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  1. #1
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    Mountain Bike vs BMX (for 6y/o)

    So my boy will be turning 6 at the end of the month. He's been riding a 16" steel bike that we got for free from a co-worker. He's a very good rider. But he's still challenged with going up some of the hills in our neighborhood and on parts of the trail loop we go on.

    I'd like to do more riding together and take him out onto some of the single track that's nearby as well.

    He's about 43" tall and 44lbs.

    My first thought is for a lightweight mini bmx (20" @ 16lbs). Maybe look for shorter cranks and different cogs to give him a lowering gearing for the type of riding we'll be doing. Swap in some fatter knobbies and we should be good to go.

    But my LBS is 50/50 on possibly going geared with front suspension fork. Easy to learn and supposedly allow him to climb hills and go over some bumps in the trail.

    I grew up riding a bmx bike (no racing) just as basic transportation from age 8 to high school. So I don't know what it is like for a small kid to ride a mtn bike vs a bmx.

    I figure he can get into a nice mtn bike when he's old enough to know the difference. But am I selling him short? Thoughts? Experiences?

  2. #2
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    Hm, 5 days, 49 views and no response.

    Well, I visited another LBS to take a look at some bikes and to size up my son.

    So I had him sit on and ride a Redline Raid around the shop. The bars can be raked back a touch, but his arms have a slight bend in it and the reach to the pedals is fine. But at 24-ish lbs, not quite what I was looking for.

    The Proline Mini seems like a good fit. Rated for 44" to 54", my son fits right at the begining of the size rating. Should be good for 2-3yrs (How much do boys grow from 6-8y/o?)

    In any case, the Mini is 16lbs. I can have the bike shop swap the 14T rear cog for a 16T to get the gearing down a bit. Also swap out the 1-1/8" tires for maybe a 1.75" in front and 1.5" in the rear to help soak up some of the bumps. The cranks are 145mm or 5.7" (vs the 16" pitboss with 140mm cranks) so not too long of a crank length. But still allow him gearing to climb hills.

    Then when he outgrows the Mini, hopefully he'll be strong enough to move to a full size mountain bike 13" frame and have the stamina to go on longer trail rides.

    So the thought goes...

  3. #3
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    What does he want to really do with the bike? Go on trails? Catch air on jumps? Go very fast? If he just wants to go on trails a bmx would probably work but if he wants to do jumps he would have softer landings if he had a suspension bike. Dont take my word seriously...Hopefully someone else can come on and post.

  4. #4
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    Your 6 year old is not going to get any air on a BMX bike. It just ain't gonna happen. I raced BMX for years and don't recall any air in kids 10 and under. Maybe some in 9year old boys. Now if he wants to literally race on a bmx track then BMX is great. Gets him arond other kids his age and you can get a top of the line BMX bike for cheap.

    But moutain biking with kids is fun. My buddy has two daughters (7 and 9 but started from 6 and8) that ride mountain bikes. If we get a BMX track nearbye he plans to get them two BMX bikes also.

    Anyways some pics...
    Youngest on a Gary Fisher. To her this thing was like riding a single speed. I tried it's granny gear once and it felt like 1/4 on my bike. She got a new Specialized for Christmas and is freaking amazing fast now.


    Here is the oldest on her old specialized.

    new bike


    And some video (With me crashing for an added bonus)!!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSBgtJA5S7I


    We'll also be taking them Kayaking this spring. Plus they ride ATVs. My buddy keeps them very active and they are the two most well mannered pre-teens I have ever met. Though the oldest is starting to get some teen-angst.
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  5. #5
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    So he's turning 6 at the end of the month. I don't know that he "likes" to do any one particular thing.

    He likes to ride off the curb.
    He likes riding into the garage and slamming on his brakes and powersliding...until he hit the back wall and he doesn't like doing that as much anymore.

    He likes riding full speed and leaning into a turn to get away from dad and then high siding on his pedals.

    So in short, he likes to ride with dad and he likes going fast some times and he hates pushing his bike up hills.

    Well I recall in 4th and 5th grade, we used to ride out to where some dirt jumps were and we used to see who can jump the highest or the farthest or who can get their bikes crossed up the most. So that will eventually come.

    I just need to get him something that won't discourage him not to ride because he can't climb a hill.

  6. #6
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    The lightweight bmx seemed to be something that would challenge his riding skills while allowing him to get over some of the hills in the area.

