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Best Kids Mountain Bikes for Recreational Use

Mountain bikes for kids can range from $100 Walmart specials to $400 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.

side by side image of a boy on a 24 inch recreational kids mountain bike, and another boy on a true kids mountain bike

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.

To see our favorite hardtail mountain bikes for developing kid shredders, head over to our Best Kids Front Suspension Mountain Bikes article.

Kids Mountain Bike Categories

Recreational Mountain Bikes

Best for kids who want to the look of a mountain bike, but don’t need the high-end components.  Riding mainly around the neighborhood, including basic dirt paths. Cost – $100 – $500.

True Mountain Bikes

For kids tackling technical trails that include uneven terrain with significant changes in elevation. Cost – $500+.

View our Best Kids Hardtail Mountain Bikes list

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 $500.

Bike24" Weight# Gears20" MSRP24" MSRP

Budget Recreational Mountain Bikes

Roadmaster Granite Peak Boys~27 lb.18$98
Roadmaster Granite Peak Girls~30 lb.18$98
Huffy Scout36.4 lb.21$148
Diamondback Cobra32.5 lb.21$159$199

Basic Recreational Mountain Bikes

Bikes Direct Nugget29.3 lb.7$199$219
Schwinn Ranger Girls30 lb.21$249

Quality Recreational Mountain Bikes

Raleigh Rowdy22.1 lb.7$290$330
Trek Precaliber Suspension26.58$329$379
REI REV Plus28.2 lb.7$339$379
Raleigh Tokul26.5 lb.7$400
Specialized Hotrock7$450$500

Entry Level True Mountain Bikes

Vitus Plus25.5 lb.7$339$449
Cannondale Trail25.6 lb.8$450$525
Trek Roscoe25.6 lb.8$449$499
Specialized Riprock8$520$580

Boys vs. Girls Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes for boys and girls on 20 and 24 inch 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.

side by side comparison of the schwinn ranger boys mountain bike and the schwinn ranger girls mountain bike

RECREATIONAL 20 AND 24 INCH MOUNTAIN BIKES

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.

Roadmaster Granite Peak Boys and Girls

Cheap, but problematic

stock image of a black Roadmaster Granite Peak Boys mountain bike

MSRP: $95+

SIZES AVAILABLE: 24 inch

WEIGHT: Girls model – ~27 lb., Boys model – ~30 lb.

GEARS/SHIFTER: 21-speed, dual grip shifters

SUSPENSION: Yes, but very stiff

We get the appeal of a $100 bike for a kid. But just about every component on the Roadmaster Granite Peak is as basic as it gets, and it shows. From brakes that never quite work right to handlebars that always seem to be misaligned, the Roadmaster is a true budget bike. What you save in dollars, you also sacrifice in riding experience and maintenance hassles later on.

The frame design of the 24″ Roadmaster is particularly problematic. Several parent reviews have commented that their child’s foot hits the front tire of the bike during a turn. The taller the child is on the bike, the more drastic the issue.

This problem could be caused by the front fork being installed backwards on a bike by an inexperienced employee. But with many budget bikes (this issue appears on several of the bikes on this page), it’s due to an improper frame, fork, and crank arm combination that places the pedal too close to the wheel.

Another concern with the Roadmaster is its two derailleurs (the shifting mechanisms on the front and rear wheels). Considering derailleurs are the most finicky part of a bike, two low-quality derailleurs are sure to require a lot of maintenance and produce choppy shifting.

Huffy Scout

A good looking 24″ budget option

stock image of a gray huffy scout 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $148

SIZES AVAILABLE: 24 inch

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 it 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.

Diamondback Cobra

A decent geared 20 inch budget mountain bike

stock image of an orange Diamondback Cobra boys 20 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $159 / $199

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: 20 inch – 28 lb., 24 inch – 32.5 lb.

