What type of bike is needed for the BJC Devo MTB program?
A great question, not the simplest answer, but read through this and you’ll see the differences, a few recommendations, and a ton of info that will help you get the right bike for your rider.
What is a Mountain Bike?
First of all your rider needs a mountain bike. A mountain bike has a strong frame, straight handlebars, a range of gears for climbing uphill, and wide knobby tires that give it traction and bump absorption. Bikes with both front and rear suspension are “fully suspended” or Full Suspension and are typically not needed for young kids. Bikes often come with a suspension fork but no rear suspension and this is called a Hard Tail. Bikes with no suspension front or rear are called Rigid.
Mountain bikes come in a variety of wheel sizes. At the small end, wheel size is 20” and 24” on children’s bikes and goes up to 26”, 26”+, 27.5”, 27.5”+, and 29” wheels. This refers to the diameter of the wheel, with “+” referring to a “plus” size tire width. Tire width usually runs between 2 and 2.4 inches with “+ “ size going up to 3”. “Fat Bikes” are really fat tires over 3” or 4” wide designed for snow or similar.
Our smallest riders may be on 24” wheels and this is the largest wheel that some of the younger riders can fit on, but we really prefer a minimum of a 26” wheel and the vast majority of riders will be on this size. 27.5” will fit some of the riders, and a few taller / older riders will be on 29’’ wheels. This is one of the reasons the minimum age is 9 for BJC MTB programs. Kids need to be that age to fit on a bike that is safe for the terrain we ride, with larger wheels that roll over rocks and drops easier, and has gearing to climb steep hills. This is key to the success and safety of our riders.
Size and Fit:
The most important thing is to have a bike that is safe to ride and fits the rider properly. A bike that is too big or small is a risk to your rider. Size and proper fit are key to bike handling, safety, and performance. You need standover clearance on the top tube, you need to be able to comfortably reach the handle bars. Here is a quick bike sizing article.
Expensive bikes vs cheaper bikes:
Many factors go into making bikes more expensive, and to a certain point you get what you pay for. Mass market bikes from big box stores have heavy frames and poorly constructed parts. These bikes can be EXCEEDINGLY heavy, are not designed for rough trail conditions, and lack the gearing needed to climb steep hills. Picture yourself riding a bike that is 60% of your body weight. For an adult, that would be equivilant to a 75-100 lb bike! That is what it is like for our youngest riders on low end bikes. Do you need to pay a fortune? No! But rideability and fun are important to keep your rider engaged in the sport. Lastly, keep in mind when you are buying a bike, that being part of BJC gives you a used market for the bike when your rider outgrows it!
Rigid? Front Suspension? Full Suspension?
The vast majority of our riders will be on front suspension (aka hard tail) bikes. These bikes have enough suspension to take the brunt of the roughness of the trail, yet remain light enough for the riders to climb well on. Full suspension bikes tend to be heavier, until you get into the upper end bikes, and thus we see few of these in the program.
Often our youngest riders do not have enough body weight to make full use of a suspension fork. In some cases, a rigid fork will be OK when combined with knobby tires ridden at low pressures such as 12-15 psi. Some new kids bikes have a rigid fork combined with Plus size tires over 2.5” wide which offer decent amount of suspension for the lighter riders.
Ideally a 26” or 27.5” hardtail front suspension bike, or a rigid bike with low pressure 2.2” tires or low pressure “plus sized” tires. Our team’s partner shop is Boulder Cycle Sport and our partner manufacturer is Giant Bikes.
Does your rider not fit on a 26” wheel yet? Check this 24” bike.
Here is a great rigid Giant MTB. It has plus size 26” tires and is light and simple.
26” front suspension is a common bike for Devo riders.
There are a number of bikes out there, but often not in kids sizes, and to keep the weight down higher end bikes need to be purchased. If your child is over 5 foot you can start looking at full suspension bikes.
If you know a bit about bikes, and know what you are looking for, there are several spots to look for used bikes. Check out the BJC Facebook page, often equipment gets posted here. Don’t be afraid to post a “wanted” ad.
Locally, Ebay seller The Pro’s Closet specializes in cycling products.
Lastly, if you want to buy a carbon frame and build up your own bike we have had success with 26” wheel carbon hardtails. If you have extra bike parts around this can be a great option. We do have several riders who swap out wheels and tires (and sometimes the fork) and make a kids MTB into a very light and rideable cross bike for the cross season.