    I'd rather not get a squishy mtn bike with suspension until he's built up his base skills and he just needs it to go on longer rides.

  7. #7
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    I've been looking for one for my boy. He's 9 but looks like 7. Probably weighs the same as the OP's kid. Well, I found and older 20" Trek on CList and might pick that up fro him. It is geared so I think it will help him out a lot. He's been riding a 16" lead bike with massive 2.5" tires.
    The 20" geared mtb bikes I've looked at has the front suspension, but they might as well be rigid as the weight of the kid is not enough to compress it on any bumps.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by the-one1
    I've been looking for one for my boy. He's 9 but looks like 7. Probably weighs the same as the OP's kid. Well, I found and older 20" Trek on CList and might pick that up fro him. It is geared so I think it will help him out a lot. He's been riding a 16" lead bike with massive 2.5" tires.
    The 20" geared mtb bikes I've looked at has the front suspension, but they might as well be rigid as the weight of the kid is not enough to compress it on any bumps.
    In general, I think kids are pretty resilient and they can adapt to anything. So mountain or bmx, they'll ride whatever and however they can. And especially from CG, always a great way to go.

    But having grown up riding since kindergarten myself, I have a slight lean towards a quality bmx. I also like simplicity.

    For example, am I spending extra money on suspension forks? That basically do nothing because the spring rate is too high? w/o good damping, is it even worth having the suspension fork?

    Since money went into throwing a "fancy" fork on the bike, is it detracting from the quality of the brakes?

    I think a 1x6 or 1x8 drivetrain would come in handy to adjust to the varying terrain. And I can see the value in that.

    BUT, I think at age 9, my son would have the maturity and skill level to ride pretty well. Or pick it up rather quickly. Then the mountain bike would allow him the extra tools or comfort to go on longer rides. Then I'd be tempted to strip my wife's 13" Specialized Rockhopper and build it back up to fit my son with a modern air fork that can have the preload adjusted for his weight. (The original fork did nothing for my wife at the time since she only weighed 100# anyway.)

    Also by age 9, I suppose what his friends ride may also dictate the type of bike he gets. If all the friends are on bmx, then probably matching similar style bikes would help him. Or if all his rides are with you, then a mountain bike would be more appropriate?

    ...again, at age 6, he's got a ways to go before he has enough stamina to go on anything more than a liesurely 3 mile ride or just buzzing around the neighborhood...
    Last edited by traffic002; 02-10-2009 at 07:40 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by smittie61984
    Your 6 year old is not going to get any air on a BMX bike. It just ain't gonna happen. I raced BMX for years and don't recall any air in kids 10 and under. Maybe some in 9year old boys. Now if he wants to literally race on a bmx track then BMX is great. Gets him arond other kids his age and you can get a top of the line BMX bike for cheap.

    But moutain biking with kids is fun. My buddy has two daughters (7 and 9 but started from 6 and8) that ride mountain bikes. If we get a BMX track nearbye he plans to get them two BMX bikes also.

    Anyways some pics...
    Youngest on a Gary Fisher. To her this thing was like riding a single speed. I tried it's granny gear once and it felt like 1/4 on my bike. She got a new Specialized for Christmas and is freaking amazing fast now.

    We'll also be taking them Kayaking this spring. Plus they ride ATVs. My buddy keeps them very active and they are the two most well mannered pre-teens I have ever met. Though the oldest is starting to get some teen-angst.
    Wow, lots of quality family time. That is so awesome!

  10. #10
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    My take:
    Your son doesn't need gears. Most of the "mountain" bikes that fit small kids will end up weighing almost as much as your bike. So unless you've got tons of disposable income, get a bmx bike that fits fairly well but that he'll still be able to ride next year.

    My experience: My son just turned 6 as well, and is slightly larger than yours (~50", 50lbs). He's riding a hand-me-down mongoose 20" now, probably weighs about 20lbs. He does fine on most rides. My daughter (7 1/2) just upgraded to a 24" mtn bike (also a hand-me-down, weighs as much as my Blur) and I really don't think it was a good idea. I'm scouting out options for similar sized, lightweight bikes for her to replace it. My youngest (4) is almost as big as his brother, probably about the same size as your son, and really enjoys his 16" bike.

  11. #11
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    So here is a comparable bmx vs mountain bike. Well, a very nice bmx and a good mountain bike. There are cheaper BMX like the Redline Raid, but I feel like they don't have the lightness to offset the single speed etc. The pitboss is light, but it's a 16" bike that can fit bigger kids. I like the idea of a 20" to help roll over small obstacles.