GEARS/SHIFTER: 20 inch – 7 gears; 24 inch – 21-speed, Shimano Tourney dual grip shifters

SUSPENSION: Yes, but very stiff

The Cobra is one of the few budget 20″ mountain bikes that offers a decent frame design and components. Compared to other similarly priced bikes, the 20″ stood out for not having rear suspension. Why does this matter?

Many budget 20 inch bikes are “full suspension” with a shock on the frame as well as on the fork. Full suspension on any budget bike (even adult bikes) is always a red flag. The rear suspension only adds unnecessary weight to the bike without benefiting the overall riding experience.

The 20″ Cobra is also unique in that it offers trigger shifters, rather than the more common grip shifters. While trigger shifters can be great for more aggressive riders, they can be harder for younger kids to use. Instead of twisting the grip, kids must engage one of two levers with their fingers in order to shift up or down.

Learning which lever is which, as well as engaging the levers with a single finger, can be challenging for young riders. If you believe your child will struggle with a trigger shifter, the Dynacraft Firestorm has a grip shifter and is likely a better choice.

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.

Bikes Direct Gravity Nugget

Great geometry and 1x drivetrain

stock image of a Bikes Direct Gravity Nugget 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $199 / $299

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch (boys and girls models)

WEIGHT: 24-inch boys – 29.3 lb.

GEARS/SHIFTER: 7-speed Shimano trigger

SUSPENSION: Yes, but very stiff

If you are willing and able to comb through Bikes Direct old-school website, their Gravity kids mountain bike line is a decent option for the price. The Gravity line isn’t as heavy as similarly priced big-box store bikes and comes with slightly better components and much better geometry.

The Gravity is also the only 24″ bike below $300 that we found that only has one derailleur. This is highly beneficial as it saves on weight, but most importantly makes shifting less confusing for young riders.

The fork on the Gravity is pretty stiff, so if your child really wants a shock to help bounce up that front tire during jumps, the Gravity isn’t ideal. To get a decent shock, you’ll have to move up to the “much better” level of bikes.

Sizing on the Gravity Nugget can be a bit confusing. The boys and girls models of the 20″ and 24″ have different minimum seat heights. The “girls” models appear to have minimum seat heights about 1 to 1.5″ lower than the boys models. The 24″ boys Gravity Nugget we tested had a seat height range of 26.6″ to 31.5″.

Schwinn Ranger Boys and Girls

Quality built frame with true decals instead of stickers

stock image of a blue 24 inch Schwinn Ranger boys mountain bike

MSRP: $249

SIZES AVAILABLE: 24 inch (boys and girls models)

WEIGHT: 24-inch girls – 29 lb.

GEARS/SHIFTER: 21-speed Microshift grip shifters

SUSPENSION: Yes, but very stiff

Available in boys and girls models, the Schwinn Ranger is a great looking bike that is usually readily available at local Target stores. The Ranger is available in 24 inch and 26 inch wheel sizes, but not in 20 inch.

While the Ranger isn’t significantly lighter than the “entry-level buys”, its overall quality of build is better. It features an aluminum frame (versus a steel frame on the budget buys), a three-piece crank (for easier repairs), and also has true decals versus the stickers that easily peel off on cheaper bikes.

On reviews of the current Ranger models, several owners experienced issues with pedal simply falling off. This is more than likely due to the pedals being installed on the wrong crank arm. Considering bikes at big-box stores are not assembled by trained technicians, the pedals were more than likely installed incorrectly upon assembly. As result, with the Ranger and any budget bike, we always recommend the bikes being checked out by your local bike shop before riding.

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.

Raleigh Rowdy

Lightweight bike with great geometry

green raleigh rowdy 20 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $290 / $330

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: 20 inch – 21 lb.

GEARS/SHIFTER: 6-speed/Shimano Grip Shift

SUSPENSION: None

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh Rowdy 20

Our kid bike testers have LOVED the Raleigh Rowdy! It’s an amazing bike for kids ready to tackle whatever the neighborhood has in store for them. Built with a lightweight aluminum frame, Shimano shifter, and responsive v-brakes, the Rowdy is the perfect mix of quality, simplicity, and ruggedness for neighborhood riders.

