Prevelo Zulu Three 20″ Mountain Bike Review

For families that value mountain biking, the Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR is a a god-send. No longer does your child have to suffer thru rides on a fully-rigid bike with sub-par parts and geometry. In fact, with it’s hydraulic disc brakes, thru-axles, and clutch derraileur, the Zulu Three has better technology than most of the mountain bikes I’ve had as an adult.

After testing the pre-production Zulu Three last summer at the Grand Targhee lift-served bike park, our son was excited to get his hands (and butt and feet) back on the final version of the Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR.

Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR 20 Inch Mountain Bike Review

Thanks to its slack geometry, 80mm of travel, and wide handlebars, he’s riding trails at 6 years-old that many of us didn’t ride until much MUCH later.

The bike performs as well on technical downhill trails as it does on mellow singletrack. It is a winner at the bike park and in the backcountry.

Prevelo Zulu Three Review

Update: Prevelo has made some updates to the Zulu since we first reviewed the bike. We’ve made note of these where applicable. The most immediately noticeable difference are the new frame colors. We got to check these out at Sea Otter this year. The Zulu comes in “go-go juice”, which has grey and minty-green tones, and the Zulu HEIR comes in “Battlestar Black” which is glittery.


Review in a Nutshell

Pros:

  • 80mm air fork with carbon lowers, lockout, and adjustable rebound
  • Tektro hydraulic disc brakes
  • Front and rear thru-axles
  • Slack geometry and wide handlebars
  • Microshift Advent drivetrain with short cage and clutch
  • Tubeless ready wheels
  • Dropper post ready

Cons:

  • A bit heavy for smaller kids

Price & Where to Buy:

  • Zulu Three: $1,019
  • Zulu Three HEIR: $1,299

Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR Detailed Review

80mm of Air Sprung Front Suspension

It used to be that buying a kids bike with a suspension fork was a bad idea. Sub-par forks looked cool to kids but were clunky and did little but add weight. (In fact, this is still true of most kids “mountain bikes.”)

Not so anymore. The new generation of high-end kids mountain bikes are offering high-quality suspension forks that perform in addition to looking cool.

Prevelo’s HEIR air fork is one of these. It offers 80mm of air-sprung travel with carbon lowers, adjustable rebound and a lockout switch.

We spent a little time setting up the air pressure for our 40 pound kiddo. It was easy (as long as you have a shock pump) and if you need it, Prevelo has a setup guide on their website.

I was curious about how serviceable the fork would be, so I chatted with Jacob, the owner of Prevelo Bikes. He assured me that although they’re not currently listed on the website, Prevelo does offer spare seals, etc to service the fork. You would just need to call. He also added that if there were issues with any replacement parts, Prevelo would provide support.

Before getting the Zulu, our son had been riding increasingly rocky, technical trails. He’d been complaining about hand numbness and arm pump on bumpy terrain while riding his rigid bikes and we’d been promising him suspension.

On the Zulu Three, we haven’t had one complaint or rest break to let his arms rest. For us, this is a HUGE win.

If you’re hesitant to upgrade your child to a bike with suspension, ask yourself the type of terrain they are riding. Are they riding trails that YOU would want to ride a rigid bike on? If the answer is no, then do them (and yourself) a favor and provide them with a real mountain bike that can handle technical terrain in comfort.

Modern MTB Geometry Makes For a Stable, Capable Steed

If you are a serious mountain biker, chances are your bikes have made a progression over the last decade. They’ve become slacker, more upright, and a lot more stable.

The Prevelo Zulu has followed this trend with slack angles, a long wheelbase, a low center of gravity, and nice wide handlebars. In terms of tackling technical challenges, there’s really not a lot that the Zulu Three can’t handle.

This was really obvious last summer when we were testing the pre-production Zulu Three. We had just spent a week at the Whistler bike park with our son riding on the Spawn Rokkusutta (a fantastic little downhill-oriented full-suspension mountain bike). We didn’t really think the Zulu would be able to compare for downhill bike park riding, but it did!

Prevelo Zulu Three at Targhee Bike Park

If your child is taking HUGE drops, a full-suspension bike might make sense, but for 95% of 6-year-old riders, the Prevelo Zulu Three is more than capable of handling anything that you can throw at it.

Powerful Tektro Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Tektro makes great entry-level brakes that get the job done. For kids, in particular, the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes offer plenty of stopping power and then some.

