Mountain bikes for kids can range from $100 Walmart specials to $800 bike shop best-sellers, or $8,000+ mountain machines. That’s because a “mountain bike” serves different purposes for different riders.
The best kids mountain bike really depends on how and where your child plans on riding. Do they just want a cool, rugged-style bike for the neighborhood, or are they interested in tackling beginner dirt trails?
A $100 girls or boys mountain bike is not equipped or designed for trail riding, even if it has suspension! A high-quality $600 kids mountain bike, however, is overkill for a child riding mainly around the neighborhood.
As a result, we have grouped our best kids mountain bikes list into two categories – recreational mountain bikes, and true mountain bikes. This page will mainly address recreational mountain bikes.
Recreational Kids Mountain Bikes: Comparison Chart
When selecting a bike for your child, try to be generous with your budget. In general, the more you spend on a bike, the easier the bike will be for your child to ride, the less maintenance it will require, and the longer it will last.
Decent recreational mountain bikes typically start around $200. True mountain bikes with quality components start at about $600.
To help you get a good starting reference point, the chart below focused on 24″ bikes weights and MSRP, but almost all of these models are also available in a 20″ size.
|Basic Recreational Mountain Bikes
|Schwinn High Timber AL 7-speed
|Quality Recreational Mountain Bikes w/o Suspension Forks
|REI REV Plus
|Quality Recreational Mountain Bikes with Suspension Forks
|Polygon Premier MTB
|Trek Precaliber Suspension
|Entry Level True Mountain Bikes
|Polygon Premier 24 XC Evo
Boys vs. Girls Mountain Bikes
Mountain bikes for boys and girls on 20 and 24″ bikes are typically just differences in color. A few models on this list have differences in frame design with the top tube of the bike being lower on the girls model, but all other components are the same.
Quick Tips about Recreational Mountain Bikes:
- SIZE: Many parents mistakenly purchase the wrong size bike. 20″ bikes typically fit 6 to 8-year-olds, 24″ fit 9 to 11-year-olds. Using your child’s inseam is the best way to determine fit. Budget bikes are also typically larger than more expensive bikes.
- GEARS: While many cheaper bikes offer a lot of gears (up to 18 or 21), more gears are not better. Bikes with 6 to 8 gears are best. Bikes with more gears usually require 2 derailleurs (one for the front wheel and one for the rear), with a shifter for both the right and left hand. These are more challenging for kids to use, require more maintenance, and add unnecessary weight to a bike.
- WEIGHT OF BIKE: Be cautious of weight – some recreational mountain bikes can weigh up to 40 lbs! Shoot for a bike between 20 and 30 lbs. – the lighter the better.
- SUSPENSION FORKS: Suspension forks on recreational bikes are designed for casual riding only. They are not designed to take the beating from real trails but rather for basic dirt trails and small jumps around the neighborhood. They also tend to be very stiff and heavy. They can add up to 5+ lbs. of unnecessary weight, especially on low-end budget bikes.
- COST: Quality bikes that are durable enough to last several years without major maintenance start around $300 – $400. When possible, increasing your budget will save you a lot of hassle in potential maintenance, along with improved quality and overall performance of the bike.
- ASSEMBLY: Even if a budget bike comes assembled, we highly recommend taking it to a local bike shop to have it properly tuned. Brakes and derailleurs are notorious for needing a tune-up even when the bike is new.
- MAINTENANCE: To ensure the longevity of a geared bike, make sure your child doesn’t rest their bike down on the derailleur. Always place a bike on the ground with the derailleur (or chain side) up!
Budget Recreational Mountain Bikes
These bikes are typically sold at big-box stores or on Amazon. While they have a very family-friendly price tag, they are typically very difficult to maintain due to poor components and overall low quality of construction.
Weight is typically an issue as they can often weigh up to half of a child’s weight (close to 30% is recommended). For motivated riders who are willing to power through the “clunkiness” of these budget bikes, they work for around the neighborhood.
When possible, spending an extra $100 or $200 can get you a much better quality bike that is not only easier and more enjoyable for your child to ride, but will require much less maintenance.
A good looking 24″ budget option
SIZES AVAILABLE: 24″
WEIGHT: 36.4 lb.
GEARS/SHIFTER: 21-speed, Microshift dual grip shifters
SUSPENSION: Yes, but very stiff
Out of all the budget bikes we tested, the Scout is by far the best-looking bike in person. Its clean designs and color combinations really give off a true mountain bike vibe. But weighing in at an insanely high 36.4 lb., the Scout’s performance certainly doesn’t match its cool factor.