Unlike other recreational bikes on our list, the Rowdy does not have a front suspension fork. The Rowdy’s rigid fork helps keep the weight down, and certainly didn’t inhibit our kid bike testers from getting aggressive. Our testers happily rode the Rowdy everywhere from basic dirt trails to up and over homemade jumps in front of the house.

The Rowdy is available in 20 and 24 inch sizes, but be warned that this model has been discontinued by Raleigh. Once the current stock of kids bikes are gone, they won’t be coming back :-(.

Trek Precaliber

Nimble bike for neighborhood riders who love to catch air

red trek precaliber 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: 20 inch geared model – $329 ; 24 inch models – $349, $379 (with suspension)

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: 20 inch geared model – 24 lb.; 24 inch models – 25 lb. / 26.5 lb. (with suspension)

BRAKES: V-brakes

GEARS/SHIFTER: 20 inch geared model – 7-speed Shimano Tourney; 24-inch models – 8-speed with Shimano Tourney

SUSPENSION: 20 inch – Casual use fork with 35mm travel; 24 inch – 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 inch and 24 inch models, with and without suspension. The Precaliber 20 inch 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 inch model with suspension is geared and does not have a coaster brake.

The 24 inch 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 riding on paved surfaces, we recommended the suspension version.

REI Co-Op Cycles REV PLUS

Great geometry, mid-fat tire without a hefty price tag

rei co-op cycles rev plus 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $339 / $379

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: 20 inch – 24.9 lb.; 24 inch – 28.2 lb.

BRAKES: Mechanical disc brakes

GEARS/SHIFTER: 20 inch – 6-speed Shimano Tourney; 24 inch – 7-speed Shimano Tourney

SUSPENSION: None – but cushioning provided by plus size tires

FULL REVIEW: REI REV Plus

From its clean and 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 mechanical disc brakes on the REV Plus provide extra stopping power for mild trails, but they are not quite up to par for tackling more advanced trails, especially on the heavier 24″ model.

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.

Raleigh Tokul

Best trail-worthy bike on a budget

blue raleigh tokul 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $400

SIZES AVAILABLE: 24 inch

WEIGHT: 26.5 lb.

BRAKES: Mechanical disc brakes

GEARS/SHIFTER: 7-speed Shimano Tourney

SUSPENSION: SR Suntour XCT coil fork w/ 50 mm travel

With a trail-rated suspension fork, a lightweight aluminum frame, and mechanical disc brakes, the Tokul offers a lot for its price tag. While not as fine-tuned or lightweight as the more expensive bikes on our true mountain bike list, the Tokul is certainly capable enough for beginning mountain bikers who are hitting basic single-track trails. At the same time, it’s also quite at home blasting around the neighborhood.

Compared to the Trek Precaliber and the Specialized Hotrock, the Tokul also has Shimano’s entry-level Tourney shifters, but its mechanical disc brakes provide a bit more stopping power than the v-brakes on the Trek and Specialized. Those brakes combined with its capable suspension fork make the Tokul more trail-ready that its Precaliber or Hotrock counterparts.

Specialized Hotrock

Fast bike with lots of color options for boys and girls

blue specialized hotrock 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $450 / $500

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: Not provided

BRAKES: V-brakes

GEARS/SHIFTER: 8-speed Shimano Tourney

SUSPENSION: SR Suntour XCT coil fork w/ 50 mm travel

While the Specialized’s Riprock series is designed for kids hitting true trails, the more affordable Hotrock line is designed for the recreational rider. Equipped with a trail-rated front shock on a lightweight frame, the Hotrock is more than capable of tackling basic trails and jumps for young riders looking for adventure.

However, the Riprock has wider tires, and better suspension and brakes that make it better suited for real trail riding.

Compared to other bikes on our list, the Hotrock stands out for its wide range of color options. Available in six different colors, the Hotrock can be ordered online or through your local bike shop where assembly and tuning are included in the price.

