Do you have a little ripper who’s outgrown their wheels but aren’t quite ready for most adult-sized mountain bikes?
The good news is that in recent years, more and more brands are offering youth-sized 26 inch mountain bikes as well as 27.5 inch mountain bikes with extra small frames to fit smaller riders.
Photo credit: Norco Bikes*
Whether you’re looking for 26 inch or 27.5 wheels, full-suspension or a hardtail, we’ve got you covered. We’ve also received a bunch of flack for the price of the bikes on this list, so we’ve added some budget picks toward the bottom.
Note: These are REAL mountain bikes and many of them have serious pricetags. If you’re looking for something a bit more casual, check out our post on the best 26 Inch Recreational Bikes instead.
Table Of Contents
But First: Why Choose A “Youth” Mountain Bike?
Why not go directly from 24 inch wheels to an adult-sized mountain bike?
The problem at the tween age is finding a good adult bike that fits properly. The average 12-year-old boy stands at around 58 inches ~ 4’ 10” while 12 year old girls are, on average, about an inch taller. That’s smaller than many (though not all) builders are creating frames for.
When you put a kid on a bike that’s too big for them, you’re setting them up for failure and frustration. In fact, a too big bike can even be dangerous!
Pick a youth-sized (or women’s-specific) bike that actually fits. You can hand it down to the next kid in a few years, or sell it on Pinkbike or The Pros Closet*.
Photo credit: Commencal
5 Best 26 Inch Hardtail Mountain Bikes
|Bike||What We Love||Price|
|1||Trailcraft Timber 26||Super lightweight (21 lbs)||$1,999+|
|2||Woom OFF AIR||Best bang for your buck||$1,049|
|3||Spawn Yama Jama 26||Tubeless wheels, internal routing for a dropper||$1,425|
|4||Cleary Scout 26||Durable, chromly steel frame||$860|
|5||Frog MTB 69||Brand name components||$890|
Trailcraft Timber 26
The Trailcraft Timber 26 is the lightest 26″ bike around. At a featherweight 21 lbs, even the most petite riders can handle this bike. The super low standover accommodates riders as short as 4’6″.
The bike boasts high-shelf parts including Stans Crest wheels, Ashima ultralight rotors, and a 100mm air-sprung supsension fork with carbon lowers. The rest of the frame can be built up with a variety of component builds depending upon your budget.
If you’re looking for the BEST 26 inch hardtail around, the Trailcraft Timber 26 is it.
Woom OFF AIR 6*
Woom makes our FAVORITE kids-specific bikes, and they recently introduced a line of mountain bikes that are both high-quality and (relatively) affordable.
The Woom OFF AIR 6 weighs a mere 24.3 lbs pounds and costs $1,049, giving it a killer weight to price ratio. This lower weight makes the bike ideal for smaller and more petite kids.
The bike offers features almost unheard of at this pricepoint including a high-quality air-sprung airfork, thru-axles, and a SRAM 1×9 drivetrain.
Read Our Review: Woom OFF AIR
Spawn Yama Jama 26
The Spawn Yama Jama is one of the OG kids mountain bikes. It comes in 20″, 24″ and yes, a 26″ version.
While it’s not cheap, it comes with everything you would expect from a grown-up mountain bike: tubeless-ready wheels, routing for a dropper, and hydraulic disc brakes. You’re child will also appreciate the 120mm of front suspension, tuned specifically for smaller riders.
Read Our Review: Spawn Yama Jama
Cleary Scout 26
Do you remember YOUR first hardtail?! Chances are it was a steel 26″ rig. Like your mountain bike of yore, the Cleary Sout 26 is a classic.
This beautiful bike has a powdercoat finish and tubeless-ready wheels built on Alex rims. The Shimano Deore drivetrain (with clutch) and 100mm fork help with any trail chatter, and Tektro hydraulic dics brakes offer plenty of stopping power.
