What are the best kids’ mountain bikes when your kiddo isn’t quite ready for the full-sized version yet? Kids often want their bikes to look cool, meaning they want it to look like their parents’ bikes or what they see older kids riding, and this often means they want it to look like a mountain bike, regardless of whether they’re riding on pavement or off road. Or, perhaps they are now ready for true off-roading. This guide will help.
For children aged between 8 and 11, a 20- to 26-inch wheel bike is the optimal middle ground. I’m going to help you to find the best kids’ mountain bike as well as share a few tips before you go.
The best mountain bikes for kids are:
- Guardian Kids Bikes Original — Best Overall
- Diamondback Bicycles Tess Youth Mountain Bike — Runner Up
- Mongoose Exlipse Full Dual-Suspension — Premium
- RALEIGH Bikes Rowdy — Ideal for Ages 3 to 6
- Diamondback Bicycles Cobra 20 Inch Bike — Lightweight
How to Pick the Best Mountain Bike for Kids
Finding the right mountain bike for your child requires a bit of thought — unlike regular kids bikes, mountain bikes are heavier and can be tiring for a child if it’s not the right size.
Here are a few things you should look for when finding the best kids’ mountain bike:
1. Wheel Size
With mountain bikes, the bigger the wheel, the better. They’re fitted with larger, chunkier wheels that easily roll over rough terrain.
Larger wheels are more stable as well as efficient on longer rides as they require less effort to keep the momentum going. It’s important to choose a wheel size that suits your kid’s stand-over height. In saying that, you can select the largest wheel size that suits their height — your kid will be on their tippy-toes; however, the bike will be easier and more stable on the trails.
Here’s a quick run-through of the three common mountain bike wheel sizes and how they suit different inseam measurements:
- 20-inch: This size is generally recommended for children aged between 5 and 10 years old. Furthermore, it will suit children with an inseam of 22 to 25 inches.
- 24-inch: Slightly bigger wheels are recommended for children aged 9 and up with an inseam of 24 to 28 inches.
- 26-inch: Wheels that are 26 inches are considered to be a small-framed adult bike. These are recommended for older or taller children, or more advanced riders.
Brakes on mountain bikes differ significantly from regular road bikes. The most common brakes you’ll find are disc brakes — these come in two variants:
- Mechanical: Works with cables that attach the lever to the disc on the wheel. These are more affordable and easier to maintain at home.
- Hydraulic: Cables are replaced with hydraulic fluid that runs in a fully sealed line. As you stop, the pressure will move the fluid into the caliper, which presses two pads against the disc — stopping the bike. These are usually found on more high-end kids’ mountain bikes, and require you to bleed the brakes every so often to replace the fluid.
If your kiddo is new to disc brakes, it’s crucial they practice in a safe place before hitting the trails. Disc brakes will stop the bike rather quickly, which could throw your child off. Teach them how to slowly engage the brake while going down a small slope.
The suspension can make or break a ride on the trails. There are three options when it comes to mountain bikes, which include:
- Rigid: Also known as no suspension, these original cross-country bikes feature no cushioning against bumps. One of the main advantages of no suspension is that the bike is light and easy to pedal.
- Hardtail: Also known as front suspension; these help to reduce fatigue in the upper limbs, such as arms and shoulders. Furthermore, they’ll help to keep your child’s hands on the handlebars as well as enhancing steering in rough terrain. Hardtail bikes are also an excellent budget pick for a kid’s bike.
- Full suspension: A good full suspension mountain bike isn’t cheap; however, this isn’t a place to hold back. Cheap full-suspension mountain bikes are heavy and tiring for young riders, so high-quality full suspension is the way to go if your budget can handle it.
How Can Mountain Biking Hurt the Environment?
The point of mountain biking is to go where you’re not actually meant to go. This is fine when you’re sticking to certain routes or trails; however, some mountain bikers look beyond this which can be damaging to the environment.
Many show their worries; however, experts say that there are no differences between hiking and biking.
What makes a difference is how the hiker or biker acts when out in nature. It’s important to clean up after yourself if you take any breaks. By planning ahead, you can ensure that you won’t harm or scare animals by going off the trails.
Keeping Young Riders Safe: Tips
Going from a kid’s bike to a mountain bike is quite a transition — there are new things to get used to, such as the chunkier tires and stronger disc brakes. It’s crucial to keep your children safe as they hit the trails.
Here are a few tips:
- Helmet: The right types of helmets have been shown to reduce head injuries by up to 85 percent. It’s important the helmet you choose is safe — look for CPSC, Snell, or ASTM approvals.
- Braking: Before hitting the trails, teach your kid how to operate the brakes properly. If the bike has disc brakes, it’s crucial they get a good feel of how it works. Let them try it out going down small slopes.
- Proper attire: Falls will happen as your child learns to master the trails. However, you can minimize scratches and bruises by dressing them in the right attire. Long pants and a shirt in a light, breathable fabric will help to protect your children without causing them to overheat.
Team Building: Benefits of Exercising as a Family
Mountain biking with your kids is a dream come true for many enthusiasts. Being active as a family has many well-known benefits for your children.
Not only does exercise enhance kids’ confidence, but it can also help to improve their concentration. Furthermore, it can help to establish healthy habits which will encourage your child to maintain a healthy weight.
What Is the Best Mountain Bike for Kids?