Because my son is too little to really understand or verbalize how well brakes modulate, I took the bike out to test it myself. I’m happy to report that the brakes did a good job of stopping all of my 125 pounds, and they provided good modulation.

Even though he wasn’t able to verbalize it, it’s clear watching him that he’s able to stop faster and safer with the hydraulic disc brakes than with his v-brakes. In fact, on steep and loose downhills where I would normally be holding my breath, I found that I was able to relax with him on the Zulu Three knowing he would be able to brake just fine.

While many parents may think the biggest upgrade on the Zulu Three is the suspension fork, I’d argue the biggest game changer is the hydraulic disc brakes. Remember how great it was when you finally switched from v-brakes to disc brakes? Yeah, it’s gonna be that good for your kiddo too.

Microshift Advent Drivetrain Provides Smooth and Forgiving Shifting and a Wide Range of Gears

When we first tested the Prevelo Zulu it came with a Shimano Zee drivetrain. Today, it comes with the Microshift Advent drivetrain. While we haven’t tested it on the Zulu itself, we have tested the drivetrain on other bikes and can say that it’s a good choice.

Five, six, and seven year old kids aren’t fantastic shifters. This may be the first bike they’ve had with gears. Or, even if they have already had practice with shifting, chances are that on the trail they are still making clunky, ill-timed shifts.

Fortunately, the Microshift Advent drivetrain on the Zulu Three HEIR is both forgiving and easy to operate.

On many kids bikes with trigger shifters, kids will have to stop riding to shift gears with both hands and then get back on the bike to complete the shift. The Microshift Advent Trail Trigger Pro shifter on the Zulu Three HEIR is a definite upgrade. Kids are able to actually operated the trigger shift mid-ride.

The rear derraileur (Microshift Advent Super Short Clutch) is specifically engineered for kids bikes. Because the wheels on kids bikes are smaller, a traditional derailleur hangs precariously close to the ground. This derrailuer, on the other hand, has a short cage (almost comically short the first time you see it) and a clutch to reduce chain slap and prevent the chain from falling off completely.

In terms of gearing, the Zulu Three HEIR has a 30T chainring, and in back, an 11-38T cassette. For the bike geeks out there, that’s a gain ratio range of 1.67 – 5.77. This provides a little more range than the previous SRAM drivetrain that was specd.

This gearing is ideal for desert riding with rolling hills and short, punchy climbs. Our son rarely maxed out his gearing in either direction and rode comfortably in the middle of the range. If you live in the Rocky Mountains (or the Appalachians), your child might be better off with an even smaller (28T) chainring. For the vast majority of kids, however, the Prevelo Zulu Three will provide an adequate range of gears for both climbing and for crusing long, flat road sections.

Thru-Axles on Both Front and Rear Wheels

Of anything on this bike, I was most delighted by the thru-axles when unboxing the Zulu. The Zulu Three HEIR has a 15mm front thru-axle and a 12mm rear thru-axle. Just like on an adult bike, thru-axles on a 20 inch bike improve steering and handling. In other words, they make for a safer bike.

There aren’t a lot of 20-inch mountain bikes offering this technology; not even the significantly more expensive Trailcraft Blue Sky 20. This helps set the Zulu Three HEIR apart from the crowd and establishes Prevelo as a company that is paying attention to the details.

Short Cranks and Narrow Q-Factor

The crankset and bottom-bracket on the Prevelo Zulu Three have been expertly designed in order to maximize power output and comfort for small riders. The direct-mount cranks are 120 mm–quite a bit shorter than many on other kids mountain bikes. The Q-Factor (distance between the cranks) is also narrow to account for little one’s narrow hips.

Compared to cheaper kids bikes, these small changes are noticeable and kids are able to pedal far more efficiently.

Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR cranks

Tubeless Ready Vee Crown Gem Tires & Stans Crest Wheels

When we originally tested the Prevelo Zulu HEIR, we mentioned that the only thing we’d add to make it a “perfect” bike would be to add tubeless-ready rims and tires. Well, Prevelo listened and today the bike is speced with tubeless ready Stans Crest wheels and Vee Crown Gem 2.25 tires.

This is a killer setup that is both lightweight, allows your child to ride a lower tire pressure for more comfort, and minimizes the number of flat tires you’ll have to deal with.

