we will be using for bikes consists of a scale of 1 to 10 for the frame quality, component and build quality, ride quality, weight, child appropriate geometry, customer service and aesthetics. Hopefully we can maintain some consistency from our old format of reviews and hope to see a positive response from our audience with the new ranking.
Our new ranking system has placed the Prevelo Zulu Five at a 91% and that is a great score. The only real markdown was a 7/10 for components and that was due to the less than fantastic performance of the Spinner fork and the lack of a thru-axle on the front wheel.
The bike also lost a couple of points for weight. While the bike is still very respectable at about 27 lbs (with pedals and some dirt), it’s a few pounds heavier than the Woom OFF Air 6, for example.
In terms of the frame quality, geometry, and aesthetics, the bike shines (as do all of the Prevelo bikes). We also gave the bike a 10/10 for customer service, as Prevelo is top of the game in this area.
Our primary tester was our son, who helped give input on the ride quality and these scores. He put several months in on the bike, and we’ll continue to update the review in the future as he logs more miles and hours as well.
The Run Out: I Wish They Made Bikes Like This When I Was A Kid
As our son has grown over the last few months, he has chosen to ride the Zulu Five more and more. I like watching him grow into a new bike. It’s fun to see him re-learn a corner or successfully clear a jump and beam with happiness. Bikes provide that. What more could we want from our adventures with our little ones?
The Prevelo Zulu Five is a versatile hardtail that will fit most 10- to 12-year-olds and even some small adults. I really do wish there was a Prevelo in my size. I would be on it in a heartbeat. Being able to tackle everything from dirt jumps and trail riding to long days bike packing has been a game changer for my son’s riding and viewpoint of bikes in his world.
We may have had a few issues but luckily, there are options out there and parts can be changed. The Zulu Five is more than ready for a season of adventure and excitement out on the trails. Hopefully, it’s the right bike for your growing preteens too!
More Reading To Help You Pick The Best Bike
- Best Kids Bikes: How To Choose, Reviews, & More!
- 5 Best 26 inch bikes
- Ultimate Guide To Kids Bike Sizes (And Bike Size Chart!)
About The Reviewers
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!