After experimenting with kids bikes from Specialized (20″) and Raleigh (24″) for my son, I wanted to get my daughter on something better and lighter. It’s not that those other bikes were bad, they certainly got him out on the trail and are worlds better than what’s sold at big box stores, but they’re heavy. And with retail pricing around $200 to $500, the component spec included a lot of imprecise stamped steel parts.
Then Trailcraft came on the scene and saved Cameron from another hand me down.
Built around a premium 7005-series alloy frame and custom 24″ Stan’s NoTubes Crest wheels and Schwalbe tires, Trailcraft’s Pineridge 24 starts off with a killer foundation for a legitimate mountain bike to get your kiddies off to a rippin’ good start…
FEATURES & ACTUAL WEIGHT
The alloy frame is their own design, built specifically to fit kids ages 7 to 12 with a minimum inseam of 24″. The geometry is dialed specifically for that size/age, with an emphasis on performance. A big part of that is the short 390mm chainstays. Most 24″ kids bikes’ stays are 410mm, which makes them more stable, but also rather slow handling. To put that in perspective, some 29er hardtails have chainstays around 427mm. So, the Pineridge’s shorter stays still provide plenty of stability, but they make the bike turn more quickly and make it easier to lift the front end over small obstacles.
Butted and shaped tubes help keep the frame light.
The cockpit parts are all alloy, but at these sizes they’re still light. The bar comes in a 640mm width, but I cut it down to better fit my daughter. The stem is 60mm with a 7º rise. One nice thing about Trailcraft’s website is they understand that weight’s one of the biggest issues with kids bikes, so they list the weight of a lot of the parts they chose on their website.
The bike is spec’d with a Shimano Deore 2×10 group including shifters, derailleurs and hydraulic brakes. Compared to what’s on most kids bikes, that’s like taking your Acera bike and going to XTR. In the past, I’d leaned toward twist shifters for kids bikes, thinking they were easier, but my daughter’s had no problems using or fitting the shifter levers, and they certainly provide crisper, more defined shifts than the cheap twisters.
If you opt for the suspension fork, you’ll get a 1,600g RST First air fork with compression and rebound adjustments. Unlike the cheap coil and elastomer forks on some kids bikes, this one actually works. I set the air pressure fairly low, giving her a bit of extra sag, and then watched it slide up and down easily over small bumps without diving into the travel when braking.
They spec’d Ashima’s 160mm AiRotors on the bike. While I’ve had some issues getting these rotors to stop my adult sized body, they’re perfectly adequate for a 50-70 pound rider. And it’s easy enough to upgrade the rotors if your little shredder is over cooking them.
The saddle is a Velo Junior that’s thankfully free of logos. The alloy post (160g) comes long enough to accommodate a lot of growth, but thanks to a straight seat tube without water bottle bolts interrupting it, it’ll also drop really low to fit smaller riders without needing to be cut.
Trailcraft also sourced their own cranks in 152mm length. They offer them as a 1x with Race Face narrow/wide chainrings, or this stock setup with a 32/22 double. The cranks are also available separately if you just want to replace your kid’s current bike’s crappy triple with something better.
The frame’s built around a hollow spindle square taper bottom bracket, and the cranks come with sealed bearing, chromoly axle VP pedals with alloy cage. They’re nice, with no bearing play and easy spinning…a massive step up from the plastic or otherwise cheap pedals on other kids bikes. That seems like a small touch, but it’s really part of an overall package that ensures everything works smoothly so the kid can focus on riding and not what’s going on with the bike. We all want the bike to become an extension of our body, and the Pineridge helps that happen for your kid.
Formed dropouts provide sleek, integrated brake post mounts.
Plenty of tire clearance. The Shadow-Plus rear derailleur comes equipped with Shimano’s clutch mechanism, but the plastic on/off lever has already broken off. Fortunately, it’s stuck in the “on” position. The rest of the drivetrain is a KMC X-10 chain and SunRace 10-speed 11-36 cassette.
The wheels and tires are a major upgrade. They use Superlight hubs laced to custom Stan’s ZTR Crest tubeless rims with Pillar double butted spokes. The Schwable’s are their Performance level Rocket Rons in a 24×2.1 size.
The bike ships with an extra derailleur hanger, brake hose clips and tubeless valve stems (tubes are installed in the tires). The black bits on the left are the ends I cut off the handlebars. Fortunately, the foam grips aren’t pre-installed, so it’s easy to trim to length during assembly.
