Note from Kristen: Any parent that has been a part of the mountain bike community for long has heard of Spawn. The Canadian-based company has emerged as a leader in the kids’ mountain bike market by producing high-quality, reasonably-priced rides. The Spawn Yama Jama is their 24″ hardtail trailbike for kids ages 8-12, and as expected, offers a high-quality build with tubeless-ready tires, X-Fusion fork, and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. For this review, avid mountain biker and dad, Geoff Black, lends his experience with the Spawn Yama Jama. He has not one, but two, daughter’s riding the bike. All words from here on out are his…..
Spawn Yama Jama Review in a Nutshell
- Well-built and durable
- Excellent geometry and handling
- 80mm air shock
- 1×10 SRAM drivetrain
- 2.3 inch tubeless Brood tires for increased traction
- Spotty customer service
- Heavy for a kids hard tail
- Might have to modify the crank length and gearing to optimize it for your child
Price & Where to Buy:
- $1,550 at SpawnBikes.com
Spawn Yama Jama 24″ Detailed Review
Choosing and Ordering the Yama Jama
When I set out to find the next bike for my 8.5-year-old twin girls, I wasn’t looking for a downhill bike or an XC race bike or a dedicated trail bike. I wanted a mountain bike suited for bike parks (think BMX-sytle bike parks), pump tracks, jumps, trail rides and maybe an XC race or two. It need to be something that would help them develop handling skills as much as pedaling skills. Something along the lines of “If Santa Cruz made a kids bike….”
The bike I was looking for needed to serve a variety of challenges. I knew this was a tall order. I also knew that it would be the twin’s first real introduction to mountain biking with me. So I wanted it to be good!
We had already spent some time on their modified 20″ Specialized Hotrock single speeds in bike parks along with some basic trail rides. There were also some homemade jumps sprinkled in there. My master plan of converting them into mountain-bikers was coming together!
After nearly driving myself crazy analyzing every angle of every 24″ hardtail available in North America, I settled on the Spawn Yama Jama. Marketed as the “World’s Best Kids Bike” my expectations were high. At the time, the Spawn Yama Jama was sold out, so I had to pre-order them. I paid for the bikes on October 13th with an estimated delivery of Nov 25-30th.
At the same time, I also ordered a set of 140mm Brood cranks. The Yama Jama comes stock with 152mm cranks but I felt the shorter cranks would be ideal for my 23″ inseam kids at the bottom of the Spawn sizing chart. The shorter cranks help with keeping their pedal stroke appropriately sized for short legs, which means more endurance and their knees won’t go past neutral at the top of the stroke when seated.
The wait was going to kill me!
Un-boxing and Assembly
After unexpected shipping delays, the bikes arrived on about December 18th–just in time for me to avoid marriage counseling because I may have ruined Christmas. The first thing I noticed is the bike is robust. Everything on the bike is quality built and appears durable.
The frame itself is a combination of boxed and round hydroformed aluminum tubes. You can tell right away this thing is tough. It also has a port for an internally routed dropper post if that’s something that you choose to add in the future.
The graphics scheme is great and targeted at kids. A bold “BORN TO RIDE” emblem looks right up at the rider.
Assembly is a pretty straightforward affair for someone with some experience working on bikes. For the less experienced, you may consider taking it to a local bike shop for assembly. I found that many of the bolts were loose so I double-checked the torque on everything. Luckily, the shifting was spot on straight from the box. One rotor on each bike was damaged in transit, so that took a bit of fiddling around. Beyond that, it’s the standard setup for any new bike: shock pressure, dialing in the brakes and the shifters, and then go ride!
From their very first time on the Spawn Yama Jama, my twins’ cruising speed increased tremendously! On our first REAL ride, and their most difficult to date, they easily cleared rocky sections they would have walked before. Their ability to simply roll over obstacles due to the large Brood 2.3in tubeless tires (aka tiny Minions) and 80mm travel of the X-Fusion air fork was immediate. Because they have so much traction, checking their speed with the hydraulic disc brakes gave them a huge boost in control. Their confidence shot through the roof!
Like any transition to a bigger bike, they had the basic struggle of managing a larger machine. They quickly discovered they can get the front wheel off the ground to clear obstacles or even just the driveway curb. The timing of this progression wasn’t an accident. The Yama Jama is one of the few kids mountain bikes with short chainstays to help favor lifting the front wheel over obstacles and jumps. In contrast, the twins’ smaller Specialized HotRock’s are engineered for stability. As much as they tried on their old bikes to get the front wheel up, it just didn’t move much. The slightly slacker than normal head tube angle helps them carve the corners. These handling enhancements were obvious and immediate.