Frog MTB 69
Frog is an outstanding “kids” brand that offers a wide variety of models ranging from high-end road bikes to mountain bike and track bikes. The Frog MTB 69 is a mid-size 26” bike that will fit kiddos ranging from about 10 to 12 years old.
Kenda tires, Tektro disc brakes, a Shimano drive-train in addition to a myriad of in-house components provide a solid hardtail offering a quality build for your tweens. The brand truly pays attention to detail with features like the two off colored spokes marking the tire valve.
As is the current trend with many other brands, Frog has a direct order business model making it easy to obtain one of these sweet whips here in North America and there are shops carrying their frames as well.
Learn more: Frog MTB line
Wheel Size: 26″
5 Best 26 Inch Full Suspension Mountain Bikes
|Bike||What We Love||Price|
|1||Trailcraft Maxwell 26||Lightweight, Stans Podium wheels||$2,999+|
|2||Spawn Rokk 24/26||Converts from 24″ to 26″ wheels||$2,450|
|3||Giant Trance Jr 26||Maestro rear suspension technology||$2,100|
|4||Co-op Cycles DRT 3.2||Use your REI dividend||$2,799|
|5||Meekboyz Mega Beast 26||Serious DH rig||$8,650|
TrailCraft Maxwell 26
Trailcraft is a builder that specializes in providing quality kid’s mountain bikes. These bikes are fun, well thought, and designed to endure the punishment trail riding can give our beloved steeds.
With body-size-specific designed components, like many other kid-specific brands, the Trailcraft Maxwell will fit and keep your height challenged acquaintance rolling with comfort and ease. Various builds from a bare frame to a full XT group offer several options.
We listed this with one of the mid-range builds keeping the price under $3K. 12-year-olds on 5” of travel front and back? Yes please!
Spawn Rokk 24/26
If you’re shopping for a 26″ full suspension mountain bike, it might be too late to gain the full benefit of the Spawn Rokk, but this rad little rig can convert from 24″ to 26″ wheels making it last a long time. If you need 26″ wheels right off the bat, no worries, you can buy it with 26″ rims.
The rest of the build is top-notch, with 140mm of dual suspension, SRAM drivetrain and brakes, and Brood (in-house) components.
Giant Trance Jr 26
You might already be familiar with the popular Giant Trance. The Giant Trance Jr 26 is simply a scaled-down version for pint-sized rippers.
Like the adult-sized version, the Trance Jr boasts the Maestro rear suspension technology. 120mm of travel both front and rear provides plenty of squish.
The bike boasts a SRAM Eagle drivetrain and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and can fit tires up to 2.8″.
Co-op Cycles DRT 3.2*
Got an REI dividend buring a hole in your pocket? Check out the Co-Op Cycles DRT 3.2.
While bigger sizes come with 27.5″ wheels, the XS frame has 26″ wheels and fits riders as small as 5 foot.
One of the best things about this bike is that it comes with a dropper post so you don’t have to bother with installing one after-market. We also like the plus-sized tires (2.8″) that help your kiddo roll over any obstacles in their way.
The only bummer is this bike is a bit hefty, so it’s not the best choice for lighter weight kiddos.
Meekboyz Mega Beast 26
The only downhill specific bike listed here, the Meekboyz Mega Beast 26 is top notch. A full carbon frame paired with Fox suspension and a SRAM drivetrain and brakes.
This ride is not cheap, but if you’re looking for performance in the bike park, this is the ride. Your kiddo will definitely know he or she is loved when riding this wunderbike.
Hope hubs paired with in-house, carbon rims keep the rotating mass down while contributing to an overall light build. Jumps, drops, skinnies….you name it, your kid will tame it.
Wheel Size: 26″
Price: $8,650 at Meekboyz.com
5 Best XS 27.5 Inch Mountain Bikes
|1||Pivot Mach 4 SL Carbon||$6,699+|
|3||Commencal Clash Jr||$2,999|
Pivot Mach 4 SL Carbon
Pivot Cycles makes some of the best small-size offerings. In fact, they’ve heavily marketing to the NICA leagues and you’ll see plenty of Pivot bikes at NICA races.