The complete bike, with tubes in the tires, came in at 21.91lb (9.94kg) after cutting the handlebars. Just spitballin’ here, but that’s anywhere from six to 12 pounds lighter than most decent kids bikes. Considering the ratio of bike weight to rider weight at this age, that’s a massive improvement and often times the difference between a death march or the kids finishing a trail in good spirits.
The Pineridge 24 retails for $1,699 for the alloy frame as shown here. There’s also a titanium model that comes with your choice of rigid ti fork ($2,699) or this RST suspension fork ($2,561). Both are also available as framesets (frame, fork, wheels and cranks) if you have a lot of parts sitting around and could build it up yourself. Yes, that’s 3x what you could get a name-brand kids bike for, but this one will perform 10x better and be worthy of passing down to siblings, cousins, etc., without anyone feeling shafted. But the real value is the improved experience for all involved…
For me, the real joy in getting my kids riding is the opportunity to spend quality outdoorsy active time with them. But it started with a little quality indoors time as we assembled the bike together.
For some parts of the assembly process, Cam was like “what?”, then she’s was all like “sweet!” Aaaahhh, teachable moments.
Her first bike was a neighborhood hand-me-down 20″ coaster brake Giant that was great for spinning around the neighborhood. But this one was her first new bike, and she’s quite proud of it. OK, enough gushing, on to the review.
Dad: What do you think about your new bike?
Cameron: I like it.
Dad: How is it better than your old bike?
Cameron: It has more gears, so I can go faster. It’s easy to pedal. And it’s blue and sparkly-er!
Dad: Can you control it easily?
Cameron: Uh huh.
Dad: Can you reach the brakes and shift everything easily?
Cameron: Uh huh.
Dad: What do you think when you see it in the garage?
Cameron: I wanna ride it!
Dad: Before you got this bike, you didn’t want to go mountain biking at all. And now you’re excited to go with me, right?
Before, she had tried mountain biking one time on her Giant and she did OK, but the combination of general purpose cheapo tires and a coaster brake + rear rim brake simply didn’t give her enough control. On a very mild descent leading into a mellow corner, she got going too fast and went straight off the trail. That was it, one and done. Until the Trailcraft…
With the Trailcraft, she had her first real mountain bike ride and killed it. Seriously, it really surprised me just how good she was on this bike. Not only did it seem to fit her perfectly, but the handling seems spot on for her speed. She was stoked on it, which means I was stoked, and we’ve been riding plenty since.
So you can compare, she’s seven years old, has exactly a 24″ inseam and is 54″ tall. She’s grown a bit since we got the bike, so she probably started riding it with slightly less than the recommended minimum inseam. I still have the seat set a little bit low so she can reach the ground easier, which means she’s not getting full leg extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke. We have raised it a few times since she started riding it, though.
At seven years old, she’s not thinking critically about why this bike is better or what she’s able to do with it that couldn’t be done on the coaster brake bike. But I can tell you that it’s given her far more confidence and enthusiasm for riding even if she’s unaware of her change in spirit. It’s also given her the confidence to go bigger, taking the new green trail all the way down Mountain Creek Bike Park in New Jersey (shown above).
Shimano’s brake levers are on the smaller side of things. That, plus the lever shape and adjustable reach, made them just right.
Because she only weighs about 60lbs, we’re able to run low tire pressures without much fear of flatting, so I haven’t set it up tubeless yet. It can be, just tape the rims and add sealant. It’s on my list of things to do. My biggest fear is that she’ll start skidding, which would leave about a dollar’s worth of rubber on the sidewalk each time – Schwalbe’s ain’t cheap! So, I feel bad that I’ve had to rob her of the joy of setting skid mark distance records, but that’s what we kept her old bike for.
Considering the investment a $1,699 kid’s bike is, we’ll be milking this thing for all we can over the next few years. My son’s 10 and just switched from 24″ to 26″, so I figure we’ve got at least three more years before she outgrows it (my kids are tall). The real question is, is it worth the money? Honestly, that’s only a question you can answer, but I can try to help by answering with a few questions. Would it get your child out on the trail more often? Would that help them build more confidence and better skills? Would that translate to more quality time together? If you come up with enough “yes” answers to justify it, the Trailcraft is worth a serious look even among higher quality entries finally surfacing from some of the big brands.