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(The Gear Loop) - At last, the days of stabilisers, balance bikes and trailers are long behind you. The kids are happy and confident cyclists and are looking for one of the best bikes for adventurous kids. Now is the perfect time to find them a bike that can keep up with their faster pace, tackle new terrains and keep their enthusiasm for biking stoked. 

Luckily, the UK has an abundance of amazing cycle routes, both on the roads and off them. There are forest trails and mountain tracks, byways and bridlepaths, bike parks and pump tracks all waiting to be explored. Whether the kids are beginner off-roaders or adrenaline-fuelled downhill pros, there’s a tonne of opportunity for getting out there and having a little bit of fun on two wheels.

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Once the kids’ eyes are open to this new world of awesome off-road biking, they’ll be eager for more. Before long, their battered old beginner bike just won’t be able to keep up with the pace and your mini cycle nuts will be looking for an upgrade. But which bikes are best for adventurous kids? Should you go mountain bike or hybrid? And will you need to take out a second mortgage to pay for it?

Here we explore a variety of different children’s bikes and brands, looking at the pros and cons of all. 

The Gear LoopThe best bikes for adventurous kids: lifestyle photo 7

Our little ones have tested out both hybrids and mountain bikes to consider which are most suitable for everyday biking life with the kids. We look at suspension, gears, frame geometry, tyre type and cost to give you an insight into which bike is best for your child.

The best bikes for adventurous kids

SpecializedThe best bikes for adventurous kids: lifestyle photo 14

Specialized Riprock

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For

  • "Bump-eating" tyres
  • Great for confident mountain biking kids
  • Available in 20 or 24in frames

Against 

  • High price point
  • Stock pedals are a little disappointing 

Originally launched in 2016, Specialized has gone back to the drawing board and subsequently upgraded the Riprock into a new, awesome 2022 model.

The tyres were originally 2.8-in wide but have been narrowed down to 2.35-in to help lower the weight, but the switch is met with a beefier tread pattern to maintain traction.

The old Riprock’s heavy, basic suspension fork was also done away with and replaced with a rigid fork. Though some didn’t like this concept, the logic is that for most kids, the added weight of a suspension fork does more harm than good. Indeed, there’s no doubt that this is a really smooth ride. Our little one announced "it eats up the bumps!" when testing one.

The geometry of the Riprock is interesting, too. With wider and lower set handlebars compared to other brands, kids can properly weight the front wheel of the bike, which is required for traction and braking control while mountain biking. As such, the Riprock is best for intermediate/ aggressive young riders, ambitious to hit the trails or developing riders that have bags of confidence.

The aggressive geometry of the Riprock might be a bit too much for more hesitant riders. 

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Trek Roscoe 24

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For

  • Plump tyres make it a fun ride on the trails
  • Good looking enough to make your friends jealous
  • Serious off-road chops

Against

  • Quite hefty weight at 11.6kg
  • No suspension can make it harder to control

Available in both 20-in and 24-in wheel sizes, this is simply a great mountain bike for kids learning to ride trails. Trek is one of the most familiar names in mountain biking, and the Roscoe is another gem in its collection. Although based on its adult equivalent, the Trek Roscoe has been built with children in mind.

The sloping top tube makes it easy for little ones to hop on and off and the Alpha aluminium frame is hardy enough to take any knocks and bumps.

Unlike some other kid’s mountain bikes, Trek has equipped the Roscoe 24 without any suspension in order to keep the weight (and cost) of the bike down, instead using mid-fat 2.8-inch tyres to provide comfort and grip on the rough stuff. While this is good for kids that are new to trail riding, it might be off-putting for those with more experience.

The Roscoe’s 1 x 8 drivetrain keeps it simple so younger riders can focus on riding rather than fiddling with gears, plus a closed front dropout and a tucked-in rear brake caliper protect parts when the kids inevitably drop their bikes.

The only downside is that the wider tyres will slow the kids down if they’re taking this on the road.