    Redline Proline Mini ($350 ordered from local LBS)


    Specialized Hotrock ($290 from another local LBS)


    The price point is $60 apart. Significant in that you can guy a no-name whatever bike on CG for under $50. But not terrible if that $60 facilitates getting out and riding more.

    BMX has lightweight (16#) and gearing and cranks for "powerstrokes". But less "comfortable" for long distance cruising.

    Mountain bike weighs closer to 24#. Has gears to offset the weight climbing. Looks like dad's bike. Maybe more comfy on longer rides. Can't accelerate like the bmx. Has front and rear V-brakes vs just the rear of the bmx.

  12. #12
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    A 20" bike will suit your son better than a 26" bike - he'll "sit on" the 20"er vs "sitting in" the 26"er. Additionally, put the weight into perspective - the 20"er weighs 16lbs, the 26"er weighs 24lbs - the former is 1/3 your son's weight vs the latter at over 1/2 his weight.

    Put the huge cranks and sprocket away for days at the BMX track/jump-park. Put a shorter set of cranks and a smaller gear up front. Consider a wider set of tires and maybe a front brake too. Finally, and I'm sure you realize this, kids grow like weeds! Buy one size up; this may get you the wider tires and front brake, the seat can be dropped all the way down and he'll be able to ride the bike for probably the next four years minimum. At least in this four-year period, he'll develop the muscles and weight needed for "true" mountain biking and a 26"er will fit properly by then.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by emptybe_er
    A 20" bike will suit your son better than a 26" bike - he'll "sit on" the 20"er vs "sitting in" the 26"er. Additionally, put the weight into perspective - the 20"er weighs 16lbs, the 26"er weighs 24lbs - the former is 1/3 your son's weight vs the latter at over 1/2 his weight.

    Put the huge cranks and sprocket away for days at the BMX track/jump-park. Put a shorter set of cranks and a smaller gear up front. Consider a wider set of tires and maybe a front brake too. Finally, and I'm sure you realize this, kids grow like weeds! Buy one size up; this may get you the wider tires and front brake, the seat can be dropped all the way down and he'll be able to ride the bike for probably the next four years minimum. At least in this four-year period, he'll develop the muscles and weight needed for "true" mountain biking and a 26"er will fit properly by then.
    Agreed. I will have to investigate a low cost shorter crank+smaller front sprocket that would work well. Thought about the front brake, but apparently only fit the cheesy, no power-having, single point mount brakes. Why bother?

    Yes, 1.75" tires for front and maybe 1.5" tires for rear.

    He's at the start of the fit range and can ride till he grows a foot. So maybe 2 years? Then I can hold the bike until his younger sister fits. Then sell it on CG.

  14. #14
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    ...Having my oldest boy start riding properly has me in the same position...he is riding his little Mongoose BMX he started on, sans training wheels now of course...he has his eye on a GT Stomper 20"...I would have bought it for him but he looks just a little too small to be fully in control...I decided to wait 'til he was 'all over' his BMX before sending him out on something that will take more concentration...I agree with emptybe_er about weight too, too light and a bikes suspension might just chuck a child off...Luckily we have 2 acres and have built a track for the boys to practice on...some humps and small drop-offs to get skills and balance up...

  15. #15
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    I walked into another LBS yesterday. Saw a Norco and a Scott.

    The Norco forks appeared to be strictly for show. It was stiffer than the fork on my bike. So it's just dead weight. The Scott actually had forks that compressed easily and had some damping. Looked like it was tuned a bit more for lighter riders. The rear was a bit stiff. But maybe that's best for having just a spring and no apparent damping in the rear. In any case, what do you need 21 speed for?

    I'm gonna have to call to find out what 130mm cranks go for. Looking through the redline catalogue, the crank arms can be bought separately??

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by smittie61984
    Your 6 year old is not going to get any air on a BMX bike. It just ain't gonna happen. I raced BMX for years and don't recall any air in kids 10 and under. Maybe some in 9year old boys
    Dunno about that? perhaps they are riding bikes too big for them?

    My son has been doing bunny hops for a year or more now on his 16" steel bike, been doing some well controlled wheel stands, and has just started to cross up the back wheel a bit when he gets air off the jumps. He calls them "tail whips" but I thought that meant you have to bring it straight again before landing? No need to be too pedantic when talking to a 5 year old though. He is a good rider, but not the best around, I have seen fearless kids from 5 to 8 years old doing big jumps down at the skate bowl.

