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. If you know the basics about mountain bikes, then skip down to the program your rider is enrolled in and you’ll see BJC’s recommendations.
BJC works with Giant Bicycles and Full Cycle (Pearl St) to get fantastic bikes at a 25% discount. Bikes must be ordered online using the code provided each season.
What is a Mountain Bike?
First of all your rider needs a proper 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 High School racers nor the younger Devo / Young Devo riders. Bikes that come with a suspension fork but no rear suspension is called a Hardtail, while bikes with no suspension (front or rear) are called Rigid.
To complicate matters more, there are several sub categories. XC, Trail, Enduro, and Downhill. Through these ranges the bikes are able to handle tougher terrain and are designed for more aggressive downhill riding. For the BJC Devo and High School programs we recommend bikes that fall into the XC category, or if the rider is able to handle a heavier bike, and likes to work the downhills, a Trail bike. Enduro bikes are required for the BJC Shredders enduro program, these bikes are longer travel full suspension bikes, and are designed to be rideable (but not super fast) uphill, and great for downhills. Downhill bikes are specialized for downhill riding, and usually are used in chairlift assisted areas like Trestle Bike Park.
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 3”-5” wide designed for snow and sand.
BJC requires that Devo program riders or older be on a minimum of 26” wheels unless there are special circumstances such as height of the rider. 27.5” and primarily 29” wheels will be the norm for riders in the High School programs. The 26” minimum wheel size is one of the reasons the minimum age is 9 for BJC Devo programs. Riders need to be tall enough 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 the correct gearing to climb steep hills. This is key to the success and safety of our riders.
We also require Devo riders or older to use disk brakes. Disk brakes offer a ton of advantages to the rider over rim brakes. First and foremost they work better and they work well in all weather conditions.
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 and you need to be able to comfortably reach the handle bars. Here is a quick bike sizing article.
https://www.bikeradar.com/us/beginners/gear/article/mountain-bike-sizing-what-size-bike-do-i-need-40477/. Our team sponsor Full Cycle offers a safety inspection as well as professional fitting services, which is much more than setting a seat height. It is an indepth look at everything from cleat placement, stem angle and length, seat height and fore/aft position and much more.
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 equivalent 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 Devo and riders will be on front suspension (aka hardtail) bikes, High School riders will be split between hardtails and full suspension, while Enduro riders must be on full suspension bikes (details below).
Bike Play (4-6 years) Bike Recommendations
This program is all about learning bikes are fun, and doing bike related activities to help fuel that stoke at a young age. Riders need to be on a 2 wheeled pedal bike. Gears and hand brakes are not required, but if your child is on the older side they are “nice to have”. A non geared foot brake bike we recommend is the Giant Animator while the Giant ARX is great for those looking for gears and hand brakes. We lean towards bikes with hand brakes for BJC programs.
Young Devo (6-8 years) Bike Recommendations
Requirements for this program are a well fitting mountain bike with gears and hand brakes. What do you get for more money in a kids bike? Most importantly the bike is lighter and has better gearing for climbing, and better quality/better fitting components. BJC’s suggests this 24 inch bike or if your rider is a little smaller the ARX line from Giant Bikes. The great folks at Full Cycle can help with sizing, as this bike is available in 3 different wheel sizes.
Devo Program Bike Recommendations:
Unless there are special circumstances we require a minimum 26 inch wheel to be in the Devo program, and disk brakes. Most riders will be on a 26” or 27.5” hardtail front suspension bike, or a rigid bike with low pressure 2.8” plus sized tires. We are comfortable recommending a plus sized hardtail for our younger / lighter riders (10 yrs and under) as they often do not have enough body weight to make full use of a suspension fork.
More Bike Recommendations:
Need a 24” Wheel Bike?
Does your rider not fit on a 26” wheel yet? Check out this 24” bike.
Here is a great rigid Giant MTB It has plus size 26” tires, is full rigid, but ridden at the correct tire pressure(12-15psi) it will offer significant suspension for our lighter riders.
26” front suspension is a common bike type for Devo riders. Here are a couple of recommendations. The Liv Tempt 1, which is a women’s specific bike (boys can use it!) and comes in an XS size, and has a huge range of gears. Moving up a wheel size to 27.5 we recommend the Giant Fathom over the less expensive Giant Talon. For a top level hardtail we recommend the XTC Advanced also available in a 29er wheel size.
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. A great 26 inch full suspension bike, for our riders 10 an under is this Giant. For our older Devo riders we recommend something from the Giant Anthem series or for the female riders something from the Liv, Pique series. Liv is the woman’s specific brand from Giant.
BJC High School MTB Program
Most riders will be on 27.5 and 29er bikes. Here are a couple of recommendations:
Moving into a slightly bigger travel bike, but still raceable for XC, but not as quick and nimble we recommend something from the Giant Stance series, which has both 27.5 and 29er models or the Liv Embolden, for our female riders.
BJC Enduro Program
The BJC Enduro program has specific skill and equipment requirements. Please view our Enduro “Shredders” page for skill requirements. In terms of equipment riders must be on a full suspension MTB with dropper post with a minimum of 130mm front/rear travel in their bike.
MTB specific knee pads are required, and while not required, we do recommend full face helmets with a removable chin bar, and additional padding such as elbow pads and spine protectors. For padding we highly recommend Seven DPI who offers a full range of padding and helmets for youth and adult sizes. Seven DPI will be offering 50% discounts to BJC riders, details will be in future BJC emails or contact Lester.firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note: full face helmets w/o a removable chin bar are too hot to climb in and should not be used at regular training sessions
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. BJC hosts a bikeswap, this year it will be April 5th, 2020.
Locally, Ebay seller The Pro’s Closet specializes in cycling products.