Although Huffy boasts about its Shimano components, this really doesn’t mean much. Its two derailleurs are entry-level Shimano while the shifters are not Shimano at all. The shifters worked well on the bike we tested, but they were a bit stiff and difficult to twist, making them best for kids who will only need to shift periodically.
The overall frame design of the Scout is better than the Roadmaster, so if your child can handle its extreme weight, it will offer a better riding experience than the Roadmaster.
Basic Recreational Mountain Bikes
These bikes are considerably better than the budget bikes listed above. While their components may be the same or only slightly better than the entry-level bikes, their overall quality of construction is improved.
From cleaner welds on the frame, more precise fitting components, and lighter weight construction, these bikes are worthy of their higher prices but certainly aren’t top-notch.
Schwinn High Timber Aluminum
Quality built frame with true decals instead of stickers
SIZES AVAILABLE: 24″ (boys and girls models)
GEARS/SHIFTER: 7 speed
SUSPENSION: Yes, but very stiff
The Schwinn High Timber aluminum is a great looking bike that offers easy to use 1x gearing (only one derailleur), wide knobby tires as well as a quality aluminum frame.
For more advanced riders, the High Timber is also available in a ALX model with mechanical disc brakes. While the brakes are an upgrade, the bike also has 21 gears, versus 7, which requires 2 derailleurs which are usually much more confusing for kids to use.
Quality Recreational Mountain Bikes
These quality bikes feature lightweight frames and are built with increased precision and better components. The brakes on these bikes are more responsive and take less effort to engage.
Wheels are built stronger and are less likely to bend or become out of true when riding down stairs or going over jumps. These bikes are also built with derailleur hangers to protect the bike’s frame, which makes fixing “broken gears” easier and cheaper.
If you’re looking for a solid quality bike that can take a beating from your ambitious rider and their siblings, these bikes should be your minimum starting point.
A quality, lightweight bike for paved and basic dirt riding
MSRP: $299 / $349
SIZES AVAILABLE: 20″ and 24″
WEIGHT: 20″ – 20.75 lb., 24″ – 23.1 lb.
GEARS/SHIFTER: 7 gears with Shimano Tourney grip shifter
The Polygon Ultralight is hands down the best kids’ bike you can get in its mid-tier price range. Built with a lightweight aluminum frame with a Shimano drivetrain, the Polygon’s quality of build is on par with many kids’ bikes found in bike shops. Lightweight and nimble and a great option for neighborhood cruisers or kids tackling longer paved bike trails.
How is Polygon able to keep their prices down? Polygon Bikes are one of the few bike companies that own their own manufacturing plant (out of Indonesia) and also sells consumer direct (via BikesDirect.com). Without several middlemen, Polygon can provide top-quality bikes with a lower price tag.
Available in 20″ and 24″ sizes and several options, the Ultralite is a great recreational mountain bike for boys and girls. Available with or without a suspension fork.
Nimble bike for neighborhood riders who love to catch air
MSRP: 20″ geared model – $329 ; 24″ models – $359, $389 (with suspension)
SIZES AVAILABLE: 20″ and 24″
WEIGHT: 20″ geared model – 24 lb.; 24″ models – 25 lb. / 26.5 lb. (with suspension)
GEARS/SHIFTER: 20″ geared model – 7-speed Shimano Tourney; 24″ models – 8-speed with Shimano Tourney
SUSPENSION: 20″ – Casual use fork with 35mm travel; 24″ – Causal use for with 45mm travel
FULL REVIEW: Trek Precaliber 24
Whether your little rider is convinced that a mountain bike MUST have a suspension fork, or they love doing bunny hops or wheelies around the neighborhood, the Trek Precaliber with suspension is an awesome option! Built with the look and feel of a true mountain bike, but with basic components to keep the cost down, the Precaliber is our favorite recreational mountain bike.
The Precaliber is available in 20″ and 24″ models, with and without suspension. The Precaliber 20″ without suspension is a single-speed model and also has a coaster brake. As a result, we don’t recommend it for riders who want some of the functionalities of a mountain bike. The 20″ model with suspension is geared and does not have a coaster brake.
The 24″ Precaliber models are essentially the same, except one model has a suspension fork and one doesn’t. The weight difference between the two is under 2 lbs., so unless you plan to only ride on paved surfaces, we recommended the suspension version.