Kids’ mountain bikes should suit their body weight to ensure it won’t be tiring for them to ride. It should also be the right size, meaning your child should be on their toes or able to put half their foot on the ground.
What Is the Best Mountain Bike for a 10 Year Old?
For a 10-year-old, a 20- or 24-inch wheel size would be suitable. Again, try out different sizes to see which will suit your child better.
What Are the Best Brands of Mountain Bikes?
Yeti, Trek, and Santa Cruz are among some of the leading brands of mountain bikes for adults. Mongoose, Diamondback, and Raleigh are some of the leading brands for kids’ mountain bikes.
What Is the Best Mountain Bike Under $500?
Mountain bikes are generally higher priced compared to regular bikes for children; however, there are lots of budget options. The Guardian Kids Bikes Original is an excellent bike that suits most budgets.
What Factors Drove Our Rating?
- Weight: The weight of the bike has to suit your kid and we looked for frames that were lightweight but still solid.
- Braking system: Good brakes are a must have for young riders.
- Durability: Steel or aluminum frames are both lightweight yet sturdy choices.
Reviews of the Best Mountain Bikes for Kids
Now that we know everything there is to know about mountain bikes for kids, it’s time to reveal the top five.
Our Top-Rated Mountain Bike — Best Overall
The Guardian Kids Bike features a safer brake system, where one lever controls both wheels on the bike. As a result, your child can stop up to 44 percent faster while minimizing the risk of falling over the handlebar.
It’s designed with a low center of gravity that’s ideal for younger riders as it helps them to stay balanced. Made of aluminum, this kids’ mountain bike weighs only 21 pounds, so it’s light to ride and easy to navigate.
Smaller details such as the bright decals are heat bonded to the frame for durability. This also makes it easier for others on the road to spot your child.
This particular kid bike is 20 inches; it’s also available in 16- and 24-inch bikes.
In April 2019, Erica P said the following: “This bike is amazing!! Bought a 20” for my 6 yr old and a 24” for my 8 yr old, they both LOVE their new bikes!! My 6 yr old learned to ride in one day without ever having been on a balance bike, only training wheels! As you can see from the video, these bikes are pretty incredible!”
Some parents found the seat to be more suitable for boys than girls.
Our Top-Rated Mountain Bike — Runner Up
The Diamondback Tess bike is a favorite among children — built with a durable steel frame and suspension fork.
It’s available with 20- or 24-inch wheels and features a six-speed gear that enables your kid to go faster than ever. These shift smoothly up and down so your child can experiment as they ride.
When it’s time to brake and slow down, it’s equipped with linear pull brakes that are fitted with adjustable-reach levers.
Coffeeville, in January 2018, said: “Solid bike. Everything is relative, for price its best deal for sure. 8 year old was riding in minutes first time with no training wheels. The single-handed controls for gears are great for learning hand brakes and shifting.”
Negatives? Some parents did not like that the bike does not have a kickstand.
Our Top-Rated Mountain Bike — Premium
Made with a strong steel frame, this Mongoose mountain bike features Shimano derailleur 21-speed gears. This provides quick and precise shifting as your kid rides on rough terrain.
It’s equipped with a full suspension fork at the front and back, providing your child with a smooth ride. Furthermore, it features front and rear linear pull brakes and alloy wheels for safe riding no matter the terrain.
Kat Gaczorek, in May 2019, said: “So far my daughter is really happy with her new bike. The gears and speed settings took a little time to figure out, but after a few weeks she has no problem going up hills and on trails. I recommend it for anyone looking for an affordable bike for their young kids.”
Negatives? Some parents commented that the bike was heavy.
Our Top-Rated Mountain Bike — Ideal for Ages 3 to 6
The Raleigh Rowdy is an ideal choice for the youngest mountain bikers who are just starting out. It’s built with a durable yet lightweight aluminum frame and features alloy V brakes.
The bike features only one speed to help your kiddo stay focused on navigating the trails. The soft seat and PVC padded handles are designed to suit growing bums, legs, and hands.
Prime_Addict77, in January 2019, said: “My son is a smaller 12 year old, and the bike is a great fit for him. He really enjoys it and finds it easy to shift. Raleigh is a good brand.”
Negatives? Some parents noted that the bike got flat tires faster than they expected.
Our Top-Rated Mountain Bike — Lightweight
Weighing only a little over 10 pounds, the Cobra bike is an excellent choice for young boys. It’s constructed of a DB Hi-ten steel frame and features an HL zoom 40mm travel suspension fork — enabling it to easily transfer between different terrains.
The six-speed drivetrain allows smooth shifting as your child changes gear. Furthermore, the adjustable linear pull brakes are easy to use for small, growing hands.
Negatives? A few parents had trouble assembling the bike.
In August 2018, Feliks said: “ It’s a great little bike kids, especially for the price, simply can’t beat it! Very smooth Shimano speed shifter, solid brakes. My kid is really happy with it, and so am I.”
Other Tools to Help Your Mountain Biker
Here are a few things that I find to be essentials before hitting the trails:
- Helmet: A helmet, such as this one from Exclusky that is CPSC-approved
- Protective gear: Protection such as this set from JBM Kids can help to minimize injury
The top mountain bike for kids is the Guardian Kids Bikes Original — it’s a lightweight bike with a specialized braking system that minimizes the chance of accidents.
A clear runner up is the Diamondback Bicycles Tess Youth Mountain Bike — it’s made of a durable steel frame and features six-speed gear.