What started out with a cute (albeit high end) little premium youth mountain bike has turned into a premium brand for kids of all ages that want to shred. Trailcraft launched in 2014 with a 24″ alloy hardtail called the Pineridge. Now, their lineup has expanded to included 26″ bikes, full suspension models, and even bikes that’ll fit 27.5 or 26+ tires. They’ve also added 1x chainrings and offered their kid-sized crankset (which works with direct mount chainrings) for sale on its own.
After my daughter outgrew her Pineridge, we upgraded to one of the larger bikes in their collection, the Maxwell 26. It’s a full suspension bike built on the Horst Link platform with 120mm travel front and rear, with excellent spec even at the lower Deore level build.
Out of the box, the Deore Pro build comes with carbon fiber handlebars, lock-on grips, inset headset and Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes, shifter and rear derailleur.
The fork is a Rockshox Reba SL 27.5″ with Boost axle spacing, which leaves plenty of room for you to run a larger wheel and tire combo in the future. Tucked inside it is one of the key spec deals that helps set Trailcraft apart: Stan’s Crest wheels. They originally had custom 24″ versions made when they launched, and that spec continues on the larger bike sizes. Pair that with Schwalbe tires and you have a premium setup that’s ready to go tubeless when you are.
Boost axles help future proof it, front and rear.
The drivetrain is very kid friendly, with 152mm crank arms on an alloy spindle. They use a SRAM-compatible direct mount chainring that you can order in 26, 28, 30 or 32 tooth sizes. The bike comes with descent starter flat pedals with reflectors, too. It’s ready to ride out of the box.
The rear brake hose stays outside the frame, but there’s internal routing for the rear derailleur, and for a stealth dropper seatpost if you want to add one.
A Rockshox Monarch RT rear shock provides external compression and rebound adjustments with very light internal tunes. One of the challenges with lighter riders (like an 85lb girl) is getting the suspension soft enough to work without just bottoming out.
We’ve been able to set both the fork and the shock up to get reasonable travel out of them, but a little more tuning on our part (probably air volume spacers in the fork and even lower pressure) is in order to get more use from them.
One small issue we’ve had with the bike (the only issue, really) is the placement of the air valve on the rear shock. It sticks out right where my daughter’s knee passes, and it’s scraped her a few times.
You can see above, it’s not a minor extension. Trailcraft co-owner Brett Rosenbauer says they have heard a few complaints from some riders about this, and that the simple fix is flipping the shock so that the air can sits toward the back. This requires swapping the bushings between shock ends, which is something we haven’t gotten around to doing yet. He hinted that it’s a known issue for Rockshox, too, and that we might be seeing shocks from them with a repositioned air valve in the future.
The Shimano shifting is flawless, and the clutched rear derailleur helps keep the chain in place.
They pair the Shimano parts with an 10-speed SunRace 11-42 cassette on this model. The higher end XT build gets full XT (with the Trailcraft cranks and chainring).
The Deore brakes are paired with an ultralight 85g brake rotor, which works because the kids just aren’t heavy enough to overcook it. If your kid’s bigger or you need more stopping power, it’s easy enough to swap to rotors with more braking surface material. Here, though, it’s an easy way to keep the weight low without sacrificing performance.
As shown here, the Maxwell 26 retails for $2,899 and now comes in four or more colors. They offer a higher end XT build, plus a rolling frameset with the wheels and a standard frameset option with the fork and shock. Don’t like any of this spec? No problem. Brett said more than 50% of the bikes they sell are customized with different forks, tires, droppers or other stuff.
Claimed weight for this model is 25.5lbs. Ours, with a little bit of dirt on it, weighs in at 25.4lbs (25lb 7oz). We could save a good bit more by switching to tubeless, but I haven’t yet because the tubes hold air better between rides and most of the time my daughter is just rolling out for a romp around the neighborhood.
Trailcraft Maxwell 26 Ride Review
Compared to Brett’s son’s customized, enduro-ready build of this bike, my 10-year-old daughter’s bike isn’t seeing anywhere near the trail time. But it’s ridden hard around the neighborhood and in a few kids cyclocross races this past winter. When we do get on the trail, I’ve noticed that the handling seems dialed for her size, and based on the O-rings, she’s getting about the right amount of travel based on trail conditions. This summer’s family trips didn’t include bike parks where we could bring our own bikes, but they often do, and with this I know she’ll be ready when we do. And she’s got a couple more years of growth on it, especially with the ability to but a bigger wheel on the front and/or a longer fork.
As a bike geek parent who’s dropping significant coin on what amounts to a pro-level kids bike, it’s not just the build that’s impressive. The frames have progressed since they’ve launched, too, getting more shapely and hydroformed.
Trailcraft uses one of the most sought after factories in Taiwan (as in, the same place a lot of other very high end brands are using) to manufacture their frames, so the quality is impeccable. Fit, finish and paint on every bike of theirs I’ve seen has been up to par. This bike has been left out in the rain, dropped, and put away dirty, but it’s still running great after nine months.
If you’re looking for a really, really good kid’s mountain bike, the Maxwell hits the sweet spot for 9-12 year olds (4’8″ to 5’2″ is the recommended height range) that want to hit the trail hard…just like you.
Check out our interview with the founders to learn more about the company, and look for additional build options on this model coming in late summer 2018 (longer forks, enduro wheels, dropper posts, etc.).