    We are thinking about BMX vs MTB for his next bike, probably next Xmas so awhile away yet. He loves to ride the trails with us, but he likes the skate bowl also, makes it difficult to decide as each would be limiting. but I don't think we would want to get him 2 bikes at such a young age. Oh well more time to decide.
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  17. #17
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    Traffic002 I also have a 6 year old who has been on trail rides with me on his 16" steel bike. It was getting too small for him so we went around beftore christmas to look for a BMX. The LBS had the redline raids and that is what I though he would like. Well there was a used 20" marin hidden canyon in there. It was in great shape. My little guy tooled around on it in the parking lot. I was amazed that he could shift the gears the way he was. We ended up going back a few days later and he bought the bike with the money he had saved up.

    Since he has owned it we have been on quite a few rides. He uses the gears. I think the fork is more for show, but he thinks it is cool. And the poster that said six year olds don't get air....BS! He hits table tops and step downs. each time he is getting more and more air. Not tons... yet, but he is getting air.

    I thought the BMX was the way to go, but now I am convinced the small MTB was the right choice. FWIW the marin is a small aluminum frame MTB. Very light bike.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by rekibtm; 02-17-2009 at 06:46 AM.
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  18. #18
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    I have had my kids on BMX bikes since the start. They are simple and durable and light. I rode and raced BMX when I was young and remember riding dirtbike trails and anything with dirt and bumps. The singlespeed and rigid will make them think about the picking the right path and not worry about what gear they are in.

    The Pitboss is a really good bike but on the small side - my oldest son rode it unil 7 then I painted the frame pink for my daughter. My 3 year old will get it next and when he is done I'm sure I can sell it on ebay for not much less than I paid for it (from the prices I've seen). I believe good bikes cost a bit at first but can be handed down and then sold without loosing much.

    That Redline Proline looks nice but I'd also give a look at Mirra's line of kids bikes. They seem to really be thinking of the younger rider espeicaly with the 2009 lineup. Not sure what the TT lenght of the proline is but if it's around 18" he should be able to fit on one of these:

    http://mirrabikeco.com/project_18.html

    http://mirrabikeco.com/black_pearl_18.html

    I am not sure what those Mirra's run retail tho.







  19. #19
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    rekibtm,

    Thanks for sharing. I have no doubt that my son will eventually like to ride with his old man on a mtn bike (before he decides he rather NOT ride with his old man...) But he's got a healthy dose of fear. So I'm going to try to make things simple for him.

    We just went on another ride yesterday. Maybe he was feeling a bit sick, or he needed a nap, but he just couldn't muster the strength to climb a hill. I don't think it's all his fault. His 30lb bike that has super short cranks just make it so hard for him. I did adjust his seat to make things fit better for pedaling (used to be down so he can touch the ground, but raised it for more efficient pedaling.)

    I'm sure the freewheel is something he's gotta get used to. As well as using his hand brakes now. His current hand brake is purely for looks it seems.

    defconfour,

    The Redline Proline Mini has a 17.8" TT. It's got 20" wheels and 145mm cranks. The Mirra 18" you pointed out have 18" TT, 18" wheels and 160mm cranks. I'm not sure how the ratios for the front and rear sprockets calc out (25/9 & 33/13). The Redline comes with 36/14 I believe. (Gonna see about picking up a 16t for the rear.)

    But the Mini seems to have the larger rim, but shorter cranks and slightly shorter top tube.

    I will see if there are any LBS that carries the line though.

    --Paul

  20. #20
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    traffic002 It is in my opinion...

    Please forgive any redundancy.

    I was on a 20" BMX/freestyle bike until I was 17. I went everywhere on it. I do mean everywhere, all day long, w/ 44/16 gearing and 170 mm cranks.

    My brother had a mountain bike and we started to take some long rides...I quickly saw the advantage of gears.

    As you see in other forums, different bikes for different purposes. Maybe a new montain bike, and used BMX for jumping? I think most boys, sooner of later, will want to jump their bikes.

    When you're young, you're resilient. The excitement of a BMX may offset lack of gears, unless If you want him to go on long (all day) rides with geared bikes, he should have gears too.
    "I can only assume chan slap is what happens when you get assaulted by Jackie Chan. I don't think anybody can prevent that."

