For families that value mountain biking, the
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
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.
November 2019 Update: Prevelo has made some updates to the Zulu Three and Zulu Four since we reviewed the bike. We’ve made note of these where applicable.
Review in a Nutshell
- 80mm air fork with carbon lowers, lockout, and adjustable rebound
- Tektro hydraulic disc brakes
- Front and rear thru-axles
- Slack geometry and wide handlebars
- Shimano ZEE 10-speed drivetrain with short cage and clutch
- Tubeless ready wheels
- A bit heavy for smaller kids
- No quick-release seat post collar
- Comes in only one color
Price & Where to Buy:
- Zulu Three: $899
- Zulu Three HEIR: $1,199
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.
We spent a little time setting up the air pressure for our
I was curious about how serviceable the fork would be, so I chatted with Jacob, the owner of
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
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.
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!
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.
Shimano 1×10 Drivetrain Provides Smooth and Forgiving Shifting and a Wide Range of Gears
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 Shimano drivetrain on the Zulu Three HEIR seems to be both forgiving and easy to operate.
On several of the 20 inch geared bikes he’s tested, my son will have to stop riding to shift gears with both hands and then get back on the bike to complete the shift. The
Shimano SLX RAPIDFIRE Plus trigger shifters on the Zulu Three HEIR are a definite upgrade. He has been able to shift mid-ride and I haven’t heard a single complaint about the triggers being difficult to operate.
The rear derraileur (Shimano ZEE) is specifically engineered for kids bikes. Because the wheels on kids bikes are smaller, a traditional derraileur hangs precariously close to the ground. The Shimano ZEE 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 11-36T cassette. For the bike geeks out there, that’s a gain ratio range of 1.76 – 5.78.
We found that the gearing was 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.
That said, we’ll see how the bike performs this summer once we’ve been able to test it on some big alpine climbs. (We live in Utah). Like us, 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
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.
Extra Beefy 2.35 Kenda Kinetic Tires
On a 20-inch bike, 2.35 tires are the equivalent of plus-sized tires on an adult-sized bike.
We spent a week testing the bike in Phoenix, AZ and the tires performed well in the sand and loose gravel. Crossing washes that had foiled him in the past, my son was able to easily cruise on through with his these high volume tires.
Unfortunately, the cactus did end up stopping him short. The only thing we would really add to the Zulu Three to make it “perfect” would be tubeless-ready rims and tires.
A Word on Weight
(For comparison, my full-suspension mountain bike weighs about the same).
On flats and downhills, the bike shines, but once the grade heads uphill, I have noticed he slows down significantly. In comparison, he can ride much longer, faster, on the lighter Prevelo Alpha Three.
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 Tow-Whee 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
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
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
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
Zulu Three HEIR comes with Wellgo composite pedals. They are pretty sweet for stock pedals and we certainly haven’t been in any rush to upgrade them. They have 8 pins on each side and plenty of Prevelo grip(especially when using a pair of Five Ten Freeriders).
- 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 does NOT have a quick-release seatpost collar. We will be upgrading this ASAP, as we like being able to raise and lower the seat for going up vs going down.
is Prevelo a 1% for the Planet member. If you care about your children having beautiful places to bike and clean air to breathe in the future, you’ll appreciate that your dollars are supporting a company that is invested in protecting the environment.
Comparison: Prevelo Zulu Three vs Other Options
The closest competitor to the
A few things the Spawn Yama Jama does have that the
Other bikes in the same playing field include the Early Rider Trail 20″, the Trailcraft Blue Sky 20, and the Flow Bikes 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 $899, the standard Prevelo Zulu Three has a SR Suntour fork, Shimano Deore shifters, a 32T chainring, quick-release skewer on the front wheel, 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
|Weight (without pedals)||22.2 lbs / 10.1 kg|
|Minimum Saddle Height||22.8 in / 580 mm|
|Maximum Saddle Height||725 mm / 28.5 in|
|Bottom Bracket Height||9.8 in / 248 mm|
|Gain Ratio||1.76 – 5.78|
|Wheelbase||35.1 in / 892 mm|
|Effective Top Tube Length||17.4 in / 443 mm|
|Seat Tube Angle||74°|
|Chain Stay Length||13.38 in / 340 mm|
|Zulu Three||Zulu Three HEIR|
|COLOR||Gloss Gobbledegook Grey||Matte Radical Red|
|FRAME||99M Series heat treated aluminum alloy custom formed & multi-butted tubing||99M Series heat treated aluminum alloy custom formed & multi-butted tubing|
|FORK||SR Suntour XCM Air SL 20 – 80mm travel – ⌀28mm Stanchion – lockout and adjustable compression||HEIR® 20 80mm travel – HM Carbon Fiber / AL6061 Lower – AL7050 Hard Anodized ⌀30mm Stanchion – adjustable rebound, lockout and compression|
|SEAT CLAMP||Aluminum alloy with quick release||Aluminum alloy with quick release|
|FRONT BRAKE||Tektro hydraulic with 160mm rotor||Tektro hydraulic with 160mm rotor|
|REAR BRAKE||Tektro hydraulic with 140mm rotor||Tektro hydraulic with 140mm rotor|
|SHIFTER||Shimano DEORE RAPIDFIRE Plus||Shimano SLX RAPIDFIRE Plus|
|DERAILLEUR||Shimano ZEE Shadow RD+ 10-speed with ON/OFF Clutch||Shimano ZEE Shadow RD+ 10-speed with ON/OFF Clutch|
|CASSETTE||Sunrace 11-36T||Shimano HG500 11-36T|
|CRANK SET||HEIR direct mount cold forged – 120 mm crank arm length||HEIR direct mount cold forged – 120 mm crank arm length|
|SPROCKET||30T alloy narrow-wide stamped||30T alloy narrow-wide machined|
|BB SET||Sealed cartridge – hollow axle||Sealed cartridge – hollow axle|
|HEAD SET||1 1/8″ threadless with sealed cartridge bearings||1 1/8″ threadless with sealed cartridge bearings|
|RIM||Aluminum 28-hole Double Wall||Stan’s Crest MK3 Tubeless Ready|
|FRONT HUB||Lightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with QR skewer||Lightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with 15mm thru-axle|
|REAR HUB||Lightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with thru-axle||Lightweight alloy 1-piece forged CNC with thru-axle|
|TIRE & TUBE||Kenda Small Block 8 Pro 20 x 2.1||VEE Crown Gem 20 x 2.25 Tubeless Ready 120 TPI|
|SADDLE||Prevelo big kid saddle||Prevelo big kid saddle|
|HANDLEBAR||Prevelo aluminum large bore – 600mm width x 40mm rise with 31.8mm to 22mm taper||HEIR aluminum large bore – 610mm width x 20mm rise with 31.8mm to 22mm taper|
|HANDLEBAR STEM||Forged aluminum 35mm extension – 7° rise||HEIR machined aluminum 35mm extension|
|GRIP||HEIR Kraton rubber lock-on||HEIR Kraton rubber lock-on|
If you are serious about buying your child a nice mountain bike, then the
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.