The Pivot Mach 4 SL Caarbon is sweet little full-suspension rig with an XS frame size that fits riders as small as 4’11”. As a Pivot owner myself, I know from personal experience that the DW link suspension offers nimble climbing and riotous descending.
The other thing we love about this bike is how light it is. (The frame is a mere 4 lbs). Younger riders simply weigh less and have less muscle mass, so they benefit more from a lightweight bike.
Wheel Size: 27.5″
Norco Sight Youth 27.5″
This is one of the only 27.5″ bikes specifically designed for KIDS. The frame is smaller for youth riders and the suspension (150mm Pike fork and 140mm RockShox Deluxe R Select shock) is specifically tuned for them as well.
What else can you expect from this sweet little ride? A SRAM Eagle drivetrain and Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc brakes.
Commencal Clash Jr
Like the Norco Sight Youth, the Commencal Clash JR is designed and built for young riders. Intended to bridge the gap between a “kids” bike and an “adult” bike, the 27.5″ Commencal Clash JR is one drool-inducing bike.
Each component is specifically chosen for younger riders, including kid-sized grips and saddle. What else should we mention? The 160mm of travel, SRAM Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide brakes, and KS Ragei 100mm dropper.
While almost all the other bikes listed here have 26 wheels the Liv Intrigue has 27.5 inch wheels. This might be a deterrent for the little riders in our lives who can’t quite handle the wheel size, but they also will typically grow into a bigger bike and the larger wheels might extend the temporary life of the bike.
With in-house Giant-branded components, Maxxis tires, a SRAM drivetrain/Shimano brakes, and 150mm fork, this is a lively bike that can rip singletrack. The Liv brand is designed for women, but the decals are appealing and the fit is perfect for 12-year-old boys too.
Wheel size: 27.5″
Santa Cruz has long been a contender in the mountain bike industry and their ladies brand, Juliana, offers the same quality and robust builds with VPP suspension and stunning looks.
The Juliana Furtado comes in an XS frame size that fits tiny riders as small as 4’8″. While it has 27.5″ wheels, the standover height is super manageable for younger pre-teens.
Because it’s a women’s-specific bike, the bike has lighter-tuned rear suspension which makes it ideal for lightweight riders.
Unfortunately, they’ve done away with the aluminum version of the bike and all that’s left is a pricey carbon build. Still, if budget isn’t an issue, this bike could be the winner.
Budget 26 Inch Mountain Bikes
|Bike||What We Love||Price|
|1||Kona Fire Mountain||Quality build, lifetime warranty||$749|
|2||Specialized Rockhopper 26||Classic, durable design||$500|
|3||Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.0||Use your REI dividend||$549|
Kona Fire Mountain
The Kona Fire Mountain is an entry level mountain bike that checks all the boxes for safety and quality, and most importantly, fun. Kona builds rad bikes and the extra small version of this model comes with 26-inch wheels to accommodate smaller riders.
A SR Suntour fork manages suspension duty and Tektro brakes provide the stopping power necessary to keep your tween from clipping trees as they fly past you down the trail. With a quality build, lifetime warranty and price point that leaves extra in the wallet, the Kona Fire Mountain will leave your budding NICA racer with a big smile.
Wheel Size: 26″
Specialized Rockhopper 26
My very first mountain bike was a Specialized Rockhopper 26 that looked alot like this one. (In fact, I still use that mountain bike 15 years later as a commuter bike).
The 26 inch version of the Rockhopper comes with an XXS frame, ideal for super-small riders. It’s built up with mechanical disc brakes and a Shimano Tourney 8-speed drivetrain. There’s even internal routing for a dropper post should you choose to add one.
There’s nothing super fancy about this bike but it’s a good durable bike and a price you can actually stomache.
Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.0
If you’re an REI member, you’ll love the Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.0. Use your annual dividend to take a big chunk out of the price of the bike.
This entry-level ride fits riders as short as 4’9″ and will grow with your kiddo for a while. It has Tektro hydraulic disc brakes (pretty much unheard of at this pricepoint) and a Shimano Tourney 8-speed drivetrain.
Comparison Chart: 26 Inch And 27.5 Inch XS Mountain Bikes
|Bike||Wheel Size||Price (MSRP)||Weight (lbs)||Minimum Height||Frame Material/Design||Drivetrain/Shifters||Brake System||Rims||Tires||Suspension|
|Pivot Mach 4 SL Carbon||27.5||$6,699+||20.9||4'11"||Carbon||SRAM Eagle||SRAM Level||DT Swiss M1700||Maxxis Ardent Race, 2.2"||Fox Factory Stepcast 34 120mm, Fox Factory DPS|
|Kona Fire Mountain||26||$699.00||NA||4'10"||Aluminium||Shimano||Tektro||Kona||WTB Trail Boss||SR Suntour XCR fork|
|Liv Intrigue||27.5||$2,655.00||NA||4'10"||Aluminium||Shimano||Shimano M6000||Giant||Maxxis Forekaster||Fox 34 Rhythm, Fox Float|
|Juliana Furtado||27.5||$4,099||31.3||4'8"||Carbon||SRAM Eagle||SRAM Guide||WTB ST i30||Maxxis Minion 2.4"||Fox 34 Rhythm, Fox Float|
|TrailCraft Maxwell||26||$2,899.00||25||4'10"||Aluminium||Shimano Zee||Shimano Deore 6000||Stans Crest MK3||Schwalbe Nobby Nic||Rock Shox Reba, Monarch|
|Frog MTB 69||26||$800.00||25.1||4'8"||Aluminium||Shimano||Tektro||In House||Kendra K1153||In House|
|Meek Boyz||26||$8,375.00||NA||NA||Carbon||SRAM||SRAM Level||In House||Maxxis Minion||Fox 40, Fox X2|
|Trailcraft Timber 26||26||$1,999+||21||4'6"||Aluminium||Shimano Deore or XT||Shimano Deore or XT||Stans Podium||Schwalbe Rocket Ron 26x2.1"||Rock Shox Reba 26|
|Woom OFF AIR||26||$1,049||24.3||4'6"||Aluminium||SRAM X5||Promax hydraulic disc||In House||Schwalbe Rocket Ron 26x2.35"||RST 90 mm|
|Spawn Yama Jama 26||26||$1,425||26.5||4'5"||Aluminium||SRAM NX||TEKTRO HYDRAULIC DISC||Brood (In House)||Maxxis High Roller 2.3"||ROCK SHOX REBA 26-120MM|
|Cleary Scout 26||26||$860||28.5||4'7"||Steel||Shimano Deore||Tektro hydraulic disc||Alex||Vee Tire Crown Gem 2.25||Suntour 100mm|
|Norco Sight||27.5||$2,799||33||4'7"||Aluminium||SRAM Eagle||Shimano BR-MT500 hydraulic||WTB||Maxxis Minion D 2.3"||RockShox Pike, Charger, 150mm, RockShox Deluxe R Select|
|Commencal Clash Jr||27.5||$2,499||24.1||4'9"||Aluminium||SRAM Eagle||SRAM Guide||WTB||Vee Tire Co FlowSnap 2.35||RockShox 35 Gold 160mm, RockShox Deluxe Select +|
|Specialized Rockhopper 26||26||$500||NA||NA||Aluminium||Shimano Acera||Tektro hydraulic disc||In House||Specialized Ground Control Sport, 2.1"||SR Suntour 80mm|
|Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.0||26||$549||31||4'9"||Aluminium||Shimano Tourney||Tektro hydraulic disc||In House||Kenda Kadre, 2.1"||SR Suntour 100mm|