What type of bike is needed for BJC MTB programs?

What type of bike is needed for BJC MTB programs?

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.

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 are 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.  Generally bikes as bikes get better at downhill they decrease in performance on uphills or flat riding, due to weight, gearing, and bike geometry.  Often these changes in performance can be significant.  

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.

Wheel Size:  

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.  With modern bikes, such as Trek, riders 4’6” and up can ride 27.5 wheels on Trek’s XS frames.   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. For our advanced Devo riders and High School riders a bike with a dropper post are strongly recommended, and are mandatory in the Shredders program.  Dropper posts allow the rider to adjust the set height while pedaling, making the bike safer and more efficient.  Additionally, skills are taught differently on a dropper post, so it is an opportunity for a rider to learn skills the safest and most efficient way the first time they are taught.

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.

Our team sponsor The Trek Store offers a safety inspection as well as a discount on professional fitting services, which is much more than just 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 that 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”.  

Young Devo (6-8 years)  Bike Recommendations

Requirements for this program are a well fitting mountain bike with gears and hand brakes.  24 inch wheeled bikes are perfectly acceptable in this program.  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 this one. Please note that correct gearing is important, and as riders progress in skills and fitness they may outgrown the capabilities of a lower end bike.

Devo Program (9-14 years) 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 may be on a rigid bike with low pressure 2.8” plus sized tires. We are comfortable recommending a plus sized rigid bike 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, but the key is the plus sized tire at a low (correct) tire pressure. If you are looking for recommendations go see the great folks at The Trek Store, and any bike found at this link will suffice.  There is obviously a range in prices, better bikes are lighter, more responsive, and tend to last longer, but a top tier bike is not required.  

BJC High School MTB Program Bike Recommendations:

Front Suspension:

Most riders will be on 27.5 and 29er bikes, and a mix of Hardtail and Full Suspension. Any of the bikes at this link, from the Marlin 7 and up will suffice, bike of a lower level than this will be heavy and may lack the gearing needed to climb hills.   Full suspension bikes are heavier than a hardtail, so if buying full suspension we recommend going to at least an intermediate level bike, as the weight savings are significant.  

A rider can step up from a cross country bike to a trail bike, which will improve the downhill ability of the bike, but will be heavier and not climb as well.  These bikes are raceable on a cross country course, but will limit the rider a bit, but offer the ability to ride more technical terrain, making them more of an all round bike.

BJC Shredders Enduro Program Bike Recommendations:

The BJC Enduro program has specific skill and equipment requirements.  Please view the Shredders webpage.  In terms of equipment riders must be on a full suspension MTB 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.pardoe@boulderjuniorcycling.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

Trek Bikes that meet our requirements can be found in the Slash, Remedy, and Fuel lines of bikes.

Used 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.  BJC is also tentatively planning a spring bike swap, dates TBD.

Locally, Ebay seller The Pro’s Closet and BuyTheMojo specialize in cycling products.

Craigslist has a ton of bikes, as does the Facebook page Front Range Bike Swap and the website PinkBike is a go to for many buying and selling a bike