Prevelo Zulu 3 Heir Tires

A Word on Weight

The Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR has a totally respectable weight for a 20-inch mountain bike with high-volume tires, disc brakes, 9-speed drivetrain, and 80mm of travel. And while I would still recommend the bike unabashedly, at 21.2 pounds it may be a bit tough for a 40 pound 6-year-old to handle at times.

On flats and downhills, the bike shines, but once the grade heads uphill, I have noticed my son slowed down significantly. In comparison, he can ride much longer, faster, on the lighter Prevelo Alpha Three.

prevelo zulu three climbing

While I think the tradeoff is worthwhile for families that do serious mountain biking and tackle technical trails, if your child is only riding rail trails or green tame dirt paths, they might be better off on a lighter weight bike without all the extras that add heft.

If you choose to go with the Prevelo Zulu Three, just make sure to order a TowWhee too. Then you’ll be gravy.

Easy, Dummy-Proof Assembly and Setup

While I certainly wouldn’t choose a bike based solely on the initial setup, I am happy to report that the Prevelo Zulu Three was quick and easy to unbox and assemble. All we had to do was install the handlebar, seatpost, frontwheel, and pedals. (Later on, we also adjusted the air pressure in the fork).

We received the Zulu Three the same week as the Trailcraft Blue Sky 20, and the Zulu Three was significantly easier to set up. This might not be a big deal if you are a competent bike mechanic, but if you prefer riding to wrenching, you’ll be happy at the dummy-proof assembly.

Your child will be happy as well because as soon as they see this thing, they’re going to be running around, helmet on, ready to ride.

Custom Options Add Color

While the Prevelo Zulu Three has limited color options, they do offer several customization options that can step things up a notch.

We chose the red custom color grips, and there are quite a few other color options: pink, yellow, green, blue, etc. The custom grips are silicone ESI grips and are nice and soft for little hands.

Parents can also choose to add custom name lettering that comes in an even wider array of colors.

Throw on a pair of colorful pedals or a bright water bottle cage (not offered as options by Prevelo but easy enough to add), and the Zulu Three is suddenly colorful and fun enough for any technicolor loving kiddo.

Prevelo Zulu 3 Mountain Bike

Sizing and Age Range

Prevelo’s suggested age range for the Prevelo Zulu Three is ages 5.5 to 9 years old.

When we first tested the Prevelo Zulu Three last summer, our son was still a few months shy of his 6th birthday and at the bottom end of the suggested age range. While it “fit” and he had fun riding it, it was clear that it was still a bit heavy and challenging for him to handle.

Fast forward six months, and he’s much more comfortable on the bike. Moral of the story? Just because you “can” move your child up to the next size bike doesn’t always mean you should. Be patient and move them up when it’s clear they’ve outgrown their current bike.

Of course, age isn’t the best indicator of bike fit–size is. Like adults, kids of the same age group differ wildly in terms of height and muscle mass.

To fit on the Prevelo Zulu Three comfortably, your child needs to have an inseam length of AT LEAST 20 inches.

Other Things Worth Mentioning

  • The Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR comes with Wellgo composite pedals. They are pretty sweet for stock pedals and we weren’t in any rush to upgrade them. They have 8 pins on each side and plenty of grip (especially when using a pair of Five Ten Freeriders). That said, if you can stomache the extra cash outlay, we’d highly recommend the HEIR Footport pedals. These are a great upgrade especially for kids who are going to be doing more agressive riding.

  • As mentioned already, we ended up customizing our Zulu with a pair of red ESI grips. I feel like everybody falls into a love-it-or-hate-it relationship with ESI grips, but I do have to mention that kids seem to really like them. Probably because they are soft and help absorb vibration. If you don’t choose to upgrade, the bike comes standard with Kraton lock-on grips.
  • The bike comes with a quick-release seatpost collar which is great because we like being able to raise and lower the seat for going up vs going down. Or, even better, add a dropper post (for which the Zulu now has internal routing).

Comparison: Prevelo Zulu Three vs Other Options

The closest competitor to the Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR is probably the Spawn Yama Jama 20. Both are similar in weight, price, geometry, gearing, and component specs.

A few things the Spawn Yama Jama does have that the Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR doesn’t are tubeless-ready rims and internal routing for a dropper post. (Update: The Prevelo Zulu now comes with internal dropper routing and tubeless wheels, so that takes care of that). On the other side of the coin, the Zulu Three HEIR has shorter crankarms, wider handlebars, fatter tires, and a longer wheelbase–all things we appreciate.