REI Co-Op Cycles REV PLUS
Great geometry, mid-fat tire without a hefty price tag
MSRP: $379 / $439
SIZES AVAILABLE: 20″ and 24″
WEIGHT: 20″ – 24.5 lb.; 24″ – 28.2 lb.
BRAKES: Tektro mechanical disc brakes
GEARS/SHIFTER: 20″ – 6-speed Shimano Tourney; 24″ – 7-speed Shimano Tourney
SUSPENSION: None – but cushioning provided by plus size tires
FULL REVIEW: REI REV Plus 20 and 24
From its modern matte paint job to its cool, yet functional 2.6″ wide plus-size tires, the REV Plus performs as great as it looks. Designed for adventurous kids ready to tackle the neighborhood jungle, as well as basic dirt trails, the REV’s plus size tires provide plenty of traction as well as extra cushioning when traveling on uneven terrain or over jumps.
The Tektro mechanical disc brakes on the REV Plus provide extra stopping power for trail riding, but the grip shift (versus trigger shift) keep it from being a great option for true single track where quick and easy shifting is a necessity. (If you read our full review, we discuss how to upgrade this bike to make it more single track ready.)
As an added bonus, the REV Plus can be shipped to your local REI for assembly. Simply order the bike online and they will give you a call once it’s ready for action! Better yet, with REI’s hassle-free return policy, you won’t be up a creek if the Plus doesn’t end up being a great fit for your child.
Entry Level True Mountain Bikes
While many of the recreational bikes on this list are certainly capable of riding on basic dirt trails, we wouldn’t recommend purchasing them specifically for mountain biking. Based on our experience with our own kids, a true mountain bike needs powerful and reliable disc brakes and upgraded drivetrains paired with a responsive shifter. For more aggressive kids who need a suspension fork, the fork on these bikes are less for show, and all about performance.
Due to their expensive components (good suspension forks can easily cost hundreds of dollars), true mountain bikes for kids can range from $500 to $5,000 + dollars. For those who want a trail-worthy bike, but aren’t quite ready to buy a high-end two wheeled machine, here are our favorite entry-level true mountain bikes.
**For a complete rundown of our favorite trail-worthy bikes, be sure to check out our Best True Mountain Bikes for Kids article.**
Polygon Premier 24 XC Evo
Quality hydraulic disc brakes with comfortable XC Geo
SIZES AVAILABLE: 24″
WEIGHT: 28 lb.
BRAKES: Hydraulic Disc
GEARS/SHIFTER: 9 speed Microshift Advent Trigger
SUSPENSION: Suntour XCT w/ 80mm travel
With plenty of brawn to power through single track, but without the price tag to burn a hole through your wallet, the Polygon Premier 24 XC Evo is the perfect mix of value and performance.
With hydraulic disc brakes, a 1x drivetrain with kid-specific Microshift trigger shifters, and a comfortable and capable XC geometry, the Premier is phenomenally specced for its price.
Whether your kid is powering through single track trails or having contests over the latest neighborhood jump, the Premier will eagerly serve as their loyal steed. With 80mm of travel, the Premier XC Evo has plenty of travel basic to intermediate trails as well as hydraulic brakes with plenty of stopping power.
While the Premier XC Evo has similar components to higher-end bikes, the difference in price is noticeable in the weight. It weighs in at 28 lbs., almost 4 lbs. heavier than the Specialized. For trail riders tackling 500+ ft elevation gains, riding five or more miles, or taking on more challenging terrain, the weight savings on the Riprock will be worth the additional investment.
Modern geometry with plus-size tires and a suspension fork
SIZES AVAILABLE: 20″ and 24″
WEIGHT: 20″ – 22.6 lb., 24″ – 24.7 lb.
BRAKES: Hydraulic Disc Brakes
GEARS/SHIFTER: 9 speed Microshift Trigger
SUSPENSION: Only on $1,500 Riprock Expert, Manitou JUNIT 24, 100mm travel
Redesigned from top to bottom, the Specialized Riprock is a true mini shredder ready to guide adventurous kids down everything from flowy single track root-strewn chunky trails. With 9 gears with a wide gear range, easy to engage Microshift shifters and knobby Ground Control tires, the Riprock is a capable pony for mini groms.
For those looking to tackle chunky trails at speed, the Riprock Expert (only available in 24″), steps it up with a 100mm Manitou air fork and an 11 speed SRAM NX drivetrain.