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.**

Vitus Plus

Hydraulic disc brakes, upgraded shifter, and plus size tires

silver vitus plus 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $399 / $449

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: 20 inch – 22 lb.; 24 inch – 25. lb.

BRAKES: Tektro Hydraulic Disc

GEARS/SHIFTER: Shimano Altus Rapidfire 7 speed (Trigger)

SUSPENSION: None

With upgraded Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano Altus trigger shifters, the Vitus series steals the show by offering a killer component set with a budget-friendly price tag! Although the Vitus Plus has a rigid fork, its 2.6″ wide Vee Crown Gem tires offer a good amount of cushioning for trail riding.

For those who want a suspension fork, the Vitus Nucleus line has additional upgrades to the Plus and also comes with a Spinner Grind Air fork for just $599. What’s the catch?

While our kid bike testers have been big fans of Vitus bikes, and we parents have loved their low prices, shipping can be quite expensive. Shipping from the UK, we’ve seen rates as low as $40, but as high as $139.

Cannondale Trail

Quality disc brakes with a trail-worthy suspension fork

green cannondale trail 24 kids mountain bike

MSRP: $450 / $525

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: 24 inch – 25.2 lb.

BRAKES: Mechanical Disc

GEARS/SHIFTER: 8 speed / Shimano Tourney grip

SUSPENSION: Suntour XCT w/ 63mm travel

The Cannondale Trail kicks is up a notch for true trail riders by offering mechanical disc brakes and a more advanced front suspension fork.

For increased stopping power at higher speeds, the Trail’s mechanical disc brakes allow a rider to stop faster and with more power compared to standard v-brakes that are offered on most recreational mountain bikes.

The Suntour fork on the Trail also offers more cushioning with 63 mm of travel (versus the 50 mm on the Raliegh Tokul and Specialized Hotrock).

The Cannondale Trail is available at some local bike shops, but also at REI. Either way, you shouldn’t have to worry about assembly.

Trek Roscoe

Lightweight and nimble, plus-size tire bike

red and black Trek Roscoe 24 inch mountain bike

MSRP: $449 / $499

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: 20 inch – 23.5 lb, 24 inch – 25.5 lb.

BRAKES: Mechanical Disc

GEARS/SHIFTER: 8 speed / Shimano Altus trigger

SUSPENSION: None, mid-fat tires

Built to inspire confidence on and off the trail, the Trek Roscoe has the styling of an adult mountain bike in a pint size package. With 2.8″ wide mid-fat tires, the Roscoe offers plenty of traction for a wide variety of terrains, and when the psi is lowered on trail, they also offer a good amount of cushioning. (About equal to a basic suspension fork!)

To help the Roscoe’s mid-fat tires comes to a quick stop, the Roscoe comes equipped with Tektro mechanical disc brakes with 160mm front and rear rotors. The brakes on the Roscoe really differentiate it from the similar-looking, but cheaper, REI Co-Op Cycles REV Plus. The REV also has 2.8″ wide tires, but it doesn’t have the stopping power of the Roscoe. The Roscoe is also 4 pounds lighter.

Specialized Riprock

Modern geometry with plus-size tires and a suspension fork

red specialized riprock 24 kids mountain bike

MSRP: $449 / $580

SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 and 24 inch

WEIGHT: Not provided

BRAKES: Mechanical Disc

GEARS/SHIFTER: 8 speed / Shimano Tourney grip

SUSPENSION: Suntour XCT w/ 70mm travel

The Riprock also runs 2.8″ mid-fat tires but takes it to the next step by pairing them with a Suntour coil fork with 70 mm of suspension. If your adventurous little grom is ready to hit some drops or higher jumps, the suspension of the Riprock will certainly come in handy. As a trade-off, the suspension fork does add to the weight of the Riprock.

Compared to the Roscoe, the Riprock also comes in more traditionally “girl” colors.

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