Other bikes in the same playing field include the Woom OFF Air, the Trailcraft Blue Sky 20, and the Early Rider Hellion 20.

For an even larger list of 20 inch mountain bikes and a comparison chart, check out our article on the Best 20″ Mountain Bikes.

The Bike Also Comes in a Cheaper Zulu Version

If you are looking to save some coin, the bike also comes in a slightly downgraded version. At $1,019, the standard Prevelo Zulu Three has a Spinner fork, WTB wheels, and a few other minor downgrades.

In our opinion, if you’re willing to spend close to a thousand bucks on a kids bike, you might as well spend a few more hundred to get the best for your child. We loved the HEIR enough that we’re comfortable telling parents to spend their hard-earned money on a great bike with great components.

Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR Full Specs

Basic Spec

Weight (without pedals)21.2 lbs / 10.1 kg
Minimum Saddle Height22.8 in / 580 mm
Maximum Saddle Height725 mm / 28.5 in
Bottom Bracket Height9.8 in / 248 mm
Gain Ratio1.67 – 5.77

Geo Spec

Wheel Size20″
Wheelbase34.9 in / 887 mm
Effective Top Tube Length17.4 in / 443 mm
Head Angle66°
Seat Tube Angle74°
Chain Stay Length 13.18 in / 335 mm

Component Spec

VERSIONZulu ThreeZulu Three HEIR
COLORGo-Go GreyBattlestar Black
FRAME99M Series heat treated aluminum alloy custom formed & multi-butted tubing99M Series heat treated aluminum alloy custom formed & multi-butted tubing
FORKSpinner 300 20 AIR – 80mm travel – ⌀30mm Stanchion – lockout and adjustable compressionHEIR® 20 80mm travel – HM Carbon Fiber / AL6061 Lower – AL7050 Hard Anodized ⌀30mm Stanchion  – adjustable rebound, lockout and compression
SEAT CLAMPAluminum alloy quick releaseAluminum alloy quick release
FRONT BRAKETektro Hydraulic with 160mm rotorTektro Hydraulic with 160mm rotor
REAR BRAKETektro Hydraulic with 160mm rotorTektro Hydraulic with 160mm rotor
SHIFTERMicroshift Advent Trail Trigger Pro 9 speedMicroshift Advent Trail Trigger Pro 9 speed
DERAILLEURMicroshift Advent Super Short ClutchMicroshift Advent Super Short Clutch
CASSETTEMicroshift 9 speed 11-38TMicroshift 9 speed 11-38T
CRANK SETHEIR direct mount cold forged – 120 mm crank arm lengthHEIR direct mount cold forged – 120 mm crank arm length
SPROCKET30T alloy narrow-wide30T alloy narrow-wide CNC machined
BB SETSealed cartridge – hollow axleSealed cartridge – hollow axle
HEAD SET1 1/8″ threadless with sealed cartridge bearings1 1/8″ threadless with sealed cartridge bearings
RIMWTB i27 Tubeless ReadyStan’s Crest MK4Tubeless Ready
FRONT HUBLightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with QR skewerLightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with 15mm thru-axle
REAR HUBLightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with thru-axleLightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with thru-axle
TIRE & TUBEVEE Crown Gem 20 x 2.25 Tubeless Ready 120 TPIVEE Crown Gem 20 x 2.25 Tubeless Ready 120 TPI
SADDLEPrevelo big kid saddlePrevelo big kid saddle
HANDLEBARHEIR aluminum large bore – 600mm width x 20mm rise with 31.8mm to 22mm taperHEIR aluminum large bore – 600mm width x 20mm rise with 31.8mm to 22mm taper
HANDLEBAR STEMForged aluminumHEIR machined aluminum
GRIPKraton rubberKraton rubber
PEDALCompositeComposite

Bottom-Line

If you are serious about buying your child a nice mountain bike, then the Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR definitely belongs on your short-list. In fact, it’s up there on a very, VERY short list of top-notch 20 inch mountain bikes.

While it’s not cheap, the experience of seeing your child progress and thrive on real mountain bike trails is priceless. If you can swing the coin, we recommend the Prevelo Zulu Three HEIR wholeheartedly.

More Stuff You Might Like

1 thought on “Prevelo Zulu Three 20″ Mountain Bike Review”

  1. When you are talking about gear ratios, are you taking into account wheel size? A smaller wheel acts like a large rear cog, so the same gear ratio on a 20” and 24” is not the same thing.

    Reply

Leave a Comment