  21. #21
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    Paul-

    The formula to get gear inches is:

    Front Chainwheel/rear cog*wheel size

    44/16 is main gear for 20" race and what most ran BITD.

    44/16*20=55

    RedLine Proline
    36/14*20=51.4

    Mirra
    25/9*18=50

    2:1 ratio on 26" SS - works well for some depending on how strong the person is and how steep the local trails are.
    34/17*26=52

    If you are looking to take him more off road that RedLine might be the better as it has the taller wheels. It's going to be nice and light for him too. As he gets older you can get a longer stem/taller bars and raise the set.

    I got a used Mongoose mini for my oldest when he was around 6 or 7. I think the TT was too long as he seemed stretched out on it - I cannot remember the length. I didn't look too great when he was on it. He also didn't like the skinny tires. But he could go really fast on that bike and a the Proline mini from Redline looks way better.

  22. #22
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    If you have steep climbs and/or wanting to ride trails then I highly sugest a real mtn bike with a full set of gears. Where I live evenything is steep and kids on single speed BMX bikes end up doing a lot of walking.

  23. #23
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    Looks like if I put a 16T rear cog on there, it'll drop the gearing a bit.

    Looking online, the Proline Mini comes with a 37T front. So that is 52.9" With a 16T rear, it drops down to 46.3". Hopefully with the longer cranks than his current 16" bike, he should be able to get out of the saddle and pound up a short hill.

    I'm sure the real mtn bike will provide him the tools for longer rides. But that's not my main goal right now. I want him to learn on a single speed and work on his basics. I'll put fatter knobbies on to help soak up some of the bumps and just let him rip around. He'll have a nicer bike than anyone else in the neighborhood anyway.

    I remember when I was in 4th grade, I challenged this younger kid to a race around the block. I was on a standard steel bmx bike I got from Sears. I was pretty strong since my bike were my legs and I went everywhere on it. But I got my butt kicked by him and his little mini race bike. Those longer cranks go a long way into multiplying the power for sure. And with less weight to push up the hill, I couldn't touch him on the climb. Cost me my pride and two bags of Whoppers.

    My only mountain bike is a hardtail. I keep up with most guys on FS bikes on group rides. There'll come a point in the Spring where I can't keep up anymore as the trail gets dryer. So I know that there is a point where you do need to pick up some technology. There will be a time when he'll switch to a mountain bike.

  24. #24
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    My 7 yr old demanded, when he was 6, a bike w/ gears and handbrakes. I dug up a 20" Raleigh Rowdy which met the criteria. He shifted for a while and then gave up, he doesn't shift any more. He occasionally complains the suspension doesn't do anything for him when he rides off a curb. I don't know if it's 'cause he's <50#, or a it's a crappy suspension, or both. Whatever, he survives. His shifting rebellion continues, and he felt like a he got out of shape (his diagnosis) over winter break from school so I shifted it to the bottom gear and he's been happy ever since. Nice to have a bottom gear to shift to anyway. And he goes up the big hill back from downtown about as fast as his mom does at least when her bike is loaded way down. Occasionally I suggest to him, on a hill or even a flat, that he shift it up and he doesn't but we always get where we're going.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg
    My 7 yr old demanded, when he was 6, a bike w/ gears and handbrakes. I dug up a 20" Raleigh Rowdy which met the criteria. He shifted for a while and then gave up, he doesn't shift any more. He occasionally complains the suspension doesn't do anything for him when he rides off a curb. I don't know if it's 'cause he's <50#, or a it's a crappy suspension, or both. Whatever, he survives. His shifting rebellion continues, and he felt like a he got out of shape (his diagnosis) over winter break from school so I shifted it to the bottom gear and he's been happy ever since. Nice to have a bottom gear to shift to anyway. And he goes up the big hill back from downtown about as fast as his mom does at least when her bike is loaded way down. Occasionally I suggest to him, on a hill or even a flat, that he shift it up and he doesn't but we always get where we're going.

    I found that shifters with the numbers on them made the whole concept of gears much easier for my son to learn. He could easily know what gear he was in by reading the left (front) number followed by the right (rear) number. If a steep rocky hill was coming, I'd tell him to shift to gear 11 or 12. In a flat section of trail, I'd recomend gear 24 or 25. I never really recomend him to use the big ring (30's) but sometimes he goes there when he wants to crank it up to top speed. He's also stuborn about droping down to the granny on hills. He just wants to be the first to the top.

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