The Drivetrain & Wheels
The Spawn Yama Jama comes with a 1×10 drivetrain with the capable and reliable SRAM GX shifters and derailleur. The crankset is a Brood two-piece direct mount. Those cranks are stout! Also, direct mount cranks allow you to run smaller chainrings (purchased separately) than previous designs allowed–this opens up a lot of options.
The stock gearing of 32T front with a 12-36 rear proved to be a bit ambitious for my 8.5y-year-old somewhat-fit girls. I’ve since ordered 28T chainrings to help them keeping the party rolling and minimize exhausted dismounts on climbs.
As expected at this price range, all of the bearings are sealed cartridge. Everything rolls smoothly and should last longer than other bearing designs. The 1,765g Brood tubeless ready wheel set is nice. As expected, tubeless conversion was easy. The wide rim construction appears to be a fair compromise between durability and weight. Heavy kids wheel sets can be north of 2000gm, while kids 24″ race wheels are often in the 1350gm range.
About the Supension Fork
The Spawn Yama Jama comes with an X-Fusion 80mm suspension fork. X-Fusion has been around a while but is better known outside of the USA. Most kids’ 24″ hard tail bikes come with a 60mm shock. The extra, roughly 30% travel from a 80mm is welcome. The shock is very smooth and tuned specifically for lightweight riders. The suggested starting pressure is 50psi. Thanks to the through axle on the front hub, the fork & wheel combo is very rigid. The X-Fusion also has a lockout feature which isn’t offered on many 24″ kids bikes.
Areas for improvement
The Spawn Yama Jama is marketed as a “trail bike,” and is intended to be a bit of a jack of all trades. The bike excels in handling and maneuvering because of the thoughtful geometry. Due to the larger than average tires and the 80mm fork travel, it’s better than most hard tails at handling choppy sections.
All of this comes at a bit of a cost though. I didn’t weigh the bike out of the box, but with the tubeless conversion and lightweight Ashima brake rotors it tips the scales at 24.5 pounds which is a bit heavy for a high-end kids hardtail. The bike also comes with an innovate adjustable pivotal seat and post combination. The real reason for a pivotal seat is during big impacts–it can hold up far better than a regular seat rail system. Unfortunately, this also means that your kid won’t be able to easily carry their own tube on the seat post. Also, you won’t be able to swap it to a carbon post without changing the seat as well.
While most kids bikes from the major brands come with 165-155mm cranks, the Yama Jama 24″ comes with 152mm. A 140mm stock option would be ideal. This might seem minor, but the difference in 12mm when your inseam is 22inches is huge. Also, I think that for most kids moving up from a 20″ to a 24″ bike the gearing is probably too tall. I realize most other kids bikes come with similar or even taller gears. I think it’s too tall on those bike too. PSA to anyone building mountain bikes for kids: most kids are not cyclists. They are recreational bike riders. For those few kids who ride every day, let them upgrade to taller gears rather than having everyone else upgrade to lower gears.
Spawn Customer Service
I have to say, researching and buying these bikes was exhausting. I recognize that Spawn is a small company and I respect that they are driving new innovation for kids’ mountain bikes. However, because I can’t walk into a showroom and see it, I had a variety of questions. The website is very helpful and well done, but I needed clarity on a few things before committing $2,370 with shipping + tax, particularly knowing that I would have to wait an estimated 6 weeks to receive them.
Reaching out via email was hit and miss. Calling on the phone is fine if someone is there to take the call. I signed up on the wait list roughly 30 days prior to when they opened up for orders. Pre-paying in full was an adjustment for me. (I’m accustomed to a large deposit and settling up just prior to shipping with other custom or boutique items). The shipping delay was another hurdle which nearly resulted in a cancelled order at the demand of my loving wife.
Despite any issues I had with Spawn customer service, the bottom-line is that my girls love their new bikes! And as my Mother-In-Law likes to say, “You just can’t put a price on love!”
About Geoff: Geoff Black is a Mortgage Loan Originator with Guild Mortgage in Sacramento California. When he’s not helping people with a loan, he’s probably riding or racing his bike! Geoff has also been chasing his twins around with a camera since birth. And now he’s teaching them to chase him around on a bike! Find him at @sactogeoff on Instagram or firstname.lastname@example.org