VitusThe best bikes for adventurous kids: lifestyle photo 13

Vitus Nucleus Youth Hardtail

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For 

  • Great value for money
  • Fully adjustable front suspension

Against

  • Changing gear can be clunky and distracting
  • Online-only buying makes test rides tricky

Inspired by the award-winning adult Nucleus model, the Vitus Nucleus Youth Hardtail is one of the best looking machines on the market. It has a lightweight aluminium frame and kid’s wheel size but features many of the performance-focused components found on the big boy bike. And when it comes to Vitus, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

One of our favourite features is the Suntour XCR suspension fork, which is adjustable to your child’s weight. Ideal for fine-tuning their needs as they grow. The lockout switch means they won’t be bobbing up and down on the climb sections, either

Vitus upgraded this bike in 2021 with the excellent BOX Four 8 groupset, featuring a clutch activated rear mech, and a 1X chainring. This 1 x 8 speed system paired with the 30T ring and 11-34 cassette is the perfect setup to start heading out on trails. That said, the big steps between gears mean shifting can be a little clunky and distracting.

The 2.1-in Rocket Ron tyres look great and help kids to keep control of the bike while having an awesome and safe time.

At this price point, you’re unlikely to find a better bike. It’s ideal for XC, trail and bike park riding and you can guarantee your kids will love it. It’s sleek look is enough to make parents envious…

Forme Bikes Kinder 20The best bikes for adventurous kids: lifestyle photo 9

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For

  • Sleek design and great colour options
  • Interesting bike leasing options available

Against

  • Struggles with any more challenging off-roading
  • Limited handlebar adjustment height

Forme is the new kid on the block in terms of junior bikes. It is a UK based company looking to "help people ride more" and its Kinder bike is designed to do just this among younger folk.

Marketed as an all-terrain bike, this is the second hybrid we reviewed. From roads to tracks and venturing into off-road territory, the Kinder’s versatility is great for the kids just getting into more adventurous riding but still spending some time on the roads - perhaps cycling to school.

Like the Beinn, the Kinder has Kenda Small Block 8 tyres, which have an all-rounder feel with enough grip for light off-roading, but still efficient on cycle paths and tarmac.

The Kinder also boasts an 8-speed trigger shift gear system, so plenty to help the kids up any climbs. Designed specifically with little people in mind, it has a junior specific saddle for extra comfort and narrow handlebars and a shorter stem to reduce reach. That said, the lack of spacers above or below the stem means there is little adjustment in bar height available.

Much like the Isla Beinn, this bike is a great all-rounder but coming in at a much cheaper price than its rival, and currently with greater availability, this new kid on the block might be a more tempting choice.

IslaThe best bikes for adventurous kids: lifestyle photo 10

Islabikes Beinn

For

  • Hybrid design for both on and off-road riding
  • Light weight makes control easier
  • Great colour range

Against

  • Twist grip shifters require maitnenance
  • Not great on rough terrain

Isla is a trusted brand in the biking world, with a particular focus on children’s bikes. This is the first hybrid in our review, giving an alternative to an exclusively trail-focussed bike. If you’re after a multipurpose machine that can perform both on and off-road, the Isla Beinn is a solid choice.

Totalling just 8.3kg, this the lightest bike we reviewed. This light weight really helps younger kids have more control when riding, which can improve their confidence greatly . Like most Isla bikes, the Beinn 24 has an aluminium frame and chromoly steel fork. Most components are also aluminium, which helps reduce weight further. 

The standard tyre is the Kenda Small Block 8 - a chunky hybrid tread suitable for both on and off-roading. That said, you have the options to upgrade to tyres specific for mountain biking, road-racing or cyclocross – a good alternative to having multiple bikes for the kids.

Everything on the Beinn 24 handlebars is designed to give smaller hands full control. From the super-light brake levers to downsized bars and grips. Acting as an extension to the grips, the twist gripshift system allows kids to change gear without having to use their thumbs to find the right lever. A great idea but in our experience, this gear system wears out over time and tightens up so much it becomes hard to change gear.

