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  1. #1
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    Plug for Norco Charger 2.1

    A little over a year ago I bought a certain boutique kids bike for my 5y/o MainMan and, while the bike is great now, it took us a lot of emails, phone calls, and wrenching to get there. The manufacturer was great but the experience was not.

    When it was time to buy a MTB for 4y/o LadyGirl I decided to try to save a little money overall and I bought a Norco Charger 2.1 for about $700 out the door from my LBS. I knew I was going to change out some parts, and decided to use a bunch of BMX race parts to lighten up the bike.

    The Charger comes with 127mm cranks, which are way too long for LadyGirl, and a direct mount chainring. I decided on some 100mm Von Sothen Racing cranks (square taper BB really helps out here!) and a 104BCD 4 bolt spider. I also added a Race Face 30t chainring. These changes only required minimal chainline adjustment and allowed us to girl-up the bike a bit.

    The next change was a pair of plastic DMR pedals to replace the heavy metal factory pedals. These add grip, remove weight, and increase the girl factor about 5%.

    Since the bars were too wide for her, we shortened them to just outside her shoulder width to help with control and posture.

    Next we decided to replace the 130mm single clamp grips with some pink slip on ODI grips that I trimmed to about 100mm. Girl factor increased 10%.

    The last upgrade, which is necessary since we do some muddy riding on the East Coast, was a front fender. We went with the Mucky Nutz with, of course, pink trim. Add 5% girliness.

    So, all said and done, we’ve got a solid 20” hard tail with usable front suspension fork for under $900. And here’s the kicker: the boutique 20” for MainMan is 23.6 lbs (with a little bit of mud, to be fair). The Norco is 21.3 lbs after the upgrades!!!

    The only thing we may still do is replace the saddle with a pivotal saddle and post, which should lower the seat height by about an inch. We’ll see if she still needs it this spring. We could drop some more weight with a lighter BB, shorter stem, and going tubeless, but...that's for later.

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  2. #2
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    Nice! 2lbs of weight savings is huge on a kids bike. You will probably save 1/2lbs or more with a light bb as well. I just set up little dudes bike tubeless. No different than on a big bike and the weight savings, especially rotational, is meaningful.

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  3. #3
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    Yeah I gotta figure out the correct spindle length and then will probably go with a Helium BB. My kids run them on all of their BMX bikes and I’m thinking they’d be perfect for a kid’s MTB.

    Honestly I’m tempted to do the same on my son’s bike but it would require a change in crankset too. His bike came with 105mm 2 piece direct drive cranks so I didn’t bother changing anything. But, some 110 VSR cranks, race face chain ring, and Helium BB would drop about a pound.

    Then again, the dog house is kind of cold this time of year...

  4. #4
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    I hear that! I put Turn3s on the current build. A little less $ than vsr. Helium bbs are great. Unfortunately they dont make one wide enough to allow the cranks to clear the chain stays on the flow frame so we are running an off brand 119mm time bb. Still had to bevel the ends of the crank arms to clear. We have 103mm bbs on the bmx race bikes.

    I need to get a scale, I dont know what the current mtb build weighs. Guessing 19lbs or so.

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  5. #5
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    19 lbs on the Flow? Did you get the carbon options, or are you still on 16” wheels?

    MainMan’s Flow is over 23 lbs. I’m really interested to know where you shed over 3 lbs.

  6. #6
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    My guessing could be wrong! I built it up myself. Stans Crest 24" front rim, mischief 20" rear, ti spokes, dt 240s hubs, x01dh 7spd drivetrain, magura carbon trail brakes, and a rigid carbon fork.


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  7. #7
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    Nice!!! I bet most of it is in the forks. Do you guys race at NOVA? We’re out of Chesapeake but race at NOVA sometimes.

  8. #8
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    Thanks! I used to race around NoVA, wv, and Pa, but live in Colorado now and haven't raced for several years. Our house is a few hundred yards from a great my trail though so we are getting lots of riding in!

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  9. #9
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    Great write-up. I had very similar thoughts on the Charger 2.1 and am going a similar route. It's one of the few options that comes stock with hydraulic disc brakes. That was very high on my priority list because I think confidence in braking is a limitation on my kiddo's current 16" bike. She will hit skinnies and tiny drops, but doesn't like even moderately steep terrain because of the lack of speed control.

    My kiddo is less than 45lbs, so every bit of weight savings helps at this point. I'm starting with a used Charger and will be swapping in a rigid carbon fork for the first few months. The plan is to put the Grind fork back on and add some meatier tires when summer riding rolls around.

  10. #10
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    Just weighed the 24/20" Flow mixer. 16.18 lbs!

