Norco Samurai 16 vs. Commencal Ramones 16
Kelly from Haven Outdoors authored this review for Two Wheeling Tots. Kelly is an avid mountain biker and a father of four and certainly knows his way around bikes and kids.
As a certified grown-up old guy with four kids of my own, I thought it would be pretty easy to write up a simple review on a couple of bikes for 4 to 6-year old kids. However getting feedback on how a bike rides from your 5-year-old can be like asking your great grandma to explain how to restart her computer or getting a cat to learn how to sit, stay or beg. As I’ve watched my 5-year-old son ride these two bikes I’ve figured out how to pick out certain things just by watching him ride. Fairly quickly I have seen him start to play favorites of the two bikes. I’m not sure if some of that has to do with the fact that his cousin, uncle, brother and I all own Commencal bikes, if he actually feels better on it, or maybe he just likes the neon red color?
From looking at the numbers, I think I am beginning to see why he is more comfortable on the Commencal over the Norco. First off the Commencal is a bit lighter, at a weighed 17.3 lbs. vs. the Norco’s weight of 17.8 according to my scale at home. Also, the chain stays are shorter, the stand over height is lower, the reach is a bit longer, the bottom bracket sits lower and it has a wider stance (q-Factor). These are all ingredients that are being put into a lot of the modern trail bikes these days. Having ridden bikes with these features I can say for myself that all of these things add up to a bike that is very confidence inspiring, stable, snappy and overall easier to ride. Cruising the streets around the neighborhood this is not as apparent, but once he hits the single track this all becomes more apparent. The dirt trails he is riding are beginner to very intermediate level with rollers, small berms, and small rocks and roots. The shorter chain stays keep the bike snappy and aid in cornering and keeping the little 16-inch bike quite maneuverable. With a lower standover, low bottom bracket and wider stance he has more confidence keeping his center of gravity lower. I have noticed him open up with more speed on the downhill sections on the Commencal.
I have been able to get some feedback directly from my son as he has spent a bit more time on the bikes. I asked him why he likes the Commencal the best, and he said, “The seat is more comfortafuller” on the Commencal and “the brakes stop too good on the Norco.” This may be true as it looks like the saddle on the Norco is a bit longer. And as for the brakes on the Norco, they do feel like they have a bit more stopping power and the levers pull in a bit smoother. For tiny little hands, this is a plus. My opinion of the brakes on the Norco was that they had a better overall feel to them over the Commencal, but perhaps when you are five you don’t want to stop “too good.”
Another small detail I like about the Norco is that they have a quick release on the seat post where the Commencal does not. Commencal opted to put a quick release on the front tire instead. I would like a quick release on the wheel and the seat post, but if you are going only to have one, I think the seat post is the better choice.
Another difference between these bikes are the tires. The Commencal has a wider tire with a bit more volume. If your kid is going to be taking to the dirt at all, I think this is going to give them an advantage over the Norco. Lower the tire pressure a bit and the Commencal will have some added grip and a slight feel of suspension coming from the squish of the tires. (Commencal – 16 x 2.125, Norco – 16 x 1.95) I have noticed the bigger tires help him keep better traction out on the trails.
Both bikes are one-speed ponies, however the gear ratios are slightly different. The Commencal has a 32t sprocket up front and 16t in the rear. The Norco is set up with a 36t in the front and 16t in the rear. This means the Norco will have a faster top speed, but the Commencal will be easier to get started from a stop and allow your little one to climb a bit steeper hills. I see this being a plus for the Commencal again if you plan on taking your kid to the dirt. On the Norco he has had to get off and push his bike uphill several times, where he was able just to stand up out of the saddle and pedal up on the Commencal.
|Commencal Ramones vs. Norco Samuari/Mirage|
|Bike||MSRP||Weight (lb)||Seat Height||Brakes||Q Factor||Gain Ratio||Handlebar||Wheelbase||Purchase?||Notes|
|Commencal Ramones 14||$250||15.6||17.5 – 21.5″||Dual Hand||7.25″||3.5||Low||Online|
|Commencal Ramones 16||$250||17.8||20.5 – 24″||Dual Hand||7.25″||3.56||Low||700||Online|
|Norco Samuari/ Mirage||$265||17.8||20.25 – 22″||Dual Hand||6.25″||3.9||Low||710||Bike Shop|
Bottom Line: Both bikes are going to give your child a much better experience than buying a bike from a department store. They are going to last through multiple children and will have a better resale value when your kids grow out of them. If it came down to picking one over the other I would go with the Commencal because of the geometry, gearing and tires. This is because we do a lot our riding in the dirt. If your child is going to be doing most of their riding on pavement and flatter areas I think the Norco could be the winner due to the higher gear ratio and narrower tires. However, note the Norco will still outperform a department store bike on the street or out on the trail.
Where to Purchase: The Ramones Commencal is available from Chain Reaction Cycles. For shorter/younger riders, the Ramones is also offered in a 14″ model. The Norco can be picked up from your local Norco dealer for $259. Few shops carry it in stock and it will likely have to be ordered. The Norco is also available in a light blue, named the “Mirage” (their girl version).