Unlike some other hybrids, the Isla Beinn really can perform well both on road and off road. It’s perfect for kids just beginning to get adventurous on their bikes. That said, before long you may find that the little shredders are needing something more suited to their off-road escapades than a hybrid can ever offer.

Scott BikesThe best bikes for adventurous kids: lifestyle photo 15

Scott Ransom 400

For

  • A full-on downhill bike for lil' rippers
  • Shimano gearing
  • Full suspension

Against

  • Hefty price tag
  • Overkill for many

If you’ve found your young one has exhausted several off-road specific bikes and is still looking for the ultimate adrenaline rush, the Scott Ransom could be just the ticket.

Available in 24 or 26in wheels, this really is up there with the most advanced off-road bikes for whipper-snappers. A lightweight alloy frame meets an X-Fusion Slant RC and an X-Fusion 02Pro fully adjustable rear shock.

Shimano Deore RD-M5100 takes care of the gearing, with 11 cogs to select from, while powerful disc brakes also reside front and rear for the last word in stopping power. Kenda Hellkat tyres also wrap around robust Syncros DP30 rims for added peace of mind.

Yes, it’s expensive, but this really is a serious machine for kids that like to go seriously fast on seriously challenging terrain. 

  • £1,799 | Buy now from Scott
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What to look for when buying a kids bike

Size

We all know that children grow quickly and it’s tempting to buy an oversized bike that the kids will "grow into". The risk of buying a bike that’s too big is that it will make it harder for them to handle and potentially knock their confidence. Most bikes hold their value well, so it’s probably worth investing in a bike that fits your child properly and look to resell when the time comes.

To find the right sized bike for your child, most brands will offer a sizing chart but as a general rule of thumb:

  • Children aged four to six, (height 105cm to 115cm / 3ft 5in to 3ft 9in), will need a bike with 14in to 16in wheels.
  • For ages seven to ten (height 115cm to 135cm / 3ft 9in to 4ft 5in), find a bike with 18in to 20in wheels. You’ll also start to see a wider range of gears appearing at this size and price point.
  • Kids aged 10 to 13 (height 135cm to 150cm / 4ft 5in to 5ft) will usually move on to a 24in-wheel bike and, at this point, you’ll find bikes that are essentially a smaller version of an adult bike with wide gear range and suspension options for some mountain bikes.
  • For teenagers, look at adult bikes in smaller sizes. Sadly, this is when the price point really starts to rocket.

Bear in mind that these sizes are a guideline only and where possible, find a local shop to test out the bike to be sure it’s the right fit and feels good to ride.

Weight

Secondly, the weight of the bike deserves some thought. Many low-end bikes are pretty hefty and this can make it harder for children to ride. A lighter bike is more comfortable and easier to control, easier to wheel around and generally less intimidating. As a rough guide, we look for 13kg or less for 20in- and 24in-wheel bikes, especially if they’re likely to go off-road.

Ability

Finally, think about your child’s ability and how they’re likely to use their bikes. If you spend more time on the roads or simple cycle paths, but fancy dabbling in a bit of off-roading, then a hybrid bike like the Isla Beinn or Forme Kinder would be a good choice. 

These bikes are designed to be light and adaptable for all terrains; equally good on the school commute and riding along a forest track. Bear in mind that as soon as your kid wants to hit some more technical tracks or ride through mud or tougher terrain, the bike might let you down.

If your child is wanting to spend more time hitting the downhills, cruising along some rocky tracks and venturing off-road in all weather, a mountain bike will be a better option. There are some incredible high-end kid’s mountain bikes on the market if you’re looking for something really technical; but for kids hitting the blue and green trails, a mid-range mountain bike will do nicely.

Where possible, try out the bike and decide which features suit you better. Do you need a suspension fork like the Vitus Nucleus? Maybe the wide 2.8in tyres of the Trek Roscoe appeal or perhaps you like the aggressive geometry of the Riprock? 

Ultimately, these are all great bikes and much of it will come down to personal preference. For road riding, the mountain bikes will stand up well but expect an element of drag so long distance rides might become tiring.

Writing by Georgie Duckworth. Editing by Leon Poultney.