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  11. #11
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    Yeah the new Prevelo 16" has disk brakes and a 67degree HTA, a tough longer and heavier tho. I'm always torn on that. My newly minted 4yo is on a Spawn Yoji with rim brakes. The bike is 13lbs, short dirt jumper geo kind of thing. Its basically a trail BMX hybrid with meaty tires. The rim brakes and steep HTA give me pause to doing any significant DH stuff.

    That being said, I don't think actual MTB serves young kids very well at this age. I think the more BMX-y skills are MUCH more valuable that being able to roll down the mountain (usually sitting). So body positioning, cornering, jumping/wheel lifts, small drops, and certainly all and only standing and pedaling. We do all this but also some very light DH once in a while too. To get comfortable with DH slopes, we find some steep but smooth slopes on a big drop line. Big brother runs the drops, little brother just rolls down the slope and I push him back up. We get to session it a bunch. He gets comfy with the steep slope and we get to work on a tucked attack position and braking. Each time he goes a bit faster and faster. Rim brakes do fine for all of that, tho I wouldn't want to do something really long with tight corners on his rim brakes. They do have limitations with little hands.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikePilot1 View Post
    Just weighed the 24/20" Flow mixer. 16.18 lbs!

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    Thats pretty sweet!!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spillway View Post
    Great write-up. I had very similar thoughts on the Charger 2.1 and am going a similar route. It's one of the few options that comes stock with hydraulic disc brakes. That was very high on my priority list because I think confidence in braking is a limitation on my kiddo's current 16" bike. She will hit skinnies and tiny drops, but doesn't like even moderately steep terrain because of the lack of speed control.

    My kiddo is less than 45lbs, so every bit of weight savings helps at this point. I'm starting with a used Charger and will be swapping in a rigid carbon fork for the first few months. The plan is to put the Grind fork back on and add some meatier tires when summer riding rolls around.
    Thank you. I've benefitted from stuff like this when building BMX race bikes for my kids so any time we can share information I know someone out there will benefit from it. Given the price difference I wish I started with the Charger for my son but at the time I needed a 16" option and the ability to grow it to a 20". There were some sacrifices there and if he didn't LOVE his current MTB I would trade it away in a second.

    You'll have good luck with the Charger for your girl, and using the rigid fork will save a metric ton based on BikePilot1's information.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikePilot1 View Post
    Just weighed the 24/20" Flow mixer. 16.18 lbs!

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    That's awesome. My son's first BMX race bike (micro mini) weighed that much before I learned how to make it fit him. He shreds on his 23lbs MTB at almost 6 y/o and 42 lbs, but I can imagine he'd have a lot more fun on a lighter bike.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by svinyard View Post
    That being said, I don't think actual MTB serves young kids very well at this age. I think the more BMX-y skills are MUCH more valuable that being able to roll down the mountain (usually sitting). So body positioning, cornering, jumping/wheel lifts, small drops, and certainly all and only standing and pedaling. We do all this but also some very light DH once in a while too. To get comfortable with DH slopes, we find some steep but smooth slopes on a big drop line. Big brother runs the drops, little brother just rolls down the slope and I push him back up. We get to session it a bunch. He gets comfy with the steep slope and we get to work on a tucked attack position and braking. Each time he goes a bit faster and faster. Rim brakes do fine for all of that, tho I wouldn't want to do something really long with tight corners on his rim brakes. They do have limitations with little hands.
    I agree with you on the skills portion, My son has been racing BMX for two full seasons now, riding freestyle parks, and is developing some solid bike handling skills. He can handle small drops, some techy downhill, and rides faster that I am comfortable watching sometimes.

    But on the age part I think there are plenty of kids that are age 5 and are ready for a MTB. My son rides places that will not allow rigid forks or rim brakes and I would consider him an average, middle of the pack rider for the kids that he rides with. He and his buddies are like little celebrities on the trails and downhill parks that we ride, but I'm sure there are 5 year olds out west that can school him.

    We started out with the 16" option for his current bike but quickly learned that the smaller tires hindered him on the trails more than they helped. He had to adjust to the higher standover if he wanted to be able to ride where he was riding, and he did just fine.

    He would, however, benefit from a lighter bike for climbing. Right now he does the best that he can and we use a Tow-Whee for the climbs that are too long or too steep for him. I'm not sure I can tow two of them, though, so hopefully he gets stronger before my daughter hits the trails this spring!

    In the end I think the most important thing is keeping them interested and allowing them to progress as their individual skills develop. My son hasn't won a BMX race in a while and is losing interest but he still loves to ride skate parks and MTB trails, so that's what we'll do. When he changes his mind, we'll adapt. The important thing is to have the best tools that we can provide available to them.

  16. #16
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    That makes sense. We've also been racing bmx for a year+ now (little dude is 4). We live on a killer mtb loop so we ride that a bunch now. It's steep, rocky and techy with something like 2k' elevation change. We haven't done DH parks yet (I have just not the kid yet) but likely will next summer.

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